Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya was born in the Soviet Union in 1923 in the village of Osino-Gay. In 1930 her family moved to Moscow. She was known to be an avid reader with a flair for literature. She was just 18 when she joined a partisan unit in October of 1941. She was assigned to unit 9903, which operated on the Western Front.
She was one of 1,000 people who joined the 9903 that month, and only half made it home after the war. Some of her first assignments were at the village of Obukhovo, near Naro-Fominsk. It was there that she crossed the front line and officially entered territory that was occupied by the Nazis. Kosmodemyanskaya and her unit placed mines on roads and cut communication lines. But her time with the 9903 was short lived as she received her last orders on November 27, 1943.
She was assigned to burn the village of Petrischevo. A German cavalry unit was stationed there and the 9903 hoped to stop them. She succeeded in setting fire to the stables and several houses before she was noticed by a villager who alerted the Germans. She returned to her unit victorious but when she went back the next day to burn more buildings, the Germans were waiting for her. They brutally tortured her throughout the night, but she never revealed any information about her unit or their operation.
The next day the 18-year-old was marched into the town with a sign that read “Houseburner.” The Germans ordered the villagers to witness the scene and as a noose was placed around her neck. She remained defiant, telling the Germans she was not afraid to die and that 2 million Russians were ready to avenge her. Her body was left hanging for weeks and was defiled by German soldiers before she was finally buried on New Years Day in 1942.