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Lives Remembered - Jake Gomilny

28th August 1947 – 27th November 2013

From Jessie Levene

Jake Gomilny

My father Jake Gomilny, long-time Hebden Bridge resident known by many as 'The Mad Russian', has died aged 66.

Born in Kiev in what was then the Soviet Union, young Jake was clever, curious, and utterly unimpressed with life in a post-war Communist country. In the words of his sister Alla, Jake was 'possessed by English music and language. He was destined to become an Englishman.'

But first, he became a Canadian. Following in the footsteps of his maternal  grandmother, Jake emigrated, with his mother, to Canada in 1973. Whilst studying for a degree in Town Planning in Toronto, he lived the life he'd always dreamed of – spending summers on a Kibbutz in Israel, travelling around the hippy hotspots of Europe, and getting kicked out of the Toronto YMCA (for sneaking in a girlfriend, he claimed).

Finally, he made it to England. While spending a semester at Bradford University on the Peace Studies programme, he met my mother, Heather Levene, and the rest, as Jake would say, is history.

Jake and Heather moved to Hebden in 1980, where Jake quickly established himself as one of this town's notable eccentrics. Accomplished at both chess and football, he was involved with the Ground Floor Centre and NAG, and was part of a group of people who made the old Nutclough pub on Keighley Road their second home. But despite his Russian roots Jake was never much of a drinker, and was instead an enthusiastic patron of Hebden's cafes. Many people will remember him enjoying a leisurely coffee whilst reading the Guardian, daily – as Jake himself was fond of saying: "My mother was Russian, my father was Russian, but me I'm just taking my time".

This is just one example of Jake's (in)famous sense of humour, which, he often claimed, "loses in translation". One of my favourite memories of him is being woken up early one Saturday morning by my parents shouting  "Jessie Jessie, quick quick! The river has flooded and we've all got to go and help!" So I ran down Royd Terrace with a saucepan in either hand – while Jake and Heather laughed hysterically at their successful prank.

After my parents separated in 2001, Jake met his long-term girlfriend Sue, with whom he shared a passion for France, and where they eventually bought a flat (Jake spoke French fluently, as well as Russian and Ukrainian). Jake loved to travel, often visiting film festivals in search of backers for his perennial project – a movie of his mother and grandmother's 40-year separation by the Cold War, entitled 'Anatevka' after the fictional Ukrainian shtetl in the stories of Sholem Aleichem.

Many of my other favourite memories of Jake also include our dog Dash. Dash was the runt of his litter but nonetheless often got into fights with dogs twice his size, from which Jake would have to save him. When Dash died, Jake organised a walk to each of Dash's favourite trees, where he and other well-wishers toasted Dash's memory with glasses of vodka.

Jake's life has been cut painfully short by the brain tumour with which he was diagnosed in 2010. He is already much missed by me, his sister Alla, Sue, and last but by no means least, his extended Hebden Bridge family. RIP Jake. Na zdorovie!

- Thursday, 9 January 2014

From Dee Pepper

Sending love to you Jessie. Fond memories of you all in Hebden Bridge 1984 onwards with my daughter Laura. Please remember me to your Mum. Dee Pepper x

- Friday, 10 January 2014

From Simon Hayles

So sorry to hear of Jake's passing. I knew him well both professionally and socially.
I remember him best for the mischievous twinkle in his eye when he spotted the flaws in my arguments as we tried set the world to rights in the much-missed Nutclough Tavern.

A good man gone too soon.

God bless, Jake. I'll raise a glass to you now in the hope we shall do so together in the here-after (hopefully with Dash bounding about and leaving his usual paw-prints on my trousers!)

Love and commiserations to those bereaved.

- Saturday, 11 January 2014