Vila Welles in Primosten 


When visiting Croatia five years ago I posted a story about some days in 1972 when I stranded for almost a week with a group of friends in the town of Primosten by the Adriatic Sea.
Now I am back in Primosten, 51 years later.



In 1972 we stayed at the beach outside of town and slept there at night in our sleeping bags. We bought food and other supplies in the village located on a small island connected by a narrow road to the mainland. Everything was inexpensive and we had a good time while we waited for our car to get fixed.
One day I went to the post office to buy stamps for some postcards I had written to friends and family at home. In Yugoslavia of 1972 the post office was the nerve center for all communication into and out of the country and you had to go to the post office to make long distance phone calls.
As I was standing in line, I noticed a corpulent gentleman in one of the phone booths. He reminded me a lot of the American film director Orson Welles who was one of our great heroes at the time.
When I came back to the beach I said to my friends, “By the way, I saw Orson Welles at the post office”. They all laughed at me, and Michael said: ”Are you sure it wasn’t Santa Claus?”
Of course, it was not Orson Welles that I had seen. What would bring the great film director to Primosten, Yugoslavia, of all places…? We dropped the idea and did not give it a second thought.
Now I know that it was in fact Mr. Welles I saw at the post office.



In 2018 I ran into a large sculpture of Orson Welles in the Croatian town Split. It was created in 2007 by the artist Oja Kodar, who for many years was attached to Welles as his close cooperator and partner.


Kodar was an art student in Zagreb when Welles met her the first time in 1962. He was in Zagreb to shoot the Kafka film “The Trial” and Oja Kodar’s parents were friends of Welles’ cameraman Edmond Richard.
Welles was unwanted in the US and often visited Yugoslavia during the 1960’s. He was working on several film projects and Oja Kodar was his assisting script writer and had roles in the films. Welles spent a lot of time in Split, and around 1970 – I read earlier this year – "he and Kodar bought a villa at Primosten just up the coast, which served them as both holiday home and writing retreat throughout the Seventies".
Wow, I thought, when I read this. In 1970 Welles and Kodar bought a house in Primosten and they had the house together until Welles died in 1985. [Jonathan Bousfield: "Awesome Orson" on]
Welles was in Primosten and it was in fact Orson Welles himself I saw at the post office that day in July 1972. Too bad I did not get to exchange a few words with him. At the time I had seen many of his films, from “Citizen Kane” and beyond. I might have supplied a few questions or comments.
Last time in Croatia we passed Primosten in our rented car but did not make a stop. This time we are here for three days, and now I am keen to see the house that Orson Welles and Oja Kodar had together.


Kodar is 83 today and kept the house until five or six years ago. From online photos in connection with the sale I have managed to locate the spot. The address is Sibenska 25, and it is only a 900 meters walk from our Ivica apartment at the Primosten Beach.


The walk along the ocean and uphill to the top of the cliff and along the Sibenska street is very hot, but we make it. We reach the Vila Welles and I take a few photos.




The gate and the door to the garden in front of the house are locked and marked PRIVATE. But a sign on the door and an original stone plate on the wall mark that this is VILA WELLES.



Behind the gate an impressive bronze bust of Welles made by Oja Kodar is placed in front of the house. The bust stayed with the house when she sold it a few years ago.


From the sales process I have seen a 25 minute video on YouTube showing the inside of the house including five separate apartments, several impressive terraces and private access to the sea at the bottom of the large property. There is no beach, just rocks, and of course a ladder to the water.



We stay by the house a few minutes, and I send my regards and best wishes to Orson and Oja and to my fellow travellers back then in 1972.


August 19, 2023