An Unsent Letter to Masha

The unsent letter. This is taken from the heavily edited 1965 “Yunost” publication of the diary, which I’ve found to contain several creative additions compared to the longer version published in 2011. I’m a little suspicious of its authenticity, but Yunost does say it was unsent. Maybe she wrote it in frustration, realized she overreacted, and never sent it. It jibes with the general image of Shanina that the Yunost editors were crafting, but the story told in it also fits the time frame when Shanina was given leave to Arkhangelsk and would’ve been on a train. So take it for what it’s worth.

Greetings, Masha!

Sorry for calling you that, but I don’t know your patronym.1 I decided to write when I accidentally learned about your letter to Claudia Ivanovna.

You write that you are crazy in love with Claudia’s husband. And she has a 5-year-old kid. You ask her forgiveness for letting such a thing happen, but that you are going to build a life with her husband. You justify yourself by writing that no one else will raise his child, which you are pregnant with, and that you did not know that N.A. had a wife and child.

You write: “What would I tell his child, when he asks “where’s Papa?’” But what answer will Claudia give her son, who already knows his father well, when after the war he asks: “Why did Papa not come home?”

Maybe you are seriously now in love with a soldier you met by accident on the road, but how can Claudia Ivanovna forget her beloved husband?

Who am I? Like you I came to the front. I’m a sniper. Recently I was in the rear. On the tracks, in the train, I was thanking the people who came to see my medals. But they told me all sorts of gossip. Why? Why do others look strangely at a girl in a tunic? For that you are to blame, Masha. I could not find a place then, I can’t calm down, and now I’m returning to the front.

I often wonder how us military women will come back from the war. How will we be greeted? Possibly with suspicion, despite the fact that we risked our lives and many of us were killed in battles for the Motherland. If that happens, I blame those who couldn’t even fight off foreign husbands.

Think, that you will not be forgiven not only by Claudia Ivanovna, but by all of us. And there are many of us. That’s everything I wanted to say.

-Roza Shanina”

1  Russian names have 3 parts: first name, patronym, and family name. The patronym is the father’s name followed by “-va” or “-ovich.” In formal settings, or when you aren’t close friends, you always use “First name – patronym.” By using a pet name, Masha, and no patronym, Roza is sort of double-insulting her. Imagine saying “Hey, buddy” or “Listen, missy” in English.

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