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2 December 2012

Ship of Blithe Spirits: President Tito, Dinners and Women


An amazing thing, the Gutenberg Galaxy: if it did not exist, it would have to be invented; but as it already exists it ought not to be left to decline for it has preserved so many things that, were it to be lacking or absent, we would be beings without memory, with out-and-out amnesia. That is how we can learn, from that compact Galaxy, if we take the trouble to do a bit of investigating, that Tito and Stalin’s grave incompatibility really first became evident in September 1944. That was when Tito made a trip to Moscow to hold discussions – to an accompaniment of the odd bite of food and a drop or two to drink – on how, and under what conditions, the Red Army was to conduct itself when fighting in Yugoslavia, given that the Soviet troops were by then ante portas as it were, all but knocking on the door. Tito addressed his host as Comrade Stalin, the latter his cherished guest as Walter, which was Tito’s earliest cover-name in the Comintern, and of course the fare set on the table was much more splendid than savoury nibbles. Especially noteworthy was a huge star of carefully moulded red caviar as hors d’oeuvre, followed by salted sturgeon, vast lashings of pickled cucumbers, and a continual flow of vodka. This was succeeded by a kind of Georgian goulash, then roast chicken Kiev with a tart mushroom garnish and mashed potato, not forgetting, of course, a spicy cranberry sauce. They had not even got to the heavy Georgian wines when the atmosphere froze on Stalin’s suggestion that Yugoslav partisan forces should be placed under Soviet command, or indeed that Tito might enter negotiations with the nationalistic Chetnik guerrillas, who by then represented deadly enemies in his eyes. In order to get his way, Comrade Stalin, hardened souse that he was, got our dear Walter so hammered back at the private dacha that the latter threw up into his shirt sleeve. Tito was unable to sleep a wink that night, with his mind constantly running over something and his legs threshing wildly around under the eiderdown. The next day, when the plane took him back to Vojvodina, flying over Attila the Hun’s former stables on the way, then on to the airfield at Vršac where he disembarked and before long, on seeing the Soviet troops cross into Serbia along the Romanianborder and pour into the country as if it were already their own, he flipped his lid. He knew that he would never forget that dinner with Stalin, a repast which would give him a permanent gut-ache. And that he hated Asia.


When Satan finally decided that Comrade Vissarionovich had done his fair share in this vale of tears and should be taken to his own sulphurous dacha, Josip Broz sat down at his own favourite table in Petrovaradin Castle (his own biggest “dacha”), with Novi Sad and the Danube in the corner of his eyes, uncorked the bubbly, a genuine champagne at that, and raised his glass. Even without a word passing his lips, everyone knew for what the toast was being made. When the glasses were drained, Tito had another round poured out. It was then that someone quietly asked to whose health the glasses were being raised this time, to which Broz with a good-natured twinkle in the eye said no more than: “Franz Josef!”


In vain was this toast recorded, analysts – not even Vladimir Dedijer, his biographer – were never able to fathom why he said those words at that particular time and place. The president then sent out to the kitchen a summons for his favourite Hungarian cook – a deft woman who a few years previously, on Tito’s personal orders, had been pulled off a train carrying deportees of the Hungarian minority back to the homeland at the end of the Second World War – sat her down beside himself and gossiped with her at length in the Hungarian tongue, out of which his aides understood barely a word, not that that bothered Tito in the slightest. That evening they dined on golden pheasant soup and pancakes filled with cream cheese and heaps and heaps of raisins or with ground walnuts, doused in fly-trap syrup for good measure. Walter found it hard to stop stuffing them in, so sweet-toothed was he that evening. He finally horrified the others with the suggestion that he would quite fancy a stroll around the dungeons as a constitutional, but, having gone off that idea in the end, he slumped back in his armchair, puffed on his cigar and, casting a look about him, his brow suddenly darkened:

“Why is there such a big hush here? Has someone hanged himself in grief?”

