The Spy Who Loved Dubrovnik

Author(s): Olja Ljubišić Photographer(s):
Dusko Popov spends his childhood in Dubrovnik. Later on, he becomes the triple agent with bags full of money, great spy skills, and famous girlfriends. Sounds familiar?

It was just another night of tension, smoke, and gambling in Lisbon, the spy capital of WW2 when Ian Fleming saw Mr. Popov. In the company of ladies in smuggled shiny dresses, spirits and money, he was winning easily.

Some Lithuanian hot shot was bragging with unlimited stakes. Popov got tired of it, took out his bag of money and slammed it over the table. In shock, the Lithuanian retired without protest.

Almost ten years later, Fleming couldn't forget the fierce but cool foreign spy so he recreated the scene in his opening novel about James Bond - Casino Royale.  And how could he - the guy was nothing like the conventional German, British or Soviet spies. He loved the action, luxurious lifestyle, and beautiful women. We can't confirm if he enjoyed the dry martini too.

Who was Popov?

 Dušan Popov was born into wealthy Serbian family that moved to Dubrovnik when he was only a child. Having Dubrovnik as a playground, Duško got very attached to its streets, free spirit and intriguing social life. His son Mark will explain how Duško had many friends here and loved to play water polo. After college in Germany, where he met another world famous spy Johann "Johnny" Jebsen, he returned to Dubrovnik to open a law firm. In French documentary film about Popov, the author highlights how Popov always felt as Dubrovian and that the city cosmopolite character has a great influence in forming Popov as a word stage player.

Being a triple agent (MI6 code name Tricycle) with bags full of money, he really was an inspiration for world’s most famous agent James Bond. He was equally known for his great spy skills as well as famous girlfriends. One of them was ravishing French actress Simone Simon.

The whole world should know his name for two very important reasons.

At the beginning of WW2, Nazi Germany employed Popov and sent him to the United States to set up a spy network. Working actually for the Allies, he forwarded them all the money and never engaged any spies for the Third Reich.

Moreover, upon receiving German intelligence that mentioned an American navy base in the Pacific, with detailed information about the number of soldiers, ships etc., he went directly to warn FBI's J.E. Hoover of a possible attack. The information never reached Pearl Harbour.

But, his information about the Allied invasion of Europe did reach the Nazis. Listening to his tip, the majority of the troops, including the elite SS squad, were moved to Calais, ready to bounce back the inevitable hit. On Omaha Beach, some 400 km south of Calais, the Allies had, more or less, a free run to final victory, thanks to Popov.

For his contribution and bravery, he received the Order of the British Empire medal. In 1974 he published his memoirs “Spy, Counterspy”.

Maro Marušić