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, September 30, 2013

Chasing Dreams

Do you remember chasing bubbles when you were a child?  They were a little hard to catch.  You had to run in all directions before any of them escaped.  Sometimes the bubbles drifted high, out of reach as the wind carried them to secret places.  A few fell to the ground and were easily crushed.  They came in a variety of sizes and the possibilities were endless.  If you were lucky, a bubble landed intact and you got to hold onto it with all the colors of the rainbow shimmering in the sunlight.  Then you had to make a wish quickly before the bubble burst into tiny splatters and it was gone forever.

Chasing bubbles is a little like chasing dreams.  Like bubbles, our dreams come in different sizes.  Small hopes and dreams are easily reached.  Our bigger dreams may seem too hard to catch but, with careful planning, they are within reach.  Bigger dreams are worth holding onto to . . . even if only for a short time. 

Sergei Kourdakov followed his dream.  Below are excerpts from his book.  He was making final plans right before jumping overboard from the Soviet trawler, Elagin.  

“I had less than fifteen minutes left for final preparation.  The casual talk on the bridge had used up precious seconds.  Now I had to move fast to make my moves during the few remaining minutes, while the deck was still deserted.  The minute the storm let up, men would be all over the ship, checking for damage.”

“I reached under my bunk and pulled out something I had been working on for some time – a large, waterproof, bag-like belt.  I had made it out of heavy rubber for the outside and waterproof plastic for the inside.  Reaching into my cabinet drawer, I took out the things I treasured most and planned to take with me:  photos of friends, comrades, and familiar places back in Russia, none of which I would ever see again.”

“These few cherished items would be all I carried with me out of the old life into the new . . . .”

-Sergei Kourdakov, The Persecutor (Chapter 1, pg. 13)

 Some dreams are worth chasing.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Phone Call That Never Came

I celebrated my birthday this month.  It was a wonderful day.  Full of surprises, text messages from friends, lunch with my sister Karen, and dinner with family.  But something felt off and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was.  Later that evening I realized I had been unconsciously waiting for a phone call from my Father to wish me a happy day.  The phone call was never going to come.  There would not be any more phone calls from my Father on special days.  This was the first time since his death that it sunk in for me. 

Waiting for a phone call that would never come reminded me of another time.  It took me back to New Year’s Day 1973.  I was anticipating Sergei’s phone call from California telling me when he would be returning to the Washington DC area.  The last time we talked on the telephone had been on Christmas day.  Due to circumstances beyond our control, we were not able to spend the holidays together.  And I felt uneasy the entire time we were apart. 

The phone call from Sergei never came.  I was at home alone, in my apartment, that New Year’s Day when my phone rang out loudly.  It was my boss calling to tell me the devastating news of Sergei Kourdakov’s death.  My boss is the one who had introduced Sergei to me and he wanted to spare me the emotional ordeal of finding out at the office.   

It’s strange how one event always brings up memories, even so many years later.  Waiting for the phone call that would never come is heartbreaking.  About 9:30 pm, on my birthday, my younger sister Kelly called long distance. 

“Happy Birthday, Sissy.  I love you!”

It was the perfect phone call.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Life Takes You in Unexpected Directions

Choosing a title for a book can be daunting.  You want something to catch the reader’s attention.  Sergei told me that the title of his book was going to be “Sergei.  That was his choice.  It was a simple title but it said volumes about the unassuming man he was.  His book was first published under the title “Sergei.”  I was shocked when I later found out his book had been republished under a new title, “The Persecutor.”  Sergei would have hated that title, I know that.  He would never have wanted to be known as a persecutor.  So what happened?  Opportunity happened.  The new title had a sort of “shock value” to it.  It was “catchy” and a sure guarantee to increase publicity and sales for Sergei’s book after his death.  
I had a different title in mind for my book but changed it once I started writing.  The title I first considered gave the element of mystery away.  My title, A Rose for Sergei, seems simple, but the significance of the rose was meaningful to Sergei and me.  It will capture your heart.
Sergei Kourdakov and I met under very unusual circumstances.  The events in our lives that brought us together in time were unforeseen.  The events that led me to write A Rose for Sergei were unexpected.  The strange stories circulating after Sergei’s death, however, have caused many to question his motives.  I don’t understand why some people are eager to condemn him.  And I need to speak out on his behalf.  Writing the book was something I never planned to do.
Life has taken me in an unexpected direction.
A Rose for Sergei will be available as an e-book from Amazon in late Fall of 2013.



Monday, September 9, 2013

There's Only One Thing Wrong With You

I remember several years ago when a co-worker told me, “You know . . . there’s only one thing wrong with you.  You’re too perfect!”  You might think that if someone said you were “perfect” that it would be a compliment.  It wasn’t.  It was constructive criticism.  But I wasn’t offended because the kind manner in which the statement was delivered left me wanting to hear the rest of the story.

“I thought most people would want a co-worker that did accurate work,” I replied.

“Yes, that’s true – most of the time,” my friend answered.  “You do want to work with someone who does good work.  But in some cases you don’t always have to be 100% accurate.  Some projects you work on only require 99.9% or even 95% accuracy.  It can hold you back, and slow you down if you aim for perfection in every project you do.  You should save your energy for the jobs that do require complete accuracy.” 

I thought about her answer.  It actually was the best work-related constructive criticism that I ever received and I took it to heart.  It saved hours of frustration over the years and freed me to do my best on the projects that required it.

Striving for complete perfection in everything you do can slow you down and hold you back from your best work.  There were days, when I was writing A Rose for Sergei, that I would stop and remember my friend’s advice.  If I got stuck on when to end a chapter, or wasn’t sure what to leave in or cut out of the book, I reminded myself that it didn’t have to be re-written five times.  I wrote freely, two re-writes would suffice, and my story was told.   

Inspiration can come in many forms, even in criticism, which can redirect you.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Throw Me a Lifejacket

Wikipedia defines a lifejacket as a personal flotation device that is designed to assist a wearer, either conscious or unconscious, to keep afloat.

Do you sometimes feel like you are drowning in a sea of information?  The Internet floods us with so much information, accurate and inaccurate, that you need to wade through and pick out what you need.  You might even need a flotation device just to stay afloat.  You gather all of the information you can, and then you make your own informed decision about what is the truth.

Recently I read an article online about Sergei Kourdakov and his book, The Persecutor.  I did feel that a few of the topics covered were based on inaccurate information.  For example, Sergei told many people that he felt his life was in danger and that, if anything happened to him, it would be made to look like an accident.  This is well documented.  So it makes me wonder if the writer just wanted to write a scathing review.  I have to remind myself that there are two sides to every story and everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

In my book, A Rose for Sergei, you will not need a lifejacket to wade through a sea of misinformation. 
This is a firsthand account.