Citing two fragments about women-tankdrivers from the book mentioned above:
(I managed to regonise this text only at home)
Irina Nikolayevna Levchenko
Irina Levchenko was one of only two tank Heroines from the Great Patriotic War. If this woman were to be described with one word, then that word would be "tenacious." She forced her way into the tank corps when it was an all-male service and proved herself beyond doubt. She was born in the Voroshilovgrad region of Ukraine. Her father, an electrician who was a deputy minister of Transportation in Stalin's regime, was executed during the infamous purges in the late 1930s.
As soon as the war started, Levchenko worked with the local Soviet Red Cross helping civilians. She served as a field medic with the 744th Rifle Regiment. By May 1942, she had distinguished herself by treating and removing 168 wounded soldiers from the battlefield.
Having seen tanks in combat at first hand, Levchenko decided that she wanted to be a tank driver. This was not an easy task for her. Through sheer persistence and by refusing to take "no" for an answer, she convinced a general of a tank regiment to send her to the 39th Tank Brigade. She was wounded in the right arm during a battle in the Crimea and was subsequently discharged as an invalid. However, she rejected the discharge and was determined to cam- on fighting.
In Moscow, Levchenko impressed many people with her burning desire to get back to the war. She finally cornered Lt/Gen Y. N. Fedorenko, commander of Armored Troops, and pleaded her case. When the general politely refused, she burst into tears and wouldn't stop crying until he finally gave in. He told her that she had to pass a medical fitness test. The medical examiner failed the candidate, but he later passed her after a "friendly" discussion with the general. She was at last back in tank school.
In 1943, Levchenko finished the accelerated course of the Stalingrad Tank School and served as a communication officer with the 41st Tank Brigade. Her right arm still gave her trouble, but it did not stop her from participating in tank battles around Smolensk. Her tank was hit and she was wounded, but she recovered after a brief hospital stay. She fought on the 2nd and 3rd Ukrainian Fronts and nearly reached Berlin when the war ended.
Levchenko became an engineer of tank troops and retired with the rank of lieutenant colonel. She bears the distinction of being the first Soviet woman to receive the prestigious Florence Nightingale Medal for her deeds as a field medic. On May 6, 1965, this extraordinary woman finally received the HSU title. She passed away on January 18, 1973.
Mariya Oktyabrskaya was the first female tank driver to become a Heroine. She was born in the Crimean region of the Ukraine, one of ten children in a peasant family. After completing secondary school, she worked in a cannery, and later as a telephone operator. When she married in 1925, she and her husband changed their names in honor of the October Revolution, and she became Mariya Oktyabrskaya. Her husband was a military officer and they lived on various bases.
Not content with being an officer's wife, Oktyabrskaya took interest in her husband's trade and learned how to drive and use firearms, and she also took up nursing. All this was in addition to involvement with the military wives' councils.
At the start of the Great Patriotic War, Okryabrskaya was sent to Tomsk in Siberia far away from the fighting. Two years later, she was notified that her husband had been killed in Kiev back in August 1941. Filled with anger and a desire for revenge, she sold all of her possessions to raise money to donate a tank to the military. The only stipulation was that she would be its driver! The State Committee of Defense realized the publicity that could be derived from this, and the request was granted. She completed five
months of tank training and was posted to the 26th Guards Tank Brigade in September 1943 as a mechanic/driver.
When 38-year-old Mariya Okryabrskaya showed up in her T-34 in the Smolensk area with the words "Fighting Girlfriend" painted on the turret, many of her comrades were skeptical. They viewed her as a joke. However, scorn turned to respect on October 21, 1943, when she participated in her first tank batde. With the deputy of her brigade, a lieutenant colonel, riding as an observer, Oktyabrskaya's tank was the first to breach the enemy positions. She maneuvered the tank like a veteran, destroying several artillery pieces and machine gun nests. Her rampage caused havoc amongst the enemy.
During a night action on November 17-18, the Sonets captured the town of Novoye Selo in the Vitebsk region. Once again, the fearless tank driver distinguished herself. Rushing into the German defenses, a shell exploded in their tracks, stopping them dead. Oktyabrskaya and another crewmen jumped out to repair the tracks while gunners inside the tank kept up steady fire. They returned to their unit two days later.
On January 17, 1944, during another night action, Oktyabrskaya drove her tank into the enemy's fortified positions, plowing over dugouts and machine gun nests, and knocking out a self-propelled gun. An anti-iank gunner scored a hit on the tank's track. Oktyabrskaya was told to stay inside the tank, but she disobeyed orders and jumped out to help the two others repair the broken links. They came under intense fire and she was struck in the head by shrapnel and knocked unconscious.
Guards Sr/Sgt Mariya Oktyabrskaya remained in a coma for almost two months, and died on March 15, 1944. For her many acts of valor, she was awarded the HSU tide on August 2, 1944.