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Their Stories: Steven Dick: British diplomat in the prime of his career dies after contracting coronavirus

At 37, Steven Dick was in the early days of the latest chapter in his diplomatic career.

Claire McGowan, a friend of Dick’s based in London, remembers his extreme talent with languages and how he’d just learned Hungarian in preparation for his new role as deputy head of mission at the British Embassy in Hungary, which started in December 2019.

“Last time I saw him he was about to move to Budapest, and we drank wine on his balcony and talked about going to a wine festival in Salzburg this year,” she said.

McGowan knew Dick through a mutual friend, “but I quickly felt he was my friend, too, as he was that kind of person, incredibly warm and open,” she said.

Dick died in Budapest on Tuesday, March 24, as a result of COVID-19. A Budapest-based Guardian reporter, Shaun Walker, reported that Dick had recently returned from a Mexican vacation and said on Twitter that Dick told him last week he had the virus but was feeling fine. It hasn’t been reported that Dick experienced any underlying health conditions.

Dick was still in the early months of his posting as deputy head of mission, a senior diplomatic position that made him responsible for the daily management of the embassy in the Hungarian capital, “and generally a key advisor to the Ambassador or High Commissioner,” according to the U.K. government website.

“Steven was a much-loved son, grandson and nephew,” his parents, Steven and Carol Dick, said in a statement the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office circulated, remembering him as kind, funny and generous. “It was always his dream to work for the [FCO] and he was very happy representing our country overseas.”

Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Steven Dick.

Prior to joining the FCO in 2008, he was a graduate trainee at the Bank of Scotland. Between 2010 and 2011 he did full-time language training in Arabic before taking roles at the British embassies in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and Kabul, Afghanistan.

In 2016 he returned to the United Kingdom to work at the FCO and later the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Hayyan Nayouf worked with Dick when he was the head of press and political internal at the British Embassy in Riyadh from 2011–14. “His understanding of the region’s culture and traditions was super, especially that he also studied Arabic language,” Nayouf remembered.

Nayouf said what helped Dick to be a successful diplomat was his deep understanding of different cultures and languages. But what he’ll remember most was his “smiling face when we used to meet in the regional workshops.” Dick would greet Nayouf by saying “marhaba” (“hello” in Arabic), shaking hands and asking about his family.

“I will never forget his kindness.”