Seas of Change: Passenger No. 666, and Maiden Voyage of the M.S. SKAUBRYN ©2020 (Watercolour, 45.5 x 67.5 cm.)
Looking like any carefree tourist on the voyage of a lifetime, it is in fact a portrait of the man who would later become my father on his way to Australia.
Categorised as a refugee or ‘Displaced Person’ following his defection from Communist Bulgaria in 1949, Peter Mihailovich Kitanov, Passenger No. 666 traveled from Bremerhaven, Germany aboard the Norwegian M.S. SKAUBRYN.
According to the Solemn Mysteries of the Ancient Order of the Deep, Peter “crossed the line” of the Equator on the 19th March 1951 bound for Melbourne.
As a teen, I was neither close to my father nor interested in his stories of a world utterly foreign to me.
After traveling to Bulgaria in my 30s and writing my Honours thesis about him in my 40s, I discovered the man and made peace with my past.
Peter Kitanov was an interesting man with a fascinating story and I remain indebted to those who helped to unravel the mystery of a man I got to know better after death. My thesis proved personally cathartic – he wasn’t an easy man to live with, but the painting is a tribute to a brave and adventurous spirit.