‘Fear kills:’ WWII vets recall war, reject panic over virus

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In this photo taken on Thursday, April 30, 2020, Valentina Efremova, a World War II veteran, who served as a nurse in field hospitals on the frontlines throughout the war, speaks during her interview with the Associated Press in Yakutsk, Russia. For Russian World War II veteran Valentina Efremova, the coronavirus pandemic is like going through the war all over again. After the war, the 96-year-old said, "our lives were improving, year after year. And suddenly there's this pandemic, which is like another war ... this time - a biological one." (AP Photo/Alex Lee)

YAKUTSK – On the 75th anniversary of the allied victory in the World War II, The Associated Press spoke to veterans in ex-Soviet countries and discovered that lessons they learned during the war are helping them cope with a new major challenge — the coronavirus pandemic. As they recalled the horrors of the war, they also talked about how strength and tenacity were key to survival both then and now. Here is some of their testimony.

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‘GIVING IN TO PANIC IS LIKE SURRENDERING TO THE ENEMY'

For Russian World War II veteran Valentina Efremova, the coronavirus pandemic is like going through the war all over again.

After the war, the 96-year-old said, “our lives were improving, year after year. And suddenly there’s this pandemic, which is like another war ... this time, a biological one.”

But Efremova knows better than to panic and believes the outbreak — just like the Nazis back in the 1940s — will be defeated in the end. “Giving in to panic is like surrendering to the enemy,” she said.

Efremova served as a nurse in field hospitals on the front lines of the Red Army throughout the war and the apartment she shares with her daughter in Russia’s Far Eastern city of Yakutsk is decorated with numerous war-time photos. Dozens of medals weigh heavily on her jacket.

A 17-year-old high school student, she lived with her family in a small town north of Moscow when the Nazis attacked the Soviet Union in June 1941. It was a nice summer, she recalls, and everyone was planning their vacations.