Big Brother Was and Is Watching

There is much uncertainty in this country regarding what changes will take effect under the new administration. How much is rumor and how many of the ever-changing pre-election campaign promises will happen is yet to be seen. Concerns run the gamut of emotions from climate concerns to immigration reform.

Today, I will speak from the experiences of my father, whose was living in the United States and had not seen his mother for ten years because she was not permitted to leave Russia. While he explored every avenue to bring her home to him via the State Department and embassies all the while sending her care packages and letters from home, he was encouraged to cease communicating with her out of concerns for her safety.

The American Embassy in Moscow has informed the Department that it believes that for reasons of personal safety, Soviet citizens prefer to have no correspondence with their relatives in the United States or with the American Embassy in Moscow. This conclusion is based on the fact that many Soviet citizens have ceased writing to their relatives in the United States and have, furthermore, failed to reply to the Embassy’s letters requesting welfare information for transmittal to their relatives in the United States. In this connection, consideration should be given to the indications that foreign mail and mail from foreign missions to Soviet citizens is censored by the Soviet authorities and that coercive measures are being applied to Soviet citizens to discourage continuance of correspondence with foreigners. (Letter to Department of State October 2, 1951)

My thoughts on the relevance today: Let’s say a Muslim couple comes here from Afghanistan and then has a son who is therefore an American citizen. Then they return to Afghanistan with that son to visit their elderly parents and decide to remain there to care for them. The son returns to America to attend college and wants to communicate with his parents. What would happen then compared to what happened during the Fifties? (Just substitute Muslim with Russian; Afghanistan with the Soviet Union to understand the comparison.)

During my father’s time, he  (a first generation American born of a Russian couple) was discouraged from communicating with his parents (who had returned to Russia in 1931 with their American-born children) by the United States government for fear of reprisals against my grandparents by the Soviet government.

Today, I believe that the safety and privacy concerns are from this side of the ocean as well, with our first-generation American citizens worried about our government overseeing their communications with their loved ones in that “questionable country” across the pond. I believe the fear among these children here is not going away. How much is communication between American children and their families abroad currently being monitored, and will it increase in the future by our government? Now there are laws requiring warrents to open snail mail. Will that protection remain?

What would my father think? History does repeat itself. It’s chilling.

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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 ancestry.com, visits to the National Archives, and local libraries I used to uncover this story.
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