Thursday, July 8, 2010

When Spies Go Back To Russia, Unhappily

You may have heard the news that high-level discussions have apparently been held between the United States and Russia about a spy swap for the 10 Russian spies recently arrested by the FBI.  Counterintuitively, that may not be welcome news to the Russian spies, however.

The Washington Post has a fascinating article today detailing the unhappy lives of Russian spies who were repatriated to the Soviet Union during the Cold War in similar spy swaps.  You can read it in its entirety HERE. But these are a couple of the highlights, with a little background first.

Morris and Lona Cohen were idealistic American communists from Brooklyn who first became Soviet spies during WWII.  They worked with another famous Russian illegal spy known as "Colonel Abel" in New York City until his arrest in 1950, at which time they managed to escape the FBI by fleeing to the Soviet Union.  They later re-appeared in London in 1954, as part of another infamous Russian spy ring, now pretending to be antiquarian book dealers from New Zealand named 'Peter and Helen Kroger.' There they worked with another Russian illegal named Konon Molody who operated in Britain under the alias 'Gordon Lonsdale,' a Canadian juke box dealer.  This spy ring was rolled up by the British in 1961.  'Gordon Lonsdale' was released in 1964, as part of a spy swap, and the 'Krogers' were swapped in 1969. All returned to the Soviet Union.

Here's the epilogue about their subsequent lives in Russia, according to this article today:

"After their release the Krogers lived as honored guests of the KGB at a dacha outside Moscow, refusing to learn Russian and declining all outside contact with their families in the U.S. or the Western media,' Nigel West wrote. 'While Helen Kroger's ideological commitment to the cause remained undimmed,' he added, 'Peter was evidently dismayed by the harsh austerity of life under a totalitarian regime and was especially critical of Leonid Brezhnev. In 1991 they broke their silence and consented to be interviewed for a Soviet television program, in which neither Helen Kroger's strong Brooklyn accent, nor her domination of her husband, seemed changed by the years.' She died in 1992, Morris in 1995."

"Similarly, the spy known as Gordon Lonsdale, swapped during the Cold War, turned morose after his own hero’s welcome. 'For Molody, life back in the Soviet Union was not a happy one,' according to an obituary in London's Daily Telegraph. He became 'particularly critical of the way trade and industry were handled,' according to another account. 'As a result he was given a post of minor importance and took to drinking.' Lonsdale 'died during a mushroom-picking expedition in October 1970,' his obituary said. He was 48.”

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