September 1939 – the Letter

 

Welcome to the latest installment of the Schatzalp history blog!

I have managed to fall pretty far behind schedule, since the last entry dates from August, and this new one comes from September, but I guess it’s not really so important to match the 1939 dates precisely to the 2020 dates. At any rate, I think its well worth postponing the material from the 17 November issue of the Davoser Blätter in order to make room for a fascinating letter from Grand Duke Dmitri to his sister (Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna), dated 23 September 1939, and describing his arrival in Davos and his first two weeks at Schatzalp. It was written in Russian, with here and there a few words in English and French, so, for the sake of clarity, I have put the non-Russian words in italics. As with most handwritten letters, there are places where a given word is simply not legible, and I have marked those absent words with question marks in brackets.

It’s a long letter, and requires some commentary, so I have divided it into seventeen parts and placed corresponding notes at the end.

This is the first time the letter has ever been translated or published in full, so it is my great pleasure to be able to offer it as something original for visitors to the Schatzalp website! It was written on the sanatorium’s own stationary, with the imprint: “Schatzalp, Grisons, Suisse”.

Davos, 23 September 1939

1. My dear one,

God only knows when this letter will reach you, though it seems the Italian ocean liners are still sailing.

Now you know why I have sent you so few letters up to this point (or, to be truthful, none at all). I had the silly idea that it would be pointless, because things would have changed so much by the time a letter even reached you. But now I think it’s safe to say that the war will still be going on two weeks from now, and I’ll still be here in Davos, so nothing much will have changed.

I’ll begin at the beginning!

2. You have no idea how terrible I felt during those last few days in Paris, and the last two weeks in Torquet. But I tried as much as possible to conceal it. I hope I succeeded, at least somewhat. The only time I got scared was at night when I was alone and couldn’t help feeling sorry for myself. The worst moment was when Paulie left. I couldn’t stop thinking about the possibility that I might never see him again!!

3. Oddly, when the moment came for us to part from one another after dinner at Pauline’s, I was seized by that same feeling. It was actually worse — much worse — than what I had felt when I was going off to war [in 1914]. But then I was overcome by the resolve, stubborn and strong, to do everything I could to pull through! Still, resolve is one thing, and coughing up rotten, stinking, and weirdly cadaverous secretions (forgive me) every night when one is alone at home, is quite another thing entirely.

I was gripped by fear! Fear that the time had come to lay down my giddy head!!

4. And then again that strange and blind feeling, that the everlasting power of good will pull me through, if only I never leave for one second either to [?], or to let myself slip into a state of apathy and indifference!!!

Something of this sort was put in my soul by the Hindu doctor, I am sure! There on the Red Sea.

5. Thanks very much for your dear letter. It somehow reached me in only ten days despite the postal transportation challenge. It was open and and a bit disheveled, but it arrived intact.

After taking leave of you, I headed for the station, borne down by a frightful heaviness in my soul. “The General” concealed his agitation very poorly. The station was empty (just the opposite of what I had expected). Grünwald came to see me off.

It was jarring to see the sleeping car after all the worries of the past few days about whether the train would even be going.

The moment came to board. Grünwald came up to me hurriedly and, with a very red face, shook my hand. “The General” threw himself at me, kissed me on the shoulder, and, somehow managing to wave his hand, said: “My God, how can this be happening? If you need me, just write and I will come — on foot if I have to”. Then the train left, and I was overcome again by cold fear. I was leaving Paris. The figures of the General and Konstantin Konstantinovich grew smaller, and I asked myself — “How will it end? On the other side!? No!!!

Within ten minutes I felt calmer (Indian doctor), and was filled anew with the iron determination to do all in my power to pull through!!!

6. By the next morning we had already reached the station where one has to switch to the narrow gauge railroad that ascends into the mountains.

No one approached me at the border. No one looked at my luggage. It’s a pity that I didn’t bring my stereoscope [binoculars?].

7. 1 Sept.

The weather was splendid and, oddly, the altitude didn’t bother me at all and isn’t bothering me now, though it did bother me in the past. When I arrived in Davos I went straight to the Hôtel d’Angleterre. The news had already broken about the Germans crossing the Polish border, and it was horribly upsetting, because there could no longer be any doubt about Europe plunging into war — it was only a question of when the official declaration would be made, and that was clearly a matter of hours. There could no longer be any doubt that we Europeans had entered a new era, the end of which would be as difficult to predict as when war was declared back in July (old calendar) 1914 in Petrograd! The gathering at the Winter Palace and the patriotic ecstasy that prevailed there put us on the road to Alapaevsk — a frightful end.

