Sergei Kourdakov, a former KGB agent and Soviet naval intelligence officer, defected from the USSR at the age of twenty. A year later we met at my Federal Government office in Washington DC. We were watched and followed. “Even you could be spy,” Sergei whispered. My book, A Rose for Sergei, is the true story of our time together.
Tuesday, June 29, 2021
Monday, February 1, 2021
Author Dane Cramer released a video on January 1, 2021 about some of the mystery that surrounds Sergei Kourdakov.
The YouTube video The Mysterious Life of Sergei Kourdakov release date also coincides with the 48th anniversary of Sergei Kourdakov’s death. I hope readers will take a few minutes to check out Mr. Cramer’s video. As always, his work is informative and professional! It was a nice surprise that he included my book, A Rose for Sergei.
This past week the news has been filled with stories about Russian dissenter Alexi Navalny’s imprisonment upon his return to Russia, and how he wanted it known that he would not take his own life while in prison. Mr. Navalny’s words chilled me.
Forty-eight years ago I had heard similar words from Sergei Kourdakov as he implored me to listen to him — Sergei was calmly seated beside me as he tried to make me understand what could happen to a Soviet defector. I can still remember his somber face, the way he looked directly into my eyes as he spoke: “I would never take my own life. I would never do that. Do you understand why I am telling you this?” I fully understood all too well what he was telling me.
I’ll be on the lookout for Mr. Cramer’s next video where he discusses Sergei Kourdakov’s death.
That is where the real mystery begins.
Click Below for Video
Click Below for Blog Version
(Includes all Russian Interviews)
Friday, January 1, 2021
New Year’s Day 2021 marks the 48th anniversary of Sergei Kourdakov’s death. From what we’ve read in police and news reports there was one other person with him the night he died. The girl in the room with Sergei was seventeen-year-old Ann Johnson. It was only a few years ago, though, that I found out that Ann claimed she was Sergei’s “fiancée.”
I was surprised about her “fiancée” claim because it was contrary to what I knew. I went back and re-read a newspaper clipping I saved from The Washington Post — Slain Defector Buried Here dated January 12, 1973: [Ann was] a young woman with whom friends said he [Sergei] enjoyed a “brother-sister” relationship.
Sergei and I had planned to spend the Christmas holidays together with my family in Massachusetts. Everything changed when we found out that Sergei would not be allowed onto the restricted USAF base where my parents lived. After that disappointing news, Sergei made arrangements to stay with the Johnson family in California. Sergei had given me the Johnson Family home telephone number so I could call him on December 25, 1972. It is highly unlikely that Sergei would have given me (his girlfriend) the phone number of his “fiancée.”
I believe it was Mr. Johnson who answered the phone on Christmas day. We wished each other a “Merry Christmas” before Sergei came on the line. That was my only contact with the Johnsons. It was also the last time I ever heard Sergei’s voice.
Of all the questions that I’m asked after people read A Rose for Sergei, there is always one that comes up repeatedly. What about Ann? Hmmm, yes. My question exactly – what about Ann?
Questions from Readers
Was Ann Johnson at Sergei’s funeral?
Do you think Ann was really Sergei’s fiancée?
I’m pretty sure she was not.
Wouldn’t a woman attend the funeral of the man she loved and was engaged to?
I agree, you would think so, but Ann wasn’t at Sergei’s funeral. I was.
Have you heard from Ann?
Why do you think Ann Johnson hasn’t contacted you?
I don’t have an answer for that.
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Monday, December 21, 2020
I know many families who aren’t traveling for the 2020 holidays this year. Just when we thought there was an end in sight, the Covid-19 pandemic took an upswing, cancelling travel plans all around the world.
With Christmas just a few days away, and knowing I won’t be seeing all my family this year, I thought about a story I wrote in my writing group. The topic was: Describe Your Childhood Home. Now, more than ever, it seems like the right time to share this story.
