Here’s a totally uplifting story that begins, unfortunately, with an unpleasant act: A purse thief attempting to nab a 90 year old woman’s bag from her shopping cart. But this wasn’t just any 90 year old woman. Gina Marie Zuckerman, a Holocaust survivor, had been making her way to a lunchtime volunteer shift when she was attacked–but instead of simply letting the incident happen, she fought back, getting an injury that required some stitches in the process. Zuckerman was escorted to the hospital, bag still in tow, after the attacker had fled the scene.
“She was a little taller than I was, but very big, with black hair. That’s all I remember,” Zuckerman said in an interview with DNA Info chronicling the incident. Going through her shopping routine, she says that she generally keeps her pocketbook clasped to her cart with two clips when shopping, and that the assailant had taken them off. Zuckerman clutched the bag and didn’t let go, even as the thief dug her nails in the 90 year old’s arm, which drew blood (hence the visit to the hospital). “She had very sharp nails, she scratched me deeply,” said Zuckerman. “It’s black [and] blue.”
In the tussle, the woman who was trying to take the bag attempted to convince a passerby that she was a home health aide, but Zuckerman’s injury was spotted and the ambulance was called. This caused the cowardly woman to run, leaving the brave, not-to-be-messed with elderly woman behind–and from the way she puts it, the “home health aide” claim was fairly insulting to the self-sufficient Zuckerman “She said she worked for me, but I never saw her. Nobody ever worked for me, I do everything myself.”
Gina Zuckerman has led a remarkable life. She survived 6 years of forced labor in Germany during the Holocaust. A Jewish organization later brought her to the United States, and more specifically to New York City, where she has lived for 60 years. She followed her studies at Washington Irving High School with a 28 year career in Madison Avenue advertising as a Girl Friday (A pretty cutesy term meaning that she was pretty much an expert at everything in a male dominated field and was likely integral to a company’s success even though she was likely disproportionately treated there.)
Though she is retired, she doesn’t think of it that way. That’s because she still volunteers at the senior center near Washington Square Park–and it is for this thoughtful work that she was travelling when the attempted pocketbook thief struck.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a news story this year without there being something there to remind you of the now pretty much over election cycle. Thankfully, this is mostly feel-good news, with the brave woman receiving a letter from Hillary Clinton herself. In the DNA Info interview documenting the attack, Zuckerman had voiced her excitement for both turning 91 in the following month and, as a registered Democrat, voting for the very first female president in the election–“if I live another 3 weeks,” in her words. She also chipped in some not so kind words for Donald Trump, saying that she was not a fan and that “I don’t like the things he says.” “I don’t like rude men. Enough rude men,” she continued, and coming from someone who lived through both the Holocaust and the Manhattan advertising industry, these words shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Hearing of Zuckerman’s excitement in casting her ballot, Clinton sent the aforementioned letter, saying “I was so sorry to hear about your recent brush with a purse-snatcher,” before going on to say that she was “heartened to know that you held your own and are doing well despite the injuries you sustained.” Saying what we were all thinking when we initially read about this amazing person, Clinton goes on to affirm that “You are, indeed, a fighter!”
Of course, while these kind words are great to see, and Zuckerman no doubt deserves them, it’s easy to notice that she is poised to live her life fully with or without the attention. She says as much in the interview–“I never needed anything from anybody.”