January 15-16, 1945

These entries are difficult to read in the original Russian. Roza was in nearly constant combat by this point.

January 15th, 1945.

Moved to the village of Etkunen, in the rear of the division. This morning everyone is going to the bath, and I put on a white camouflage cloak, kissed everyone, and have already met a number of staff from the rear of the 144th Rifle Division, in one hour will be at the front, which this morning passed 20km. Nikolai Borovik wrote a nice letter, and why quarrel, perhaps I will be killed.

January 16th, 1945.

Spent the first night by the general [Donets], was received well by all the workers. The next day left, went in search of the regiment. Met Kasimov, was not admitted, and he didn’t recognize me.

Met the gunners, went on the attack in the tanks. I was in a tank. One was hit, there were serious injuries. Major Tubanov was killed, an old acquaintance of Sasha Ekimova, 8 times decorated, the rest spared.

In the evening I went to Borovik, nearly frozen solid. Get to Borovik’s dugout, not happy to meet again, but it was warm in the dugout. Frost in the tank, unaccustomed to tank smoke and it hurts my eyes; I can’t breathe these fumes. Slept like the dead.

Again, the general does not allow me to stay on the front. I went to the 216th rifle regiment, reported, but they are suspicious; it’s hard for them to believe I would be sent to the front. Regiment commander does not allow it.

I’m finally sure that I’m not capable of love. What a thrill I felt when I first saw Nikolai Borovik. But today I again saw our limitations. War, it seems, war – but my heart does not give concessions. Nikolai had no strap on his overcoat, the strap broke, and so on. I found him a slob, and the feeling of disgust drowned out love. He already has me disgusted. He went into battle, and now has been seriously injured, pity, such is war and everything.

In the platoon they already reported that I was injured, and were not looking for me there. But I don’t have [General] Donets’ permission to go with the regiment. How to explain?

Outside there is unbearable wind, the blizzard blows not just snow, but dirt as well. The earth is gray, and my camouflage already reveals me, though it’s dirty, it’s too white. Today I ate nothing all day, because of a tank smoke headache. I’m not authorized to be anywhere, because I don’t have papers, and I’m not registered anywhere. These days I’m half starved, hungry today. I do not let myself get sassy, starved for something, but there is not much.

I’m taken as a notable sniper, it seems that’s the only reason that I’m accepted. But everyone feels that I came because I have a man in this division. The regimental commander even asked this question. I decided not to love anyone, and all are still disappointed. I came, I don’t know a single soul. I endure dirt, cold, hunger. All advise (those who know – tankers, general) that I should return to the platoon, instead of suffering such a war: shooting, the rattle of death in every minute of my life.

Under fire very often. On the front was with the infantry in the 785th rifle regiment with commander Kasimov. Still they gave me a girl’s white coat and felt boots. How nice and warm.

Was attached to the rear of the 157th rifle division to protect the drivers in the platoon, and ride in the cabs. Looks pleasant, warm, easy and satisfying. This I also want. But some unknown force is pulling me to the front. Oh passion, passion, oh blind strivings of the human heart! Onward, onward, it saith, and where beauty leads, there it follows. I am a submissive heart. I like adventures, explosions, it is particularly interesting to repel a counterattack. And if this is all there is, charge – the last irrevocable charge! Want to eat, I lost weight over the last 3 days, I can feel it.

This evening, many casualties, again we move forward and progress 10km in 5 days. 1st Belorussian [Front] 3 days – 60km in depth on a 120km front.

Sat down, thought, still write. Yes, do I still hold fast to the laws? The law makes a crawling snail of one who would rise in eagle’s flight.

I’m showered with glory. Recently, the army newspaper “Destroy the Enemy” wrote: “Distinguished Shanina was awarded the medal ‘For Courage’ for actions during an enemy counterattack – an honorable sniper in our units.” In the Moscow journal “Spark” my picture on the front page, killed 54, three German prisoners, two Orders of Glory – this was before. Imagine: the whole country reads it, all my friends, and who will know what I feel at this moment.

roza-and-zm-shmeleva2

A photo from January 20th, 1945.

Recently the poet Ilya Ehrenburg wrote of me in an army newspaper, thanked Starostenko,1 the captain, battalion commander, the first to enter German territory; mentioned Yurgin2 and me as notable snipers. “57 times in succession thank her, thousands of Soviet lives she saved.” And I thought to myself – this is really glory. “Glory – that or his skull split for the motherland, or someone else’s crumbles – that is glory” (Bagration said), but it’s just hogwash for the rear, and in fact, what have I done? No more than is expected of the Soviet people to defend the Motherland. Today I am willing to go on the attack, even melee, no fear, my own life has grown so hateful, I’m happy to die for the Motherland: how good, to have this opportunity, but I would have to die a nasty death. So many soldiers are killed!



1 Alexander Starostenko. Was killed in action February 16th, 1945.

2 Paval Yurgin. Was killed in action February 1st, 1945.

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