A friend of mine taught Jack Barsky's daughter in preschool, and affirms that he is a very interesting man with quite a story.
Quite a story, indeed. I can't wait to try to persuade our library to stock his book when it comes out on March 21. Deep Undercover: My Secret Life and Tangled Allegiances as a KGB Spy in America.
Barsky, once a bright, adventurous, young East German named Albert Dittrich, was trained by the KGB to fit into American society so well that he would be able to pass important secrets back to the Soviet Union. If the KGB's ambitions were unrealistic, Barsky's courage and spirt were not. He came into the country on a false Canadian passport, and with a few thousand dollars in his pocket, made his way to New York City and into American life.
Too well into American life, for the KGB's purposes.
Like many undercover agents before him, he began to realise that much of what he had been taught about the West - that it was an "evil" system on the brink of economic and social collapse - was a lie. ... "What eventually softened my attitude" was the "normal, nice people" he met in his daily life. ... "I was always waiting to eventually find the real evil people and I didn't even find them in the insurance company."
[That one's for you, David. He worked for Met Life.]
So he stayed. Not that it was either an easy decision or an easy process, and it cost him two marriages. But what a story! I can't wait to read it.
Those of us who are inclined to think it's too difficult to become an American citizen will do well to pay attention to Barsky's insistence that it was only the difficulty of obtaining an American passport that kept him from doing real damage as a spy.
"The idea was for me to get genuine American documentation and move to Europe, say to a German-speaking country, where the Russians were going to set me up with a flourishing business. And they knew how to do that.
"And so I would become quite wealthy and then go back to the United States without having to explain where the money came from. At that point, I would have been in a situation to socialise with [political decision makers]."
And here's the trailer for the CBS 60 Minutes report about him.