President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon, friends,
Today is the first time that we are presenting two new national awards: for outstanding achievements in human rights and charity work.
These awards have a very special nature. They recognise people who have dedicated their lives to helping others and never sought awards or honours for their work, but act simply at their heart’s prompting. This is the essence of charity and human rights work. The establishment of awards for outstanding services in these areas is a mark of the state and society’s respect for these people and for their selfless labour.
We see what people can achieve when they answer their heart’s call, and we see the significance for every one of us of examples that have tremendous moral force for millions of people.
Today, the values of humanism, compassion, and mercy garner ever more response from and unite our people. This is a further sign of our society’s positive and constructive development and civic maturity.
I note that the Commission that selected the candidacies for these national awards – it is the norm in such cases to have a selection commission doing this work – examined a long list of candidates nominated by various public organisations. I not only think but know for sure that the commission members had a difficult time in choosing the worthiest among the worthy.
Let me say a few words about our winners today.
The National Award for Outstanding Achievements in Human Rights Activity is conferred on Yelizaveta Glinka, or, as the public and the media often call her, Doctor Liza.
Yelizaveta Glinka is a familiar figure to hospital patients, people facing disaster, children in Donbass and in Syria. I would like to express once more my support for Ms Glinka’s position: medicines and medical equipment should never be subject to limits or restrictions of any sort because as a result, people end without even the most basic medical assistance, including during military conflicts, when the civilian population, and often children, to our great sorrow, suffer most of all. I believe strongly that we should put a stop to this situation and that we should reach a decision to this effect at the international level.
The National Award for Outstanding Achievements in Charity Work is conferred on Father Alexander, Alexander Tkachenko by his lay name.
Father Alexander oversees children’s hospices and puts his strength, life and faith into this labour of helping seriously ill children. I hope that the state authorities, civil society groups, and religious representatives throughout the country will lend their support to his initiatives.
Today marks the birth of another great tradition that raises citizens’ missions of service to the summit of public and state recognition.
Let me stress that these awards for human rights and charity work have the same status as the national awards for achievements in science and culture that are presented on Russia’s Independence Day.
I want to express once more my sincere gratitude to the winners for their selfless service to people, their tireless labour and their generosity of spirit. I congratulate you. Thank you very much.
Yelizaveta Glinka: Mr President, colleagues,
Thank you for this first award. I am sincerely touched to have received it and extend your recognition to all of my colleagues working on human rights protection.
The greatest right of all is the right to life. This right is constantly being trampled underfoot in these difficult times. It is difficult to look at the children killed and injured in Donbass and the sick children or those killed in Syria. It is not easy to swap the city life I am used to for 900 days of war in which innocent children are dying.
It is sometimes hard to fully realise the divisions in society in which people stop listening to each other and speak of us in one-sided terms, saying, “it’s your own fault,” or “be prepared to get killed, because you’re not where you should be.” Our job is to protect human rights and we are outside of politics, just like the people who we protect. We are on the side of peace, dialogue, and cooperation with all.
I must mention today my colleagues, doctors in Syria, who were killed yesterday, the doctors who have been killed in Donetsk, the hundreds of children killed during shelling in Donbass, and the thousands of children buried in Syria. May they rest in peace.
Tomorrow I will fly to Donetsk and from there to Syria, just like dozens of other volunteers involved in humanitarian work. We never know if we will return alive, because war is hell on earth, and I know what I am talking about. But we are sure that goodness, compassion and mercy are more powerful than any weapon.
Alexander Tkachenko: Mr President, I am deeply touched by this high national award.
When we started this charity project to establish a children’s hospice some 15 years ago, our goal was to fill with joy the lives of children whose days were limited by serious illness. Even when we cannot cure an illness, this does not mean that there is nothing we can do. There is much we can do. It is important to maintain the quality and dignity of life and protect these children from physical and spiritual pain.
The first children’s hospice was built in St Petersburg through the efforts of many donors. Ms Valentina Matviyenko deserves particular credit here. Over the following years, the team of doctors, psychologists, and specialists from various professions worked to develop a new area in medicine – children’s palliative care.
The high standards of care offered at the St Petersburg Children’s Hospice have become the benchmark used in the Healthcare Ministry’s regulations. These regulations set the framework for the in-patient facilities being built now and for the mobile services that are opening in all parts of the country. People come to us from the different federal districts and from European countries to learn.
We have a big task before us: We must change society’s attitude towards people with serious disabilities. The children’s hospice’s goodwill ambassador, Distinguished Artist of Russia Diana Gurtskaya, is playing a very big role in efforts to develop an inclusive society.
When His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia visited the children’s hospice, he said that the Church can resolve national tasks entrusted to it and will do this in the best way possible. The Church is building hospitals, universities and hospices. We are trying to change society and the world for the better.
The first clergyman to receive such an award, now raised to sainthood as Saint Luke (Valentin Voino-Yasenetsky), doctor and surgeon, when he received his award, said that helping the sick was the loftiest vocation, and it is in this that we see the unity of the doctor’s work and serving the church.
I am very grateful to you for this high recognition of our labour. Thank you.
Vladimir Putin: Friends,
What do I want to say to conclude this ceremony? Even just speaking about what our winners do brings a lump to the throat. What kind of spiritual strength does one need to possess to actually do this in practice, see it all, risk one’s life, and not give up?
I am very grateful to Ms Glinka for remembering our military servicewomen who gave their lives in Syria, trying to help people. Yes, they were military service personnel, but they were carrying out the purely humanitarian mission of helping suffering people who had not seen medical assistance in many years, probably. Nonetheless, a strike was deliberately launched against the hospital.
Incidentally, human rights activists’ voices have scarcely made a sound over this. It is good then that representative of this prominent field here in Russia should speak of this publicly here, at the Kremlin in Moscow.
No matter what your fields of engagement – I never forget not only about social and other rights – we realise that just as important are issues concerning citizens’ political rights and freedoms. This is an area of activity essential for the state authorities and society, because all of these different areas of work should make our country stronger, more civilised and more united.
People should know that they live in a society that responds to their problems and demands. People like our winners today are helping in the best possible way to reach this goal.
Thank you very much. I congratulate you once again.