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, October 27, 2014

Sergei Kourdakov - The Hype

I never saw Sergei Kourdakov’s adrenalin charged presentations in churches or auditoriums.  His hyped-up image that you read about in newspapers was unfamiliar to me.  I never knew that side of Sergei.  He was never intentionally showy.  Sergei’s stature and awkward new-to-this-country manner, however, did attract attention everywhere he went.  But he never tried to impress me with the public side of his life.  In fact, he was the exact opposite when we were together.  He was not the least pretentious—he was thoughtful, fun, and considerate.  I never saw the hype.

Hype, what is hype actually?  It means publicity, buildup, and hard sell—to promote or publicize extravagantly.  That is exactly how Sergei was portrayed at public events.  He was an outgoing speaker, and it came naturally to him.  Did he like that exaggerated part of his new life in the U.S.?  Honestly, I don’t think he did.  He told me he didn’t quite understand all the attention and publicity he attracted.  It surprised him.

So why all the hype then?  Urban Dictionary describes hype as a clever marketing strategy in which a product is advertised as the thing everyone must have.  If you think about it, in an indirect way, Sergei Kourdakov was the product…what he had to say was the product.  Unfortunately, the marketing and the hype were necessary to make Sergei’s story known.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Intriguing For Sure

I never watch the television show, “The Americans.”  I thought it would bring up too many memories about Sergei Kourdakov, and maybe just a little too close for comfort.  However, I kept a newspaper article about the show written by Jessica Goldstein in the February 23, 2014, Washington Post.  The introductory paragraph explains that the show takes place in the 1980s—the heroes are in the KGB, the enemy is the United States, and no one is who they say they are.  Intriguing for sure, so I continued reading until my heart almost stopped.

Excerpt from the article:

“The Americans” is a marriage story dressed up as a spy flick, with espionage work, and all the secrecy and deception it entails, standing in for the issues we grapple with in real relationships.

Weisberg [Joseph Weisberg, creator and executive producer of “The Americans”] said by phone that “most of the spy stuff in the show is really real.”  (Every script he writes must also be sent to the CIA for approval.)  Some of the most outlandish-seeming plots on the show are based on reality, such as Philip’s pretending to be “Clark” and marrying Martha, a secretary at the FBI.

“It’s this cruel, crazy thing he does to her,” says Weisberg, and it’s very closely based on historical fact.  KGB illegals married secretaries of men who were in specific government and political positions that the KGB wanted to get intelligence on.”

The last sentence in the news article about “marrying government secretaries” is what sent my heart into overdrive.  Breathe . . . just breathe, I thought as I reminded myself that everyone knew where Sergei was from.  Unlike the characters in the TV show, we were all aware Sergei defected from the Soviet Union.