The untold story of Olga's defection: Part 2

Olga, the translator assigned to Peter Worthington's Moscow office by the KGB in the mid-60s.

Olga, the translator assigned to Peter Worthington's Moscow office by the KGB in the mid-60s.

Peter Worthington, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

The tale of Toronto Sun founding editor Peter Worthington’s role in the escape of his interpreter from the Soviet Union in the 1960s is the stuff of legend. However, Worthington wanted to wait until all the protagonists — including himself — were dead before he told the story in complete detail. So here, for the first time in publication and as we mark the first anniversary of his May 12, 2013, death, is Part 2 of Olga’s breathtaking story as told by Worthington:

I had several meetings with Vadim, Olga’s distraught husband. He phoned and more in sorrow than anger said he wanted to discuss his wife’s actions.

“Can we meet for lunch, Peter?”

“Of course, Vadim. Where would you suggest?”

“You choose. Anywhere’s good for me.”

“How about the National Hotel?”

“I think the Berlin hotel would be better,” said Vadim.

I realized that whatever I suggested, Vadim wanted the Berlin hotel dining room.

“How about the Berlin hotel?” I said.

“Fine, Peter, if that’s where you want.”

We met there and had a table next to the wall. I recalled Olga telling me certain restaurants had tables where microphones were inserted in menus.

I figured Vadim was on assignment to get me to confess to helping Olga escape, and also was intent on protecting himself. If he could get me to confess to anything, it would help him be cleared of suspicion. And in the Soviet Union, being suspected of anything can have dire consequences.

If Vadim couldn’t persuade me to confess, the system would blame him. Soviet propaganda stressed that no sane citizen was supposed to be discontented, so no one wanted to leave the country.

“Peter, I am not blaming you,” Vadim said. “We are both men of the world, and we know these things happen. Olga is an attractive woman and I don’t blame you for your relationship with her. All I want is to understand, so if you admit your relationship with her, I will understand and not blame you.”

I rejected Vadim’s thesis. “Vadim,” I said, “I know what you are trying to do — to blame me for your wife’s actions. Look elsewhere. If you cannot control your own wife — don’t blame me for your own failings.”

Vadim became more threatening.

“We know your relationship — there are films of you both. We have tape recordings of you discussing plans. There are tape recordings of you and Olga. Just admit it, ease my own mind, and we will forget it. I just want to know.”

“Vadim, you are talking nonsense. There are no films, no recordings, no evidence. I am not responsible for Olga’s actions. Look at me — I have to work here, and don’t need this sort of trouble. If there were such things as films and recordings, how in hell would Olga ever have been permitted to go on a cruise?”

Our lunch continued this way. Exhausting, but had to be done. I assumed Vadim was probably under more scrutiny than I. Any suggestion that I was aware of her intended defection and I’d be in the soup.


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