Yevdokiya Zavaliy: the Heroine of WWII

Yevdokiya Zavaliy: the Heroine of WWII

The life story and military feats of an incredible woman, Yevdokiya Zavaliy, the only female commander of the platoon of marines during WWII.

Yevdokiya Zavaliy was born on May 28, 1926 in a small village located in the Nikolayev Region, Ukraine. Before the war, she worked on a farm. That’s how the war began for her.

“It was the 25th of July. I suddenly saw 4 black spots in the sky over our village and understood these were landing troops! After a terrible roar the enemy planes started bombing. We rushed to our houses. Having run into the yard, I heard someone moaning. Under an old apple tree there was a young border guard lying in a pool of blood. I don’t remember the moment when I entered the house, tore the sheet to pieces and bandaged him… Then I saw another wounded soldier, then another…

When the last military unit left our village, I persuaded the commander to take me with him. He didn’t refuse. When I was about to leave I ran across my grandmother. Having noticed me, she started wailing: “Oh, what are you doing?! Come back, treasure!” Then she suddenly hugged me, whispered something and said looking in my eyes: “My dear grandchild! You will bleed 4 times but white geese will bring you back…” After that she crossed me.

Don’t be surprised, my grandmother was a healer and could predict the future. She lived until 114 years old. ”

Yevdokiya Zavaliy: the Heroine of WWII

The unit which Yevdokiya Zavaliy joined was the cavalry regiment. In order to be taken to the front line, she had to add three years to her real age and say to the commander that she was 18. It’s worth noting that almost all materials about our heroine (including Wikipedia) state that she was born in 1924, although she said many times in her interviews that she had been about 16 when the war broke out.

In the regiment, she served as a nurse. She learned to shoot a rifle, a pistol and a machine gun. During the retreat near Khortytsya island she got a penetrating wound to the abdomen. The doctor wanted to give her an early discharge on medical grounds but she insisted on staying. After leaving the hospital Yevdokiya was sent to the reserve regiment. There she got her first order, the Order of the Red Star. During the bombing, she dragged an unconscious wounded officer to the safe place, bandaged him and brought to life.

Yevdokiya Zavaliy: the Heroine of WWII

This regiment became the place of Yevdokiya’s transformation into a man. Here’s what she says: “One day the people from the command came to take guys to the front line. One of them approached me and said that I had 15 minutes to pack my things. He didn’t even notice that I was a woman. At that time I really looked like a man – the same soldier’s blouse, riding breeches and a crew cut on my head (I had to shave off my plait at the hospital to get rid of lice). I was given ammunition, a uniform and then sent… to the bathhouse! While naked men were passing me one by one, I was thinking of what to do. This small lie could easily turn into execution. So I decided to smash my face in order to go to the doctor and avoid the revelation in the bathhouse.”

Finally, 2 hours later, Senior Sergeant Yevdokim Zavaliy (that’s how she called herself) took part in a battle near the village of Goryachy Kluch as a member of the 6th airborne brigade.

Yevdokiya Zavaliy: the Heroine of WWII

After Yevdokiya Nikolayevna captured a German officer, she was appointed the commander of a reconnaissance squad. One of her battle episodes: Mozdok, the fall of 1942. Russian soldiers, showing unbelievable heroism, have been keeping their positions for 7 days. Ammunition and food are running out, they must do something. Yevdokim proposes to cross the torrential river and try to find all that they need in the German camp… At night she penetrates on the other side of the river, collects shells and loads them on a raft. Then she attacks a truck with provision and successfully sails away. Of course, German soldiers notice her and start firing but it’s too late, she’s already too far.

Yevdokiya Zavaliy: the Heroine of WWII

Very heavy fighting took place in the Kuban region. Yevdokim was already the sergeant of a company. Once the company was encircled and its commander – killed. Having noticed the soldiers’ confusion, Yevdokiya rose to her feet and shouted, “Company! Listen to me! Follow me!” And everybody rushed to the attack. The enemy resistance was broken. In this battle, our heroine was seriously wounded for the second time and “Yevdokim” was revealed…

Yevdokiya was afraid that she would become a nurse again. However, given her military achievements, in October of 1943, she was appointed the commander of the platoon of submachine gunners. It took her a lot of effort to make the soldiers respect her as a commander. It seemed ridiculous to them that a 17-year-old girl commanded them. Still, very soon any of them was ready to give his life for her.