8. Only during wartime have I seen a town as empty as Davos. It is, of course, the low season, but more importantly the Swiss Army has been mobilized, and so there are no men to be seen except the elderly, who pass the time here and there. The poor horses — they, too, have been mobilized, and since they were very scarce in Helvetia to begin with, they are generally not to be found now. I was nonetheless able to get a “droshky” from the station, but the horse was on its [?], and the coachman walked along side it!

At the Hôtel dAngleterre I received an exceptional welcome, because there were only two other guests in residence. At first the proprietor couldn’t understand what on earth I was doing there, but apparently he figured it out, because the next day he approached me with the cloying smile of an all-forgiving father, barely restraining his urge to slap me on the back, and said: “Don’t worry — I know everything, and tomorrow your room will be disinfected for an additional charge of CHF 7.50. For a moment I just stood there staring at him and couldn’t grasp what he was talking about, but then he pointed at his chest and said that he, too, had suffered from “la maladie”, but had recovered (everyone here uses the phrase “la maladie” — no one calls the damned thing by its actual name).

9. Imagine how I felt when I went to a hair salon later that day and the stinking barber said: “It’s a good thing you’re not sick (meaning he hadn’t heard me cough), because all the sanatoriums are closed, the doctors have been mobilized and the patients have all gone home!” That threw me into a complete panic. I spent the afternoon on the telephone, but, fortunately, my “sana” turned out to be open. I spoke to the doctor and arranged a rendezvous for the next day, Saturday, 2 Sept., at 11:30am.

10. The examination was really awful. The senior doctor (the one to whom Dr. [?] wrote about me) looked me over. He is a little Swiss man who, for some reason, speaks with an Italian accent — but he’s very nice.

It turned out that I was really very far — much too far — gone to be funny!

My admission to the sanatorium was arranged for the next day, Sunday, 3 September.

11. The sanatorium isn’t at all like a hospital but rather a large hotel. I have a big, south-facing room with arm chairs, a divan, and a wonderful bathroom. The view is truly glorious — huge mountains, already dusted with snow at their peaks, and Davos in the valley below, because we’re almost 900 meters above it, 1800 overall. The valley is covered with glorious green grass and little houses that look like toys — truly beautiful. The mountains are two-thirds covered with evergreen trees, and higher up with grass again. A dreary view is not to be seen anywhere.

In front of every room is a terrace (balcony), and these are very large. Each one has a bed [lounge chair] and other kinds of wicker furniture. We lie on these beds all day when the weather is good — for example, I myself am lying out on my balcony right now, just enjoying the day. There’s an electric cushion at my feet, and I’m wearing pajamas, a sweater, and also a dressing gown, because it’s nine degrees Celsius (five degrees Réaumur in our Russian reckoning). It’s terribly hot in the sun, but we’re not allowed to lie in the direct sunlight. Just imagine — sun exposure can cause tuberculous lungs to hemorrhage! And there I was in Monte Carlo during the summer — right under the nose of [Dr] Mikhailov.

12. On the day of my arrival, a nurse came to my room — a middle-aged woman with a mustache, who looks like a Russian nursemaid. She is my schoolmaster. It was 6:00pm and getting dark outside — time to submit myself to the regimen of the “Sana”. She immediately took my temperature. I felt well — better, at least, than I had felt those last few days in Paris. That’s because of the altitude. Imagine my surprise when I turned out to have a temperature of thirty-nine degrees. The sister herself couldn’t believe it, and tried a second time. But it was correct — thirty-nine! So that must be the temperature I was running during the previous 2-3 weeks, and that explains my horrible night sweats of the previous three months.

Evening came, and dinner was brought to me on a tray (the food is quite tolerable). Then, at 9:00pm, it was time for bed, and so began my first night at the sanatorium — the first night of my entire life in a hospital, because this really is a hospital, after all.

13. And fear gripped me once more — the fear that comes by night when I ask myself how I will leave this place and when. It was horrible, and I pitied myself, and Paulie — I was terribly sorry for you! I got out of bed and went out on the terrace. It was a splendid night, moonless but clear, and the irresistible desire to pull through welled up again and seized me with extraordinary strength! I went back into the room, fell to my knees, and thanked the one whom I call God for everything that had happened, for example, that I arrived here on the last train; that Grünwald was able to get me a visa at the last minute (without Konstantin Konstantinovich I would not be here in Davos); that this sanatorium is open while almost all the others are closed, that the doctors here were not called up!!!

