Letter to Zinaida Vsevolodovna

Dear Zinaida Vsevolodovna,

I remember when I first visited you at the Institute, in August 2011. You were 83 and picked up a book from a shelf in your office. It was called “The Formula of Life”. Your office was full of books, scientific but also literary. You were – as always – busy day and night: at day, running the Lab, or teaching; at night you were translating American medical articles for your younger colleagues, whose English is less proficient.

I remember how you told me about your first daughter, who was born when you finished your master degree, and about your plans to have a second child. But at that point, the monkeys got hemorrhagic fever: it was a great epidemic that killed many in the US primate institutes. The American scientists sent you samples to identify the virus and find a cure. I remember your story on how you got a splash of blood on your face and, though scared, you realized after a few days that the virus doesn’t affect humans. This study became your PhD thesis and nowadays the virus bears your name. But by the time you finished your thesis, it was too late for a second child. Then you told me: “One should never postpone anything in his life”.

I remember you said your dream was to visit Paris. And that an opportunity came up at the beginning of the ’90s, with a scientific contract. You prepared for two years and learned French. But then the war started in Abkhazia and it was impossible to travel. I remember our last meeting this June, when we screened the film in Sukhum. I hope you are fine. How is life? Как жизн?

Shevtsova and panel
Zinaida Vsevolodovna on the corridor of her office. June 2012.

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