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Zinaida Portnova

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Zinaida Portnova
Zinaida Portnova.jpg
Zinaida Martynovna Portnova

(1926-02-20)20 February 1926
Died15 January 1944(1944-01-15) (aged 17)
Polotsk, Belorussian SSR, Soviet Union
OrganizationYoung Pioneer Organization of the Soviet Union
AwardsHero of the Soviet Union
Monument to Zinaida Portnovа - Soviet pioneer-hero. Former pioneer camp "Scarlet Sails" village Berry, near the city of Togliatti, Russia
Monument to Zinaida Portnovа - Soviet pioneer-hero. Former pioneer camp "Scarlet Sails" village Berry, near the city of Togliatti, Russia

Zinaida Martynovna Portnova, commonly known as Zina Portnova (Russian: Зинаида Мартыновна Портнова, Зина Портнова; 20 February 1926 – 15 January 1944) was a Soviet teenager, Soviet partisan and Hero of the Soviet Union.

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10 Badass Women From History NUMBER 10: BOUDICCA [Boo-de-ca] In 60AD the lands of Ancient British Queen Boudicca were conquered by the Romans. When she opposed their authority, the Romans had her publicly whipped and her daughters raped in front of her. Boudica responded by raising a giant rebel army of over 200,000 warriors. She waged a brutal revenge campaign against the Romans, defeating the Roman ninth Legion and plundering Rome’s three largest British cities. It took an entire three Roman legions to finally put a stop to her quest for vengeance. Sources; BBC, Tacitus, Annals of Rome 14.33,, Dio, Live Science. NUMBER 9: NELLIE BLY In 1887 investigative journalist Nellie Bly was locked in an asylum for 10 days, after she courageously feigned insanity to expose the abusive treatment of patients at an infamous New York City mental institution. Bly’s documentation of the brutality and neglect that patients were subjected to shocked the American public. It led to a grand jury investigation and an extra 1 million dollars being allocated for the care of the mentally ill in New York. As well as her charitable journalism, in 1888 Bly gained infamy for her record-breaking trip around the world in just 72 days, traveling by ship and rail. Sources: Brain Pickings, Mental Floss, Nellie Bly Online, Britannica. NUMBER 8: EMMELINE PANKHURST Emmeline Pankhurst was a leading British women’s rights activist and suffragette, who was determined to win women the equal right to vote. Pankhurst founded the Women’s Social and Political Union in 1903 and, in 1910, she led a march of more than 300 women on parliament. She was arrested on numerous occasions and went on hunger strike while imprisoned. Two days after the outbreak of WWI, Pankhurst called for an immediate halt to militant activism, so that women could focus on patriotic activities instead. Following the impressive female contribution to the war effort, the Representation of the People Act was passed in 1918, offering the vote to British women over 30. Sources: BBC, Biography, History Learning Site, Spartacus Educational, The Week. NUMBER 7: ZINA PORTNOVA After witnessing a Nazi solider physically attack her grandmother, 15-year-old Zina Portnova decided to join the Belarusian resistance movement to fight the German occupation of the USSR. She learned to use weaponry and explosives, helping to destroy an enemy power plant, as well as a water station. Combined with her secret reports on German troop movements, it’s thought the teenager helped to kill over 100 Nazis. At one point, she used her position working in a kitchen to poison an entire German garrison. Sadly, Portnova was captured and executed aged just 17. Sources: Sakaida, H., Heroines of the Soviet Union 1941-45, NUMBER 6: AMELIA EARHART [Air-heart] In 1932 American aviator Amelia Earhart gained international fame after becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean. The flight from America to North Ireland, which lasted almost 15 hours, was plagued by strong winds, icy conditions, and mechanical problems. Earhart was a prominent advocate of both feminism and the advancement of the aviation industry. She served as the first president of The Ninety-Nines, an organization of female pilots. During an attempt in 1937 to fly around the world, Earhart and her navigator Fred Noonan tragically disappeared while flying over the South Pacific Ocean. It is unknown what exactly went wrong and Earhart’s body was never found. Sources: History, Americas Library,, NUMBER 5: ANNIE SMITH PECK In an era before oxygen tanks, 19th century mountain climbing was incredibly dangerous. This didn’t put Annie Smith Peck off, though. Peck scaled all the major mountains of Europe and then became the first person to scale Peru’s highest peak, Mt. Huascarán. Peck was also a strong advocator of women’s rights, risking arrest for wearing trousers at a time when women were expected to wear long skirts. She even hung a ‘Votes for Women’ banner on the summit of several mountains she scaled. Peck continued to mountaineer late into her 80s and wrote four popular books on travel and exploration. Sources: Biography, Britannica, Rhode Island College. NUMBER 4: JOAN OF ARC A peasant girl in 15th century France, Joan of Arc believed she was chosen by god to lead the French people against the English occupiers during the Hundred Years War. After convincing Charles VII of France to give her control of his armies, the 18-year-old Joan arrived to break the siege of Orleans. The French had failed to take the city in 5 months, but managed to recapture it in a few days with Joan at the helm. She was eventually captured while leading forces against an English and Burgundian army. She was ultimately burned at the stake as a heretic. More than 500 years later, she was canonized as a Roman Catholic saint. Sources; BBC, Williamson, A., ‘Biography of Joan of Arc’s Life’ , The Telegraph, Biography, History Channel. NUMBER 3: HARRIET TUBMAN In 1849 America, 29-year-old Harriet Tubman escaped from the Maryland plantation where she had been enslaved since birth. Risking recapture, Tubman returned to the plantation on various occasions in order to rescue other slaves caught in the system. It is thought that she led hundreds of slaves to freedom in Philadelphia. When the US Civil War began in 1861, Tubman supported the unionists who fought for the abolition of slavery. She was a key figure in The Raid at Combahee Ferry that liberated more than seven hundred slaves. After the war, Tubman was active in the American women’s suffrage movement. Sources: Biography,, National Geographic, The Atlantic. NUMBER 2: MALALA YOUSAFZAI [You-saff-ziy] Malala Yousafzai began campaigning for girls’ right to education when she was only 11-years-old. She grew up under oppressive Taliban occupation in Pakistan. She wrote articles and gave television interviews, using her public platform to speak out for equality. In October 2012, when Malala was just 15, a gunman boarded her schoolbus. Having asked for her by name, he shot her three times at close range. Miraculously, Malala survived. Her determination grew and today she continues on her mission to provide a voice for the 66 million girls who are deprived of education. Aged 17, Malala was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, making her the youngest ever Nobel laureate. Sources: Nobel, BBC,, Biography. NUMBER 1: MARIE CURIE Polish-born Marie Curie was a pioneering authority in the study of radioactivity, and a key figure in the discovery of polonium and radium. She was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and also became the first person ever to win the award twice. During the First World War, Curie equipped ambulances with X-ray equipment and fearlessly drove them herself on the front line. In 1934 she died of leukemia, brought on by exposure to high-energy radiation during her research. Her selfless work was so dangerous that - even a century later - her notebooks are still too radioactive to handle. Sources:, BBC, Biography,, Famous Scientists.



