If you’ve been following my posts for a little while, you might remember my entry on the 8th of March, the international women’s day. My list over 20 Badass Women included many female soldiers from the Soviet Union. The Russians had plenty of women on the front fighting the Nazis so in terms of female pioneers in the military, they are overly represented.
The image of the badass Soviet woman really made an impression on me ever since I heard of these female fighters, so when I came across a book about these very women on one of my travels, I just had to purchase it.
Now I’ve seen plenty of movies set in World War 2 and obviously heard of the outrageous atrocities, crimes against humanity committed by Mengele etc, but nothing could ever prepare me for the accounts contained within the pages of Svetlana Aleksijevitsj ‘s masterpiece.
Initially released, heavily censored in the Soviet Union in 1984, what found its way into my hands was the revised, updated and uncensored 2004 version translated into Norwegian from Russian.
Aleksijevitsj’s mission is to paint the picture of a war seen through female eyes, how normal teenage girls voluntarily put all their dreams on hold to pick up their weapons and defend their fatherland. The majority of these young women had normal lives, dreams, ambitions and plans, a relatable reality that vanished at the outbreak of war.
These are tales about how civilian lives were turned on its head, tales of survival, hate, revenge, patriotism, but most of all, of love.
Love for country, love for family, friends and ultimately humanity.
It is a gripping book equally shocking as it is heartwarming.
War is obviously not like anything else. War is war and that’s what you get an insight into when you read this book.
Tired, sleep deprived, Russian soldiers, who faced an equally alarming threat from Stalin, but despite fear and neglect, managed to pull through and defeat the enemy, making their way all the way to Berlin.
It is a collection of gripping tales, not the glorified Soviet heroine, but a grim realism that would make for a great movie.
This has been my first encounter with a proper war book and I highly recommend it to anyone.
If the movie industry doesn’t use this book as a basis for a movie about the Russian female soldiers, we will all miss out on something that is historically important, not only to the former Soviet but to us all.
As veterans these women faced another war, prejudice and neglect in times of peace. Nobody wanted the female version of the truth, nobody wanted to document the women’s war.
This book should be mandatory reading, take your time to read about these often overlooked heroines who played such a crucial role, right at the front, during World War II.