Thursday, July 1, 2010

Spy-burbia


Was everyone as surprised as I was to learn this week about the ring of deep undercover Russian spies in America?

I'm not surprised, per se, that our countries are still spying on each other. Of course we are. But to have that fake married couple imbedded in NJ? Yes, the mother's job as a financial analyst in NYC did put her in a position to interact with important people—but... I just can't grasp the EFFORT of concocting those false backgrounds and building a family life in Montclair!

I keep trying to imagine what life was like for them, pretending to be people they weren't, hiding the fact that they were Russian... How on Earth do you DO that? Where did they get their English training? It's one thing to "pass" here or there—it's quite another to make close suburban friends and not end up giving yourself away by tiny syntactical or pop cultural errors!

More than anything, though, I keep thinking about their two daughters! A friend of mine from when we lived in Brooklyn is now living in Montclair, and their older daughters go to the same school and are in the same grade... She, and I'm sure parents all over, are worrying about what has happened in the past few days—and what will happen—to those poor children?

In order to maintain the parents' cover (are they actually the parents, and are they married—it's being alleged that they might not be), these girls have probably been told lies their whole lives about their family's background. Do they have any idea who their grandparents are? Do they have any idea what/where Russia even is? It would probably have been too dangerous for them to know anything about Russia, given that the mother was trying to pass off her accent as Belgian...

Where will these girls live now? With whom?

What a sad, sad mess.

I also keep thinking of all the other kids in their classes, of all the parents who are pretty much flabbergasted in the town...

Almost any information they could have garnered about American life in Montclair, they could also have found on the internet... Yes, the internet didn't exist as it does now back in the early '90s when this spy operation was begun—but it's hard to believe that no one had second thoughts about continuing the operation in light of how the internet has evolved!

It reminds me of the summer of 2007, when we lost Natalia's American speech therapist in Moscow (she and her diplomat husband were kicked out for life) in the aftermath of the murder of the ex-KGB spy by Polonium in London... Stories like this are for thriller novels, for movies...

7 comments:

Hevel said...

Have ou ever seen the film "Little Nikita"? It involves the story line of two Russian sleeping agents and their family.

A while back I read an article in a Hungarian paper about spy training. Some of the absolutely fluent agents come from groups of talented kids (think dancers, skaters, singers) who tour the west a lot. Others are specifically trained in languages. Of course not all youth who get early immersion will become agents.

I hope the kids involved are being taken care of by people who genuinly love them.

Rozmin said...

I know a young Ukrainian man who speaks absolutely perfect American English with no hint of a Russian accent whatsoever. He's a classmate of my boyfriend's, and I think they started learning at the same time, technically at the age of 12, but in reality they didn't get much English speaking experience till the age of about 25 when coming to the States for school. It's amazing that this guy has no accent but my BF clearly does. It's because 1 doesn't care if he has an accent or not, and the other cared very much. The friend spent a great deal of time immersing himself in American pop culture, movies, tv, etc, and I kid you not, attributes his lack of accent mostly to South Park. :-D

Tina in CT said...

Those poor girls. They've lost their family, home, security. Wonder what will happen to them? Will they go to foster care here or to a relative back in Russia? What were these people thinking of when they had children?

Bankerchick said...

I have been following this story since it broke. I grew up during the cold war years, of spys and secrets. I was also surprised that they couldn't get the information off the internet. It does not seem they were inbedded in top secret areas. A mystery and a shame.

Annie said...

Maybe they just wanted a nice, cushy job in America....

Was hearing about this in the papers and wishing someone would recruit me. With my terrible Russian, who would suspect?

Well, I hope so much, they'll just be sent home....isn't that typical? Particularly since nothing critical, or even important seems to have been lost/gained.

Anonymous said...

Reminds of the book "Charm School" by Nelson DeMille - fun fictional book where Russian spys learn how to be American by captured American POWs so they can infiltrate the US.

Happy 4th of July!

Cheryl in Idaho

Melissa Q. said...

Tamara,

I'd love to see you guys...When could we plan a visit. Maybe even meeting in NYC for the day???
love, mqw