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Webcomic / Katusha: Girl Soldier of the Great Patriotic War

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No one was safe. Innocence counted for nothing. The very young and the very old suffered as much, if not more, than the soldiers in the field. In this conflict, Soviet women fought—and sometimes died—beside their men. They served as fighter pilots and scouts. Some were machine gunners and communications experts. Others were medics and snipers......and some, like me, rode the weapon that, more than any other, won the war on the Eastern Front— the tank. My name is Ekaterina Andreaevna Tymoshenko, and this is my story.
Opening narration

Written and drawn by Wayne Vansant, a veteran of The 'Nam and other realistic military comics, Katusha tells the story of a young Ukrainian girl and her family living in Kiev when Nazi Germany invades the Soviet Union. After the Germans occupy Ukraine, she joins a band of partisans led by her Uncle Taras, an escaped political prisoner, and eventually ends up as a tank commander in the Red Army.

As of 2019, Katusha is no longer a webcomic, but a 585-page print volume containing the entire series is available.


This comic provides examples of:

  • Anyone Can Die: it is the Russian Front in World War II, after all
  • Been There, Shaped History:
    • Katusha's brigade participates in Operation Uranus, the encirclement of Stalingrad, capturing the bridge at Kalach-na-Don.
    • When the Germans launch the Kursk offensive, Katusha's tank brigade is far away from the main action, held in reserve in a small town nobody's ever heard of called Prokhorovka.
    • The brigade later participates in the recapture of Kiev and the final drive on Berlin.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Milla. She has a dark side, which the war brings out.
  • Butt-Monkey: Older sister Natasha. Her Jerkass husband the Party apparatchik looks down on her family, is carrying on an affair, and beats her up now and then. As the Germans are approaching Kiev, he abandons her and their son. Then her son is lost and believed dead after the Germans destroy her grandmother's village and she loses an eye, and then is executed as a hostage in reprisal for the murder of a German soldier.
  • Advertisement:
  • The Charmer: Uncle Taras
  • Children Are Innocent: true of the main characters at the beginning of the war, but very quickly subverted
  • Child Soldiers: Katusha, her sister Milla, younger brother Vadim, and best friend Zhenya.
    Uncle Taras: Well, Katusha? He's yours. Anything of his you want, you had best get it now.
    Katusha: I think I've taken all of his that I can.
  • Complete Monster: Prikip Honshar and the "partisans" he ends up running with by mid-war.
    • Pay Evil unto Evil: what Zhenya does to him after Honshar tortures and murders an old rabbi and his pregnant daughter.
  • Dark and Troubled Past:
    • Uncle Taras, a Ukranian nationalist who wandered the Earth after the Russian Civil War.
    • Milla was a Street Urchin adopted by the Tymoshenkos several years before the war, after Katusha's father found her in a railyard, looking for food. The rest of her family died in the Holodomor, "a man-made famine in the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1932 and 1933 that killed an estimated 2.5–7.5 million Ukrainians, with millions more counted in demographic estimates."
  • Death Seeker: Captain Kovchenko, whose wife and daughters died in the siege of Leningrad, has a touch of this during the battles near Kursk.
  • Digging Yourself Deeper: Katusha's attempts at complimenting Captain Kovchenko. Her first conversation past their meeting was finding out he was a pianist and asking if he would be able to play a concert, only for him to reveal two missing fingers on his left hand. It happens again next chapter when Katusha learns he was married and says that their combat action would be something Kovchenko could write home about, only for him reply that his family is dead.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: in order to capture the bridge at Kalach-na-Don by surprise, Katusha's brigade puts captured German tanks at the head of the column and drives up to it as if they were a German unit. This really happened: you can read about it here.
  • A Father to His Men/Reasonable Authority Figure:
    • Colonel Nozdrin, the tank brigade commander
    • Captain Kovchenko, commander of the infantry battalion that works closely with Nozdrin's brigade
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Captain Nikolay Kovchenko was mentioned early on in Chapter 2, but made his first appearance in Chapter 7.
  • From Bad to Worse: Having suffered opression under Soviet rule, many Ukranians (including nationalists like Taras) welcomed the invading Germans as liberators. That didn't last long.
  • Historical Person Punchline: Katusha and Milla get travel passes signed by a senior officer who owes their father a favor. They are amazed at how deferential the NKVD are to them at checkpoints. It's because the travel passes were signed by none other than Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev.
  • The Holocaust:
    • During a brief stint in the Sicha (the Ukranian "Auxiliary Police" established by the occupying Germans), Vadim witnesses (and rescues Zhenya from) the Babi Yar massacre.
    • After a battle in the Korsun Pocket, Katusha's brigade captures a German soldier's photo album containing pictures of Babi Yar.
    • The brigade also liberates a concentration camp.
  • In Medias Res: The first book starts in April of 1945, then flashes back to the day before the invasion.
  • In-Series Nickname: "Katusha" is the diminutive of the character's given name, Ekaterina. (She's also occasionally referred to as "Katya.") Doubles as a Meaningful Name:
  • It's Personal: For pretty much all of the main characters. Katusha gets hit with it last though.
  • Lady of War: Katusha becomes one over the course of the story
  • La Résistance: The partisans that formed up against the German forces, some of whom continued fighting against the returning Soviets.
  • The Narrator: Katusha
  • Nazis with Gnarly Weapons/Those Wacky Nazis
  • The Neidermeyer:
  • Noodle Incident: what was Uncle Taras doing for all those years during and after World War I?
  • Reds with T-34s (and Rockets)
  • Secret Police: At the beginning of the story, Uncle Taras is a prisoner of the NKVD.
  • Tank Goodness: The whole series rides itself on the tanks, mainly the Soviet's T-34.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • The Russian officer who stands a little too close to the railroad bridge he's blowing up.
    • The German reconnaissance trooper who dismounts from his halftrack to steal a basket of food from an old Russian civillian, thereby leading his squad into an ambush.
  • Training the Peaceful Villagers: Uncle Taras, a World War I veteran, does this for the partisans
  • Truth in Television/Shown Their Work/Doing It for the Art: The whole book is meticulously researched and accurately drawn. The battles and atrocities shown are (or are based upon) real events.
  • Veteran Instructor: Captains Kovchenko and Raskov fill this role at the training area in Tankograd
  • War Is Hell: It's a World War II story after all.
  • Wrench Wench: Milla, who learned to drive a tractor at age 14 (or so) and has a real talent for vehicle maintenance.
  • Zerg Rush: How the T-34s take on the Tigers at the battle of Prokhorovka. This is Truth in Television.

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