The writer Graham Greene was an MI6 colleague of the double agent Kim Philby. A few years after his 1963 defection, Philby started writing to Greene. ‘They exchanged views and discussed political events,’ recalled Philby’s wife Rufina, ‘Neither of them in any doubt that their letters were being read by the authorities at both ends.’ In 1986, Greene was invited to the USSR by the Soviet Union of Writers. A meeting between Greene and Philby was arranged by Genrikh Borovik, the President of the Soviet Peace Committee. Rufina said Greene greeted her with the words, ‘I am feeling so shy.’ After the first visit, Philby wrote to Greene:
‘While the memory of your visit is still fresh in our minds, I am writing to tell you how much we appreciated it. Rufa said, without any prompting from me, that the three days we spent on and off together were among the happiest in her life. As for myself, I find myself suffering from an acute attack of the esprit d’escalier: so many questions I wanted to ask, but didn’t, so many things I wanted to say, but didn’t. Well, you can’t bridge a gap of thirty-five years in a few hours, Zut alors!’ 9-24-1986.
Rufina Philby wrote about their reunions in her memoir:
‘Five months later, in the snows of February, Greene came back to Moscow, this time without Yvonne, to participate in a Forum styled “For a Nuclear Free World and the Survival of Mankind.”
He came to dinner. I stood waiting for him at the curb-side watching the passing cars. Greene stepped straight out of his Chaika into a pile of snow on an uncleared patch of pavement. We picked our way carefully along a narrow path which had been trampled in the snow, me in the lead, Greene following, gingerly attempting to walk right in my footsteps and gripping my hand hard as his city shoes slipped and slid. In the end, I delivered him safe and sound into Kim’s embrace.’
The Private Life of Kim Philby, Rufina Philby, with Hayden Peake, and Mikhail Lyubimov, St. Ermin’s Press, 1999.