So that’s what I gave thanks for, and I asked that that passionate, deep-seated drive to pull through should not be taken from me! It was almost mystical [??].

From that Sunday, 3 September, until now (a period of exactly three months), I’ve been lying, lying, lying on my back, and apparently will continue to lie for a long time. I get up only to take a bath in the morning, shave, and use the toilet. Here’s how I’m feeling now — I no longer cough, and clear my throat only rarely; I’ve stopped spitting, even in the morning (after ten years of having done so), and bringing up horrible secretions. Here they measure how much you spit, and for the first four days I was bringing up the maximum amount. I eat almost every three hours, and for the first time in my life I am hungry for breakfast — really hungry! On the third day my temperature was normal all day long, and so it continues. The pain in my chest is gone, and, since I almost never cough, the pain in my bronchi has also gone away. The senior doctor said: “I have rarely, very rarely, had the opportunity to observe a patient such as you. You have the constitution of a horse, and an absolutely phenomenal heart”. I must pull through, I wish to pull through — amen — mysticism!!?… And the doctor himself knows it — but officially speaks only about that horse-like constitution and extraordinary heart. As for the nurse with the mustache (for some reason she speaks to me in English), she said: “What a strange person you are — you could have been months here and not have done such progress”. I must pull through!

14. When I arrived at the “sana” they put me on a scale, of course, and I ended up weighing 60kg.700 in my pajamas. The first week passed, and I was called downstairs for a medical exam (one has such exams once a week). I was already much better, spitting less, etc. But I weighed 59kg.500. The doctor calmly remarked: “I thought so. I’ll come talk to you today!”

He arrived, and this is exactly what he said to me! When I first arrived at the sanatorium, I looked horrible (the doctor said all this). “I was just terrified for you. The disease was still in the beginning stage in the right lung, with something the size of a bullet hole, and the left had a cavity so big that one simply had to stare at and remove one’s hat. But in the course of one week you have made une cure remarquable”.

It turns out that I have had this disease for at least six or seven years. When a case has become as serious as mine it means that, over the years, the stuff I brought up every day (in the morning) infected me and woke up the microbes that all people have in their bronchi. And then one develops a secondary and very virulent inflammation (that’s why in London, and in April at the Mikhailovs’, I complained so much about pain in my bronchi on both sides), “So”, the doctor said, “we will give you creosote as a disinfectant” (even railroad ties are treated with creosote).

He injects me with it, and I also take three capsules of calcium per day by mouth, and receive some kind of calcium injections directly into a vein. And to fight the infection in my bronchi, they give me inoculations of auto-vaccine. Finally, for stimulating the chest, I get mustard plasters every other day, twenty minutes front and back. When I asked why I had lost weight here at the sanatorium, he took my hand and said: “It’s nothing. You’ll start gaining. The weight loss is normal. There’s a reason why the English word for this disease is consumption”.

As it turned out, at my second check-up a week later I had gained a kilo, and my chest was so much better, that he called in two assistants so that they could look me over too!!

15. So now it is glaringly obvious that I could not simply have gone to a hotel or a villa. For some reason I had the impression that the treatment consisted only of bedrest. But that’s completely untrue — the treatment is frightfully intensive, and I can’t help but think that, if my case was hopeless, they wouldn’t be poking and prodding me the way they are, but just letting me lie in bed.

To all of this I must add that I haven’t smoked for three weeks now, and since that is, from my ‘mystical’ point of view, part of the treatment, guess what? — it hasn’t been difficult at all, not at all, in fact, I haven’t even given it a thought! God be praised. They tell me that other patients here suffer terribly when they give up smoking — especially women and old men.

Well, so that’s everything. What a letter! Yes, what a letter.

Forgive me for talking only about myself and “la maladie”. But I’m all alone, and my only companion is my “maladie”.

Many hugs. God keep you.

Dmitri

16. I am jotting down what they are probably saying about me in émigré circles: ‘D. Pav. is out of commission. He is gravely ill and will be incapacitated for a long time. You can’t expect anything from him’. That’s probably what the Young Russia Party is saying.

17. Speaking with a joyful voice, as if it were entirely obvious — ‘And Dmitri Pavlovich! He went and got himself infected with tuberculosis! These Romanovs are all rotting from the inside’ (heard among the Vorontsovs and Sheremetievs). Question: ‘Where is Dmitri?’ Answer: “Haven’t you heard? He has tooo-berculosis!’ (Russian émigrés).

