The French Connection

French Flag painted on bricks
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and criminalatt.

I did not anticipate, nor was I prepared to immediately answer, the question. Over the years the memory of the events had been relegated to the farthest corners of my mind. It would take time to recall the story. And one thing a speaker doesn’t have when facing a group is time.

I had been on a coast-to-coast talking tour to promote my book, The Repatriate: Love, Basketball, and the KGB. This particular event was sponsored by AGBU/Chicago.

A petite, Victorian-dressed, French-speaking Armenian in Chicago had asked in a patois, consisting mostly of French and English and Armenian words, “Whatever became of the French women who had repatriated in 1947? I was to go with them,” she continued, “but at the final hour our family decided not to go.”

I pondered the question, as she provided me time and stirred my memory, “You mentioned in your book that there were French odars (non-Armenians) married to Armenians living across from where you lived. Do you know if they ever got out of the Soviet Union?”

Her distinctive accent led me back in time, to Kalinin Street, to the courtyard and the communal cistern where we would wash, brush our teeth, and chat with our neighbors. It was there on a daily basis the French and the Americans would pause and chat. Never behind closed doors for it would draw suspicion and possibly a visit from the secret police.

I had stored so many of those events away that it took several seconds to search my memory and recall what had happened. I told her the following story:

The French Armenians, especially the French women, were the most courageous of our lot, I began. In public, they were a silent, struggling hard to feed their family, and washing clothes at the cistern where they managed to learn some of their Armenian.

Then, an unprecedented chain of events in 1956 placed these French women in the international spotlight. In February, during the 20th Session of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev unmasked Stalin for his crimes, and within weeks it appeared that the Iron Curtain had dissipated. Later that year, French Premier Guy Mollet, and his Foreign Minister Christian Pineau were invited to visit Moscow to discuss with the Soviet Premier and other top Soviet officials the future relations between the two countries.

Pineau, I had been told (but I can’t find any supporting information to the rumor), was born in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. During a social evening, the French foreign minister apparently expressed a desire to visit “the city of his birth” and Soviet Minister Anastas Mikoyan informed him that that could be arranged. Little did Mikoyan realize at the time that he had opened up a Pandora’s Box.

News that the two top French diplomats planned to pay Yerevan a visit reached Soviet Armenia before their plane’s motors were even warmed up in Moscow. Scores of French Armenian repatriates prepared an unprecedented greeting at the airport and there would be no stopping them.

In the meantime, the French women were busy at home planning their own party. Their greeting went beyond the wildest thoughts of the KGB. During the evening, the women had come together to sew blue, white, and red cloth – the tricolors of the French Flag and made banners, embracing “Liberte”, “Equalite”, and “Fraternite”. Arm-in-arm the following evening, they marched down Abovian Street, the main thoroughfare of the capital, to the Intourist Hotel, where the distinguished diplomats were staying.

Confronted by the secret police and ordered to disband, the women stood their ground, and began to sing the “Marseilles”, the French national anthem. The commotion and the song reached the ears of the French diplomats who appeared at the balcony of the hotel, and looking upon a sea of faces below, most in tears as they sang, were moved by the crowd.

It is said that Pineau apparently rushed down to the street and met with the women. One stepped forward and said, “We are French. We want to return to our homeland. The Soviets have refused to allow us to go.”

The shocked Socialist Foreign Minister listened to her, and to the others who presented their grievances. The French Premier vowed he would help. And apparently did. The French would be the first to return to their homeland. There would be many, many others.

I believe I was the first of 300 Armenian Americans who would leave the USSR. And I also am convinced that if it were not for these courageous French women none of the rest of us would have been granted exit visas.

It is rather interesting to note that only one – just one – Armenian American, who had married a Russian and raised a family there, remained behind when he had an opportunity to get out. Tragically the one who didn’t return home would, in the years to come, succumb in the disaster the world would know as “Chernobyl”.

