14.05.1956 – 05.11.2021
Adapted from the eulogy read at the funeral of Br. Nikola Popovik.
We thank God for Nikola’s life and remember him for what he was—a truly lovely person: generous, righteous, positive, with a great sense of humor, caring and always putting others before himself.
Nikola was born into a happy family. Both Nikola and his only sibling, his sister Olga who is six years younger, were born in Skopje, the capital of Republic of North Macedonia, at the time part of Yugoslavia. Nikola was the first child and the first grandson in the Popovik family, thus was named after their grandfather Nikola, respected and known in the community among other things, for establishing the first intercity bus transport in Macedonia in the 1920s.
Nikola’s extended family in Skopje was large as both parents had five siblings each. At childhood birthdays there could easily over 50 guests, all family.
Nikola was an exceptionally intelligent, hardworking, and creative person. His father Dragoljub Popovik, a chemical engineer and professor of Organic Chemistry at the University in Skopje, and his mother Rada Popovik, a pharmacist were role models to both Nikola and Olga.
Nikola trained as a chemical engineer. After finishing his degree in chemical engineering, he also completed an additional Master’s in biotechnology, investigating the qualities of different types of Macedonian-grown apple species. His first job after finishing his degree was at a chocolate factory in Skopje, where his changes to the production process improved the work conditions for the workers as well as the product quality. After that he worked in a chemical/pharmaceutical industry where he was involved in complex chemical analysis ensuring product quality.
Nikola decided to emigrate to Australia after his father passed away in 1987. He came to Australia in 1989 alone, with no family or friends to welcome him here. Everything was different: climate, culture and values. Soon, however, Nikola got a job at Victoria University of Technology, as manager of the biotechnology lab.
In 1991, the war in Yugoslavia started, and Nikola was concerned about the safety of his family there, because of the possibility of the war spreading to Macedonia. He invited them to Australia, and his mother took up the invitation. Nikola and his mother got on well, and when she became ill, he looked after her until she passed away in 2000.
Nikola was very good at keeping in touch, even though he lived on the other side of the globe. He would visit most of them when travelling to Macedonia. He tried especially to be there for his sister Olga, particularly after their father passed away.
Nikola loved the outdoors. He lived near a mountain/hill in Skopje that was 1060 meters high. In the spring, summer and autumn months, on Sundays, he would climb to the top sometimes with friends, often with his cousin Vladimir, and sometimes his sister Olga would also come along. He cycled long distances in Skopje, even to work; he continued to go on walks and cycle here in Australia with his friend Chris and a few other colleagues and friends from Victoria University.
In everything he did, Nikola was like that: once he decided on something, there was nothing that would stop his determination. He always put others before himself. Even when he was very ill he was worried about how we all were. For those who were ill, he looked for ways to help and support. Nikola was a calm and patient person. He loved people and was there for everyone.
Soon after Nikola came to Australia, he became a Seventh Day Adventist, and his mother also joined the church. Some time later he became connected with the SDA Reform Movement. He was a faithful supporter of the fledgling church in Werribee.
Always an avid student, Nikola would often have something to say about what he was studying in the Bible. Knowing the truth was important to him, and he was constantly searching for new insights.
Nikola was a great fighter and fought fiercely against his illness, since the day he was diagnosed. He remained positive and had faith. Nikola was operated in 2018, and several times he had different chemotherapy treatments, but he also tried all recognised therapies as immunotherapy, integrative medicine therapies, as well as many herbal therapies. In 2018 Nikola had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, which typically only gives the patient only 3-4 months to live. Nikola’s fight gave him three years, but unfortunately not longer.
Nikola’s close friends Alida, Geoff, Miguel and many others have been a huge support to him. They were his family here supporting him in both making important decisions and in practical things. During his illness, his friends regularly came by to see him or phoned to talk to him and check how he was. Whether it was taking him to hospital, making soup, shopping or discussing things, they were there. He was surrounded by love and care.
Although living far away, many kilometers away, Nikola and his sister shared a closeness up to the last moment. The talked together regularly, and in the last 4 years of his life since he became ill, they spoke every single day.
A close friend Aleksandar, originally from Macedonia, now living in Wollongong, stayed for 6 months with Nikola to support him while Nikola was on chemo. Gina and Georgi from Canberra, his cousin Vladimir and wife Violeta, and his nephew Ognen from Skopje were great support too. Their love and frequent calls several times a week meant a lot to Nikola, especially during his illness.
During his illness Nikola met Valentina and Zoran who became his and my friends, through whom he learned about many of the therapies. In the last few weeks before Nikola passed away, Valentina came to see Nikola every day. She talked to him, brought food and looked after him. On the 5th November as Nikola was not answering Valentina’s calls, her husband Zoran came to Nikola’s house and found that he had passed away.
Olga last spoke to Nikola on the 4th of November. They were both excited and happy that she had been granted permission to travel to Australia to visit him. Unfortunately, it was not to be. He passed away only few days short of her arrival.
Nikola’s state had deteriorated rapidly over the last two or three weeks. He fell after he had dropped his car off at a garage that is nearby to his house. He was taken to hospital where he was kept for a couple of days. On his return home Nikola had to have oxygen 24 hours a day, and his condition deteriorated rapidly over the course of only two weeks. Alida, his close friend who has been a great support throughout Nikola’s illness, told how unwell and weak Nikola looked after coming back from hospital.
Nikola will remain missed and loved by many people whose life he had touched. Family and friends here in Australia and back home in Macedonia will miss Nikola very much.
We echo the words recorded by the prophet John, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.” (Revelation 14:13).
We are indebted to Br. Nikola’s sister Olga for much of the detail in the above life sketch. Olga currently lives in Denmark with her husband Jens and daughter Sofia.