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Photos of a young mother working as a courier in Moscow spark renewed calls for help — and fraud allegations

Source: Meduza

On August 2, the Twitter account @network_rus published a photo of a young woman riding the Moscow subway with a “Delivery Club” bag on her back and two small children in her arms (the tweet has since been deleted, but you can still see it in the cache). 

Social media users quickly identified the woman in the picture as 19-year-old Lada Koroleva — a woman who first drew attention in March 2019, when a different photo of her was uploaded to the Russian social networking site VKontakte. The 2019 photo, taken in Rostov-on-Don, shows a woman with a “Yandex.Eats” bag on her back, pushing a stroller. At the time, she was dubbed the “Yandex.Nanny” and “courier-mama.”

“Suvorova [Street]. Did Yandex launch a new service ‘Yandex.Nanny’?”

After the first photo of Lada Koroleva came out, the media jumped on the story. In one interview, she said that she took a job delivering food because her husband was recruited into the army and the child benefits she was receiving were insufficient. Because of her sudden fame, Koroleva explained, different people had started offering to help: she was given snowsuits for her children, as well as diapers, toys, and baby food. She then made her first television appearance on NTV’s program “DNK.” After taping, Koroleva published an Instagram post with the hashtags “I love Moscow” and “I hate Rostov.” 

In August 2019, Lada Koroleva moved to Moscow with her husband and daughter, and started working as a courier once again. Then the couple had their second child, another girl. In an interview with the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, Koroleva explained that they were renting an apartment, and that she had a job at Moscow’s Sadovod Market, in addition to continuing her delivery work. She also talked about her work on social media.

“My husband doesn’t help with anything, he sits at his computer all the time, playing games. It feels like I have two daughters and a son,” Koroleva said. According to Komsomolskaya Pravda correspondent Anastasia Vardanyan, the young mother repeatedly complained about her spouse during the interview, and mentioned that she had decided to leave her husband and rent another apartment.

Lada Koroleva said that she didn’t have enough money for a new place — and volunteers collected 100,000 rubles ($1,375) to help her out. Afterwards, volunteer Irina Balayeva accused Koroleva of running a scam. She claimed that the volunteers had transferred all of the donations to Lada Koroleva, but when it came time to pay for the apartment she didn’t have any money. “For her it’s just a way to earn [money]. She thought up the story about leaving her husband to get cash,” Balayeva said in January. Koroleva faced accusations from other people, as well. She responded in a video message, saying, “I apologize to everyone who has suffered because of the fundraising in my name. I realized that it’s not mine. I will never tell anyone my card number again.”

In February 2020, Koroleva and her husband were interviewed on the popular Channel One talk show, “Pust’ Govoryat” (Let Them Talk). Afterwards, she left Moscow and went to live with her mother in Rostov-on-Don, where she took a job in retail. But after several months she came back. New photos of Lada Koroleva riding the subway with her children began appearing online in July. For example, on July 8, Facebook user Stefania Kalashnikova published a snapshot of a woman with a Delivery Club bag and asked for help finding her contact information, since a “huge number of friends” had decided to help the young mother financially.

On July 9, Koroleva published another photo on her Instagram account — a selfie in her Delivery Club uniform taken on the Moscow subway. In the caption, she asked for help finding a remote job “with no deposits and daily pay.” In her latest interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda, Koroleva said that she had broken up with her husband; the court ordered him to pay alimony, but has yet to finalize the divorce.

With the latest photos of Koroleva appearing online, the fraud allegations have re-emerged. Alexander Gezalov, who runs his own mentorship center in Moscow, wrote on Facebook that while he had previously attempted to help Koroleva, he now considers her manipulative. According to Gezalov, Koroleva and her husband are making money off the media’s portrayal of them. Gezalov claims that thanks to assistance from a number of people, Koroleva recently collected about one million rubles ($13,740) (he provides screenshots of a conversation with Koroleva to back up his claims). He also added that he reached out to Delivery Club: the company said that Lada Koroleva hasn’t worked as a courier since October 2019. 

Alexander Gezalov’s Facebook post containing fraud allegations against Lada Koroleva

In an August 2 interview with the state-backed television channel RT, Koroleva made the following comment: “In general, life has taught [us] to only take help in the form of work. If you accept help with money they’ll judge you and say you’re a scammer. But what’s the scam? The fact that I have two children and I work? Now, if I didn’t work or were to invent illnesses for the children — that’s a scam.” 

Lada Koroleva also said in the interview that she is now working the night shift at a flower shop, in addition to cleaning apartments and continuing to work as a delivery person. But she wants to get out of the delivery business: “I don’t want [my] children to work from birth.” She lives with her daughters in a rented apartment. RT emphasized that Koroleva’s main goal is to “find the money to pay for the rented room, baby diapers, and food.”

Videos featuring Lada Koroleva were later published on Instagram, encouraging people to transfer money to a particular bank account. “Together we are strong,” the Instagram users wrote. Whether or not Koroleva is directly linked to these posts remains unclear.

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Story by Alexander Baklanov

Translation by Eilish Hart