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WWII: Women of the Red Army 70 Years ...
Moscow
By Jonathan Alpeyrie
09 May 2015

This collection features portraits of women veterans of WWII who volunteered and were conscripted to serve in the Soviet Red Army. As Moscow filled up on May 9, 2015 to celebrate 70 years since Victory in what the Soviets called, and some Russians today call the Great Patriotic War, TTM contributor Jonathan Alpeyrie was able to meet and interview nine of these women, most of them grandmothers today, donning their military decorations for the festivities.

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Born in 1925, 90 year-old Nina has two children, five grand children, and 5 great grand children. Drafted into the Red Army in 1943 on the 4th Ukrainian front. At 16 years-old Nina was incorporated into a battalion following the army’s move Westward towards Prague, where she took part in the battle to retake the capital of Czechoslovakia in early 1945. During her time on the front she was in charge of various traffic regulation duties. 

“I took care of traffic regulations on the road leading to the front lines where vehicles and troops were passing," she recalls. She remembers also being afraid of the intense fighting going on around her at the time, especially in Western Ukraine where the fighting was very hard. "We fought for the unity of the Ukraine, and what is happening now is incomprehensible," she says sharply when asked about the current situation in Ukraine. "It is bad for everyone."

Born in 1924, 90 year-old Alexandra has two children and five grand children. Drafted into the Red Army in the town of Kalatch in the Voronezh region of central Russia, she was transferred to the front lines in December 1941, only 17 years old. 

“I was a nurse in a train hospital which moved along the front lines," she recalls. The hospital train would pick up the wounded and carry them back away from the fighting to field hospitals. “Some days, there were so many wounded soldiers that we were forced to travel on top of the train cars!” Alexandra remembers. In 1943, she fell ill and was sent to Tbilisi Georgia to recuperate. It is there that she met her future husband. “My most vivid memory was the day of our victory on May 9th 1945. We danced so much that day..."

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Women of the Red Army 05
Moscow
By Jonathan Alpeyrie
09 May 2015

Born in 1924, 90 year-old Alexandra has two children and five grand children. Drafted into the Red Army in the town of Kalatch in the Voronezh region of central Russia, she was transferred to the front lines in December 1941, only 17 years old.

“I was a nurse in a train hospital which moved along the front lines," she recalls. The hospital train would pick up the wounded and carry them back away from the fighting to field hospitals. “Some days, there were so many wounded soldiers that we were forced to travel on top of the train cars!” Alexandra remembers. In 1943, she fell ill and was sent to Tbilisi Georgia to recuperate. It is there that she met her future husband. “My most vivid memory was the day of our victory on May 9th 1945. We danced so much that day..."

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Women of the Red Army 06
Moscow
By Jonathan Alpeyrie
09 May 2015

Born in 1924, 90 year-old Alexandra has two children and five grand children. Drafted into the Red Army in the town of Kalatch in the Voronezh region of central Russia, she was transferred to the front lines in December 1941, only 17 years old.

“I was a nurse in a train hospital which moved along the front lines," she recalls. The hospital train would pick up the wounded and carry them back away from the fighting to field hospitals. “Some days, there were so many wounded soldiers that we were forced to travel on top of the train cars!” Alexandra remembers. In 1943, she fell ill and was sent to Tbilisi Georgia to recuperate. It is there that she met her future husband. “My most vivid memory was the day of our victory on May 9th 1945. We danced so much that day..."

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Women of the Red Army 07
Moscow
By Jonathan Alpeyrie
09 May 2015

Born in 1931, 85 year-old Zinaida has one child, and one grand child. She was drafted in to the Red Army as part of a Ukrainian partisan outfit near the town of Hmelnick in Western Ukraine.

“I was 12 years-old when German soldiers took over our house. We fled to the forest with my brother Maxime. There, we managed to join a Communist partisan group," she recalls. “I would cook for the soldiers as well as provide important information for them by spying on German troops' movement. I remained with the same partisan unit for the entire war." By the end of the war, the group was hiding in the Carpathian Mountains. Her greatest memory of the war is the ‘Katioucha' song Red Army soldier sang when they liberated her native village, she tells us.

Zinaida left Ukraine in 2008 in order to join her only daughter in Russia to live together. When asked about the current conflict in Ukraine, she says, “I miss Ukraine a lot. We left some family there, and we are afraid of this new conflict."

