On a hot and sultry Wednesday evening on September 5, 1945, Igor Sergeievitch Gouzenko, clutching a hundred and nine explosive documents underneath his sweat-soaked shirt, made his hair-breadth escape from the secret cipher room of the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa.
His incendiary documents, when opened, exposed, for the first time, the web of Russian spy networks spread across the three Western democracies of Canada, England, and the United States.
Yet for the next twenty-four hours, the blond, twenty-six year old Russian cipher clerk was to live in terror adrift between two worlds—spurned by the democratic world, risking kidnap and murder if he was caught by the Communist world.
Only one person trusted him. His wife, Svetlana, urged him to run the danger, although she was six months pregnant, and knew it might mean death by "liquidation" for their two-year-old son, Andrei. Three weeks in advance, she busily bought two hundred dollars worth of groceries from Ottawa shops, to delude the other Embassy wives into thinking she was preparing for their voyage home to Moscow.
In preparation for his bolt from his fellow spies, Gouzenko spent two weeks poring over the files behind the steel-barred doors and windows of the Embassy. He folded over the top right-hand corner of each important document; then he replaced them in the files, so he could pick them up quickly at the time of his flight.
It was almost 8 p.m. on September 5th, and he felt the time had come. Gouzenko was perspiring nervously in his blue serge suit and white shirt, as he walked up the quiet, residential Charlotte Street to the Embassy at number 285. He'd just had supper at his apartment at 511 Somerset Street; he had come back to work on the pretext of needing to code two Moscow telegrams he'd intentionally "forgotten" that afternoon.
Gouzenko had made his decision to flee this particular Wednesday evening for two pre-calculated reasons.
First of all, his new replacement from Moscow, who was gradually learning the ropes from Gouzenko—and who'd probably be first to notice him missing next day—was on guard duty at Colonel Zabotin's home at 14 Range Road. Consequently, the fellow would be allowed to sleep until noon next day.
Secondly, Colonel Zabotin, with his Assistant Military Attaché, Major Rogov, was at the première of a National Film Board movie that evening. This pair, too, would be unlikely to arrive before noon next day to find the bird had flown the coop.
Gouzenko stopped in at the Military Attaché's office. He wanted to make sure his replacement really was on guard duty,
Some staff members, just checking out of work, turned to Gouzenko. "How about joining us to see the cinema?" one of them asked. "There's a good picture at the Rideau Theatre nearby."
Gouzenko, not wishing to attract attention, said, "All right. Don't mind if I do."
At the theatre, Gouzenko glanced at the marquee. "Damn it!" he muttered regretfully. "I've already seen that Abbott and Costello movie. But you comrades go ahead. It's a very funny show. I'll take the streetcar downtown to another movie."
Waving them farewell, Gouzenko sauntered toward the tram stop. But as soon as the comrades entered the Rideau Theatre, he turned, and walked deliberately back down Charlotte Street, two blocks to the Soviet Embassy. He mopped the perspiration from his brow, and tried to grin, thinking how unhilarious they'd find his own Abbott and Costello charade.
Gouzenko nodded to the door guard at the Soviet Embassy, and signed the employees' time book. He was putting his fountain pen back in his pocket, when he glanced toward the reception room. Then a surge of terror tightened his stomach. He saw Vitali Pavlov, head of the N.K.V.D. secret police spy network in Canada, standing ominously there.
Gouzenko licked his dry lips, and nodded to Pavlov. Praying that the panic on his face didn't betray him, the cipher clerk walked hastily toward the cipher wing of the Embassy.
Gouzenko pressed the secret bell under the staircase bannister. He walked cautiously upstairs. He pulled aside the big, blue, velvet curtain at the top. There was a little hole in the huge, steel-sheathed door behind it. Gouzenko held his face in front of the peep-hole, so the guard could see him. Slowly, the guard unbarred the heavier steel inner door, and then the steel-sheathed outer door.
Gouzenko was glad to observe only one other clerk working in the cipher wing. Quickly, Gouzenko walked down the carpeted corridor, off which eight steel doors opened into tiny rooms. The first door on the right, happily, was his.
The windows of the cubicle were painted an opaque white, protected by steel bars by day, by steel shutters at night. Gouzenko slammed the door shut, went to his desk, pulled out Colonel Zabotin's cipher pouch, and coded the two telegrams that were his excuse for being there that night.
Then he scooped up from the pouch and the files his preselected documents with their corners turned down. He plucked out copies of telegrams, pages torn from secret notebooks and diaries, receipts, letters, and odd scraps of memoes. Altogether, the stack loomed up an inch-and-a-half high.