At that very moment a hush – perhaps the biggest of all the silences in all the chapters of their modest book – truly did fall over the company, which was followed by a slight stir at the door: someone hastily slipped out along the red-carpeted corridor while Josip Broz abstractedly blew blue-tinged smoke rings in the air. The musicians scurried in as if they had just jumped outside for a quick pee.

Strangely enough it was precisely in 1956 that a temporary thaw in Soviet–Yugoslav relations occurred – the year in which Hungary made a desperate attempt to throw off the Russian yoke (“pull itself out of the Muscovite cesspool”), which Tito, for his part, felt unable to support in all conscience. The most likely explanation was that he was never able to stomach the fact that when he was in trouble even the lowliest stinking-mouthed corporal in his next-door neighbour’s army had bawled at his squaddies, “Go castrate that lapdog of imperialism!” or, to use the technical term “geld” or, to keep it crude but simple: “kick his knackers” – which would be putting it mildly. On his memorable visit to Moscow in 1956, Josip Broz had in his retinue his subsequently sacked police chief, Aleksandar Ranković, as well as General Koča Popović, an outstanding Yugoslav politician whom deep Serbo–Croat antagonisms swept from the political scene in the seventies though as a student in Paris he had been a member of the Surrealist circle around André Breton. (Nothing odd about that, of course, if one thinks of Lenin’s early sympathies for the Dadaists.) The trip became a visit for burying the hatchet, with the parties making it clear – now in the language of flexibility – that while socialism naturally could take various routes, at its current stage of evolution, there was no question that cooperation between socialist countries must be founded on the principle of mutual goodwill, i.e. on a purely friendly criticism and exchange of ideas. Not a word about Faust-recht – the law of the jungle.

The Yugoslav president gave a much-praised speech before a mass audience of almost one hundred thousand in the Moscow’s Dinamo stadium, where he was showered with flowers. The chronicles relate that red caviar played a role at Khrushchev’s table as well, albeit not in any fantastic stellar form but on this occasion, like the chicken, in the form of appetising small pieces of liver stuffed with bacon as prelude to the main course of haunch of venison with the obligatory potatoes. Here the cranberry sauce slipped into the flan whereas the vinegar was retained solely for the salad dressing. Tito passed on the twelve-year-old Russian vodka but asked in its place – proof of his superb sense of humour – for some Georgian cognac, in a balloon glass, it goes without saying, and swilling it around in his parched oral cavity with the knowing air of an expert.

JOSIP BROZ TITO, A COMMUNIST WITH STYLE – that is what they thought of him in the West, the man whom Winston Churchill regarded as a friend, and not just in the cigar-puffing stakes. It was noted what a role Josip Broz displayed, at the dining table as well as at the negotiating table and just howmanyofthetoppoliticiansandcelebritiesonourplanethedinedwith. It was also noted how much he looked forward, and with so much pleasure, to the next feed. Enough at any rate that his puerile excitement was generally able to work his way through the most dour and dyspeptic guests. On the evidence of the photographs, even through Indira Gandhi, who could hardly have been a great fan of hunks of meat swimming in fatty gravy. Indira would sit blushingly at the table and in jocular good humour, a girlish frown on her face, and try to pin down those slippery little Croatian sour-cream dumplings on the plate with herfork.Or Queen Elizabeth II, for instance, who had been knocked off her royal British feet by čevapčiči meatballs and pljeskavica burgers, so much so in point of fact that, departing from custom – and overturning strict protocol – she gave speedy congratulations for the excellent dishes whose names she had not yet managed to gather.

It seemed that the the Queen showed much more readiness to overlook the cigar puffing of that legendary square-jawed Balkan countenance than that of Winston Churchill back home.

