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.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Honesty is Key

I was shopping in a grocery store in my neighborhood recently.  When I was at the checkout counter the sales clerk made an inquiry about the store.  I gave a truthful opinion, good and bad.  The sales clerk didn’t expect that type of reply and paused for a second.  “Honesty is key,” he finally said with an easy smile and a slight shrug of his shoulders.  That phrase really caught my attention.  I liked his response.  I like honesty.

I sometimes think honesty has flown out the window for many people.  Untruths, half-truths, and fudging the truth seem to have become an acceptable norm.  Hiding behind a computer screen makes it easier to say things you wouldn’t ordinarily say if you were speaking to someone in person.

There are some people who do not believe Sergei Kourdakov wrote honestly in his book, The Persecutor.  I have no reason to not believe him.  I have always considered myself to be a pretty good judge of character – probably because of my upbringing, possibly because I was on my own at such a young age.  When Sergei and I were together we talked in person.  He was very direct and forthright and I trusted him completely.

I would have known if Sergei wasn’t honest.  I would have been able to tell.  I would have seen it in his eyes when he looked at me.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

I have always been fascinated by the phrase, truth is stranger than fiction.  I think that is because there is always an unexpected element of surprise and a feeling of . . . did that really happen?  For example, I could never have imagined meeting Sergei Kourdakov.  But I did, and our lives were forever changed. 

In my forthcoming book, A Rose for Sergei, I talk about our time together during the last few months of his life.  While writing, I often stopped and asked myself, did this really happen?  It still seems unbelievable even after all these years.

Below is an excerpt from my draft of A Rose for Sergei. 
“At the end of the day I jumped into my Mustang that was parked in my reserved spot in the basement garage.  Another perk of not working at the Pentagon, I didn’t have to hike in a half-mile or so each morning from the North Parking Lot in all sorts of hideous weather.  I looked over at the bucket seat next to me where Sergei had just been seated a day ago and exhaled deeply.  Wow, was all I could think.  I drove on auto pilot as I made my way home from Rosslyn, taking route 110 towards the Pentagon and then veering off, passing the Pentagon on my left and Arlington Cemetery on my right toward Columbia Pike.
I always took a quick look at Arlington Cemetery as I passed by, thinking that if one could choose a final resting spot that I would choose the exact same beautiful section I stared at every day on my way home.  Truth really is stranger than fiction.  That exact spot I stared at every day would many years later become the final resting place for my beloved Mother and Father.  It was as if all those years of staring at the exact same location had somehow secretly etched their names into the earth, reserving that section in Arlington Cemetery for them.”
* * *
My Father will be laid to rest with full Military Honors in Arlington National Cemetery at the exact location I stared at more than 40 years ago.  He will join my Mother who preceded him in death.
Colonel Edward W. Kenny, Jr., USAF (Retired)

My Father was a career Air Force Officer and Fighter Pilot who served in WWII, the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam.  In WWII he crash landed his plane after sustaining some 64 holes in the airframe from ground fire.  He walked out of the smoldering wreckage with a broken back.  In 1954 he won the Bendix Air Trophy Race, flying the F-84 Thunderstreak and setting a world speed record of 616.2 miles per hour.  My Father suffered heart failure at age 89.  He was and always will be my hero.

High Flight
by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
 And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
 Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
 of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
 You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
 High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
 I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
 My eager craft through footless halls of air....

 Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
 I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.
 Where never lark, or even eagle flew —
 And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
 The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
 Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Monday, June 10, 2013


Richard was a friend I was dating before I met Sergei Kourdakov.  One Friday evening we were driving on the Capital Beltway on our way to dinner.  Forty years ago the beltway was merely a four-lane divided highway that looped around Washington DC.  Back then it seemed more like a garden style parkway with its huge span of green grass separating both sides of the road, unlike the super highway it is today. 

Richard and I were talking and laughing as we drove until we spotted a car in the opposite lanes of the highway leave the marked pavement.  The disoriented driver maneuvered his car onto the wide green span of grass that separated the asphalt lanes.  The driver was surely intoxicated because it was a suicide mission to try a U-turn on a high speed highway.  And Richard and I were in his path.

I tried to slide my body into the corner of the front passenger seat to brace for the impact.  We were going to crash into the oncoming car and it was going to be bad.  I was sure we would all die and I was frightened beyond belief.

At that split second before impact, before what I thought was death, I closed my eyes.  My thoughts were of my Mother, Father, and of my brothers and sisters.  I remember thinking about how much my Mother would miss me if I was gone and I asked God to help her.  In that split second my entire life flashed before my eyes.  It was like a picture slide show at light speed.  I saw all of the people that I loved the most.  I felt the car spin and then we stopped abruptly.  I felt no pain.  When I opened my eyes all I could see was blinding bright light.

There was no impact.  There was no collision.  This was not possible.  Before I closed my eyes I saw the drunk driver whip in front of us, just inches away from the front of our car.  Richard’s racing experience took over at that point.  He stopped his car on a dime by hitting the brakes and forcing the car to slide into a 180 degree spin.  We were still in our lane but now facing the oncoming traffic.  The brilliant light I was seeing was not The Light after all.  I saw the headlights of all the other cars that managed to come to a screeching halt.  We were slightly dazed and confused by the enormity of the situation, but Richard managed to turn the car around and we drove on our way.  The drunk driver had disappeared and was nowhere to be seen.

On Saturday afternoon Richard drove back to the scene of the almost-accident.  He pulled off to the side of the road and walked around to get a clear view of the skid marks.  What he saw was nothing short of a miracle.  He said the skid marks from both cars almost intersected. There was no way we could have avoided that accident.  I told him it wasn’t our time, someone was watching over us.  I never told him about my prayer or about the part where I saw my life flash by in an instant. 

As time passed, when I thought about the last second of Sergei’s life, I wondered if his life flashed before his eyes.  In that split second before impact did he see the people he loved the most?  I wondered if he saw his Mother and Father.   I wondered if he saw me. 

Monday, June 3, 2013

Reluctant Blogger

You can imagine that if it took me 40 years to commit to writing a book about Sergei Kourdakov then the notion of starting a blog was a huge undertaking for me.  I reluctantly committed to blogging after my daughter convinced me that it was an important step that goes hand in hand with writing a book.  It is a way for people to know the author before the book is actually published.  And the author finds an audience.  It’s a two way street.  Truthfully, I didn’t think I could do either, write a book or a blog.  It was a surprise to discover that blogging pushed me to continue writing my book.  It was a twist of events I didn’t foresee.

I now understand the reason for blogging.  My blog gives me free rein to talk about thoughts and questions that come up as I write A Rose for Sergei.  Why is that important?  My book is written from my perspective when I was 21 because that is how I remember my time with Sergei.  So the book stays within that time frame.  My blog is written from my viewpoint today.

As I got further along with my book I saw things differently.  The pieces of the puzzle fit together in a way I could never have understood at age 21.  I am surprised at the number of coincidences that I never realized until I wrote everything down.  I told myself I was reading more into this than there really was.  Looking back all these years later, from an adult perspective, it makes me wonder . . .

Was it really just a coincidence that Sergei and I met?