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, December 30, 2013

When We Were 21

I had hoped to have the electronic version of A Rose for Sergei available by now.  My editor-daughter did warn me about all the time involved with writing/editing/publishing.  It is definitely taking a lot longer than I ever imagined.  I was advised by a few experienced authors to make sure I had several people proofread my manuscript before publishing.  I needed different people to check for specific items:  typos, dates, formatting, flow, continuity, etc.

I realize that asking someone to proofread an entire book is a huge undertaking.  My friend and former co-worker, Suzanna accepted the challenge.  After all, she was the one who kept telling me that I needed to write about Sergei.  She was an excellent choice—we often proofed each other’s papers at work.  I asked her to check my formatting and look for any misspelled words, and then I didn’t hear back from her for several weeks.  I started to get worried.  Uh-ohhh, I thought.  Problems?  I was relieved when I finally got an e-mail.


I finished your book a couple of nights ago and then have thought about it for a few nights.  I think your book shows Sergei in such a lovely light.  What a kind, caring person he was—how much he changed.  I think you accomplished your goal by coming across how you must have been at 21.  Young and feeling like nothing bad ever happens to anyone . . . .  It speaks to every young person’s take on life.  How they think everyone lives forever.  I didn’t cry . . . because I knew what was coming, but your reaction to his death came across as raw and emotional—it has stuck with me.  Also, I appreciate all of the references to the time period.  It was a neat insight into how men and women treated each other, bosses and secretaries, etc.

When I started the book, I was set on looking for formatting errors.  I found just a couple of small things.  As I became engrossed in your story, I forgot to look for errors!

Not to worry, I thought.  I do have other proofreaders.  The fact that Suzanna was so absorbed in my story that she forgot everything else was actually good news.  I could not have asked for a better book review.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Shared Memories


As I hung my favorite ornament on our Christmas tree this year it held a different meaning.  My parents’ home is now “for sale.”  There is no home to go home to.  The final chapter of the story of their lives has come to an end.  Even though I can’t physically go home again, my heart is filled with happy memories of past Christmases with my mother and father.  Those shared memories are enough to make me smile.  My mother knew along . . . all hearts go home for Christmas.

Below is an excerpt from A Rose for Sergei.  Sergei and I were not able to spend the holidays together.  I travelled from my home in Arlington, Virginia to spend Christmas with my family in Massachusetts.  Sergei flew back to Los Angeles, California, to enjoy a planned skiing vacation.
December 1972

“Christmas in Massachusetts is quite beautiful with all the snow covered pine trees.  Christmas with my family is even more beautiful.  It was my mother’s favorite time of year, and she always started playing Christmas music right after Thanksgiving.  Mom and Dad loved having all six children home at the same time.  There was always homemade bread and lots of Christmas cookies—tons of Christmas cookies.  My favorite Christmas ornament was from my mother.  It had a saying on it that read, “All Hearts go Home for Christmas.”  I loved that saying, but this year my heart was only partly there—the other part was with Sergei.

. . . Their home was picture perfect at Christmas time with a big fireplace at one end of the living room and a real Christmas tree to the side of the picture window that overlooked beautiful green pine trees right next to the patio.  It made for a cozy holiday, and I knew Sergei would have enjoyed being with all of us.  I loved being with all my brothers and sisters, but I had to admit that all I really wanted was to hurry back to Arlington to see Sergei.”

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Treasured Gift

As I was writing A Rose for Sergei I recalled how my former boss drove me to Sergei Kourdakov’s funeral.  Mr. and Mrs. Logie stood along side of me that heartbreaking day, supporting me emotionally and physically.

We don’t always stop to think about how important certain people are in our lives... maybe because we aren’t even aware of it at that particular moment.  Part of my writing journey led me to track down my former boss.  After thirty-six years, I finally caught up with Mr. Kirk Logie, Sr.  After we hugged each other warmly, he took a step back to just stare into my face.  He couldn’t stop smiling.  “I never, ever expected a visit from you after all these years,” he said as his eyes twinkled brightly.  “You got older.”  Did he expect time to stand still, just like our memories?  At age ninety-three he still has a full head of wavy hair, although time has turned it from red to white.  I would have recognized him anywhere.

Two of Mr. Logie’s children also joined us when we met.  They shared heartwarming stories of when Sergei lived with them when he first arrived in Washington DC.  Sergei helped Kirk Jr. with his swimming and diving skills at the neighborhood pool.  Sergei obviously was an expert in that area, having survived his incredible swim to freedom the night he defected from the Soviet Union.  You couldn’t have asked for a better teacher than Sergei.

