The Woman Who Sold Everything To Buy a Tank and Avenge Her Late Husband

Andrei Tapalaga
Mariya Oktyabrskaya in her T-34 tank nicknamed fighting girlfriendWikimedia Commons

In the early stages of the Second World War when the Germans were using their Blitzkrieg tactics to capture town after town, the Soviets were sustaining heavy losses not only because of the lack of resources to actually defend the armored enemy troops but also due to the lowered morale of constantly being pushed back. Many men had fallen which resulted in many wives being widowed, but some love stories don’t end like this.

Love, Lust, and War

This story started on the Peninsula of Crimean, a fierce warzone for the number of battles that have taken place as most of the time it was back and forth. One thing was for sure, those in Crimean did not want to lose their homes so they gave a good fight to the German soldiers. Despite all the efforts they were outnumbered and outgunned so most of the soldiers have died.

The loss of a loved one had awakened the anger which turned into hatred for the Germans. Mariya Oktyabrskaya was the wife of one of the soldiers that had given their last breath to defend against the Germans on the Crimean front. After her husband’s death in 1941, Mariya was in so much pain from her loss that she has sold all of her possession to purchase (build) a T-34 model 1941 medium tank and donate it to the Soviet army with certain conditions.
T-34 model 1941 with a 76mm gunWikimedia Commons

Those conditions were to firstly have the name of the tank set as the fighting girlfriend and the second was that she would be driving the tank in combat. This request was sent to Stalin himself with a check of 50,000 rubles which was the price to build a T-34 model 1941 medium tank. Stalin was extremely proud to see a civilian not only want to fight for her country but also purchase her own weaponry.

Her request was accepted upon seeing the grief she was in from her drastic action. At the same time, Mariya was no mechanical engineer but she had picked up a lot of knowledge from her husband not only about technical and mechanical tank operations but also some basic combat training.

A born Warrior
Mariya Vasilyevna OktyabrskayaWikimedia Commons

Mariya Vasilyevna Oktyabrskaya was born on the 16th of August 1905 and came from a poor family of ten children in Ukraine, Crimea. She had started her life by working a good period of time in a cannery and then as a telephone operator. In 1925 she got married to a Soviet army officer that had made her acquire a high interest in military matters.

Later on, she had acquired a post from her husband as a military nurse, for this cause she was also required to receive a basic gun and combat training, however, her husband had even shown her how to drive and even shoot a tank.

With the communistic system in place, many wives of Soviet soldiers and officers were made to join the military service either as nurses or other departments in which they were pro efficient. It was not until later within the war that women were allowed to join as soldiers due to the high demand for cannon meat.

The military squadron she was assigned to was worried as they were not sure if this woman was ready for the Eastern front. However, she had shown them some of her military skills learned from her husband. What made her tank crew sure of it was the bravery she was showing on her face. Since she had left home to go fight on the front in order to avenge her husband she was still full of grief that turned into anger.

Not only had she proven to be a valuable soldier but also a brave mechanic. On her first battle, the T-34 fighting girlfriend had been hit by an armor-piercing shell that damaged the engine and hydraulics at which point she jumped out of the tank in the middle of a firefight to fix it. After fixing it she went forward, firing up that 76mm cannon once again.

She had fought for a year and managed to push the Germans back into Hungary, upon the entry of Hungary which was a fierce fight because of the strongholds set up by the Germans and Hungarians, she had sustained some serious injuries from a mortar shell that had struck her whilst she was out of her tank fixing it.

Mariya was promoted to the rank of senior sergeant for her bravery and abilities in battles. Sadly in 1944 at the age of 38, she had passed away because of her injuries in the previous battle. After her death, she was posthumously made a Hero of the Soviet Union which was the highest honor for bravery during combat at the time.

I believe that it was people like Mariya that have really proven odds are just simple numbers and that heroes will always prevail!

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