Lyudmila Pavlichenko (1917-1974) may not have been as bubbly as Belle or Ariel (when she can talk), but she has two things Disney princesses don't: 309 confirmed sniper kills fighting Nazis in World War II and a friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt.
Her story went viral after getting the Disney storybook treatment by Jason Porath of Rejected Princesses, "a series of illustrations of women whose stories wouldn’t make the cut for animated kids’ movies, illustrated in a contemporary animation style." The inspiring but often dark and violent tale of Pavlichenko certainly fits the bill.
Porath himself is a former effects animator at DreamWorks, but Rejected Princesses marks his first foray into hand-drawn illustration. Dozens of non-conforming princesses later, the anthology of Rejected Princess will be a book on October 25th.
Pavlichenko's 309 kills have sometimes been disputed in the ensuing decades, although there are apparently arguments for both sides. The Soviets were not shy about exaggerating for propaganda. On the other hand, a "confirmed" sniper kill has to be witnessed to count, and Pavlichenko often worked solo.
Some of Pavlichenko's life, Porath states in his notes on the images, has been compressed, combined, or slightly overemphasized, as biographies and biopics often do to highlight the overarching theme of the story. As grim as Porath's story is, the Soviet fight against the Nazis in WWII was really, really grim.
Also omitted are tidbits like Lyudmila's ability to sit perfectly still for 18+ hours at a stretch, even if it meant answering the call of nature. One of her sniper duels, depicted in part here, lasted for 36 hours in a graveyard.
Although she rarely ever discussed her husband, Porath writes that colleagues did note the change in her personality after his death.
In reality, Porath states, some of the "new" tactics employed by her had been utilized before his passing, but she used them more afterwards, when she accelerated the pace of her kills after pledging to reach 300.
Porath notes that he drew this scene to highlight the story's theme of "loss and recovery," and that in fact the recovering Lyudmila was training new snipers. Her struggles with the American press, though, were totally real.
He also played up Lyudmila's tour (she was the star of a group visit to the US, but still a member of a group) and notes that Roosevelt and she would have needed a translator.
"[I] played up her relationship with Eleanor Roosevelt larger than the historical documentation supports. That’s not something I did lightly – I am uncomfortable whittling the edges off of strong women, and Lyudmila was a very difficult, hard-edged human being."
"I tried to preserve that, especially in showing her defying Eleanor Roosevelt’s handler in her apartment. But there is no doubt that this is a softer Lyudmila than likely existed. I wanted to be very upfront about that."
Porath wrote to Someecards to make sure people are also aware that there is a movie about this very unique heroine, "The Battle For Sevastapol," and it looks exactly as intense as you'd expect for a patriotic Russian blockbuster.
Be sure to check out many more extraordinary women's stories at Rejected Princesses.