International Women’s Day 2016

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The 8th of March in Russia is probably the most favorite day for all the Russian women – and probably least favorite for the men!

On this day women usually get presents at work – flowers, sweets and chocolate are very common – and at home their sons and husbands try to help their wives and mothers with housework. They can try and cook dinner, do the shopping and clean the flat, thus giving the women a chance to relax from their routine life and just enjoy the holiday. Unfortunately, usually they are only eager to do it once a year. At midnight like in the Cinderella story, usually everything comes back to normal life.

Before the 8th of March, children in kindergarten usually prepare gifts for their mothers: portraits, hand-made souvenirs or just cards. Among young people, it is very common for boys to take their dates out to cafes or restaurants and naturally, to give girls some flowers. To tell the truth in Russia flowers is one of the most common gifts suitable for any occasion – that is why there are flower shops all around the city of St Petersburg and most of them work 24/7.

Since the 8th of March is Women’s Day, here is a story of one of the most outstanding and amazing women, who was awarded with the Hero of the Soviet Union title, Maria Oktyabrskaya.

Usually it is the men who are heroes on the battlefield, sacrificing their lives for the beloved ones. However, the Great Patriotic War (22 June 1941 – 9 May 1945) changed the lives of all Soviet people. Nobody was left out.  

When the war started, Maria was evacuated to Tomsk in Siberia, where she continued to work. In 1941 she received a letter, which told her that her husband had died on the battlefield in Ukraine on the 9th of August 1941, while leading his soldiers in an attempt to advance somewhere near Kiev. Maria wanted to fight. She asked several times for permission to join the army, however was denied because she was already 36 years old and had health problems.

However, she managed to find another way. Together with her sister, they sold most of their belongings and spent countless hours embroidering. Thus, they raised 50 thousand rubles and gave all this money for the construction of a T-34 tank. She sent a telegram directly to Stalin begging him to allow her to join the army as a member of the tank team, which she paid for to be constructed. Stalin thanked the woman for her devotedness to the country and for all her efforts, and promised that her wish will be fulfilled.

Maria named her tank “Boevaya Podruga”, which means a girlfriend who fights together with you on the battlefield. Maria was a driver-mechanic, responsible not only for driving the tank but also for the maintenance. Starting from the autumn of 1943, she was already fighting the Nazis on the Western front.

On 18 January 1944 during a battle, the tank was hit, and Mariya started to fix it right under the fire of the Nazis. Unfortunately, she was badly injured in her eye. The wound was serious and the doctors couldn’t save her life. Mariya died on the 15th of March. On 2 August 1944 she was awarded with the title Hero of the Soviet Union.

In the documents, it said that Maria was always respectful and careful with her tank, which she bought with her own money. She managed to take revenge for her husband and was a brave and fearless warrior.