August 16th 1905, Little Mariya Oktyabrskaya was born into a poor Ukrainian family on the Crimean Peninsula. Mariya, one of ten children, once old enough, tried to help support her family by working in a cannery, and then as a telephone operator.
In 1925, Mariya met a handsome young man, fell in love, and married a Soviet army officer named Ilya Oktyabrsky. She felt strongly about supporting her husband, and took her duties of being a military wife very much to heart. "Marry a serviceman, and you serve in the army: an officer's wife is not only a proud woman, but also a responsible title." She became involved in the 'Military Wives Council' and even trained as a nurse in the army. In her endless efforts of being a good military wife, and with the help of her beloved husband, Mariya also familiarized herself with a multitude of weaponry, and military vehicles.
Once World War Two commenced, and with her husband Ilya fighting Germans at the front, Mariya was evacuated to Tomsk Siberia. A full two years later, she learned the most unfortunate news, that her beloved husband was killed by Nazi German forces while fighting near the city of Kyiv in August of 1941.
The loss of her beloved Ilya was too much for Mariya, whom was overcome by sadness and grief, and something else…an unbridled fury directed towards those that took her husband from her. The Nazis that were responsible for her anguish needed to pay, and Mariya was determined to avenge her husband's death by delivering that payment directly to them...
True to her word, Mariya sold everything she had. All of her worldly possessions, to donate a single solitary tank to the Red Army. But with one small caveat... Mariya requested that the T-34 medium tank, be named "Fighting Girlfriend" ("Боевая подруга") and that she (Mariya) be allowed to operate it. Incredibly, and most unexpectedly, The State Defense Committee agreed to her request.
Mariya, now 38 years old, enrolled in a five-month tank training program. Immediately after her donation to the Red Army, and soon after completion of her training, Mariya was posted to the 26th Guards Tank Brigade, part of the 2nd Guards Tank Corps as a tank driver and mechanic. Maryia now had her training, and her tank prominently emblazoned with the words "Fighting Girlfriend", on the turret.
Sadly, the truth was Mariya was regarded by her fellow Red Army tankers as little more than a publicity stunt and a joke.
All this changed on October 21st 1943, when Mariya manoeuvred her tank into the city during the battle of Smolensk and came under intense enemy fire. Mariya and her crew of the “Fighting Girlfriend” pushed thought the city streets, driven by Maria’s continuing vengeful retribution for her lost husband, destroying multiple enemy artillery positions and machine gun nests. One after another...
As "Fighting Girlfriend" continued its unrelenting onslaught of German positions, Maria’s tank was heavily damaged by enemy fire.
Disregarding orders, Mariya jumped out, and managed to repair her T-34 under a rain of enemy fire. As the smoke cleared from the battle field, there was no more laughter to be heard. For her actions on that day, Mariya was promoted to Sergeant.
Less than one month later, on the 17th of November, Mariya reputation as a feroucious tanker only grew as she and her crew of Fighting Girlfriend assaulted German positions near the town of Novaje Sialo in a region of Vitebsk during a fierce battle under a dark night sky. As Mariya pushed forward, taking out out multiple enemy positions, her tank suffered a direct hit from a german artillery shell that severed one of her tank tracks.
As her crew provided cover fire from the turret, Mariya and one other crew member jumped out to effect repairs on her now immobilized tank. Thankfully they were effective in repelling enemy fire, and repaired their damaged track. Now fully mobile, Mariya and Fighting Girlfriend managed to rejoin the main unit several days later.
Two months later, on January 17th 1944; on a cold and dark night attack as part of the Leningrad–Novgorod Offensive, the T-34 named “Fighting Girlfriend” entered the village of Šviedy near Vitebsk and proceeded to destroy German positions in trenches, and machine gun nests…again, in the midsts of a heavy battle, Maria’s tank was hit by an anti tank shell, and again, extensively damaging one of the tank tracks. Without any thought fore her own safety, Mariya lept out of the tank, once again under small arms and artillery enemy fire. Amazingly Mariya managed to effect the necessary repairs to her wounded and immobilized tank.
Sadly, moments after tending to her tank, she was struck in the head by shell fragments from a nearby enemy artillery shell impact, and Mariya slipped into unconsciousness.
Mariya was transported to a Soviet military field hospital at Fastiv, near Kiev, and then to a military hospital in Smolensk, Russia, where she remained in a coma for two months before finally succumbing to her wounds on March 15th 1944.
Mariya was buried with full military honors at the Heroes Remembrance Gardens in Smolensk.
...and on the following August, Mariya Oktyabrskaya, who was once regarded as a simple joke, a farce, and a publicity stunt, had not only kept her promise to exact revenge and retribution upon the Nazi murderers, but also earned the respect and admiration of her fellow Soviets.
In the end, little Mariya, the young girl from Kyiv, was posthumously made a Hero of the Soviet Union, an award of the highest distinction, reserved for the true national heroes of Soviet history, placing Mariya in the same ranks of national respect and admiration, as cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.