Tag Archives: Stalin

The Nazi and the Communist

Black Handprint
Image courtesy of Pixabay and open-clipart

He was born in Germany at the height of Hitler’s power.

I was born in Detroit the year before the Great Depression.

After World War II, he chose America and attended the University of Michigan, becoming a prominent architect.

After World War II, I chose the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and became a teacher who earned prominence playing basketball.

We met in May in Petoskey, Michigan, at McLean & Eiken Booksellers where I was signing copies of my book. I will confess I was more anxious to hear his story than sign books. He wanted to know why I would leave a country like the United States to live under a despot as evil as Joseph Stalin. My answers mystified him.

Our conversation drew more people around us than either of us expected.

I asked him about Hitler and life in Nazi Germany. “When we were winning all was well; when we were losing, all was hell.” He then offered the following…“We were losing the war and, at 15, I was called upon to do my duty for the Fatherland. They trained me as an anti-aircraft gunner and I spent the last days of the war futilely trying to shoot down planes. But, you know we also had a lot of planes…even jet planes…but we didn’t have enough pilots to fly them.

When his family found out that the Russians were at the gates of Berlin and they made a frantic rush to escape to the West. “And then we came to America. Why would you go to such an evil place as the USSR?”

I did not know it was evil, I told him. The Soviets were our friends, our allies, and I did not understand how a ruler could be evil. After all I was born in a democracy and believed that the world enjoyed the same rights as we did.

“Did you not know or read about the mass arrests and killings…Hitler, yes, was evil, but there are no words to describe what Stalin did to his people and to his enemies.”

My argument was the argument that most fellow travelers, socialists and communists at the time used, the Soviet Union was so great an ally during World War II, that Stalin and the Communist Party offered work and security and did not discriminate while capitalism had crushed the creative forces of labor and was constantly subject to the explosive whims and greed of those forces who controlled Wall Street. Capitalism had served its purpose and it was felt that it needed to be replaced by a system that would serve the masses, the working people.

Like him, I, too, had lived most of my youth surfing tidal waves of radical idealism, hoping to find a utopia that does not exist.

He asked whether there were any regrets on my part. My answer was short and truthful, “No.” The Soviet experience has made me the man I am today.

***

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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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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Death Is So Disruptive

Tom Mooradian Armenian Repatriation
Death, oh how disruptive it can be!

With my byline appearing under the headlines of more than three hundred homicides I have had been assigned to cover for a western Wayne County newspaper in the great state of Michigan – and with an uncountable number of church services I have attended for departed friends and loved ones – I believe I can attest to the rude and cruel behavior of this obscene, inhumane, dark, vile, voiceless, vandal called Death.

This omnipresent creature that preys and craves all living things, appears suddenly, without invitation, then indiscriminately proceeds to destroy lives of everything it touches. Death cares not if the harvest is from the wise or the wicked, the powerful or the poor, the scholarly or the illiterate, the rich or poor – when it calls, it owns the scene; it has the final say.

Nations may stand in tribute for the fallen heroes or shout in joy when an evil tyrant falls. From ancient to modern times we have tomes of literature in praise and in awe of Death…but…oh, death can be so disruptive, so destruction to those who stand at the grave to mourn. Rest assured that time on the remarkable station called earth has no warranties or guarantees.

Years ago, during the reign of Josef Stalin and the Soviet Empire, I unwittingly wrote my own death warrant in the form of a petition to the Ambassador to the United States Embassy in Moscow. At the time I did not know that it was a fatal mistake for a citizen of the USSR to contact a foreign embassy; the belief that it belittled the Soviet regime, therefore a crime under Soviet law. I paid the consequences, but survived. A wise and older woman who always had her Bible at her side (also a crime under Soviet law) cleansed my wounds and helped me back to life, assured me daily during the healing process that my mission on earth was not over. “You still have much work to do,” she said. She renewed my faith in humanity, and also reminded me that, although we live among the atheists, the demons who are the messengers of the Devil…that our God is omnipresent and omnipotent. God defeated evil and the Devil and He will guide you home one day, she promised me.

She was among those who were taken away on that unforgettable night in 1949 when thousands were taken from their homes, tossed into trucks, driven to train stations, and transported to Siberia never to be seen or heard from again.

Evil – it is alive and lives in the hearts of many. It can be defeated.

Was not sinister Dorian Gray granted his wish by the Devil? And did not disillusioned Gray end his own life? After he was strangely enough given eternal life? And did not Mr. Daniel Webster beguile and dupe the Devil and save the day for the hard-luck New Hampshire farmer Jabez Stone? Mr. Webster’s arguments on behalf of his client, Stone, convinced Lucifer’s hand-picked jury that the farmer’s contract with the Devil should be tossed into the flames of Hell. His words saved the day and Stone’s soul. And reportedly the Devil never again showed his face in New Hampshire. (Of the latter I am not sure for some citizens of the Granite State reported that they saw the Damned One on stage during the recent presidential caucus.)