Portnova was born in Leningrad on February 20, 1926. She was the daughter of a working-class Belarusian family. Her father worked at the Kirov Plant. She was a seventh-grade student at the 385th school in Leningrad in 1941,[1] when she left for her grandmother's house in the Vitebsk region. Not long afterwards, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union.[2] An incident with the invading Nazi troops, who hit her grandmother while they were confiscating the cattle, led her to hate the Germans.[3]

In 1942 Portnova joined the Belarusian resistance movement, becoming a member of the local underground Komsomol organization in Obol, Vitebsk Voblast, named Young Avengers.[2] She began by distributing Soviet propaganda leaflets in the German-occupied Belarus, collecting and hiding weapons for Soviet soldiers, and reporting on German troop movements. After learning how to use weapons and explosives from the older members of the group, Portnova participated in sabotage actions at a pump, local power plant, and brick factory.[3][1] These acts are estimated to have killed upwards of 100 German soldiers.[1]

In 1943, Portnova became employed as a kitchen aide in Obol. In August, she poisoned the food meant for the Nazi garrison stationed there. Immediately falling suspect, she said she was innocent and ate some of the food in front of the Nazis to prove it was not poisoned; after she did not fall ill immediately, they released her. Portnova became sick afterwards, vomiting heavily but eventually recovering from the poison after drinking much whey. After she did not return to work, the Germans realized she had been the culprit and started searching for her. To avoid the Germans, she became a scout of the partisan unit named after Kliment Voroshilov.[2] In a letter sent to her parents that month, she wrote that "together, [they] would beat the Nazis".[Note 1][1] In October 1943, Portnova joined the VLKSM.[2]

In December 1943 or January 1944 Portnova was sent back to Obol to infiltrate the garrison, discover the reason for the recent Young Avengers failures,[1] then locate and contact the remaining members. She was quickly captured. Reports of her escape vary. One is that, during Gestapo interrogation in the village of Goriany, she took the investigator's pistol off the table, then shot and killed him. When two German soldiers entered after hearing the gunshots, she shot them as well. She then attempted to escape the compound and ran into the woods, where she was caught near the banks of a river.[3]

Another version is that the Gestapo interrogator, in a fit of rage, threw his pistol to the table after threatening to shoot her. Taking the pistol, Portnova shot him. Escaping through the door, she shot a guard in the corridor, then another in the courtyard. After the pistol misfired when Portnova attempted to shoot a guard blocking her access to the street, she was captured.[1]

After being recaptured, Portnova was tortured, possibly for information.[1] She was later driven into the forest and executed[3] or killed during torture on 15 January 1944.[1]


On 1 July 1958, Portnova was posthumously declared a Hero of the Soviet Union by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet. She also received the Order of Lenin. In 1969, the village of Zuya dedicated a commemorative plaque in her honour.[2] She also had numerous Young Pioneer groups named in her honour.[3]

Portnova has had many school teams and groups named after her, as well the museum to the Komsomol, situated on the highway between Polotsk and Vitebsk, and a school in St. Petersburg. There are two monuments to her, a bust in Minsk and an obelisk in the village of Obol.[2]

See also


  1. ^ Original: "Вместе с вами бьём немецко-фашистских оккупантов."



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Galinsky, Hero.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Ufarkin.
  3. ^ a b c d e Sakaida 2003, p. 53.


  • Galinsky, Anna. "Герой Советского Союза: ПОРТНОВА ЗИНАИДА МАРТЫНОВНА" [Hero of the Soviet Union: Portnova Zinaida Martinovna]. Belarusian State Museum of the Great Patriotic War. Archived from the original on 25 March 2012. Retrieved 2 September 2011..
  • Sakaida, Henry (2003). Heroines of the Soviet Union 1941-45. Oxford: Osprey. ISBN 978-1-84176-598-3.
  • Ufarkin, Nikolai. "Портнова Зинаида Мартыновна" [Portnova Zinaida Martinovna]. Retrieved 2 September 2011.

External links

Media related to Zinaida Portnova at Wikimedia Commons

This page was last edited on 5 October 2019, at 16:14
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