Tag Archives: Soviet Armenia

A Love Story

Young Lovers during Armenian Repatriation
Images courtesy of Jeannot and Laura

Which do you believe is stronger – the love of one’s country or the love of one’s soul mate? One young lover was forced to choose between his country of birth, France, or the woman he loved. It was a decision that changed the lives of two young lovers forever.

Jeannot was born in the resort paradise of Nice, France; and Laura, in the Soviet Union. She was among the Soviet elite, the daughter of a much-decorated military officer who served heroically in Stalin’s Red Army. The strikingly handsome young Armenian-Frenchman would meet the poised and beautiful, very serious Laura at the Polytechnical Institute in Yerevan, Soviet Armenia.

Both were excellent students who blotted out their past lives to live in a fantasy world they would create together. Life can seduce those who dream the impossible, despite the fact that each nook was occupied by informants, and the terrifying truth that “Big Brother” is watching, listening and reading each written or spoken word.

Dictators cannot tolerate those who believe in liberty and freedom.

And, it would be unthinkable for the parents of repatriates to bless or sanction such a marriage between a repatriate and local. “Akbars”, the repatriates, wanted to return to the West, especially those who were born in France and/or the United States; and the “deneracities” knew that the repatriates hated the Soviets and denigrated anything and everything about the USSR. There would be no compromises.

And, in 1960, when Nikita Khrushchev had reached the zenith of his political power, he opened a small hole in the iron gates to allow Soviet citizens to crawl through. Some made it to the West. Others waited patiently.

Their patience eventually paid off.

How painful and distressing life became when unexpectedly Jeannot and his mother were granted exit visas. A dream come true. Back to France. Back to Nice.

But Jeannot was in love. He and Laura planned to get married. There would be complications, delays, and maybe a “nyet” by the Soviets.

“I will go,” said Jeannot’s mother who had been widowed several years earlier. Jeannot had never forgotten the world he had left behind when he was just a child. He, too, said that he would go home to France, but planned to return to marry the girl whom he adored loved. The parents would breathe a sigh of relief, while the two young lovers parted. However, they vowed never to forget each other. And they did not.

The Francis Gary Powers Spy Plane Incident and the Cuban Missile Crisis suddenly refueled the Cold War and the two young lovers were left on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain. They would not see or hear from each other for years.

Jeannot eventually found his niche in the business world and managed to accumulate substantial wealth. Not surprising since he had a degree and was fluent in Russian, Armenian, French and the English languages. He married and the marriage fell apart. He knew he had left his heart and soul behind in the Soviet Union.

Laura also married. A professor who taught at the prestigious Moscow University seemed to have given her a life that most Soviets only dream about. She had completed a degree in metallurgy. Neither was ready for what was to happen next in their lives.

One day, Jeannot was asked by his CEO to go to Moscow and negotiate a contract. He eagerly accepted the assignment and the challenge to return to the land of the Soviets. Once the jet landed in Moscow, Jeannot contacted several of his former college classmates, making inquiries about Laura. Luck would have it that a friend knew she had an apartment in Moscow and even had the phone number

Jeannot wasted little time. He picked up the phone, dialed the number and heard a man’s voice.

“I’m an old friend of Laura’s and I would like to talk with her,” Jeannot remembers telling the person.

“What do you want?” the man asked.

“My name is Jeannot… we went to college together…may I speak to her?”

The man repeated Jeannot’s name and Laura overheard it. She rushed to the phone. There was a silence that cripples the senses in such incidents. Laura was the first to speak. “Is it really you?” she asked.

“Yes!” And then unexpectedly and wasting no time, Jeannot asked “Do you love me?”

“Jeannot… I am married,” she whispered back into the phone.

“I did not ask you that. I asked – `Do you love me?’”

“Jeannot, I have a daughter. A lovely daughter. Please…”

For the third, and he stressed would be the final time, Jeannot asked Laura again, “Do you love me?”

There was a long, nervous silence on both ends.

“Yes! Yes! Yes! I have always loved you. I have never stopped loving you…”

Jeannot and Laura were married shortly afterward. And they have been inseparable since Fate reunited them. In a world of chaos, unnecessary bloodshed, and extreme nationalism, it is a joy to acknowledge and share a story of hope…a story of everlasting love.

***

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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A Cup of Love

Papazian-raising cups

“When you become frustrated with our world and yearn for your world, drink from this cup, it will take away your problems and life will become beautiful.”

The voice belonged to Armen-Dei and his words still ring in my ears. His wrinkled, ageless face is as vivid in my memory as if he were still sitting on his bench in the garden behind the Pioneers Palace in Yerevan, Armenia.

Made of obsidian, Armen-Dei’s cup was actually filled with wine, and the wine was an invitation to friendship. He called it a “Cup of Love.” Although I hesitated at first, Armen-Dei smiled and said, “Our children are born with wine in their blood. That is why they are so beautiful.”

In the days to come Armen-Dei would convince me that I, too, should have wine in my blood. Our friendship would last more than a decade.

Armen-Dei would never, ever reveal his age, but he laughed as he drank from the cup…and ate the lavash bread with cheese.

“I am older than…” he would start and then break into laughter, “Do you know that we Armenians are descendants of Noah’s son, Shem. In fact, I am named for one of Noah’s grandson’s, Armen.

What could I do but humor him? And then he would remind me that Noah lived to be over 900 years old.

“That’s a fact. You read the Bible, don’t you?”

A Bible! In an atheistic country! A Soviet citizen could be prosecuted as “an enemy of the state” if he possessed a Bible. All the churches had been closed and the believers sent off to Siberia.

