The Private Life of Kim Philby: The Moscow Years

The Private Life of Kim Philby: The Moscow Years


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780880642194
Publisher: Fromm International Publishing Corporation
Publication date: 05/01/2000
Pages: 464
Product dimensions: 6.39(w) x 9.33(h) x 1.50(d)

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Chapter One

Before Kim

I was born on 1 September 1932 in the heart of Moscow on Rozhdestvenka Street. That same year Kim, already committed to the cause that was to shape his life, became the treasurer of the Cambridge University Socialist Society. Or, as he used to say, 'By the time you were born, I had already started down the long road that would lead me to you.'

    My father came from a farmer's family in Maloyaroslavets, the district centre of the Kaluga region. He had lived in Moscow since the age of ten, having been sent there by his parents to be an apprentice in the fur trade. He eventually became a leading expert in treating and dyeing furs.

    My mother came from Sedlece in Poland, where her father had been a bank clerk. In 1914, when she was two, she moved with her family to Moscow. Her parents had tried to return when Poland regained its independence in the 1920s, but were denied permission to leave the Soviet Union. My grandfather died in 1933 and it was not until 1957 — a year before she died — that my grandmother finally managed to return to her home country.

    I don't remember much about our first home. When I was just two, we moved to a flat in a new development of five-storey buildings on the outskirts of Moscow, rather aptly called, 'New Houses'. The old flat had been damp with only a wood stove. This one had steam central heating and even a bathroom, but no hot water.

    My parents and I had a 12 square metre room in a flat shared with three other families. The room was dry and light,but not much wider than my school pencilbox. We used to amuse ourselves by rearranging the furniture, each time being convinced that we had carved out just a little more living space than before.

    Each five-storey building was built around three sides of a large yard where there was plenty of room for children to play. Across the open end ran rows of washing lines on which fresh smelling sheets crackled in the frost.

    I was eight when war broke out. At the time we happened to be staying in Tomilino, a little village outside Moscow, at a dacha belonging to one of my mother's friends. The 22nd of June is etched in my memory. The grown-ups were inside listening to the wireless and holding their breath. Suddenly they started to wail: 'It's war, we are at war ...' I had no idea what it actually meant and could only think of those set-piece battles between heroes and villains so vividly pictured in my books of fairy stories. But one glimpse of the grown-ups' terrified, tear-streaked faces was enough to make me just as scared as they were.

    My mother had been in Moscow running some errands. She obviously had no idea what the day was going to bring, and I ran to meet her at the train station. She seemed to take the awful news in her stride and, after calming me down, marched into the nearest grocers to buy flour, sugar, salt and matches.

    My father dug a slit trench in the yard of the dacha, from which the trees had already been cleared, and fashioned seats out of narrow boards along each side. It served as a shelter for some ten people who lived in the dacha. I will always remember the smell of the damp clay earth and the whistle of the bombs. The big ones made a terrifying noise, just like a locomotive rumbling overhead.

    That summer the air-raids were almost continuous. Night after cool night we scrambled into the dugout, packed tight along the uncomfortably angled benches. My parents would wrap me in blankets, which did little to keep out the bone-chilling damp.

    The raids came in the day too, and I have vivid memories of one hot afternoon. The planes circled in the clear blue sky and the sirens wailed while my mother, seemingly oblivious, went on giving me a bath in a sun-warmed basin of water out in the yard. Then one night the anti-aircraft guns jolted me out of my sleep. Everyone else had managed to get to the shelter but my mother and I (Father was in Moscow) were trapped on the porch. Shrapnel rained down around us and it was too risky to run even the few yards to the shelter. Searchlight beams crisscrossed the sky and an anti-aircraft shell hit a plane trapped in their glare. Other shells burst like little stars. If it had not been so scary, it would have been almost beautiful. We had to spend the whole night out on the porch 'enjoying' the fireworks display.

    Our family spent the whole war in Moscow as my parents did not want to be evacuated. The cellar of every apartment building was used as an air-raid shelter, but we never went down into ours, it just didn't seem safe. When the sirens split the night, my parents would get me dressed. Still half asleep, trembling with fright and teeth chattering, I always had time to dress my doll and never let go of her. All the neighbours used to sit in the hallways waiting for the all-clear. Our neighbourhood was bombed quite often as there were factories nearby.

