I’ve always been fascinated with the inner workings of the spy life. In fact, “spy” was often what I would say as a child when asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. Movies and television have greatly romanticized the spy experience, so I was looking forward to reading the new memoir by an operative in the Cold War KGB Illegals program, in which KGB officers were embedded in the US as full fledged citizens, in an effort to gather intelligence for Moscow.
Jack Barsky was living the American Dream with a good job in the corporate world, a nice house and two beautiful children when he was detained by the FBI in 1997. To the surprise of his family and friends, he admitted to being a former KGB operative.
Jack Barsky was born as Albrecht Dittrich in East Germany right after World War II. He was brought up in an austere home with little in the way of family affection. He was raised a staunch Communist, and had dreams of becoming a chemistry professor (science was a noble effort in Communist countries.)
As Albrecht was getting ready to begin his chemistry career, he was approached by The Party (Communist officials), who attempted to recruit him. He said yes, and a new life had begun.
After several years in Moscow learning to speak English as an American native, Albrecht was sent to New York City with only a birth certificate for one Jack Barsky and money. He had to procure all his own legal documents and make his way up in the world on his own.
The book talked about Albrecht’s training, Jack’s early days in the US, and the ideological shift that Jack faced after being in the US. Albrecht had a wife and son behind the Iron Curtain, and Jack had a wife and two children in the US, and neither family were aware of the other. He also discusses how he cut ties with the KGB with a sneaky untruth. The book finishes by talking about Jack’s conversion to Christianity, and how that shaped his after-KGB life.
I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed reading about Albrecht’s childhood (thought it was sad because of the lack of love from his parents and the harshness of his country), and I also really enjoyed the making of the spy–turning Albrecht into Jack, and all the training that entailed. It was so fascinating, and sobering that the USSR was able to put agents into place in the US, posing as US citizens and speaking perfect English.
I received a copy of this book from Tyndale Publishers. All opinions are my own. I was not required to write a positive review.