Why would anyone from Ireland want to read a book about an American-born Armenian who repatriated to the USSR in 1947 and spent 13 years of his life behind the Iron Curtain?
That was the question I had asked, via e-mail, of B.K. of Cork County, after he sent us an order for a copy of “The Repatriate”. The request for a book pleasantly surprised me; Brian’s response was equally surprising. Apparently he had spent several years in Armenia, after the collapse of the Soviet Union. His task was to administer a multi-million dollar foundation grant to help the young republic install a social security program and also weed out corruption in government. However, every time he questioned his Armenian co-workers about life during the Soviet regime, or about life under Stalin and the KGB, they would lower their eyes to the floor, turn, he said, and walk away from him. He became very frustrated with those he worked with.
“I want to know more about why these people lived in fear at that time. And I can’t find enough books to answer my questions.”
The fear of the secret police apparently continues to haunt the citizens of the former Soviet Union.
He also noted, “Our housekeeper’s mother in Armenia was a returned Armenian from Greece. “And she did not want to discuss the Greek phase of her life…always changed the subject and when we lost a set of keys, she traveled across town, although there were several locksmiths nearby, to get the key re-cut. The place on Nalbandian Street (a building that housed the former NKVD/KGB offices) I know quite well.”
I was truly surprised and heartbroken to learn from the e-mail that the one of the buildings, the Pioneer Palace, where I spent years as a teacher-coach, teaching and coaching Soviet youngsters how to play basketball, was demolished in 2006.
B.K. says that he has been honored by local officials. He was named as an honorary citizen of Vanadzor, and because of his admiration of the Armenian people, he still maintains an apartment in Yerevan and frequently he and his wife visit the country.
Tom 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!