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

From Ann

Dear Andrey, Denny and Gigi,
I was shocked to hear about Maria’s untimely demise. Please accept my heartfelt condolences. And may the Almightly grant you all the strength to bear the irreparable loss.
We have not met earlier, but I wanted to reach out to you in your moment of loss. Maria was an amazing mentor to me. We had met a couple of times for WPP training programs. She remained in touch and would constantly enquire about how I am doing. During the second training programme (which happened two years after the first), she chose to be my mentor for the scheduled one on one feedback sessions. At that point in time i was at the crossroads of my career – I was planning to set up on my own after working in the corporate world for 16 long years. So adept was she as a trainer that the first thing she noticed was that I seemed preoccupied (compared to the first time when she had met me). She was the first person I spoke to about my entrepreneurship plans, outside of my family and friends circle.
I will always remember her encouraging words, her never say die spirit and the twinkle in her eyes. She often spoke fondly of her wonderful husband and two lovely daughters. She took so much pride in her family. She was that rare combination of a thorough professional and a wonderful human being who had a profound impact on whomever she met.
I will certainly miss her. And I know that she is out there somewhere, a twinkling star in the night sky, watching over and guiding her near and dear ones. I will always cherish the times that we spent together, and treasure her words of advice that I will carry with me all through my life.
May her soul rest in eternal peace. My prayers are with you all.
Ann Mathew

From the Autoneum family

From Kevin: Maria was part of the Autoneum family. She was one of the very early coaches of ILP (International Learning Program) and then took over full leadership of this training program (and later also for HPL – High Performance Leadership). We know that she loved Autoneum, our global teams and spirit, and we loved her. She was an extraordinary person; I am deeply moved by losing her. We as a company and I personally profited enormously from her enthusiasm, creativity, ideas and long-term engagement. HPL and ILP will continue to be part of the leadership curriculum at Autoneum, and will be continued & further developed with her spirit in mind. We send our deepest condolences.
Many of our global colleagues had remained in contact with Maria during the last years. Some of them wanted to express their feelings and condolences as well:
UK: I am shocked since I recently received training from her and after that training we stayed in contact over the phone and even via Whatsapp. If possible, I would appreciate it if the family would know that Maria will always be in my mind. Besides being my coach, for me, she was a confidence person. I could discuss anything with her, personal or professional. She always had time and always listened. She left a strong impact on me and will be a part of my way of working as it is today.
Switzerland: I am deeply saddened to hear this news, I have fond memories of the time I spent as both participant and coach on the ILP program. Maria was at the heart of the program and her enthusiasm and knowledge were responsible in no small part for the success of the program. I will remember the very personal interest Maria took in each of the participants and he ability to remain positive, energetic and enthusiastic at all times. I remain very much impressed with the way in which Maria interacted not only over the duration of the course but also in the years afterwards with me and all the ILP participants, it is very sad that there will be no more unexpected reunions in the canteen and no more little pearls of wisdom to be passed on in the future. Please pass on my heartfelt condolences to her family.
Italy: This is sad news. I got in touch with Maria very shortly, during the first week of my HPL and for me it was a very enriching experience. A person who knew, in all situations, how to go to the heart of things, and you noticed that because she was always able to ask the right questions. Thanks for conveying also my condolences to her family.
Switzerland: This is a very sad news indeed. It is not a common thing to develop such a trust and appreciation with a person external to our company. She has really been the exception. She has taught me things on myself and on the way I can improve in my profession and I will always remember her. Please pass my condolence message to her family.
France: It’s a really sad news. Let me send the condolences in the name of all ILP 2008 members. Maria was really engaged and the soul of the ILP. For sure she will rest in peace.
South Africa: Very sad news indeed. Please pass my condolences to Maria’s family. I met her the first time in 2001, at the ILP, and remained in contact over the years. Always a pleasure meeting Maria, full of quiet energy, knowledgeable, caring. Like many, I count myself blessed to have met (and learnt from) her. Maria, you will be sorely missed. RIP.
UK: I am truly sorry to hear this terrible news. Maria was a fantastic person, full of energy and somebody who clearly loved connecting with people. I will always look on my ILP experience with Maria as one of the highlights of my career at Autoneum. Maria’s enthusiasm, insight and passion was felt by the whole of our group and made the experience one that everybody will always remember.
China: What a sad news! Although I was not coached by her directly, but on my first day at HPL, I was stuck by one thought, and she asked one powerful question, and let me have a long thinking. Just by that, I was deeply impressed about her. It is really a big surprise for me to hear that she passed away, because I always saw full energy in her. Wish her all the best in heaven!
Switzerland: I’m truly shocked by the news. I really appreciated Maria for her professionalism and more importantly for her human qualities, this is a very sad day.
Switzerland: It is very sad to hear the news about Maria. I very much enjoyed working with Maria. She could really help everyone to develop by her supportive and positive way of working with people. Please extend my condolences to her family.
France: Very sad news indeed. I had some mail exchange beginning of this year for new year greetings, she told me that she felt better than last autumn, but finally it came. Maria has been a meaningful encounter to me within last year, I enjoyed a lot her positive mindset and her capacity to make you think differently. Can you offer from me my most sincere condolences to her family.
USA: I am so, so, sorry to hear of this loss! From the moment I met Maria, I was forever changed as a person! She had a natural ability to make the most difficult things seem easy, to challenge you as an individual and to brighten up a room from the second she walked in the door! She challenged me to look within myself, to have the courage to take the path less traveled and helped me to grow as a person, a colleague and a friend! She knew just the right time to send a cheerful note to the team, and always reminded us that we were not forgotten, and that she was thinking about us! I even shared some personal concerns with Maria, and she took the time, months after the discussion, to send a note to ask about what we had discussed and to make sure everything was going okay! She will be missed, not only by me, but I am sure by all the lives that she has touched. I know that I am a better person today because of her! I will miss her deeply, I will cherish all the time that I had with her, and I will try my best to make sure that I continue to be the person she saw in me!! I offer my heartfelt and sincere condolences to her family, and offer my thoughts and prayers to them. I pray that they have the strength to get through this difficult time, and for the hope that the legacy of the amazing person Maria was lives within all of us!
China: I am so sad to hear it. I met Maria in 1997 in the first ILP and have received a lot of support from her since then. I still remember many scenes when we were together. Please pass my condolence to her colleagues and family. We will remember Maria in our heart.
China: Maria is not only a coach, but a close friend, who encourage and light up my life. What she showed to me, is the balance of work and life, the passion for career, the enthusiasm for fighting forward, the courage towards anything, the importance of family, meanwhile elegantly enjoy the beauty of life.I feel so incomplete to lose her, her husband and two daughters should suffer more. She will be there in my life, with her smile.
Poland: I don’t know the word which can describe what I feel now, but I am sure that a part of her will stay forever with me. She had ability to changed people for the better. “Let us love people now they leave us so fast, the shoes remain empty and the phone rings on, what’s unimportant drags on like a cow, the meaningful sudden takes us by surprise, the silence that follows so normal it’s hideous, like chastity born most simply from despair, when we think of someone who’s been taken from us…” (Father Jan Twardowski)
China: I feel so sorry about Ms. Maria Jicheva, whom I really respect from your description on her. I wish her got peace in Heaven. I wish her family brave and become strong, to face the future.
Switzerland: with Maria we lose a brilliant, caring and smart professional, a truly wonderful person. My heartfelt condolences go to the family.
Switzerland: I was very sad to hear this news. I didn’t know that she was ill, and saw her in the canteen only a few weeks ago, when she appeared to be her normal self. Doing the ILP program with her 10 years ago (!) was really a great experience. Especially I appreciated her input and ideas, as she was a very open-minded and thoughtful person. Since then I only saw her and said hello from time to time when she came over to the company to train other people. I was shocked to hear that she is gone so long before her time. My condolences to her family and loved ones.
Switzerland: Dear Maria, I will miss your smiles, your constant positive attitude and the sense of calm that you could communicate in all situations. I have learnt a lot during the ILP training and among all coaches you clearly stood out as the most special one! I also remember when we met together with my wife in London and had a walk and lunch in a surprisingly beautiful and warm day. I even think it was mentioned later in the news that it was the hottest day recorded in London for many years 🙂 We both had a very international life experience and that, I think was the common denominator that made us connect in such a short time. I hope that where you are now, you will be blessed with more sunshine and more positive surprises than ever.

