Goodbye Ümit, Misha

Goodbye Ümit, Misha

I am sad. I am very sad. Losing a friend, a very dear friend, is no different than losing a family member.
I lived through that once again two times in one day. First I received a call that on New Year’s Eve, after days of struggle in the intensive care unit, the Serbian Embassy Minister, Counselor Milorad Sekulic, had slipped into eternity. He was hospitalized on Dec. 26 after a heart attack. Some time later I received another call, this time from the Daily News opinion pages editor, Barçın Yınanç, who was passing on the sad news: Ümit had passed away!

I first worked together with Ümit Enginsoy at the Anatolia News Agency (AA) in the early 1990s. Later, our roads crossed at the Daily News when he was recruited as defense correspondent. He left Turkey and lived in Washington for a long period, where along with writing articles and stories – mostly on defense and diplomatic matters – for the Daily News, he worked also as the Washington representative of the private NTV television channel for more than a decade. He also worked in Washington for some time for the AA. Lately he had returned to Ankara to continue with the Daily News as a columnist. He was a very talented, hard-working journalist keen on the ethics of the profession.

Ümit has passed away at very young. It was reported that he slipped, hit his head and died of brain hemorrhaging. He was only 50 years old. So sad.

It was March 15, 2005 when I met Milorad. He was humble, knowledgeable and what’s best, a “to the point” man. Up until he completed his first posting in Ankara in the summer of 2009, we exchanged opinions at our routine, weekly “café talks,” not necessarily on Balkan issues but more so on the evolution of the Turkish transformation under the Islamist-conservative governance of the Justice and Development Party. Looking from the point at which Turkey and the region finally ended, I must say he had far better capability to evaluate and forecast than myself. Was it because he started the diplomatic service in the 1970s at what was then Yugoslavia’s Egyptian Embassy? Probably his openness to discuss all probabilities and his keen approach to hunt all those probabilities one by one before coming up with an opinion on an issue was a factor as well. Particularly on the transformation of Turkey, Milorad – or Misha as friends were calling him – was far more optimistic than most “secularist” Turks.

Often he stressed that Turks should better examine Yugoslavia and assess how dissolution came before taking a position against the conservative-Islamists in power in their country. He was reposted to Ankara in December 2010. It was obvious that the executives of the Serbian Republic very much appreciated the immense work Milorad undertook to improve relations between Ankara and Belgrade; which had almost collapsed as a consequence of the “Balkan tragedy.” He was a real diplomat who very much appreciated the importance of dialogue and compromise.

Losing very dear friends is something very much like a fire in the chest. Still, this is life. You might be well and up; a moment later time might be up for you and you just slip away as if you were a shadow on the stage. Warmest condolences to Ümit’s family, friends, the Daily News family, Misha’s wife Ljiljana, his sons and all his friends. Goodbye Ümit, goodbye Misha, rest in peace.