This story now
IN History & Culture ON 16 Oct, 2015
Meet Mariya Oktyabrskaya, a courageous woman who came from a poor Ukrainian family and lived in Kiev with her nine siblings. During her transition from childhood to adulthood, she became loyal to the communist ideology. She worked at a cannery and as a telephone operator, and by 1925 married an officer from the Soviet army.
This is her amazing story -- from being a widow due to the horrors of war against the Nazis to becoming one of the greatest fighters an army could ever have, regardless of sex or gender.
Before World War II made hell on Earth, Mariya learned valuable lessons such as using weapons, driving machinery, and nursing injuries because she was an active member of the Military Wives Council.
When the Reich finally arrived at Mariya's homeland as the Second World War began unfolding, her husband was killed by the Germans . He was required to stay and fight, while Mariya was sent to Tomsk in Siberia.
Mariya Oktyabrskaya learned of her husband's death after almost two years, and during this time, her anger towards the Nazis grew, day by day. Finally, she decided to sell everything she had and donated all of her money to the Red Army in order for them to build her a tank. She even wrote to Stalin, asking for permission to have the T-34 tank be named "Fighting Girlfriend" and for him to allow her to operate it. Stalin gave the approval and Mariya immediately set off to train for three months.
The male officers didn't know how to react at the sight of a 38-year-old widow training to fight, and some even thought that it was merely a publicity stunt for the army. Eventually, however, Mariya showed them what she's capable of as she successfully became a mechanic and driver in the 26th Guard Tank Brigade.
During the first battle against the Nazis she participated in, Mariya was able to kill dozens of soldiers and destroy anti-tank guns. More than that, she became the first service member to breach the Nazi's line of defense, eventually earning her a promotion to be a sergeant.
In November 1943, the tracks of her tank were damaged by a bazooka team during a night raid. She could have stayed inside the tank and found a secure spot, but Mariya decided to go outside, risk it all, and try to fix the tread. Her comrades provided her protection, and soon she was able to go back inside the tank and continue the battle.
Mariya Oktyabrskaya's final experience at the frontlines happened in 1944, as she ordered her unit to brave the line of fire set by the Nazis. Her leadership was commendable, as they were able to make it pass two trenches. Sadly, the tracks of her tank got hit by enemy fire, and as she got out to fix them, a nearby German artillery exploded. The shrapnel hit Mariya and sent her into a state of coma.
Sergeant Mariya passed away two months after she went into coma, allowing her to finally be reunited with her husband in death. After five more months, she was given the Hero of the Soviet Union award posthumously, the highest achievement a service member who experienced combat could ever have.
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