 

  1. Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna (1890-1958) was Dmitri’s only full sibling. She was eighteen months older than him, and by 1939 had been married and divorced twice. Her first husband was Prince Wilhelm of Sweden, and their son, Count Lennart Bernadotte, was the owner of Insel Mainau in the Bodensee, which is where the original letter now resides. At the time she received this letter, Maria was living in the United States.

  2. Paulie” — Prince Paul Ilyinsky — was Dmitri’s only child. His mother, Audrey Ilyinsky (née Emery) was an American real estate heiress. In September 1939 he was eleven years old, and was visiting his father in the South of France before returning to his boarding school in England. He had a high degree of exposure to TB through his father, but never developed the disease. As an adult he joined the US Marine Corps and fought in Korea. In later years he became the mayor of Palm Beach, Florida, and died there in 2004.

  3. In 1914 Dmitri was an officer in the Russian Horse Guards Regiment, and participated in the invasion of East Prussia. He was decorated for coming to the aid of a wounded soldier under heavy artillery fire.

  4. Dmitri had, for a very long time, been a student of New Thought philosophy, a kind of quasi-religious belief system that espouses the power of positive thinking, and is still popular under various names today. Unfortunately, I have never been able to find any details about his stay on the Red Sea or the identity of the Hindu doctor.

  5. The General” was Vladimir Wrangel, Dmitri’s personal assistant, not to be confused with the famous tsarist Russian general Pyotr Wrangel. Konstantin Konstantinovich Grünwald was a close friend of both Dmitri and his sister. He had a varied career which included diplomacy, historical writing and research, and journalism.

  6. The station where Dmitri transferred to the narrow gauge railroad was, of course, Landquart. It seems unlikely that the border agents would have objected to a stereoscope, so I wonder if the item in question might not have been a pair of binoculars. Under wartime circumstances, it seems possible that carrying binoculars would have been regarded as potentially suspicious.

  7. The Angleterre was a “sports hotel” in the English quarter of Davos. Readers of this blog will be familiar with it from the frequent dances that were held there. The building stood on what is now the site of the Congress Center; The German invasion of Poland began early in the morning on 1 September 1939; The “old” Julian calendar was used in Russia until 1917. At the time of the 1st World War it was thirteen days behind the “new” (Gregorian) Calendar; When war was declared in Russia, the Imperial Family appeared on the balcony of the Winter Palace in a show of unity with the ecstatic crowd gathered below. Dmitri expresses his opinion that there was a direct line connecting that event to the downfall of the Romanov Dynasty in 1917, and the execution of his aunt (Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna), half-brother (Prince Vladimir Paley), and three of his cousins (Princes Ioann, Igor, Konstantin Konstantinovich) in the town of Alapayevsk on 18 July 1918 (one day after the Tsar and his family were shot in Yekaterinburg).

  8. The Proprietor’s story was a very common one — many former sanatorium residents stayed on in Davos after they were discharged, working in various trades and professions, and sometimes starting their own businesses. The fumigation fee, which Dmitri clearly had not foreseen, was surprisingly high. Patients could stay at a luxury sanatorium like Schatzalp, with food and medical treatment included, for around CH15.00 a week at that time.

  9. Reading between the lines, we can infer that Dmitri’s decision to go to Davos truly was made at the very last minute, and under fraught circumstances. He came alone, with no set appointment at Schatzalp, just assuming that the sanatorium was open and would agree to receive him. With his personal assistant and private secretary left behind in France, he had to make all the arrangements in Davos himself. There is likewise no mention in any of his Schatzalp letters or diary entries of a valet or manservant attending him while he was there. The barber’s claim that all the sanatoria were closed was clearly untrue, though I’m sure some were. On my next visit to Davos I plan on looking into that claim.

  10. Dr Gustav Maurer was a larger-than-life presence at Schatzalp and in Davos. A man of humble background, he had gained renown as a brilliant thoracic surgeon, and was paid a substantially greater salary than any other doctor in Davos. His outsized personality and overweening self-assurance alienated him from many of his colleagues. In September 1939 he was still in his mid-forties (slightly younger than Dmitri), and was married to an aristocratic Belgian woman (Marthe) who had been his patient at the Guardaval Sanatorium in Davos and followed him to Schatzalp, divorcing her husband so she could marry him. After leaving Schatzalp under a cloud in 1951, Maurer started a private clinic in Zollikon, and died there only a few years later. The claim that he spoke with “an Italian accent” is somewhat mysterious, since he was not from the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland, and may have been a misinterpretation on Dmitri’s part. The two men spoke to one another in French.

