Michaela and I had attended the same Saturday morning pilates class for over a year before we realised that we both worked at the EBRD (which other remarkable person would mention travelling to Sakhalin to fight for the marginalised in those days?). We then started to meet up regularly in the office to sometimes discuss work, but mostly just to gossip.
But it was during our work on the Strategy for the Promotion of Gender Equality that our friendship was cemented. Endless hours, countless redrafts, some frustration, but much laughter together with Itziar brought us very close. Her fight for justice, tenacity to stick with the cause and occasional bouts of diplomacy to make the odd concession all shone through in everything she did. She was a remarkable woman and an inspiration to us all.
Most importantly, however, she became a very close friend. We kept in regular contact after first I and then later she left the EBRD. We grew particularly close in these past few years of her illness. With each passing day my admiration for her bravery and fortitude continued to grow as she battled cancer, she never once complained. I will always remember her enviable elegance (even during the late stages of her illness), her raucous laughter, her twinkling eyes, her generosity and her enduring friendship. I cherished the many times we spent together over coffee, lunch or dinner: righting the world, calling out injustices, or simply just reviewing our favourite books and museum visits. She had an incredible knack to listen attentively and question insightfully when I recounted even the most mundane stories from my family’s everyday life.
However, what has always struck me most about Michaela was the boundless love she had for her own family, her parents Alan and Viorica, her brother David and his wife Sara, and of course her beloved niece Laleh and nephew Zizou. Her eyes sparkled in that typical idiosyncratic fashion when she mentioned family celebrations, trips to Portugal, Crete and Florence and the time spent all together. Her family meant everything to her and she was at her happiest with them or recounting stories about them.
Michaela’s fight for the most marginalised in everything she did and across continents has ensured that she will have a lasting impact on the world. However, the close friendships that she fostered and the endless love she had for her family will ensure that she will remain forever in our hearts.
With all my love to Alan, Viorica, David, Sara, Laleh and Zizou