Lida and her husband, Satai Bakiev, who vanished on the Eastern Front.

Lida Bakieva’s loyalty, raw determination, quick thinking and sense of humor made her a sniper to fear and admire. This dark-featured young woman from Kazakhstan was just seventeen when she married nineteen-year-old Satai Bakiev a few months before the war. Satai was conscripted as soon as the Germans invaded Russia. Lida, a Young Communist League member eager to defend her homeland, attended the Central Women’s Sniper Training School was then sent to the Second Belorussian Front.

Not only was Lida keen to fight, she also yearned to find Satai who had disappeared from the Second Belorussian Front. There was no sign of him and, after months of worrying, Lida (in a 2010 interview with author Lyuba Vinogradova), explained that she left her dugout in the middle of the night and set out for “…a field where there had recently been a battle. She walked among the dead Russian and German soldiers, looking into the faces of the Russians, somehow sure she was about to find her husband.” But he wasn’t among the dead and Lida was forced to keep worrying and wondering.

Like the rest of the female snipers, Lida, appointed deputy platoon commander, had to constantly deal with the traditional male expectations of women during combat. As far as men in uniform were concerned, women were meant to take on supportive roles like cooks and cleaners, even if they were fully entrenched as trained snipers. Lida wanted no part of this. Once, when asked to clean the floors of an officers’ house, she made a half-hearted effort to find someone to help her but, in the end, fell asleep in a dilapidated shed with the rest of her platoon. When questioned by the deputy political officer about the floor, she announced that she and the rest of the girls in her platoon were “…fighting a war on equal terms with everybody else and have had no sleep for two days.” (Interview with Vinogradova) For her insubordination, Lida was ordered to spend five days in the guardhouse, a punishment she almost welcomed because it would give her a chance to rest, but the sentence was quickly canceled by the chief of staff.

Lida’s sense of humor shines during an amusing episode she recounted to Vinogradova. While hunting for officers with her shooting partner, Anya Shavets., they saw a heavy “Hiterlite” emerge from a trench, and when he bent over to collect firewood, Anya was enthralled by the sight of his “fat backside,” She convinced a reluctant Lida (who preferred to save her bullets for officers) to fire, “hitting the German in the rump. Clutching his wounded bum, the victim ‘quickly hobbled back into his trench.’”

Being a sniper on the front often involved treacherous duties that had nothing to do with shooting. In December 1944, for instance, Lida’s unit was surrounded by Germans and, making matters worse, their communications link was broken. A seventeen-year-old boy was summoned to repair the connection, but he was too frightened to risk being caught in the enemy’s sights. As Vinogradova explains in Avenging Angels: Soviet Women Snipers on the Eastern Front (1941-45), “Lida pushed him aside, dashed through the door, fell to the ground and started crawling.” She had to get to the crater where a shell had severed the wire but when she reached for her dagger to cut through the insulation in order to reach the damaged wire, her knife was gone. “She gnawed through the insulation with her teeth, fixed the cable and crawled back, only to be reprimanded by the commander: “You haven’t got a clue but you want to risk your life!”

In December, 1945, Lida found herself in serious danger after taking down an officer and then enduring a mortar attack. From dawn until dusk, in extreme cold, she was unable to move for fear of being spotted. She was even forced to urinate in her padded trousers. In fact, this was such a common occurrence, Vinogradova writes, that women were given extra trousers and skirts. Lida made it back safely to her platoon where a dry pair of trousers was waiting for her.

Lida saw the end of the war at the siege of the fortress of Breslau, finishing with an impressive tally of 78. However, like all the snipers’ tallies, this number was not entirely accurate as they never knew for certain if their target had died. Following the war, Lida continued shooting as a sport, competing throughout the USSR. She never found out what had happened to her husband and she never remarried.

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