Saturday April 24. Roman has left this world

Written by Jack van Ommen on April 24th, 2010

And he is now with his Maker. I walked into an empty room. As much as his death was anticipated it still came unexpected and our world is not the same any longer. He was so huge and he made such an impact on so many, yet he and his wife wanted to modestly slip away into obscurity. So, I am not supposed to tell you that he spoke eight languages fluently, fought with the Yugoslav partisans, had a Polish mother, Austrian father, was conceived in Poland, born in the Ukraine, lived in Austria, Serbia, Slovenia, Kroatia, Italy and the United States. That he was introduced to Eleanor Roosevelt in Paris, seduced by Leonard Unger, then a young foreign service employee at the U.S. Consulate in Trieste ( Unger later served as ambassador to Thailand, Taiwan and as the U.S.  undersecretary of Asian Affairs) to spy for the U.S.A. etc., etc.  I recorded a 10 page life story that I managed to extract from him 15 years ago. 

But the story that just proves the size of this man goes as follows: I meet an Austrian riding up in the ski chair lift in Lech, Austria, around 1974. He turns out to be an Austrian-Canadian from Toronto. I join him and his 3 friends that evening in the village. One of his Toronto friends whose name is Joe Skelly is a Yugoslavian-Canadian.  When I get back to Tacoma I tell Roman about Joe Skelly. Roman tels me: ” Oh, I know him but his name is Joseph Skreli and he is not Yugoslavian but Albanian”. And then he tells me that he fought with him in the partisans in Yugoslavia in the 2nd WW. I have Joe’s telephone number and ring him in Toronto with Roman standing next to me. A female answering the phone, turns out to be Joe’s sister. :” Is Sephi Skreli there?”  She answers: ” Who are you, where did you get that name?” I tell her that Roman is standing next to me. She gasps. The last time that Roman saw Skreli was when he kicked him out of the apartment they shared in Milan in 1949, because they had an argument on sharing the rent. She tells me that Joseph Skreli is now known as Joe Skelly. I hand the telephone to Roman : ” I do not vant to talk to her!!”  You just did not ever want to be on his bad side, it could be for ever.  I once was for a year and I’ll never forget when we settled and his handshake. I have very few male friends that I ever exchanged: “I love you” with. Roman and I did. Friends for ever.                

I posted an album of pictures with Roman over the last years at :https://secureservercdn.net/45.40.155.175/pzk.6d6.myftpupload.com/albums/albums/Wydra.pdf

 

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