Historians record that it was following the breach with Stalin that Tito started to make ever wider-ranging trips across the globe with the manifest intention, needless to say, not just of nurturing long-standing alliances but also of cultivating new friends, and this travelling and playing the guest became just as much a passion for him as hunting had always been. One of his first journeys took him directly to celebrated Constantinople in a boat named the SS Galeb (Seagull) that was later to assume legendary status – a vessel that was purchased from an Italian banana shipper, converted into a minesweeper, then refurbished after going to pot. At a quayside table groaning from the weight of food, the preening Turkish foreign minister, Mehmet Fuat Köprülü – a descendant of the celebrated Albanian Köprülü family, several of whose members were grand viziers to Ottoman Turkish sultans of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries – was able to wave to him from afar over the sticky mountains of tufahije and baklava. A Turkish sabre inlaid with precious gemstones, looted from Damad Ali by Prince Eugene of Savoy’s troops after the battle of Petrovaradin in 1716, was Tito’s gift for the Turks. As a sign of his good intentions, he handed it over to his host, who accepted it with great joy, saying:

“Let us marvel at this masterpiece of the sword maker’s craft, and when our eyes have had their fill let us bury it for ever!”

Köprülü raised the sabre, everyone clapped and, after tucking the weapon under one arm, he too gave a single clap, at which one of his trusted men appeared and forthwith, took the falchion away, hopping in joy. What became of it, we never shall know. It seems unlikely it was buried; but then again… Following that, in Ankara the president of Turkey himself clasped Tito to his bosom; they talked for a while then went to dinner where, in a jesting mood, they compared their čevapčiči – the Serbian and Bosnian with the Turkish. Before that, however, they drank a liqueur prepared from Turkish flowers. Fortunately Tito had by then learned how, having downed the toast, the unnecessary and unwanted nth round might be declined with due diplomacy if the grog should not be to one’s taste. The dinner over, when genuine Cappadocian tobacco in golden snuff boxes was brought to the table, Josip invited Cemal Gürsel to visit Belgrade, Gürsel accepted and so the talking went on, with both feeling for a short while that they had managed to repair relations that history had so hideously loused up, and that, there and then, must have been an uplifting event of unalloyed joy. Truly. For two politicians who by pure chance happened, right then, to be sincere.

A case in point: in a more comprehensive chronicle of Yugoslavia’s history and the momentous historical significance generated by our stalwart leader’s great feasts, a whole chapter could be devoted to the splendid meals that Marshal Tito, devoted as he was to his expanding girth, tucked away with the heads of those nations that adopted the line of non-alignment. Friendship with the countries of Asia and Africa that lay outside the Communist bloc was a direct logical consequence of Yugoslavia’s own position, and it was maintained right up to the 1980s, when the non-aligned movement lost its sense as the bipolar world order began to falter. Belgrade had played such a major part in the politics of anti-colonialism and peaceful coexistence that in the early sixties it was chosen as the site to hold the first summit conference of the non-aligned countries. Josip Broz was on conspicuously close friendly terms with President Sukarno of Indonesia, as indeed he was with Gamal Abdel Nasser, so that from the standpoint of gourmandise, if not necessarily in terms of economic outcomes, Tito’s jaunt to Bali or the time in Egypt when he had the pleasure of hosting a visit by the stalwart president Gamal Abdel to the foredeck, and later the staterooms, of the Seagull.

At the table on the ship on that occasion was Miroslav Krleža. As one of Yugoslavia’s two greatest writers, Broz decided he would prefer to patronise him rather than the terser, more standoffish and squeamish Ivo Andrić with his weak stomach. Andrić only ever got invited over once for a bite to eat, and that directly after the announcement of his Nobel Prize in 1961. It may well be that Tito never even read The Bridge on the Drina, whereas he was a professed fan of The Glembajs. (Not that it had any bearing on the matter, but Andrić, as it  happened, was a native Bosnian born to a mother and father who were reputedly both Croatian, yet Andrić was widely considered a Serb.)

