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« National smoking day ... WTF? | Main | Tale of two countries »
Wednesday
Jan272010

George Miller-Kurakin - a celebration

Last night, at the National Liberal Club in London, a small group of us took part in "An Evening Dedicated to the Life of George Miller-Kurakin".

I wrote about George - and his funeral - HERE and HERE but it was good to have another opportunity to pay tribute to an old friend and recall some of the fun we had in the Eighties when we joined forces to fight - as best we could - the forces of communism at home and abroad.

(How absurd that sounds today but for several decades communists, and the Soviet Union in particular, were a genuine threat to our way of life. Without the likes of George Miller ... well, who knows?)

Julian Lewis, Conservative MP for New Forest East, captured the mood well when he spoke not only of George's achievements but also of his warmth, charm and immense good humour. When Julian mentioned George's "chuckle" there were nods of recognition throughout the room, and sitting here, writing this, I can hear it now.

George's brother Vladimir painted a vivid picture of his best qualities and I was astounded to learn that George couldn't speak a word of English when the family arrived in Britain. When I first met him I assumed that English was his first language. There was no trace of an accent. (Others may disagree.) It was only later that I realised that Russian was the language they all spoke at home.

Other friends spoke of his tireless work helping Russian dissidents inside and outside the USSR and there were lots of anecdotes - not all of them printable - involving trips to Jamaica, Chile and elsewhere. Politics, I was reminded, used to be fun. Even the dirty tricks!

Not everything George did came off (I can vouch for that) and sometimes his heart could rule his head, but Julian made the point that he never stopped trying. He was always ready to give something a go and if that didn't work he'd try something else.

Some of last night's guests I hadn't seen for a long, long time (25 years or more) so the occasion brought back a lot of memories and the realisation that, for all the time we spent together all those years ago, there was a lot about George I didn't know. In fact, for a man bursting with bonhomie, he was remarkably discreet.

Sadly, George was only 54 when he died but he made the very most of his life - and who, among us, can honestly say that?

Above: yours truly with George Miller at (I think) George's wedding in Frankfurt. (Why else would I be wearing a carnation?) What I do know is, it was a long time ago and a lot of vodka has passed under the bridge since then.

PS. Thanks to Russell Walters and Nigel Linacre for organising last night's bash. Julian suggested there should be an award - in George's name - for future freedom fighters so this event could run and run!

Reader Comments (5)

George sounds like he was a good guy.

That's quite a tash you've got there Mr Clark.

January 28, 2010 at 22:48 | Unregistered CommenterRose Whiteley

You have captured something of the man. Until his passing, I had not idea he was descended from leading Russian statesmen like Alexnder Kurakin, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexander_Kurakin
another little gem he would never have mentioned.

January 30, 2010 at 11:29 | Unregistered CommenterNigel Linacre

Well done for writing this up Simon. George was a big influence on my early life, and I was at his wedding.

February 27, 2010 at 13:33 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Chambers

Living now in the Far East, I only stumbled across the news of George's death today, following the return of my Christmas card.. We were close in the 1980's and I remember his Frankfurt wedding well - both sober and later the better for good Russian Vodka. I am greatly saddened that the man and friend who made me a life long Russophile is no longer around.

January 12, 2011 at 15:07 | Unregistered CommenterColin Blackwell

I remember George fondly. He was so full of energy and inspired me. I had some interactions with him (through EESY) and it is easy to forget how monolithic the soviet rule appeared - and at the time, how ruthless when it needed to be - yet George always expected and worked for its demise. One of the things I liked about George was his willingness to think outside the box, and seriously consider proposals that more world-weary individuals would have deemed impractical. George was one of those people who made you believe in life: he was truly life-affirming, but too soon lost.

Susannah

April 25, 2011 at 1:13 | Unregistered CommenterSusannah Clark

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