***

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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A Phone Call from Paris

Soviet Basketball team
Some of the students that Tom coached

“A teacher may forget a student; but a student will never forget a teacher.” I found that to be true over the years, for many of my former Soviet students have continued to keep in touch with me thanks to the Internet.

One such student, who was on staff at the BBC in London, serving on the Russian Bureau until he retired, contacted me by phone from Paris to tell me how much he enjoyed the book.

“I knew all of the characters in the book, Mr. Tom,” he said. “I am so happy that you are alive and found time to write it. Do you remember who I am?”

I conceded that the four decades of separation had dimmed my memory.

“Do you remember when the Harlem Globetrotters came to Tiflis and you had picked ten players to go watch them play?”

I admitted that I remembered when the professional black basketball team visited the USSR, but I did not remember the incident of choosing my players to attend the exhibition game. “That was so long ago.”

“It doesn’t matter, of course,” my former student said, “But I was No. 11, and I didn’t get to go. And I cried all night and that’s why I remember it so well.”

I profusely apologized for the sadness I had inadvertently caused, and told him I was very sorry.

“Oh, I ready didn’t care…I was just happy playing for you.”

Curious, I asked, “Do you recall what the administration at the school said when I didn’t show up in the gym to conduct my class?”

“Oh, yes, yes, of course, I do. They said that Tavahrishch Tom was sick, and that you have been taken to a sanatorium to get some rest. And that you would soon come back.”

Interesting, I thought. “Did you and the others believe what they said?”

“Of course not, Mr. Tom.” There was a pause. “We knew better. We knew you were somewhere in Siberia.”

***

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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Thoughts on Governance

Lincoln Memorial
Image courtesy of Pixabay and ahundt

If two-hundred-forty years of so-called American democracy has taught us anything, it is that there are no shortcuts to good governance.

If we the people, and those we have empowered to govern us, have not gotten it right after more than a couple of centuries, why should we expect those foreign countries whose dictators and tyrants have been overthrown, get it right after a couple of years?

The transformation from authoritarian to democratic governance is a long, arduous process with many pitfalls on the way. As recent history showed us, there are no guarantees when a dictator is deposed and freedom rings out.

One single event, put in motion by obtuse elected officials, can set the world ablaze. Is there a nation, a city, an institution that feels secure today? The United States’ invasion of Iraq, illegally planned by a sophomoric, opportunistic group of politicians, carried out an attack against a sovereign nation, created the chaos and mayhem that we, the people, live in today. The exuberance of the so-called “victory” was indeed short-lived. The blame for our national pathos today lies at the feet of an inept and divided Congress, which fails to act on any issue because of the color of the skin of the 44th President of the United States.

History will not forgive them.

And, now fellow Americans, we must suffer until November 8 and, perhaps beyond, because the major political parties have nominated and offered us two incredibly scrupulous candidates. One, with his mawkish oratory and childish actions, has demonstrated there is little, if any, civility left in today’s American politics. He is a pathological liar whose followers believe that he will make “America Great Again” and whose supporters believe “He tells it like it is”. Give us a break.

The other major candidate, a former Secretary of State, NY Senator, and First Lady, has tainted what was believed impeccable credentials for the office with lies and deception.

It comes down to this: The 45th President of the United States will either be a pathological liar or one who has willingly accepted baksheesh from those who seek a helping hand from the occupant of the White House.

Not much of a choice.

Today, more than ever, the people must take a hard and long look at these candidates. For now, more than ever, the future of the world, the country, and your loved ones are at stake.

Is it any wonder that the elite members of the frustrated RNC are on daily alert to explain what their man is trying to explain? Likewise, the DNC, which believed it had a “sure thing” in the first woman nominated by its party, has discovered Truth never allows a Lie to sleep. FBI Director Comey proved that point.

I say and write this because if we, the strongest and most powerful country in the history of mankind, can’t get it right, why, then, do we expect other nations and foreign leaders to live up to our expectations?

