Tony, the Secret Police, and Helen Hayes

The entire family held steadfast in refusing to become Soviet citizens, so they were forced to leave Leningrad. They ended up in Novgorod, which is about 125 miles south of Leningrad. Dad always claimed they were exiled there, although looking at history, it seems to be an unusual place to have been sent.

While they waited for their passports, they all went to work in order to save enough money for the return trip to New Jersey.  Soviet currency would be of no value once they left the confines of the USSR. Dad  worked as an electrician, Uncle Pete was working as a machinist, Aunt Helen was a telephone operator, and Aunt Anna was a high school English teacher.

Uncle Tony was employed as a tour guide with Intourist, which was the official state travel agency, founded by Joseph Stalin in 1929 and staffed by NKVD (secret police) officials.  Anyone travelling to or within the Soviet Union used Intourist.  That job put him into contact with the secret police and, as I was told by an old friend who is a professor of  Russian history, Tony most likely was required to inform on foreign tourists.  It was a dangerous job, and most likely cost him his life.

Tony’s most interesting tourist for whom he acted as a guide was the American film and Broadway actress, Helen Hayes. Dad knew we were skeptical of some of his tales, so it was important for him to offer proof to us whenever possible. In 1985 he wrote to Ms. Hayes, asking her if she recalled his brother. Indeed she did.

Helen Hayes Note to Dad


About kjw616

I am a genealogy detective. I have already written one book about my Irish family's journey from 19th century Ireland to the United States- a family history sprinkled with personal anecdotes. My second book was intended to be a similar story about my Russian ancestors. Instead, it turned into a tale of just my father's immediate family. It is the tale of what happens when 6 children from New Jersey are moved to the Soviet Union by their Russian-born parents during the Great Depression. It details who lives, who dies, and who is able to return to NJ during a time when leaving the USSR was not an easy endeavor, particularly during World War II and the Cold War. It is my hope that those interested in history during this time period will find this story fascinating as well as those fellow amateur family historians who will learn some of the tools such as, visits to the National Archives, and local libraries I used to uncover this story.
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