Guy Gozem

QC at Lincoln House Chambers | Tower 12 | Manchester

Eulogy for Sergey

Sergey Alexandrovic Prokofiev

 by Bernie Baxter

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Sergey was born in St. Petersburg (Leningrad as it was then) on 3 July 1981; he died on

6 June 2013, a month short of his 32nd birthday.

His early years were spent in St Petersburg. He lived with his mother in a Soviet apartment

block (sharing bathroom and kitchen facilities with a number of other families) and

attended a state school.

His mother remarried when Sergey was aged 8 or 9 and the family moved to Malta when

Sergey was 11. At this time Sergey did not speak a word of English but he attended

Summer school to learn the language before term began in September; the curriculum was

taught in English. He picked up the language very quickly and began to thrive at school.

He loved Malta, it was where he felt most relaxed and most at home. He particularly liked

the sunny weather, a real change from harsh Russian winters. The family moved to

Highgate in London when he was 13, but they kept their house in Malta which he visited

frequently. He loved to travel around on his scooter and indulge his passion for sailing (he

had his captain’s licence). Sergey spent a lot of time in Malta during his illness, with his

girlfriend Hannah.

Sergey attended St. Martin’s school in Highgate from the age 13 to 18. He did well at

school and won a place at Durham University to study law. This began Sergey’s love affair

with Northern England. He embraced change and wanted to move away from London so

after successfully completing his Bar course he applied for pupillage in Manchester. He

was called to the Bar by the Honourable Society of Lincolns Inn on 22 July 2004 and

began his pupillage in Lincoln House Chambers in late 2004 under the supervision of

Bernadette Baxter, his pupil-mistress. He was a quick learner and a keen and willing

helper who made himself invaluable, like a “genie from a lamp” always there with the

appropriate authority or a useful and constructive suggestion. He was also great at

remembering people’s names – which was a God send for a pupil mistress who could

barely remember her own name on some days.

He soon became a very popular member of Chambers and quickly established a busy and

varied practise. His intelligence and eloquence in court were obvious to all, it was difficult

to believe that English was not his first language. Sergey was always looking for a new

challenge and in 2011 he undertook an LLM in tax law at the London School of

Economics; he had appeared at a number of tax tribunals and was enthusiastic about a

subject that would be considered dry and dreary by most.

The most striking thing out Sergey was his lust for life and his huge sense of fun. His real

passion was travel. On one occasion when the clerks were complaining about his request

for another holiday his incredulous response was “What? I’ve only had 60 days holiday this

year!” He never missed the opportunity for adventure, taking in Vietnam, Cambodia,

Brazil, China, Egypt, Jordan, India and most of Europe. He was also a keen sportsman, a

brilliant skier who realised how lucky he was to have the opportunity to take advantage of

the family home in Megeve whenever the snow was good. He also enjoyed rifle shooting

and archery; he had a formidable collection of crossbows – Sergey was certainly never a

person for conventional pastimes.

This zest for life and “anything is possible” attitude stayed with Sergey to the end. Just

before Christmas 2011 he was diagnosed with Stage 3 lung cancer, a diagnosis that would

have daunted the strongest of characters – but not Sergey. He resolved the live life to the

full for as long as he could. Even when the treatment (endless rounds of chemo and radio

therapy) was particularly hard he always remained positive and optimistic. In January this

year he and Hannah took off to the Maldives and at Easter he was well enough for them

travel to the Middle East. Those around him knew it was futile to urge caution or question

the wisdom of his decision to travel as his reaction was to laugh and say “come on it will

be awesome!” This was his philosophy of life.

Sadly, no amount of treatment, even the most cutting edge therapy on offer in New York

and Denver, could stop the relentless spread of his cancer and he died peacefully at home

on Thursday 6 June 2013 at 5.30 am, 18 months after first diagnosis.

Sergey would be honoured and amused that we have all gathered in such formal

circumstances to pay tribute to him. It is truly tragic that his life and the great potential that

it held has been cut so short; but he would not want any of us to be sad. Quite the

opposite, he would want to remind us all to embrace every opportunity that comes our way

and live life to the full. As Sergey would frequently say “Remember – cocktails at 6!” ; and

today of all days, remember to raise a glass to Sergey Alexandrovic Prokofiev to celebrate

a truly unique young man who achieved more in his 31 years than most of us will in twice

that time.


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