Marina Yurlova

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Marina Yurlova
Marina Yurlova 2.jpg
BornMarina Maximilionovna Yurlova
(1900-02-25)25 February 1900
Raevskaya, Russian Empire
Died1 April 1984(1984-04-01) (aged 84)
New York, New York
NationalityRussian American
Occupationsoldier, writer, dancer
Notable workCossack Girl, Russia Farewell

Marina Yurlova (Russian: Мари́на Максимилиа́новна Ю́рлова; 25 February 1900 - 1 April 1984) was a Russian child soldier and author. She fought in World War I and later in the Russian Civil War on the side of the anti-communist White movement. Wounded several times, she won the Russian Cross of Saint George for bravery three times.[1][2] She eventually made her way to Vladivostok, then to Japan and finally to the USA, where she performed as a dancer.

Yurlova published her autobiography in three parts: Cossack Girl (1934), Russia Farewell (1936)[3] and The Only Woman (1937).


Marina Yurlova during World War I

She was born in Raevskaya, a small village near Krasnodar.[3] The daughter of a colonel of the Kuban Cossacks, she was just 14 years old when her father went to war in August 1914. Caught up in the adventure and tradition of Cossack women following their men to the front, she became a child soldier in the Russian army at age 14.[3] Specifically, she joined the Reconnaissance Sotnia (100 horse squadron) of the 3rd Ekaterinodar Regiment.[1]

Yurlova originally worked as a groom in Armenia; She was mentored and protected by a sergeant in the army of the Causcasus named Kosel, who procured a uniform for Marina and made her a sort of mascot for his unit. [3] In 1915, she was on a dangerous mission in which Kosel was killed, and she was shot in the leg while blasting bridges across the Araxes River near Yerevan.[3][4] She was treated at the Red Cross hospital in Baku and then returned to the Eastern Front, where she trained as an auto mechanic and became a military driver.[3] In 1917, she was wounded, and spent nearly the entire year 1918 in a hospital in Moscow, suffering from concussion and shell shock - the result of an explosion. [3]

After her release, she again joined the Russian forces under the command of Captain Vladimir Kappel, and was shot through the shoulder by Bolsheviks while on patrol. According to her autobiography, she was wrongly sent to an asylum in Omsk for a period of about three weeks as she recovered from this wound and from shell shock. Due to the intervention of a friendly officer, she was released and given passage and 500 rubles to travel to the American hospital in Vladivostok. The train she was a passenger on was stopped in the middle of the Siberian wasteland, sandwiched between two Bolshevik armies. Led by a contingent of Russian officers, along with party of about 100 Royalists (both men and women) she walked through Siberia for a month, eventually reaching the American hospital in Vladivostok. The American hospital, Marina said, "was quite perfectly run, quite perfectly kind", and after recuperating there for three weeks, she was given passport and passage to Sulphur Springs, Japan.

In 1922, she emigrated to the United States, where she performed as a dancer.[5] She married filmmaker William C. Hyer and became a U.S. citizen in 1926.[3]

In 1984, she died at the age of 84 years.


Yurlova published an autobiographical trilogy. The first in the series, Cossack Girl (1934), covered her life from age 14 through five years of war and societal collapse. The second, Russia, Farewell (1936), was published by Michael Joseph LTD., 14 Henrietta Street, W.C.2, printed by Mayflower Press, Plymouth, England, following a court case in which Yurlova sued Liberty Press in the US for libel. The book covers the time until her emigration to the U.S. in 1922. Her third book, The Only Woman (1937), was published in the US by Macauly in 1938. It picks up the story of her life in the U.S.

Cossack Girl leaped back into print in paperback upon the centennial of The Great War, with broadcast of 14 - Diaries of the Great War, however there is little chance the second and third books will be republished. Russia, Farewell copies are rare, editions of The Only Woman even more so.

In popular culture[edit]

Yurlova is one of those whose wartime experiences are described in Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics by Kathryn J. Atwood in the Chicago Review Press.

She is one of the 14 main characters of the 2014 documentary drama series 14 - Diaries of the Great War where she is played by actress Natalia Witmer. She is also one of the main characters in the 8-part 2018 documentary drama series Clash of Futures.


  1. ^ a b David Bullock (20 October 2012). The Russian Civil War 1918-22. Osprey Publishing. pp. 110–. ISBN 978-1-78200-536-0.
  2. ^ David M. Rosen (2012). Child Soldiers: A Reference Handbook. ABC-CLIO. pp. 153–. ISBN 978-1-59884-526-6.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h John Simkin. "Marina Yurlova". Spartacus Educational.
  4. ^ Elisabeth Shipton (15 July 2014). Female Tommies: The Frontline Women of the First World War. History Press Limited. pp. 200–. ISBN 978-0-7509-5748-9.
  5. ^ Martin, John (December 6, 1935). "Yurlova is seen in Spanish dances". The New York Times.