On the language of mourning – from Irina

When it comes to expressing deep emotions – both in happiness and pain, we tend to retreat to our mother/native tongues.
The natural way to talk with Maria for me was in Bulgarian. We worked in English and it happened that our last piece of work at the London Business School at the very end of March was done in Russian. She was laughing when asking herself aloud will she ever abstain from taking on challenges. Her stoicism was admirable and her trust in allowing rare moments of being seen vulnerable felt to me as a huge privilege. It was fascinating to see her transforming when taken up by work. Where was she finding that energy and enthusiasm? She simply said: ‘You have to love them’.
On the following day after the training I left for an 8 week assignment in Zurich. We agreed that we would Skype to prepare for the second module, which was due for 20th and 21st of June. I wrote to her but there was only silence – a frightening silence. Eventually it became clear that she was in and out of hospital. I received a text from her and Denny suggesting that Andrey could help me with the large group of Russian executives at the LBS. We agreed on a day to meet up but she passed away that very day…
Only one week later Andrey came to cover for Maria at the LBS. Despite my reassurance that I will manage on my own, he felt that he ought to be there.
His professionalism was remarkable during the training hours. And on our way back to Fulham he talked about their plans to spend more time in Bourgas, her home town – during the summer and about the meaning of his life onwards – that day was Father’s day …

The first time I met Maria was during the summer of 2006 in Bulgaria. This was the time of preparation for the SIETAR Europa congress in Sofia. She was passionate about bringing Bulgaria onto the world intercultural stage and with the help from a small and diverse group of Bulgarian professionals (academics, educators, NGO practitioners, entrepreneurs) the congress happened in April 2007. We also launched SIETAR Bulgaria. We all speak English. But the condolences sent from many Bulgarians, who live in Bulgaria and elsewhere, are understandably written in Bulgarian. These are words of sadness, gratitude and recognition of the huge impact Maria had on people’s lives. Svetlana Aladjem, who worked most closely with Maria to organize the congress, collected these condolences and it is my duty to bring them to Maria’s family tomorrow.

We, who knew and loved, Maria, speak different languages and might have our different ways to express our love and sadness. But music transcends words. I found this unsophisticated video in my phone taken at a concert Maria, Andrey, John and I enjoyed at Elizabeth and Bob Boas’ House near Oxford Circus at the end of March. Thank you Denny and Gigi for creating the blog and the opportunity to feel in touch with Maria and you through photos, words and music. Thank you, Maria, for all …

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