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, January 20, 2015

It is Not Your Fault

How many times in your life have you ever said, “I blame myself for what happened?”  It could be in reference to the smallest of grievances.  For example, I left the door open and the cat got out.  It’s easy to take the blame for the small stuff, much harder when the consequences are life-changing.

Recently a friend’s Facebook post revealed a mother’s feelings of blame from not being able to protect her child from the tragedies of war in her former country of Bosnia.  Even though her son is now a successful young man, she carries that blame in her heart.  I admired her willingness to share that statement publicly and responded in a post, “You are an amazing mother.”  Other posts soon followed praising her strength.

I understand blame, but not in the same manner as my friend.  My guilt, all those years ago, was in questioning if I could have done something to prevent Sergei Kourdakov’s death.  Even though I was two thousand miles away at the time, I somehow felt responsible.  I was young then, only twenty-one, and not aware of how fast life can change.  I never expected the unexpected.  And I wondered if his death was somehow my fault.  Was there something I could have said or done differently?  In my book, A Rose for Sergei, I write about carrying that guilt in my heart.  It is liberating to finally share my long-held secret with readers.

For my friend whose son witnessed the tragedies of war, I say “It is not your fault, do not blame yourself.”  And, as an adult now, I know that there was nothing I could have done to change the course of events in Sergei’s life.  Just as I know, it was not my fault that Sergei died.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

If You Believe Just One Thing

Proof.  We learn from teachers that we must show our work to support how we get to a certain point.  We follow through with this mandate in the business world.  We all want to see the evidence that backs up a statement.  Without proof . . . we question validity, and hence truthfulness.

My friends ask why I posted the personal photos of Sergei Kourdakov and me on my blog.  “I had no choice,” I quietly tell them.  “How else would people believe I knew Sergei and believe my story.”  I knew the photos were the proof that some people needed to see—physical evidence is convincing.

Sergei and I were seated side-by-side, alone in my apartment, when he told me about his life in the Soviet Union and his daring escape to freedom.  I knew from the manner in which he spoke to me that his story was not just something he made up.  I saw and felt the sadness in Sergei’s eyes.  I saw him.  One of my favorite authors, Orest Stelmach, explained it better in his most recent book, The Boy Who Glowed in the Dark:  “A woman knew a man’s intentions based on the look in his eyes, his body language around her, his manner of speech.”

I always knew that Sergei was telling me the truth.  If you believe just one thing in Sergei’s book, The Persecutor,* believe that something miraculous happened in his life.

*Sergei Kourdakov wrote one book which was published under three different titles:

The Persecutor
Forgive Me, Natasha

Monday, January 5, 2015

This Time Each Year

For me, even though it’s a new year, this time each year replays like a scene in the movie Groundhog Day.  In that funny movie, actor Bill Murray finds himself in a time loop, repeating the same day again and again.

On January 1st, I feel like I’m in a time loop that repeats itself, at the same time, year after year.  Unlike the movie, my replay of a life event is much more serious.  For some unknown reason, I am startled awake around 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. on New Year’s Day—the day that Sergei Kourdakov died.  And once again, I know that it is time for my silent prayer.  My thoughts are always the same, a quiet reflection . . . “Sergei, I’m sorry that you died so young.  You are not forgotten.”

The New Year . . . a time to reflect.  The time for a new start.  A time to make promises to yourself.  We all have good intentions.  I know that I have plans for my book, A Rose for Sergei:  readings, marketing ideas, making new contacts.  Self-promoting a book is a lot harder than I ever expected.  However, I don’t intend to let the business part of writing take priority.  Family and friends come first.  Keeping the ones I love close to my heart is a must.  Finding happiness each day is a must because each New Year I am reminded that you never know how much time you have.