One person who spent just about the whole of his life serving Tito as a sort of food taster, a chemist by training, admitted that he would check out virtually every single bite as conscientiously as was possible, including from a toxicological standpoint, and only the top-quality “A1” foods were allowed through for consumption. In their day-to-day practice they were heavily reliant, first and foremost, on experiences that had been gained from the USSR as the Russian approach for guarding leading statesmen against poisoning seemed to be the most sophisticated from a practical point of view. According to the recently published historical edition of Tito’s Croatian cookery book, the front end of a table on Bali in 1958 – the place many regarded as the island of the Gods – was heaped up with a buffet comprising every imaginable titbit: squelchy shellfish, crabs with nipping pincers and cross-eyed squids, fried there, on the spot, to be swallowed after seasoning with a splash of lemon. Some even gobbled the seafood down live, but Tito did not allow himself to be taken off guard by that; instead he stuffed himself quietly with quail rolled in seaweed and Indonesian duck. Finally there was a multitude of tropical fruits, not least the countless varieties of ice cream, all polished off with an enormous glass of cold gin. To the best of Tito’s food- taster’s knowledge, Broz rejected food placed before him on just one occasion – a dish of Chinese sparrow at that. The atmosphere became distinctly frigid as a result, but Tito broke the ice by saying that he simply did not have it in him to eat the proletarian of the bird kingdom. Everyone had a good laugh, but all the same a slight blemish was left on the group photo. Sino–Yugoslav relations were only later normalised with an official visit of the Chairman of the Communist Party of China, Hua Kuo-feng, to Belgrade in 1978.

Josip Broz Tito rarely drank beer, and on the few occasions that it was placed before him it had to be Czech lager. Of all the geographically close nations it was with Czechoslovakia (and to a lesser extent Romania too) that he sought to cultivate ties. Friendship with Czechoslovakia was tainted to no small extent, however, by the fact that the Yugoslav head of state had for his own part, albeit unofficially, signalled his assent to the crushing of the democratic processes that were set in progress during the Prague Spring. Nothing of that kind incommoded the old pals act with the Romanians. Ceauşescu, who would be duly dispatched at the tail end of the eighties, counted as a frequent guest of Tito’s. Thus, in the very midst of the torrid unrest of 1968 he paid a visit to the island of Brioni where he discussed with his host the timely questions of bilateral relations, the ever more strained international situation and, not least, the progress of the international labour movement, after which they were still able to sit down at the dinner table. Invoking the strict diet he had been put on, Ceauşescu had his own chef cook his vegetarian food – grub that, judging by its external appearance, did not exactly look first class – and he only sipped squashes that he had brought along from home – through a red drinking straw. He showed all the more appetite for the hunting, shooting at anything that moved, at least while his plentiful ammunition lasted. After which he cadged some more cartridges from Tito.

Speaking of 1968, Tito ingeniously solved his own “Sixty-eight” problem without blood or too much smoke simply by agreeing with the malcontent students, standing alongside them and as if sticking a flower stem into their rifle barrels, hence rendered the event unworthy of any further note here.

Case in point No. 2, Josip Broz Tito was the first communist politician to pay a visit to the USA after the Cuban crisis. As he had never displayed much sympathy towards Fidel Castro, it was not difficult for Tito to do so. In Washington, John F. Kennedy tried to curry favour by offering mushrooms stuffed with goose liver, elk steaks, pineapple cocktails and, last but far from least, selected Californian wines. Among these was a bottle on the side of which was an embossed label commemorating the “father” of Californian viticulture. Tito already knew about Ágoston Haraszthy, the Budapest-born founder of the Buena Vista vineyards in Sonoma in the mid-nineteenth century, relaying the oft-repeated (and untrue) claim that he was born in Futak (Futog), in a part of southern Hungary that was now part of Tito’s Yugoslavia, to which Kennedy nodded with a smile and raised his glass to clink a toast. Their cordial exchange of views covered the general world political situation, the developments in Southeast Asia, rapprochement between America and Yugoslavia, and the irreconcilability of tennis with cigar-smoking. It was evident that Kennedy believed in America’s rectitude and virtue, and hence in its might, but he declined to ride the high horse with Tito, save for stating that it would be a great day indeed when America also came to Yugoslavia. This was followed by a short pause, as though they had run out of things to say to each other. It could be that Tito was reflecting on Jackie Kennedy’s bewitching beauty, and John on the rush of blood provoked by Marilyn Monroe’s smile, but that is hard to establish with any certainty at this distance.

