Tania Chernova was a Russian-American who went to Belarus to get her grandparents out of Russia. When she reached Belarus, the Germans had already killed them. After that incident, she joined the resistance.
During World War II
Tania and her group went to Stalingrad by traveling through the sewer system to reach the Russian lines. After that, she joined Vasily Zaitsev's sniper school and became a sniper. The group of snipers that Zaitsev formed was called "The Hares". Tania was a part of a raid on a German headquarters. She and the rest of the Hares killed Germans by picking off guards one by one. Tania was accredited with 24 kills. Chernova and Zaitsev were in love during the war but were later separated.
While on the way to the German front lines with a small team to assassinate Field Marshall Paulus, Chernova was badly wounded in her abdomen when the woman ahead of her stepped on a land mine. Chernova was admitted to a hospital in Tashkent and later recovered. She received misinformation about Zaitsev being killed in an explosion at Stalingrad. After her recovery, she married someone else, but could not conceive because of the injury.
In 1969 she was interviewed by American journalist William Craig and one of the things he asked her about was her time in the Hares. Confused as to how he got this information, she immediately asked him where he heard that. He replied that Zaitsev told him. In Craig's book Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad which was written based on interviews, there is a narrative of a love triangle between commissar Danilov, Chernova and Zaitsev, which has been described as a work of fiction by English military historian Antony Beevor.
After the war
Tania Chernova survived the war. She continued to "break as many sticks" as she could. William Craig interviewed her for his 1973 book Enemy at the Gates: The Battle for Stalingrad:
More than a quarter century after her vendetta against the enemy, the graying sniper still refers to the Germans she killed as "sticks" that she broke. For many years after the war she believed that Vassili Zaitsev, her lover, had died from grievous wounds. Only in 1969, did she learn that he had recovered and married someone else. The news stunned her for she still loved him.
Historian Antony Beevor has questioned the veracity of Chernova's claims, due to his research indicating a lack of female Soviet snipers at the battle. William Craig had confirmation of Chernova's actions from Soviet sniper Vasily Zaitsev, who trained her and had a relationship with her.
A character based on Chernova, played by Rachel Weisz, appeared in the 2001 film Enemy at the Gates. This Chernova is a citizen of Stalingrad who has become a private in the local militia. Danilov has her transferred to an intelligence unit away from the battlefield. Zaitsev finds her in a field hospital where she is recovering from her wound.
- Dowswell, Paul (1 September 2012). True Stories of the Second World War: Usborne True Stories. Usborne Publishing Ltd. p. 56. ISBN 978-1-4095-5515-5.
- Bos, Carole (1 August 2007). "Stalingrad: Deadly Battle of WWII – THE SWORD OF STALINGRAD". Awesome Stories. Retrieved 6 February 2017.
- "Hollywood recycles Soviet tale". BBC News. BBC. 9 November 2000. Retrieved 28 June 2018.
- von Tunzelmann, Alex (23 October 2008). "Enemy at the Gates: Stalingrad with cockney accents". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media Limited. Retrieved 28 June 2018.