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.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Gifts We Give

One of my favorite holiday stories is a short story by O. Henry—The Gift of the Magi.  Not wanting to give away the story line . . . it’s about a young married couple who want to give each other the perfect gift.  When I was a child I read this heartwarming story.  I had to hold back the tears at the time so the words on the pages wouldn’t blur.

At this time of year everyone is running around trying to find great gifts for the people we care about.  The value of a gift often has nothing to do with how it affects us.  Some of the most meaningful gifts have little monetary value.  The simplicity of Sergei’s rose was spellbinding.

Apparently a lot of people really liked the picture of Sergei Kourdakov lifting weights that I posted on last week’s blog.  I jokingly told friends that if I changed my book cover to that shirtless photo of Sergei more people would check it out.  How boring is a red rose on a book cover compared to him?  The rose on the cover of my book, however, is actually very symbolic for Sergei and me.  When you read A Rose for Sergei you will understand its importance.  The gifts we give from the heart are the ones that last a life time.

Wherever you are this holiday season, I wish you peace and a Happy New Year.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Persecutor and A Rose for Sergei

The whole time I knew Sergei Kourdakov I only saw kindness, strength, and compassion.  I have to admit, however, there was a lot I never knew about his former life in the Soviet Union.  He had only told me a shortened version of his life, leaving out many details for a reason.  He did not want to alarm me.

Sergei and I met in the fall of 1972 when we were both twenty-one, our worlds complete opposites.  He was raised in orphanages and quickly learned that only the strongest would survive.  This photograph of Sergei Kourdakov was taken shortly before he defected.  He made sure to stay in shape for his unbelievable swim to freedom.  I, on the other hand, was raised in a large loving family.  In comparison to him, I was petite in stature, and always felt safe and protected in my family and in my country.

In my book, A Rose for Sergei, I write about the time I had one brief moment of fear when Sergei and I were alone in my apartment.  It devastated Sergei to think he frightened me.  He assured me he would never hurt me.  I really didn’t want to write this particular chapter in my book because it is deeply personal and private.  It was a crucial turning point for Sergei . . . for both of us.  So I shared this part of our story in my book.

Excerpt from Sergei’s book:

July 1970
Down through the streets of Moscow I wandered, lonely, disillusioned, distraught.  I was in a state of total confusion, but I decided one thing.  I would leave Russia and get as far away as I could.  I can’t say why I wanted to leave Russia.  I only know that I was deeply disillusioned and desperately unhappy, that something was terribly wrong.

-Sergei Kourdakov, The Persecutor (Chapter 18, pg. 221)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Best Questions

Some people seem to have the ability to ask the right questions.  Not questions that require a simple “yes” or “no” response, but thought-provoking questions.  Try as I might, I don’t believe I fall into that category.  For some people it comes naturally to question as they delve deeper into the conversation.  I usually expect that sort of in-depth discussion to come from an older, mature person.  So, I was pleasantly surprised when an acquaintance in her mid-twenties asked me about A Rose for Sergei.

Lindsay knew I had finished writing my book about Sergei Kourdakov.  However, she also told me she didn’t have a lot of time to read right now.  I told her that was perfectly all right.  After all, it is a busy time of year.  But the good news is, I told her, my book is a quick, easy read when you have more time.  I would say it will take anywhere from 3-4 hours.  And then her questions started.

“Was Sergei The One?” Lindsay asked.

“The one . . . what?  Sorry.  Yes, he was the Russian defector,” I replied.

“No.  I mean, was he Your One.”

“No,” I quietly replied as I smiled back at her.  “My husband was always meant to be My One.”

“Ohhh, I like that answer,” Lindsay said.  “So, you were just meant to meet Sergei in order to write about him then?”

I paused at that point in our conversation.  What an intuitive and thought-provoking question.  I thought about my answer.  “Hmmm . . . yes.  I think you might be right about that.  Maybe that’s the reason Sergei and I met . . . so I could write about him.”

“And no one really knew about you and Sergei.  You kept this to yourself all these years.  And it’s all true.  Every bit of it?”  Lindsay questioned.

“Yes it’s all true,” I said.

“Is the end bittersweet?”

“The end of the book?”

“No, finishing your book.  Is that bittersweet?  You kept it inside all these years and now you’re done.  Is that bittersweet for you?  Now you feel you can move on to something else.”

“Wow, you ask the best questions,” I said.  “You would make a great interviewer!”

“Why, thank you,” Lindsay beamed.

“In answer to your question, yes and no.  Yes, it is bittersweet for me to be done writing the book.  But also . . . no, I don’t feel like it’s the end.  I really feel it’s the beginning—for people to read the book and know more about Sergei.  It’s just the beginning.”

Monday, December 1, 2014

A Rose for Sergei — Now Available in Paperback!

The paperback version of A Rose for Sergei is now available on the Amazon website!  Just in time for Cyber Monday—one of the biggest online shopping days of the year.

First thoughts:  I think I’m at a loss for words, but only temporarily.  You have to understand that I am not a writer and had never planned to write a book.  And blogging?  All foreign to me.

Second thoughts:  I hope people will find this book, read it, and share it with others.  I have always known that this part of Sergei Kourdakov’s life needed to be told.  I just never knew that I would be the one to do it.


    It surprised me the first day I sat down at the computer and felt Sergei’s story come to life.  I watched the words fly effortlessly onto the pages.  I need to tell this story, I kept telling myself, and so I continued writing.  Those who have followed my blog from its inception (first post - February 25, 2013) know that I kept this story to myself for over forty years.

    I always enjoy the email I receive from readers through my blog.  In response to an enthusiastic reader in Canada, I even added a clarifying short addendum at the end of the book.

    Lastly, if you order A Rose for Sergei now, it will arrive in time for the Christmas holidays.