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.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

When No One is Watching

Each of us has unique qualities that make us interesting or attractive to others.  More often than not, we are automatically drawn to people with a good disposition or a fun personality.  Your distinctive qualities set you apart from other people.  Who you are, however, when no one is watching, is your true character.  Sergei’s true character was always there.  He just never had the opportunity to express it.  And when no one was watching, he planned a new life. 

Below is an excerpt from my draft of A Rose for Sergei.  (Sergei and I had just returned from a party with friends.  We were sitting on the sofa in my apartment in Arlington, VA.)

The soothing effects of the vodka and the late hour finally caught up with Sergei.  It was hard for him to even keep his eyes open.  He leaned over towards me and rested his head on my shoulder.  He was barely awake but he mumbled slightly to ask me if I would call a cab for him.  I reached over and stroked his hair gently off of his forehead, away from his eyes, as I spoke.

“Hey, I’m a little worried about you getting home safely tonight.  You can hardly stay awake.  I’m even concerned for you to take a cab back into Washington DC.”

“No, do not be concerned for me.  I will be okay,” Sergei replied.

But I was concerned for him.  He was so tired.  He looked like he could drop off into a deep sleep any second.  He might not find his way back, even in a cab.  I shivered involuntarily thinking about it.  I hated the scary dark parts of the city.  “Maybe it’s better if you stay here for the night.  You can stay on the sofa and take a cab back in the morning.”

“No, it is okay.  I will be okay.  I am just tired.”  He sat up then and looked at me rather sternly.  “I can take care of myself.  Do not be concerned about me.”

Somehow I felt that my offer to stay on the sofa sparked something in him, even irritated him a little.  He managed a slight smile though as he explained why he needed to leave.

“It is necessary for me to return to the Christian Fellowship House tonight.  I am guest.  If I do not return they will think something happened to me.  I do not want to cause them concern.  They are very kind to have me as guest.”

“You’re right, I understand.  They would be concerned if you didn’t show up.”  I reluctantly called a cab.  I admired Sergei’s conviction to be considerate of his hosts at the Fellowship House.  He didn’t want to cause any alarm if he failed to show up.  It said a lot about his sincerity and his character, and I respected that.  And I loved how honest he was about everything.

I saw Sergei’s true character. 
I was watching.

Monday, August 19, 2013

What is My Style?

The waiting game is in effect . . . again.  I have already endured the two month wait for my manuscript, A Rose for Sergei, to be cleared by the Federal Government for publication.  Everything was approved, as I stated in previous posts.  Now I am waiting for my editor to wade through my book and make the necessary changes.

The first words back from my editor were:  Your.  Sentences.  Are.  Too.  Short.  Sometimes.  And sometimes you runeverythingtogether.  But then again, she said that maybe short sentences are my style and she doesn’t want to change that.  My editor is adding a lot of commas to the run-on sentences, which seems like an easy fix, but requires a lot of extra rereading.
My style!  What is my style?  I have never attempted to write a book before so I really don’t have any awareness in that area.  I believe a writer’s style is just the natural way you express yourself and it is unique to each individual.  All I can say is that, after 40 years of not ever talking about Sergei Kourdakov, all of the words tumbled out onto the pages when I finally started writing this book.  That explains the run-on sentences.  And I will admit that I like short sentences for emphasis.
My daughter, Laura, is my editor.  She is a writer/editor and I trust her to do an excellent job.  The roles are reversed, and now the child is the teacher.  Now I am anxiously waiting for the editing to be completed.  And I have become an advocate for the comma.  

Apparently, you, can, never, have, too, many, commas.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Wimps Need Not Apply

I mentioned in a previous post* that I had a sense of adventure and I thought it was one of the qualities that Sergei was attracted to.  When Sergei Kourdakov and I met I was working in a division of the American Forces Radio and Television Service in the Washington DC area office.   (*You Have to Let Go – April 17, 2013)

Writing about being adventuresome, however, reminded me of an incident many years ago when I worked as a secretary for the US Marshals Service.  It was a great place to work; the US Marshals were a very dedicated group of people.  I loved it when I saw tourists in the Washington DC area wearing t-shirts that proudly proclaimed, “I’m in the Witness Protection Program.”  I found that slogan to be incredibly funny.  I only worked for the US Marshals for a few months though because the division that I worked for ended up relocating to a larger building and I, unfortunately, was not able to move with them.  The move would have tripled my commute time. 

One particular memory from the US Marshals Service still stands out to this day.  I was carrying papers into the Director’s office right at the very second a section of his window cracked.  A few small fragments of glass flew out from the large wall of windows behind the Director’s desk.  I stopped just inside the door in time to see the Director drop from his chair to the floor behind his desk.  He shouted for me to get down but I had already followed his lead.  I was on the floor before he even called out to me. 

From behind his desk the Director said that a gun had been fired into the room.  He called out to me to turn off the lights since I was kneeling inside the door near the light switch.

“I’m not standing up to turn off the lights,” I called back.  It sounded like a dumb idea to me.

“NO, DON’T STAND UP!  Just slide your hand up along the wall and turn the lights off.  Stay down,” he warned me.

My arm slithered up along the wall and I fumbled for the light switch while remaining in a crouched position.

“Stay low and back out of the office, away from the windows,” he said.

I backed out to the safety of my office where there were no windows.  I saw the Director quickly run across the room in a hunched over position.  Once he was out of his office he rounded up a dozen Marshals.  They ran out with guns ready to search the wooded area behind our building.  After a short while they returned empty handed.  A careful check of the Director’s office revealed that it was, in fact, only a BB pellet that had penetrated the window.  They assumed it was just some young kid out having fun in the woods until a BB pellet went astray.

I thought of the kid, probably terrified, running for the safety of his home.  I could just imagine him cowering in his bedroom, trembling as he peeked out the window and watched a dozen armed tough guys on a manhunt, searching . . . for him!  That would be anyone’s nightmare.

The office quickly settled down and everybody went back to their normal routine.  Just your typical day at work, I thought as I smiled to myself.  It was definitely an interesting place to work.  I distinctly remembered that when I applied for the job that there was no mention of “nerves of steel” listed as one of the requirements. 

Maybe there should have been a disclaimer at the bottom of the job application: 
Wimps Need Not Apply



Monday, August 5, 2013

The Influence of Social Media

For some reason I really dislike the phrase, “The Power of Social Media.”  Alone, Social Media isn’t powerful since we make it what it is.  It is a useful tool that relays information in the blink of an eye.  We give it power.  We choose what we want to make public.  We control it, it doesn’t control us.  

I have been reading and following a Russian History Blog for more than a year.  Not that I am particularly a big fan of Russian history, it was a section on Sergei Kourdakov and “truth in memoirs” that first led me to that site.  I am amazed how significant his story, as told in his book The Persecutor, still is today.  Sergei made a difference in many lives, including my own.  I would have remained clueless regarding people's thoughts about Sergei without the knowledge I gained from reading this blog and other stories on the Internet.

Without Social Media I would never have learned about the movie Forgive Me, Sergei.  The title of the movie seems satirical . . . forgive me Sergei if I don’t believe you.  I did purchase the movie because I was curious to know what it was about.  As far as movies go, I credit the journalist and producer for all of their hard work.  However, their view is definitely not the same one that I have because I knew Sergei personally.  It was hard for me to see and read the negative comments about Sergei.  Over time I found it increasingly more difficult to remain silent.    

Hmmm, on second thought, maybe Social Media really is powerful.  It did influence me to write A Rose for Sergei.  It convinced me to tell a story that was locked within me.  Without Social Media it may have stayed there forever.

The Influence of Social Media should not be underrated.