News ID: 234330
Published: 0838 GMT November 16, 2018

'Angel', 80, drives to aid of poor St. Petersburg pensioners

'Angel', 80, drives to aid of poor St. Petersburg pensioners

Long retired from her job as a Saint Petersburg trolley driver, 80-year-old Galina Yakovleva still spends her days behind the wheel, but now in a mini-van distributing food to needy pensioners.

"I do it because I like to help people and I like to drive," she laughed during one of her daily rounds, AFP reported.

"With this I can do both at the same time."

A decade ago, Yakovleva created the charity ‘Dobrota’ — or ‘Kindness’ — a one-woman operation where she works as director, manager and driver.

Pensioners across Russia are struggling to make ends meet and deeply unpopular government plans to raise the retirement age have brought the issue into the spotlight.

President Vladimir Putin in October signed a bill that will lift the retirement age for men to 65 from 60, and for women from 55 to 60, in the first hike for almost 90 years.

The move has sparked rare street protests in a country where the elderly often have to keep working to bolster their meagre aid from the state.

"Here she is, our guardian angel!" shouted Nina, Yakovleva's 84-year-old neighbor as they met in the courtyard of the complex where they live.

Yakovleva took a box of cakes out of the back of her van and handed it over.

"Come on, there's a crate of apples to get from a friend and then I've got three visits to do," she said as she turned on the ignition.

The average monthly pension in Saint Petersburg is 12,300 rubles ($180), while the official poverty line is set at 7,000 rubles.

"Pensioners still have to pay their bills and for their medicines, which can be expensive," Yakovleva explained.

"So my help is always useful."

Independent restaurants, corner shops and bakers, along with friends and acquaintances, supply the food, clothes and other essential items that she distributes.


Stopped by police


Handing over the apples, her friend Elena Varakushina confirmed it is with her ‘character’ that the energetic pensioner convinces small businesses to donate.

Despite her previous work on the trolleys, Yakovleva said she is still sometimes stopped by police when they see her behind the wheel of a mini-van.

"They're friendly, it's just because they're curious. It's rare to see a woman of my age driving in Russia!"

"Most of my 'charges' are pensioners, but there are also disabled people and some large families," she said.

Yakovleva steers clear of politics, preferring to focus on the ‘joy’ she is able to bring with her deliveries.

"Where do I find them?" she asked of the people she helps.

"Everywhere. Sometimes on the street but most of the time through friends or acquaintances."

Nina Savelyeva, a 94-year-old retired engineer, said Yakovleva's help is essential for her survival, as she welcomed her into her flat during the morning round.

"I don't understand how people can be so uninterested (in us) nowadays," she said.

"Today, people just think of themselves. But that's not true with Galina. I admire her kindness, and if I tell you the truth, I couldn't do what she does."



Resource: AFP
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