He unbuttoned his shirt. He spread the papers evenly next to his stomach. Then, as an afterthought, he stuck in the uncoded originals of the two telegrams he had just finished coding. That after-thought cost Emma Woikin, of the Canadian External Affairs Department's Cipher Division, a three-year prison sentence for espionage.
After re-sealing Colonel Zabotin's pouch, Gouzenko handed it and the telegrams for Moscow to the attendant, Aleksashkin.
"I was sweating hard," Gouzenko later recalled. "I was afraid he'd notice the bulge in my shirt. I was sure my face would give the whole show away. But he didn't notice anything wrong. I stepped into the men's room to wash my hands. Then I teased him: 'It's too hot to work. Why don't you skip out and come to a show with me?' I knew he wouldn't, of course. But we chatted a couple of minutes. And then I left."
Walking downstairs, Gouzenko was scared stiff one of his precious documents would slip past his belt and down his trouser leg. He didn't dare reach for a handkerchief to dab the sweat off his face even, for fear he'd disturb one of the papers.
At last, he manoeuvred his way to the Embassy reception room. Pavlov was gone. The guard didn't say a word as Gouzenko signed himself out. Gouzenko said, "Good night," and, breathing thankfully, walked out into the night.
With almost humorous understatement, the Royal Commission Report said of Gouzenko, "He was unable that day to have anyone accept him seriously."
A few yards from the Embassy door, Gouzenko hopped onto a streetcar, wondering how he could find protective custody. He decided to take his story and his shirtful of documents to the free Canadian press, namely the Ottawa Journal. "I didn't take them to the Ottawa Citizen," he later mused, "because I didn't understand their politics. They had some funny editorials sometimes."
In the elevator at the Journal building off Sparks Street, a girl greeted him. "Hi!" she called out. "What's new at the Embassy these days?"
Gouzenko was alarmed to find himself recognized already. He raced out of the building, boarded a streetcar, and headed home to his wife, Svetlana.
An attractive woman, with black hair in braids, Svetlana trembled when she saw her white-faced husband. "What went wrong, Igor?" she asked.
Gouzenko told her what had happened.
"Go back," Svetlana urged him. "See the editor. You still have several hours before the Embassy finds out."
The documents by now were so soaked with perspiration, Mrs. Gouzenko had to wrap them in paper. He took a streetcar back to the Journal.
In the newsroom, on the sixth floor, Gouzenko in broken English tried to talk to the night editor. He must have startled the Journal newsman, a wispy, elderly little man, wearing a green eye-shade, working at a big desk.
Gouzenko spread his documents, typed in Russian, out on the desk, and kept repeating, "Canadian member of Parliament is Russian spy! Going to destroy your country!"
The night editor just stared at the jabbering foreigner and the bewildering mass of papers written in an alien tongue.
"I tell you the N.K.V.D. will kill me, when they find these stolen papers gone!" Gouzenko shouted.
"Yes. Yes," the editor patted his shoulder. "Sorry, now. I'm very busy. Why don't you tell the R.C.M.P. about it? Or maybe come back here in the morning. Perhaps they can take care of you."
"I could tell from his face he thought I was crazy," Gouzenko later recalled. "I guess, by then, I nearly was."
The Royal Commission Report stated it more formally, yet with gentle irony: "He went to the newspaper with the intention of asking that newspaper to publish his decision and the reasons for reaching it. Whoever he interviewed at the newspaper office did not act in accordance with his desire."
As a last resort, Gouzenko decided he'd try to get in touch with the Minister of Justice, who was then Louis St. Laurent, later Prime Minister of Canada. Naturally, at 11 p.m., nobody was working in the Justice Building on Wellington Street. The Mountie guarding the door was polite but firm, despite Gouzenko's frantic plea that he and his family be taken into custody.
"Sorry," the Mountie said. "You'll have to come back in the morning."
Agitated with fright, Gouzenko returned to his apartment on Somerset Street. "Lana, they just won't listen to me," he told his wife.
"Be of good cheer," she tried to comfort him. "You'll have all morning, before they miss you at the Embassy. Andrei and I will go with you, and perhaps the officials will listen to us tomorrow."
Svetlana tucked the secret documents that nobody seemed to want under their pillow. Neither she nor her husband slept that night.
At 9 a.m., Gouzenko, wearing his now-rumpled blue serge suit, arrived at the Justice Department on Wellington Street. Svetlana had a powder-blue suit coat tossed over the shoulders of her cotton dress. She held the hand of her chubby-cheeked son, Andrei. In her other hand, she gripped her black leather purse, containing the secret documents.
With some difficulty, Gouzenko talked his way past the general reception desk. He got as far as the office of Minister of Justice Louis St. Laurent. A male secretary told him brusquely, "The Minister is over in the Parliament Buildings. Try there, if you think it's so important."
