Maria Bochkareva Haiku

Ditch brutal husband

Form Battalion of Death

Bayonet the Hun

The Night Witches of World War II, while awesome, were not without precedent. Russians had been primed to consider female soldiers in the prior global showdown – that is, female soldiers serving openly, without strapping down their chests and hoping nobody notices. Enter Maria Bochkareva.

Maria hadn’t had the happiest life. Born in 1889, she married at age 16 to a man who proved to be an abusive piece of shit. She escaped him, only to be forced by her employers to work in a brothel. She escaped again, via a second husband. All seemed well. They opened up a butcher shop. Then Husband #2 was exiled for larceny. After Maria decided to join him, he took up drinking. And started beating her.

Then the Great War broke out and Maria smelled the sweet scent of opportunity. She ran off and after being rejected by the army and told to apply to the Red Cross instead, she wrote to Tsar Nicholas II himself for special permission to be a soldier. And? He granted it. Despite constant harassment, Maria did her damned best. Her best included rescuing 50 wounded soldiers. Ultimately, though, a wound (not her first) paralyzed her for four months and she was discharged in 1917.

Hmmm, what else happened in 1917? Oh yeah. The February Revolution. Maria decided she’d slacked off for long enough and approached the provisional government for permission to form an all-women battalion, on the grounds that it would help morale. Request approved. Enter the Women’s Battalion of Death. 2000 volunteered; 1700 were drummed out due to Maria’s strict discipline. They were fighting at the front when the October Revolution went down and the Bolsheviks took power.

The battalion was disbanded and Maria soon had to go on the run due to her connections to the old government. She skipped the country and went on a world tour to beg Woodrow Wilson and George V to intervene in the clusterfuck that was now Russia. She then returned to join the White Army, was captured by the Bolsheviks, and was executed against Lenin’s orders.

Lenin executed the executioners and gave her a posthumous pardon.

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