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‘Legend, too good to be true’: Friend grieves for Australia aid worker killed in Gaza

April 4, 2024 at 2:01 pm

Australian Lalzawmi Frankcom, employee of the US-based international volunteer aid organization World Central Kitchen (WCK), who was killed in an Israeli attack on a vehicle belonging to WCK, in Deir al-Balah, Gaza on April 02, 2024 [World Central Kitchen/Anadolu Agency]

Zomi Frankcom was one of seven relief workers slain earlier this week by an Israeli drone strike on a convoy delivering food aid to residents of the besieged and hunger-stricken Gaza Strip, Anadolu Agency reports.

Her death, as well as that of her colleagues, triggered an international wave of grief and outrage, with Anthony Albanese, Prime Minister of her country calling the attack on the convoy, clearly marked as belonging to World Central Kitchen (WCK) Charity, “completely unacceptable”.

To those who knew Lalzawmi “Zomi” Frankcom, including her friend, Jessica Olney, she was a “legend … too good to be true.”​​​​​​​

“When I see photos of Zomi in the media, at the top of my New York Times app, just see her smile and her brightness, I want people to know that that smile was always on her face, and it’s who she really was to her core,” Olney, a fellow humanitarian worker based in California, told Anadolu in a video interview.

“She was a legend, honestly. Like, too good to be true. And she was taken from us decades too early,” she said.

READ: FACTBOX – What we know so far about the seven aid workers killed in Gaza by Israel

“And I just hope that her life touches everybody who hears of her and inspires everybody to work for a better world because that was what she was dedicated to,” she added.

Frankcom, 43, was one of the WCK’s first employees and had volunteered in many countries, including Guatemala, Bangladesh, Morocco, Haiti, Pakistan, Turkiye and Ukraine.

A video posted on the WCK’s Instagram page on 14 March shows Frankcom onboard a Royal Jordanian Air Force cargo plane after completing an airdrop of aid to northern Gaza. In another video on 25 March, she was seen on the ground in Gaza, in a WCK kitchen in the southern city of Deir Al-Balah, cooking meals for local families.

“We are deeply mourning the news that our brave and beloved Zomi has been killed doing the work she loves, delivering food to the people of Gaza,” her family said in a statement. “She was a kind, selfless and outstanding human being that has travelled the world helping others in their time of need.”

The Israeli attack that killed Frankcom also took the lives of six other WCK workers, who were of Polish, British, Palestinian and US-Canada dual nationality.

Olney said she and Frankcom were first introduced by a WCK colleague in 2022, when Frankcom got an apartment in Bangkok, Thailand.

“We got close really fast and had two Christmases together in Thailand, travelling and having a lot of fun,” she recounted.

“I was really blessed that I got to know Zomi in her free time and just times when she was having a break from the incredibly intense work that she was so dedicated to.”

Work in the last several months had taken Frankcom to Egypt to help coordinate humanitarian operations from Cairo, Olney said. “I didn’t actually know that she planned to go into Gaza itself,” she said.

A smiling Frankcom later sent a selfie to a group chat with the message: “I’m in Gaza.”

“I think it was her first time she went in very recently. So, of course, I felt really worried,” said Olney.

Frankcom and Olney last saw each other in Jordan two weeks ago, when Olney was going on a humanitarian mission to Yemen and Frankcom was on her way back to Cairo after helping with airdrops from Jordan.

“Every human life, I think, has infinite value. That’s something I always try to remember as a humanitarian, and I know it’s something that Zomi believed also,” she said.

“I’m glad that this incident is getting so much attention and it can bring new awareness to more people in new ways, despite us constantly seeing the horrors of the past six months,” she added.

“I share the same feeling as people all around the world who are seeing Zomi’s beautiful smiling face and also feeling empathy and love and sadness for all the lives lost. I think there’s no peace without justice.”

Olney also criticised the US government’s Gaza policy. “My feeling is that what the US government is doing and enabling this is unacceptable.”

“I’m utterly ashamed of my country. And a lot of people here are. It’s inexcusable to think that the weapons that our tax dollars paid for could have been used to kill people. We don’t want that.”

READ: UK faces pressure to stop selling weapons to Israel after aid workers killed