  11. When I first read Dmitri’s words about sun exposure causing lung hemorrhages in tuberculosis sufferers I was surprised to say the least! It has always been my understanding that sunlight was an important part of the pre-antibiotic rest-cure, and I don’t think I am wrong about that. Indeed, if I am not mistaken, both the location and design of Schatzalp were chosen, among other things, for their maximal exposure to sunlight. So I guess it was a question of degree — anyone who has ever lounged for very long in the direct sunlight on a Schatzalp balcony will know just how intense it can be, even in the depths of winter! It’s easy to believe that patients were warned against that level of exposure, if only as a matter of common sense. But what about the underlying theory of a specific danger to the tuberculous? I had simply never come across it before, until, that is, I recently discovered a fascinating old book called “The Plague and I”, a memoir of American author Betty MacDonald’s stay at a sanatorium near Seattle in the 1930s. MacDonald wrote: “According to the Medical Director, exposure to the sunlight is very dangerous for pulmonary tuberculosis, except under medical supervision. He warns us against sunbaths, even sitting in the sun without a hat, says it increases our temperatures and pulse and I suppose sends the germs whirling through our blood stream. That, I suspect, would be dismissed nowadays as absurd, but apparently it was common practice in the sanatoriums of that time, even in places like Seattle, where the sun tends to peek out from between rain clouds. Go figure!

  12. On the nurse with the mustache, and the rumor that she was a male bodyguard in disguise, see the article about Grand Duke Dmitri on this website. Russian nursemaids would mostly have been peasant women, hence practical, no-nonsense, and down-to-earth. I can’t resist including another quote from “The Plague and I”, in which Betty MacDonald describes an equally prodigious nurse (perhaps every sanatorium had one): “Miss Muelbachs thick, gray, hairy legs looked as if they had been driven into her shoes and when she walked she stamped and the stands and tables jumped around like tiddlywinks. Her skin was oily and swarthy. She was also big and strong and when she made beds with one of the smaller, weaker nurses, the covers would be tucked in four feet on her side and wouldn’t reach the edge on the weak nurses side”. Of course, Dmitri does not mention anything about the mustachioed nurse being especially big or strong, and I think it is safe to say that she was not his bodyguard, both because he had no need of such a person, and because he did not hire her himself. She was clearly an employee of the sanatorium.

  13. Dmitri’s ecstatic state as he fell to his knees that first night at Schatzalp would seem to be a classic example of the so-called “spes phthisica”, defined by the Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary as a state of euphoria occurring in patients with pulmonary tuberculosis”. American author Katherine Ott (Fevered Lives: Tuberculosis in American Culture Since 1870) provides a more expansive definition, writing that spes phthisica typically included “heightened creativity, constant hopefulness about recovery and the future, buoyancy and euphoria, and an increased sex drive”. For the public at large, who had mostly never heard the Latin phrase or its medical definition, heightened sex drive was the primary stereotype associated with tuberculosis. Betty MacDonald wrote: “Like everyone else, I had heard that people with tuberculosis are characterized by over-optimism and a great sex urge. From my limited experience I had found that people with a great sex urge are usually over-optimistic but I hadnt learned why it characterized tuberculosis”. The Magic Mountain likewise portrays the patients of the Berghof as largely over-sexed and uninhibited, and Hans Castorp experiences a kind of ecstasy when he is first diagnosed with TB. Dmitri, for his part, did have a lady friend at Schatzalp (Mlle Rosalia Termini from Palermo), but I do not know if the relationship was physical; In our own day, masks are rightly considered the first line of defense against exposing oneself or others to the Covid-19 virus. TB, too, is spread by droplets in the air when an infected person coughs, but instead of wearing masks, those diagnosed with tuberculosis were told to carry little glass bottles with them everywhere. These flasks, called “Blauer Heinrich” because the glass was typically blue, supposedly protected the patient by allowing him to spit into a container instead of swallowing his own infection-laden secretions, and protected the public who might otherwise inhale the bacillus in the form of dust released into the air when infected sputum dried up. In truth, however, the concern about dried sputum was misplaced, and masks would have been very much more effective!