"We will not return until the war ends," she says sadly.

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Women of the Red Army 08
Moscow
By Jonathan Alpeyrie
09 May 2015

Born in 1931, 85 year-old Zinaida has one child, and one grand child. She was drafted in to the Red Army as part of a Ukrainian partisan outfit near the town of Hmelnick in Western Ukraine.

“I was 12 years-old when German soldiers took over our house. We fled to the forest with my brother Maxime. There, we managed to join a Communist partisan group," she recalls. “I would cook for the soldiers as well as provide important information for them by spying on German troops' movement. I remained with the same partisan unit for the entire war." By the end of the war, the group was hiding in the Carpathian Mountains. Her greatest memory of the war is the ‘Katioucha' song Red Army soldier sang when they liberated her native village, she tells us.

Zinaida left Ukraine in 2008 in order to join her only daughter in Russia to live together. When asked about the current conflict in Ukraine, she says, “I miss Ukraine a lot. We left some family there, and we are afraid of this new conflict."

"We will not return until the war ends," she says sadly.

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Women of the Red Army 09
Moscow
By Jonathan Alpeyrie
09 May 2015

Born in 1930, 84 year-old Nakia has five children, and one grand child. During the war, she was forced to work in a factory, which produced spare parts for the war effort in Tirsa, Tartastan. Working in a factory as an 11 year-old for the war effort was a sacrifice for many reasons. Each day she had to walk 30 kilometers to “go to the factory from my village, and walk each night back the same way," she recalls. Some nights she had to work nights as the heavy losses incurred on the front lines required constant work. Her most difficult memory of the war was the lack of food.

“We had nothing to eat," she remembers. "We had to scrape the earth in a near by field in order to find roots and vegetables. I was scared, scared all the time," she admits. But when victory day arrived on May 9th, she felt this was the best gift one could have given her.

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Women of the Red Army 10
Moscow
By Jonathan Alpeyrie
09 May 2015

Born in 1930, 84 year-old Nakia has five children, and one grand child. During the war, she was forced to work in a factory, which produced spare parts for the war effort in Tirsa, Tartastan. Working in a factory as an 11 year-old for the war effort was a sacrifice for many reasons. Each day she had to walk 30 kilometers to “go to the factory from my village, and walk each night back the same way," she recalls. Some nights she had to work nights as the heavy losses incurred on the front lines required constant work. Her most difficult memory of the war was the lack of food.

“We had nothing to eat," she remembers. "We had to scrape the earth in a near by field in order to find roots and vegetables. I was scared, scared all the time," she admits. But when victory day arrived on May 9th, she felt this was the best gift one could have given her.

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Women of the Red Army 11
Moscow
By Jonathan Alpeyrie
09 May 2015

Born in 1927, 88 year-old Ivannikova has five children, 12 grand children, and 8 great grand children. During the war she was a military train conductor in Saratov in South East Russia.

“I was in a technical high school to learn how to drive trains when the war began," she remembers. She started to drive military trains in 1943. “Most of the time we would transport ammunitions to the front lines. But sometimes, we did not know what the cargo contained, as it was secret."

Though German planes never attacked her train, she remembers being scared all the time. “I used to have nightmares each night,” she recalls. She also remembers the day of victory. She cried a lot remembering the death of so many people, but said, “it was a great day for me, because we won, and the war was finally over.”

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Women of the Red Army 13
Moscow
By Jonathan Alpeyrie
09 May 2015

Born in 1925, 90 year-old Nina has two children, five grand children, and 5 great grand children. Drafted into the Red Army in 1943 on the 4th Ukrainian front. At 16 years-old Nina was incorporated into a battalion following the army’s move Westward towards Prague, where she took part in the battle to retake the capital of Czechoslovakia in early 1945. During her time on the front she was in charge of various traffic regulation duties.

“I took care of traffic regulations on the road leading to the front lines where vehicles and troops were passing," she recalls. She remembers also being afraid of the intense fighting going on around her at the time, especially in Western Ukraine where the fighting was very hard. "We fought for the unity of the Ukraine, and what is happening now is incomprehensible," she says sharply when asked about the current situation in Ukraine. "It is bad for everyone."