We have tried to export our democracy, our way of life and laws to those nations whose people have followed ancient laws and customs set forth by centuries. Under whose orders or power, were we given the right to impose upon these people our “democracy”, our way of life? If you know of any, please tell us. I was taught that government derives its power by the consent of its people. If the people demand change then their actions, and only their actions, should bring about that change.

The history of the United States has shown that in times of peril Americans have chosen the right person to lead the nation. The enduring names of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower, have become immortal in the minds and hearts of those who remember what they accomplished when the country called upon them to serve. History has embraced them.

Political change, indeed, has come to the Middle East, but the freedoms we value, and believe they, too, value, have not. But we still have hope, that one day, all people will be treated with dignity and respect; that all people will honor life, liberty, and the individual pursuit of happiness.

Today our so-called victories in Iraq and Afghanistan have been branded as Pyrrhic. Today’s political dialogue is malignant and destructive to everything that we believe in – and many are suspicious of anything that is proposed in this Congress.

We need to work together; we need to refocus on our common goals. “A house divided against itself,” Lincoln warned us,” cannot stand.”

It was as true in 1860 as it is today.

These are my thoughts on governance…I welcome yours.

***

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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Rewriting History

Armenian Fingerprint
Image courtesy of Pixabay and Kurious

Many who fell for the Soviet propaganda and accepted an invitation by the Soviet government to repatriate felt betrayed.

The Soviet Constitution, Stalin’s Constitution of the 1930’s, by law guaranteed a Soviet citizen work, free medical care, and free education. That was the Soviets’ promise to those who would return.

Instead, those who went found hell: long lines for food, what food there was, unimaginable living conditions, nauseous and disgusting working conditions. Life in the former Soviet Union was beyond any American’s wildest imagination.

Even to this day – six decades later – I shudder to think of the life I lived as a Soviet citizen.

Now, I feel betrayed by Armenian scholars, some of whom lived under the fear of the communist state, who fail to recognize the Armenian Americans’ contributions to the repatriation program. And by not recognizing them they perpetuate the existing schism between the Motherland and the Diaspora.

In November of 1947, along with 150 other Armenian Americans I repatriated to Soviet Armenia. I lived in the republic and played basketball continuously for the next 13 years. A second group of Armenians from America of approximately the same number arrived in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia in March of 1949. Between us, Armenian Americans contributed millions of dollars in machinery, cars, trucks, tractors, refrigerators, and items that the Soviets never thought existed, to help rebuild the war-torn nation.

The repatriation program was conducted during a period of time when most of Europe was dying to come to the shores of the United States, seeking freedom and liberty from war-torn countries and their totalitarian dictators.

“America had the highest standard of living in the world. We gave it all up. We were going against the tide,” said Deran Tashjian, now living in Pasadena, CA. Tashjian, who became an outstanding Soviet track and field coach, coaching athletes to Olympic stardom, continued, “We had a lot to lose. And we lost it, especially our freedom.”

“I consider these Armenian Americans heroes,” said another surviving repatriate, who went with his family from Kenosha, WI. “They contributed so much, and asked so little. The Soviets repaid them, by exiling their fathers and mothers to Siberia…”

A few years ago, I attended an International Academic Conference hosted by The Armenian Research Center, University of Michigan-Dearborn. Armenian scholars throughout the United States and Europe attended the conference which, without hesitation I would call a tremendous success.

But, a paper submitted by Professor Garen Khachatryan, of the Institute of History, National Science of Armenia, and presented during the first session, chaired by Kevork Bardakjian, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, noted the repatriation of Armenians from Lebanon, Egypt, Greece, France, Syria, Iran, Iraq, and then bunched the United States with “other countries”, not even mentioning it by name.

The Armenian repatriates from the United States contributed more to the wealth of that impoverished Soviet republic than all the others combined. And these American Armenians suffered the most, for they gave up the most!