And, then Armen-Dei went on, “We are supposed to be a free people. Our constitution says that we have the right to free speech, to a free press, and are guaranteed a job. Is that not so?”

The Soviet Constitution did do that and more, I agreed.

Armen-Dei had survived in the ungodly world of the Soviet Union and lived in a world surrounded by children, orchards, vineyards, and the mountains of the Caucasus. In his courtyard, filled with laughing children during the summer months, he would tell of the times that were and the times that would be. He would retell the story of Noah and the Ark and God’s Covenant. He would offer me a cup of love.

“The hatred within us – all of us – is the progeny of stupidity,” he would tell me. “It is nurtured and it grows with the help of its twin, prejudice…this government we all must serve, one day, will collapse. One day…as all governments which deceive and exploit their people will do….”

Armen-Dei would stop and hand me the cup and say to me, “Drink.”

And I learned to do so.

In a country whose citizens were restricted from owning land and producing anything outside the collective farm, Armen-Dei had created an acre of organic tapestry where mulberry and cherry trees, a vineyard, tomatoes, cucumbers and corn would flourish.

Armen Dei must have been over 100-years-old when I first met him in that courtyard. I was but 20, alone in a strange country, a repatriate living in my ancestral homeland in Soviet Armenia. His eyes had seen the rise and fall of Czar Nicholas II, World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution, and the rise and decay of Stalin. He had also watched a young Armenian Republic struggle for independence and on the right road to democracy when the Soviets armies marched in and destroyed freedom in the guise of building a “workers’ paradise”.

The transformation from a capitalistic to a socialistic system proved deadly. Untold suffering for all was not what the Soviet citizens and the working class had expected. But that is what they got. Miraculously shutting out the rest of the Soviet world, Armen-Dei built his world with a panoply, created of his own hands – a rose wall made of Armenia’s natural stone, tuff. Ironically, on the other side of the wall, stood a foreboding three-story Gothic building, the office of the KGB (nee NKVD).

“Today our people are again in chains. But someday we will – and you will – again be free. Look, look to the mountain. It was there, atop Mt. Ararat, you will find the answers. God made his covenant with Noah there. With all of us. Remember His message, “Whoever sheds the blood of man… by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God has God made man…”

A few years ago, I returned to free Armenia. I visited the courtyard near where I had spent part of my youth teaching youngsters to play basketball. And stood at the spot where I had first met Armen-Dei.   The trees are still standing, but the bench, the garden, and the vineyard were gone.

I stood there for awhile, dreaming of those days that were, and the desire to have just one more day with him, to tell him I’ll never forget. The sun glistened from some small objects in weeds. I strolled to the spot, and there I saw the pieces of the obsidian. His cup. I picked up the pieces, brushed them off and smiled. He has been here all these years. I glanced up at the towering mountain that stood in the West and for one brief moment I was sure that I saw him standing there on the deck of the Ark. I wanted to shout, “Come back…come back! Your orchards and your vineyard need you – I need you!” And I am certain that I heard his voice say, “Come, drink from the cup.”

***

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 Person of Interest

Tom Mooradian, Armenian Repatriate

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

Once my feet had touched American soil there was a sense of relief. A cathartic sensation never before or since experienced flushed my veins. My nightmare in the USSR was over. I was a free man – free from the Soviet sham, from the terror one suffers as a citizen of a totalitarian state. I was no longer in the clutches of the KGB.

Or was I? How naïve I had been back then. How naïve I am.

When the KGB stepped out of their shadowy nooks and abandoned their imbecilic stratagem to unmask me as a “sleeper”, a “tool of the capitalists”, I asked them why the continuous surveillance. Why were their agents following me? I never got a satisfactory answer.

Those thirteen years behind the Iron Curtain are now history. Those thirteen years without a single Christmas…or Easter…or letter or parcel that had not been opened. I lived in a Soviet Republic that desecrated over 1000 churches and padlocked the doors or used the religious edifices as shortage space.

How tragic it all was…for it did not have to be as history reveals. Today the terror of the night is but mist and the fear to live is blotted forever.

But as sweet as it has been to return home, there were bitter moments of gloom and despair. My battle left me with scars.

You, dear reader, ask… “Where is the sequel to The Repatriate? “You have left us in limbo,” writes a reader. “…the story is incomplete.”

As proud as I am of my country and of the American people, the treatment afforded me upon return made no sense to me at the time. I understood the “hate mail” and I understood why some employers were terse, even rude, when they learned of my past, but…Depression had set in and I took long walks. Friends had lives of their own. I was broke and miserable.

As I strolled on a street in southwest Detroit, a well-dressed man approached me. “Aren’t you Tom Mooradian?”

I was caught off guard. I thought for a second that he may have been a classmate of mine or a basketball fan who recognized me. I was wrong on both counts. He said, “I’m from the FBI.”

The announcement startled me. The agent continued, “My director would like to talk to you… Do you have any time on your hands?”

I looked at him, smiled and replied, “If you have been following me all these weeks you know I have nothing but time on my hands.”

The agent raised his hand. A black sedan came out of nowhere, stopped at the curb and the agent opened the door for me, inviting me to get in. Once we were seated, the driver headed toward the Federal Building.

As the car sped toward our destination, I broke the deep silence in the car with a nervous laugh. The agent asked, “Want to share that with me?”

I had nothing to lose, so I said, “For a moment, I thought I was back in Moscow.”

The agent smiled and said, “No. …No. We don’t play the game the way they do.”

I would soon learn that they did.

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

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