Chapter 7 – Post-Morrison
BETWEEN FOUR WORLDS: CHINA, RUSSIA, JAPAN AND AUSTRALIA.
BETWEEN FOUR CAREERS and FOUR LANGUAGES
1. Close the Embassy?
2. Footloose in the USSR
3. Searching for D
With Morrison gone and his replacement in place (a nice enough man called Pethybridge), the Embassy settled down to its regular routine of basically doing nothing much more than administer itself, issue visas, fret constantly about continued KGB efforts to penetrate its security, and then use much of its large budget to hire a bunch of KGB-supplied staff briefed to penetrate that security.
1. Close the Embassy?
I once wrote a report querying the need to waste large amounts of money simply to park a dozen or so unhappy, run-of-the-mill, largely non-Russian speaking Australians in the middle of Moscow while surrounded by this army of KGB-briefed operatives trying hard to run entrapment stunts against them.
If we were not prepared to do as the Soviets did — rely entirely on staff sent from Moscow – then it would be much cheaper and safer to close the whole operation down and have a couple of competent officials based in Vienna fly in every week or so to stay at a hotel, handle whatever consular, diplomatic or reporting work that was needed, and fly out.
Meanwhile we would invite the Soviets to do the same with their Canberra Embassy (they could fly in from Djakarta). In the process a large army of KGB spies and ASIO sleuths would be put out of business.
For some reason I never got a reply to my brilliant proposal (too many ASIO types having to seek new employment was the problem no doubt).
But no matter. By this time I had realised that as the only Russian-speaking diplomat in the Embassy, and with an ambassador mainly concerned with his retirement plans, I could basically write my own ticket.
2. Footloose in the USSR.
I would work hard on the language, follow the media, try to meet as many of the local inhabitants as possible (both for language and education purposes), and travel as widely as I could using the Embassy’s generous travel allowance.
I had two years to educate myself and broaden my experience, largely at the expense of the Australian Government.
3. Searching for D.
I would also try to track down D., my teenage girl-friend from Oxford days. We had last seen each other six years earlier in Austria and she wrote me she had them gone to Germany and hinted she had a German boyfriend.
Somehow I found out she was married to the boyfriend and they were living near Bonn’s hush-hush rocket development site in a forest outside Munich.
I found her. She said her husband was in Egypt involved with the secret rocket tests that were to create such fuss later.
She had not had children. Instead she had created an independent life for herself as a buyer for a large department store.
She invited me to go with her for a week on a buying expedition.
Traveling across Germany crammed inside her small Volkswagen in the middle of winter we got to know each other again. She had matured into a very attractive and strong-minded woman.
She also suggested we should get back together. Later I thought I had discovered one reason why.
Those rockets being developed in Egypt were targeted at Israel.
In retirement, the former Mossad chief boasted on Youtube how not one of the German engineers sent to help that development made it back home alive.*
But for all the emotional nostalgia, I could not say yes. I was too involved in a very different life back in Moscow.
It was one of the harder decisions in a life not devoid of hard decisions.
* Years later in the book “Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel’s Targeted Assassinations.” I discovered the following: On July 23, 1962, the Mossad operative Zvi Aharoni (who had identified Eichmann two years earlier) was on a dirt road by the farm where Mengele was believed to be hiding when he encountered a group of men — including one who looked exactly like the fugitive. ….But the head of the Mossad at the time, Isser Harel, ordered the matter dropped: On the same day, the agency had learned that Egypt was recruiting German scientists to build missiles; disposing of them was Harel’s top priority.
Much, much later I was to discover by complete chance that D.’s husband had avoided the fate of those other engineers. But that is another story.
By coincidence I was to link up with her in 2022.
She has been travelling across Japan with her German engineer husband and had come across an article I had written for Asia Times which had my email address. She got in touch and sent a photo. She had turned into a very graceful woman (in much better condition than I), had raised a daughter and has since liked to correspond with me about current affairs (not about a previous affair, sadly)