Martyr Maria The Soldier

Maria Bochkareva was a simple peasant woman from Siberia. In 1914 she tried to enlist in the army, but was refused. Not to be deterred, she spent her last eight rubles in sending a telegram to the Tsar, petitioning him to allow her to serve in the Russian army. Her petition was granted. In the summer of 1917 Lieutenant Maria Bochkareva was sent at the head of the women's battalion to the front. In the offensive battles near Smorgon the battalion suffered heavy losses, and Maria herself was seriously wounded.

In October, 1917, the women's battalion became subject to the headquarters of the Petrograd military district, and at the beginning of the storming of the Winter Palace, at about nine in the evening, a unit of the women's battalion capitulated. The soldiers and sailors arrested 137 women and disbanded the women's battalion. Only Maria Bochkareva was detained. She was interrogated in the Smolny Institute by Lenin and Trotsky. The leaders of the proletariat spoke graciously with the legendary woman officer, and were full of admiration for her courage. They offered that she work with the Bolsheviks. Maria refused outright and managed to escape from those who had arrested her.

She wanted to go abroad, to America. But she did not succeed, and was again arrested. She was stripped naked and put against the wall with other male officers. They say that as she was waiting for her execution she prayed before an icon of St. Anna. But then a miracle took place. The rifle of one of the executioners trembled. He recognized in the naked woman the officer who had saved his life on the German front. The soldier stood next to her and declared that he would die together with Maria. The Bolsheviks had a meeting. Finally, they decided to send Bochkareva to the Cheka.

God delivered Maria Bochkareva from the Lubyanka. After many trials she managed to escape to the U.S.A. There she met Theodore Roosevelt, and obtained an audience with President Woodrow Wilson. She fell on her knees and begged him to help the struggle against the Bolsheviks. She was so persuasive that the American president wept.

In August, 1918, when an anti-Bolshevik rebellion broke out among the workers in Izhevsk, Maria Bochkareva arrived in Archangelsk so as to create women's "death battalions" in the army of General Miller. But they demanded that Lieutenant Bochkareva not shame the uniform of the Russian officer, and even removed her epaulettes. Meanwhile, in the Izhevsk region thousands of women had put on military uniforms. And they often stirred up the men to attack.

In October, 1919, Bochkareva arrived in Omsk, where many refugees from Izhevsk and Botkinsk had assembled under the protection of Admiral Kolchak. Maria Bochkareva made a last attempt to form a women's battalion. Soon she again fell into the hands of the Bolsheviks. By a decree of the Omsk Cheka dated May 15, 1920, she was sentenced to execution by shooting...

(Source: I. Kobzeva, "Zhensky batalyon smerti", Pamyatniki Otechestva, N 1-2, 1995)

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