I’m sitting at The Kitchen on the top floor of the high-end department store de Bijenkorf in the heart of Amsterdam. I’ve just ordered a juice and decided to Google one of
Russia’s top businesswomen, Natalia Kuracheva, who I’m about to meet.
The first two hits show that she’s the general manager of one of Russia’s leading financial company. By the age of 24 she was already the financial director of one of the largest manufacturers in the construction industry. She then went on to take up top positions in the country’s major banks, chaired the board of a unique asset management joint venture with a major European financial group, and much more.
Pretty impressive for a woman to climb so high in Russia’s male-dominated society… I’m curious to meet her! Just as I’m about to look into another link, Natalia is suddenly standing in front of me, a small, stylishly dressed woman who definitely does not look her age.
“You must be Katja!” she says as she holds out her hand.
“It’s great to meet you,” I tell her, “I was just Googling you!”
“Really? Did you find anything interesting?” she says as she sits down and orders a fresh juice. “I haven’t done it myself for a while so I’d be curious to know what you can find!”
“Well, I just read your professional profile and was about to read about a project you are running in senior housing and care, can you tell me about it?”
“Oh that’s great! And it’s coming up in the top search results! You know this is the most important project for me at the moment: I’m working with the investors and others who believe in the project to create better facilities and better care for seniors in Russia.”
I’m super impressed with the initiative, as I know that there are problems with quality of care and increasing demand in this sector. The government provides institutional services with very limited care – the buildings are old, the rooms are small, there’s a shortage of qualified nursing staff and long waiting lists. But Natalia also told me that the market for social services is monopolized, with a minimal share of private players.
“That’s amazing, especially since there is such a need!” I say, “but I imagine you’re running into some obstacles along the way…”
“Indeed,” says Natalia with a wry smile, “it’s a huge challenge because so many people are afraid to change – not just rules and laws, but also attitudes and ideas of how to deal with seniors. The project includes different facets such as the building of special nursing homes for the elderly in accordance with the best global practice, client-oriented education and training for caregivers, promotion of a modern approach to care and better living for seniors etc. I think the ageing population is one of the biggest challenges we face in Russia: we really have to adapt to the new century and push through new ideas.”
“Amazing… it’s so wonderful to hear about this kind of social project in Russia, a project which makes people aware of their own future as well – after all we’re all going to get old some day.”
Natalia smiles. “I think in Russia, people traditionally expect family to look after them. I took care of my elderly parents for a long time, while at the same time raising two children as a single mother. But I believe that we need to go beyond our immediate family circle and engage other parts of society in positive change. Even if it’s not always easy to achieve. I believe there’s always a way.”
By Katerina Rogova for Cool Brands