Grandma Sniper – Nina Petrova may not have written the book on being a badass but she put in several illustrations.
Many women contributed to the Soviet victory in the Great Patriotic War, the name for World War II in the USSR. Among the famous Soviet women was Nina Petrova, the only female sniper who participated in the battle for Leningrad. In addition, at the age of 52, she became one of the best female snipers of the Red Army and was one of the four female recipients of the full Cavaliers of the “Order of Glory.”
Nina Petrova was born in the town of Oranienbaum (now Lomonosov) on July 27, 1893. Shortly thereafter her family moved to live in Leningrad, where her father passed away. The family had many children, so from childhood little Nina was taught to work and care for her brothers and sisters. After graduation from school, she moved to work in Vladivostok. Later she also worked as a typist at a shipyard in Revel, a librarian at Svistroje, and an accountant in Gdov, among other jobs.
In 1927, Nina and her 10-year-old daughter returned to Leningrad, where Nina took a job as an instructor in the “Spartacus” sports society. In addition, she was engaged in horseback riding, biking, swimming, hockey, basketball and speed skating.
In the period of 1934-1935, Nina took prizes in various sports, including shooting competitions. She was one of the first in Leningrad to receive the badge “Ready for Labor and the Defense of the USSR” 1st level. After that, she took part in a shooting competition in which she won first place and a small-caliber rifle.
Nina was trained in a sniper school, and afterward became an instructor. In 1936, she instructed 102 of Voroshilov’s sharpshooters. In 1939, she took part in the Soviet-Finnish war. At the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, Nina was 48 years old, which meant that she was not subject to conscription. However, she voluntarily joined the 4th Division of the People’s Militia, and served in the medical sanitary battalion.
In 1941, Nina joined the ranks of the main army as a sniper of the 284th Infantry Regiment. Soon she was made the commander of its branch of snipers. During the battles near Leningrad, Nina repeatedly went into combat positions and trained other snipers. Over the course of the time she spent at the front, she managed to train more than 500 snipers.
For her achievements in battles near Leningrad, Nina Petrova received the medals “For the Defense of Leningrad” and “For Military Merit.” General Ivan Fedyuninsky recalled: “Our acquaintance happened as follows. Somehow, after the battles under the German Elbing, I signed submissions for government awards.
A reward sheet filled with sniper Petty Officer Petrov, who was nominated to the Order of Glory 1st Class, attracted my attention. The award list indicated that Petrova was 52 years old. I did not want to believe my eyes: is she more than fifty years old?”
On January 16, 1944, near the village of Zarudiny, Nina destroyed two German signalmen. When her position was discovered, she successfully changed her position under heavy fire and killed another three German soldiers. On March 2, 1944, Nina was awarded the Order of Glory of the 3rd Degree for eliminating 23 enemy soldiers.
In August 1944, Nina Petrova was in the ranks of the 3rd Baltic Front and took part in battles near the Lepassaare railway station in the Põlva district of Estonia. She killed 12 German soldiers, repeatedly went on reconnaissance, and helped other soldiers seize valuable documents. On August 20, 1944, she was awarded the Order of Glory 2nd Degree.
In February 1945, Nina was in the 2nd Belorussian Front. She took part in battles for the city of Elbing, covering the attacking infantry with sniper fire and suppressing German firing points. In these battles, Nina killed 32 German soldiers, bringing her total score to 100 killed. For these and other successes, she was given a personal sniper rifle and an optical sight.
In the battle for Hill 14.7, she was one of the first to break into the battle and accidentally stumbled upon three German soldiers. Nina promptly captured them and brought them to the Red Army headquarters. Not long after this, she wrote her last letter to her daughter:
My dear, dear daughter! I am tired of fighting, baby, because it is already the fourth year at the front. Would rather end this damned war and return home. How I want to hug you, kiss my dear granddaughter! Maybe we will live to see this happy day…soon I will be awarded the Order of Glory of the First Degree, so that her grandmother will be a full-fledged Cavalier.
On the night of May 1, 1945, Nina Petrova was a passenger in a ZIS-5 car that crashed. Due to low visibility, the driver lost control and the car fell off a bridge. Nina died on the spot. At the time of her death, there were 122 dead German soldiers and officers to her credit. On June 29, 1945 Nina Petrova was posthumously awarded the Order of Glory 1st Degree, thereby becoming one of the four women who were full Cavaliers of the Order of Glory.