Gift of Life Gala / Photo by Evgenia Basyrova

Gift of Life Gala / Photo by Evgenia Basyrova

On the 13th of January 2016, the Gift of Life foundation held its fifth anniversary charity evening in support of the children in the care of the Russian Podari Zhizn foundation at the Savoy Hotel in London. Over £400 000 was gathered in aid of children with oncological and haematological illnesses.

This year, the charity gala ’s guests included two Gift of Life patrons, singer Katie Melua and Princess Catherine Galitzine, actress Emma Miller, Russian TV host Vladimir Pozner, jeweller Stephen Webster, chef and restaurateur Alexei Zimin, artists Erik Bulatov and Aidan Salakhova; and many others.

Maxim Didenko, laureate of the Golden Mask Award, served as director for an evening themed around “Birthday”. Guests enjoyed performances by world-famous violinist Gidon Kremer with soloists from his orchestra, the best performers of Slava Polunin’s Snow Show, and foundation patron Katie Melua.

Vladimir Pozner took the stage to tell the story of Vlad Fagurel, a 22-year-old man who suffered from aplastic anaemia. Vlad recovered and came to the charity evening in London in order to show by example that even the gravest illnesses can be healed, and in order to talk about other children, ones who need help right now.

Gidon Kremer also shared his feelings. “When different people all over the world are united by the desire to help, that’s when miracles become possible. I am very grateful for the opportunity to take part in the foundation’s events to help children struggling with cancer. I deeply respect Chulpan and Dina, and the whole Gift of Life and Podari Zhizn team, for their tireless efforts to save children’s lives.”

Dina Korzun and Chulpan Khamatova / Photo by Katya Nikitina

Dina Korzun and Chulpan Khamatova / Photo by Katya Nikitina

In accordance with tradition, the evening’s hosts were Podari Zhizn and Gift of Life’s co-founders, the actresses Dina Korzun and Chulpan Khamatova Dina Korzun, co-founder of the Podari Zhizn and Gift of Life foundations:  “When my husband Louis Franck and I moved to London, our colleagues suggested setting up a sister foundation for Podari Zhizn.

Thanks to many people’s hard work, Gift of Life has been operating in Great Britain for five years. In that time, our British foundation has helped around 200 children, buying medicines that aren’t registered in Russia, paying for surgery by foreign doctors, and many other things. Of course, we’ve only been able to do this thanks to the faith and support of hundreds of friends from every corner of the world. Our traditional annual Old New Year’s Eve charity evening is an opportunity to express our thanks to all those who help us, and to once again ask you to support our children.”

Chulpan Khamatova, co-founder of the Podari Zhizn and Gift of Life foundations: “Old New Year is a joyful Russian tradition, a festival that reminds us about miracles, magic and gifts. Of course, for us the greatest gift is medicine which helps children become healthy. I am endlessly grateful to all the people who gather at our charity auction in London every year, and give our children the gift of life.”

The evening saw a charity auction conducted by the inimitable Igor Vernik. The public’s attention was captured by such lots as a visit to the Yellow Windmill, the creative laboratory of world-famous magician Slava Polunin; dinner with Chulpan Khamatova and tickets to her play; a visit to the workshop of legendary animator Yuriy Norshteyn, creator of the cartoon shorts Hedgehog in the Fog and Tale of Tales, with the opportunity to observe his creative process as he works on his new cartoon The Overcoat; tickets to a performance by Diana Vishneva, the greatest ballerina of our time; a sculpture by the renowned artist and gallerist Aidan Salakhova.

Igor Vernik and Erik Bulatov / Photo by Katya Nikitina

Igor Vernik and Erik Bulatov / Photo by Katya Nikitina

The biggest hit was truly a lot that money can’t buy – a fascinating two-day journey across St Petersburg, with immersion in its history, alongside foundation patron Princess Catherine Galitzine, member of one of Russia’s most well-known bloodlines and a direct descendant of Catherine the Great. Nor will the world of modern art be left out: the princess lived in St Petersburg during  modernity’s most exciting decade, the 1990s. There, she studied portrait sculpture under Mikhail Anikushin. Being familiar with some of the most famous artists of that time, she can organise visits to artists’ studios, or a guided tour of the contemporary wing of the State Hermitage.

Other successfully sold lots included the script for the play The Audience, signed by Helen Mirren, whose performance as Elizabeth II won her an Oscar in 2007; an invitation to a fashion show at the Ralph & Russo haute couture house in Paris, and dinner with the designers; a magnificent white gold, diamond and sapphire necklace by La M aison Shawish Gene ve; tickets to the London Coliseum for the ballet Ave Maya, dedicated to the memory of the legendary ballerina Maya Plisetskaya, and subsequent dinner with performers, members of the royal family and dignitaries; tickets to the finals of the Wimbledon 2016 Women’s Cup, and a racket autographed by Olympic champion and Wimbledon semi-finalist Elena Dementieva; tickets to the British Formula 1 Grand Prix; and a variety of trips, from the snowy mountains of Austria and the Gasthof Post in Lech hotel favoured by royalty, to the sunny beaches of Mauritius at the luxurious Constance Le Prince Maurice.

All lots were donated free of charge for the charity auction by friends of the Podari Zhizn and Gift of Life foundations.

All expenses involved with the event were covered by Roman Abramovich personally and Kaspersky Lab, as well as the event ’s official transport company, Aeroflot. All performers and hosts performed at the event without charge.

Clowns from Slava Polunin’s Snow Show / Photo by Evgenia Basyrova

Clowns from Slava Polunin’s Snow Show / Photo by Evgenia Basyrova

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The Podari Zhizn foundation is one of Russia’s largest charity organisations, caring for thousands of children with oncological, haematological and other severe illnesses. Many of them need expensive drugs and tests which are not paid for by the government , and which the patients’ families are unable to pay for themselves.

The Gift of Life foundation began operations in Britain in 2011 as the sister organisation of Podari Zhizn. Its main objective is to gather funds in the UK and other European countries to pay for treatment for the children in Podari Zhizn’s care.

Since 2011, Gift of Life has helped over 200 children in Russia. It has bought them medicines not registered in Russia: Erwinase, Methotrexate, Lysodren, Adcetris, Alexan and Alkeran.

Erwinase is the only drug that can treat children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia who develop an allergy to the Russian drug Asparginase. Erwinase is not registered in Russia, and so is not paid for by the government. The Podari Zhizn and Gift of Life foundations import it from Britain for patients in Russian clinics.

The Gift of Life foundation also funds visits by foreign specialists to the Dmitry Rogachev Centre for Paediatric Haematology in Moscow in order to perform surgery and instruct Russian doctors in unique surgical methods.

For more information about the Gift of Life Foundation, please visit the website or contact Katya Demidova at ekaterina@giftoflife.eu