|Soviet sniper girl Kyra Petrovskaya (colorized).|
One of the the goals of this blog is to look at aspects of the war not covered to death elsewhere, and the category of Russian sniper girls is a good place to start. Individual Soviet soldiers of World War II have never received proper credit. While many German and Allied soldiers from the ranks have received endless press, there are very few famous Soviet heroes. There are good historical reasons for this, including the imposition of the Iron Curtain and the paucity of correspondents on the scene. However, now and then an individual manages to poke through the obscurity and take recognizable form. I previously wrote an article on sniper girl Roza Shanina; this time, let's look at another Soviet heroine, sniper girl Kyra Petrovskaya.
Kyra was born in 1918 on the coast of the Black Sea in the Crimea. Some sources say that her original name was "Cyrus." Her father was a decorated pilot in the Imperial Russian air force, receiving the Order (Cross) of Saint George. Remaining loyal to the "Whites," he was killed by a communist firing squad. After his death, the family moved to Leningrad to be with Kyra's grandmother.
Though the family was poor because it had no male provider, Kyra showed talent. She studied music at the Leningrad Academic Capella and performed with the Kirov Opera and Ballet Theatre. During this time, Kyra served mandatory duty in military training and earned the Voroshilov Marksman badge. That could have been it as far as her military involvement, but events intervened in Kyra's life just as in millions and millions of others' lives.
|Kyra autographing her first book for a Russian showgirl in San Francisco.|
Kyra was still in school when the Germans invaded. She was drafted as a sniper and became a Lieutenant. She later recalled what it was like to go to war:
"It was difficult the first time to pull the trigger, knowing that this would cut short someone's life, but I knew if my father was alive, he would have been at the forefront of the defenders. Now I have to defend my mother and grandmother, their homeland."Her mother and grandmother both perished in the siege of Leningrad, which was wracked by starvation during the first year of the siege and deprivation straight through to January 1944.
It is not known how many Germans Kyra killed. At some point, Kyra was wounded, but returned to the front. She was wounded again, and this time her superiors decided that she had done enough on the front lines. Kyra then became a nurse in a field hospital, which was still plenty dangerous because German and Finnish shelling covered virtually all of Leningrad. During this service, Kyra rescued a homeless orphan boy about whom she later wrote a book. Kyra served well, and she received the Order of the Red Star and two other medals. Unlike Roza Shanina, Kyra thankfully survived the war.
|Kyra being married in a Russian Orthodox ceremony.|
In 1943, Kyra joined the Moscow Satire Theater. She learned several languages fluently, as Moscow was a hub of international activity at the time. During her stay in Moscow, Kyra met an American diplomat, and they married and moved to Pennsylvania.
After they divorced nine years later, Kyra moved to Los Angeles. What does a divorced Soviet sniper girl do in 1950s Los Angeles? Why, if you are Kyra Petrovskaya, among other things, become a contestant on Groucho Marx's "You Bet Your Life" and other game shows. She wrote her first book in 1959, "Kyra," and remarried in 1960 to Dr. George Wayne. He passed away in 1994.
Kyra, perhaps to your surprise (it was to mine), remains alive and well as of the time of this writing. She currently is 98 years old and has published 14 books on a wide variety of topics. They don't make them much tougher than Kyra Petrovskaya - a true heroine who deserves recognition.