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.


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.

January 17-18, 1945

January 17th, 1945.

Got up, no breakfast, the top brass came. Went to the battalion. Went on the attack together with the infantry on the front lines. We moved forward and did not report to the rear, so our Katyusha and fiddler [morter] hit us – oh we were ground-up! The first time I experienced so much artillery fire. Experienced machine gun fire for the first time on July 19th with Solomatin on the Neman. And now? Today for me seemed like a month. Nearly vomited at all the body parts. Bandaged the wounded and moved forward. Three groups rushed a house, completed the objective, all good on the right side. But the push has changed our division, have taken the left side, but the work proved useless.


A Katyusha rocket launcher.

Easily entered the 371st rifle division. Must not go further. Fritz shelling with all kinds of weapons. 100 meters back in a ravine behind the house were the enemy self-propelled guns, fire from machine guns and shells. Fritz looked up out of the hatch and I shot from the house, and the rest of the day didn’t get a good target.

Frost, hunger. Went into a unit. The guys threw some filthy compliments at me. Filthy language everywhere. So tired. I went off on my own. Stumbled across some acquaintances, went to look for the regiment. Stumbled onto the division command post, got to spend the night. Cold, ate a little. In the house took trophies, an album with paper in which I want to rewrite everything. So heavy! I see that I get a few good benefits, as a sniper: perhaps there will be moments when I’m threatened with death. From our 2nd Battalion there are 6 left out of 78. I miss the girls, many of them have it worse.

January 18th, 1945.

For three hours now I’ve sat and cried. 12 at night. Who do I need? What good am I? Am I no help? My experience is not wanted. It looks like there are too many support troops, and I will not be called to help. I don’t know, what to do next? Often I hear dirty talk. For what do I deserve such useless torture? Everyone shouting raunchy, filthy language, nobody to talk to. Suddenly asked: “Is your name Shanina?” I didn’t answer. It turned out it was the best friend of Paval Blokhin, I knew him well. But now I didn’t recognize him. What a pleasant meeting. Head of reconnaissance for the 785th Rifle Regiment. He said: “I have been told that Shanina received the Order,” I confessed to Claudia all the bad comments I’ve heard. Yes, I really appreciated it; junior Lieutenant Nikolai was respectful of me.

January 24, 1945

Stress warning: Sexual assault.

January 24th, 1945.

For a long time I didn’t write anything. There was no time. Went to reconnaissance in regiment 785. Wonderful guys, well received, but started to get harassed by the head of the regiment, chasing me when I had done nothing, grabbing at me like he was in a brothel. I could not stand him, and left after only staying 2 days: it was impossible to live there anymore, the harassment intensified.

During those two days, all day there was no time to breathe. There were horrible fights. Full trenches of German infantry fortified and armed – defended tenaciously. Our trench passed by theirs and ended at an estate 150-200 meters away. Fritz fired whenever we passed by. It was a real meat-grinder. So many times we got troops on the self-propelled guns, 1 or 2 people at most, and the rest mowed down by enemy fire. I went into a self-propelled gun, but could not manage to fire, cannot look out of the hatch without being wounded or killed. I got low, crawled out and fired on the Fritz fleeing from the trench.

By the evening of the 22nd expelled all, occupied the estate, found the antitank ditch. I go on, the infantry is laying down, and is afraid to go further. Two Shtrafbat scouts were going ahead. I go with them, and as a result we three were the first to occupy the estate, and all of us went on the attack, and began driving at the heels of a retreating Fritz. I, like all, shot. As it turns out the neighbors to the left of the Shtrafbat are the 63rd RD. 63rd RD commanders saw me, shouted to the soldiers: “Here is this girl’s example, learn from it.” Left me alone, but I went to look for them. Running and screaming soldiers on the right: “Which division?” And hear a shout from behind the soldiers: “Halt.” And to the left out of the bushes stand up two Fritz with hands up, 4 meters from me.

I met the divisional scouts, and they sheltered me, saying: “You will go with us.” And I was guided forward, to the west. They lost 14 people to Fritz, and we are already marching on. Fritz retreated without looking back, and then were suddenly ordered to return. We go by car, the column goes, to the town of Shlisselburg. Passed the town, we go on further. Here, the Germans ditched everything: cows and all, and fled into the woods. Shelled the village. Found Frau there. Guys carried them away on tractors and etc. [edited] Many Lithuanians. And the equipment we have, God – the whole army moves, I swear, and they don’t follow traffic rules.

Big iron bridge over a river. A beautiful road, good overlook on the meadows. Near the bridge downed trees – no time to make an abatis. Luxurious house, stone, elegant furnishings everywhere: piano, mirror, silk curtains, plush, lace, beautiful chairs and all the furniture. Scouts are not up to me, they are busy with work, and there is no place to sleep. Kicked out.

I was in the division. Vadim, son of the chief Colonel, a Lieutenant. Nothing to do, a mama’s boy and evil. Stuck close to me: “Give me a kiss” – he was drunk here. I was in the middle of changing my clothes. He walked in without permission and I wasn’t wearing any pants. Strong, though small. Twisted my arms around, threw me down on the couch, kissing me, and just then the Colonel walked in – his father. I have tears on my face, crying. “What’s going on?” I say: “Just because I’m a girl, does that mean everyone has to kiss me?” He yelled at his son, but after he had left Vadim said: “Understand, I don’t want German girls, they’re infected, and you’re a clean, pretty girl, who I still want to kiss.” I said: “You have so many wants, I have to be the one to give in?”

Again march at night, now dark, but soon dawn, sitting around the campfire and writing. So bad, when no bosses need me. Good, that nobody is giving orders, but still bad – no orders, what to do? I can’t seem to find contentment in my heart. I don’t need anyone.

Roza Shanina was killed in action on January 27th, 1945, at the age of 20. She was buried at the base of a pear tree on the bank of the Lava River.

Her brother Sergei was granted a new trial, but his conviction was not overturned. His original sentence of 10 years hard labor was changed to execution. He took his own life on February 3rd, 1945.

Roza’s friend Aleksandra “Sasha” Ekimova was killed in action on February 26th, 1945. Sasha’s husband, Vladimir “Vovika” Emelyanov, died on April 5th, 1945.

Pyotr Molchanov kept Roza’s diary in his Kiev apartment for 20 years, before allowing a heavily edited version to be published by the journal “Yunost” in 1965. The diary is currently held at the Arkhangelsk Regional Museum.


The death notification:

205th Medical-Sanitary Battalion

11 February, 1945

rec’d 1 March, 1945


Please notify Shanina, Anna Alexsandrova, resident in city of Arkhangelsk, 15 Leningrad Avenue,1 that her daughter2 Sn. Sergeant Shanina, Roza, in battle for the Socialist Motherland, in loyalty to the military oath, showing heroism and honor, was wounded and died from wounds on 28 January, 1945.

Buried with full military honors East Prussia Richau 3km south-east of Ilmsdorf village.


1 This is the address of the girls’ dormitory that Roza had lived in as a student. Roza’s boss at Kindergarten #2 ultimately sent a letter to Anna to let her know about Roza.

2 The options given under this line are “Husband, Son, Brother, Father.”