But would a man or woman seeking the highest office its people have to offer the use of profanity? Naw…

Unfortunately I must stop here. Death has intervened. My dear wife has just called my “dungeon” and informed me there is “breaking news” of national and international importance: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has died and I must leave this page to get the updates. If news sources confirm the report, our sympathies go out to his wife, Maureen, and the family. Death is so disruptive…

See you next week.

***

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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Voting: USA vs. USSR

Image courtesy of Nirots and FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Nirots and FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was 31-years-old before I could vote in an U.S. Presidential election. The year was 1960, and the major candidates were Vice President Richard M. Nixon and Senator John F. Kennedy, and having seen and heard the Vice President in Moscow during the summer of 1959, I came away very impressed with him. Nixon had been in Moscow for the opening ceremonies of the inaugural United States Exhibition. American commercial and agricultural goods were put on display in Sokolniki Park for the Russians to view. The Nixon tour took an unexpected turn when he and Nikita Khruschchev, then the First Secretary of the Communist Party, debated the virtues of capitalism vs. communism. At one point, they literally stood toe-to-toe. The Soviets had never seen a Western official argue with their First Secretary and they were aghast, watching with their mouths open. I half-expected them to exchange blows.

The incident went down in our history books as the “Kitchen Debate”…that is another story.

Back to the voting booth in 1960…

At that time 21-year olds were eligible to vote (Congress lowered the eligibility age to 18 in the 1970’s). It wasn’t indifference to civic duty that stopped me from voting previously. I had not cast a single ballot in an American election from November 1, 1947, until July 23, 1960, because I was behind the Iron Curtain.

On July 23, 1960, the American Consul in Moscow, John A. McVickar, handed me my American Passport and told me I could return to my native land. My thirteen years behind the Iron Curtain were finally over. And, in November, 1960, I chose Richard M. Nixon over John F. Kennedy. The reason I have mentioned the above facts is that one of my readers raised the question: “Did I ever vote in the USSR?” And that was followed up with a second question: “What was it like to vote in a totalitarian state?”

I believe, as a former citizen of the USSR. I am qualified to answer that question.

But first, let me say that the Soviet Constitution I lived under was called the Stalin Constitution, adopted by the Soviets on December 5, 1926. It went down in history as one of the most liberal constitutions in the history of mankind. Not only did it provide a Bill of Rights, those rights included and guaranteed Soviet citizens the right to work, universal medical care, and the right to a free college education, among other things.

In addition, the Constitution read:

Article 124

…guarantees freedom of religion, universal direct suffrage and the right to work.

Chapter XI

…..deputies to The Supreme Soviets and the Presidium of the Supreme Soviets …are chosen by the electors on the basis of universal and equal suffrage by secret ballot.

…Women have the right to elect and be elected on equal terms with men…and chosen by the electors on the basis of universal, direct and equal suffrage by secret ballot.

Article 135

…elections are universal: all citizens of the USSR who have reached the age of 18, irrespective of race or nationality, religion, educational or residential background have the right to vote…

Article 141

…candidates are nominated according to electoral area. The right to nominate candidates is secured to public organizations and societies of the working people, the Communist Party, trade unions, cooperatives, youth organizations, and cultural societies.

Enough! Enough! Enough!

Fiction. Fiction. That is all Stalin’s Constitution represented. The words signified nothing but deception, propaganda that deceived millions into believing in the Soviet Workers Paradise, which was, in truth, Dante’s Hell.

The first time I cast a ballot…

The year was 1948 in the early morning hours. There is a knock at our apartment door, located on Kalinin Street in Yerevan, the capital of Soviet Armenia. He is “The Party’s” messenger…

“Is this the home of Comrades Mooradian, Simonian and Ketegian?”

Simonian, who spoke Armenian, replied that it was. The messenger continued: “Comrades, greetings from The Party. Today is Election Day. Here is the list of candidates, unanimously agreed upon by The Party, who will represent us as our deputies….Please sign your names here.” He handed Mr. Simonian the paper. Simonian briefly looked at the paper, then signed. One vote cast for The Party’s candidates. He handed the paper over to me and pointed to where I should sign. I had had a previous experience with the NKVD. I didn’t need another. I quickly signed. Two votes for “The Party”. I gave the paper to Johnny. Johnny, the rebel among us, said: “I don’t know what the F—this paper says. I won’t sign.” Simonian gave him a threatening glance that had made me shudder. In English, Simonian reminded Johnny that his parents would soon be arriving in Soviet Armenia from New York, “and you don’t want this on their record.”

Simonian’s urgency lead me to remind Johnny that he and I were not working and were dependent on Simonian for food and even the wood to keep the stove burning. If this was that important to him, we should do it. Johnny signed. Not many years later I learned that refusing to vote, labeled you a dissident, and there would be consequences.

A few days later, Simonian read an article in one of the newspapers to us that proudly announced the results of the election, stressing that 97 percent of the electorate had voted.

And, shamefully, many in the West would believe these figures and use them to promote communism.

I question the dignity of words that proclaim freedom and liberty and justice in documents of nations whose foundations are built on words ending in “ism”.

As English statesman Edmund Burke, pointed out more than 150 years ago: “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

 ***

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!

Save