Years later, Jacqueline went on a ten-day Adriatic cruise on which Marijan Kocković, painter, sculptor and great devotee of nude studies, took on the role of escort on Tito’s behalf. It is not out of the question that Broz himself was sneaking about somewhere nearby. What is known for sure is that at the end a dinner was put on for Elizabeth Taylor and the cast of Sutjeska, the 1973 film about the Second World War partisan fighters against the invading German and Italian armies, to which John F. Kennedy’s widow was also invited. It is well known that Jacqueline Lee Bouvier and Josip Broz maintained friendly relations even after she married the Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis.

Tito loved artists, the world-famous Ivan Meštrović was a frequent guest for instance, and also had a pronounced liking for actors – Orson Welles for one. It was actresses, Sophia Loren, for example, a more feminine version of Captain Jovanka Budisavljević, whom he adored above all. Tito was not the only one to be swept off his stocky legs by Sophia’s allures – so was everyone else with whom she came into contact in the course of her frequent visits. The full-blooded Latin won people over not just with her dazzling loveliness but also her directness and temperament. She was more than ready to put on a pinafore and join the kitchen staff in order to knead and roll out her own pasta just like mother had taught her in sun-drenched Italy, in the eternal city of Rome. On such occasions the labour of pummelling the dough would bring a flush to her fair cheeks, and the two shapely bosoms would veritably shiver as Tito stood beside her, sunglasses over his eyes – perhaps in order to make his spellbound gaze less obvious. Gina Lollobrigida, that other celebrated sex-bomb, also popped by so as to photograph Tito, and he was not slow in reciprocating: he too swiftly whipped out his camera to take a snap of Lollobrigida. For a laugh he cut an erotic rug with Josephine Baker, who in her early days in Paris had pranced around in a banana-leaf skirt, before serving her the garlicky dishes. Then there was the time that the husband of a Lollobrigida-type Yugoslav female singer began bellowing maniacally “That pig screwed my wife!” But he quickly piped down before being made fully aware of just who had screwed whom.

There is no knowing what compensation he received for his wounded male pride. Maybe the largest elephant tusk that our beloved president had ever bagged? There is little doubt, however, that it must have paid for a good few suppers.

Josip Broz Tito’s biographers, one after the other, assert that Tito loved film above all the arts. He paid frequent visits to the sets on which Sutjeska was being shot. Among male film actors, besides the aforementioned Orson Welles and John Wayne, it was Elizabeth Taylor’s fifth husband, Richard Burton (she was his second wife), whom he considered a true great, being enthralled by Burton’s 1956 performance in the title role in Alexander the Great. So when the suggestion was broached that Burton should portray him in Sutjeska, that majestic epic of the resistance movement, Tito agreed enthusiastically. The Burtons spent almost an entire month in Yugoslavia, a good part of it at Tito’s table, where the two men derived mutual pleasure in the odd Black & White on the rocks – a joy in which Liz herself was no slouch. She may have drunk less than them but she considered the ice as such to be de trop. Of course she continually excused herself on grounds of a sensitive throat and batted those deep-blue eyes of hers so innocently at Tito that no man alive would not have melted. Jovanka for her part got the creeps from them, though she tried to hide it, of course. Naturally she was much more taken by the looks of the charmer Burton, who, in reference to the favourite cocktail of the President’s wife, once dubbed the dark-haired Jovanka Broz, resplendent in her white dress, the fairest White Lady of them all. (A White Lady is three parts lemon juice, one of Gordon’s and one of maraschino, well shaken up.)