    I remember the general panic and the mass flight in mid-October 1941, when the Germans approached very close to Moscow. My parents did not lose their heads. My father even went to work that day only to find the place empty. The doors were wide open and not a sound came from the workshop, so he locked up and came home. My father spent his entire life working at the Rostokinsky fur complex. As an essential professional necessary for the trade, he was exempted from military service, though he had served in the Civil War in 1918-20. In time, the panic gradually ebbed and the people who had left the city returned to work.

    Throughout the entire war I was only once in a Moscow shelter. It happened when my mother and I had gone to Gorky Street to get groceries on our ration cards (at the time everyone was allocated to a specific shop). The siren wailed. We began to rush across the street to the shop, but before we got halfway, a policeman grabbed us and dragged us to the nearest shelter, where we stayed until the all-clear sounded. When we emerged from the shelter, we saw only a huge bonfire where the grocer's shop had stood.

    We had a large log stove in our kitchen. Since firewood was hard to come by, everyone in the apartment cooked on Primus and oil stoves. However, liquid fuel was also hard to come by. One day my father managed to get hold of some petrol. That night, by candle light, when everyone else was in bed, he and my mother began to decant the petrol into the Primus stove. Suddenly, my father's clothes caught fire, turning him into an instant fireball. Luckily he kept his head, ran out of the flat, down two flights of stairs, and rolled around in the snow outside to extinguish the flames. Fortunately, there was plenty of it and I do not think he was seriously burned.

    My father set up a school at the complex to teach his trade secrets to younger workers. He dreamed of dressing me in a squirrel fur coat when I grew up, but things did not work out like that. He went through his entire career without managing to make a single fur for me or my mother. After he died in 1948, the complex gave furs to the whole family: sheepskin coats for mother and me, and a kidskin coat for my brother.

    Before the war Mother had not worked, but once it started she had no choice. Her first job was making large nets out of thin cord. The nets were suspended from barrage balloons to snare low flying planes. In 1943, she was drafted to work in a military plant and she worked there as a welder until the end of the war. There was no public transportation in the city, no street lights, and all the windows were blacked out. Mother used to tell me how she would grope her way home in the pitch dark through the side streets and back alleys. It was a long walk that took about an hour and a half.

    Food was a continual problem and Mother used to go to little villages outside Moscow, trudging through fields and woods, to barter household odds and ends for food. Looking back, I am surprised that even in those disturbed times, she was never attacked either out in the sticks or in night-time Moscow. Ironically, it was only well after the war, in 1949, that our flat was ransacked. And, in an unrelated incident, I was attacked in broad daylight while shopping. I had been at the bakery collecting our bread ration. Behind me in the queue was a plump girl who followed me out and began telling me a story while steering me up the street and into the entrance of her block of flats. As soon as we were inside, where it was dark, she ordered me to give her my bread and then grabbed my shopping bag. We struggled for what seemed ages. She was bigger than me and looked stronger, but, in the end, I pulled the bag away and raced home. Even now I can remember her face and the dark birthmark on her cheek.

    We never actually starved, but we were always hungry. Biscuits made of coarse bran were a rare treat. Looking back, I remember the sheer delight when our school served breakfast — a small piece of brown bread thinly spread with jam. Our teacher would bring the loaf into the classroom, cut it into paper-thin slices under our watchful eyes and then dole out half a piece to each.

    Towards the end of the war the food situation improved and we started to get white rolls instead of brown bread. I used to swallow mine down in one gulp, but the girl who shared my desk would cut hers into small pieces, prolonging the pleasure by chewing each one slowly.

    Early in 1946, my father was arrested and our room searched. I do not know the real reason for this, but I remember him saying that he had been denounced by someone at work mainly on the grounds that he was married to a Pole! He was lucky because he was released after three months without facing a trial. He came home from jail very thin, hunched over, and a broken man. He could not sleep, his ears always cocked for that ominous knock on the door. His personality changed beyond recognition; he was gloomy and introspective, and that is how I remember him. Still, in 1946, my brother Kostya was born, but two years later, in December 1948, my father died of lung cancer, aged forty-eight.

