Obituary: Liliana Brisby
Saturday 28 November 1998
She was born Liliana Daneva in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1923, into an eminent family closely involved with the history of Bulgaria following its emergence from Ottoman rule towards the end of the 19th century.
She was the great-granddaughter of the first Prime Minister of Bulgaria following the Congress of Berlin in 1878 and her maternal grandfather, a noted benefactor in Bulgaria, was part of the three-man delegation which toured Europe in 1886 to find a king acceptable to the great powers, successfully choosing Ferdinand of Saxe Coburg-Gotha who ruled for 31 years.
Her paternal grandfather held the posts of Prime Minister and Foreign Minister before the First World War, her father was a diplomat and her mother a renowned concert pianist and beauty. Liliana inherited a strong sense of purpose and duty from her family, charmingly tempered by good looks and an earthy sense of humour.
She completed her studies at Lausanne University during the Second World War, publishing a work of history on Russo-Bulgarian relations in 1945. In Lausanne she met her English husband, Michael Brisby, a civil engineer, marrying and moving to England in 1946. After a short period as a concert pianist, she began her career as an Eastern Europe specialist when she joined the BBC World Service broadcasting to the Communist bloc during the 1950s.
From the World Service, she joined the Foreign Office's Information Research Department (IRD) where she worked until joining the Royal Institute of International Affairs in 1971. Here she edited its monthly journal, The World Today, from 1975 until her retirement in 1983.
As a specialist on Bulgaria, she contributed sections on the country to the Annual Register of World Events in the 1970s and in 1983 published The Truth That Killed, which was her translation of the edited broadcasts of the Bulgarian dissident author Georgi Markov, murdered in London with a poisoned umbrella in 1978. Markov's broadcasts on Radio Free Europe exposing the comic absurdity and corruption of the dictatorship of Todor Zhivkov are widely assumed to have led to his assassination.
In her books, articles and occasional book reviews for The Spectator, Brisby always displayed accuracy, moral principal and a fine command of language. Despite her good looks and very feminine character she was not easily flattered and shocked the late Robert Maxwell by manfully resisting the campaign of phone calls and roses with which he sought, unsuccessfully, to persuade her to write the hagiography of Todor Zhivkov for a book he was publishing profiling Eastern European leaders.
After the collapse of Communism, Liliana Brisby was thrilled to return to her native Bulgaria for the first time since leaving before the Second World War, entertaining both old friends and new contacts with her energy and humour. She never wallowed in the sentimentality of the returning emigre and she delighted local journalists in the Balkan mountain town of Troyan when they asked her what single thing had made the most vivid impression on her in Bulgaria after an absence of 50 years. She replied that it was undoubtedly the medieval state of the lavatories.
Rada Liliana Daneva, writer and broadcaster: born Sofia 2 February 1923; married 1946 Michael Brisby (died 1965; two sons, one daughter); died London 30 October 1998.
arts + entsThere were towering ideas, some scintillating performances and revelatory grooves... our writers pick out their personal highlights
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
elephant appealPrince William signs up for our charity appeal
peoplePrepare to be entranced by worms as the molecular biologist gets ready to give the Royal Institution science lectures
elephant appealSo says man jailed for cutting off dead elephant's tusks
booksWe examine the best titles for teens
voicesPeople moan that Christmas is too commercial, the spirit lost. But it is a time to over-indulge, and always has been, says DJ Taylor
scienceResearchers teach border collie to understand sentences using more than 1,000 words
booksA Christmas story in six parts
travelWill high-value tourism help the workshops of this Renaissance city?
food + drinkA trifle without custard? Surely not! Nonsense – and here’s three to finish your festive meal that prove it
Geoffrey Macnab does not like the comedian's big screen debut
Arts & Ents blogs
Heavy rain and years of 'benign neglect' may have caused Apollo Theatre roof collapse
Christmas TV guide 2013: Look beyond the usual shows for the best festive telly
Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
Justin Bieber isn't retiring from music after all
The publisher who played with fire: the battle for control of Larsson's £30m legacy
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
David Cameron takes his biggest gamble yet as he gets tough on Europe over immigration
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Top PR exec Justine Sacco under fire for sending racist tweet before flying to Africa
Anachronistic and iniquitous, grammar schools are a blot on the British education system
- 1 Top PR exec Justine Sacco under fire for sending racist tweet before flying to Africa
- 2 French pub fined €9,000 after customers returned empties to bar - because it's 'undeclared labour'
- 3 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 4 The publisher who played with fire: the battle for control of Larsson's £30m legacy
- 5 Police seize possessions of rough sleepers in crackdown on homelessness
- < Previous
- Next >