The others took from the Soviets – we gave to them and received from them a slap in the face. No, not a “slap” but the basic denial of our freedom.

Although I, as did many others from the United States, wanted to return home, I was denied that right for 13 years. Some who tried were imprisoned.

It is my sincere opinion that it would be an injustice to adopt Professor Khachatryan’s paper, before it is amended to include the historic contributions by Armenian Americans to the Motherland.

In addition, in another session, I heard an advisor to the President of Armenia tell the group that government archives, as well as many others, have been opened for use for scholarly study. However, when I asked, “Have the KGB files been opened?” He responded immediately, “No. No. No.”

One of my repatriate friends told me of two Armenian Americans who went to Hyestan in 1949. They were Dashnaks and the Soviets sent them to Siberia before they could even get their things off the ship.

We depend on scholars, not only from Armenia, but all over the world to speak freely, but it seems that the cloak of communism still remains in some of the countries that were behind the Iron Curtain.

***

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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The Readers Have Spoken

Tom and Jan Mooradian, on the grounds of the Etchmiadzin
Tom and Jan Mooradian, on the grounds of the Etchmiadzin

When I landed on the tarmac at the Romulus International Airport in July 1960, after spending 13 years in the Soviet Union, I had seven dollars in my pocket – dollars I had kept during the entire period I lived in the USSR. The $100 issued to me and allowed by the Soviet government to take from the country had undoubtedly been taken from my wallet by one of seven Syrian fighter pilots training in the Soviet Union the night before my departure at a drinking fest. The pilots were my guests at the Hotel National in Moscow.

All of my savings, furniture, the Soviet bonds, and the apartment I had – any and all Soviet rubles I had or banked during my Soviet life – everything, and I mean everything, I had accumulated during those thirteen years as a Soviet were confiscated because “they belonged to the people.”

Even though I had nothing, I was thankful to be home in one piece from a so-called “worker’s paradise”. With really nothing in my pockets but hopes and dreams of picking up the pieces of my life in the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” I began my long search for the American Dream.

While I remain grateful to God for allowing me to celebrate the miracle of life and, at times, to question some of my youthful decisions, I shall never apologize for my choices, for I discovered early that with each dawn and with each twilight there is a new adventure, a new challenge, and so much to be thankful for.

That this nation is blessed most of us realize and, although the world may have its problems, the people of these United States have time-and-time again stood ready and willing to discharge humanitarian duties, to eradicate injustice, to defeat evil and bury the “isms” of Nazism and Communism. Where would England and Europe and Asia and, yes, the United States be today, if Americans of all race, color, and creed, had not joined the ranks of the Allies in World War I or World War II?

Nazi Germany is now but a mere page in the history of humankind, and the Berlin Wall and The Iron Curtain have disintegrated because men and women are not born to live in shackles. In Thomas Jefferson’s words, “I am not among those who fear the people. They, and not the rich, are our dependence for continued freedom…”

Americans are not easily duped by those political charlatans who lack common sense, point fingers at the media for their own incompetence, ridicule reporters to disguise their own ignorance and ineptness. They not only dishonor themselves but the country they purportedly say they love. To turn one faction against another is not to serve one’s country, but is an attempt to divide it.

In the many years abroad, I have had no occasion to hate any race, or color or creed.

In fact, I am honored to have had the privilege to live among the brave Russian people who shared their bread and cheese with me, even though they, themselves had little to eat. My 13 year odyssey behind the Iron Curtain was painful, yet seasoned with patience. Showing interest in human beings and their culture taught me life lessons that define me to this day.

I visited the homes of the rambunctious Georgians and the gregarious Azerbaijani invited me to their dinner table for a special meal of “shashlik” and rice. Then, in the mountains of the Transcaucasus, around a camp fire, the irrepressible Chechens talked about freedom and liberty. I have dined and shared a bottle of wine with the Jews of Odessa and learned about my ancestors and met an aunt in Armenia who lost three sons in the Greek Civic War.

