by Ghassan Kadi for The Saker Blog
When our friend The Saker asked if either Intibah or I would like to write a necrologue for Jon Hellevig, we both felt we couldn’t give the request enough justice, because we didn’t know Jon enough. But as I decided to take the lead here and write it in my name, with Intibah’s help, I realized that I knew Jon enough to honour his legacy by relaying my short sad and sweet experience with him to my readers.
Jon was initially a Facebook friend whom we ‘met’ over the fight for Syria’s sovereignty and independence. When Intibah and I decided to visit Moscow in the spring of 2015, arrangements were made to meet in the flesh. And after a long and tedious flight from Hong Kong and a taxi trip to the hotel, Intibah noticed him sitting in the lobby waiting for us.
As he stood up to shake our hands, I felt dwarfed by this imposing gentle giant as my height could hardly reach his shoulder, and quickly, we took our luggage to the room, put a band aid on our flight fatigue, and went out with him for a walk around central Moscow. We had a wonderful evening together and he insisted to pay for dinner.
Jon was excited not only to see us, but it was the first real warm spring day in Moscow. The traditional Russian winter lockdown locked up his free spirit and made him feel imprisoned in a cage, as he put it. He loved spring and what it symbolizes, because Jon was full of life, full of ideas, positivity, and wishes for a better world.
The last thing I imagined back then was that only five years later I would be sitting down writing his eulogy.
In writing this, I don’t only want to mark my respect to a dear friend, but I also want to express the grief I feel, as this may help me self-heal and fill that deep sinking hole that his untimely death has created in my heart and soul.
For more than the five years since we met in the flesh, Jon was my mentor even though he was seven years my junior. I looked up to his vast knowledge and wisdom at many levels. He was a deep thinker with an amazing intellect, and extremely good with numbers when it came to economics; the real economics of the world. He was also Intibah’s mentor on ‘forensics’. Intibah’s unofficial professional title is the ‘forensic journalist’, and she and Jon worked together on many ’investigations’.
Jon loathed injustice, spoke strongly, fearlessly and vehemently against oppressors of all sizes. He spoke so openly that he lost many ‘friends’ along the way because diplomacy was not a forté with which he was blessed. Quite the contrary in fact, if he thought one was stupid; he called him stupid, moron, idiot, and he did not shy away from using more colourful language, and often made me laugh as he did; and this was because when he resorted to such language, it was justified and in him doing so, he expressed my angry side that I often keep the lid on.
He loved Russia. He adored Russia and chose it to be his home even though he was Finnish. He travelled extensively in Russia whilst he lived in Moscow, he absolutely loved the Black Sea region; especially Sochi. He made many trips to Donbas to see what was happening on the ground with his own eyes. And a few years ago, he met another great friend in India, Arun Shrivastava. Sadly, Arun passed away not long after leaving behind an important manuscript he wrote on the role of nefarious NGO’s. Intibah and I worked with Jon trying to salvage his work and have it published, but the single original copy of that work instead reached the hands of a former ‘friend’ who promised to have it translated to many languages and published. In hindsight, all he actually wanted to do was to put his filthy hands on it and make sure it never sees the light. That was such a disappointment for Jon and us. It is such a travesty that Arun’s work was confiscated by that slime of a human… I seem to be picking up some of Jon’s vocabulary already.
This year, sweet Jon did not get his spring. The COVID-19 lockdown locked up his heart and mind and sent him into deep and agonizing depression. For many people, this is something they can tolerate, but not for a soul that thrives on light and freedom. The flower was not allowed to blossom. Flowers do not grow in the dark.
Jon was no stranger to depression, and before his heart stopped, Intibah and I felt from his writings that he wasn’t well. We spoke to him on the 17th of May for over an hour. He was touched to hear our voices and to know that we cared for him and loved him. His pain was impossible to hide, but so was his hope and intention to come and visit us soon when this kerfuffle was over.
In the conversation, he made reference to similarities between himself and Kafka. I didn’t know much about Kafka and I am not going to pretend to be an instant expert on him after a quick Google job. But that analogy reminded me of my mother who lived the pain and suffering of French poet Lamartine for her entire life. And speaking of Lamartine, how can one forget Edgar Allan Poe? Such is the case of gentle souls.
We were planning to speak to him again, but didn’t want to inundate him with calls enough to make him feel we were worried and raise his concern. In hindsight, we wish we did.
We still don’t know where and when Jon’s body was ‘discovered’ as he lived alone. What we do know is that he died on the 26th of May of a heart attack at the prime age of 58 with still so much to give.
It is such a tragedy to realize that dear Jon was an inadvertent victim of COVID-19. The lockdown stifled his free spirit, and his heart gave up, because Jon lived up to his principles in every part of his body and mind. Pretence was not in his dictionary.
Jon my friend, forgive me for I cannot attend your funeral, but with these words, I let you rest in peace. Farewell.