At 25 years old, Lyudmila Pavlichenko, was already a highly decorated Soviet sniper and lieutenant from the Red Army’s 25th Chapayev Rifle Division having 309 kills under her belt, including 36 German snipers.
She was the first Soviet citizen to be welcomed by President Franklin Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt to the White House. Stalin sent her as an emissary hoping to encourage the U.S. to invade the European continent thereby splitting Germany’s military attention and easing pressure on the Soviet Union.
Eleanor Roosevelt asked Pavlichenko to go on tour with her across the country to relay her experiences as a woman fighting the Nazis. A seemingly unlikely duo the two were both committed to women’s rights and while Pavlichenko made spellbinding speeches about her life and the importance of winning against the Nazis, she became more and more focused on women’s rights. This was a result of the many audience questions related to her lack of makeup, the long length of her uniform and more. She retaliated by stating that these were frivolous ideas and in her country she was a fighter, a soldier and a respected citizen who was honoured not just as a woman but as a human being. Women in the Soviet Union had been given full rights and were independent as men from the day the Revolution began. They fought as soldiers along side the men.
A flavour of the era and Lyudmila Pavlichenko’s impact on her audience is commemorated in a song written by Woody Guthrie in 1942: “Miss Pavlichenko.”
Years later and during the Cold War, Eleanor Roosevelt was in Moscow and although restricted, Lyudmila and she revisited their friendship and memorable travels.