    As the saying goes, misfortunes never come alone. Within six months, our room was robbed and everything stolen. The thieves even took linen and the hangers on which all our clothes had been. I remember opening the wardrobe and finding it completely bare.

    In the autumn of 1949, I entered the Editorial and Publishing Trades School. My mother was very ill at the time and I also had to take complete responsibility for my little brother Kostya. Those were very difficult years for our family. Right after my seventeenth birthday, I got a job in a publishing house as a proofreader, while continuing my studies at night school. I would drop Kostya off at the kindergarten on my way to work and pick him up again in the evenings.

    By the mid-1950s, my mother's health had improved a little and she went back to work. But she was often sick and earned much less than I did, so I became the breadwinner, bearing a heavy load of family responsibilities. My years as a 'carefree youth' were actually pretty tough. This may be why the idea of getting married never crossed my mind. But I cannot claim that my life was all hard times. Somehow I did manage to get out to student parties and even have dates.

    After my father died, we moved to another flat which we shared with three other families. It was less well equipped — smaller rooms, no bathroom, no hot water, we shared a toilet, and, perhaps most important, there was no telephone! — but it was in the centre of Moscow. Old and dilapidated, this three-storey building was said to have once been a monastery dormitory. This time our new room was not narrow, though it had the same number of square metres, but neither was it square. Being slightly out of kilter, it gave us even more scope for moving the furniture around, but the futility of that little diversion became evident when my maternal grandmother moved in with us after leaving her second husband and a twenty-year marriage. The room would hold a sofa and a bed. These now had to accommodate four people. Getting undressed and ready for bed was an experience best forgotten.

    My grandmother and my mother never had an easy relationship. She could never forgive her daughter for marrying a 'kazap', as the Poles and Ukrainians called the Russians, though she conceded that my father had his good points. When Kostya was born, she mellowed a bit and even allowed herself to be called 'Granny'. Up until then she insisted that I call her Aunt Martha.

    Granny lived with us for three years before she left for Poland. In 1957, she managed to make contact with her large family in her homeland. All the brothers and sisters with whom she had lost touch when she emigrated to Russia in 1914 were still alive despite the war and occupation. She went to live with her younger sister in Warsaw, but it was too late for her dreams to come true. Warsaw, to her, was an unrecognisable foreign city and the grim reality of Poland bore no resemblance to the country whose images she had cherished for so many years.

    In 1953, after graduating from the Technical School, I entered the Institute of Printing in the Editorial and Journalism Department. Unfortunately, in 1958, when I was in the final year and almost ready to graduate, I fell seriously ill. All the specialists agreed that I had lymphogranuloma, a form of cancer, and held out little hope of recovery. Radiotherapy was the main treatment: it nearly killed me. Only massive blood transfusions pulled me through. I was forced to take a year's sabbatical and did not graduate until 1960. Soon after I began to work as an editor.

    The building we lived in had been in a very bad condition for years and we were afraid it would fall down around us. A heavy beam ran from the first-floor hall right through the stairwell to shore up the roof. We were hoping to be allocated a new flat, or more precisely a new room, since we did not qualify for a whole flat. In those years there was a quota for living space: 6 square metres per person. Families were allocated a flat or a room via the regional housing department or by authorities at work. In either case waiting lists were involved. Needless to say, it took many years for our turn to arrive, but when it did two of my colleagues from the trade union at work came to see me one day. Their job was to confirm that we were living in really bad conditions in order to justify my claim for a better flat. When they saw the beam, the broken staircase and the banisters leaning at an odd angle, one of them said to his colleague, 'You go ahead, I've got kids, you know.'

    Despite these efforts, nothing came from the publishing house. We waited until 1968, and it was my illness that eventually entitled us to new living space. Even then it took three separate moves before we ended up in a two-room flat of some 28 square metres. This was the nicest thing that had ever happened to our family, something we had not dared to even dream of. When we moved in, I had my own room, though it was very small, about 9 square metres.

    That same year also produced another happy event: my brother, who had been stationed in Czechoslovakia, made a 'hero's return' to Moscow after his military service. He had always been full of beans and a bit of a handful. As he grew up, he was known for his pranks, which gradually became rather dangerous, though mind you, compared with what the youngsters get up to these days, his games strike me as childishly innocent. Still one of his exploits could have ended badly.

    One day as I was coming home late from work (my mother was in hospital), I noticed a man, clearly upset, waiting for me near the entrance to our building. It turned out that Kostya, who was ten at the time, had somehow got hold of an airgun with pellets and had been shooting at the building opposite from inside our porch. It turned out that he had hit and broken a window; luckily no one was hurt. These kinds of antics made it difficult for mother and me — mere women — to deal with him, and we were glad when, at eighteen, he was called up. We hoped that his army experiences would settle him down and provide him with a profession of some sort. He was posted to an armoured unit based in the Kaliningrad region and then, in 1968, he entered Prague on his tank. He was genuinely surprised when the Czech girls failed to toss flowers at the feet of the 'heroic liberators', as Soviet propaganda had led him to believe would happen.

    My illness meant that I was always tired and I suffered frequent bouts of pleurisy and pneumonia. Despite these regular flare-ups, I continued my job and generally lived an ordinary, even normal life. I had friends and acquaintances, but only those who were exceptionally close knew I was ill. We would often go to the theatre, the cinema or an art exhibition. All this time the cancer specialists were urging me to give up work and have myself declared officially disabled, but I took no notice. The family was finding it hard enough to make ends meet as it was. Without my salary we would simply have been unable to cope.

    It would be fair to say that I was not the most docile of patients, mainly because I would not believe I was really sick and refused to take the doctors' instructions seriously. I often missed appointments because, in their attempts to boost my morale, the doctors were fond of reminding me that a year, then two, had passed and I was still alive. While this was designed to make me feel better, it had the opposite effect. I remember one time I did allow myself a pang or two of self-pity. Back then Remarque's books were very popular in Russia, and I found myself envying the heroine of Heaven Has No Favourites. A young girl, facing imminent death from TB, decides she will spend whatever time she has left just having fun. She buys three smart frocks and sets about doing just that. I was in hospital when I read the book and could not help comparing myself to the heroine. The key difference was that while I too had little time left, or so I thought, unlike her I couldn't even buy one dress. But moods like that passed quickly and, as a rule, I refused to feel sorry for myself. In fact, the frivolous attitude to life that so annoyed my doctors was probably what helped pull me through.

    My own battle with TB began during one of my regular bouts of pneumonia and I spent about two months under treatment in a special hospital. After I was released, though my health had improved significantly, I was just not able to cope with the workload at the publishing house and I started to look for a less demanding job. I found just what I had hoped for in mid-1969, when I became an editor at the Central Economic-Mathematical Institute (TsEMI). There, people did as much as they chose and few ripples ever disturbed the prevailing atmosphere of indolent tranquillity.

Table of Contents

Introduction by Hayden Peake1
PART 1 Kim Philby: The Moscow Years by Rufina Philby5
Foreword by Michael Bogdanov7
1 Before Kim15
2 The English Spy24
3 Under the Microscope39
4 A New Life49
5 My Family and Friends54
6 Kim's First Encounters with Moscow Life59
7 Battling the Bottle63
8 Every Day a Holiday68
9 Day by Day74
10 Back to Work84
11 Meeting the Children92
12 Pleasures and Enjoyments99
13 Travels in the USSR108
14 An Invitation We Couldn't Refuse124
15 Home Again134
16 Security137
17 The Case Officers141
18 Exploring Foreign Countries151
19 Cuba160
20 Kim's Last Trip Abroad166
21 The Dacha168
22 Meeting Graham Greene172
23 Our Final Travels181
24 The Beginning of the End189
25 The Last Journey196
PART 2 Kim Philby's Unpublished Memoirs and Articles203
1 Autobiographical Reminiscences205
Chapter 1206
Chapter 2 Decision219
2 Lecture to the KGB, July 1977244
3 Should Agents Confess?259
PART 3 A Martyr to Dogma by Mikhail Lyubimov269
PART 4 The Philby Literature by Hayden Peake295
Philby Chronology401

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