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From St. Petersburg to St. Petersburg

The patients who end up at St. Xenia hospital are the poorest of the poor _ older Russians who have the least and need the most.

On Tuesday, a group of St. Petersburg, Fla., residents helped meet that need when they delivered to the struggling hospital 130 pounds of medical supplies and $5,660 to help buy more medicine.

The patients, staff and directors of the 43-bed church-run hospital were heartened by the donations. And no wonder. In Russia, medicine is scarce and when it can be found it is of questionable quality.

"I would like to thank all the people in America, and especially in St. Petersburg, Florida," said Alexander A. Mazunov, the hospital's chief physician. "We will try to create better conditions in our hospital with your help."

The supplies and money were collected by Crusade of Compassion, a group of St. Petersburg, Fla., churches, and several hospitals and individuals. Included in the effort were First Presbyterian Church, Macedonia Free Will Baptist Church, Bayfront Medical Center, St. Anthony's Hospital and All Children's Hospital.

A group of St. Petersburg residents visiting Russia brought the aid with them, and visited the patients at the hospital. Valentina Raskazovskaya, a lively woman of 75 with long, gray braids, was one of them. During World War II, she said she specialized in radio communications. Most of the rest of her life she held jobs involving manual labor.

Three weeks ago, she was hospitalized at St. Xenia with a skin disease. On Tuesday, she said she was on the verge of going home cured.

"Thank you," she said through an interpreter. "St. Xenia has been a great help to me and now you are helping the hospital. Thank you."

Along with health care, the hospital _ run by the Russian Orthodox Church _ provides for the spiritual needs of those patients who so desire.

The donation from the Florida group will help in alleviating those needs, said Mazunov, the hospital's chief physician.

Editor's note: A delegation from St. Petersburg, Fla., is in Russia this week to attempt to acquire an art exhibit from the Hermitage Museum. The group also is trying to form a twin-city relationship with St. Petersburg, Russia. St. Petersburg Times staff writer Alicia Caldwell is in Russia with the group.