These Photos Offer A Glimpse Into The Lives Of The Belarus Women Who Served On The Front Lines Of WWII

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During World War II, many women in Belarus served on the front lines. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, most of these women were between 16 and 18 years old. For the next four years, they served as nurses, truck drivers, partisans and communications operators. At the end of the war, they were awarded medals and prizes and named “Heroes of the Nation." As they approach the end of their lives, and despite the breakup of the former Soviet Union, their contributions are still remembered with invitations to attend parades and to visit schools to tell children about their experiences.


Photographer: Agnieszka Rayss

Lida Pietrovna Bondar, nurse.

7 Zinaida Konstantinovna, now of Grodno, Belarus, worked for Soviet Army Communications during the war.

1 Elizaveta Ivanonvna Zienievich, partisan nurse.

2 Anastasia Konstantinova Wishnievska, truck driver.

9 Maria Antonovna Pospielova of Zaskovichi, Belarus. She served in the partisan resistance force against the Nazi occupation.


Maria Antonovna Pospielova’s dress uniform with her military honors.

God gave me the courage to fight for the truth, and I have never been afraid to speak the truth. I think that if someone is righteous, God sees it and protects him. That’s how it was with me. When I was already in the partisan force, I was walking alone through the woods and I got surrounded by a pack of wolves. I thought I wasn’t going to make it. I had a pistol with only two bullets. I climbed onto the trunk of a felled pine tree, crossed myself, and they finally left" -- Maria Antonovna Pospielova.

8 Zinaida Nikolaieva Famienska, partisan.

6 Valentina Pietrovna Baranova, army communications worker, head of the veterans’ union in Grodno.

5 Galina Ivanova Pagarelava of Shchuchyn, Belarus, served as a nurse in the war..

“I was a nurse and I got into the front-bound ambulance train. I was at the front, I collected the wounded and drove them to the hospital. They were heavy -- one had to carry them on one’s own arms and back. When we took the wounded away, we were often bombarded by the Germans. We had "death passports," metal tags with our name and last name to identify us in case we were killed. This is how the four years of war went by. I was at the Leningrad front, the Baltic front and the Karelian front all the way beyond the Arctic Circle. It was daylight all the time at the Arctic front. We wrote letters on the train — at night. Belarus is my second homeland. I was born in the Ural, and I have lived in Shchuchyn since 1954. I have no regrets. My son turned out great. I had an interesting life” -- Galina Ivanova Pagarelava.