Trotting his family over there, Gouzenko desperately explained to another secretary, "It's life or death. I must speak to the Minister personally!"
Finally, the secretary picked up the phone, and talked to someone at length in French. Then he told Gouzenko to take his family back to the Justice Building: "Please wait in Mr. St. Laurent's office there."
As he cooled his heels for two hours, waiting, Gouzenko began to doubt whether anybody had even informed Mr. St. Laurent about his personal dilemma.
Actually, it had boiled up a political crisis for the high echelons. The Under Secretary for External Affairs rushed over to relate the extraordinary business to the Prime Minister, Mr. Mackenzie King, who, as a result, was quite late in getting to Parliament that morning.
As the Prime Minister later confided to the House of Commons, he had told the Under Secretary for External Affairs, carefully and cautiously, "This is a case where we can not be too careful, or too cautious. I think Gouzenko should be told to go back to the Embassy with the papers he has in his possession."
In his turn, Mr. St. Laurent remembered he told his secretary, diplomatically, "I cannot see him. We are maintaining friendly diplomatic relations with the Russian Embassy. I can not take any part in a quarrel between an employee in the Embassy and his employers. After all, this might become a rather serious international incident."
After keeping Gouzenko waiting for two nerve-wracking hours, Mr. St. Laurent's secretary gave the fugitive a polite brush-off: "Sorry. The Minister is unable to see you. You say you're from the Embassy? Why don't you go back there, and talk to them about your problems."
"Let's go back to the newspaper," Svetlana suggested wearily.
At the Journal, a girl reporter, named Elizabeth Fraser, was startled to hear Gouzenko plead, "It's death if you can't help me!"
Later, after it all broke—and after she changed jobs to become a faculty member at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ont.—she recounted in a Journal by-line story:
"He pronounced it 'dess'. I didn't know what to think. There was the ring of stark sincerity in his voice. But his fear and excitement were so frantic, he could easily have been a paranoid, convinced of the truth of his delusions. I was almost convinced he was not sane."
In any case, Miss Fraser took Gouzenko's documents in to show the assistant city editor. A few minutes later she returned from the newsroom.
"Sorry," she said. "We don't quite understand what it's all about. But why don't you go see the R.C.M.P.? They tell you how to take out naturalization papers, if that'll help you."
According to Miss Fraser's story, Gouzenko shook his head vigorously, protesting, "Oh, no! Please! The press is my last chance—they won't listen to me anywhere else! I am afraid. For my wife, and my son, and the child that is coming, I must have help!"
Miss Fraser recalled regretfully, "When they finally left the office, almost an hour after coming in, he was still pleading. For weeks after he left, though, I wondered if fear alone could have been responsible for his appearance and manner. I wondered if he had ever gone to the R.C.M.P. Maybe I should have phoned them for him."
Gouzenko could feel the noose tightening around his family's neck. He hurried them over to talk to an R.C.M.P. inspector at the Justice Building. The Mountie directed them to the Nicholas Street office of Crown Attorney Raoul Mercier, to apply for naturalization papers.
It was 2 p.m., and Andrei was crying from hunger and the noon-day heat. They had a quick lunch at a cafe, and rushed over to Nicholas Street.
Crown Attorney Mercier recalled that he entered his office, to find Gouzenko and his little family waiting for him, deeply distraught. Svetlana was weeping; but many people in great trouble come to Mr. Mercier's office, and he did not regard this woman's tears as unusual. He was busy; he directed them to his secretary, Fernande Joubarne.
"It was a very hot day," Madame Joubarne was to recall, "and the woman was crying. She kept saying, 'Why will they not take what we have? Why? Why? Why?' He took some documents out of his pocket, and the woman took some out of her purse, but I would not touch them."
Gouzenko recalls, "Madame Joubarne seemed to understand a little. She phoned the Ottawa Citizen, and she phoned a priest, and she finally called in one of the reporters in the building. He listened. Then he patted me on the shoulder like a child, and said: 'My, my. It's too big for us to handle. You'd better go tell the police all about it.' "
Madame Joubarne shrugged. She recalled, "He said he was from the Russian Embassy, and he asked if he could take out Citizenship papers. He said he had come in with the Soviet mission, and did not have a landing card. I told him that members of embassy staffs could not take out Citizenship papers, and that, as he did not have a landing card for Canada, we could do nothing for him."
Nevertheless, when Gouzenko insisted, she gave him naturalization forms to fill out. He had just written the first letter of his name on one of the papers, when he paused. "How long does the naturalization procedure usually take?" he asked.
"Oh, about three months," Madame Joubarne said.
Gouzenko picked up the forms, and walked out hopelessly. He asked Svetlana, "Shall we cut our wrists? Or shall we jump in the Rideau River?"
"Let's go home," Svetlana said.