Yevdokiya Zavaliy: the Heroine of WWII

As for “love affairs”, Yevdokiya considered them impossible in such conditions. If she let a single thought of love enter her head, there would be no commander and no platoon respectively. So she returned from the war as pure as the sky and stars.

Yevdokiya Zavaliy: the Heroine of WWII

What’s remarkable is that Yevdokiya’s platoon was always at the forefront. They were sent to the places where it was especially hard to fight. Yevdokiya and her platoon terrified the Nazis with daring sallies for which the Germans nicknamed her “Frau Black Death. She participated in the largest airborne operations during World War II and got a lot of orders and medals. Her name appeared on mass graves twice as everybody thought she had died but fortunately both times she survived.

Yevdokiya Zavaliy: the Heroine of WWII

The prediction of her grandmother came true – she was wounded four times. One of the wounds required an emergency blood transfusion and one of her soldiers, without any hesitation, shared his blood and thus saved her life.

Yevdokiya Zavaliy passed a glorious military way – she participated in the defense of the Caucasus, in the battle for the Crimea and Bessarabia, in the liberation of Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Austria and Czechoslovakia.

Yevdokiya Zavaliy: the Heroine of WWII

In 1947, she was discharged and went to Kiev. There she met her future husband and got married. She had 2 children, 4 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren. Worked as the manager of a grocery store. Toured many cities, military units, ships and submarines with the stories about her platoon. Died in Kiev on May 5, 2010.

Yevdokiya Zavaliy: the Heroine of WWII

Yevdokiya Zavaliy: the Heroine of WWII

The holder of four military orders and nearly 40 medals:
Order of October Revolution
Order of Red Banner
Order of the Red Star
Order of Patriotic War 1st and 2nd class
Medal “For Courage”
Medal “For Defense of Sevastopol”
Medal “For capture of Budapest”
Medal “For capture of Vienna”
Medal “For the liberation of Belgrade” and other.

Yevdokiya Zavaliy: the Heroine of WWII

Yevdokiya Zavaliy: the Heroine of WWII


72 thoughts on “Yevdokiya Zavaliy: the Heroine of WWII”

  1. “the liberation of Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Austria and Czechoslovakia.”
    Wow! Lets correct the true history: the soviet occupation and dictatorship of Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia.
    Budapest 1956…Remind this event?

    • Regarding Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary; these countries joined in the Nazi assault on Russia so I’m not going to cry for them.

      • In September 1939, collaborating with Hitler to the Soviet Union joined the war, not Hungarians, not Bulgarians and Romanians are not.

        • C’mon Tadek, this is a Russian site, they don’t want to remember they were collaborating with Hitler. You won’t change it, they have no other thing to be proud of.

          • What you obviously don’t know is that Stalin tried to ally with the west but the west refused. IMO they hoped Germany would stamp out socialism once and for all. The fear of the western elites was and always has been socialism. This fear goes back to the industrial revolution and the squalor and unspeakable living conditions it produced in the cities.

      • @asdf: You don’t want to remember the Soviets crushed the genocidal Nazi maniacs. Soviets paid the highest price. You can’t change that either.

      • “asdf”, if you think russian, ukrainian and belorussian people can’t be proud after suffering and smashing Nazi Germany, well, that idea disqualifies all your arguments. Sorry, but these people should be very, very proud (just by the number of victims and losses there, if you want). So, you’re far too biased against many countries peoples. You can’t be taken seriously.

      • At least she did not suffered the Nazi planned extermination of all “inferior” Slavic people (including poles). Raping was bad, but nazi ethnic extermination was far worse.

        • You can’t excuse bad behavior by pointing out other bad behavior. You can’t justify Russian atrocities by saying the Germans did it too. Wrong is wrong. Evil is evil. No excuses.

            • I don’t think anyone is accusing her of rape or disparaging her accomplishments. There is a theme on this site to excuse Russian excess by using German atrocities as an excuse. That is all.

