December 3rd, 1944
Lost Nikolai Shevchenko’s address. Oh, how I worry that I’ve mechanically eliminated the only one whose memory still warmed me. His hat often reminds me of him. A good guy. Oh, how hard, how sorry to lose N. Sh’s address. There’s marvelous music playing, and my heart sinks at the thought of it all. Tear up the letter, which I wrote and could not send without an address. My heart desires a caress. Children, friends, and someone who respects me, but that is no longer on the horizon, save for maybe N. Borovik, and that is written on running water. Tear up his letter.
Sit with Captain Sokol, once again holding the hope that I can get in to the 338th Infantry Division, though today, involuntarily, was put on Battalion Command, Company Commander, as I’m annoyed by this matter.
December 4th, 1944
Was with Major and Captain – Battalion Commander with Chief of Staff. Major Lyashenko. I was with Sasha, and we are indifferent to them. Sat from 6 to 11 and missed dancing. Lay down for the night, but did not stay, as this would be ugly, and today repented – this was last evening. Played good music and waved goodbye to each other, and even saying goodbye was hard, as there were a lot of commanders around.
Today 20km march, mud, wind with snow. Met katyushniks, left with them for the night, although the platoon commander was not authorized to. But there is no food, no sleep. Sasha and Kali went to the observation point with Vovka, and I stayed with the Chief of Staff. Sasha, good boys. All movement is impossible, as the guys have left and we have already withdrawn.
December 6th, 1944
Jesus! Help me to understand everything. Everything is so messed up – oh Christ! I’ll remember the 5th of December for a long time. Came back from seeing the guys. Valya Mochstenko arranged a confrontation, I came running ready to fight, and scolded them direct and businesslike. Supporting her were Shura Polygalova, Dusya Krasnoborova, Anya Smirnova, Dusya Kekesheva, the symbol of silence Zina Shmeleva, Zoya, Masha Rozhkova. They insulted me in front of the platoon and even shamed me like an outsider, smearing me with mud. They kept saying “Heroine” with irony. They attacked me for going AWOL, but this was only an excuse, and the real reason is that I have authority, and this is all they cared about. They decided to deprive me of this. Valya even said that I am now nothing to them. This, of course, will not be; the girls today are even more attentive to me, they’re sorry for me, and Valya is called a fishmonger. I am not so low, to sink to their talk, demonstrating that it’s not needed.
There were offenses, but I survived, and this, it seems, will will be a hazard of my work. They blamed Molchanov for this. These are good comrades, but they called us lovers, called me a suck-up – these are not parts of my character. I decided not to go anywhere, and be marked for an absence, and have them accuse me of not working like a platoon commander. They do not listen to me. I cannot just build them into commanders, and they didn’t even listen to that, and now I will check their work in the trenches, where it is needed. In short, for every problem reported in their confrontation, I intend to take action, help them to feel what it means to be at odds with the platoon commander. Although I could never say about them the things they said about me, there are many shortcomings. And they say about me: “You are a platoon commander, you do not look like a person who goes AWOL” – and I am not that immature of a girl, yes? After all, I do not do this, but Zoya does – and she began to teach me. I thank her for the knowledge. I am pleased and satisfied that she gave me this knowledge, how a platoon commander can stroll away, and I’ll let her know that it’s not for some dirty man. I now know how not to alert them. Exert every effort, and what they don’t know won’t hurt them.
Kaleria wrote a letter to her sister that she is not doing well, and everything that is said against military girls. She lied; she’s a modest girl, but was upset and decided to thwart the evil, as these lies to her sister troubled her. We tore it up with Sasha.
I wrote 30 letters to all corners: businesslike, and straight-forward. Today I didn’t sleep the whole night. Only a little in the evening, then I woke up, and everything changed my mind about all the girls, about right and wrong.
You know, throughout my life at the front there was not a moment when I didn’t long for a fight; I want a fierce fight, want to go with the soldiers. I’m sorry that I wasn’t born a boy – then no one would have paid any attention to me, no one would have felt sorry for me, and I would have fought with all my heart. Now I brought up the issue: I said, “I want to go on the attack,” and Kalya and Eva, who know my nature, and all the others: “No Adventures.” And Eva proved to the girls what she heard from the soldiers, how I myself lay under a German tank. And she believes that I fought voluntarily.
