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 2, 2018

Sergei Kourdakov … He Promised Me


It happened a lifetime ago, forty-five years to be exact.  January 1, 1973 is the date that Sergei Kourdakov’s life tragically slipped away from a single gunshot to his head.  It is also the date that strange stories began to circulate about what really happened that night.  Some of those stories contradict what I personally know about Sergei, and they don’t add up.  Apparently I’m not alone in my thinking.

Journalist Emma Best recently published a fascinating and informative report about Sergei Kourdakov.  Part Two of her report discusses Sergei’s death: FBI file reveals numerous contradictions in the curious case of Sergei Kourdakov.  At the end of the report you can read the actual FBI documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.

After reading all of the released documents and newspaper articles, a few things jumped out at me. The female skiing companion in Sergei’s room the night he died is referred to as Sergei’s “fiancée.”  If you follow my blog, you’ll know that Sergei and I openly dated while he was in Washington, DC.  We planned to spend Christmas together with my parents, but they were living on a secure Air Force Base in Massachusetts, and access for Sergei was impossible.  As a result, Sergei planned a ski trip in California with friends.  Before Sergei left he gave me the telephone number of the family he was staying with so we could talk on Christmas day.  It would be highly unlikely for Sergei to give me the phone number of his “fiancée.”

Another part mentioned in the article is the Russian roulette theory.  I don’t know what really happened the night Sergei died, but I do know he would never have taken his own life.  He would not have foolishly waved a gun around.

Excerpt from A Rose for Sergei

Chapter 18 – Home for the Holidays

December 1972

We spent the rest of the afternoon curled up on the sofa talking and trading stories about our lives.  Sergei always loved to talk about his life in the United States; everything was new to him.  He avoided discussing his life in the Soviet Union.  We were comfortable, holding hands and kissing, trying to enjoy every single minute we had.  It seemed like no topics were off limits.  I asked him something that I was wondering about.

“Sergei, do they really play Russian Roulette in the Soviet Union?”

“Yes, they do,” he replied as he looked at me curiously.  “It is very dangerous game.”

“Have you ever played Russian Roulette?”

“Yes.  Why are you asking me this question?”

“Because I don’t want you to ever do that again, that’s why.”  He looked perplexed and was non-fazed by my comment.

“It is okay, I played Russian Roulette in the USSR when we had a lot of vodka to drink.  I was very stupid then.  I am not stupid now,” he casually replied as he seemingly brushed aside my concern.

I was not satisfied with his answer because he didn’t seem to be taking me very seriously.  “Sergei, please listen to me, I’m serious.  Please don’t play that game again.”

“Okay.”

He still hadn’t convinced me so I punched him lightly on his arm with my fist so he would look right at me, see my concern, and know I was serious.  “I really mean it, don’t play Russian Roulette again,” I managed to say as firmly as I could.  He grabbed his arm and rubbed it dramatically, pretending I had mortally wounded him.

“Why is this concern?” he asked as he tried to hold back a smile.

“Because I love you, and I don’t want anything to happen to you.  That’s why.”

“Okay, I promise.  I will never do that again.”

* * *

 A Rose for Sergei (eBook only)

will be FREE

 on Amazon from January 4-6, 2018 


Click Here to Link to Amazon US



11 comments:

  1. Kolleen,

    A few days ago, on Jan 01, I mentioned to my wife that it was the 45th anniversary of Sergei's death. Ironically, it was on that same date that I finally had opportunity to go through some of the information that had been provided to mudrock.com, which you referred to in this blog.

    I haven't gone through everything yet, but one thing caught my attention.

    In your book you wrote that you last saw Sergei on a Sunday in December. Checking a calendar, this appears to be Sunday, Dec 17, 1972. He told you he was going to CA for the holidays.

    According to Joe Bass' newsletter, printed April 1972, he has Sergei in Washington, D.C. from Nov 14 - Dec 18, as a guest at Fellowship House International. Then, from Dec 18-26 to Denver CO, as "a house guest of Pastor and Mrs. Charles Blair, of Calvary Temple."

    In your book, you had indicated that Sergei had provided you with the phone number of where he would be staying in CA. You dialed that number on Christmas Day, which was answered by a "pleasant sounding gentleman," who put
    Sergei on the phone.

    This doesn't make sense. According to Bass, Sergei was in CO on Christmas Day, and didn't make it to Los Angeles until Dec 26, where he remained until Dec 30.

    Assuming that the number you had dialed was a CA phone number, then Bass's timeline is off. What does this mean? I'm not really sure, but I don't trust Bass.

    Also, it appears that no one knew about you during those early days. Bass never contacted you, nor did the authorities reach out. What does that mean? Again, I'm not sure. But, I'm glad that you came forward with your account.

