by Dr. Iain Corness
personally find war abhorrent, but I am an ‘armchair’ critic as I have
never been directly involved in one. On the other hand, the ever-smiling
Gerry Germenis, the general manager of ESC, has been through a war, a
protracted 12 year war in what was then Rhodesia, and is now Zimbabwe.
“You gain an understanding of each other’s living through the war
situation,” said Gerry. “Surviving it gives you a different perspective
on life. The basic lesson in life is that it (life) is short, so make
the most of it.” What is more, Gerry believes that being through the war
gave him discipline, a camaraderie and respect for others. “You learn to
adapt. It makes you stronger, gives you more empathy and you fear
nothing.” Gerry Germenis is a very positive man to get all that from
what I consider to be a very negative state of affairs.
Gerry looks Greek and is Greek, even though he was born in Salisbury,
Rhodesia (now Harare Zimbabwe). His forebears had come to Africa in 1885
from Greece, with his grandfather helping to build the railways over
there. His father ran an import-export business there in Rhodesia, and
his mother was also Greek, the sister of the Greek Orthodox Bishop for
Africa. The bloodline back to Greece is strong!
He was not a particularly diligent student, being somewhat of a rebel,
but cheerfully admits he was straightened out by his elder brother and
his parents, and so went on to study a Chartered Secretarial course for
four years, graduating when he was 20. He was then inducted into the
Rhodesian Army for 10 months of National Service training. International
forces were then to shape his life for the next 12 years. Rhodesia’s Ian
Smith declared his Unilateral Declaration of Independence and a war
resulted over land issues.
Gerry joined the Territorial Army, being placed in the Signals Corps, as
they were threatened on all fronts. Russia and East Germany were in
Mozambique and the Chinese and the Cubans in Zambia. They were fighting
a majority group which had many years of repressed anger and desires,
and who by then had some fairly influential neighbors! “We learned to
live with guns,” said Gerry. “You went to bed with a gun under your
However, he was also working as a financial controller during that time,
as well as the army duties, but when the Robert Mugabe forces won the
election, and took the reins of power, Gerry knew it was almost the time
to leave the land of his birth. He and his wife left Zimbabwe and their
home and went to South Africa, to start anew.
After five years there he did well, branching out on his own as a
business consultant and opening up another company, but the writing was
on the wall there as well. Political forces were making it such that
they knew they would have to abandon what they had achieved in South
Africa. Their next port of call was to go to the UK.
All through the interview, Gerry spoke very highly of his wife, who has
been a strong supportive force in his life. To acknowledge this, they
even renewed their vows while in the UK, and they remain happily married
after 25 years. “We do things together,” said Gerry, referring to his
They opened a pub in St. John’s Wood in London, after Gerry studied and
passed the certificate as an Innkeeper, something that was a
prerequisite before throwing open the doors. “It was the first time I
was on the wrong side of a bar,” said Gerry. He did not like it much
either. “It was all brawn and no brain. It was sheer hard work, and life
His wife suggested that they look elsewhere to live, to get away from
the wet British weather if nothing else. Australia looked interesting to
Gerry, but Australia was not interested in him, as he was over 40 years
of age. It was then that a friend suggested Thailand, a country that
neither of them knew much about, other than its rough geographical
location! Initially they came out for a month, looking at the
Serendipity happened, as he met Steve Graham who had just started the
security company ESC, dealing mainly with the hospitality industry, and
Gerry joined the fledgling company. During his tenure in the past five
years he has seen the workforce grow to 450 personnel and the scope of
ESC diversify into the management of housing developments as well as the
Obviously Gerry has to work in with the local Thai people all over
Thailand and he enjoys working across cultures. “You have to tailor
yourself (and your approach),” said Gerry. However this has been a very
pleasant and rewarding experience for him. “I have the pleasure of
living and working in Thailand. I love it here. I think I’ll die here.”
In fact he stated that he has no real ambition to do anything else
(other than ESC).
When I enquired about hobbies, he said he had three. “Work, work and
work!” However he did say that he enjoyed quality time with his wife,
and also a fondness for travel. “I’ve seen a fair amount of the world,
it’s another education. I’ve lived in Africa and compared that with
Greece. You learn to take things in your stride, and become tolerant.”
At the mention of Greece, Gerry’s eyes lit up. “It’s the magnetism that
draws you back to your roots. The food, the wines, the sunsets.” He may
have lived all over the world, but Greece is still his home.
Gerry does have a five year plan, but it is not really for himself, but
is more for the ESC company. “I want to see ESC expand and develop a
strong business. I want to see the Thai people learn from it.” Again
showing his concepts in cross-cultural relationships. “I’ll die
working,” said Gerry.
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