Anna Kogan, the founder of Big Hearts Foundation

05.02.2015, Russian Maecenas

anja s kotom

Many of us love and try to help animals, but not many can match the courage and devotion of the entrepreneur and philanthropist Anna Kogan, who has decided to fight the issue of stray animals in Russia. “Sometimes you just need to follow your heart and be prepared to take risks”, says Anna Kogan, the founder of Big Hearts, answering the question of how hard it is to overcome the wall of indifference and begin to build an effective system for the protection of animals in Russia.

About ten years ago, Anna came to London and began to build a career in the stock market. Willpower and ability to make responsible decisions helped Anna quickly climb the corporate ladder and become a successful banker. Having achieved her professional goals, Anna decided to follow her old dream and channel all her energy and resources into improving the animal welfare in Russia.

“If you want something to change in Russia, no one will listen to you, if you do not have sufficient funds, the government ties or a certain status,” – says Anna – “As a child I was often a witness to animal suffering in the streets of my home city. So I made myself a promise, that as soon as I can, I will fight for those who cannot defend themselves!”

When she decided, that every penny she earned on securities trading would be spent on helping like-minded people in Russia to save animals from unimaginable suffering, it seemed, that Anna was taking a step into the abyss. She recollects, “When I started working on this issue, I, like many animal rights activists, went through several very difficult stages: tears, despair, fear and anger. But then determination and faith appeared: “Yes, I can!”- I said to myself and got on with the work.”

In 2011, Anna founded the charity Big Hearts Foundation in the attempt to adapt the existing successful foreign experience and knowledge to improve animal welfare in Russia. The Foundation works in two directions: promotion of responsible and humane treatment of animals by raising awareness about the problem, and the development of training programmes on humane education for schoolchildren.

According to Big Hearts, improvement in legislation is also a key factor in solving the problem of ineffective control of stray animals. The Foundation is actively working in this area by providing support to the development of draft animal welfare laws. In particular, the organisation is part of a working group of the State Parliament (Duma), which is focusing on finalising the draft law on the responsible treatment of animals.

“Having started work in the animal welfare sector in Russia, I knew that our job would be not just to improve the existing animal rights protection system, but we would actually have to create it from scratch! We are the first animal protection organization in Russia, which not only effectively works to solve the consequences of cruelty in the society, but also puts the long-term goal to eradicate the causes of this violence”, explains Anna. “Russia is lagging decades behind the developed countries in the field of animal welfare, and it will require a lot of effort to solve this problem. But I believe that Russia is able to make rapid progress in this field”.