Zinaida Korneva was just 19 years old when she was conscripted into the Russian army. She fought against the Germans at Stalingrad, a milestone battle that turned the tide of World War II and gave the Allies the upper hand.
Many men and women became heroes during that war. Korneva, who attained the rank of senior sergeant during her time in the Red Army, still remembers those she served with during the brutal battle of Stalingrad. Now 97, she is once more putting her support behind front line heroes, this time the healthcare workers putting their own lives on the line to help others during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Korneva first got the idea from one of her wartime allies. Her great-granddaughter’s husband shared the story of England’s Captain Tom Moore, who walked 100 laps of his garden to raise more than $40 million for healthcare workers in the UK.
“Tom [Moore] appealed to his nation, so I thought: Why don’t we in Russia also help our doctors, like the English?” told the world in a Skype interview with Radio Free Europe.
In another video posted to YouTube, Korneva let Captain Tom know she admired his spirit. Her great-granddaughter helped her record this interview on April 30, the day of the British veteran’s 100th birthday and the final stretch of his garden walk goal.
“You’re a strong person and a real soldier,” she said, dressed in her uniform and medals. “We defeated fascism together in 1945. And now we’re battling this virus together.”
Korneva even promised a birthday gift to her comrade.
“Tom, I want to make a Birthday gift for you,” she said. “I will knit socks. It will keep you warm. From Russia with love. On behalf of our veterans.”
Captain Tom raised over $37 million in donations during April. Korneva, admittedly not as spry as the centenarian, “because I haven’t left my house in a long time,” is aiming for 3 million roubles, about $40,187.
“I want to announce fundraising for Russian doctors who got infected with COVID-19,” she said. “Tom, I can not walk 100 lengths of my garden. As I don’t go out of my house. I promise every day before VE Day to tell stories in Instagram about War from my real life.”
As RFE reports, Korneva intends to share stories from the war in daily video posts to raise money for the families of healthcare workers who have died while helping others survive COVID-19. The videos are being posted to Korneva’s YouTube channel and zinastories.com.
“We’ve appealed to the nation without politics,” she said. “We have no special connections to any organizations with lots of money, or ties to the government. This is a simple appeal for people to unite.”
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Matthew Russell is a West Michigan native and with a background in journalism, data analysis, cartography and design thinking. He likes to learn new things and solve old problems whenever possible, and enjoys bicycling, going to the dog park, spending time with his daughter, and coffee.