The trap was closing. Gouzenko, at his wit's end, returned to his apartment, number 4, in the quiet building at 511 Somerset Avenue. In a monumental understatement, the Royal Commissioners gravely reported, "On returning to his apartment, he was evidently under some apprehension as to his personal safety and that of his wife and child."
As soon as he entered the apartment, at seven o'clock in the evening, Gouzenko was terror-stricken. He noticed two men standing in front of a park bench across the street, eyeing his window. Then there was a sharp knock on the door. A Russian voice shouted: "Gouzenko!"
Gouzenko and his wife froze. It was the voice of Under Lieutenant Lavrentiev, supposedly an Embassy Military Attaché chauffeur, actually an espionage contact agent.
At that moment, little Andrei betrayed them by running noisily across the floor. The agent rattled the door. Again his voice boomed menacingly: "Gouzenko!" They didn't answer. There was a heavy silence. Then footsteps indicated he was walking away.
Gouzenko slipped out through the back balcony to the adjoining apartment, number 5. He told the occupant, Harold W. Main, a non-commissioned officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force, that the Russians were trying to kill him and his wife; he begged Main to look after his child, at least.
"I didn't tell Main about spies and atom bomb secrets," Gouzenko recalled. "I just told him the N.K.V.D. were after me. He knew I worked at the Embassy. He saw the naturalization papers I still had clutched in my hand. I think he thought I wanted to become a Citizen, and the Embassy people were mad. Anyway, someone understood, at last, that something really serious was wrong."
Main was to testify, "So, after a bit of a conference on the balcony, my wife and I decided we should look after the boy. We didn't want to see the little fellow stuck, should anything happen to his folks."
In the gathering darkness, they suddenly saw a man prowling in the lane behind the apartment house. At this point, the tenant in number 6, across the hall, Mrs. Francis Elliott, appeared. She agreed to hide the whole Gouzenko family in her apartment for the night, while Main set off on his bicycle to summon the police.
Two Ottawa cops, Constable Thomas Walsh and Constable John McCulloch, arrived in a prowler car. "I am an escaped member of the Soviet Embassy—and I have secret information of value to Canada," Gouzenko told them. "I am being trailed. I need protection."
"I don't know about secret information, Mac," one of the cops said. "But, sure, we'll protect any municipal resident for the night. We'll keep the place under surveillance. You just keep the light in the bathroom of Mrs. Elliott's apartment on. If there's any trouble, you signal us by flicking the bathroom light off. Okay?"
"Okay," grinned Gouzenko, who felt himself eminently experienced in secret code signals.
At 11:30 p.m., four burly men from the Soviet Embassy pounded on Gouzenko's number 4 apartment door.
The would-be kidnappers were Vitali Pavlov, boss of the N.K.V.D. secret police spy ring; Lieut.-Col. Vasily Rogov and Lieut. Pavel Angelov, two of Colonel Zabotin's military bully boys; and Alexandre Farafontov, a muscular N.K.V.D. cipher clerk.
Main, thinking it was the Ottawa police returning, opened his door at apartment 5.
"Do you know where Gouzenko is?" demanded Pavlov in the hall.
"No," said Main coolly. "The Gouzenko's are away."
Peeking through the keyhole of Mrs. Elliott's apartment across the hall, Gouzenko saw the four bully boys go downstairs as though to leave. Instead of doing so, however, the wily fellows came tip-toeing back to number 4. Pavlov bent over the door lock with a jimmy. There was a scraping sound, and the door flew open. They entered surreptitiously, and shut it behind them.
Mrs. Elliott flicked the bathroom light as a danger signal. She also phoned the main police station, "Hurry. I want to report a break-in by burglars."
Within minutes, Constables Walsh and McCulloch were in the hall. Walsh drew his gun, took a deep breath, and hurled the door open. Pavlov was on his knees, pulling things out of a closet. Colonel Rogov was ransacking another closet. As though in a French boudoir farce, the other two Russians were creeping under a bed, bumping heads.
"What's going on here?" demanded Constable Walsh.
Pavlov, according to the Royal Commission, "did practically all the talking". He got up from his knees, brushed his pants, and drew himself up with an air of insulted dignity. "Don't bother us," he said. "This apartment belongs to a fellow member of the Embassy of the U.S.S.R. He went to Toronto, and left some documents here. We have his permission to look for them."
Walsh bent over, and picked up the keeper of the broken lock. "Yeah?" he said. "Did he also give you permission to smash up his lock? And don't tell me you did this with your bare hands, either. The marks on the door say you used plenty of pressure on a jimmy job."
"Idiots, I tell you we lost the key!" Pavlov fumed. "Anyway, we have diplomatic immunity. The lock is Soviet property. We can break it if we want to. Now, get out!"