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Women of the Red Army 14
Moscow
By Jonathan Alpeyrie
09 May 2015

Born in 1925, 90 year-old Nina has two children, five grand children, and 5 great grand children. Drafted into the Red Army in 1943 on the 4th Ukrainian front. At 16 years-old Nina was incorporated into a battalion following the army’s move Westward towards Prague, where she took part in the battle to retake the capital of Czechoslovakia in early 1945. During her time on the front she was in charge of various traffic regulation duties.

“I took care of traffic regulations on the road leading to the front lines where vehicles and troops were passing," she recalls. She remembers also being afraid of the intense fighting going on around her at the time, especially in Western Ukraine where the fighting was very hard. "We fought for the unity of the Ukraine, and what is happening now is incomprehensible," she says sharply when asked about the current situation in Ukraine. "It is bad for everyone."

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Women of the Red Army 15
Moscow
By Jonathan Alpeyrie
09 May 2015

Born in 1920, 94 year-old Nagaieva has one child, two grand children, and three great grand children. Nagaieva was drafted into the Red Army and sent to the front lines near Kursk where the Soviets were battling the German army in 1943. She contributed to the war effort as a dentist, following the Soviet army’s advance through Ukraine, Eastern Europe and finally into Germany where she took part of the fall of the Reichstadt in late April 1945.

When asked how she felt about the final victory on May 9th 1945, she smiles and says, “This May 9th, I had the impression of being 19 years-old again."

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Women of the Red Army 16
Moscow
By Jonathan Alpeyrie
09 May 2015

Born in 1920, 94 year-old Nagaieva has one child, two grand children, and three great grand children. Nagaieva was drafted into the Red Army and sent to the front lines near Kursk where the Soviets were battling the German army in 1943. She contributed to the war effort as a dentist, following the Soviet army’s advance through Ukraine, Eastern Europe and finally into Germany where she took part of the fall of the Reichstadt in late April 1945.

When asked how she felt about the final victory on May 9th 1945, she smiles and says, “This May 9th, I had the impression of being 19 years-old again."

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Women of the Red Army 17
Moscow
By Jonathan Alpeyrie
09 May 2015

Born in 1924, 90 year-old Maria was a volunteer nurse, treating Red Army soldiers on the front lines.

“When I learned about the German invasion of my country in 1941, I volunteered as a nurse in the 847th infantry regiment. Soon after joining the regiment, the entire unit was ordered to the front lines at Lipetsk in central Russia," she explains.

During the trip the regiment was attacked many times by German airplanes. Though out 1942 and 1943, she fought with the regiment into Ukraine and took part in the liberation of Kharkov, Kiev and Lviv. She continued her progress with the regiment into Germany in 1945 before being ordered towards Czechoslovakia to take part in the battle of Prague in early 1945.

“I have saved many lives as a nurse, but I was myself wounded twice," explains the veteran. “What is the hardest for me, is all the people I could not save. But I am very proud of my service to my country, defending it.”

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Women of the Red Army 18
Moscow
By Jonathan Alpeyrie
09 May 2015

Born in 1924, 90 year-old Maria was a volunteer nurse, treating Red Army soldiers on the front lines.

“When I learned about the German invasion of my country in 1941, I volunteered as a nurse in the 847th infantry regiment. Soon after joining the regiment, the entire unit was ordered to the front lines at Lipetsk in central Russia," she explains.

During the trip the regiment was attacked many times by German airplanes. Though out 1942 and 1943, she fought with the regiment into Ukraine and took part in the liberation of Kharkov, Kiev and Lviv. She continued her progress with the regiment into Germany in 1945 before being ordered towards Czechoslovakia to take part in the battle of Prague in early 1945.

“I have saved many lives as a nurse, but I was myself wounded twice," explains the veteran. “What is the hardest for me, is all the people I could not save. But I am very proud of my service to my country, defending it.”

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Women of the Red Army 12
Moscow
By Jonathan Alpeyrie
08 May 2015

Born in 1927, 88 year-old Ivannikova has five children, 12 grand children, and 8 great grand children. During the war she was a military train conductor in Saratov in South East Russia.

“I was in a technical high school to learn how to drive trains when the war began," she remembers. She started to drive military trains in 1943. “Most of the time we would transport ammunitions to the front lines. But sometimes, we did not know what the cargo contained, as it was secret."