    Some things I wish I could do:

    1. Interview the family he was staying with on Christmas.
    2. Interview the family he stayed with in CO.
    3. Interview Ann Johnson, who was with him on the night of his death.
    4. Obtain either the recorded interview, or recorded interview transcript of Ann Johnson that was taken by Bass' investigators. That would be like gold.

    I was disappointed that no news agency picked up on this story on the anniversary of his death.

    Dane

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  2. Dane, you bring up some very good points and questions. A lot of things don’t make sense about what happened to Sergei Kourdakov. You’re right, I was never contacted or interviewed during the investigation into Sergei’s death. It was as if I didn’t exist, or maybe Joe Bass didn’t want me to exist.

    Looking back through letters and notes that Mr. Logie (my former boss) provided me, you would be correct to say that I last saw Sergei on Sunday, December 17, 1972. Sergei did tell me he was going to California for the holidays. Mr. Logie drove Sergei to Dulles Airport on December 18 and wished Sergei well on his trip to the “west coast.”

    Before Sergei and I went our separate ways for the holidays, he left me a phone number to reach him on Christmas day. He wrote down “Johnson Family” and a phone number on a small slip of paper which I carried in my wallet. I did indeed call that number on Christmas day and spoke with Sergei. I believe the number I called was in California because that is where the Johnson family lived. I have no explanation as to why Joe Bass provided a schedule that had Sergei in Colorado on Christmas day, other than to say that schedules do change.

    Interesting to note, Sergei had copies of the photos of us together that are posted on my blog page. I wrote our names on the back of each photograph. Anyone going through his possessions after his death would have found these and known that I did exist.

    Yes, absolutely, I wish you would interview the families you mentioned! I know you would do a great job. -Kolleen

    **Note: Dane Cramer is an author and investigator! (In his comment above it should read Muckrock.com instead of mudrock.com).

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  3. (Comment from reader not made public due to its personal content.)

    My reply to M.:

    Thank you for reaching out and sharing your story with me. I’m truly sorry for what happened, I know it had to be difficult just to write everything down. As hard as it may be, it looks like you are taking the right steps to move forward.

    Heartfelt best wishes…you are stronger than you realize.

    -Kolleen

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  4. So many unanswered questions - I am no investigator, but I have very serious misgivings about Joe Bass's role in all this - there is a copy of the death certificate available online stating that Joe Bass registered the death. Ann Johnson's parents are mentioned as being very involved in the church - would evangelical Christian parents in 1972 have allowed their daughter to go away on her own with a boyfriend? And surely it would be very easy to establish whether or not Ann Johnson's family were staying at the hotel on the night Sergei died? The questioning, taping of interviews and ascertaining whether Ann Johnson was Virgo intacta, all of which were instigated by Joe Bass, would have been traumatic and show no compassion to Ann herself. And why, after threats to his own life, and being very recognizable, did Sergei go into unknown territory? He would have been safer at home with the Johnsons.
    The only thing I feel sure of is this - Sergei would ultimately have returned to you, as he had chosen you, an independent woman with an apartment and her own life, for himself. I think Ann Johnson was too young for a relationship, and was certainly never his "fiancée". I think they may have had some sort of dalliance before he met you, but he was never serious about her. He might have been wondering how to leave the relationship without upsetting and offending her family. At the age of 17,I was very "hearts and flowers" and it is very easy to make something out of nothing if you are attracted to someone. Sergei would have come back to you after his vacation.

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    1. Posyzadok,

      I agree with you, there are so many unanswered questions regarding Sergei Kourdakov. When Muckrock shared all the FBI papers about Sergei on their website they definitely brought the Johnson Family into the public eye again. I also find it hard to believe that a family so involved with the Evangelical church would agree to a weekend trip for their teen daughter with a “boyfriend.” My book certainly tells a different story about Sergei though, and would make some question the Ann Johnson “fiancée” part revealed in the FBI documents.

      Yes, it must have been traumatic for Ann to undergo a medical exam and the interrogation type interviews. They were forced upon her, and I’m sorry she was subjected to that type of treatment.

      Even though Sergei’s life had been threatened, I never felt he wanted to hide behind closed doors. He wanted to live his life as free as possible in the U.S. I saw first-hand how difficult that was for him…it was heart breaking to see him check for intruders each time he came to my apartment.

      Thank you for taking the time to write your comment and for your kind words about Sergei and me. I take them to heart.