  14. Creosote treatment for pulmonary tuberculosis began in the 1870s, but its popularity lasted only about forty years. It was known to have antiseptic qualities, and in Dmitri’s case was used to treat co-morbid staph and gangrene infections in his lungs; Calcium treatment, in the form of milk consumption, was ubiquitous in TB sanatoriums all over the world. In early years, before the sanatoria had come into existence, it had been the cornerstone of TB treatment in Davos, with patients sometimes even directed to sleep in barns with the dairy cows! This is, however, the first reference I have seen to calcium treatment via injection or tablets; I believe the “auto-vaccine” to which Dmitri refers was tuberculin. Heralded by Robert Koch in 1890 as a cure for tuberculosis, tuberculin not only failed to achieve that goal, but sometimes even caused worsening of the disease or death. It did, however, continue to be used therapeutically in milder form, for instance, Hans Castorp receives tuberculin injections in The Magic Mountain, with the hope that it will reduce his persistent fever. Its real usefulness, however, turned out to be not therapeutic but diagnostic. Injected into the skin, it produces red welts in those who have been exposed to the TB bacillus.

  15. Hans Castorp, of course, smoked cigars with an almost religious zeal at the Berghof, and even believed them to have some health benefits. By 1939 the doctors certainly knew better, but apparently the practice was not strictly prohibited at Schatzalp, though patients were strongly encouraged to give it up. Unfortunately, Dmitri’s self-satisfaction at having so easily rid himself of the habit would prove to be premature; The embracing of tuberculosis as a kind of “companion” was not at all a rare phenomenon. Herr Settembrini, in the Magic Mountain, recognizes with alarm that Hans Castorp is particularly vulnerable to that phenomenon. Betty MacDonald, after her relatively brief nine-month sanatorium stay, was amazed at how difficult it was to end her self-identification with the disease. To the chagrin of her family, it was all she wanted to talk about for weeks after she returned home. That attitude had, to some extent, been fostered by the doctors and nurses at her sanatorium, who wished their patients to shut out the outside world and focus entirely on their health.

  16. The Young Russia Party, to which Dmitri belonged, was founded in France in the 1920s by Alexander Kazem-Bek, who came from a prominent Russian family with some Persian ancestry. Kazem-Bek dreamed of overthrowing the Bolshevik government in Russia through a nationalist revolution and establishing a “socialist monarchy” in its place. Some historians believe he was a Soviet agent working secretly within the Tsarist Russian community abroad, but he was more likely simply a ‘fellow traveler’. He was arrested in France during WWII and was held for about a year. Upon his release he immigrated to the US, where he was under constant FBI surveillance. Eventually he defected to Soviet Russia, leaving his wife and family behind in the US. Dmitri was very close to Kazem-Bek for a while, and made speeches for the Young Russia Party throughout France. Before leaving for Schatzalp, he entrusted his Cocker Spaniel, “Sugar”, to the Kazem-Beks, who took the dog with them to America. By 1938, however, he had already become disillusioned with the party, and realized that Kazem-Bek was more of a quixotic figure than a brilliant political organizer.

  17. The Vorontsovs and Sheremetievs were prominent aristocratic families who played an influential role in the Tsarist Russian émigré community, and Dmitri assumed that they and other members of the community blamed him for falling ill with tuberculosis, associating the disease with a weak character, bad personal habits, dissipated behavior, and/or heredity. Long after the TB bacillus was discovered, such prejudicial thinking stubbornly persisted. Katherine Ott writes: “A Gallup poll in 1939 indicated that many people had their own ideas about tuberculosis. Whereas 18 percent of respondents believed that germs were the cause of tuberculosis, 64 percent believed it developed from a rundown or malnourished condition, exposure to inclement weather, or hereditary factors, and 52 percent responded yes when asked if it was inherited at birth”. Was Dmitri correct in believing that his friends and acquaintances took such an unenlightened view of his fight with tuberculosis? Some Russian monarchists at that time were simply frustrated by the relative passivity of all the remaining Romanovs, and insofar as Dmitri’s illness forced him to be inactive, they could not resist putting some of the blame on him. One such individual (Nikolai Vakar) wrote in his diary (6-10 November 1939): “Dmitri Pavlovich has throat tuberculosis. He is receiving treatment in Davos. He sits in his armchair all day, and has gained 7 kilos. He has given up smoking and is on the mend, but he isnt contributing anything to the cause. He thinks of nothing but his throat affliction (Mireille Massip, La vérité est fille du temps: Alexandre Kasem-Beg et l’émigration russe en Occident, 1902-1977. Interestingly, Mme Massip visited Davos many years ago as part of her research into the life of Kazem-Bek, who had spent a year at a Davos sanatorium as a child). Vakar’s information about Dmitri was, of course, not completely accurate since he (Dmitri) was suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis at that time, and spending his days in a lounge chair rather than an “armchair”.

 

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