Waugh’s Christmas in Yugoslavia: 1944

Waugh spent Christmas in Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia, where he was sent after Belgrade fell to the Russians and Partisans. This is the 75th anniversary of that holiday celebration. He had to travel via Bari in Italy and arrived a few days before the holiday. He reports the event in his diary (pp. 602-03):

Mass in the Franciscan church at 8 and communion: a bright cold day. […] Cocktails with a group of proletarian officers at HQ. Luncheon alone. After luncheon Rolf Elwes’s son called on me. [Jeremy Elwes, nephew of Simon. Farmer, director and patron of the arts.]  Sleep. Dinner alone. A letter from Nancy and a dubious looking cheque from Randolph for the Bible bet. Nothing from home. Dinner alone and bed.

He answered Nancy’s letter (dated 12 December) the same day it arrived and elaborated somewhat on his situation (Mitford /Waugh Letters, pp. 8-13):

I have escaped from your cousin Randolph and am now on my own in the Pearl of the Adriatic which looks a little less pearlish with the renaissance facades daubed with communist slogans in red paint. I have spent a solitary Christmas which next to having Laura’s company or the few friends I can count on the toes of one foot, is just as I like it. I dined alone sitting opposite a looking glass & reflecting sadly that the years instead of transforming me into a personable man of middle age, have made me into a very ugly youth. […] I went to a cocktail party of officers and there was not one who was not purely proletarian. It does not make me any more sympathetic to the partisans though. The partisans are celebrating Xmas by firing off all their ammunition under my window. My nerves are not nearly as steady as they were before my harrowing life with R S Churchill…

He also expresses his disappointment that she has not mentioned his Christmas present of the advance copy of Brideshead Revisited. He commented: “…although I know it will shock you in parts on account of its piety, there are a few architectural bits you might like.” His anguish is soon addressed when her next letter (written on 22 December) offers her fairly detailed and mostly positive comments on the novel.


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