Remembering a Friend and Colleague: 13 November 1949 1 January 2004
I once read the words begin each day as if it were on purpose and I have since come to recall them as I think of my friend and colleague Yannick Guerrini. For Yannick always seemed to have a sense of purpose, he was a man who knew what he enjoyed, a man who had come to know and understand himself. Perhaps what I saw in Yannick was some- one who had learnt to cope with adversity in a courageous manner.
I am writing this on behalf of all his friends and colleagues here at UNECE in Geneva, but in particular on behalf of the Industrial Restructuring, Energy and Enterprise Development Division of which Yannick had been an integral part for eight years. We are a close knit team and are feeling his loss greatly as nineteen have now become eighteen as we walk past his unlit office throughout the day knowing he will never again come bounding out. What a sad loss. But his skills over and beyond his area of expertise in the gas sector meant Yannick had friends throughout the UNECE, who now mourn his loss also.
It may seem strange that as the most recent newcomer to the energy team I should be penning this, but that was the nature of the man. Yannick had a great array of social skills, he was a kind and genial man who made friends easily so although I had only known him for just over two years it could easily have been the eight that so many of his colleagues shared with him.
During last summer I think Yannick came to realise that his days were numbered, that despite his brave battle for over two years the illness was going to win. My coffee breaks with him became more frequent during his last months here and the talk turned occasionally to death and his regrets in life, but this talk did not belie a man at peace with himself. Yannick lived the words of Jean-Paul Sartre The more sand that has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it. I should stress that Yannick rarely talked of his illness, his strength of character and courage meant only a mere handful had any concept of the suffering he was going through. An intensely private and discrete man, Yannick wanted the world at large to treat him as though everything was normal which is why his death has come as a shock to so many.
During one profound conversation when he talked of his regrets in life, I was surprised to hear what his biggest regret was it was that he had not done more to help the environment and he then went on to reveal that he regularly contributed from his own personal funds towards environmental causes. It was not what I had expected to hear and it struck me that you think you know somebody but you never really do. Yannick also shared with me how proud he was to have actively taken part in two Environmental Performance Reviews for UNECE held in Ukraine and in Kazakhstan. I still recall vividly how I marvelled then at what I was hearing.
Reminiscing with my colleagues we all agreed that if you knew Yannick you truly understood the meaning of two words: gourmet and raconteur. Yannick was a gourmet par excellence, but never a gourmand just as he was an amazing raconteur, but never a bore. We will remember Yannick as a man proud of his appearance and always impeccably turned out. Although a Frenchman through and through, in his Burberry raincoat and Churchs shoes I somehow thought of him as a kind of quintessential Englishman, albeit with a very French twist added by his excellent collection of Hermes ties! Yannicks office was also a reflection of the ordered and very organised person that he was everything had its place and he knew where to put his hand on any document, file or publication.
Yannick was eminently capable at his job as Senior Advisor of the UNECE Gas Centre, an organisation that through his expertise and eight years of dedication and commitment he helped to put on the map as an internationally renowned centre of excellence for gas issues. An intelligent man, Yannick loved to learn and because of that he possessed a wide range of skills that will be extremely hard to replace. Without question Yannick was a worker, he was never afraid to put in long hours and was often the first in and last to leave. He was also a weekend worker and I once asked him why he still put in such long hours when he had this awful sentence hanging over him. I recall him looking at me as though I was stupid and received the response because I love my work, what better way is there to spend my time than doing what I enjoy?.
Yannick was a true gentleman, good and honest and a strong believer in fairness, he believed as Mark Twain did that it was better to deserve honours and not have them than to have them and not deserve them. There are many that could learn from the way Yannick conducted his life I know I have.
And what of his colleagues? Yes, he is sorely missed at the daily lunches that he shared with his close professional colleagues George, Tans, Alex, Fred, Slav and Sead. At these lunches the state of the world was debated and put to rights with Yannick always an animated contributor. Yes, he is missed by his assistants who shared the office next door and who could count on an afternoon visit for a chat and a joke often accompanied by a box of chocolates, sometimes because he had been away on mission and sometimes for no other reason than he knew Catherine, Eliane and Liliane loved chocolate! Yes, I too miss his regular visits to my office when he would come to check on his English and which would more often than not turn into a conversation about life, the universe and anything else in between!
Possessed with an incredible sense of determination in all he did, Yannick was also determined to see in 2004, that was his wish. Yannick passed away on 1 January 2004.
Our Director, George Kowalski, summed up Yannick so perfectly at the recent UNECE staff meeting when he said in tribute that quite simply Yannick was a decent man.
So it is time to say a final farewell dear Yannick, we will miss you and we will remember you always.