At Hillingdon Cemetery (London), the monument to an outstanding woman, international philanthropist Kate Marsden (1859-1931) was consecrated on September 3, 2019.
The idea to erect the monument was initiated by residents of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), where Kate arrived at the end of the 19th century in search of herb that cures leprosy. In a short time, funds were raised, a project was approved, and a memorial was created at Hillingdon Cemetery, where Kate was buried in a nameless grave.
Kate Marsden is an English sister of mercy, explorer and philanthropist, a member of the Russian Red Cross Society and the Royal Association of British Nurses, one of the first women members of the Royal Geographical Society.
Horse riding across Siberia to the Yakut region in 1891-1892 brought her fame. Thanks to her efforts, it became possible to create a hospital in 1892 for patients with leprosy in the village of Sosnovka, Vilyui ulus. Compassionate, brave and courageous, she chose the path of service to patients with unwavering hope to alleviate sufferings of lepers.
The Rossotrudnichestvo representative office hosted a memorable evening discussing the purpose of Kate Marsden’s trip to Yakutia, anniversary events, a performance about Kate Marsden, translation of Kate Marsden’s book into Russian. Tamara Obutova, producer of the ArcticFilm cinema company from Yakutsk and Ruslan Tarakhovsky, director of Platon Oyunsky Sakha Academic Theater told about the project of creating a documentary film about the legendary sister of mercy "Kate Marsden."
The project to put a stone on the grave of Kate Marsden became possible thanks to the colossal work carried out by a large number of people, including residents of Vilyuisk and personally the head of Vilyui ulus Sergey Vinokurov, Professor Sotiros Andrew Musalimas of North-Eastern Federal University and Svetlana I. Yegorova-Johnstone.
Kate Marsden went to Russia, receiving outspoken support of Queen Victoria and holding a letter from the Princess of Wales. She traveled through the vast expanses of Russia up to Yakutia and the Russian Far East with a letter of recommendation from the Empress of Russia, as well as an additional letter from the maid of honor of the Empress. Earlier, Kate Marsden was awarded the Russian Red Cross for her service as a nurse, helping soldiers who suffered during the Russian-Turkish war of 1877.
Throughout the long journey through Russia in 1891, Kate Marsden entered into good relations of cooperation, which is a good example to emulate. Kate went in search of a medicinal plant, which, according to rumors, was able to treat leprosy. Having reached Yakutia in 1891, she found a plant, but it did not possess the properties attributed to it. Kate turned her attention to the small community of local lepers suffering from this disease in the harsh conditions of the forests of the Far North. She acted as a catalyst for efforts together with the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian authorities to build a leper colony in the village of Sosnovka, Vilyui ulus in Yakutia. This is especially noteworthy because the number of lepers was small and the region was very remote. Near the leper colony, a church was erected in honor of the Holy Great Martyr and Healer Panteleimon. Leprosy has been eradicated. The buildings of the leper colony are used by the hospital for other purposes to this day.
In Yakutia, Kate Marsden is remembered thanks to her heroic and fruitful efforts. The explorer had to travel the vast expanses of Russia on the sled and barges to reach Yakutia. Kate then rode about 2,000 miles to find lepers scattered in the wild forests. She did this, despite the danger to her own health. During a long horseback ride, Kate was accompanied by local influential representatives, in particular, priest Ivan Vinokurov of Russian-Yakut origin, the only person who was brave enough to visit lepers and alleviate their suffering before Kate Marsden arrived. Healthy residents of the region helped by clearing the trails in the dense forests.
Due to the range and difficulty of horse riding in Yakutia, Kate Marsden was recognized as the heroine of the international horse riding society: Guilds of horse-drawn long-distance travelers. In the recently published three-volume Encyclopedia of Equestrian Studies (2017), compiled by the head of the Long-Distance Horse Guild Fund, Kate Marsden is mentioned more often than any other person.
Returning to England, Kate wrote a book published in 1892 in two editions, in London and New York, describing her travels and work. The proceeds from the sale of books were donated to the construction and maintenance of the leper colony. The book was re-published and reprinted 22 times, at least, by different publishers in recent years: once in 1984 and another twenty-one times in the period from 2001 to 2018, which reflects the interest of society in the history of her life, as well as the fact that the events described in it have lasting value.
Kate Marsden also enlisted the support of the 1893 Chicago Women's Exposition House. She became the first female member of the Royal Geographical Society and was elected to it the same year that her book was published, in 1892. In 1895, Kate founded the St. Francis Leprosy Guild in London, which works to this day and alleviates the suffering of lepers around the world. In addition, Kate Marsden became one of the founders of the Bexhill on Sea Museum of Natural History in 1914.
Kate Marsden spent the last years of her life in poverty in Hillingdon, living with her two friends - sisters, who took care of her in old age. Paradoxically, despite all her achievements in life, she was buried in 1935 in a nameless grave that belonged to her two friends who, like her, made a vow of celibacy and who, in the end, were buried with her in one grave.
Kate Marsden was a Christian who was driven by her faith, as she mentioned in her book; and she worked closely with priests and laity of the Russian Orthodox Church.