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A House is Not a Home
Sit back in your chair, relax, stretch your legs out and get comfy while I take you on a virtual tour of my childhood home. Stay alert though… because there’s a lot to tell you about my parents’ house.
My earliest memories are of lots of sunshine, and a swing set in the back yard. I was four years old and had an older brother and sister, and a new baby brother. My father flew jets on the Air Force base, and my mother took care of us. I was too young to remember what the house actually looked like. It had a roof and rooms. But that swing set beckoned me daily to monkey climb all over it… that is until I fell and broke my arm. To this day I still remember staring at the bright lights on the hospital ceiling as I rolled through the halls on a gurney. Mom was at my side telling me I would be okay.
I remember days filled with laughter and picnics on white sandy beaches when I was six… exploring caves even though we were told it was unsafe to do such things. And the house had a roof and rooms. I remember with such clarity the night I couldn’t fall asleep and told my parents about the large moving dark spot on the wall right above my head. “Hush sweetie, go back to bed, it’s only moonlight shadows playing tricks on you,” Mom consoled. It was a good thing I was insistent and Mom and Dad came to check it out. When they flipped on the light switch in my bedroom they saw the biggest, meanest, ugliest black spider the size of a man’s hand just inches above my pillow. To this day my fear of spiders is off the charts.
By the time I was ten, I could draw you a floor plan of our house. The kitchen was long and narrow with plenty of room for family meals. The basement was open with space for toys. The ceiling in the living room was vaulted and there was a ton of room for us to all play. It was a good thing because I now have another younger brother and a baby sister. That brings our family to eight members. Holidays were like magic in our house and the laughter never stopped. Throughout the years, the aromas of home-made bread, cookies, cakes and pies always filled the air. And winters, oh how I loved the snow and ice skating with my family.
At age twelve, you start to see more than just rooms in a house. I suddenly appreciated the stunning views from the kitchen window and my bedroom window. Snow capped mountains in the fall and winter looked like paintings drawn on these windows. But they were the real thing. Even today when the wind whips through my hair on a cool fall day, I’m instantly taken back to family picnics in the mountains. As our family grew, so did the happy memories. And the love and laughter never stopped. Roasting chestnuts over an open fire didn’t mean roasting them in your living room fireplace though! We had to duck for cover and roll when those chestnuts popped open and shot out at everyone. It was just another Christmas filled with family fun times.
You look at your parents’ house differently when you’re a teenager. By now everyone is getting older, and growing taller and taking up way too much space. “Why does this house only have two bathrooms,” was a constant battle cry. And the house seemingly shrinks right before your eyes. But still, it is the same. Every birthday is celebrated with a special, delicious, home-cooked meal and Mom’s to-die-for German Chocolate Cake. Every Friday Dad prepared his famous hot and juicy hamburgers. I think his secret was throwing in a little bit of bacon grease in the fry pan.
I remember that the curtains were always pulled back in the house to let in the light and to take in the view of the surroundings. On the weekends, I loved to sit in the living room, cradling a hot cup of coffee in my hands, while talking with everyone. The view outside the wall of windows in that room was spectacular… especially in the winter time, when the pine trees next to the patio were covered in snow.
The house seems even smaller when I’m twenty-one. Life seems more hectic, for all of us, as we change with the seasons of life. But inside the four exterior walls of the house, the same familiar family routines continue and happy memories are made. This was the year we made the “Magical Christmas Show” movie. I was the magician, and stopping and starting the movie camera made that an easy trick to pull off.
Fall is my favorite time of year, so I would be remiss if I did not describe the huge wrap-around front porch at my parents’ house. Rocking chairs and a suspended porch swing decorated this area. There was plenty of room for everyone. This peaceful spot had become a favorite place to relax and share funny family stories. The rooms in the house are bigger now and joyous laughter fills the air. There is plenty of room in the house for all my siblings, their spouses and their children to run and romp.
