Supporting children into education since 2010

Zoë Sarojini Schwarz

She was beautiful, charismatic, funny, outrageous, short-tempered, sometimes violent. She had empathy with others – younger people especially, whom she encouraged and emboldened and who can never forget her.

She herself was brave, fiercely loyal to her friends, extravagant in her enthusiasms, merciless as a critic, implacable in her dislike of anyone she considered selfish or, worse still, pretentious. Once she had outgrown the naivety of adolescence, she saw through people and was not afraid to tell them what she saw. She was extremist in her love of horses and cats, the theatre, classical and popular music, but above all in her love and loyalty to her friends.

Zoë was born in New Delhi on 5 December 1972. Almost as soon as she could walk she danced, not only for herself but for an audience she imagined. She was cherished, admired for her gracefulness, known as babyji which means honoured and important baby.

One of her adult friends remembered first seeing Zoë when he was eight, she was six. “She ran down the stairs wearing a long dress and a necklace and I thought she was a princess.” She was given the name of her Indian godmother Sarojini who became and remained her role model, friend and counsellor.

A move to France when she was three years old left her bewildered – her first challenge. She was cruelly bereaved when her adored cats were shot dead by a neighbour and her first pony became incurably lame. She rose again to the challenge: at school in France she became bilingual and made the first of her lifelong friendships, with Mylène Sylvester.

Moved to England, aged 11, she was deeply challenged again, overcame this new upheaval, gained admission to the select Colchester Girls High School. Now she made her other two lifelong friendships with Sarah Knott and Kelly O’Reilly. Zoë was a brilliant student, described by her teachers as a “near certainty” for Oxford or Cambridge. She was popular, tipped for election as Head Girl.

At that point, aged 18, Zoë became ill, diagnosed with glandular fever, but in reality this was her first battle with depression, alternating with manic episodes, that was to vitiate and finally end her life.

Zoë fought and overcame that first major depression. She had friends and admirers who helped her get a place at Essex University where she took a degree in Sociology. She went to the London School of Economics where she gained a distinction in her MSc.

In her first job Zoë worked for United Response, a major charity. She had to set up a new venture: to persuade football club managers to employ disabled people for maintenance work. She did that with such ruthless persuasiveness that she got the scheme triumphantly off the ground. After her death a senior UR director wrote: “I am a rather dry businessman and not good at writing but I am happy to tell you that if my daughter achieves even half of what Zoë did I would be a very proud father indeed. It was thanks to her that we could get UR football project in business and up and running. This will be a permanent memorial to Zoë”

Zoë’s mood swings came back, worse, and she had to take a break – an escape. She went to Morocco, where she fell in love and planned to marry. But she was no longer in control. Her highest mania turned into her deepest depression which she could not shake off, even back in the family home which she loved.

Zoë was a star. She refused to live out her days as a mental invalid. On 22 August 2000 she took her own life.

She might well be asking with a twinkle and her mischievous look: “did I have to die to send girls to school?” – Walter Schwarz, December 2009

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