For those of us that retain their curiosity, willingness to fail and to learn, age is measured not in years but in lost friends.
I lost a good friend – Greg Guroff. He died of an incurable disease but he fought strong for his life as he did in energetic and rich life – as a diplomat, a true believer and devoted servant of the public diplomacy, in the gym playing his regular pick-up basketball on the weekends with his friends and colleagues. As an Ambassador in Washington, I knew perfectly well how to represent my country. From Greg I learned how to mingle, how to immerse myself in America and even feel part of the crowd. And if this is not a complement for any diplomat serving his country, then I fail to see who is a good diplomat.
Greg was willing to become the setting, going beyond learning about the indigenous people. His understanding of people, if I judge from personal experience, took the fast track bypassing sympathy and going directly to empathy. He enjoyed his work and played to win. Meanwhile, he had our respect. And if this does not make a natural leader, I fail to see who is a leader.
We were very close friends even not meeting each other frequently but I felt Greg’s enormous friendship and care every day no matter how far I was from him. The last time I called him from Washington DC he was asking me questions about Georgia, the recent political developments, perspectives, asking questions about his Georgian close friends and distant acquaintances. Naturally, he, again, talked about unfulfilled dream to organize in the United States an exhibition of the Georgian treasury, which he failed to do due to some internal Georgian factors and distorted mindsets. He still had that uncurbed enthusiasm to organize that exposition and to introduce it to Americans and thus make them to learn more about Georgia, its history, cultural legacy and of course its people. We talked long about that and he believed that he would make it in near future but unfortunately he passed away in couple of days after our last phone conversation.
With Greg I did what Georgians do. We opened our house to each other; our families met; we tried to make each other feel at home, taking turns as hosts. We were very close friends even not meeting each other frequently but I felt Greg’s enormous And I do not know if he felt more Georgian or I more American after that, but I know that it worked and I will miss him terribly. I cannot tell him that, which is part of the pain of growing up. But, for those whom he left behind, my experience allows me to offer just two verses from Constantine P. Cavafy’s “Ithaca”, which I find consoling:
Ithaka gave you the marvellous journey.
Without her you wouldn’t have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
You’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean….
So I lost a good friend… Georgia lost a great friend and supporter… May you rest in peace, Greg, in your Ithaka but know that we’ll all miss you very much!
Tedo Japardze Former foreign minister of Georgia. Currently political advisor to Bidzina Ivanishvili.
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