When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, hundreds of thousands of Soviet men and women did not hesitate to join the war effort. The soldiers were expectedly placed on the frontlines while the women were assigned to be nurses, clerks, cooks, and snipers.

Around 2,000 women underwent training to become sharpshooters before they were sent to the dangerous parts of the warzone to take down the enemies, one shot at a time— all by themselves, lying still for hours to avoid detections until the perfect vulnerable timing of the enemies arrived. It turned out they were good at it. Here are three female snipers of the Soviet Union:

Lyudmila Pavlichenko

Female sniper Lyudmila Pavlochenko with her rifle in a trench. (Израиль Абрамович Озерский (1904 – 1971) (author not found out until 21st century), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

She is one of the well-known female snipers of the Soviet Union, and she would not earn the moniker Lady Death for no reason.

Pavlichenko was born in a small village outside of Kyiv, Ukraine. When the Germans invaded, she took her master’s degree in history at Kyiv University. She did not hesitate to volunteer, although the recruiters tried to steer her toward becoming a nurse. Pavlichenko was not swayed and insisted she wanted to be given a combat role.

As part of her audition to be accepted, she was stationed on a hill the Nazis were defending. She was tasked to take out two Romanians working with the Germans, which she did with a breeze. For that, Lady Death quickly became part of the 25th Rifle Division.

Pavlichenko gained a fearsome reputation for her accuracy and ability to take out dozens of enemy soldiers. She was so good at what she did that they assigned her to the most dangerous missions, like engaging enemy snipers in duels that could last for days. The Germans even tried to bribe her into defecting, announcing on loudspeakers that they would make her an officer and give her chocolates if she joined them.

In less than a year of sniping, Lay Death had 309 confirmed kills, 36 of which were enemy snipers. After being wounded for the fourth time due to shrapnel blasting on her face, she was tasked to train new snipers instead.

If you’d like to learn more about her, we’ve written an article here.

Roza Shanina

Sniper Roza Yegorovna Shanina. (Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Described as intelligent, beautiful, and deadly, Roza Shanina was 19 when she became a sniper of the Soviet Union, credited for a total of 59 confirmed kills, including 12 that were sniped during the Battle of Vilnius.

Shanina volunteered to join the military after his brother died in 1941. She stood out for her shooting accuracy: capable of precisely hitting two targets with two rounds fired in quick succession, called doublets.

In 1944, a Canadian newspaper published an article describing her as “the unseen terror of East Prussia.” That year, she already had 17 confirmed enemy kills. On June 22, 1944, during Operation Bagration in the Vitebsk region, female snipers were to be withdrawn, but Shanina refused and asked to be sent to the front line. Her request was declined, but she went anyway. Later, she faced sanctions for defying the order but did not face a court-martial.

On January 17, 1945, she wrote in her diary that she might be killed soon, as 72 of their 78 people were already dead, and that German fire was so intense that the troops had sheltered inside self-propelled guns. Ten days after, she was severely injured and found by two soldiers with a shell fragment on her chest. She died that day and was buried under a spreading pear tree on the Alle River shore before being transferred to Znamensk, Kaliningrad Oblast.

Aliya Moldagulova

Sniper Aliya Moldagulova. (Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Born in the village of Bulak village in the now Khobdinsky district in the Aktobe region, Moldagulova lost her parents as a child. She spent eight years of her life in Alma-Ata in his uncle’s family. In 1935, her uncle entered the Military Academy, and the entire family moved to Moscow with Aliya. They then moved to Leningrad after the Academy was transferred there.

When World War II began, Aliya’s whole family evacuated, but she chose to stay. Despite her family’s persuasions, she was firm with her decision and explained that she wanted to defend the Motherland.

On November 27, 1942, she was one of the first women who enrolled in the Central Women’s Sniper Training School. She was 17 at that time. There, she learned how to shoot accurately, crawl on her belly, and not be seen by enemies. She immediately showed perseverance and dedication in mastering the business of sniping, and she was awarded a personalized rifle.

In July 1943, she and the rest of her group were assigned to the 54th rifle brigade of the 22nd Army. She was already credited for 32 confirmed kills by October that same year. Despite this, she had to work hard before being allowed to the front line because of her height and age. However, permitting her proved to be the right decision, as she showed fearlessness amidst the falling enemy shells and carried the wounded comrades from the battlefield and gave them first aid.

In the battle of Pskov, Moldagulova was wounded in the arm by a mine fragment but still went on and participated in hand-to-hand combat, where a German officer wounded her. She could destroy him, but her wounds were extremely fatal that she did not make it. On June 4, 1944, she was posthumously awarded the title of Hero Soviet Union and the Order of Lenin.