From Barbara

To the Jichev family,

I had the immense pleasure of meeting Maria the very first time some years ago in London during one of the Learning programs McKinsey was holding for its managers. Maria was one of the Incite faculty and we made an immediate connection. She asked if we could have dinner one night while I was in town, as she wanted to get to know me better and talk about cultural diversity, a topic about which we were both quite passionate. Four hours later, we said our good-bye for the night, and I left marveling at our experience.

Maria was a lady who seemed fully engaged in a vibrant dialogue on all sorts of topics, both professional and personal. She was always in the spirit of learning, exploring ideas, understanding what was important in your life. At one training session, I brought my 88 year-old Dad along, and the three of us enjoyed a special breakfast together. After that, she would always ask about him, as Maria really cared deeply about the full spectrum of my life.

Over the years, at every program in Europe when we worked together, she and I would find time to go out for a bit of personal time. Sometimes we would just sit and catch up over a glass of wine; other times we would partake in some ‘retail therapy’, looking for that special item of jewelry, clothing or footwear:-) that would serve as a reminder of our time together. At one spot in Cologne, we found a necklace we both loved and decided it would be good ‘karma’ if we each purchased the same item. Every time I wear it, I smile thinking of her. When she came to my hometown in Boston, we would always find time to connect, the last time I chose a beautiful stately, elegant, classy spot at the Copley Plaza which seemed only fitting for her!

It is quite heartbreaking for me to imagine the world without her special gifts — ones that remain close to my heart are her compassion, purpose and love of life. Even when she was struggling with her illness, she always remained positive, exploring new ways of healing… always focused on others and committed to her life’s work. I hope in your time of grief, you carry with you the clarity of Maria as a one-of-a-kind grand lady who made a huge difference in the lives of so many. May her spirit live on in all of us.

With my deep condolences,

Barbara Stern

(McKinsey & Company)