Though German planes never attacked her train, she remembers being scared all the time. “I used to have nightmares each night,” she recalls. She also remembers the day of victory. She cried a lot remembering the death of so many people, but said, “it was a great day for me, because we won, and the war was finally over.”

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Women of the Red Army 01
Moscow
By Jonathan Alpeyrie
09 May 2014

Born in 1925, 90 year-old Svetlana is the mother of four children. Drafted into the Red army with the outbreak of the war as a mail woman, she was positioned in Yakoutsk Siberia. She was 16 years old when the war began with the German invasion of her country on June 22n 1941.

“I learned about the invasion by radio, and it was a real shock for me," she recalls. She was then mobilised into the Red army, and positioned at a local military post office for the entirety of the war. Her work consisted of announcing the deaths of soldiers to their families or wives. In other words, she was like an 'Angel of Death’ delivering the worst news possible to loved ones, going from house to house knocking on people’s doors with a small triangular letter in her hand. During the winters, she remembers that because it was so cold she would travel on horseback from one location to another. Svetlana never doubted that the USSR would be victorious against the Nazis. “I new it would take time, but I never doubted our final victory," she said. After the war, she continued her work in the postal service.

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Women of the Red Army 02
Moscow
By Jonathan Alpeyrie
09 May 2014

Born in 1925, 90 year-old Svetlana is the mother of four children. Drafted into the Red army with the outbreak of the war as a mail woman, she was positioned in Yakoutsk Siberia. She was 16 years old when the war began with the German invasion of her country on June 22n 1941.

“I learned about the invasion by radio, and it was a real shock for me," she recalls. She was then mobilised into the Red army, and positioned at a local military post office for the entirety of the war. Her work consisted of announcing the deaths of soldiers to their families or wives. In other words, she was like an 'Angel of Death’ delivering the worst news possible to loved ones, going from house to house knocking on people’s doors with a small triangular letter in her hand. During the winters, she remembers that because it was so cold she would travel on horseback from one location to another. Svetlana never doubted that the USSR would be victorious against the Nazis. “I new it would take time, but I never doubted our final victory," she said. After the war, she continued her work in the postal service.

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Women of the Red Army 03
Moscow
By Jonathan Alpeyrie
09 May 2014

Born in 1922, 94 year-old Lubov (which means love in Russian) has had two children, two grand children, and four great grand children. During the war she was drafted into the Red Army to work in a field hospital in Grozny, Chechnya.

“The city was always in fire," she recalls. She was 21 years old when she started to work as a nurse in the Grozny field hospital. “My task was to dress soldiers' wounds and change their bandages regularly," she explains. “I also wrote letters to the parents who lost their son in various battles." Lubov was later decorated by the Red Army for her courage during the defence of the Caucasus against German forces.

Born in Odessa, Ukraine in a Jewish family of intellectuals and scientists, when asked about the current conflict between Ukraine and Russia, she kept calm and replied with a strong sense of realism: “It is very sad what is happening in the Donbass. The Minsk accords are not being respected, and the propaganda works on both sides." She also added that Russia now is a better nation then during the USSR in terms of freedom of expression. “Before, when someone did not agree with the government, they were thrown in jail, or simply eliminated!”

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Women of the Red Army 04
moscow
By Jonathan Alpeyrie
09 May 2014

Born in 1922, 94 year-old Lubov (which means love in Russian) has had two children, two grand children, and four great grand children. During the war she was drafted into the Red Army to work in a field hospital in Grozny, Chechnya.

“The city was always in fire," she recalls. She was 21 years old when she started to work as a nurse in the Grozny field hospital. “My task was to dress soldiers' wounds and change their bandages regularly," she explains. “I also wrote letters to the parents who lost their son in various battles." Lubov was later decorated by the Red Army for her courage during the defence of the Caucasus against German forces.

Born in Odessa, Ukraine in a Jewish family of intellectuals and scientists, when asked about the current conflict between Ukraine and Russia, she kept calm and replied with a strong sense of realism: “It is very sad what is happening in the Donbass. The Minsk accords are not being respected, and the propaganda works on both sides." She also added that Russia now is a better nation then during the USSR in terms of freedom of expression. “Before, when someone did not agree with the government, they were thrown in jail, or simply eliminated!”