I spent many days and nights in Riga, and Vilnius, and Tallinn and Kiev. With vodka flowing as silently as the Don, I talked about life in America with those Soviets who were eager to know the truth about the West. I put my neck on the block when I told them that their newspaper, Pravda (Truth), should be changed to “Ne-pravda”. (No truth) Would you believe they laughed!

I shall never forget the Volga and its ruins and the millions of men, women and children who died in the bloodiest battle, for the city of Stalingrad. The Battle of Stalingrad was Nazi Germany’s first major defeat and turned the tide in favor of the Allies in World War II.

I stood on the steps of the shell of a building where Germany’ military genius, Field Marshal Friedrich von Paulus, surrendered the skeleton of his once-considered invincible 350,000 troops to Soviet Marshal Vasili Chuikov. Only 9,000 of the 350,000 Germans returned to their homes and families. During my early days in Soviet Armenia, having nothing more to do, I would visit a park where I sat on a rock and watched for hours as German prisoners of war built a bridge over a river in Yerevan. Ironically, that bridge eventually would collapse because of the faulty design and material used in the construction.

Upon my return home to Detroit, I was picked up by an FBI agent, driven to the Federal Building, then, after an initial interview, asked if I was willing to go to Washington D.C. to discuss my life in the Soviet Union. Having nothing to hide, I agreed to go. The information the FBI and CIA compiled should be as intriguing as a John LeCarre or Dan Brown novel….provided everything has not been redacted.

My hesitation in receiving these files is not without validation. After all, my intention was to journey to Armenia for a few years, not the better part of my youth. I had no concept that once I stepped off The Rossia I would lose all the freedoms I had enjoyed. That I would be watched and followed with severe mistrust.

While the Freedom of Information Act allows individuals to submit requests to see their own CIA and FBI files, who can accurately predict what will come of this inquiry? In today’s severe mistrust of the Middle East, will I re-awaken the government’s interest in my own personal history? Will my wife, children, and grandchildren be safe from their scrutiny?

Last week, I asked readers if I should ask the agency for my dossier. I received many replies, though Facebook, my blog, personal emails, and phone conversations supporting me to submit the request. With unending curiosity and extreme hesitation, I shall make application for the dossier as soon as this is post hits the cloud.

Wish me luck.

***

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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A Cross Road in My Life

Armenian Hillside
On the road in Armenia, photo courtesy of Bethany Mooradian

After thirteen nebulous years as a citizen of the former USSR, I remember with pride and no prejudice the early days of my life as a reinstated citizen of my country. I was proud to again say, “I am an American.”

I shall not take up your valuable time to count the ways I am indebted to those who helped me get back to my family. The circumstances in which this all came about in itself have remained locked up in mind and memory.

After touring around the country, giving numerous talks to share my time in the USSR…an American under 13 years of Soviet Rule…many have asked – no demanded – that I finish the story. While “The Repatriate” accounts for my time as an Armenian-American repatriate during the time of Stalin, it seems that curiosity remains for what happened upon my return to America.

In unison, it has been asked, “What happened after you came back. You have left us, abandoned us…surely there is more to tell…”

There is.

First, let it be clear I am not a malcontent. I love my country. I have lived under despotic rule and Americans should never lose sight that the loss of liberty is worse than death. Death is final. Tyranny! Unlawful arrests! Lack of due process! Torture! Dehumanization! Informers! For little or no reason, one can be shoved on a truck, driven to a train station, tossed in a cattle car, where you have no space or room to breathe, no water, food, or somewhere to pee, except in your pants. Human beings… dehumanization, treated worse than cattle driven to the slaughter fields and houses. Those who live, who dread each dawn, are but dust in the hands of their guards who can blow them away at their will.

Is it any wonder that we, here, in America are the envy of the world!

