Month-long journey into the past

Armenian Repatriates at Abril Bookstore
Armenian Repatriates at Abril Bookstore

It was one of the most emotional months of my life. I traveled back into time and met with some of my former Soviet students and teammates and chatted with those who have suffered the injustices of the Soviet system first-hand. Unlike myself, who received a slap on the wrist from the KGB, these Armenian-American repatriates suffered the indignation and the humiliation of illegally being sent to the gulag and their only crime was that they wanted to return to the land of their birth – The United States.

Her name is Alice, and she has locked hate inside of her.

Injustice, the kind that no American can ever understand, pierced her heart at the early age of eighteen, and that wound has not healed with time.

Her full story is not mine to tell, and I hope someday she will tell the world the indignation she suffered under the dull-witted, despotic Soviets. In brief, Alice repatriated with family members to what was then Soviet Armenia in 1947. No sooner than she got off the ship in Batumi, she wanted to return to the United States. Within a short period of time, she had an opportunity to go to Moscow from the city of Erevan, and she grabbed it. Once in Moscow, she made contact with the US embassy and shortly afterwards she was picked up by the Soviet secret police, arrested, interrogated, and sentenced to Siberia.

We met briefly recently during one of my book talks. The talk was sponsored by the National Association for Studies and Research held in Belmont, Massachusetts. According to a cousin, it was the first time Alice had ever attended an Armenia function since returning to the United States.

When the talk ended, a new photographer asked if the former repatriates would consent to a photo op and all, with one exception, agreed. The photographer failed to convince Alice to join the group.

Later I approached her and unsuccessfully attempted to strike up a conversation. She looked at me and said: “I hate all Armenians.”

I told her that I understood. It was the wrong thing to say and hated myself for saying it as soon as it left my mouth.

“No you don’t,” Alice replied. “You – or anyone – will never understand.”

There were no words that I could use that would penetrate the stone wall that she stood behind. Alice has endured the cruel, oppressive, inhumane Soviets, but it cost her….her trust in man, her youth, and her life. No apology from any one would ever give back to this brave woman what she has lost.

***

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!

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