Shovels

Roza Shanina was a tough cookie. Serving as a Soviet sniper during World War II, she was credited with 59 confirmed kills, including 12 enemy snipers. In North America, the newspapers referred to her as “the unseen terror of East Prussia.” But in the ebb and flow of war, she occasionally found herself on the defensive. She once described an assault by 50 Wehrmacht troops on a trench she was sharing with 11 other female snipers.

Pause for a moment to imagine this from the German male point of view. You’re a long way from home; it’s been a tough war; but today, your objective is a ditch with 12 young women in it. There are 50 of you, 12 of them. That’s almost 5 to 1. And they’re girls. This is almost a break, a little comic relief in an otherwise grim tour of duty. Let’s roll!

Of the charge, Shanina later wrote, “Some fell from our well-aimed bullets, some we finished with our bayonets, grenades, shovels, and some we took prisoners, having restrained their arms.”

Shovels. You’ve come all the way from Germany and a pack of banshees are beating you to death with shovels. How bewildering.

Roza Shanina died in combat on January 28, 1945. What a woman.

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