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Remembering Johanna Brown ('17)

As you may already know, my dear friend and EBRD colleague Johanna Brown passed away in October. Johanna and I worked together here at the Bank for nearly a decade during the 1990s and we remained close till the very end. Her sudden passing left me stunned and I know for certain that Johanna will be sorely missed by all who knew her at the EBRD.

To me, Johanna was the embodiment of everything that I’ve come to respect and cherish about the British. She only spoke when it beat silence. When she did speak, her subtle yet rapier sharp wit was a pleasure to behold.

 

Johanna’s criticisms were always direct but, at the same time, were couched in such elegant, non-threatening language that you couldn’t help but pay close attention. Her contribution was always fair, never facetious and invariably constructive. Johanna also shared the quintessentially British notion that queues were sacred, which is just shorthand for saying that one’s own time is not more important than everyone else’s. In other words, Johanna had class. I also greatly admired her down-to-earth approach to life and her strength and determination.

There is an old anecdote about a Hungarian asking a Brit how it was possible to have such immaculately manicured lawns? The Brit answers that it is simply a question of mowing once and watering twice a week. The Hungarian is slightly offended by the assumption that he had overlooked such a simple protocol. To placate his friend, the Brit qualifies her earlier statement: “oh, you have to do that for 400 years!!!!”.

This story always makes me think of my old friend. For Johanna Brown was that archetypal Brit, who could muster the required levels of fortitude and discipline to do the right thing, day in day out, without fail “for 400 years”. Or in her case, sadly, only 69 years. In that sense, Johanna was so much more to me than a friend and a colleague. She was a true inspiration.

 

Miklós Németh                                                                                                                   Budapest, 14 December 2017             


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