"I don't know about this diplomatic immunity stuff," one of the cops said, "but I do know burglary with a crowbar when I see it. We're sticking around, until this is cleared up."
In a few minutes, Inspector Duncan MacDonell, later Ottawa's chief of police, arrived.
"We have been insulted," exploded Pavlov. "Our diplomatic immunity has been transgressed!"
After sizing up the situation, Inspector MacDonell requested them, politely, "Please don't leave until I make some inquiries. I'll be back."
But while the Inspector was gone, Pavlov took an ordinary skeleton key out of his pocket and locked the ordinary lock in the apartment door—the Yale lock, of course, being out of commission. Then he and his three Russian cohorts stalked out in more than a medium-sized dudgeon, threatening an official protest from the Government of the U.S.S.R.
Gouzenko, his wife, and child, tried to get some sleep in apartment 6 for the rest of the night, under the care of the vigilant cops.
At 4 a.m., there was another, quiet knock at the apartment door. "Gouzenko!" somebody hissed.
It was Lieutenant Gorshkov, another Embassy "chauffeur". The two constables collared him. He stood in the hallway, trembling and babbling nervously: "My boss sent me. My boss sent me."
"Who's your boss?" Constable Walsh demanded.
"Zabotin," Gorshkov said. The constables let the culprit go, and he scurried away like a frightened field mouse.
After breakfast, the Ottawa police Inspector returned to the Elliotts' apartment. He told Gouzenko, "The Royal Canadian Mounted Police would like to hear your story. And, please, bring along those secret documents that seem to have created this little fuss."
"At last!" Svetlana sighed.
Gouzenko went back to the Justice Building, Svetlana went back to her apartment. She had a big laundry to do.
On the same day, the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa dispatched to the Department of External Affairs a note of protest. It is a peculiar piece of literature, revealing the Russians' outlandish version of l'affaire Gouzenko, as well as providing an insight into their tortuous way of thinking:
"The Embassy of the U.S.S.R. in Canada presents its compliments and has the honour to inform the Department of External Affairs of the following:
"A colleague of the Embassy, Igor Sergeievitch Gouzenko, living at 511 Somerset St., failed to report for work at the proper time on the 6th September.
"In connection with this and for the purpose of clarifying the reasons for the failure of I. Gouzenko's reporting for work, Consul V. G. Pavlov and two other colleagues of the Embassy visited the apartment of I. Gouzenko at 11:30 p.m. on the 6th September.
"When Mr. Pavlov knocked at the door of Gouzenko's apartment, no one answered. After this, the apartment was opened by the above-mentioned colleagues of the Embassy with Gouzenko's duplicate key, when it was discovered that neither Gouzenko, nor his wife, Svetlana Borisovna Gouzenko, nor their son, Andrei, were in the apartment.
"The Embassy of the U.S.S.R. asks the Department of External Affairs to take urgent measures to seek and arrest I. Gouzenko and to hand him over for deportation as a capital criminal, who has stolen money belonging to the Embassy.
"In addition, the Embassy brings to the attention of the Department of External Affairs the rude treatment accorded to the diplomatic colleagues of the Embassy by Constable Walsh and Inspector of the City Police Macdonald, and expresses its confidence that the Department will investigate this incident, and will make those guilty answerable for their actions.
"The Embassy asks the Department that it should be informed of action taken in relation to the above.
In their restrained fashion, the Royal Commissioners commented on this strange missive:
"The reference in the note to Gouzenko as a 'capital criminal' may be noted. We are satisfied that the suggestion that there was a theft of money was an afterthought. Gouzenko, whose evidence we accept, denied it."
A week later, the Soviet Embassy dispatched a more brusque and peremptory note to the Department of External Affairs :
"Confirming its communication in the Note No. 35 of Sept. 7th of the fact that Gouzenko had robbed public funds, the Embassy, upon instructions from the Government of the U.S.S.R., repeats its request to the Government of Canada to apprehend Gouzenko and his wife, and, without trial, to hand them over to the Embassy for deportation to the Soviet Union.
"The Soviet Government expresses the hope that the Government of Canada will fulfil its request."
The Royal Commission observed about this demand:
"It only remains to add that Pavlov settled for the damage done to the door and frame of apartment No. 4 and paid the owner of the premises $5.00 therefor. Further, although the Department of External Affairs asked the Soviet Embassy for particulars of the monies stolen, this inquiry was never answered. We think these circumstances dispose of the theft suggestion.
"We may add that the evidence of the witnesses we have heard respecting the happenings of the 6th and 7th of September fully corroborates that of Gouzenko.
"In our opinion, Gouzenko, by what he has done, has rendered great public service to the people of this country, and, thereby, has placed Canada in his debt."