          • After the staggering civilian death count in Russia and the genocidal behaviour of the Nazis, the world didn’t have much sympathy for german raped victims. At least they weren’t burned with their families. These rape victims shouldn’t be forgotten, though. Or some would use your own cynical words: “they got it off easy”.

            • I disagree. I wouldn’t call raping girls off all ages “getting off easy”. I don;t think they had any policy making decisions, military strategy decisions, or war fighting abilities. I think you’d sing a different tune if it was your little sister or your mom. You can never excuse the abuse of civillians. Rape is never an acceptable punishment. There is no gray area here. It is black and white.

          • Good point. Now apply it to the thousands of civilians killed in Japan, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. You cant justify sacrificing civilians just because someone else has no regard for innocent deaths.

        • @testicules: As other readers, I was also appalled by your lame justification of ethnic cleansing in the US West, and your current position on WWII rapings… You don’t make sense (except only to bash russians). Anyway, that terrible behaviour of the Red Army wasn’t punished as it should. It was an atrocity, and as that should be remembered. And doesn’t diminish at all the heroism of this woman, and the soviet people who fought back Nazi German genocides, paying the highest price of all warring nations.

  2. Why are you all so poison. She was a great woman. And made a lot of kind actions. She fought for freedom of all soviet people and people from over the world from the Nazi militarians and Hitler. Can you repeat this?? Who can judge her??? Nobody, except the God

        • Yes we all know about Ribbentrop-Molotov pact in 1939. And we all know that without the Soviet victories in Stalingrad and Kursk (to name a few), there could never be an Allied victory in Europe.

          • I think people are forgetting that America did actually fight against the Nazis. America helped supply Russia. America turned the tide of the war.

            • The real brave US fight was against Japan, starting in 1942. The US was alone in that. But in Europe, US only helped with air bombings until the Normandy landing in mid 1944. Until then, it was the Soviets who turned the tide since 1942 in Stalingrad. And made possible the Anglo American invasion.

              • I disagree. The US turned the tide in Africa. Won Sicily and Italy. It also did all the heavy lifting in the Normandy landings and all the way through the Rhineland. Not to mention the 1000 plane day light bombing raids that crippled German production (probably the deciding factor in the war) and the production of war material for all the allies. The US fought a two front war succesfully. If Hiler had not declared war on the US after Pearl Harbor, German industrial production would never have been affected and the Soviet campaign would have been better supplied and staffed. That does not mean the Soviets would not have won. It means the Russian would have had a tougher enemy and it would have taken a lot longer and a lot more Russians and Germans would have died.

              • @testi: As you say, American industrial might shortened the war in Europe. American sacrifice was big in Europe, no question. The British, perhaps more. My point was that without massive Soviet victories in 1941, 1942 and 1943, the British and American allies could have never set foot in Europe. It stands. The US didn’t turn the tide there, the Soviets did it before, and cleared the way. Eastern Front was the bloodiest, biggest war scenario mankind has ever seen.

            • In the Pacific, yes. In Europe, the US sat in an already served table after 4 years of the biggest confrontation the world has ever seen.

              • Agree. I think the unmatched US victory in the Pacific has been largely down played, in favor of the 10 month campaing of the US in France. British and Americans fought against mostly tired German reserve troops with low fuel or ammo. In my opinion, the US complete victory over Japan was far more important and difficult than the battles in France.

                • You can’t say that 1000 plane daylight raids over Germany (that crippled industrial production) did not affect the German soldier on the Eastern front. Without a US presence in the Med and UK, several German Armies could have been reslated to the east to fight against the Russians.

                  • @testicules: This is a great forum. Great allied Bombing Raids began to be effective in late 1943, early 1944. Afrika Corps were retired (unsuccesfully) in 1943 to reinforce the Eastern Front. By then, gigantic battles of Kursk and Stalingrad had sealed the fate of Nazi Germany. This was where the fate of the world changed. As well as it changed in Midway. WWII will always be fascinating.

            • Yes, the US did fight the Nazis and did supply the Soviets and a lot of other forces. But in no way did the US turn the war around. That, my friend, was what the Soviets did.

