Love and Heroism: Interesting facts about Kazakh machine gunner Manshuk Mametova
Manshuk Mametova was awarded a title of the Hero of the Soviet Union for her feat during the World War II. Every schooler knows her name. Being so young, a 20-year-old Mametova fought with the enemy as equally as men during the World War II, or the Great Patriotic War, as it was named in the USSR. She learned how to operate a machine gun and became the best in it. However, she was awarded posthumously after her last stand. Her feat will always be a part of the war history. How did Mametova become the first Kazakh woman to receive the honorary title ‘Hero of the Soviet Union?’ Why was she taken to the front at the age of 18? How did her foster parents raise Manshuk Mametova so she became such a brave woman?
In this article we collected the most interesting facts from the biography of a young and courageous machine gunner Manshuk Mametova.
Her real name is not Manshuk, but Mansiya. Since childhood she has been affectionately called ‘monshalyghym’ by her family, which means ‘my little bead’ in Kazakh. She got so accustomed to this nickname, that when she grew up she always presented herself as Manshuk, when asked. She spent her childhood in the Zhaskus village of the Urda district in the Ural region of the Kirghiz Autonomous Socialist Soviet Republic, which later was renamed to Kazakh Autonomous Socialist Soviet Republic (KazASSR). Later, her family moved to the city of Saratov, Russia, and then to Alma-Ata (current Almaty).
Manshuk’s parents died early - she was adopted by her uncle Akhmet Mametov and his wife Amina when she was five years old. Her foster parents loved Manshuk endlessly – she was a curious and a nimble child. They tried to give her only the best and raised her as a patriot of her homeland. She received a good school education and was easily admitted to the university.
Before the start of the World War II, Mametova finished two years of studies in the Alma-Ata Medical Institute while working at the Council of People’s Commissars of the Kazakh SSR as a secretary to the deputy chairman. The war didn’t allow Mametova to graduate from the medical institute.
Mametova voluntarily joined the Red Army at the age of 18. However, it cost her a great deal of effort – Mametova persistently requested to be conscripted into the military for a year. “I would like to ask you to send me to the front to destroy the fascists. Since I don’t have either a brother or a sister to send to the front, I want to go there myself,” she wrote in her application. Eventually, Mametova’s request was granted permission.
The 100th Rifle Brigade left Alma-Ata for the front on August 13, 1942. There were 4,890 soldiers in the rifle unit, including Mametova, and it was frequently referred to as the 100th Kazakh Rifle Brigade because most of its soldiers were Kazakhs. That time Mametova didn’t know that she would die in the war and that her feat would be described in all history books.
First, Mametova worked as a clerk at the Army headquarters before being sent to work as a nurse in a field hospital. In her free time, Mametova continued her training on the use of the Maxim machine gun. She developed her shooting skills while studying at the institute. Later, Mametova was promoted to the rank of Senior Sergeant and transferred to the rifle unit after her commander tested her shooting skills.
Some sources say that during the war Manshuk fell in love with another machine gunner, Nurken. They were friends and perhaps it is due to him that Mametova was so much into shooting. She wasn’t afraid of difficulties – Mametova wore a 40-pound ammunition and could shoot accurately without being afraid of the enemy soldiers. Not surprisingly she earned the respect of other soldiers in her division.
The battle for Nevel in Western Russia on October 15, 1943 was very hard and the last for Mametova. The obstinate battle was going on for some time, enemies fired at each other. Having occupied a good position, Manshuk Mametova disrupted the enemy’s counterattacks in her sector. However, the Nazis managed to attack the position of the machine gunners with a mortar fire, as a result of which two soldiers were killed and only Mametova survived. Seeing this, the Germans began to attack simultaneously from different positions. Mametova had to alternately shoot from three machine guns to fight back. After the Nazis began firing at the direction of the Mametova’s position, she was seriously wounded in her head and passed out. After she regained consciousness, she saw the enemy soldiers who came very close to her position. Mametova found the strength to continue firing. Unfortunately, she died in this battle. Manshuk Mametova killed more than 70 enemy combatants in her final battle. The person she fell in love with, Nurken, also died in the war. For her feat in Nevel, on March 1, 1944, the Senior Sergeant Manshuk Mametova was awarded the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union posthumously.
Manshuk Mametova was buried in the city of Nevel in the Pskov region, the place of her last stand. There are always fresh flowers on her grave – people keep the memories of the feat of a young and brave woman forever in their hearts. People associate Mametova’s feat with an unbending strength of mind and courage. Her name has been forever immortalized with monuments. Streets, squares, schools and factories were named after her.
You can learn more about Manshuk Mametova and other World War II veterans in today’s episode of the program ‘Our Common Victory’. The fourth episode of the program is dedicated to the brave and courageous women, whose exploits during the war will never be forgotten. Watch ‘Our Common Victory’ today at 16:55 on Kazakh TV.