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Girl With a Sniper Rifle (Hardback)

An Eastern Front Memoir

Military > Greenhill Books > Greenhill: WWII Military > Snipers WWII Women of History

By Yulia Zhukova, Foreword by Martin Pegler
Greenhill Books
Pages: 206
ISBN: 9781784383985
Published: 4th September 2019


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In this vivid first-hand account we gain unique access to the inner workings of Stalin's Central Women’s Sniper School, near Podolsk in Western Russia.

Yulia was a dedicated member of the Komsomol (the Soviet communist youth organisation) and her parents worked for the NKVD. She started at the sniper school and eventually became a valued member of her battalion during operations against Prussia.

She persevered through eight months of training before leaving for the Front on 24th November 1944 just days after qualifying. Joining the third Belorussian Front her battalion endured rounds of German mortar as well as loudspeaker announcements beckoning them to come over to the German side.

Yulia recounts how they would be in the field for days, regularly facing the enemy in terrifying one-on-one encounters. She sets down the euphoria of her first hit and starting her “battle count” but her reflection on how it was also the ending of a life.

These feelings fade as she recounts the barbarous actions of Hitler’s Nazi Germany. She recall how the women were once nearly overrun by Germans at their house when other Red Army formations had moved off and failed to tell them. She also details a nine-day stand-off they endured encircled by Germans in Landsberg.

Regularly suffering ill-health she took a shrapnel injury to her knee and had to be operated on without an anaesthetic. She would eventually see the end of the war in Köngsberg.

Like her famous counterpart Pavlichenko she gained recognition but struggled to come to terms with war service. Haunted by flashbacks she burned the letters she sent home from the Front. She later discovered that of the 1885 graduates of her sniper school only 250 had died in war.

In this powerful, first-hand account we come up close to the machinations of the NKVD (the secret police) as well as the gruelling toll of war and the breathtaking bravery of this female sniper.

Additional material includes notes by John Walter and an introduction by Martin Pegler.

As featured on World War II Today

WW2 Today

"...while Zhukova might not have experienced years on the front line, her few months left her with memories and experiences that help us better understand what Red Army forces experienced, survived, and what many Soviet women had to contend with in addition to the enemy during their time at the front."

World War II and Other Book Reviews, March 2022

Having recently completed a book about Germany's leaders in WWII I was curious to see this book advertised as it portrayed the wartime experience of a person at the opposing end of the scale, a teen-aged young Russian girl - a fully hardened sniper. The book deals with her experiences from sniper school to the lone snipers' killing fields of the front line. Russian snipers like Yulia Zhukova took a heavy toll of German officers and were feared to the extent that their capture would result in merciless torture before being killed. This young girl, nevertheless, stood her ground and did what she did best - shooting Germans from a distance. Composed from letters she wrote home, the book gives an insight into what the war meant to this young girl. She survived and describes life post war before settling down to motherhood and a normal family life. Highly recommended.

Dr Adrian Greaves, Rorkes Drift, Lawrence of Arabia, Isandlwana

I think this is an important book that I recommend to those interested in WWII, especially in personal accounts, and more particularly those looking for Eastern Front memoirs. Also, to historians or readers eager to learn more about women’s involvement in WWII, and, in general, to anybody keen to read a memoir from an era we should never forget.

Read the full review here

Author Translator

Those who would like to get an insight in how a woman – Yulia Zhukova – experienced the Second World War, or those who want to get a better understanding of how some veterans look back on their experiences at the front, will most certainly have a good read with this book.

Read the full review here

Traces of War

An insightful, thoroughly absorbing, first-person account of being a successful Russian female sniper.

Leatherneck Magazine

Providing an absolutely fascinating, impressively informative, deeply personal account, "Girl With A Sniper Rifle: An Eastern Front Memoir" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to community and academic library World War II Military History & Biography collections.

Read the full review here

Midwest Book Review

A rare story of the women snipers who achieved so much for the Soviet war effort. The author provides an illuminating and engaging account of her exceptional service and of her comrades – Much Recommended.

Read the full review here


Author interview conducted by Tom Garner as featured by

History of War, issue 74

This is truly is a mix of vivid and fascinating characters, Historical saga, dastardly well written and intricate story-line!

NetGalley, Kelly Watley

This memoir is a truly insightful story into how the war affected just one person, who wanted to serve her country. This book is well written and as the memory of the War is lost to history, it will only be first-hand accounts like this that will keep the memories of these brave and courageous people alive.

Read the full review here


Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

The author's painstaking research and attention to detail is obvious in the writing of this book. There were many facts that I only discovered after reading this!

NetGalley, Cristie Underwood

Featured 'ON THE SHELF' by Neil Smith

Wargames Illustrated, September 2019

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I found this book to be fascinating! The author, now in her 90's, details her experiences in World War 2 as a sniper for the Russian army. Never bragging, yet obviously very proud of her contributions, she bares her soul to the reader of her history. From being a teenager who wanted to defend her country, all the way through to today, she makes you feel like she is sitting at a table with you, telling her story. And what a story! The sacrifices she suffered, the horrors she witnessed, the PTSD she experienced; it's amazing she is still alive. As she relates the extremely difficult training she went through, the sexism she endured, and her escape from the Nazi's, you will feel your heart being ripped out of your chest. Never dwelling on the blood and gore, simply telling her story and what she did to save her country, this should be a book that everyone interested in World War 2, and in Russia today, should read!

NetGalley, Randal White

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Girl with a Sniper Rifle was a surprise. It was about World war 2. The surprise was that it was about how the Russian women were so Important to the war. Yulia Zhukova of Russia, whose hometown was Uralic, joined the Young Communist League as a young girl. She wanted to help defend her country and people. She was brought up with a love for her country. She became a sniper for the Red Army. Training was very hard. There wasn’t any rest and not much food. She was a woman who shared with men all the horrors of war. She has written in such details about her life at the front and she became very close to her frontline friends, both men and women. She was awarded many medals. She did Cadet training at the Central Women’s Sniping School. Went to the front end in 1944. War ended and she arrived home on August 6, 1945. I think the reason that she wrote her story is so that the young people of Russia would remember the war of 1941 to 1945 and respect the veterans. I especially enjoyed all the photos at the end.

NetGalley, Jean Blankenship

A thoroughly good read detailing the service of a female Russian sniper. It reads as if she were sat talking to you. It offers some good insights into the Russian Army and the political background to its actions. Recommended.

Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide

Michael McCarthy

About Yulia Zhukova

Yulia Zhukova spent her early years in Uralsk but her parents moved from city to city through their work for the secret police, the NKVD. Despite suffering from ill-health in her youth she eventually enlisted and trained to be a sniper. After the war she finished her studies at Moscow University Pedagogical Institute and worked as a Komsomol secretary in Moscow. She then became a school director of a school and worked for the Communist Party.

About Martin Pegler

Martin Pegler was curator of firearms at the Royal Armouries for twenty years and during his career shoot almost every historic and current sniping rifle. He is the author of a dozen books about firearms, but specialises in the development sniper and technology of sniping. He lives in France with his wife.

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