We’ve all seen how horrible social media can be when used poorly, and even when not used maliciously it can be a time sink — but there’s definitely a bit of magic that can happen when a story about a particularly compelling case reaches the eyes of thousands of eager do-gooders.
That’s precisely what happened in the case of Emily Zamourka who has been living on the streets of Los Angeles, homeless but with a gift.
It wasn’t until an officer in LA filmed and posted a video on Instagram on Sept. 24, highlighting Zamourka’s beautiful voice, that the public began to take notice of her in a big way.
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**** read before you swipe***** Today I met 52 year old Emily. At first glance she looked like another one of LA’s many mentally ill, drug using, or down on her luck homeless citizens. She said back in Russia she was always chosen in her school to lead her chorus until her family moved to America. Once in America one thing led to another which left her homeless many years ago. She went on to tell me she is currently rescuing pigeons and that is what is in the boxes in her cart. That isn’t something I would choose to do but I continued to listen to her story. She said her father was in the military and during the war they used pigeons as messengers that ultimately saved many soldier’s lives. She didn’t claim to be mentally ill even though she may have been and she didn’t seem to be a drug addict. She didn’t make excuses, blame her family, or the government for how she became homeless. All she talked about was how she loves to sing. I then asked her to please sing me something and this is what she did ??…… swipe now……. #lapd #losangeles #lahomeless #lamta #haveaheart #lovepeople #rampart #music #sing #abc7 #nbc4 #kcal9 #Ktla #foxla #cbs2 #college #socal #losangelesworld #losangelespolicedepartment #latimes
When asked why she decided to sing in the metro station, Zamourka told CNN that she sang to lift her spirits.
“I was just thinking, ‘Oh, I’m gonna sing a little bit, maybe that’ll make me feel better,’” she said. “And I see this police officer walking towards me from a distance and it kind of hesitated me because, you know how they are. They don’t really want you to make any nuisance! And opera is loud!”
But she sang anyway, unaware that her performance that evening would soon catch the hearts and minds of countless viewers.
“A day later, like a day after that, ya, I’m on the news!” she added.
Soon her story became public: Originally from Russia, Zamourka came to the states at 20. She had been trained professionally in the violin, and for a while, she used her expensive instrument and her priceless talent to entertain audiences and earn her keep.
More recently, after a bout with sickness and suffering through the theft of her violin, she found herself unable to cope with life and homeless.
“I could not keep up with the bills,” she explained. “I could not keep up with the rent.”
But people heard her and responded. Michael Trujillo said what started out as a simple gesture soon grew into a massive movement and donations of over $77,000 on GoFundMe.
“Ok, what started off as wanting to help Emily with $15 on a late Sunday night has turned into something incredible,” he wrote on the GoFundMe page. “To recap, I was watching the news late Sunday night, got moved by Emily’s story and went to gofundme to chip in, noticed no account had been set up when I entered her first and last name – so decided to do one myself.”
Trujillo also posted that Zamourka had a combined total of over $100,000, thanks to multiple GoFundMe efforts and lots of willing supporters.
She also got a chance to sing in front of a crowd, once again singing the song she’d become famous for, Giacomo Puccini’s “O mio babbino caro.”
“I didn’t have much time to practice,” she said, according to CNN. “So I’m just gonna sing the same song I sang on the subway…That ok with you?”
She also got to meet the police officer who’d originally captured her voice and posted it online, thanking him for the action that led to her current state.
The LAPD HQ Twitter account posted a video of their reunion.
“We saw with our brains, but we listened with our hearts,” they wrote. “Her voice continues to captivate our city, and as the offers for help pour in, we asked: ‘Emily, what can we do for you?’ Her answer: ‘I want to thank Officer Frazier for taking the video.'”
“Her wish was granted tonight.”
We saw with our brains, but we listened with our hearts.
Her voice continues to captivate our city, and as the offers for help pour in, we asked: “Emily, what can we do for you?” Her answer: “I want to thank Officer Frazier for taking the video.”
Her wish was granted tonight. pic.twitter.com/lH4V51YTZ4
— LAPD HQ (@LAPDHQ) October 3, 2019
Not only does she have funds earmarked for her, but she’s gotten recording offers as well.
“Emily’s story is what dreams are made of,” music producer Joel Diamond told CNN. “And I never turn my back on a dream.”
“I don’t even know what’s happening,” Zamourka said. “It’s so much. So fast.”
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