Needless to say, the Mounties did not let the Russians deport Gouzenko back to Moscow, for possible roasting in their "liquidization" electric chair, or, at the least, for possible freezing as an exile in the icebox of Siberia. He was held in protective custody, incommunicado, at the R.C.M.P. barracks at Rockcliffe, Ont. He wasn't allowed to move without a bodyguard of at least six husky policemen. He and his family were regarded as wards of the government. When his second baby came—Svetlana had a seven-pound, twelve-ounce daughter three months after their flight from the Embassy— the child was born at the same hospital where Princess Juliana of the Netherlands had her third daughter.
Meanwhile, Gouzenko talked. His disclosures resulted in an emergency government Order-in-Council and a Royal Commission hearing, held in secret, to probe the mammoth "fifth column" conspiracy revealed.
With the whole affair still kept hush-hush, Prime Minister Mackenzie King hurried to Washington in November to tell President Harry Truman what was going on. Then he sailed to London, where he passed along the information to Prime Minister Clement Attlee.
Prime Minister King didn't dare send a coded cable. He'd just discovered that coded cables which he'd been sending to Canadian Ambassador Dana Wilgress in Moscow had been reaching Soviet Intelligence officers in Moscow faster than they reached Wilgress.
Later, in March, Prime Minister King confided to the House of Commons a fantastic footnote to the spy saga. "I did think, at one time," he revealed, "of going to Moscow myself and of speaking to Generalissimo Stalin in reference to it. But from what I know of Premier Stalin, I am confident he would not countenance such action on the part of his country. We must not be too ready to judge. There are agencies, working at the side of the Russian Embassy, which are doing things that possibly are unknown to the Ambassador himself."
Cooler heads talked Prime Minister King out of his jaunt to Moscow for a tête-à-tête with Stalin over the Gouzenko affair. And, as it turned out, the Russian Ambassador in Ottawa, Georgei Zaroubin, was elaborately cleared of any personal involvement in the jiggery-pokery going on in his Embassy. Evidence presented before the Royal Commission proved he wasn't, apparently, allowed into the Embassy's secret cipher wing.
But an ironic dénouement—showing that Zaroubin certainly was kept abreast of the Gouzenko walk-out—was later revealed by Minister of Justice Louis St. Laurent.
Mr. St. Laurent chummily disclosed to the Commons that one evening during the hushed-up Gouzenko derring-do, he was attending a garden party at the British High Commissioner's Ottawa residence at Earnescliffe. Ambassador Zaroubin joined in the small talk that is protocol at such affairs. The British High Commissioner, Malcolm MacDonald, said conversationally to Zaroubin, "I understand you sometimes do some fishing in the Ottawa River off Earnescliffe. Any good catches recently?"
"No, I haven't done any fishing lately," said Ambassador Zaroubin.
Then, dropping his usual diplomatic poker-face, Zaroubin turned to Justice Minister St. Laurent with a wry, meaningful smile.
"And what about Your Excellency?" Zaroubin said. "You did find the fishing good today, didn't you?"
Mr. St. Laurent later sighed, "Well, I didn't know then he was chafing me about the information conveyed to me by Gouzenko. But, afterward, I concluded perhaps my sense of humour wasn't as keen as that of the Ambassador."
A few months after this contretemps, in December, Zaroubin suddenly advised the Under Secretary for External Affairs that he was going home on what he described as "a brief temporary visit for consultation". He never returned from Moscow.
The Iron Curtain descended, too, on the fate of Gouzenko's ex-boss, Colonel Zabotin. On Dec. 13, Zabotin left Canada secretly, without the customary notification to the Department of External Affairs. He vanished from Ottawa to pop up aboard the Soviet steamer, S.S. Alexander Suvorov, in New York Harbour. Breaking port regulations, and without clearance from port authorities, the steamer slipped its moorings. It raced out into the Atlantic headed for Murmansk.
Some published sources say the Military Attache was convicted of a fictitious crime by the Politburo, and sentenced to ten years in Siberia. Others claim he was shot to death aboard the steamer for bungling the Gouzenko fiasco. The Royal Commission Report merely notes dryly "his departure in December, 1945, for a visit to Moscow—from which he does not appear to have returned."
When Canada finally brought the Gouzenko case out into the open, in February, 1946, the official Kremlin reply was a model of woolly Marxian dialectics. Yes, certain members of Zabotin's staff had been acquiring from Canadian nationals some information of a "secret character" on the atomic bomb and other things. But, no, this purloined information really did not "present great interest" to Russia, because of her own "more advanced technical attainment". However, the Russians conceded, because of "the inadmissibility of acts of members of his staff in question", Zabotin had been withdrawn back to the Kremlin.
