From Robert and Teresa Leppard

Dear Andrey, Denny & Gigi,

Robert & I would like to express our deepest sympathies to you at this time. We were both so shocked to hear of Maria’s passing at such a young age and remember her with true fondness and admiration. She was a woman whose presence was always noticed as she quietly & selfishly made such an impact on so many other’s lives in so many ways. We feel for your suffering as you come to terms with her loss and hope that the sorrow that you are currently experiencing is gradually eclipsed by comforting memories of your wife and mother who was such a beautiful, kind and gracious woman. God bless you all. You are in our thoughts.

Love Teresa & Robert

Movie from Lorraine

This clip is in a dance studio in London – so a wonderful creative space. The volume isnt great as you can barely hear your mom speaking. But what IS significant is this is an exercise about a current issue. Towards the end of the clip you can see three drawing on the floor that she did. I know she wont mind me sharing this with you. The dark blue and black circle is a dilemma or issue that she was struggling with. The triangle on the right of her is her desired outcome and the drawing in the middle is ‘what exists in between’. I don’t know what she is talking about with Marianne but I love the simplicity of her drawings and how she expresses her emotions with her hands.

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 …

From Lizzie

Dear Andrey, Denny and Gigi
I wanted to add my words to those already shared by so many others. Thank you for creating the website and sharing all the lovely tributes and photos. Maria has touched so many people’s lives in different ways – what a wonderful lady she was and her legacy lives on in all of you.
It’s hard to know what to add that’s hasn’t already been so well said but so many others, but firstly I wanted to send you my deepest condolences. Maria and I worked together at incite learning – she talked about the three of you often and we shared stories of parenting two girls. We spoke at length about secondary schools last year when I was trying to decide where to send my eldest daughter and she always shared updates with us of your exam/university/work. I’ve really enjoyed looking at the occasional pictures that used to pop up on her Facebook page of you all in Xmas jumpers or out for a swanky lunch – always looking so happy together. Maria introduced me to Fulham Palace and we used to meet there occasionally for a cup of tea. The last time we met there was in February and she seemed so positive . When I first saw Maria again in September 2013 after the first treatments I was struck by how much support she had got from you all and your incredibly close bond as a family. Your hearts must be breaking to have lost her and I can only imagine how difficult this time must be for you. It’s so unfair.
I met the three of you very briefly in a hotel when you had just got off a plane in Singapore (you may not remember!). Maria and I had been working together on a programme and were at the end of a long week but she was very excited to see you three. I remember that one night she had been woken by a call from one of the girls in the middle of the night – something to do with a lost laptop – and I was amazed at how patiently and calmly she handled that from afar! Maria brought me into the Incite family and we have worked together a lot over the last 5 years – usually in far flung destinations even though we only a lived few miles apart – and I have learned so much from her. Maria was an great role model for me – skilled, humble, smart, generous with her time and always so dignified and elegant. The participants loved her because she knew how to connect with people. I remember the feedback from that first programme in Singapore – one of the participant’s words has always stayed with me. He said “everyone should have a Maria in their life”. How true.
I also always admired her sartorially – she knew how to work the business casual look which isn’t always an easy one to pull off! I once spent several hours on line trying to find a lovely black dress that she had bought from M&S because it looked so fab.
I will miss working with Maria so much and we at Incite will miss her as a colleague, leader and friend. It is very hard to imagine doing programmes without her in the future. However, we have all learned so much from Maria and I’m confident that her legacy will continue in the work that we do moving forward.
I am also running the Race for Life on 19th July in memory of your lovely mum and wife. I may be quite far behind you girls in the field but will hopefully find you at the end.
Thank you for welcoming us to Maria’s funeral on Friday. Although it will be an incredibly sad day, it will be an honour to reflect on this amazing lady amongst her family and friends.
With love and best wishes,

Lizzie xxx

From Satu

Dear Andrey, Denny and Gigi,

We heard from Dominic Alldis of the tragic news of Maria’s passing away and wanted to express our deepest condolences to all of you. We remember fondly a dinner at your house many many many years ago (I believe Kate Berardo and her partner were also there).