      -Kolleen

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  5. Wow! So interesting to read this blog!
    I am from former Soviet Union, came as a child ... and yes I have heard many testimonies and have relatives who were persecuted for being Believers. Some who still don’t talk about some of the more intense persecution they endured . As for non- Believers, they knew what Believers were “not allowed to do “... and many times would remind the Believers.... For example, “Believers are not supposed to say that or act that way “ or anything of that sort... so Sergei to be in a cabin with a girl on vacation is not something that Soviet Christian/Believer would ever do! This seems like something Soviet non-Believers would do or think of. Not only for his part but also as respect for this girl’s reputation and her family, he would not do that. I have heard of multiple stories when KGB would set up a pastor/preacher to make him look like an immortal man not only to try to ruin him but also his good reputation and try to use that as a stumbling block for other Believers who are weak in faith or none Believers to keep them away from coming to faith in Jesus.
    The story about Sergei and the book, lines up with soooooo many stories and testimonies I grew up hearing how the KGB would use propaganda against Believers and use neighbors, work bosses,even close friends and family, to persecute Believers and get them to stop being Believers. Hey, my own grandfathers were not Believers while my grandmothers where, so I remember and have heard first hand what went on in their homes.
    As for his death, I am very sad but not surprised at the inconsistency of reports or evidence. Soviets are proud and very good in what they do... it’s sad but growing up there- I remember that the three professions that kids wanted to be were- spy, teacher or Astronaut... at least I wanted to be a teacher :-)
    Anyways, as far as why you were never connected- seems like a blessing in disguise... you were not involved in whatever else was going on there. And whatever other threats were happening behind the scenes. You were spared and would have messed up the cover up story.
    Seems like miss Johnson and possibly many other people had been threatened and I would think coached on what to say with the interviews... and that would make sense why there are so many inconsistencies. When you think about it, Soviet KGB were very good at what they did and would make sure they “spoke” in person with everyone involved to make it look like an accident. So in that sense- you were blessed to not be involved because had that happened- you would also not be feeling safe to blog about this.

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    1. Thank you for reading my blog!! And thank you for taking the time to leave these comments. With your background, and the understanding of the Soviet way, you’ve added some very interesting information about the mystery surrounding Sergei Kourdakov. Wow! Yes, there were inconsistent answers from people interviewed about Sergei’s death. The fact that I was never contacted probably was a blessing in disguise.

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  6. There is one thing that really makes me angry about his story and what prompted me to write on this blog. The documentary that Carline Walker did. I was very surprised at how gullible she was! She came to Soviet Union at a time when it’s still controlled by Communist mindset, had a video camera in the faces of the people she was interviewing... and expected them to tell them the truth !!! Had they done so, they would be in danger. Do you know the price for being a traitor to your country in Soviet Union??? For making your country look bad to the foreigners??? Especially Americans??? Listen, I was a kid when I left- was about to start first grade but it’s already been imbedded into me not to say or do anything that would make you a traitor to the great motherland Russia... how much more adults who live there and who stand to loose everything that they had worked hard to acquire ( material things and social status) by saying something “wrong” in camera to an American interviewer? Oh, and just listening to the dialogue of Caroline with the supposedly “Baptist” ladies- there were obvious signs that they were not even Baptist from how they looked like and the words that they used . Yes, Believers in Russia looked and talked differently. Those ladies in the documentary looked and talked like Russian Orthodox ladies who don’t want to betray their faith or their country! So that documentary is not accurate and I am sad that she spend so much time and energy and was not able see what was going on in reality.

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts!! I've really enjoyed reading your comments. Yes, I agree that the documentary “Forgive Me, Sergei” is not accurate in the section where the Russian’s were interviewed. Of course they wouldn’t talk favorably about a defector. It surprises me how many people believe that part of the film though. The documentary is the reason I wrote, “A Rose for Sergei.”

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  7. I am so blessed to be in America and to be an American now! I can believe and worship God according to the Bible and not according to what someone in government says! I don’t have to be in fear of discrimination for just stating that I and my family are Believers!

    Back in Soviet Union- if you believed in God of the Bible it was equivalent to believe in fairytales- because after all, Soviet astronauts had went up into space and did not see God there- so He must not exist - was their theory. But you could believe in the Russian Orthodox God- since it was the “official “ religion ( and government could control the church leaders)...

    Anyways, I was discussing the persecuted Christians in Soviet Union with my little brother this morning , went online and started to do more online research on Sergei and run across this blog.

    God used Sergei in a mighty way to tell what life was like for Christians/Believers in Soviet Union. Maybe used him as an instrument to soften the hearts of government and people in United States to allow persecuted Believers to come to America. I personally am thankful! I have gone back to visit - even though much has changed but somethings haven’t. Believers are still looked down upon. And if you follow the news , at least a little, you can see where modern day Russia’s stand is when it comes to Believers who are not Russian Orthodox....

    It was brave for Sergei to speak up. And we know that Romans 8:28 is true- in the end it all works out for good, even when it’s very sad. Today many Slavic people have read that book and many more have been encouraged to come forward to share their stories ...

    His is a sad story for us but I believe that everything is in God’s hands and what we don’t know or understand now- there will be a day when we will. Luke 8:17

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    1. Thank you for leaving a comment! Yes, Sergei Kourdakov was brave to speak up. His book, "The Persecutor," is a wonderful story that should not be forgotten. That is great that you shared his story with your little brother.

      I’m so glad you found happiness in America.
      -All my best, K. Kidd

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