The Russian press combined to bombard Gouzenko with inky spitballs. "A stooge!" screamed one of the less shrill critics, Prof. Alexander Trainin, in the Moscow magazine, Trud. "Canadian capitalists have been quick to capitalize on what they received from the dirty hands of this squanderer and traitor. By his own admission, Gouzenko loved Canada at first sight. Yet for two years, Gouzenko hid his feelings, and remained silent, until Soviet authorities called this squanderer home to responsibility!"
In Canada, the vituperation hurled at Gouzenko by home-grown Reds was equally vehement. "Ridiculous," sputtered Tim Buck, Communist czar of the Labour Progressive Party, as he whipped out the inevitable, emotion-loaded cliches: "spy scare . . . smear campaign . . . false allegations . . . The Labour Progressive Party doesn't condone acts of espionage." As the Mounties rounded up over a dozen Canadians, branded as spies by Gouzenko, Fred Rose, the Labour Progressive M.P. from Montreal, was asked daily to comment on reports that officials of his party had been jailed.
"Nothing like that has happened at all," Rose said suavely. "If it had, I would certainly have known about it."
A few nights later, Rose knew about it. A reporter had him on the phone with the usual query, when the door to Rose's apartment opened.
"The police are here now," Rose yelled into the mouthpiece. "But, honest to God, I'm innocent!"
For the next eighteen months, Gouzenko was busy testifying at the spy trials. He confirmed the evidence of his documents, plucked from the Embassy's secret archives, with a heavily-accented: "Thass right."
In Canada, his testimony resulted in nine convictions, and one five hundred dollar fine. For nine suspects, who were ultimately acquitted, the experience did not result in a they-lived-happily-for-ever-after ending.
"Twice I was acquitted, but I'm still without a job," Dr. David Shugar, a Canadian physicist, brooded to reporters after his trial. "It cost me all my savings, and more, to prove my innocence. But now nobody seems to want me."
"I lost a year out of my life — through no fault of my own," lamented Fred W. Poland, a former squadron leader with the R.C.A.F. Intelligence Branch, who had to fight to get his honourable discharge. Freed of all charges against him, he is now back at his old job, as a brilliant prize-winning reporter for a Montreal newspaper.
During the course of the spy trials, Gouzenko was asked his plans. "I don't know," he said. "But my plans are to live and work here with my hands and brain, and I am still young."
He proved to be prophetic. While the eighteen-month trials were on, Gouzenko taught himself how to write. He forced himself to fill at least one page every day, and apparently found his true vocation. From these scribbled notes, he was able to complete his first book, published in 1948, his autobiography, This Was My Choice.
Cosmopolitan magazine paid him fifty thousand dollars for the magazine rights to his story, and Twentieth Century-Fox paid him seventy-five thousand dollars as technical advisor for the motion picture version, The Iron Curtain. Gouzenko was somewhat amused when this film, starring Dana Andrews, and another anti-Communist movie, Greta Garbo's Ninotchka, were banned in France in 1949 as likely to inflame riots. Another film was based on his flight from the Embassy, Operation Manhunt, in which he was portrayed by the New York television actor, Harry Townes, his wife by the Finnish Irja Jensen.
After writing in longhand for five years, Gouzenko then amazed everybody by producing a 320,000-word novel, The Fall Of a Titan. A vast and sombre tapestry, based on the life of the Russian poet, Maxim Gorky, it won Canada's Governor General Award for fiction in 1954. The Matthew Fox film syndicate in New York was reported to bid a hundred thousand dollars for the movie rights, and the double-decker novel has since been translated into forty-four languages.
Gouzenko has since been writing his next novel, Ocean Of Time, dealing with Soviet attempts during the war to extract information from Italians by blackmail. His wife, Svetlana, is also writing her memoirs, Before Igor, describing her life in Russia before she met her husband.
Neither of them has to worry too much about money. They have an annuity that gives them a hundred dollars a month for the rest of their lives. It was established for them by a private Canadian Citizen, Frank Ahearn, grateful for the service Gouzenko performed for his newly-adopted country. If Gouzenko should die, the annuity will go to his wife or his two children—Andrei, now thirteen, and his daughter, eleven —for the next twenty years.
Yet despite these financial rewards, Gouzenko remains a man haunted by the spectre of his past. He feels that the memory of the Soviet Union is long and remorseless, and he is certain he has a price on his head as one of the Reds' "most wanted men". He is afraid they may kidnap his children any time.
Though he and his family now have twice assumed different names as Canadian Citizens, and they keep moving frequently to different homes, Gouzenko is eternally vigilant. They no longer have an R.C.M.P. guard, who used to watch over them, posed as a handyman. This friendly Mountie— called "uncle" by Gouzenko's children—trained Igor and his wife to memorize their new biographical background. At dinner, or while driving with them, he'd snap unexpected questions: "What's the name of the Canadian street where you were born?", or, "What kind of flowers grew in the garden of your Canadian hometown?"
