Renowned Russian humanitarian and charity activist Elizaveta Glinka, widely known as Dr. Liza, is feared dead after boarding the plane bound for Syria that crashed Sunday morning off the Sochi coast.
The 54-year-old head of the ‘Fair Help’ fund was supposed to travel to Latakia to deliver medical supplies to a hospital, according to the Human Rights Council.
Her fund also said that Glinka was “taking humanitarian supplies for the Tishreen university hospital in Latakia,” while the Defense Ministry confirmed the passenger list included her name.
There was some confusion regarding Glinka’s fate after the plane stopped over in Sochi for refueling. Several news outlets reported that she failed to board the flight after a security check.
As time passed, however, her mobile phone remained hopelessly switched off.
Eventually, Elena Pogrebizhskaya, author of a documentary film on Doctor Liza, wrote on her Facebook page: “Liza’s phone is out of coverage. She has not been in touch with anyone for 11 hours. This includes her family. Gleb [Glinka’s husband] says he wants to be alone… This is a nightmare.”
This was an additional shock to Russians on top of the death of the 64 members of the Alexandrov army choir.
“We were hoping for a miracle until the very last moment. And she was a miracle herself, a heaven-sent message of virtue,” head of the Presidential Council for Human Rights Mikhail Fedotov told Interfax.
“Dr. Lisa was the darling of all hearts for one simple reason. For many years, almost every day, she provided palliative medical care, feeding the homeless, giving them shelter and clothes. She took the sick and injured children from Donbass under a hail of bullets, so that they could get help in the best hospitals in Moscow and St Petersburg. She organized a shelter for children with amputated limbs, where they can undergo rehabilitation after treatment in hospital.
“To save the lives of others – this was her mission everywhere: in Russia, Donbass, Syria…” Fedotov added.
Born into a military family, which also includes a famous dietitian, Glinka graduated from the Russian National Research Medical Institute in Moscow to become a pediatric anesthesiologist. In 1986, she and her husband emigrated to the US, where she studied palliative care and graduated from Dartmouth. In America, she became involved with the work of hospices. Glinka later participated in the work of the First Moscow Hospice, after which the family moved to Ukraine for two years. In 1999, she founded the first hospice in Kiev.
In 2007, Glinka founded the ‘Fair Help’ fund in Moscow, which provides financial support and medical care to cancer patients, underprivileged families, the homeless, and others in need.
Last year, Dr. Liza organized an evacuation of children with heart conditions who were in need of urgent medical help, from Donbass to Russian hospitals. Parents and doctors told RT that due to the humanitarian crisis, it was impossible to treat them locally.
Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave out state awards for outstanding achievements in charity and human rights activities. Glinka was the winner of the first award, saying she would soon travel to Syria.
“We never know whether we come back alive, because the war – is hell on earth, and I know what I’m talking about. But we are confident that goodness, compassion and mercy are stronger than any weapon,” Glinka said, receiving the award.
Human rights activist Lyudmila Alexeyeva, founding member of the Moscow Helsinki Watch Group, said Glinka’s death was a huge loss.
“She was a saint, had enough strength for everyone, and was ready to help both the homeless and children,” Alexeyeva told TASS.
“It’s hard to speak about her, this is a huge loss, people like Dr. Liza are born once in a thousand years,” the human rights activist added. According to Alekseeva, Glinka was carrying a large amount of humanitarian aid to Syria.
Former human rights envoy Vladimir Lukin told TASS he was shocked by the tragedy.
“I am shocked. She was a wonderful person, she has done a lot of good things,” he said.
Those who never met Dr. Liza have also been deeply saddened by the tragic news.
My heart goes out to the families of those who died in the accident. The whole country is mourning with you..#Ту-154 #докторЛиза
People have been bringing flowers and candles to the office of the ‘Fair Help’ fund in Moscow.
“She was a miracle. She did things that most people thought were impossible to do. But that’s exactly what Elizaveta was all about. She worried about her colleagues to the point where she preferred to travel to hot spots herself,” Lana Zhurkina, Dr. Liza’s former colleague, told Life.ru.
A young mother in the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk, whose child Elizaveta Glinka helped when it suffered a serious disease, shared her sorrow with journalists.
“My daughter was diagnosed with congenital heart defect, she had to be urgently operated on. We met her [Glinka] in Donetsk – she sent us to St. Petersburg, where the child was successfully operated on, on the second day of [its] life.”
“This is a terrible tragedy, she has helped so many children, so many adults, and provided hope and faith,” the woman said.
A Russian Defense Ministry medical facility is to be named after the renowned humanitarian activist, Deputy Minister of Defense Ruslan Tsalikov told journalists.
“The humanitarian cargo of the ‘Fair Help’ fund was sent by another aircraft. It is already in the airport of Khmeimim, and of course we will finish Elizaveta Glinka’s job,” Tsalikov added.
Meanwhile the head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, said that a children’s clinic in Grozny has been named after humanitarian activist Elizaveta Glinka.
“Dr. Liza devoted herself to the most noble cause – saving children,” Kadyrov wrote on Instagram. “She had a brilliant medical training and could have worked in some clinic, but she chose the hard path of helping those, who could not get help from elsewhere.”