In the twilight of my life, I live in serenity. The past is but an apparition, appearing now and then to remind me of the ghosts who are but ghosts now. Unlike the past, there is no fear of retaliation for the words I utter on a telephone, or in public, or what I write.

I have read the Constitution. I do know my rights now. Unfortunately, after the Iron Curtain meltdown, and upon my arrival in America, I learned that ignorance is not bliss. The FBI taught me a civics lesson that to this day I have not forgotten.

Joe McCarthy may have been dead…but McCarthyism was still alive and well when my plane touched the landing strip at Metropolitan Airport in Detroit in July 1960.

Little did I know that FBI agents were standing there in the shadows, looking at this strange man, with one suitcase, dressed in a double-breasted wool suit, penniless waiting, hoping, praying that someone knew of my arrival. That young man had information they wanted…or was a “Manchurian Candidate”. I soon would learn that I was “a person of interest” to the FBI, and would discover that I also was not out of the KGB’s reach.

Now I have come to another one of those crossroads in life…it’s a “should I or shouldn’t I” situation. Which road should I follow?

When a friend asked a CIA employee…Does Tom Mooradian have a file with you?”

The answer was, “One moment please.” Then, “Oh, yes, he has.” Then, silence. “If he wishes to obtain the information he will have to apply.”

Now my question to my readers: SHOULD I APPLY FOR THE DOSSIER? I leave it to you.

 

***

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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One Day in the Mind of a Writer

Tom Mooradian at the editorial desk circa 1970
Tom Mooradian at the editorial desk circa 1970

What goes on in the mind of a writer when he – or she – sits down to create a line of two for those who are interested in his talent?

Plenty and nothing!

Right now, echoing in the back of my mind, are those who wish to put me on a guilt trip, like my daughter who calls and says, “But, Dad, the readers want to know what happened to you when you came home after those horrible years in the Soviet Union…”

No kidding.

Do you really want to know? Do you really want me to spend the next four years gathering evidence of the FBI interrogations and the lie-detector tests and the almost fatal meeting in Washington D.C. with a turncoat KGB officer who happened to say to me during one of the sessions, “Comrade, Tom Bogoshovich, you and I know that the KGB would not allow you to return home unless you do something for them… Tell me what your mission is and I definitely will help you…”

Do I really want to relive that crap?

The last time I saw Paris…” Hammerstein, get the hell out of my mind. “Her heart was warm and gay…I heard the laughter of her heart in every street café….”

“I’m leaving Paris,” Jeannot said.

“No! No! No!” I shouted back in my mind. “You can’t! It’s the most beautiful place on earth…Please, Jean don’t!”

“I have sold my home and Laura and I are moving to St. Rapheal. The streets are not safe anymore. The cafes are not safe. We can’t stroll the boulevards. Even the birds don’t sing anymore. Come visit us at our home on the Mediterranean. Too many people in Paris today are wearing ‘masks’.”

The epicenter of nationalism and the rebirth of radicalism in American politics…get thee from me, Donald. I had vowed never, never again to mention his name in print! God forgive!

*He would leave millions stateless;

*He robbed thousands of workers of their hard-earned wages and had the audacity to say he created “millions of jobs” for Americans;

*He is simulated by his ego and has shown daily that he cannot be trusted with power;

*He belittles those who are handicapped;

*When he can’t get his way, he cries like a baby and would kick crying babies out of his sight;

*And, here in America, when a fallen soldier’s family mourns, we mourn with them, you would dishonor the names of our heroes. You would attack the father and mother of those who sacrificed…oh, let me allow Mr. Lincoln to say it, for he would do it far, far, better than my mind could…that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to the cause for which they gave their last full measure of devotion…that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain…”

Mr. Kahn offered you a copy of the Constitution; I am forwarding you a copy of Lincoln’s Gettysburg’s Address, so that you can read the final words. On the other hand, do you read anything other than the National Inquirer? Using your view, through your licentiousness and despicable character, Mr. Trump, our heroes have sacrificed their lives so that you can build walls and make your fortunes. Have you no common sense or humanity? Do you not know the definition of “sacrifice”?

