Another ‘Russian connection’

It is also surprising that in his letter of yesterday Calderon did not mention Captain Fitzgerald, with whom he had shared a hotel room at Ypres. This ‘full-blooded Irishman, black and hairy’ had, we presume, accompanied George to Dunkirk with his injured foot. As Kittie confirms in her memoirs, George got on very well with him. One might have thought, then, that in Dunkirk Fitzgerald lifted his spirits.

Calderon and Fitzgerald had obviously talked of many things, because in his letter of 15 October George writes that Fitzgerald has ‘a Russian-descended Interpreter cousin with the Colonel, named Alexis Gunzberg. I find he is a connection of Baron Gunzberg, Diaghilev’s accomplice. Fancy Fitzgerald a cousin of quelque Baron!’. The Baron referred to here is Dmitri de Gunzberg, who played a murky part in the arrangement of Nijinsky’s marriage that led to the latter’s dismissal from Ballets Russes in 1913.

Just to remind followers, the Surgeon-Major of the Blues, who had helped George with his back problems when he arrived at Windmill Hill Camp in September, was the brother of Bernard Pares, with whom George and other Russianists had worked in setting up the School of Russian Studies at Liverpool University in 1909.

Today, Saturday 24 October 1914, Calderon shared a compartment with five doctors on a transport train travelling towards Ypres. They seem to have got out in the afternoon at Steenwerck, about nine miles from the Front, and gone on to the village of Nieuwkerke by tram. Here George ‘spent the night comfortably’ on a straw mattress in the ‘big loft of a tavern’. The place was milling with soldiers.

Next entry: 25 October 1914

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About Patrick Miles

I am a writer who specialises in Anton Chekhov and is writing a biography of George Calderon.
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