Your husband goes off to war and gets killed in battle. What do you do?
Well like any other wife you would sell all your belongings and with the money earned from that sale, you go an acquire a tank, to take revenge.
It sounds like a great plot for a revenge movie directed by Quentin Tarantino perhaps, However this is exactly what Mariya Oktyabrskaya did.
Her husband was killed fighting the Germans in Kiev in 1941. Mariya only found out 2 years later.The news enraged her and she was determined to take revenge. In order to do this she sold everything she had, and then went straight to the chief himself, Stalin. She wrote him the following letter.
“My husband was killed in action defending the motherland. I want revenge on the fascist dogs for his death and for the death of Soviet people tortured by the fascist barbarians. For this purpose, I’ve deposited all my personal savings–50,000 rubles–to the National Bank in order to build a tank. I kindly ask to name the tank ‘Fighting Girlfriend’ and to send me to the front line as a driver of the said tank.”
Stalin had no choice but to agree. The propaganda value would be priceless and it would provide for a much needed boost to the morale. With Mariya’s money a T 34 tank was bought.
Mariya received 5 months of training, which was uncommon because usually tank crews were rushed straight to the front line with minimal training.
After the training she was assigned to the 26th Guards Tank Brigade in September 1943, where she soon took part in the Second Battle of Smolensk.
Although other tank crews regarded her as some kind of publicity stunt, she got the chance to prove them wrong.
During her first battle, Oktobskaya showed some excellent tank handling skills and helped in destroying machine gun nests and artillery positions. Whilst under heavy fire, her tank, “The Fighting Girlfriend,” drove through enemy lines, but was badly damaged in the process.
Oktyabrskaya, disregarded orders, leaped out of her tank and fixed the tank, amidst heavy fire. Because of this feat she was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.
Her last battle was on 17 January 1944, she fought in another night attack as part of the Leningrad–Novgorod Offensive. It would be her last.
The attack took place at the village of Shvedy near Vitebsk. She neutralized resistance in trenches and machine-gun nests with her Fighting Girlfriend. and she and her crew also destroyed a German self-propelled gun. Subsequently, the tank was hit by a German anti-tank shell,and the tank once again suffered damage , Oktobrskaya tried to pull the trick once again. She managed to repair the damaged track but was hit in the head by shell fragments and lost consciousness.
She was transported to a Soviet military field hospital at Fastov, near Kiev, where she stayed in a coma for two months, before finally succumbing to her injuries / She died on the 15th of March 1944. In August that year, she was posthumously made a Hero of the Soviet Union.
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