A Person of Interest…Part 2

Armenian passport
Tom Mooradian’s passport: in Armenian and Russian

This is Part 2 of A Person of Interest. Read Part 1 here.

Do you not think that a man or woman who was born, raised and educated in the United States and disappeared for thirteen years behind the Iron Curtain, and then suddenly appeared in the United State would not raise J. Edgar Hoover’s eyebrows?

Would not the director of the FBI see “The Repatriate” as a possible “Manchurian Candidate”, waiting for someone to ring a bell or display a card so that the young man from Behind the Iron Curtain would execute his mission in the USA?

I was flown to Washington, D.C. and was met at the airport by one of the agents who drove me to the Mayflower Hotel. The next day, at about 9 a.m., the same agent drove me to a building where I was questioned about my life in the USSR. I answered the agency’s questions to the best of my knowledge. During the interrogation I also was given a lie-detector test.

I went along with my “hosts” through this process. Upon reflection I think it was because I had completely forgotten about my rights, after all, I had just graduated from high school when I had left America with the group of repatriates. I, and all of the teenagers who sailed on the Rossia, believed we could return to the States whenever we wanted to. To our dismay we discovered that was not true.

On day I-do-not-know-which, the FBI introduced me to a Russian-speaking interrogator. He began this session of questioning asking me about my life in the USSR, my travels, and then questioned me about the KGB and why I was permitted to leave when no others had. (I had been the first American to leave. Only a small group of French women who had gone to the Soviet Union with their Armenian husbands had returned to their homeland before I.)

That interview with the Russian brought back all of my nightmares. It reminded of what my KGB handler had told me back in Moscow: “Remember, Tommy, wherever you are we can reach you. Do not become a tool of the capitalist.”

The psychological effect of being in the same room with a Russian-speaking interrogator, his eyes and his glares, his sarcasm, his methodical questioning and degrading “the accused” to make him feel inferior, emasculating the “prisoner” ultimately unleashed the frustration, the hatred I had held back of the loathsome Soviet system …I fired back with a volley of four letter Russian words that I had picked up in the locker rooms of his country. He stood up slowly, deliberately, and I stood to confront him. There we were, toe to toe… A door behind me quickly opened and my “handler” rushed into the room and separated us…

Finally safe in my native land, the home of the free, I stood there thinking, I must be guilty. Why did they bring me here if I wasn’t “guilty”?

But of what?

Back in 1949, I was taught a life-and-death lesson by the Cheka. The Soviets stopped me from boarding a plane bound for Moscow from Yerevan because their pawns had informed them I was heading for the US embassy with some important papers. They tossed me in a truck and drove me to their headquarters. The Soviet interrogators told me that if I confessed they would be lenient. “We never arrest anyone who is not guilty…and we can’t release you, because our citizens would think that we are arresting innocent people.”

So, what do you confess to?

I wanted to scream. But, instead I bit my lip and waited from their next move.

Silence, at times, is a powerful word.

This is Part 2 of A Person of Interest. Read Part 1 here.


bookTom Mooradian was one of 151 Americans who traveled to Soviet Armenia to repatriate during the 1940’s. Thought to be a spy by the KGB, Tom miraculously survived 13 years behind the Iron Curtain winning the hearts of the Soviets through his basketball prowess.  Filled with political drama, romance, and intrigue, Tom’s autobiography, The Repatriate reads like a novel, and will have you guessing how Tom managed to return to America alive.
The Second Edition is now available on Kindle and in Paperback!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *