Welcome to the "Andrew
Kavchak Honours Igor Gouzenko" website.
Table of Contents
During the summer of 1999 Andrew Kavchak, a resident of the City of Ottawa, was surprised to see that in Dundonald Park, on Somerset Street, across from the building at 511 Somerset Street in downtown Ottawa, there was no historic marker or plaque to honour Igor and Svetlana Gouzenko for their act of courage on September 5, 1945. Their flight to freedom, or "defection" as it is more commonly known, was dramatic, and affected the history of the world. Thus, Andrew Kavchak started lobbying the City of Ottawa and the federal government to unveil historic commemorative plaques in Dundonald Park to honour Igor and Svetlana Gouzenko.
After several years of lobbying, the City of Ottawa unveiled a plaque in the park on June 4, 2003. On July 19, 2002, the federal Department of Heritage announced that the Minister of Canadian Heritage made a formal historic designation of "the Gouzenko Affair (1945-1946)" and committed the department to unveiling a plaque in 2004. On April 15, 2004, the federal Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada unveiled a bronze commemorative plaque during a ceremony that took place at the National Archives of Canada during a two-day conference on the Gouzenko Affair and its impact on the history of counter-intelligence. The federal plaque was subsequently installed in Dundonald Park, right beside the City of Ottawa plaque, and directly across Somerset Street, from 511 Somerset St.
It only took five years, but Andrew Kavchak's dream of official markers in Dundonald Park to note the heroism of Igor and Svetlana Gouzenko is now a reality that visitors to the park will be able to enjoy and learn from for years to come.
The story of Andrew Kavchak's persistence in his lobbying for the plaques has been chronicled in a paper published in April 2004 by the Mackenzie Institute of Toronto. Copies of "Remembering Gouzenko: The Struggle to Honour a Cold War Hero" may be obtained by contacting the Institute directly at telephone (416) 686-4063.
Thank you for visiting this website and for your interest in Igor and Svetlana Gouzenko!**************************************************************
The Cold War's Ottawa spark
The Ottawa Citizen Apr 13, 2004
Remembering history is an important role of a capital city, so it's good that the most significant event in the Cold War is being discussed at length, and commemorated, in Ottawa this week.
A two-day conference, "The Gouzenko Affair: The Beginnings of Canadian Counter-Espionage and Cold War Intelligence History," is being held at Library and Archives Canada tomorrow and Thursday. Organized by Carleton University, with assistance from various arms of the federal government, the conference features impressive intelligence experts and academics.
Igor Gouzenko was a Soviet cipher clerk stationed in Ottawa in 1945, who defected to Canada, handing over to Canadian authorities papers showing that our supposed Soviet ally was, in fact, conducting extensive espionage operations. These revelations woke the West up to communist hostility and marked a starting point for the Cold War. The defection was a harrowing experience for Mr. Gouzenko and his wife, Svetlana, who hid in a neighbouring apartment as Soviet officials hunted for them. Canadian media and government, out of indifference or nervousness, initially turned the defector away.
Andrew Kavchak has spent the last few years trying to keep that history alive. Mr. Kavchak -- whose grandfather was killed by Stalin's forces in the Katyn Forest Massacre -- was surprised that the place where the defection drama took place (an apartment building on Somerset Street, and Dundonald Park across the street where the Mounties had watched the drama unfold) were not marked in any way. In 1999, he began to lobby the City of Ottawa and the federal government to have proper commemorations of the Gouzenko family's courage.
This month The Mackenzie Institute published a 71-page paper by Mr. Kavchak, "Remembering Gouzenko: The struggle to honour a Cold War hero." The account is embarrassing to the federal and City of Ottawa governments because it documents bureaucratic wheel-spinning that saw many conflicting opinions about whether commemorative plaques would be created or not. There seemed to be concern about the possible hurt feelings of Russian embassy officials. The need to honour people who risked their lives for the free western world didn't seem an urgent priority.
Svetlana Gouzenko died before a City of Ottawa plaque was unveiled in 2003. The federal Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada is to unveil a plaque recognizing the Gouzenko Affair on Thursday at 1:15 p.m. At least the recognition finally came, after amazing persistence by Mr. Kavchak and a handful of officials.
In an age when Canadian children know who George Washington is, but maybe not Sir John A. Macdonald, we need to tell our historical stories. The Gouzenko Affair was one of the most important episodes in the 20th century for this capital city. Let's not let it slip from memory.
Worship (the Mayor of Ottawa), Councilor Arnold, members of the Gouzenko family, distinguished
guests, ladies and gentlemen.
truly a very special day. And to me, I can only describe it as a dream come
true. In 1999 I had moved to this neighbourhood and visited the park on a daily
basis with my son. I could not believe that there was no mark here to let
visitors know of the truly remarkable events that took place here in September,
1945. So I decided to start lobbying the municipal and federal governments to
mark the historic significance of this location with the erection of
commemorative plaques. And here were
are, 1,395 days later, and we are finally unveiling a historic plaque. This is
truly a dream come true.
like to thank all the people at the City who helped make this possible, and in
particular, former Mayor Jim Watson,
Mayor Bob Chiarelli, Councilor Elisabeth Arnold, Ms. Tara Peel of Councilor
Arnold’s office and Ms. Bernadine Clifford of the Office of Protocol. Ladies
and gentlemen, please join me in an expression of gratitude for their
that every individual and every nation should have a hero. Heroes serve an
important function and role in society. When non-negotiable principles and
values are threatened, heroes show us what can be done to protect them. Heroes
don’t just talk about it but they actually do it. Often, at great personal risk
and sacrifice. Thus, heroes motivate and inspire. I am proud to say that Igor
and Svetlana Gouzenko are my heroes.
first started my application process I knew that Igor Gouzenko had died in
1982. However, I did not know if Svetlana Gouzenko was still alive. I
subsequently found out that she was and hoped that she would have been able to
attend this ceremony which was originally scheduled for the year 2000 and
witness this tribute to a living legend. I also hoped to meet her in person
that I could tell her something that I have wanted to tell her for a long time.
this ceremony was postponed due to factors beyond my control and Svetlana
Gouzenko passed away in September 2001. However, her soul and that of her
husband is witnessing this event from the heavens above, their spirits are all
around, and in the company of some of their descendants I would like to say:
"Dear Mr. and Mrs. Gouzenko, on behalf of a generation born after September 1945 into a country
blessed with freedom that you did so much to protect and preserve, I say: Thank
you! Thank you! Thank you!"
will mean different things to different people, but to me it means that the
residents of Ottawa and citizens of Canada remember our friends and heroes and
take the steps to ensure that future generations will never forget. And just to
underscore that, the Federal Heritage Minister, Sheila Copps sent me a letter
last July indicating that on the positive recommendation of the Historic Sites
and Monuments Board of Canada she had designated the Gouzenko Affair as an
event of national historic significance and committed the Heritage Department
to unveiling a federal plaque in this park next year. And so we will have an
opportunity to pay tribute to our heroes again, at another ceremony, in only
another 365 days. I hope we will all see each other again at that time. Thank
Today is truly a very special day. And to me, I can only describe it as a dream come true. In 1999 I had moved to this neighbourhood and visited the park on a daily basis with my son. I could not believe that there was no mark here to let visitors know of the truly remarkable events that took place here in September, 1945. So I decided to start lobbying the municipal and federal governments to mark the historic significance of this location with the erection of commemorative plaques. And here were are, 1,395 days later, and we are finally unveiling a historic plaque. This is truly a dream come true.
I would like to thank all the people at the City who helped make this possible, and in particular, former Mayor Jim Watson, Mayor Bob Chiarelli, Councilor Elisabeth Arnold, Ms. Tara Peel of Councilor Arnold’s office and Ms. Bernadine Clifford of the Office of Protocol. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in an expression of gratitude for their efforts.
I believe that every individual and every nation should have a hero. Heroes serve an important function and role in society. When non-negotiable principles and values are threatened, heroes show us what can be done to protect them. Heroes don’t just talk about it but they actually do it. Often, at great personal risk and sacrifice. Thus, heroes motivate and inspire. I am proud to say that Igor and Svetlana Gouzenko are my heroes.
When I first started my application process I knew that Igor Gouzenko had died in 1982. However, I did not know if Svetlana Gouzenko was still alive. I subsequently found out that she was and hoped that she would have been able to attend this ceremony which was originally scheduled for the year 2000 and witness this tribute to a living legend. I also hoped to meet her in person that I could tell her something that I have wanted to tell her for a long time.
Unfortunately, this ceremony was postponed due to factors beyond my control and Svetlana Gouzenko passed away in September 2001. However, her soul and that of her husband is witnessing this event from the heavens above, their spirits are all around, and in the company of some of their descendants I would like to say: "Dear Mr. and Mrs. Gouzenko, on behalf of a generation born after September 1945 into a country blessed with freedom that you did so much to protect and preserve, I say: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!"
This plaque will mean different things to different people, but to me it means that the residents of Ottawa and citizens of Canada remember our friends and heroes and take the steps to ensure that future generations will never forget. And just to underscore that, the Federal Heritage Minister, Sheila Copps sent me a letter last July indicating that on the positive recommendation of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada she had designated the Gouzenko Affair as an event of national historic significance and committed the Heritage Department to unveiling a federal plaque in this park next year. And so we will have an opportunity to pay tribute to our heroes again, at another ceremony, in only another 365 days. I hope we will all see each other again at that time. Thank you.
Publication: CIT - The Ottawa Citizen
Source: INF - All Infomart Publications
Monday, January 13, 2003
Page: A1 / Front
Byline: Jim Watson
The next time the mayor is handing out keys to the city, he might consider honouring Andrew Kavchak, a young public servant with a great sense of history and a lot of patience when it comes to dealing with City Hall.
I first came across Mr. Kavchak in August 1999, when I received an e-mail he sent suggesting the city recognize one of the most significant international events in more than 50 years -- the story of Igor Gouzenko.
That story began on a hot and humid day in Ottawa on Sept. 5, 1945 when a relatively junior Soviet cipher clerk decided to expose a significant spy ring the Soviets had established in Canada.
Mr. Gouzenko's story is fascinating, and reading just one chapter of his book, This Was My Choice, gives you an immediate sense of the significance of his actions.
In his book, Mr. Gouzenko writes about the day he decided to remove 109 documents that proved the Soviets had set up a spy network involving dozens of public servants.
Information he removed from the Soviet Embassy included classified documents outlining the results of atomic bomb research that could have made its way to the Kremlin, endangering Canada and its allies.
Mr. Gouzenko wrote: "I am no hero. Nature seems to allow very few to don the heroic mantle. I was born a very ordinary little man of Russia ... Dangerous living never had appealed to me, and adventure always associated itself with unromantic danger in my mind. But that night of September 5, 1945, during the long walk from (my home at 511) Somerset Street to Range Road, I came as close to becoming a hero as I ever will."
At great personal risk, Mr. Gouzenko whisked the documents out of the embassy on Range Road and then proceeded to the Ottawa Journal to tell his story.
He was rebuffed, and after two harrowing nights trying to avoid his former colleagues and attempts to convince Canadian authorities of the significance of his documents, he was finally brought into protective custody and guarded for the rest of his life. His work and testimony resulted in a royal commission on espionage and convictions and prison terms for 11 Canadians.
As significant as that action was, you would be hard-pressed to find any evidence of Mr. Gouzenko's bravery in the City of Ottawa.
That is what struck Andrew Kavchak four years ago. How could such an important event go completely unnoticed? At the time, Mr. Kavchak was on parental leave and would take his child to play almost every day in Dundonald Park, just across the street from Mr. Gouzenko's apartment at 511 Somerset.
He decided to take it upon himself to convince anyone who would listen that after more than 50 years, it was time for this city and country to recognize Mr. Gouzenko's contribution to our history.
He set out by writing the city and the National Historic Sites and Monuments Board, asking if it was possible to affix a plaque to the Somerset Street building and let others know what happened there almost a half-century ago. After it became difficult to secure permission to place a plaque on the building, it was decided that the park across the street would also be appropriate, as it, too, held significance. In Mr. Gouzenko's book he recalls: "Two men were seated on a bench in the park directly opposite, and both were looking up at my window!"
At the time, Mr. Gouzenko thought they were Soviet police, but later discovered they were members of the RCMP sent to protect him after his harrowing escape from the embassy.
Mr. Gouzenko's fears were justified. The night following his defection he asked a neighbour across the hall if he could stay with her because he feared the secret Soviet police, the NKVD, would arrive at his apartment and drag him back to Moscow.
In fact, his worst fears almost materialized, as the NKVD security chief, Vitali Pavlov, arrived at the apartment with three others. Mr. Gouzenko witnessed what was going on from his neighbour's apartment across the hall and in his book wrote: "I looked through the keyhole once more and saw Pavlov working on our door with a jimmy. There was a rasping sound and the door opened. The four entered and shut the door quietly behind them."
In June 2000, the old City of Ottawa agreed to install a plaque in Dundonald Park, complete with a picture of the now-famous hooded Mr. Gouzenko and a brief history of the defection. The plaque was researched, designed and ready for installation, and then the bureaucratic shuffle began. What seemed like a done deal slowly unravelled as a result of the confusion caused when the amalgamation of the cities and the region began to take shape. Mr. Kavchak was advised that the plaque would be installed in the spring of 2001, not the fall, as the weather would be more conducive to an outdoor ceremony. He thought that was a reasonable approach, and figured a few more months would not really matter.
In early 2001 the city councillor for the ward, Elisabeth Arnold, sent city staff a memo asking that the plaque be installed, and copied her request to Mr. Kavchak. At this point, several more members of city staff became involved in the file, and Mr. Kavchak soon realized that his simple request was starting to derail.
"Suddenly," he said, "in mid-summer city staff stopped returning my calls. I finally spoke to the manager of Marketing and Communications, who told me that the new city did not have a plaque-approval policy yet and therefore the old policy would have to be followed. She indicated that because there was an international dimension to the file, the process would involve consulting Foreign Affairs and then getting city council to approve it."
He couldn't quite figure out why Foreign Affairs would have to be consulted, given this was a municipal plaque to be erected in a city park. All of a sudden this process was starting to resemble the system that Mr. Gouzenko had escaped from.
In September, the same city manager wrote to Mr. Kavchak informing him that there was still no city naming policy, but even if there was, the Gouzenko contribution "is international in nature (and) you may wish to pursue this request with Foreign Affairs ..."
The salt on Mr. Kavchak's wound occurred when word came that Mr. Gouzenko's wife, Svetlana, had passed away that same month. She had given Mr. Kavchak permission to pursue his dream of a simple plaque. In July 2000 she wrote that "my family and I are most grateful and willing to provide any assistance which you may require in this project and to answer any questions." Sadly, because of bureaucratic foot-dragging, Mrs. Gouzenko was never able to see this country thank her husband publicly and recognize the magnitude of the sacrifice he and his family suffered as a result of his bravery.
Not one to accept "no" for an answer, Mr. Kavchak pursued the city and received yet another disappointing letter indicating the city had now asked Foreign Affairs to comment on the proposal. The letter went on to say "after consultations with their specialists in Russia, the staff at DFAIT (Foreign Affairs) advised that from the point of view of international relations, the Department did not find it appropriate to commemorate this episode of the Cold War."
Not only was this a feeble excuse by bureaucrats at Foreign Affairs, but ironically, a few weeks later, Mr. Kavchak received a personalized letter from Heritage Minister Sheila Copps stating: "I am pleased to advise you that I have recently designated the Gouzenko affair (1945-46) as an event of national historic significance."
So we now have one federal department publicly praising Mr. Gouzenko and another advising the city to bury any idea of recognizing the event. With the tenacity of a pit bull, Mr. Kavchak proudly sent the city Ms. Copps' letter and asked city staff to reconsider their decision. To their credit, staff advised that they would revisit their response. That undertaking was made almost three months ago.
After more than three years of research, lobbying, e-mails and phone calls, Mr. Kavchak is not about to give up. He's hoping a little bit of publicity and public pressure will allow the city to come to its senses and erect the plaque. While some city staff have been less than co-operative, there have been exceptions. Sally Coutts, who started the ball rolling by preparing the plaque, and City Clerk Pierre Page, who has been attempting to find a solution, have both been helpful.
Ms. Arnold has also been supportive of the request from Day 1, and last week finally had some good news to share with Mr. Kavchak. On Wednesday, she received word that the city has agreed to install the plaque -- 31/2 years after the first e-mail request.
In fact, last week Mr. Page agreed to meet with other city officials to begin planning an appropriate ceremony. Good on him. My hope is that the city will finally unveil the plaque at a ceremony on Sept. 5 -- the 58th anniversary of Mr. Gouzenko's defection -- and celebrate the significant achievements of a man of whom then-prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King said, "accomplished an historical act. The people of Canada and the world are your debtors."
And, with no disrespect to our elected officials, it should be Andrew Kavchak, a man with a passion for our history, who is front and centre when the unveiling takes place.
Jim Watson's column appears every Monday. He is the municipal affairs specialist on The NewRO.
Photo: Svetlana Gouzenko, wife of Igor Gouzenko, died in 2001 and will never see her husband honoured.;
Photo: The Canadian Press / Igor Gouzenko wore a hood to hide his identity after he helped smash a Soviet spy ring in Canada in 1945.;
Photo: Wayne Cuddington, The Ottawa Citizen / Andrew Kavchak, above, has been trying for more than three years to have a plaque erected in front of 511 Somerset St., the apartment where Soviet defector Igor Gouzenko lived in 1945.;
Photo: Mr. Gouzenko, above, was a cipher clerk in the Soviet Embassy when he handed over documents to the RCMP with the details of a Soviet spy ring that had infiltrated the Canadian public service. Mr. Gouzenko died in 1982.;
Map: (The Gouzenko House, 511 Somerset Street)
Re " 'True Canadian hero' remembered,' (June 6): I cross through Dundonald
Park each day on my way to work and was extremely pleased to see the plaque
honouring the courageous, heroic actions of Igor and Svetlana Gouzenko.
I would like to commend Andrew Kavchak, and the others involved for the
dedication and effort to see this through to its successful finish. We owe
more than we will likely ever know to the actions of this man and his family.
Andrew Kavchak at 511 Somerset Street West, Ottawa
Photo: by Dave Chan, Globe and Mail (resampled for web)
OTTAWA -- Almost 58 years after the event, municipal and federal officials are
marking what many historians say was the opening shot of the Cold War,
the defection in Ottawa of Soviet embassy code clerk Igor Gouzenko.
In a simple ceremony on Wednesday, officials will unveil a plaque in a city
park across the street from the two-storey apartment building where the
Gouzenko family lived at the time of the defection on Sept. 5, 1945.
That it took almost four years of relentless lobbying by Andrew Kavchak, an
amateur local history buff, to have the plaque erected highlights the
controversy and the international political intrigue that still surrounds the
Mr. Kavchak, 40, has personal cause to want to explore the dark past of Soviet
perfidy. His grandfather was among the thousands of Polish soldiers executed on
Stalin's orders in the Katyn forest massacre in 1940.
Mr. Kavchak became intrigued by the Gouzenko story as a university student in
Toronto. He read Mr. Gouzenko's autobiography and prowled used bookstores for
other accounts of the early days of the Cold War.
Years later, living in Ottawa, Mr. Kavchak often walked his young son in the
park across from the Gouzenko apartment at 511 Somerset St. West. He sat on the
park bench where RCMP undercover officers kept watch the night four thugs from
the Soviet embassy came looking for the missing Gouzenko family -- Igor, Svetlana
and their baby boy -- to haul them back to Moscow.
Mr. Kavchak thought about the drama of that night, the Gouzenko family's narrow
escape and all that followed.
Mr. Gouzenko unmasked Soviet spy rings in Canada, the United States and
Britain, Moscow's wartime allies, and he disclosed Stalin's efforts to steal
the secrets of the atomic bomb.
The defection, Mr. Kavchak said, "was the very first significant international
event of the Cold War" -- coming just three days after the Japanese surrender
ending the Second World War. And yet "there was no marker, no plaque, no nothing."
Mr. Kavchak decided to remedy the situation.
A federal public servant, he thought he knew all about bureaucracies. But he
was unprepared for the false starts, U-turns and the back and forth between
municipal authorities and branches of the federal government on the issue of
whether the defection is worthy of commemoration.
The project was almost shelved when some Canadian diplomats, worried about how
the Russian government might take a Gouzenko memorial, advised the city against
the idea, Mr. Kavchak said.
"When Kim Philby [the former British diplomat who spied for the Soviets] died,
they gave him a state funeral in Moscow. When Igor Gouzenko died [in 1982], he
was buried in an unmarked grave because people were afraid the Soviets or their
sympathizers would deface it. . . . We have a difficult time dealing with the concept
of heroes in Canada."
Soviet code clerks, privy to the darkest secrets of Moscow's military and
political intelligence officers abroad, "could have defected from any embassy
anywhere in the world, but they didn't. It happened here in Ottawa. Gouzenko
did it here because he knew he was in a free country, that Canada is a
wonderful country," Mr. Kavchak said.
The hesitation of officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs parallels the
concern of wartime prime minister Mackenzie King, who feared the defection
would jeopardize relations between the Western allies and Stalin.
Mr. King tried to keep the defection secret, and when the facts leaked out he
was almost apologetic.
Mr. Gouzenko defected a full six months before Churchill's famous speech in
Fulton, Mo., warning that an "Iron Curtain" was descending across Europe. The
Russians were still being hailed as close friends and allies. The full extent
of Stalin's expansionary ambitions was not yet evident to many observers in the
The importance of Mr. Gouzenko's defection cannot be doubted, said Martin
Rudner, the director of Carleton University's Canadian Centre of Intelligence
and Security Studies. "It was absolutely explosive, probably the single most
important event in counterintelligence."
Mr. Gouzenko's information and the secret documents he brought with him from
the Soviet embassy were the first pieces of hard evidence that the Soviets were
spying on their allies, Prof. Rudner said.
Mr. Gouzenko disclosed the existence of Soviet "sleeper networks" -- spy rings
consisting of secret agents recruited at early ages and kept in place for years
until they attained positions from which to influence the policies of their
native countries or steal important scientific, military or political secrets.
Until that point, Western leaders could not conceive of the idea that there
might be traitors at high levels in their own governments, Prof. Rudner said.
The Gouzenko case probably prevented the sleepers in place in 1945 from
recruiting second- and third-generation agents in Canada, Britain and the
United States who could have done damage for decades, he said.
The secret documents not only provided direct evidence of Soviet treachery;
they gave Western code breakers texts that helped them decipher many other
intercepted Soviet messages.
"This was a great breakthrough. . . . If Gouzenko hadn't defected, the Soviets
probably could have continued tracking American nuclear technology, missile
technology, and saved themselves remarkable effort right through the Cold War,"
Prof. Rudner said.
A later defector to the West, former KGB officer Vasili Mitrokhin, brought a
treasure trove of documents that included a damage-assessment report on the
Gouzenko case. It indicated that Mr. Gouzenko's defection effectively paralyzed
Soviet espionage efforts in Canada for 15 years.
The Mitrokhin archive, however, also suggests that the Soviets had a Canadian
sleeper who survived the Gouzenko affair and whose identity is still a mystery.
People made wildly exaggerated claims about the extent of Communist
infiltration and influence from almost the moment of Mr. Gouzenko's defection.
On the very day the King government confirmed the defection, syndicated U.S.
newspaper columnist Drew Pearson reported in The Globe and Mail that "the
Russian agent taken by the Canadians has given the names of about 1,700 other
Soviet agents operating not only in Canada, but also in the United States."
Despite the continuing controversy, Mr. Kavchak persuaded the city and the
federal government to recognize the defection officially as a historic event.
If the Russians can confront their past since the collapse of Soviet
communism, certainly Canada, with the kind of freedom and democratic tradition
that so appealed to Igor Gouzenko, can remember its role, Mr. Kavchak
said. "History is history."
Soviet spy buster finally gets his due
58 years later, man's efforts to be recognized
By HOLLY LAKE, Ottawa Sun
Almost 58 years after Igor Gouzenko walked out of the Russian Embassy in
Ottawa and into history, his contribution to this country will finally be
The city will unveil a plague tomorrow in Dundonald Park, across the street
from the apartment at 511 Somerset St. where the Soviet defector lived with his
It was Sept. 5, 1945, when Gouzenko, a Soviet cipher clerk who transferred
messages to Moscow into code, left the embassy on Range Rd. with 109 documents.
With them, he exposed a Soviet spy ring operating in Canada and offered
information relating to Soviet espionage in Britain and the U.S.
Gouzenko also revealed that Stalin had penetrated the atomic research Americans
were conducting and later had a hand in helping U.S. authorities track down
He initially tried to go to the media with the story, but was turned away.
BLEW LID OFF RING
But Gouzenko's testimony led to a royal commission on espionage and convicted a
"He blew the lid off a Soviet spy ring," said local history buff Andrew
Kavchak, noting the move came just three days after the Japanese surrendered,
Kavchak has spent the past four years battling bureaucrats to acknowledge
"To me, Igor and Svetlana are heroes for the courage they displayed," he
said. "They took a tremendous risk to help the free world and woke us up to the
true intention of Soviet communism towards the West."
The rest of their lives were spent living with new identities, under RCMP
protection, forced to look over their shoulders.
"There's not a lot of people who can do that," Kavchak said. "When they walked
out of that embassy, they walked into no man's land."
To finally have their efforts recognized brings Kavchak a tremendous amount of
"I'm so excited about it I can hardly sleep."
The Soviet defector deserves more recognition
for his courage
Wednesday, June 04, 2003
Politicians love putting plaques on historic buildings in Canada, but there's
been a strange reluctance by the federal government to draw attention to an
Ottawa apartment that played a big part in the Cold War. It's the old Somerset
Street home of former Soviet cipher clerk Igor Gouzenko, whose 1945 defection
revealed Josef Stalin's treachery toward his former Second World War allies.
Then again, given how the government of the day mishandled that defection, it's
probably not surprising that it's taken until today for a plaque to appear on
the building. Even this modest gesture took years of lobbying by amateur
historian and public servant Andrew Kavchak, whose grandfather was murdered on
Stalin's orders in the Katyn Forest massacre.
Ask any school student today who Igor Gouzenko was or how the Canadian
government almost sent him back to face Stalin's executioners, and you'll
probably get a blank stare. Which is what the 26-year-old Gouzenko got on Sept.
5, 1945 when he tried to defect from the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa. A lieutenant
in Soviet military intelligence, he decided to switch sides in the Cold War,
carrying 109 devastating pages of documents, plus much memorized information
about a huge, unsuspected Soviet espionage apparatus in the West. Because of
his own background, he distrusted police, so he took his information to the
Ottawa Journal. The newspaper turned him away, suggesting he try the Department
of Justice instead. The department's commissionaire said go away, business
hours are nine to five, and when he came back the next morning, then-justice
minister Louis St. Laurent refused to see him. After the Journal threw him out
again, he went to the Crown attorney's Office, where Fernande Joubarne Coulson
called a friend in prime minister Mackenzie King's office. The friend told her
to tell Gouzenko to go away, but she put him in touch with the RCMP instead.
All the while, the KGB were searching for the Gouzenko family, with lethal
intentions. Their break-in at the Gouzenko apartment convinced the Mounties to
take the family into protective custody, following which Mackenzie King had to
be talked out of his initial impulse to hand Gouzenko back to Stalin. Even
then, armed with the information Gouzenko risked his life to bring to the West,
the Canadian government merely asked a few Soviet spies to leave. It sat for
five months on information revealing Communist penetration of the Canadian and
U.S. governments. Finally, a leak to the press in the United States led to
arrests starting in 1946 and, ultimately, to convictions in both countries.
Years later, another Soviet defector, Vitaly Mitrokhin, documented the damage
Gouzenko did to Soviet espionage. But the information was even more important:
The U.S. government saw in it what our own refused to -- that espionage on this
scale, including sleeper agents, fit into a pattern of Soviet hostility it was
no longer safe to ignore.
When British traitor Kim Philby, who fled to Moscow in 1963, died in 1988, he
was given a Soviet state funeral. When Igor Gouzenko died in 1982, we put him
in an unmarked grave. Just last fall, Foreign Affairs officials were still trying to
prevent any dedication of the plaque marking Gouzenko's Ottawa apartment,
lest it offend the post-Communist Russian government.
Far from trying to hide this part of our history, it should be a star exhibit in Jean
Chretien's new political history museum.
© Copyright 2003 The Ottawa Citizen
June 4, 2003
OTTAWA - A man who exposed a Soviet spy network in Canada on the cusp of the
Cold War will be remembered Wednesday in Ottawa.
Disguised Igor Gouzenko interviewed on This Hour Has Seven Days in 1966
A plaque commemorating Soviet defector Igor Gouzenko will be unveiled in
Dundonald Park on Somerset St. in Centretown.
In 1945, the information Gouzenko handed over to Canadian officials was
explosive, but his efforts have gone publicly unmarked until now.
It took several years of lobbying by one dedicated history buff to make it
Andrew Kavchak knows the park that will be home to Gouzenko's plaque well. He
lives in the neighbourhood and has spent hours there playing with his son.
It was from this park that RCMP agents monitored Gouzenko's apartment across
the street. They were there the night men from the Soviet embassy came looking
Gouzenko disclosed information that exposed spy rings in Canada, the U.S. and
Britain. He also provided code-breaker texts to decipher secret Soviet messages.
"When we think of the Cold War, we think of big incidents like the Cuban missile
crisis, the Berlin blockade," Kavchak says, "but the very first significant
international incident didn't happen in Berlin or Washington or London. It
happened right here in downtown Ottawa."
Kavchak spent several years lobbying both the municipal and federal governments
in Ottawa to honour Gouzenko.
He says the project was held up by red tape and fears among some Canadian
diplomats about how Russian officials would react to the memorial.
Martin Rudner is the director of Carleton University's Canadian Centre of
Intelligence and Security Studies.
Rudner says, "Intelligence history is regarded very much as the narrow, insular
province and precinct of the security and intelligence community. So they
don't want to cross that line."
The City of Ottawa will unveil a plaque honouring Gouzenko Wednesday. The
federal government will put up its own next year.
Ottawa finally honours spy-era 'hero'
Plaque erected for Gouzenko 58 years after he unmasked Soviet spy ring
The Ottawa Citizen
CREDIT: Jean Levac, The Ottawa Citizen
(Igor Gouzenko often wore a hood to hide his identity after he broke a Soviet spy ring). Mr. Gouzenko, unmasked, is shown in the 1940s next to his wife, Svetlana. Their daughter, Evy Wilson, holds a replica of the plaque honouring her father in Dundonald Park.
Igor Gouzenko often wore a hood to hide his identity after he broke a Soviet spy ring. (Mr. Gouzenko), unmasked, is shown in the 1940s next to his wife, Svetlana. Their daughter, Evy Wilson, holds a replica of the plaque honouring her father in Dundonald Park.
Igor Gouzenko often wore a hood to hide his identity after he broke a Soviet spy ring. Mr. Gouzenko, unmasked, is shown in the 1940s next to (his wife, Svetlana). Their daughter, Evy Wilson, holds a replica of the plaque honouring her father in Dundonald Park.
CREDIT: Jean Levac, The Ottawa Citizen
Igor Gouzenko often wore a hood to hide his identity after he broke a Soviet spy ring. Mr. Gouzenko, unmasked, is shown in the 1940s next to his wife, Svetlana. (Their daughter, Evy Wilson), holds a replica of the plaque honouring her father in Dundonald Park.
In September, it will be 58 years since Igor Gouzenko fled the Soviet Embassy in Ottawa, smuggling out 109 damaging documents which would unmask dozens of spies and, many argue, trigger the Cold War.
Remarkably, the man who risked his life to warn Canadians about traitors in their ranks -- and who afterward chose to live a life of secrecy -- had never been commemorated and, up until a few years ago, lay buried in an unmarked grave.
Yesterday, after the relentless work from one admirer, a plaque was unveiled in Dundonald Park at 516 Somerset St., just across the road from where the Gouzenko family hid for two days after Igor Gouzenko fled the Soviet embassy.
"What they did was honourable and they did it for the country," said Alexandria Boire, the Gouzenkos' third child. Like her seven siblings, she has lived under a secret identity since her father fled his country's embassy.
Ms. Boire couldn't look at the plaque without immediately turning away, because seeing her family's true name displayed in a park went against everything they'd been taught. "That name is a secret," she said.
As the story goes, on Sept. 5, 1945, a 26-year-old Soviet cipher clerk decided to abandon his country and expose a spy ring his leaders had established in Canada. Knowing that if he was caught he risked being sent back to the Soviet Union, where his future was uncertain, he fled with classified documents.
Mr. Gouzenko first asked the old Ottawa Journal to tell his story, but they wouldn't listen, so he went to the Department of Justice, which also turned him away. Alone and fearing for his young son and pregnant wife's safety, Mr. Gouzenko spent the night in a neighbour's apartment, figuring the KGB -- the Soviet secret police -- would look for him at his place.
He was right. Through a keyhole, he watched the Soviets' security chief and three others break into his home and ransack it as they looked for him.
The following day, he went back to the Justice Department, where he was told, for a second time, to go away. He then went to the Crown attorney's office, where he met Fernande Joubarne Coulson. She called a friend in the Prime Ministers Office, but they wanted nothing to do with him.
She said Mr. Gouzenko's wife, who was "very" pregnant with daughter Evy, was crying and speaking in Russian. She said Svetlana Gouzenko had the documents under her coat in "an old-fashioned handbag," which she said, "was very thick."
"I wanted to protect those two. I was sure the Russians were going to get them," Ms. Coulson said at the unveiling yesterday. "Everyone thought he was crazy. I believed what he was telling me implicitly."
Thanks to Ms. Coulson, Mr. Gouzenko was taken into protective custody by Canadian officials the next day, even though prime minister Mackenzie King was hesitant. He began a new life with a new name and moved to a new town.
His courage and information led to the arrest of 21 Canadians, including an MP. Ultimately, 11 of them were convicted. His documents also outlined information on atomic bomb research, which was on its way to the Kremlin.
The government tried to keep the story quiet and, fearing for their safety, the Gouzenkos did too. Even after all these years and the collapse of the Soviet Union, Igor Gouzenko would never have been remembered if not for Andrew Kavchak.
While studying in Toronto in the mid-80s, Mr. Kavchak became obsessed with the Gouzenko affair.
"I always thought that Igor was a hero," Mr. Kavchak said. And when he moved to a home across the street from Dundonald Park in 1999, he was shocked to see no marker identified where the Gouzenkos had lived.
He set out to honour his hero.
He sent an e-mail to then-Ottawa mayor Jim Watson in 1999, pleading to have the Gouzenko family commemorated. With the city amalgamating, it was decided to postpone the commemoration.
By 2001, the city said they couldn't do it because it had become a matter for the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Mrs. Gouzenko died only two months after the delay.
More bad news followed when Mr. Kavchak received a letter from Foreign Affairs saying, after consulting specialists in Russia and because of international relations, the department didn't want to commemorate an event from the Cold War.
Mr. Kavchak said he was shocked: "The courage he had. The guy took such risks, when he walked out of that embassy. I don't think many people could do what he did."
He continued to pressure the city. In July 2002, he was surprised when Heritage Minister Sheila Copps designated the Gouzenko affair an event of national historic significance. He took her letter to the city. In January, Mr. Watson wrote a column in the Citizen about Mr. Kavchak, pleading with the city to unveil a plaque.
"It's been 1,395 days and I'm glad it's come to an end," Mr. Kavchak said yesterday.
Ms. Boire said she remembered when her father won the Governor General's award for fiction in 1954, for the Fall of the Titan. He couldn't go to the ceremony, but received his medal.
"We are all so proud. I asked him if I could take the medal to school to show my friends," Ms. Boire explains. "He said no, and I began to know that something was different."
Ms. Boire soon began to learn of her family's "true" history and, like them, kept the secret because she feared the Soviets.
"Even now, I'm only still beginning to understand the implications," she said.
Mr. Gouzenko died in 1982, and was buried secretly in Mississauga with no headstone. His wife died in 2001 and was buried beside him. A year later, the family erected a headstone, making their history public.
As people gathered to watch the unveiling of the plaque yesterday, a passerby on a bicycle stopped and asked one of the people -- by coincidence a Gouzenko grandchild -- why a large crowd was gathered.
"We're unveiling a plaque," the grandchild said calmly. "It's about an event that happened here in 1945."
The bike rider gave him an odd look and then quickly said, "Oh, that's Gouzenko."
© Copyright 2003 The Ottawa Citizen**************************************
Globe and Mail, Letter to the Editor
Toronto -- I've always been fascinated by the story of Igor Gouzenko, the
cipher clerk from the Russian embassy in Ottawa who, in 1945, "unmasked
Soviet spy rings in Canada, the United States and Britain" (Remembering A
Soviet Defector -- May 31). So it's good news that amateur history buff
Andrew Kavchak has arranged for a plaque to be placed in Ottawa to
commemorate Mr. Gouzenko's achievements.
But the plaque's location (in a park near Mr. Gouzenko's former apartment)
lacks imagination, since the drama really began at the offices of The
Ottawa Journal, where an agitated and almost incoherent Mr. Gouzenko, carrying
pilfered embassy documents, was turned away by uninterested staff
members. Any memorial plaque should be placed at the newspaper office site,
since that's where the Cold War began.
And, by the way, thanks for that photo of Mr. Gouzenko without a bag over his head.
Globe and Mail, Letter to the Editor
Kimberley, Ont. -- In Remembering A Soviet Defector, Jeff Sallot reveals that
Igor Gouzenko is, in effect, a non-person in this country. According to Martin
Rudner, director of Carleton University's Canadian Centre of Intelligence and
Security Studies, his defection was "probably the single most important event
"So why haven't Mr. Gouzenko's disclosures been properly acknowledged by the
federal government? It may have something to do with the claim by international
observers that Mackenzie King, Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau were all
considered Cold War security risks. Lifting up rocks from that era would be
profoundly embarrassing for Ottawa. It's time a definitive history of this
period was written to set the record straight. In our politically correct age,
truth is rationed.
Letter to the Editor, City Section
Re: Ottawa finally honours spy-era 'hero,' June 5.
As a one-time reporter for the society department of the Ottawa Journal, I am
aware that my boss, Leslie Johnstone, was one of the few people with the warmth
and courage to help Igor Gouzenko in 1945. Others were afraid to risk ridicule
by trying to help. I believe that but for her, Mr. Gouzenko would have been
murdered. She phoned the Department of Justice and there reached the first
Later, after the Gouzenkos spent a harrowing night in a neighbour's apartment,
the RCMP took charge of Mr. Gouzenko and his family, sending his wife to
hospital to have her baby, with a Mountie posing as her husband.
June 15, 2003.
Byline: Andrew Kavchak
It was with great joy and satisfaction that I found out that you awarded me
your prestigious "Thumbs Up" award on June 8 for my having worked successfully
to obtain the long overdue and deserved recognition of the heroism of Igor
Gouzenko in the form of a commemorative plaque.
What a thrill it is to know that people at the other end of the country share
in the excitement of the event.
Unfortunately, the TC story contained two errors. First, the commemorative
plaque which was unveiled by the City of Ottawa on June 4 was not erected
across the street from the Soviet Embassy, as you reported. It was erected in
Dundonald Park across the street from the apartment building where the Gouzenko
family lived at the time of his defection in September, 1945.
Secondly, there is no Soviet Embassy in Ottawa. The Soviet Union disintegrated
more than a decade ago.
Centretown's newest heroes David Gladstone The Centretown Buzz June 13, 2003, Vol. 8. No. 11 On the pleasant late spring afternoon of June 4, history buffs and Centretown residents gathered to celebrate the unveiling in Dundonald Park by Mayor Bob Chiarelli and Ms. Evy Wilson of a plaque dedicated to two former Centretown residents - Igor and Svetlana Gouzenko, Wilson's parents - who made history 58 years ago. The Gouzenkos lived in an apartment at 511 Somerset Street West across from Dundonald Park, in an area full of families and children all celebrating the end of World War II. In her comments, Wilson hinted at the role living across from Dundonald Park played in the Gouzenkos decision to defect to Canada in September 1945, an event seen as one of the starting points of the Cold War. Andrew Kavchak moved into a house facing Dundonald Park in 1999 and was surprised that the Gouzenko's former home wasn't recognized as a site where history was made. He spent four years lobbying bureaucrats and politicians in the city and federal governments and made his point. Last summer, Heritage Minister Sheila Copps recognized the Gouzenko's defection as a major event in Canadian history, an event now commemorated with an informative City of Ottawa plaque in Dundonald Park facing the Gouzenkos former home - and a beer store! It turns out that it was RCMP officers in the park observing Soviet agents breaking into the Gouzenkos' apartment which convinced Prime Minister Mackenzie King to accept the Gouzenkos as the real thing. While their speeches weren't long, Mayor Bob Chiarelli (whose words for the Gouzenkos were "thank you, thank you, thank you") and Councillor Elisabeth Arnold paid tribute to the courage the Gouzenkos showed in choosing Canada and unmasking Soviet intelligence agents at a time when Canada considered the Soviet Union to be an ally. For her part, Wilson proudly showed the Certificate of Canadian Citizenship for her parents signed by King George VI in 1947. In concluding the short but moving ceremony, Andrew Kravchak quoted from the conclusion of a Kellogg-Taschereau Royal Commission which investigated the threat to Canada posed by Soviet spies: "In our opinion, Gouzenko, by his actions, has rendered a great public service to the people of this country and has thereby placed Canada in their debt." He pointed out that "every nation should have a hero," and thanked former mayor Jim Watson and Director of Protocol Bernadette Clifford for their support in recognizing the Gouzenkos. Although their recognition is a bit belated, Centretown now has two more heroes!Igor Gouzenko's Statement; 10 October 1945
The Gouzenko Affair: A wake-up call for the West
Publication: KWS - The Kingston Whig-Standard
Source: INF - All CanWest Publications
June 7, 2004
Byline: Gord Sly
On June 4, 2003, a plaque was unveiled and dedicated by the City of Ottawa to commemorate an important Cold War event, the Gouzenko Affair, as being of significant historical importance in Canada. More recently, on April 15, 2004, the federal government dedicated another plaque to the same event. These plaques are located in Dundonald Park, across from the 511 Somerset St. apartment building where Igor Gouzenko lived with his wife and young son while in Ottawa.
History is never written in stone. It is dynamic. Official versions of history are usually written by those who are powerful and important enough to do so. Solid facts may not change, but interpretations of the facts do. Over time, different perspectives emerge as a result of newly disclosed evidence or generational shifts in the perspectives, attitudes and values of those who write history. Sometimes history is revised or rewritten through the perseverance of a few individuals, or even one individual, who strongly believes that past interpretations are inaccurate or incomplete. Such was the case with the Gouzenko Affair.
Why is the Gouzenko Affair historically important? It was an event that led to a major change in the collective political thinking of the Western world in the period immediately following the end of the Second World War. In other words, this event was a major wake-up call for the West. Many scholars consider the Gouzenko Affair to be the real beginning of the Cold War.
Sept. 5, 1945 is a date that should be remembered in Canadian history. On that day, Igor Gouzenko, a Soviet cipher clerk, walked out of the Soviet Union's embassy in Ottawa for the last time. He and his wife, Svetlana, had decided to defect to Canadian officials with important secret documents that would later expose Soviet spy rings in Canada, Britain and the United States.
From the evening of Sept. 5 to the morning of Sept. 7, the Gouzenkos went through harrowing experiences as they tried desperately to convince Canadian authorities to take them seriously. Literally fearing for their lives, they went to the Ottawa Journal newspaper and the Ministry of Justice on the evening of Sept. 5 and again the next day, only to be rejected each time.
After much frustration, they were finally taken into protective custody by the RCMP on the morning of Sept. 7 after Soviet agents were caught breaking into the Gouzenkos' apartment during the night. Nervously, the Gouzenkos had listened and watched the activities of the agents through a keyhole in the door of their neighbour's apartment at 511 Somerset. Ottawa police, called by the neighbour, arrived shortly after and tried to detain the Soviet agents. The latter refused to be held and left, claiming diplomatic immunity. The agents claimed that Gouzenko had stolen money from the embassy.
This is the stuff of exciting and intriguing history, perhaps as exciting as an Ian Fleming novel.
Canadian officials, including Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, found it unbelievable that Canada's close ally, the Soviet Union, was actually spying on its good friends. During the war, almost all allied intelligence efforts were focused on Nazi Germany and its allies. This apparently was not the case in the Soviet Union.
According to his secret diaries, the prime minister's first reaction was one of shock. He initially suggested seizing the documents and returning "the Russian person" to the Soviet embassy. Such action probably would have meant death for Gouzenko.
King was talked out of this course of action. He was very concerned about upsetting Canada's good relations with the Soviet Union and an upcoming meeting of the Council of Ministers in 1946 to deal with postwar peace issues. King was notorious for avoiding controversy when possible.
The head of British Security Coordination, William Stevenson (code name Intrepid), later wrote that he went to the Gouzenko apartment on the night of the sixth, after the Soviet agents had left. His mission was to protect the Gouzenkos from the Soviets, as well as from the Canadian prime minister. But whether Stevenson was even in Ottawa that night has been questioned by some scholars.
The documents that Gouzenko surrendered led to the exposure of a number of Soviet spy rings in Canada, Britain and the United States. On Oct. 6, 1945, King secretly invoked Order-in-Council P.C. 6444, which gave the RCMP special powers to investigate the information that Gouzenko had provided. Another secret order-in-council, P.C. 411, invoked on Feb. 5, 1946, created a Royal Commission on Espionage (the Kellock-Taschereau Commission).
Early on the morning of Feb. 14, the day before King made the Gouzenko Affair public in the House of Commons, the RCMP rounded up and detained a couple of dozen suspects, mostly public servants. A few days later, member of Parliament Fred Rose was also brought in and detained. Many of these suspects - or witnesses, as they were referred to by the commission - were accused of violating the Official Secrets Act or conspiring to do so. A number of the accused, including Rose, were eventually found guilty and served prison terms for their crimes.
The Gouzenko Affair directly or indirectly influenced actions taken by the United States and Britain. Gouzenko warned the British and the Americans that there were Soviet agents in high levels of their respective governments. Subsequently, in the United States, Alger Hiss, a former adviser to President Franklin Roosevelt during the war, Kim Philby, head of MI6 in Britain, and other key figures in each country were exposed. Ironically, Philby, in his capacity as head of MI6, had interviewed or debriefed Gouzenko after the defection. The term "McCarthyism" was later to identify a controversial, perhaps dark, period in American history in which many Americans were accused of being Soviet agents or sympathizers.
The Gouzenko defection and the immediate aftermath were kept top secret in Canada for five months. The Canadian people, Parliament and all but two of three cabinet ministers had no idea about the events between September 1945 and February 1946. In theory, Canadian civil rights were still suspended under the War Measures Act, which wasn't revoked immediately after the war.
For generations of Canadians since the war, the Gouzenko Affair has been little more than a brief footnote in Canadian history textbooks, one overshadowed by other important Cold War events such as the Berlin Airlift of 1948, the
Korean War, the Suez Crisis of 1956, the founding of NATO and NORAD, and the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, to name a few.
How many Canadian high school students today know what the Gouzenko Affair was about? Many may remember seeing a picture of a man wearing a mask in a history textbook at some point, but little else. They should know that the Gouzenko Affair was the first major international event of the Cold War. Given the questionable, perhaps embarrassing, handling of the affair by the federal cabinet, and given the debate about civil liberties denied by orders-in-council, the Gouzenko Affair is finally beginning to receive its long-overdue place in Canadian history.
On April 15, 2004, a moving ceremony was conducted at Library and Archives of Canada in Ottawa during a special conference on the Gouzenko Affair. The oldest daughter of Igor and Svetlana Gouzenko, Evelyn Wilson, unveiled a plaque dedicated by the federal government marking the Gouzenko Affair as an event of historical significance in Canada.
I had the good fortune to attend that conference and to meet Evelyn Wilson. The Gouzenko children did not know their real identities until they were teenagers. Igor and Svetlana had eight children after they arrived in Canada in 1943. Evelyn was born only four months after her parents' defection, while the family was living in a safe house at Camp X, near Whitby, Ont.
As a retired history teacher of 30 years, I began researching the topic and was amazed at how little I knew about this important part of our nation's history. History is indeed dynamic, constantly being rewritten and revised. In this case, we have a new historical perspective thanks to the exhaustive efforts of Andrew Kavchak, a federal public servant and self-proclaimed amateur local historian. He persevered over four frustrating years of cutting through the thick red tape of two levels of government to bring the Gouzenko Affair into the main stream of Canadian history. Kavchak feels strongly that the courageous Gouzenkos were heroes in a country that seemingly starves for heroes. Perhaps he is right.
- Gord Sly is a freelance writer living in Odessa.
Photo: Igor Gouzenko wearing the hood he wore in public after his defection to hide his appearance from Soviet agents who, it was feared, might try to kill him.
Re: Wartime spy for Soviets helped ignite the Cold War, Oct. 5.
The obituaries following the death of former spy Gordon Lunan portray the dramatic contrast in the lives lived by those who helped betray Canadian secrets to one of the greatest murderers in history, Josef Stalin, and that lived by the person who had the courage to risk his life to warn Canada about Soviet espionage. While Gordon Lunan "was able to rebuild his life, quickly remarrying and resurrecting his career in the advertising business," the hero to whom Canada owed so much, Igor Gouzenko, lived a life in hiding, unable to adopt any career because of the constant threat from KGB assassins. What a terrible fate.
At least the City of Ottawa and the federal government in recent years had the decency to erect commemorative plaques honouring Igor Gouzenko, in Dundonald Park on Somerset Street, across from the building where Mr. Gouzenko lived at the time of his defection in September 1945. Similarly, the new Canadian War Museum contains a huge, 14-foot-high picture of Mr. Gouzenko dramatically displaying his truly giant impact on Canadian history.
© The Ottawa Citizen 2005
Review of Amy Knight’s new book “How The Cold War Began - The Gouzenko Affair and the Hunt for Soviet Spies”.
As a Gouzenkologist I have been waiting for a really good book to come out about Gouzenko and his impact on history for a long time. I heard a long time ago that Amy Knight was writing a book and I really looked forward to it. I just finished reading it and I am still waiting for a really good book to be written about Gouzenko and his impact on history. While there are some interesting passages in this book that seem to contain some new material, the overall text is a disappointment. Here are some comments.
First, after I read a paper that Ms. Knight delivered at a conference years ago about the Soviet perspective on the Gouzenko Affair, I sent her an email and suggested that if she ever wrote a book she should include a chronology of events. Well, this book starts off with one. However, on the fourth line it suggests that on August 8, 1945 the U.S. detonated the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Wrong. Hiroshima was removed from the planet’s surface on August 6. Nagasaki was next on August 9. It is a shame that such important dates in the history of mankind can be screwed up like this. Especially by someone who is now claiming to tell us what happened. Sure, that may be a simple mistake. However, it is not the only sloppy mistake. Throughout the book she continuously refers to Gordon Lunan as a source for information. (This in itself is disturbing since he was one of the compromised Soviet agents). However, she refers in one footnote to an interview with him in “Hawksberry, Ontario” (page 320). Sorry, he lived in “Hawkesbury, Ontario”. What’s the difference? Isn’t it annoying when those who profess professionalism in details get such simple things wrong? OK, so what else is wrong? She spends so much of the book going into detail about the “assistant to the Assistant Secretary” or “Assistant Secretary” himself details when discussing the Hiss fiasco, or the “5 of MI” or was it “MI5” details when discussing the Hollis case. Each time I read her criticizing someone else for not paying attention to detail I thought about the victims of Hiroshima. Were they so unimportant that they did not deserve the respect of getting the date of their death correct?
Second, the book starts off with a series of questions that it wants to address. These questions made my eyes roll. If we have not answered them already by now then we have not come far. “To what extent were the people accused of passing secrets to the Soviets during the 1940s really spies….?” or “Was the Gouzenko affair necessary to open up our eyes to the evils of the Soviet empire,…?” or was the cold war “worth fighting”? I would have thought that the answers to these questions were obvious and answered a long time ago. Does she really think that not taking any defensive measures was an appropriate response worthy of consideration?
Third, she performs the usual trick of omitting key elements of the Soviet record when discussing WWII. Throughout the text she refers to the Soviets as great allies having fought in the war against the Nazis (single-handedly even!). At one point she even refers to the Soviets “entering” the war against the Nazis (making it sound like they were on the sidelines and decided on their own to join the Western allies). This a shameful error and regrettably a common mistake of Americans who believe that WWII only started after Pearl Harbour. Of course, in September 1939 the Nazis and the Soviets both invaded Poland and carved up the country pursuant to the Secret Protocols that were part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact of August 23, 1939. The Soviets then took over Bessarabia, the Baltic states and went to war with Finland. During this time they not only guaranteed Hitler no trouble on the Eastern Front (gee, thanks) but they also engaged in plenty of trade and cooperation with Hitler to support their respective war efforts (see the book “The Deadly Embrace”). It is amazing that this element of history would not only be conveniently overlooked, but that the subsequent discussion of Soviet agents would not refer to these historic facts when promoting this horribly deceptive argument that the Soviets had always been our allies against Hitler. The Soviets were perfectly happy being in bed with Hitler and did not “enter” the struggle against him voluntarily. They only switched sides after they were invaded themselves by their own ally.
Fourth, it is amazing that Ms. Knight would continuously repeat these excuses of the spies and agents that they were merely helping an ally in the struggle against Hitler. She herself points out that much of the information was provided to the Soviet Embassy during the summer of 1945 (i.e. June, July, August). However, Hitler and Nazi Germany were history by the beginning of May, 1945. That chronology thing would be useful to look at sometimes. How can spies who supplied the Soviets with information in July 1945 possibly suggest that it was to help in the war effort against Nazi Germany? How can any historian take that seriously?
Fifth, Ms. Knight uses a lot of primary sources which is nice, however, she also uses a lot of awful secondary sources. It is truly disappointing that she continuously refers to material by M. Weisbord, J. Callwood, G. Lunan, J. Littleton, all of which is leftist biased material that provides truly slanted material. She also repeatedly quotes a former professor of mine, R. Whitaker. Well, I thought that the Dean of Canadian historians, J. Granatstein, probably assessed Mr. Whitaker’s book on the Cold War in Canada quite well when he said “Read with caution”. In their world Gouzenko was awful, the spies did nothing wrong, the Americans are bad (especially that evil FBI and then CIA, etc.), the Soviet threat is exaggerated, etc. Regrettably, she allowed herself to be too heavily influenced by these secondary sources.
Sixth, in the book Ms. Knight tells us about Herbert Norman being a poor innocent who died because of American right-wing abuse, etc… This one guy is the one and only favourite of the left who use him over and over again as an illustration of American cruelty. Similarly, she goes on about other “innocents” who had their careers ruined because of false communist accusations. However, in one case discussion about an alleged “victim” she actually admits that the individual eventually was elected president of his scientific community organization and had accumulated a list of over 200 published articles to his credit. That does not sound like the story of someone whose career was destroyed. There are plenty of examples of communists who ended up going on to have successful careers and lives (e.g. Lunan who went on to a career in advertising). While Ms. Knight spends a great portion of the book trying to document the “excesses” of American right-wingers who had a “political” agenda against communists, no amount of cover-up or exaggeration can hide the fact that Gouzenko made the Western powers realize just how vulnerable they were and as a result they took measures to protect their security. Thank God they did. To suggest that the communist threat was not real is simply fraudulent. The left-wing has managed to create a huge industry and a degree of public contempt for McCarthy and “McCarthyism” even though it only took one politician one televised speech and one question (“have you no shame?”) to bring about his downfall.
What I would like to see is whether any of these writers of secondary sources or Ms. Knight herself will someday study how the use of the term “McCarthyism” and its distortion by the left has been used to stifle debate and smear good people who were themselves “innocents”. The criticism of the “right-wing” anti-communists is sometimes itself exaggerated. Where would we be if someone had bothered to ask people like Kim Philby, Burgess, Maclean, May, etc…. “are you now, or have you ever been, a communist?” before it was too late. Obviously those traitors should have been asked that question before being given positions that directly threatened the security of the western democracies.
Ms. Knight herself accuses the RCMP of using “Gestapo” tactics against the accused spies. This is a poor choice of terms. The Gestapo, like the NKVD at the time, had no checks or balances to prevent them from torturing their victims and killing them. To suggest that the RCMP was no different from the Gestapo is a terrible comparison. What a farce. Only half of the accused spies were convicted. I would love to have seen half of the victims of Gestapo “treatment” or NKVD “show trials” get off. Of course, the show trials had trumped up charges, forced confessions, and the outcomes were known in advance. How can anyone with a straight face say that the Gouzenko spy trials were exactly the same thing? (People like Weisbord and all the others in Ms. Knight’s footnotes of secondary sources!) Her use of “Gestapo tactics” to describe the RCMP is way over the top and a cheap shot at sensationalism.
Finally, Ms. Knight seems to go on and on out of her way to portray Mr. Gouzenko as a troubled person and to discredit him as much as possible. Again, we see the stories that he was a “wife-beater”. Maybe that is what started the cold war? Now we read that his new identity after defecting involved the Czech word for rat and she speculates on which RCMP officer had the pleasure of picking the poor choice of a name and then she seems to blame him for not objecting. More about his “real motivation” for defecting (the money of course! Even though there was no pot of gold waiting for him when he defected), etc… Why must such smearing nonsense be included in her book?
On the other hand, where are the sincere statements expressing gratitude for what Gouzenko did? Nowhere did I see a quote from the 1946 Royal Commission that Canada was in his debt. Even though Ms. Knight attended both ceremonies when the City of Ottawa unveiled a plaque honouring Igor Gouzenko in 2003 and when the federal government did the same in 2004, she only mentioned these in one footnote and in the very last paragraph of the book where she suggested that the federal government “grudgingly allowed a plaque to be erected in Ottawa…” In fact, while the City and federal governments certainly dragged their feet regarding the plaques which I described in my own text “Remembering Gouzenko”, the fact is that both ceremonies were class acts and there was nothing “grudging” about them. The two levels of government did not “allow” a plaque to be erected but erected their own two plaques themselves. Too bad it’s so hard for some to accept the celebration of a true cold war hero. Even after all these years so many people have a hard time saying what needs to be said: “Thank God for Igor Gouzenko!”. As Granatstein pointed out in his 1997 book “The Canadian 100”, he was one of the most important Canadians in the last century. In fact, given his impact on global history, he was a truly important player on an international setting. May he rest in peace.
In the Spring of 2006 a new book about the Gouzenko Affair was published by Penumbra Press. It contains chapters based on papers delivered at the April 2004 federal plaque unveiling and National Archives conference on the Gouzenko Affairs as well as other material. Contributors include the historians of the CIA, FBI, MI5, Department of External Affairs, etc...and a chapter by Andrew Kavchak titled "Remembering Gouzenko".
The Gouzenko Affair
J.L. Black & Martin Rudner, eds.
ON 5 SEPTEMBER 1945, RUSSIAN cipher clerk Igor Gouzenko left the Soviet embassy in Ottawa with an armful of documents detailing the efforts of a Soviet spy ring in Canada. Known as the Gouzenko affair, this event has since been considered the harbinger of the new era of Cold War international relations. Beyond that, Gouzenko's defection profoundly and directly affected the security and intelligence communities in Britain, Canada, the Soviet Union, and the United States, for years to come.
This collection includes essays delivered first at a conference on "The Gouzenko Affair: The Beginnings of Canadian Counter-Espionage and Cold War Intelligence History," held at Library and Archives Canada in April 2004, and re-worked as a result of the conference. The significance of the Gouzenko affair is examined critically in the book, with particular attention paid to Canada's special place in the unfolding of Cold War 'images of the enemy.'
The Gouzenko Affair is unique in the degree to which its contributors rely on archival material, much of it previously unavailable, and the extraordinarily wide-ranging expertise and locales they represent.
With essays by Christopher Andrew, J.L. Black, Benjamin B. Fischer, John F. Fox Jr, Andrew Kavchak, Amy Knight, Hector Mackenzie, Alexei P. Makarov, Calder Walton, and Ian E. Wilson.