There is another America, Mr. Trump. An America that, after I lived behind the Iron Curtain for 13 years, I came back to and the people of this great nation opened up their arms and welcomed me back.

These are the fragmented thoughts and tribulations of a writer as dawn breaks over a beautiful lake in the state of Michigan…

 

***

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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Young Lovers Trapped in the USSR

Silhouette of couple at sunset
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and pat138241

There are so many stories that I have come upon during the research for my book, but the following ‘love story’ must be considered among my favorites.

Christine was sixteen when she fell in love and later married Ara. Both had left their native land, America, and had repatriated to the Soviet Union in the late 1940’s. After I managed to legally leave the USSR, the two young Americans decided that they too would try to return home. They weighed the risks, for Christine’s father had been arrested and charged as ‘an enemy of the people’ and convicted by Stalin’s NKVD, but my successful return home convinced them that there was hope.

So, Ara and Christine traveled to Moscow. They met with US Consulate officials who, after hearing their stories, encouraged them to apply for reinstatement of their citizenship. Since they were born in the US and were considered minors when they left with their families, they had no problems. The two were issued US passports.

But the young couple still needed ‘exit visas’, and only the Soviets, via OVIR, had the jurisdiction to grant them that unique Soviet privilege to leave the borders of the impregnable Iron Curtain. When Ara and Christine appeared before the Soviet agency, with American passports in hand, OVIR became outraged. They not only belittled the two but they warned them that Soviets communicating with a foreign power is illegal and that they could be prosecuted.

Christine knew full well what that meant. Under Stalin, her father had been exiled to Siberia and was released only after Stalin’s death. With Khrushchev was at the height of power, and Chairman Khrushchev‘s revelations of his former boss murderous tantrums, surely times had changed. Apparently for this young married couple it had not.

Not only did OVIR reject the young couple’s request for the visa, but the Soviet government reportedly issued an official protest to the US Embassy, chastising the United States for issuing American passports to Soviet citizens.

It would take years before Christine and Ara were give permission to leave the USSR and return to America.

But they did and both lived happily for years to come.

***

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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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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Time does not ease the pain

Armenian Repatriation

She sat there in the living room of our Southfield, Michigan, home her eyes glued to the book. Not once as she was reading did she glance at her husband, who was sitting directly across from her. I had left to make some tea and when I returned with a cup and saucer she was in tears.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, “Why the tears?”

“Your story brings back memories. Tragic events that I had long since forgotten.” And then she told her story.

“My father was employed by the NKVD and the event you mentioned here, about the massive round up of dissidents that night, he was ordered by the ministry to help out. When he returned early the following day I could hear him sobbing and shouting and then he sat at our kitchen table pounding his head. He said he felt guilt for those he had arrested and conveyed to the train depot. They were just ordinary people. Innocent people who were as loyal as he was to the Party were arrested during another one of Stalin’s reign of terror.

“’Why! Why!’ My father sobbed over and over again.”

In the spring of 1949 thousands of Soviet citizens and hundreds residing in Soviet Armenia, including repatriates who had earlier belonged to the nationalist Tashnag Party or to the Ramgavars, but returned after World War II to their homeland in hopes of building a better life for their families, were rounded up and exiled.

She continued her story, “The next day I went to school and when I entered my classroom I looked for my two closest friends. I thought it strange, for they were never late. I took my seat and waited. When our teacher entered the classroom, we stood, as we usually did, and greeted her. She asked us to take our seats. I continued to look at their empty desks, they did not come. Noticing my gaze, the teacher ordered me to pay attention.

“They will not be attending class today,” she said firmly, the words being directed at me. “Their families are enemies of our state. I have wasted my time on them.”

She said that it was on that day she had vowed she would marry someone who would get her out of the Soviet Union and take her to a land where she and her family would not have to fear the government.

***

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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