Vignettes from Russian-American history

 (AP images)

(AP images)

I once owned a Pete Seeger vinyl record containing several Woody Guthrie songs including this catchy ditty composed in 1942:

“Miss Pavlichenko’s well known to fame.Russia’s her country, fighting’s her game.The whole world will thank her for a long time to come.For more than 300 Nazis died by her gun.Died by your gun, babe, died by your gun.More than 300 Nazis died by your gun.”

Lyudmila Pavlichenko was a Ukrainian student at Kiev University and an amateur sharpshooter when the Nazi invasion began in 1941. She enlisted in the Soviet Army and fought for more than two months in the defense of Odessa in the Ukraine, until that city fell to the invaders. She then fought in the defense of Sevastopol in the Crimea until she was withdrawn from combat after sustaining a mortar wound. She was credited with 309 confirmed kills, including 36 enemy snipers. She was sent to the U.S. and Canada where she was received at the White House by President Roosevelt and then spoke at war bond drives. In a year when the war was going badly for the United States, she was an inspiration and a sensation.  She returned home to train snipers for the duration of the war. Of the 2,000 female snipers in the Soviet army, she was one of 500 to survive the war, after which she returned to Kiev University to complete her degree in history. She died in 1974.

“Our relations with the Soviets have taken a startling turn evident during the last two months,” U.S. ambassador to Moscow W. Averell Harriman reported in mid-September (1944). “They have held up our requests with complete indifference to our interests and have shown an unwillingness even to discuss pressing problems.” Harriman warned that the Russians were becoming “a world bully wherever their interests are involved.”

Fredrik Logevall, Embers of War, 2013 (Winner of the Pulitzer Prize), pages 57-58.

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