              Three-quarters of all WWII fighting took place between the Soviets and the Nazis. 80-90% of all German losses were against fighting the Soviets.

      • Decades of Cold War propaganda have made some westerners forget the courage and suffering required to fight back and win by the soviet people. Big mistake (again). Americans helped (a bit late), but tide was turned by the Soviets, no doubt. The scale of the Eastern Front numbers is staggering: 15-20 Million soviet CIVILIANS dead…; “…80-90% of all German losses were against fighting the Soviets…”. 100,000 armored cars produced by only the soviets… More and more unbelievable figures. Easily, the Soviet Front was the main reason of German defeat. No debate here.

  3. I respect and am grateful for this lady’s service and sacrifice. Undoubtedly she put a number of Nazis in their graves.

  4. I understand, but this War was Stalin’s War. I believe the Bolshevik heroes Bukharin, Lunacharsky, Trotsky, Kamenev, Tomsky, Frunze, Rykov, etc. would never have negotiated with fascists (Molotov-Ribbentrop) only to be tricked later. Stalin’s admiration of Hitler before the War speaks volumes.

    • What should Stalin do? England and USA asked Hitler for cooperation against communisms, luckly for the world the crazy adolf refused. Then Hitler asked russia, and russian army wasnt yet modernized, so Stalin couldnt just start the war at that timepoint.
      Moreover Stalin thought Hitler would wait this the invading of russi till he concered England. That was another fail by Hitler.

      • Dude, what are you talking about? When did England and USA ask Hitler for cooperation? In Munich Conference or what? And what did Hitler ask Russia for? In fact Soviets have started 2 wars in 1939 and 1940 and what’s more before common aggression against Poland nazis were no threat to USSR as they had no common border! Keep to the facts if you want to deserve your name, ok?

  5. I see that many comments have been suppressed due to ‘low rating!’ That has a definite Soviet feel to it. By the way, the feminine form of ‘hero’ is ‘heroine,’ and there were lots of them in WWII in many nations. Most probably even the Nazis had them!

    • Actually they really are poorly-rated. If you thought about it, its democracy. When you read someones comment and dont like it then you thumb it down, if not you thumb up.

      Typical hypocrisy.

      You would cross an ocean and invade a whole country and risk thousands of lives for “democracy”, but when it doesn’t work out in your favor it’s all ‘repression’ and ‘oppression’ , isn’t it.

    • German heroine got a lot of medals by goebbels. Yes, but they got them for making children. New children Hitler could send to war..

    • Yes, Nazis had some condecorated “heroines” in service. The problem was that some were sadic Aufseherin in charge of slaughtering women and children at extermination camps.

  6. Actually the Soviet Union was the only nation that allowed women to serve in direct combat during WWII so you are 100% incorrect wing.

  7. Guys, what’s wrong with this? Were they not allies, was Stalin not an evil man or was he not responsible for the Holodomor? Facts, please, facts!

  8. Yes Stalin was a very evil tyrant. Russian people chose to be defended by him or face total extermination from the Nazis. And that was very close. You seem to forget this central point, and more than 20 million dead only in USSR… This was an amazing brave woman.

  9. @asdf: Remember that soviets didn’t face only an occupation, they faced a war of ethnic extermination and tens of millions did die. Soviet people had to fight for their homes and mere survival, led by a ruthless autocrat against the best army in the world. No choice. You should respect these people’s courage. Normandy or Sicilian landings would have never been possible without the Soviets destroying entire German armies and resources long beforehand (you seem to omit all of this)… That’s why this woman is a true heroine. And all Soviet people’s descendants should be very proud of themselves.

  10. @asdf: Remember that soviets didn’t face only an occupation, they faced a war of ethnic extermination and tens of millions did die. Soviet people had to fight for their homes and mere survival, led by a ruthless, paranoid autocrat against the best army in the world. No choice. You should respect these people’s courage… Normandy or Sicilian landings would have never been possible without the Soviets destroying entire German armies and resources long beforehand (you seem to omit all of this)… That’s why this woman is a true heroine. And all Soviet people’s descendants should be very proud of themselves

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