Without Self-Confidence and Small-Mindedness
Most of the time in the gypsy life of the diplomat, who is often forced to move to a new temporary shelter, there is little time, and mood, to get to know from up close and in depth people the memory of whom will leave an indelible mark on his fading mind. Moments, faces, cursory acquaintances and vague images are what you usually take with you from the eternal – even intellectually – alternation of „posts“ and surroundings, until they too fade away under the relentless passage of time and the ceaseless shifting of horizons.
In confirmation of this natural rule of life if you are lucky and if at the same time your main human sensitivity antennas are on, even the life of the diplomat contains staggering exceptions: instants and faces, images and experiences which remain excitingly vivid and always actual in his mind and heart.
Such an exception is my acquaintance and the hours I’ve spent with Stefan Gechev. To this day, sixteen years later, I remember his captivating stories, his radiant eyes, the Oriental tobacco of his cigarettes, his dark-colored turtleneck sweater, the power of his ideas, the excitement of his experiences. Such was the charm of his word and personality, his sensitivity and goodness were beyond compare. So far ahead of their time were his views and judgments of human and divine deeds, the humble and the poetic, in times of extreme hardship and suffering for his motherland, Bulgaria, where Stefan was a pole of attraction and admiration for the company members, even though he himself strove for the opposite.
At a time when our Bulgarian neighbors had lost the direction of their ideological compass for decades and were trying to build (with minimal experience) on top of the collapsed regime the foundations of a new life, with his unique life baggage, Stefan Gechev was one of the few who emanated (and inspired) self-control, insight, sensitivity and a rare sense of sobriety at moments of cosmological significance.
Many of us Greeks approached the post-Zhivkov Bulgaria with the familiar sense of presumption and pettiness. Maybe there would have been more of our neighbors, who, due to this reason, would have misunderstood us, if it hadn’t been for Stefan Gechev, who knew us so well and had come to love us so much.
I often think about Stefan’s merit towards Bulgarian and Greek literatures, I remind myself of his unparalleled contribution towards better knowing and popularizing Greek poetry and prose among the broad scope of friendly Bulgarian readers. Our country’s cultural presence in our neighboring country would have been so much poorer without Stefan Gechev’s life-work.
Stefan belonged to that rare breed of people whom you indomitably believe to have left too early – regardless of when and at what age they passed away – because you are convinced they had many more and useful things to give, until, of course, you remind yourself the message and the fruit they left behind continue to be forever and alive, just like the nostalgic memory of them in our hearts. Goodbye, my friend and neighbor…
Mihail Hristidis was born in Thessalonniki. He’s a pupil of the German High School and studied at the University of Thessalonniki majoring in Law. He graduated International Law in the Hague. Mihail Hristidis has been involved with diplomacy since 1976. He occupied the post of senior advisor at the Greek Embassy from 1991 to 1993 and was ambassador of Greece to the Republic of Bulgaria from 2000 to 2002. Now he’s the head of the “Balkan Countries” Department with the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was a personal friend of Stefan Gechev’s.