Vera Vasilyevna Millionshchikova (born on 6 October 1943 in Rtishchevo – died on 21 December 2010 in Moscow) was the doctor who founded Moscow Hospice No.1.
Vera Vasilyevna Millionshchikova was born on 6 October 1943 in the town of Rtishchevo in Saratov region to the family of a railwayman. In 1944, the family moved to Vilnius, which had just been liberated from Nazi troops. Millionshchikova’s mother was a relative of the famous White General Krasnov, her grandfather was arrested for counter-revolution in the beginning of the 1920s and died in a Soviet prison.
In 1966, Vera Millionshchikova graduated from the medical school of Kapsukas State University in Vilnius and started her work in Moscow. From 1966 till 1982, she worked at the Moscow Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, first as an obstetrician and then as an anaesthesiologist. Since 1993, she worked as a radiation oncologist at the Moscow Nuclear Radiology Institute. “As I got in touch with people suffering from cancer I understood that I could not leave them unattended. The government left them to the mercy of fate. If a patient was diagnosed as incurable, he or she was dismissed with the recommendation ‘to be treated at home’, which meant not to be treated at all,” she recalled. You can just imagine what a death from cancer is like without proper medical care and pain relief! Doctor Millionshchikova started to visit dismissed patients at home, brought them medicines, and explained to their relatives how to relieve the last days and minutes of a dying person.
She worked like that for several years before meeting the British journalist Victor Zorza who was the initiator of the hospice movement in Russia. Following the will of his daughter who had died from cancer, Zorza devoted his life to establishing hospices all over the world. Before meeting Vera Millionshchikova, he managed to open the first hospice in post-Soviet Russia in Lakhta (a district of St Petersburg) in 1990.
Negotiations with government officials about opening a hospice in Moscow took several more years. The hospice was founded with complete funding from the Government of Moscow. The mobile hospice service started its work in Moscow in 1994, and in 1997 the hospice got the first in-patient facility with 30 beds in the former orphan asylum building at 10 Dovatora Street. Moscow Hospice No.1 has always worked free of charge. Vera Millionshchikova prohibited doctors and nurses from accepting either money or gifts from patients and their relatives. She simply fired employees the next day if she found out that they had violated this rule. Vera Millionshchikova called the hospice “The House of Love”.
In 2006, Millionshchikova’s daughter, Nyuta Federmesser, established the fund to support hospices and named it “Vera” after her mother.
During her last years, Vera Millionshchikova had to fight a severe chronic disease – sarcoidosis. Despite her illness, she continued to manage the hospice till her last day and took an active part in the development of the hospice movement in Russia. Vera Millionshchikova died at home on 21 December 2010.
On the day before her death, she wrote an appeal to the personnel of Moscow Hospice No.1 which has become her last will and testament.