‘We will fight this virus together’ 98-year-old World War II veteran raises over 1.5 million rubles to help Russian doctors fight COVID-19
Zinaida Korneva is a 98-year-old veteran who lives in St. Petersburg. Until 1942 she worked as a teacher. During World War II, she served as an anti-aircraft gunner and made it all the way to Berlin. Now, she’s raising money to help Russian doctors fight the coronavirus.
At the end of April, Korneva found out about an initiative led by British veteran Tom Moore. By walking laps in his garden, he raised over £30 million (around $37.3 million) to support the UK’s National Health Service (NHS). He also topped the British charts with a cover of the song “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
On April 30, Korneva sent Captain Tom a video message, calling him a real soldier. “We defeated fascism in ‘45 together, and now we will fight this virus together,” she said.
The St. Petersburg resident then announced her own fundraising initiative, to collect money to support Russian doctors. With the help of her granddaughter, Korneva began recording daily videos telling stories about her experiences in World War II. For example, one video — filmed at the family’s dacha where the two are staying together during the pandemic — Korneva recounts how they celebrated March 8 (International Women’s Day) during the war.
Korneva’s YouTube channel now has over a dozen videos, which have collectively drawn over 37,000 views so far. At the time of publication, her channel had nearly 4,000 subscribers. Meanwhile, her fundraiser — which is available on the website of one of Russia’s longest-running veterans organizations, the All-Russian Community Organization of War and Labor Veterans (Pensioners) — has raised over 1.5 million rubles (more than $19,000).
The money will go to help doctors who have been affected by COVID-19. The first 300,000 rubles will be given to the families of doctors and nurses from St. Petersburg, who have died from the coronavirus. The names of the medical workers receiving aid from the fundraiser are available on the campaign’s website.
Korneva’s granddaughter, Elena Fomicheva, underscores that the family was not expecting so many donations and initially wanted to raise “at least 300,000 [rubles].” “If something is not happening within the family, I think you’ve got to re-educate society, and give it a bit of a shake,” Fomicheva says. “Because we always think that coronaviruses can’t touch us. You understand that the coronavirus is already close and you can’t be callous about it.”
At the moment, Korneva’s family is talking to British journalists, who are trying to organizу a phone call between Korneva and Captain Tom. Zinaida Korneva is also knitting socks as a belated birthday gift for the British veteran — he turned 100 years old on April 30.
Translation by Eilish Hart