Ljubica Erickson obituary

Other lives: Social worker and indispensable help to her husband in his academic work on the Soviet military archives

In 1943, Branko Petrović, a teacher in Kikinda, Yugoslavia, was arrested for helping the wartime resistance movement, and was executed by the Nazis, leaving a nine-year-old daughter, Ljubica. He could never have foreseen the life that his daughter, later known as Ljubica Erickson, and who has died aged 88, would go on to have. Nonetheless his tender care, especially after her mother, Antonia Wolfe, abandoned them, had a lasting legacy. Her world outlook was informed by her father’s Christianity, Marxism and wise maxims: “We are too poor to buy cheap clothes” was one she often quoted.

As a Slav, Ljubica had already experienced being defined as less human than Germans and Hungarians. She was intrepid, sourcing food for her household and confronting a relative to demand the return of stolen furniture and livestock. After her father’s death she was unofficially adopted by Branko’s lover, Milica Durić, a young widow. They remained devoted to each other for the rest of their lives.

From studying English at Belgrade University Ljubica won a scholarship to the University of Birmingham. In Britain, she met John Erickson. They were married in 1957, settling in the 1960s in Edinburgh, where John became professor of defence studies at the university.

The fact that his wife had been liberated by the Red Army helped John gain unique access to the Soviet military archives to produce his books The Soviet High Command (1962), The Road to Stalingrad (1975) and The Road to Berlin (1983). Ljubica was his first reader, editor, translator and sometime co-author. She was key to the Edinburgh Conversations, the 1980s roundtable discussions between Soviet and Nato military that are credited with helping end the cold war. The Ericksons’ home hosted many senior figures, generals, foreign secretaries, journalists and TV crews.

Meanwhile she also looked after her children, Amanda and Mark, and became a social worker specialising in adoption and fostering. She worked hard to try to make things as good as they could be for her children in sometimes difficult circumstances. Later, she offered unstinting childcare and love to all her grandchildren. Her Yugoslav identity remained important to her. As a cook, she was a Yugoslav Elizabeth David, serving delicious “peasant” food. She was horrified by the war in the 1990s.

Ljubica undertook many community roles, at her church, the Scottish Arts Club, as a children’s guardian ad litem, as a historical tour guide for the Dalyell family’s House of the Binns in Linlithgow and the Georgian House in Edinburgh, and as a trustee of the charity Deaf Action.

John died in 2002. Ljubica is survived by Mark (my partner), and Amanda, and her grandchildren Milica, Jozef and Kathleen.

Sara Bragg

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Neville Masterman obituary
Other lives: Translator at Bletchley Park during the second world war and later an academic historian

Richard Pepper

06, Mar, 2019 @5:18 PM

Article image
Eric Richards obituary
Other lives: Eminent historian of the Highland clearances and of emigration

Callum McCarthy

25, Oct, 2018 @4:59 PM

Article image
Paul Addison obituary
Historian of British politics and society during and after the second world war

Jeremy Crang

04, Mar, 2020 @5:26 PM

Article image
Antonia Gransden obituary
Other lives: One of the foremost medievalists of her generation

James Clark

16, Feb, 2020 @5:23 PM

Article image
Gordon Leff obituary
Other Lives: Historian who specialised in a study of the thinking of medieval times

Peter Biller

05, Jun, 2020 @9:46 AM

Article image
John Prest obituary
Other lives:

Jeremy Burchardt

05, Aug, 2018 @2:20 PM

Article image
Mark Ormrod obituary
Other lives: Expert in Britain’s long history of immigration who helped to change the school curriculum

Sarah Rees Jones

16, Aug, 2020 @11:53 AM

Article image
Bill Liddell obituary
Other lives: Expert on the history of Essex

Sue Liddell

19, Sep, 2019 @1:56 PM

Article image
Polly Corrigan obituary
Other lives: Historian fascinated by the Soviet era

Jane Feinmann

31, Dec, 2019 @11:36 AM

Article image
Peter Kidson obituary
Other lives: Outstanding historian of medieval architecture

Nicola Coldstream

11, Mar, 2019 @5:35 PM