So now what? Well, it was common knowledge that Tito was prone to let any advice from his doctor go in one ear and out the other, a process in which Jovanka could only assist, which accounts for his regimen on the days when they dieted, when for breakfast he would polish off a large helping of scrambled eggs with bacon, then meat with ratatouille and grilled spicy sausage for lunch, and a lamb dish for dinner. Or else a beef dish for all three meals. On those days, needless to say, alcohol was strictly verboten, but with wine or without, with song or without, sooner or later, come what may, evening would come round. In May in the year of our Lord 1980, after an unbroken succession of sumptuous feasts the time came for that certain, and most probably by then exceedingly frugal last supper with just one slice of toast, no garlic, a sorry meal that no outsider was allowed to witness and on which we have already touched, as he cruised around the picturesque and picaresque Gibraltar of our broad Danube.

To sum up: a good many people take the view that Comrade Broz, who for all his hedonism lived to a ripe old age of 87, left behind a sizeable unpaid bill. Then there are those who think that those were the times when we all supped best and that even the sourest table wine is better than the low-fat skimmed-milk yoghurt that followed Tito’s banquets. The rich gravies were replaced by bitter medicinal herbs that were only intended for the plebs, of course, the broad masses. Ironically put: superbly stringy medicinal herbs.

When Josip Broz died the Blue Bird flew to Ljubljana to pick him up. Tito’s Blue Train (Plavi voz) was assembled back in the fifties, but ever afterwards the original set-up was subject to constant refinements, and virtually every guest of the Yugoslav head of state was given the chance to try it out. Alessandro Pertini, who was sworn in as President of Italy in 1978 particularly admired it and had a scale model of it made for him that he would often run his eyes over and play with a little before he eventually passed it on as a gift to Sophia Loren. The most opulently appointed coach of the train had blue as the dominant colour and it comprised four compartments: the saloon, a bathroom and two bedrooms. It is noteworthy that the bathroom was wedged between the bedrooms, the second of which belonged to Captain Jovanka Budisavljević as the first, it goes without saying, was by rights allotted to the Marshal. On the testimony of an anonymous eye witness who for years was employed as a cleaner on the train, the light little pink razor that Liz Taylor used to shave her legs travelled for a long time in the friendly bathroom, with its azure reminiscent of the sea. The person in question swore that this was so but was unwilling to reveal any more details. All that was produced was a snapped shoelace that had belonged to János Kádár, First Secretary of Hungary’s Communist Party.

The dead president in transit was greeted by a huge crowd in Zagreb and an even bigger one in Belgrade: floods of tears that lapped the knees, doffed hats and swollen eyes all around, and without any exaggeration it might be said that the weeping and lamenting carried up to the stars. All this, to say nothing of the whole funeral cortège with its host of distinguished foreign guests who at one time or another had dined at Tito’s table, slept in his hospitable beds, and now stood by his coffin, is manifest in the clips of newsreel films that nowadays have found a place on the internet. The one who lingered longest by the bier, placing a hand on the closed coffin in a flagrant breach of protocol was Yasser Arafat, that stooped son of Palestine with his battered face, thick lips and highly chequered career, who wept for almost a full ten minutes before he had to be led away.

Josip Broz Tito was laid to almost undisturbed eternal rest in Dedinje, Belgrade. That is the Serbian capital’s plushest residential area, the name of which means literally the Old Man’s Hill, because that is the etymological derivation of the word. On Old Man’s or Grandad’s or Old Gaffer’s Hill (on Grandads if the word is being used as a toponym). In the mausoleum known as The House of Flowers (Kuća Cveća). As the cameras did not record the final act of interment, the laying of the coffin to rest, the rumour later spread that most likely Tito “was not actually buried there”. Over the ensuing years the idea must have sprung to the mind of more than a few people that someone ought to check whether he really was there. And if anything at all was left of him, the whole lot should be tipped onto a rubbish dump. Or to put it less starkly: roll his bones down the hillside. The remains of the man who was not Croatian enough for the Croats but too Croatian for the Serbs.