It was Lee Anne’s story, however, that captured my heart.  Lee Anne was seven years old at the time and had her first-ever “crush” on Sergei.  To a young girl, Sergei must have seemed “larger than life.”  She said Sergei liked to pick her up and place her on his shoulders as he walked around.  After one such time, Lee Anne told Sergei that she loved him.  His response completely surprised me.  Sergei told Lee Anne that no one had ever said those words to him before... and then he gently told her that he had a girlfriend.  I knew that hearing those words, “I love you,” from a sweet, caring child would have touched him deeply.  A few days later, Sergei gave Lee Anne a watch.

After Lee Anne told me her story she showed me the watch Sergei had given her.  It was beautiful, with a small stretch band to fit a young girl’s wrist, and a few tiny diamond chips sprinkled at the corners where the band attached to the facing.  She treasured his gift even after all these years.  I picked up the watch and held it close with both hands as a flood of memories rushed over me.  I smiled as I told her, “You beat me to it.  You told Sergei you loved him before I did.”

Monday, December 9, 2013

I Wrote a Letter

I often thought about my former boss, Mr. Logie, as I was writing A Rose for Sergei.  He is the one who introduced me to Sergei Kourdakov.  How could I have lost track of him?  There were times when I was writing that I would abruptly stop and initiate a search on Google.  I had a feeling that I needed to find Mr. Logie, but every avenue turned out to be just another dead end.  It bothers me that I let thirty-six years just slip away without any contact.

The last I heard was that my boss had returned to his homeland of New Zealand.  I had pretty much given up any hope of finding him.  I decided to try to locate his oldest son, his namesake.  I knew that if someone was writing a book, and mentioned my father, that I would want to know about it . . . especially since I had recently lost my own father.  My last Internet search finally paid off.  I found his son!  Now what?  I wasn’t quite sure how to go about making contact or how it would be received.  And so I decided on the old-fashioned way.  I wrote a letter.

Within twenty-four hours of mailing that letter I received an e-mail from Kirk, Jr.  How was that even possible?  I shouldn’t have worried about how my letter was going to be received; Kirk Jr.’s response was warm and kind-hearted.  Yes, he remembered Sergei.  Yes, he remembered meeting me when he was just a teenager.  And yes, his father still speaks about me even after all these years.  From the e-mail we progressed to several phone calls that day.  His exuberance reminded me so much of his father.  He caught me up on all the family news, and best of all, his father was doing well and still lived in the area.

Kirk Jr. told me that Sergei had lived in their home for several weeks when Sergei first came to Washington DC.  As we talked about my forthcoming book he couldn’t help but tease me about how his younger sister Lee Anne would take it.  “You know, Lee Anne was only seven at the time, but she had a huge crush on Sergei.”  I was touched to hear that and I definitely understood how that could happen.

Later that week I talked with Kirk Sr. on the phone, and all those years suddenly melted away.  It was so wonderful to hear his voice—his New Zealand accent still so familiar.  He told me that he was really glad I was writing a book about Sergei.  He still has fond memories of Sergei, which are just as sharp as ever.  I knew he was like a father to Sergei, they were very close.  Right before our conversation ended, with my promise to visit him soon, he too told me about Lee Anne’s crush on Sergei.

Wow, I wondered.  Mr. Logie is ninety-three years old and he still remembers Lee Anne’s crush on Sergei!  And her older brother remembers that too!  This had to be an amazing story.

I met with Lee Anne the following week and heard about “the crush.”  I promise to write in my blog next week about that seven-year-old girl and her beautiful story.  It will truly touch your heart.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Three Powerful Words

I was shopping at a store last week when I spotted an item on a top shelf.  I was sure I could reach it if I stood on my tiptoes . . . ahhhh, the perils of being short.  I leaned in close and stretched my arm to the max, but it was still just out of my reach.  I turned away empty handed, in search of a tall store employee . . . that’s when a shopper appeared at my side.  “I’ll help you,” she said with a smile.

“I’ll help you.”  That’s what the young woman said to me as she rushed over to offer her assistance.  Three simple words.  It made an impression in a very positive way.  She didn’t phrase it as a question—“Do you need help?” or “Can I help you?”  It was a statement.

I thought about what the young woman said when I got home that evening.  Three kind words.  Three powerful words.  I thought about other powerful words in my book.  Three words can evoke such strong emotions.

From A Rose for Sergei:

I believe you.”
What I said to Sergei after he told me about his life in the Soviet Union.

“I’m so sorry.”
What I said to Sergei after hearing about him becoming an orphan
at the age of four.

“I trust you.”
What I said to Sergei after he told me he would protect me.

“I love you.”
What Sergei said to me.