Being raised in an Air Force family meant uprooting and moving every few years. Therefore, the house I’ve described is actually a conglomeration of eight different houses. Aside from the opening paragraph in this story, the other paragraphs each represented a different house comprised of the following locations—Arizona, Okinawa, Michigan, Colorado, Virginia, Massachusetts, Texas and finally Virginia again. I actually never lived in the last three houses I talked about. When I was eighteen I stayed in Virginia because I was already working full-time for the Department of Defense.
What I learned over the years from all these moves is that a house really is just a structure consisting of a roof, walls and multiple rooms. It is in fact the people inside those walls that truly make a house a home. And the two are very different. Home is a place filled with loving parents and siblings, happy memories, and treasured moments of life. A house is a place to keep your possessions.
My mother explained it this way. Her favorite saying over the holidays was, “All hearts go home for Christmas.” She was absolutely right… home is where your heart is.— Kolleen Kidd
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May Your Heart Go Home for Christmas This Year
Monday, August 3, 2020
Over the past few weeks I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing author George Yuhasz (via email) for my blog. My first post was about his award winning children’s book, Imagine That. The second part of the interview covered his Special Agent days when he met with Soviet defector Sergei Kourdakov. After all was said and done, I just had to ask him one last question . . .
Mr Yuhasz, what was your take on what happened to Sergei Kourdakov?
I have not drawn any conclusions about what actually happened to Sergei. I did not have access to police and intelligence files. However, my professional training and experience while working as a private investigator having looked into a number of suspicious deaths (Including Jimi Hendrix) does direct me to ask questions using different paradigms. In this case, the fraud triangle of motive, opportunity, and payoff is a useful tool that may be applicable. I hope this brief exercise illustrates my misgivings in regard to the Kourdakov homicide investigation and demonstrates that more could have been done to bring a true closure to Sergei’s death.
Was Ann Johnson the only person in the hotel room when he died?
Was Ann Johnson actually with Sergei when the gun discharged?
What was Sergei’s blood/alcohol level?
Did Ann and Sergei check in to the hotel together or did one or the other check in individually?
Were the occupants of neighboring rooms during Sergei’s stay interviewed?
Was the reception clerk interviewed?
Was the hotel reservation made my phone and if so, by whom?
Was the maid(s) who cleaned the room interviewed?
Were phone calls to the room and outgoing calls from the room obtained and checked?
What forensic tests were conducted in the hotel room, i.e. fingerprints?
What was the background and training of the coroner?
Was an autopsy or other examination/tests performed?
What was the degree of involvement of the Johnson family with the organization, Underground Evangelism?
During the time of Sergei’s death, the cold war was at a high intensity and the Soviet Union was acutely sensitive to criticism, especially from its own citizens. Threats and intimidation were primary tactics utilized to suppress dissent perceived to be detrimental to their world standing and future ambitions. Killing someone who the KGB perceived as a grave threat was always an option. Sergei has several major strikes against him. He was a notorious defector and had become a public figure openly criticizing the Soviet regime. Another was that he had been trained as a radio officer and had served aboard submarines and trawlers, both types of vessels employed for spying by the Soviets. Finally, his soon to be published book, the prospect of which would most certainly raise the ire of Politburo apparatchiks, loomed large.
Underground Evangelism ultimately profited handsomely from sales of Sergei’s book, published posthumously.
The local law enforcement agency initially handling the Kourdakov case seemed to come to a quick resolution of COD [Cause of Death]. Heavy caseload? Outside pressure?
GeorgeYuhasz is a former U.S. government special agent and contractor, and has worked in the private sector as a private investigator and security consultant. A graduate of American University's Schools of International Service and Government, he also holds a M.A. degree in psychology from the University of Northern Colorado.
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Once again, thank you George Yuhasz! Your detailed responses to my questions about Sergei Kourdakov are greatly appreciated. I also believe the investigation into Sergei’s death came to a quick resolution. Definitely, more could have been done.