From December to May if you’d have ventured that professional friends Alyona Popova and Tina Kandelaki would be working together on a project anytime soon, you’d have witnessed me chuckling. Those days pitted “for Putin” groups opposite the “against Putin” groups and it appeared then that friendships and relationships would be strained for some time to come.
Since those first days after the tragedy, a collection of Russia’s most opposite stars and personalities have come to help and volunteer with relief organizations: Natalia Vodianova, Tina Kandelaki (pro-Putin journalist), Ilya Ponomarev (anti-Putin parliament deputy) and others have put aside their differences to unite on behalf of brother and sister Russians.
Other well-known volunteers have begun to smile again–something they were hard pressed to do during the strain of months of political protests. Fittingly, some of the government buses and vans sent to the region by the Emergency Situations Ministry carried volunteers who had been arrested during the winter-spring political protests.
Basic needs include bottled water, toiletries, medical supplies, blankets, roll-up mattresses, small generators, clothing, and food supplies. Below is a family made homeless by flooding checking in for emergency supplies from volunteer workers.
Imagine however how gratifying it must have seemed to residents in the areas of Russia’s recent deadly floods to watch prominent personalities stand together and work strive side by side to bring needed aid to suffering citizens. What began as collection sites around Moscow Metro stations turned into busloads of divergent personalities traveling and then camping in tents together as volunteers to serve their fellow Russians.
Tents, yes many of the same tents that had been staked in Moscow’s anti-Putin protests are now staked in fields around stricken cities like Krymsk, Gelenzhik and Novorossiysk in the Krasnodar region. Volunteers have also set up temporary kitchens to serve homeless flood victims.
Alyona says that the stench from rotting flesh has sent more than one volunteer, including herself, running for a private spot due to nausea and dizziness before continuing to work.
Officials still fear that many who are missing may not be found alive. Families often make fliers when searching for their loved ones and Russian media continues to broadcast news of survivors and alerts regarding those still lost. One organization dedicated to missing children is making their resources available to families: www.lizaalert.org.
More than 170 persons are known to have died in the recent flooding and Russians in cities like Moscow and Saint Petersburg have been moved by their plight and by Russian standards are making record donations of bedding, toys, clothing and other supplies. There are ten official donation drop-off points in Moscow.
The concept of corruption is so deeply ingrained that Alyona says that probing questions are asked by those who donate in the cities and again by residents who receive the aid. City residents are often suspicious that aid will not make it to the Krasnodar region. Victims in the flood stricken areas are suspicious that not all donations are making it to their region.
If you’d like to donate, here is a secure location for Western residents.
(photos: Alyona Popova)