Girl Soldier of the Great Patriotic War
Seen through the eyes of a Ukrainian teenager, Katusha is both a coming-of-age story and a carefully researched account of one of the most turbulent and important periods of the twentieth century, where women served in the hundreds of thousands, and Russians died by the millions.
On Sunday, June 22, 1941, the morning after Katusha’s graduation, the Germans invade the Soviet Union. As enemy forces occupy Kiev, Ukraine, Katusha and her family learn the Nazis are not there to liberate them from harsh communist rule, but to conquer. They discover there is a special danger for the Jews, and in saving her friend Zhenya Gersteinfeld, Katusha finds her whole family in danger.
During the next four years, Katusha experiences the war on the Eastern Front with all its ferocity and hardship: first as a partisan, then as a Red Army tank driver and commander. From Barbarossa to Babi Yar, from Stalingrad to Kursk, from the Dnipro to Berlin, follow the footprints and tanks tracks of Katusha’s journey through a time of death, hopelessness, victory, glory, and even love.
2019 INDIES Book of the Year Award Finalist for Graphic Novels & Comics
Comics Grinder wrote:
“Wayne Vansant combines thorough military and historical detail with unforgettable characters in his epic masterwork Katusha…. Vansant’s art is outstanding, demonstrating a great commitment to getting it right with uniforms, landscapes, and armaments, while also showing a knack for facial details that keeps every character in his large cast easily identifiable. Vansant captures the massive scale and significance of the war, but the strength of this book is that it is seen from a personal viewpoint. First, last, and always, this is Katusha’s story.”
“Katusha, written and drawn by Wayne Vansant, is quite an ambitious work and a truly immersive page-turner. This is the story of Katusha, a young Ukrainian girl who goes on to fight in the major battles between the Soviets and their Nazi invaders. Follow her story and you gain great insight into one of the greatest conflicts in military history. Vansant puts the reader in the driver’s seat for this riveting narrative.”
Sequential Tart wrote:
“Wayne Vansant’s Katusha: Girl Soldier of the Great Patriotic War, at 572 pages, is a big book, but this allows Vansant to be patient…. Vansant’s book is full of thoughtful details…. It is one that addresses anti-Semitism and how Jews were persecuted.”
“As a tome that literally illustrates the time, place, people, and horrors of war.... This is very well done.”
Military Writers Association of America wrote:
“Wayne has an amazing ability to tell a compelling story combining both words and images. While history books are full of facts and figures, Wayne is able to immerse you in the immense story of World War II through the eyes of a 17-year-old Girl; Katusha. If you are interested in learning about a different side of history, through a different set of eyes and through a different medium, Katusha should be your next history book.”
Historical Novel Society wrote:
“This book is a wonderful introduction to graphic novels if you are not familiar with the genre. Well-researched, the military illustrations, technology, and nomenclature are spot on, as is the history of the Eastern Front. I particularly liked how the author showed the human side of so many great battles; it is easy to research the strategy of a battle, but harder at times to grasp the feelings and emotions of the people that fought it. Vansant does an excellent job of developing characters, especially since compared to a novel he has limited text in which to do so. There are also a few actual photographs worked into the story, which are used to great impact. If you enjoy military graphic novels, you will love this; if you are not familiar with graphic novels, this is a great place to start!”
Seattle Book Review wrote:
“I must admit I had a difficult time putting this book down. The story was riveting and educational. The pictures and dialog made it easy to follow the storyline. Although many of the characters are fictional, I learned there were many women who fought in the war alongside their male counterparts, so the storyline was credible. If you have never read a graphic novel, I can recommend this book as your first.”
La Gaceta wrote:
“This is a spectacular book; it takes the time to tell a complex story, with many moving parts, characters, and events all happening. It looks at how one young lady found herself at different important points and decisions made by those in power, but from the point-of-view of the average soldier.”
“The book is full of detail on Katusha’s wartime action – and those actions were entirely typical of women fighting for Russia…. In its own terrifying way, it is a coming-of-age tale about a teenager who lost most of her loved ones. It ... will have a beneficial impact on any teenager you know.”
“I love Wayne Vansant’s artwork as much as his text – it’s really original and sincere, a million miles away from plastic cookie cutter ‘super hero’ art…. An extremely moving tale, one that would appeal to anyone who likes a good story.”
A Conversation with Wayne Vansant
Q: When were you first inspired to write Katusha?
A: I was at a party in an apartment in Odessa, Ukraine. The ladies at the party were singing songs they knew, which is something they like to do. Suddenly they started singing a song with such strength that they were practically shaking the roof. When they finished I asked what was the name of the song. They told me Katusha! That was the germ of the story. The more I heard it, and learned about it, I knew I HAD to do something about it.
Q: Where did the characters come from?
A: Many characters were inspired from books that I read about Ukraine and the war; but little streams of ideas have also come through subconsciously. A friend told me that the character of Uncle Taras Tymoshenko reminds him of Uncle Ethan Edwards, the John Wayne character in the movie The Searchers. I’m sure there are crossovers much like that with other characters.
Q: How important is it to accurately represent the visuals?
A: It is absolutely essential. I have done illustrations for writers/editors who didn’t care about accuracy as long as they got THEIR point across. Wouldn’t it be terrible to see a brand new car in a movie about the 1930s? A Red Army World War II soldier carrying a Civil War musket? I have strived to get EVERYTHING absolutely right. The clothing, the uniforms, the vehicles, the building in the background, the trees for the time of year. The color of the soil. Did you know that there is a website that can tell you the state of the moon at any location throughout time? If you have that information, why not use it?