Elizaveta Glinka – “Dr Liza” – 54, was on board the Tu-154 travelling to Syria to celebrate the New Year with Russian troops. The Russian military plane crashed in the Black Sea on December 25, 2016.
Glinka, charity worker and rights activist, was the head of a humanitarian organisation called Fair Help, which she founded in Moscow in 2007.
Do you remember the novel The Bridge of St Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder? The bridge collapses, five people die and the author sets out to investigate who those people were, why they had died, and what God’s logic for those deaths might be. The author displays singular ingenuity in his demonstrations that these were none of them random deaths: each person died, maybe for different reasons but each in tune with the logic of his or her own, unique destiny.
On 25 December 92 people perished together. They were our fellow countrymen, mainly young people – soldiers, civilians, more men than women, many artistes and professionals who were working with the [Alexandrov] Ensemble. They included journalists who were travelling with them to write about the event they were all going to – an Alexandrov Song and Dance Ensemble holiday concert for Russian soldiers in Syria. We have no Thornton Wilder to try and analyse the life of each of the victims, to guess at the precious secret of each person’s life or to help their nearest and dearest come to terms with their loss.
Of those 92, I only knew one passenger and that was Liza Glinka or Dr Liza, as she was known. We met many years ago in a hospital at the bedside of my dying friend Yuli Daniel. I was on duty that night and she had come to sit with him. There was one chair in the ward. She had come with the intention of spending that night by his bed, but there was no second chair. Liza sat with him for a bit and then left. Some time later I went out into the corridor and found her lying by the side of a dying man, who had just been brought in. She was stroking his head. I’m not sure he knew much about it.
Liza’s behaviour at that time seemed a little strange to me. Today, so many years later, I can expand on that comment: ordinary people generally find the behaviour of saints a little strange.
I repeat – of all the unfortunate passengers on that plane I knew only Liza. Someone who has made the life choices that Liza had made knows for certain that death can come from a chance bullet, a road accident in the mountains, in captivity, from poisoning… Her chances of dying in a hospital bed at a ripe old age were fewer than for many others.
Each person’s life is a gift from God and Liza Glinka knew that better than most. In making her very conscious choice about how to live her life, she was also in a way choosing death. Soldiers know that they are more likely to die than civilians.
A catastrophic accident. 92 people perished in fire and water. Their children, parents, friends and relations are experiencing the most appalling grief and I offer my most sincere condolences to them all.
But the death of Liza Glinka is a special case. She who saved the lives of so many children, who did so much good during her time on earth, will be remembered by thousands; thousands will grieve for her, pray for her and turn to her in their thoughts. To thank her for everything she did for them.
This article was first published by Open Russia