Richard Lewartowski obituary

Other lives: One of the unsung heroes who saved thousands of lives in Bosnia

Richard Lewartowski, who has died aged 69 after suffering a stroke, was, as the head of the local European Community Humanitarian Aid Office (Echo) between 1998 and 2000, one of the unsung heroes who saved thousands of lives in Bosnia.

Mostly his work involved detailed and timely administration, which he carried out with near genius. Once he chartered a fleet of Russian Antonov planes to fly in food supplies without getting the proper authority, reasoning that his own career was worth a lot less than the lives of the people he was there to protect.

Richard was born in Carshalton, south London, to Jan Lewartowksi, a banker, and his wife, Anna (nee Heuting), Jewish refugees who had fled Poland before the second world war. He attended St Paul’s school, in west London, and studied modern languages and law at Sussex University. After graduating, he worked for two stints with Voluntary Service Overseas in Algeria, and then in 1973 was one of the first British recruits to the European commission when the UK joined the European Community (which became the European Union).

Between 1973 and 1991 he worked mainly as a desk officer – dealing with policy development and implementation – for west and central African countries.

I met Richard in the last week of the 1983 general election when we were both campaigning for the Liberal MP David Alton in Liverpool’s Mossley Hill. By that autumn I had become Richard’s intern in Brussels. At that time, he covered central Africa. He was always off on adventurous, and often rather dangerous, official missions.

After 1991 his responsibilities included Iraq after the Gulf war, and the Caucasus region during first Chechen war. Richard worked as a policy adviser for the former Yugoslavia and then head of mission for region, based in Sarajevo 1998-2000. He was subsequently acting head of evaluation, responsible for relations with new and joining member states.

Richard’s biggest disappointment in life was Britain voting in 2016 to leave the EU.

He is survived by his husband, Michael McPherson, whom he met at a Liberal lunch party in Brighton in 1989 and married in 2004.

Peter Cooper

The GuardianTramp

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