Diplomatic Career

But what does a young “man about town”, who has completed his studies in Jurisprudence to please his mother but who is uninterested in law as a profession, do to occupy his time, earn a living and have a “proper job”? Well, to occupy his time very pleasantly he continued frequenting theatres and also VITIZ (Higher Institute of Theatre Art where, from 1936, he was an Associate Professor), but to earn a living in a way that was acceptable to his mother, he began to work for the Ministry of the Interior, in the Press section. His contacts and his excellent command of foreign languages made him very useful when official visitors came from overseas. However, not only did he work for the Ministry in Sofia but, with his fluency in languages, he was recruited as official interpreter for the Bulgarian Army Symphony Orchestra and, in 1939, accompanied the orchestra on several of their overseas tours. He always used to say that his extensive knowledge of the classical repertoire was gleaned from having to sit listening for long hours to rehearsals!

Later, in the early 1940s, Petar transferred to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and it was in September 1942 that, appointed Legation Secretary in Rome, he made the long train journey from Sofia. It was à propos this train journey that he used to tell the story of how, finally, all those years of studying Latin had paid off since, as no one understands Hungarian, he found himself able to converse with a fellow passenger in Latin!

Despite the war, a diplomatic posting for a sociable and charming young man in Rome must have been a dream. Petar’s Italian carta d’identità, issued to him as ‘3rd Secretary Bulgarian Legation’ on the 2nd October 1942, shows a very handsome young man.

His knowledge of Italian of course made him very useful to the Head of Mission, Boris Altinoff. Petar was present at the meeting when the Bulgarian Prime Minister, Bogdan Filov, was received at the Vatican.

The progress of the war meant that after one year of Petar’s being in the post, the Allies began their push and the landings in the south of Italy meant that Rome would very soon be under attack. The 19th July 1943 saw the Allied bombing of Rome and on the 25th July there was held the Grand Council of Fascism at which Mussolini was dismissed. Diplomats were given certain options and it is clear from Petar’s passport that he had applied for visas (valid for one month and issued by the Hungarian and Rumanian legations – the then, of course, ‘Légation Royale de Hongrie’ and ‘Légation Royale de Roumanie’ – in Rome on 20th and 21st September 1943) which would enable him to return to Bulgaria.

It must have been a great challenge to obtain visas at this difficult moment. The alternative option was to re-locate the diplomatic mission to Venice. There was confusion all over Italy, yet it is clear from documents that the staff of the Bulgarian Legation transferred to Venice (hence Petar did not use the visas which had been issued for a return to Bulgaria). Unfortunately, as is well known, Bulgaria has always chosen the losing side…and internment was to follow. Released from prison camp he returned to Bulgaria. His diplomatic passport records that he re-entered Bulgaria from Rumania at Rousse on 26th October 1945.

It is worth bearing in mind that his returning home was governed by choice rather than necessity: he held to the belief that the post-September 1944 regime offered real promise of improvements for his country.

Upon his return to Sofia, therefore, he was to resume his position as Legation Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and it was in this interesting and busy role that he was to meet and interview a whole range of personalities from both East and West.

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