A 90-year old babushka from St. Petersburg, Russia has lived alone many years. She is self-sufficient, prefers living alone and doesn’t like to ask for help. She is kind, mild, rational, organized, pedantic, and writes out her plan on paper for every day’s activities. Her appetite is capricious and she eats only what she wants. She does not interfere with the lives of her children and grandchildren. She never complains about anything. She is thin and now rather bent over in her mature age.
As a child growing up in (then) Leningrad in the 1930s, she survived tuberculosis. During the Siege of Leningrad (1941-1944) she was evacuated from the city along with many other children, but her father stayed behind. He had been a high-ranking manager in a metallurgic plant and was forced into working for the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD).
He occupied a high position in this terrifying organization during the Siege, but was soon shot by his fellow agents. This babushka has the closet in her apartment with the bullet hole from that execution. Babushka’s husband was a despot, very headstrong, greedy, didn’t allow her to call a taxi when she was discharged from the hospital.
She led a very trying life, and endured much hardship, but says, “All the same, I maintained my family.” Her daughter became an artist, very freedom-loving, who doesn’t stand for any kind of domination, and ran away from home as a teenager.
When the pandemic started, she began self-isolating and going out only to buy food. On May 20, her temperature went up to 37.5 and she felt chills and a headache in her forehead. In the morning she had strong nausea and vomited once. She had a dry mouth and thirst, weakness and desire to lie down. She took Phosphorus 30c twice that day on the advice of her granddaughter.
Her fever went up to 37.9. We discussed the likelihood that she had contracted COVID-19, seeing as her symptoms were quite characteristic. She chose not to have any doctors come and examine her because she wanted to avoid hospitalisation at all costs.
The next day I prescribed Phosphorus 30c, 3 pellets in 200 ml water, by teaspoonful every 30 minutes, 4 doses, with succussing and addition of a teaspoon of water to the solution after each dose, to be repeated morning and evening for four days.
On day 2 after the remedy she developed an infrequent dry cough. By day 4 she was feeling much better. Her appetite improved, her mood was good, and her fever subsided. She was instructed to wait.
After another 2 days her condition worsened again, with loss of appetite, difficulty concentrating, confusion, and apathy. Prior to getting sick she had experienced memory problems, but now they were worse. On May 28 her fever was 37.2 and she was feeling weak. She noted that her sense of taste was gone. She would ask her relatives to bring her a certain food then refuse it when offered.
When people came to visit, she would ask them to leave and preferred to be alone and in a quiet atmosphere. Her pulse was rather slow and slightly arhythmic — which is a chronic symptom, but now it was intensified. She wanted to drink hot tea. I prescribed Antimonium carbonicum 30c, and her temperature went up to 37.7.
On May 30 she was feeling better, had more energy, and her temperature was 36.9. She asked for salted red fish and was more amenable to company.
On May 31 her weakness had intensified. Her usual symptoms of mild dementia intensified, and she didn’t always speak in a way that made sense. Her temperature was normal, and she had a rare dry cough. Her voice had become slow and faint, as if she was speaking from far away. She had no desire to talk with her relatives due to the weak feeling in her chest. I prescribed Stannum metallicum 30c, one dose.
The next morning she had more energy. In the night she got up and had some hot tea and in the morning ate breakfast. Her physical weakness remained and she did not have the desire to get out of bed, even though she claimed to have more energy. I prescribed Stannum met. 30c — 3 pellets in 200 ml of water to be taken every 30 minutes, 1 teaspoonful, with an addition of one teaspoonful of water to be replaced back in the solution after each dose, for a total of four doses morning and four evening.
Every day I checked on her progress and so long as her symptoms did not worsen, I bid her to continue taking the remedy in the same way. She continued the remedy for another seven days. Her general condition gradually improved and she returned to normal within another week.
In late July I inquired again about her overall well-being. Her granddaughter reported that she was feeling very well, and that even her symptoms of dementia had disappeared.
In this babushka we have an elderly woman who has survived numerous psychological and physical strains. She has lived her whole life in the tubercular city of St. Petersburg, where the number of sunny days per year averages about 62. She suffered tuberculosis before the age of 10, which meant that she spent months in a sanitarium away from her family.
When the War began in 1939 and then the Siege of Leningrad in September 1941, she was evacuated at the age of 11 together with her mother. During those years she lost her father and later had to integrate the reality of his controversial and secret biography. She married a cold, tyrannical man and had one child. Her husband died when she was 75 and all she could say about that was, “After his death I remodeled the apartment.”
Cold, hunger, disease, dire and frightening living conditions, homelessness, estrangement from family, loss of a father, emotional suppression combined with fear, a marriage grounded in necessity— and the vital force finding compensation in solitude, acceptance, self-sufficiency.
This is the context of this individual case in which Covid found soil. The question that arises in every COVID case is: will the person’s vital force be successful in bringing about balance? In this case we see a woman whose vital force has served her immaculately into old age. The impressive aspect of her story is not so much the depth of struggle to which she was exposed, but rather the unlikely success of her survival over and over again.
She suffers from no chronic illnesses, but only conditions which reflect her years and the wearing-out of her body and soul (slight dementia; occasional arrhythmia). She takes no medications on a regular basis, and seems to know exactly what she needs and manages to obtain it. This case wonderfully illustrates the less than accurate conclusion that Covid is particularly lethal for the elderly. As with any case, it’s the individual story that determines susceptibility.
 The NKVD is known for its role in political repression and for carrying out the Great Purge under Joseph Stalin. The NKVD undertook mass extrajudicial executions of untold numbers of citizens, and conceived, populated and administered the Gulag system of forced labour camps. Their agents were responsible for the repression of the wealthier peasantry, as well as the mass deportations of entire nationalities to uninhabited regions of the country.They oversaw the protection of Soviet borders and espionage (which included political assassinations), and enforced Soviet policy in communist movements and puppet governments in other countries, most notably the repression and massacres in Poland. In March 1946 all People’s Commissariats were renamed to Ministries, and the NKVD became the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD).