97-year-old Russian veteran raises money amid coronavirus pandemic
Zinaida Korneva has a message for her American comrades: "Support your doctors."
MOSCOW -- Zinaida Korneva, a charming 97-year-old Russian veteran of World War II, has a message for her American comrades.
"Support your doctors," she said in a recent interview with ABC News. "It’s really tough for them now."
Korneva, whose daughter and granddaughter are both doctors, has so far raised 2.5 million Russian rubles (over $34,000) for families of Russian doctors who have died from the novel coronavirus. Her inspiration?
"My children and grandchildren showed me a video clip of Tom Moore," she said.
Capt. Tom Moore, a 100-year-old British veteran of World War II, captured the hearts of people around the world — including Korneva's — by doing 100 laps with a walker around his garden in Bedfordshire last month to raise money for the United Kingdom's National Health Service. The former soldier raised more than 30 million British pounds (over $37 million) for health care workers on the front lines of his country's virus outbreak.
Korneva, with a small clip in her silver bob and numerous war medals attached to her dark blue vest, addressed Moore in a video message on April 30 from her countryside home some 80 miles outside Saint Petersburg.
"Hello Tom. I learned about your story. You are a strong person and a real soldier," she said in the clip posted to YouTube. "Together, we defeated fascism in 1945, and now, together, we are fighting this virus."
She then announced her own fundraising plan, noting that it would be a bit different than Moore's because she has a bad hip and a built-in pacemaker.
"Tom, I am not promising to walk across the garden 100 times like you did," she said. "I haven't left home in a long time."
Instead, Korneva pledged to film herself everyday sharing stories from when she served in the Soviet Union's anti-aircraft forces, spotting enemy planes in the Second World War.
Korneva was just 19 when she was among the first women to be drafted to the Red Army in 1942. She took part in the Battle of Stalingrad and helped liberate Berlin from Nazi rule. Her wartime memories include seeing the face of a German fighter pilot through the window of his shot-down plane just before it hit the ground.
One video shows Korneva knitting Moore a pair of socks for his 100th birthday before carefully folding them into a parcel with a letter. She sent the package to Moore, "from Russia with love," she said.
Korneva's videos have been uploaded online regularly ahead of Saturday, when Russia marks the 75th anniversary of the surrender of Nazi Germany. Many Russians regard that day back in 1945 as the high point of cooperation among Soviet, British, French and U.S. forces. Moore should get his socks in time for the holiday, Korneva said.
Russia usually celebrates Victory Day with a military parade across Red Square in Moscow, but it has been postponed this year due to the pandemic. Russia saw a record daily rise in COVID-19 cases on Thursday, with 11,231 new infections reported over the previous 24-hour period, according to the country's coronavirus response headquarters. Russia now has the world's second-fastest rate of new infections, behind the United States.
As her fundraising campaign comes to a close, Korneva is urging American veterans to step up next and support their health care workers.
"It is our ally's turn," she told ABC News.
ABC News Live
24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events