It should be noted that nevertheless this has still not yet taken place right up to this balmy month of September 2007, though just as Stalingrad is no longer Stalingrad, Titograd is not Titograd but Podgorica in Montenegro (Crna Gora), inordinately proud as it is of its belligerent past. To say nothing of all the institutions, culture houses, barracks, squares, streets, avenues, nurseries, schools, etc. that were named after Marshal Tito, all trace of which vanished with the winding up of “Titoslavia”. Even in the Vojvodina, which previously always hailed the President with storms of applause, cascades of flowers, passionate kisses and swooning barings of the self. Where the portraits of Josip Broz disappeared from even the Turkish–Albanian–Macedonian bakeries and confectioneries, though it had seemed they could never ever vanish from there.

For years after Josip Broz’s death, at precisely five past three in the afternoon of every fourth of May the sirens would blare out all over Yugoslavia, the traffic would come to a halt in the streets, and every living soul would come to a standstill in honour of the unforgettable president – at least for that fraction of time. So it was for a good few years until that too became unfashionable. The critiques of the grandiose funeral that can be found on the Web nowadays span a fairly wide scale of extremes, but the bulk of the commentators – and evidently quite a lot of people are reasonably expert surfers of the net, and by no means all of them are youngsters – still have a positive view of the past decades of Tito’s Yugoslavia. There are still many people who mourn the man and speak of a golden age that is dead and gone, though it would be hard to tell how many of them in so doing are in fact bewailing the passing of the sweet bird of their youth. Still alive are some Methuselahs who were formerly resistance fighters and whose idolatry of Tito is unequivocal, though to add spice to the game the idolaters include some who were self-confessedly born after 1980 yet are quite capable of saying the nicest things about Yugoslavia when they can only have at best faint recollections of it. On the other hand, there is a minority who consider Yugoslavia to be a mere fantasy, a misunderstanding, some sort of slip on the stage of history, a fraudulent botch- up, and its president as too big for his boots, a spendthrift, an outright con artist, a bandit, nothing less than an evil-minded monster who ought to be condemned to forgetfulness as soon as possible and for evermore. Or if not forgotten then only in order for us to be able to keep a look-out so as to pitch any infant that even remotely resembles him straight into the deepest ravine. Yugoslavia likewise must never return!

It is with reference to such opinions, and to the post-Tito period in general, that a female chat-room participant recalls what marvellous things it was possible to eat in Yugoslavia; she for one had the best lunches during those times, and she adds (in relation to Broz):

“Proof of what a genius he was is the fact that he was able to keep a check on such a bunch of animals, so many asses. That was a mighty fine thing, and we give you our heartiest thanks, dear Josip.”

Someone else writes:

“We also thank you for the passport that we were granted back then which is now not worth the paper it is printed on. Toilet paper.”

Your humble chronicler in person, as a conscript soldier in the early eighties, did sentry duty at one of Tito’s (reputedly) seventy-something residences; to be more precise, the one on a hill near the town of Kranj in Slovenia. The president of Yugoslavia was no longer there, unless his dismembered body was indeed buried in one of the cellars of the goodly-sized building as the buzz in the barracks had it. But then again, it was also whispered that Broz had actually been a Russian and had spied for his Russian overlords all around the globe, with everything else being no more than an elaborate front that the whole world had lapped up. So, when he gave up his accursed/noble ghost his earthly remains were embalmed and sent to the Soviet Union, which is where Broz now rests in Russian soil besides his first wife Pelagija Belousova, in the city of Omsk, the place from which he embarked on his secret mission. (Josip Broz’s body lies a-mould’ring in the bellies of Muscovite worms… Or whatever his original name was.)


Translation by Tim Wilkinson




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