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.
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.
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