Saturday, March 6, 2010

Kim Philby's Granddaughter Shares Her Memories

The British newspaper The Independent has an article today by the 28 year old granddaughter of infamous Cold War spy Kim Philby, which you can read HERE. In it she reminisces about her grandfather as she visits his grave in Moscow.  Kim Philby, of course, was a decades-long spy for the Soviet Union despite rising to senior positions in MI6.  After being confronted with conclusive evidence of his treachery, Philby fled to Moscow in 1963.  There he lived out the remaining 25 years of his life in unhappy exile until he died in 1988. He  was buried in a special cemetery for Russian dignitaries on the outskirts of the city. 

The article is pretty long.  So I'll excerpt here four of her revelations that I thought were the most interesting:
  • "Despite the number of times we visited Kim in Moscow, no one in the family was ever allowed to have his address. In those days, correspondence had to be sent to a PO Box; and in his reply, Kim would sign off under a special code name, 'Panina' (a combination of Pa and Nina, the alias used for Kim's wife)."
  • "Like my father, Kim had amazing stamina for drink... But neither was entirely impervious. On one occasion, when dropping us off at the airport, Kim and my dad were so sloshed they were shoved into a cupboard under the stairs with a bottle of vodka by staff to keep them quiet, while the British ambassador ambled around the main terminal building waiting for the same flight to London.
  • "Grandpa's flat is almost exactly as he left it: 'After Kim left, I didn't want to change anything,' Rufa says. 'It is an old-fashioned home, not like the homes of new Russia, where everything is modern and imported.'... Kim's library, which he had shipped over soon after he emerged in the Soviet Union, is testimony to his complexities and to his contradictions: across four walls of bookshelves, Russian classics and key Communist texts stand side by side with Raymond Chandler and PG Wodehouse novels; there are 19 volumes of Cambridge Modern History and a Sherlock Holmes scrapbook. One can hardly overlook the irony of a man who so resolutely betrayed his country, surrounding himself in his Soviet apartment with British condiments, newspapers and light-hearted English classics."
  • "Just five years ago, my mum and I were refused service in a shop in Arizona on account of the name on our credit cards." (I'm a little skeptical about this one myself.)
If you're interested in this part of Kim Philby's life, in 1999 his Russian wife Rufina published a  fascinating memoir detailing Philby's troubled life in Moscow after his defection titled The Private Life of Kim Philby: The Moscow Years, which you can buy on Amazon HERE.

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