I’d give anything to go and fight with the soldiers now. Oh lord, why do I have this mysterious nature? I just can’t understand, all I crave, crave a fight, a fierce fight. Everything I will give, and life, simply to satisfy this urge. It torments me, I cannot sleep.
Writing about the platoon. Alkimova says: “I don’t believe Roza has killed as many Fritz as she gets credit for.”
Maybe so. In my defense, sometimes I shoot at a lot of targets, but it’s dark, and it’s hard to tell if it was a kill or not. To be fair, I always accurately target and hit a standing Fritz, and more often get a kill than in the past. And in most cases I’m shooting at stationary targets or marching soldiers. Deserters are hard, just scare them. Sometimes I don’t write them down, sometimes I guess, sometimes no kills, but to look at my count and say I haven’t killed any Fritz, it’s false.
I remember, I was in the offensive. I can say from the heart, sincerely, in fighting the counterattack I spent 70 rounds. In the attack I was against 13 tanks, at 3 I did not shoot, but I killed 9 in all. One went through back to the driver, killed, and the other soldiers were hit and injured by the bullets, or something, from the Berdan rifle1, which was covered in mud. Did not have time to find targets or aim. And I hit at 50 to 7 meters at close range. I went prone and wounded at least 20. In the attack I often had to shoot precisely at close range, and not miss.
I remember the last counter-attack: the bullet caught him right in the helmet. Saw one head, and the tracer shot did not break through at 100 meters. Went up in the sky, and saw that it was a ricochet. Then the guys wanted to test my accuracy. I had the weapon, and five of them watched, and said… “Well Done.” Solid hit on Fritz at a distance of 20 meters and clearly killed 15, maybe more. Good hunting for us two – 35 Krauts. Because a sniper shoots accurately.
And on defense I often shot from 50 meters at standing targets, and hit in the chest. Killed 57 Fritz, not one of them an assigned target. Let them talk, I know, and everything about Sasha Ekimova. A person cannot be without negative traits, I don’t blame her, it’s how she was raised. She got used to me, and nobody else. She has started to change a bit. I’m used to her; I’m attached to her and Kali, I’m bored without them. I respect them more than anyone else in the platoon, and life is always easier to live with friends. All three of us are from different families, got 1 year in the institute, and all slightly different personalities, a different foundation. But we have some things in common; we are friends and tight.
Kaleria Petrova – also my friend. Good girl. She has no ego and a bold, very rational mind, well versed in all matters, golden memory, but a little lazy. Sasha, Kali, and I – us friendly Stray Troika.
Kali, Roza and Sasha.
[Also – ] Eva Novikova and Masha Tomarova. Eva – a little hot-tempered, but always a worldly girl. Pure, modest, independent. Masha – never discouraged, and when she gets sad, sings songs. […] After all, I also rarely cry, and sing songs when I feel heavy in my heart.2
All the girls are more-or-less pleasant, no beauties or monsters. Sasha and Masha I like most of all, they are not beautiful, but attractive. One Nyuska looks older. Lelya 22-years-old and Nyusya 23, the rest 24-25. That’s our squad. Wrote all day, I’m tired, I’ll add more later. All the letters and wrote in the diary, all on my lap and sitting in this corner, my back and arms are tired.
1 The standard rifle for Soviet snipers was the Mosin-Nagant M91/30, an Imperial Russian weapon from 1891 that was modified in 1930, and further modified with a scope and dog-leg bolt for sniper use. This was the main weapon Roza used. The Berdan was its predecessor, in use since 1870. Unlike the Mosin, it was single-shot and fired a big, slow round. It was no small task to make use of this in the faster pace of WWII combat, and it speaks to how deep the Soviets were digging into the armories to supply the troops.
2 This paragraph is omitted from the most recent diary publications, but is visible in photos. It’s barely legible, but closely resembles a passage from the Yunost edit. The last sentence is read from the photos.