I am greatly indebted to Maria as she helped me when I first stared my work as an independent consultant, first as a sounding board for how to set up a cross-cultural coaching practice and later as the person who introduced me into Exetor and the world of leadership development, which I have grown to love. She was such a warm and kind woman, and yet when hard things had to be said, she said them – always leaving the dignity of those at the receiving her thoughts intact – an admirable quality.

She was also a great supporter of the work Pete did and the bookhe wrote, and I know he held her in high regard.

You are all in our thoughts and wish you strength and support at this time in your lives.

With warmest wishes,
Satu and Pete

From John H

Dear Andrey, Denny and Gigi,

I learned today with profound sadness and shock of Maria’s passing. I know you must be devastated and wondering how you have been so unfairly deprived of a wonderful, vibrant, inspirational wife and mother. Words cannot provide comfort to console you however, I hope you will take heart in the knowledge that the love you have for each other and your memories of Maria will sustain you in the weeks and months ahead.

My first recollection of Andrey and Maria dates back to the early days of the Richmond MBA Program and how much you both added to the intellectual and cultural richness of the experience. Not only were you incredibly hard working, but also very well connected to sources for interesting Bulgarian wines. Perhaps my fondest memory of you both was the night Maria effortlessly chopped the top off a champagne bottle (sabraged) while Andrey’s attempt resulted in the first champagne shower at the Richmond School of Business. I guess this baptism of bubbles was an appropriate harbinger to the many successes and achievements Maria crammed into her remarkable life. I enjoyed numerous debates with Maria on the topic of cross-cultural communication, in particular, as we weaved our way through the Program’s International Marketing and Strategy courses. What a proud moment for Richmond to witness Maria’s subsequent success with her cross-cultural counselling work and to realise her dream of having her own consultancy.

I was delighted to engage Maria and Candy Beery to deliver several cultural awareness courses at the Aga Khan Institute for the Study of Muslim Cultures. Their input had a very significant impact on our post-graduate students who were less-worldly wise than they thought. As I moved away from private education I lost touch with Maria, but this did not diminish the fondness and indeed respect I have for her and for you Andrey. The determination, fortitude and willpower you demonstrated to establish yourselves in the UK with new careers and to raise your family is amazing.

Maria’s death is a huge loss to you and to the countless number of students, business executives and colleagues who have benefited from her gifted contribution to the world. We are all poorer for her passing.

If I can borrow an Irish saying that sums up my sentiment…

Death leaves a heartache

no one can heal;

Love leaves a memory no

one can steal.

God Bless you all.

John Hough

From David M.

Hello all,

I have been thinking about Maria since first hearing of her death last week. I had a chance to be outside and to soak in the sunshine, the river water that I was floating on and the beauty of the local mountains, all sources of strength for me. It helped me process the information about Maria, so I thought I would add my thoughts to the mix.

I think I am not ready for this time of life; it just has crept up on me to find that my colleagues and friends are starting to have major health problems and are starting to die-much too young. Maria was such a warm and interesting person. I loved her wit and her fierce commitment to her values. She was so excited to launch her now business that I enjoyed hearing her talk about the possibilities. She was eager and hungry to get busy and well on her way when she first found out about the cancer.

Over the years I enjoyed learning more about her personal history growing up in such a different system and part of the world. When I first met her I recognized her accent as Bulgarian because I had grown up across the street from a Bulgarian family in Vermont and was familiar with the accent. That really surprised her!

I have had a picture of Zeke and Maria on my desk since they were both ill. I miss them both.

She has such a great family and was so proud of her daughters. I feel so badly for her family to lose her at such a young age.

Anyway, take care all and it is sure a great reminder to me to live each moment with meaning and commitment to get the most out of life. I will carry fond memories of Maria forward. Take good care all.


David H. Marvin