Gouzenko is inclined to brood sometimes over his maintained secrecy. "Precaution has become part of my life, like walking or breathing," he said recently. "We have found, if a car stops near our house, it's not enough to take a good look at it. No matter how fiercely we strained our eyes, we soon forgot the licence number and details. We learned to take a pencil and write everything down: licence, colour of the car, and any distinguishing marks. Then, if we could, we'd take a picture of it unobserved.
"When I sit at a table in a restaurant with friends, or alone, I watch the man at the next table. If he was there before me, he is all right; for, a few minutes before, I myself did not know where I would sit. But if he came in after me, I watch him closely, particularly his hands. The dangerous man would not wear a beard and a bomb; he'd more likely be in a business suit. Spies rarely look the part."
Though Gouzenko and his wife have too much of a foreign accent to pose as native-born Canadians, their youngsters have no idea their parents were born in the Soviet Union. "They think we came to Canada from another country," says Svetlana. "We speak English at home all the time."
Like normal Canadian children, Andrei plays hockey; the little girl is interested in music and sewing. Their parents belong to the home and school club; the children go to Sunday school; and the whole family goes to church.
Gouzenko remains Canada's most famous unknown—a celebrity without a face. Though the Soviets have a photo of him, taken about twelve years ago, Gouzenko insists on never showing his face publicly. "The older I get, the safer I am," he says, in his rather high-pitched voice.
People thought he was just being an exhibitionist, when he was interviewed on Drew Pearson's television show, with a pillow case shrouded over his head as a mask. Actually, he tends to duck publicity.
When the U.S. was seized with Senator McCarthy's delirium tremens, hysterically finding Reds beneath every bed, Gouzenko balked at being questioned by the U.S. Senate Internal Security Sub-Committee. He acquiesced only after the Canadian government asked him to co-operate. At that, Committee Counsel J. G. Sourwine drew a blank, when he fired loaded questions at Gouzenko, about such controversial characters as Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White. Gouzenko preferred to remain mum.
Occasionally, he does take up his pen to write articles for the Toronto Telegram, describing the Soviet Union's devious methods of hatching plots. Not long ago, he warned President Dwight D. Eisenhower that Red spies in the U.S. missile production had enabled Russia to launch sputnik, the first earth satellite.
In a recent article for Liberty magazine, entitled, "Why I Still Live In Terror Of Canada's Reds", Gouzenko further analyzed his fears:
"Sometimes, people who know me look at me with a kind of pity. Their expression shows they would not like to be in my place, always on guard, unable to invite one's friends home, not even free to make a telephone call from one's own home lest it be traced back.
"These constant precautions — to make the work of a would-be-assassin difficult—make our own life difficult. But the fact that my children are innocent, and unaware of their real danger, makes them an easy target for Soviet revenge. Communist Party Secretary Nikita Khruchchev recently admitted to the Soviet Congress that secret police had tortured children to obtain confessions from their parents. Can anyone doubt they would refrain from hurting my children, if they got a chance?"
Gouzenko is keenly sensitive to criticism. He sued the Toronto Star for $168,000, when it ran an article on October 30, 1953, bearing the headline: "Squandered $100,000, Fear Gouzenko 'Says Anything For Money'". Gouzenko charged that the Star made him appear "a spend-thrift, a rumour-monger and liar", therefore damaging him as a writer.
The Star published a page-one apology, and paid him a "substantial sum" as settlement. Without revealing the amount, Gouzenko said, "It was not a question of money. It was the apology I wanted."
The role of a retired spy is obviously a touchy one. By its very nature, spying is an amoral, illicit business. There is no such thing as a "good" spy or a "bad" spy. The only good spy is a spy who is not caught. The only bad spy is a spy who is caught.
It is certainly to be hoped that Canada has many good spies, out spying secrets for us in Russia. If one of these Canadian spies suddenly turned Communist, and revealed to the Kremlin the identity of his fellow Canadian spies, naturally we in the Western world would call him "traitor" and "turncoat"—just as Gouzenko was blasphemed by the Reds.
It all depends on what side you are on. We ought to be thankful that Gouzenko happened to come over to our side.
Today, while seeming to live a tortured, and often lonely nomad's life, haunted by the fear of vengeance wrought on his children, Gouzenko nevertheless manages to enjoy the Canadian style of life.
Recently, while carving a broiled lobster at dinner with a friend, the little ex-spy sighed, "We live better here than the best commissar in Russia."
His wife, Svetlana, smiled from across the table, and added, "We live a hundred times better than a commissar. We live in air that is perfumed with freedom."