24. Lady Death in the United States of America
In late 1942, the hard-pressed Soviets were desperate for their allies to launch a second front and relieve the pressure on them. So Lyudmila Pavlichenko was sent to the US to drum up support for a second front. She became the first Soviet citizen received by an American president, when Franklin D. Roosevelt welcomed her to the White House. She also became a lifelong friend of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who invited her to tour America and recount her experiences. She was taken aback by the frivolity of the American press. Pavlichenko, who had been in combat for a year and killed over 300 enemy soldiers, was referred to as the “Girl Sniper”, and was questioned about the kind of lipstick and makeup she used on the front lines.
As she recalled: “One reporter even criticized the length of the skirt of my uniform, saying that in America women wear shorter skirts and besides my uniform made me look fat“. She stolidly plugged on, and won great applause in a Chicago speech when she stated: “Gentlemen, I am 25 years old and I have killed 309 fascist occupants by now. Don’t you think, gentlemen, that you have been hiding behind my back for too long?” During her tour, Pavlichenko spoke of the lack of racial segregation in the Red Army, and its gender equality – both matters in which the US military lagged far behind. By the time she left, Pavlichenko had made an impression, and even inspired Woody Guthrie to write a song about her, Miss Pavlichenko.