Sunday, November 29, 2009

Annabelle Bucar, Part II

More on Annabelle Bucar
From Clairton Bear to Russian Bear

Annabelle stays in the spotlight: In the early '60s a radio program called "Moscow Mailbag" was broadcast throughout the United States on the “Voice of Russia,” the Soviet answer to Voice of America. The show was hosted by Joe Adamov (In Russian that was Иосиф Адамов) and featured a female newsreader spoke with a Western Pennsylvania accent. Adamov interviewed many Americans on his program including President Eisenhower, Eleanor Roosevelt, Walter Cronkite, and Larry King. The woman who read the news and sometimes the questions to this program was Annabelle Bucar, who came from Clairton, Pennsylvania. In 2000 Adamov described her as, “A fine woman if ever there was one. She was a person everyone loved. And I'm not saying this just because she passed away over a year ago. After the war, she worked at the U.S. Embassy, married a singer from the operetta theater and soon joined our staff. (Her family) in the States are pretty well off. She visited her home only a few years before she died. When she first came to us, she was always accompanied by a bodyguard. Many years later, she told me, ‘I don't know whether they were guarding me, or seeing to it that I did nothing wrong; in other words, keeping a 24-hour eye on me.’” That description was a glimpse into the adult life of Clairton-born Annabelle Bucar.

Her family in the Clairton had been a large one. One sister, Emily, moved to California. Another, Barbara, had moved to Florida. A third sister, Eleanor, stayed in the area, in Baldwin. Each of those sisters, like Annabelle, lived into their eighties. Other siblings are still alive, but I purposely have not named them.

Prior to her marriage Annabelle was an Assistant Information Officer of the magazine America while serving in the American Embassy in Moscow. During her stint in the Embassy she saw what she believed to be a culture of anti-Soviet paranoia among members of the Diplomatic corps, who by definition were supposed to have been unbiased. Her disdain for fellow Embassy employees who, in her eyes were at least “Ugly Americans” for not bothering to master the language of the people in whose country they served, or appreciate the culture. At worst, she alleges that many were spies instead of diplomats, and worse yet, that many enriched themselves illegally by purchasing items on the black market, shipping them back under diplomatic cover, then converting the items for many times their value. Several excerpts from her book follow:

Charles Bohlen, Embassy chief, “Did everything he could to undermine President Roosevelt’s policies toward the Soviet Union.”

Frederick Reinhardt: “He is one of the most obnoxious of this group of obnoxious people.”

John Davies: “He will do anything to further his career no matter how low he has to stoop… Davies, furthermore is greatly influenced by his wife who is no less clever than he and just as interested in his career… Davies has the mentality of a stooge.”

“Another officer, Wallace by name, was expelled from Moscow by Embassy Staff after getting into a drunken brawl and nearly fracturing his skull.”

“All the strategic positions in the Embassy… have been for many years in the hands of the State Department anti-Soviet clique, namely Kennan, Durbrow, Bohlen, Reinhardt,”

“(Durbrow) is an exhibitionist among his other talents. He once showed up at a cocktail party dressed as a circus strongman with close-fitting tights inscribed with lipstick… This “expert” in Russian Affairs who does not know enough Russian language to sufficiently explain to his cook what he wants for dinner, and knows almost nothing about the Soviet Union, finds a willing audience in Washington for “reporting.”

“A security guard at the Embassy regularly made rounds of the offices after hours. Twice he found Durbrow’s safe open and unguarded and reported it to the State Department. Shortly thereafter the guard went on vacation and was quickly and unexpectedly transferred to another post.”

“Freddy” Reinhardt is most at home at diplomatic receptions and cocktail parties which somebody else pays for. Reinhardt is a ladies’ man who works the art of charming the wives of men helpful to his diplomatic career. He received much of his schooling, even elementary, in Western Europe. He speaks French, German, Italian, and Russian fluently. He knows practically nothing about America and probably cares less. He is pro Hitler, pro-Germany, and anti Russian.”

Regarding former Major in the U.S. Intelligence Service, Louise Luke, Bucar tells of a supposedly pleasure trip Luke took on the Trans-Siberian Railway. “When she returned to Moscow Louise Luke wrote a detailed report of what she had seen and heard during her trip...Luke herself admitted to me that she had invented many of the facts because en route she had met a pleasant couple with whom she spent most of the time drinking and playing cards.”

Bucar also accuses former chief of the information bureau, Elizabeth Egan, of returning to the U.S. and writing a long story in Coronet magazine which highlighted her many love affairs with Russian men and the facts she was able to glean. All such facts, says Bucar, were sheer imagination.

Government waste: Annabelle might have been considered one of the first whistleblowers. Her assignment in the Embassy included the Russian language magazine Amerika. The purpose was to provide a glimpse of America to the Soviet people. The magazine was reported to be self sustaining in the Embassy budget. This was done, according to Bucar, by not including the cost of editors, writers, and other personnel whjo worked on the magazine. Further, she alleges, the 50,000 copies per printing rarely found their way into the hands of Russians, leaving the U.S. taxpayer to foot the bill.

Other allegations of corruption: In chapter 6 of her book Bucar takes to task those employees of the Embassy who are speculators and war profiteers. This is done by trading cigarettes and even American cash for valuable heirlooms that can be resold in America for huge profits. An investigation into speculation was done at the Embassy and headed by previously mentioned Counselor Durbrow. She alleges that he himself had traveled to Moscow through Warsaw where he bought Russian rubles at one-tenth their value, then brought them to Moscow under the protection of diplomatic immunity, and resold the rubels at obscene profits. The investigation named one dentist’s assistant and a couple of low level workers and sent them home. Every person of diplomatic rank was exonerated.

Summary: Annabelle Bucar, it appears, was a bright, principled person who saw first hand the seamy underbelly of politics by virtue of working at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow during an historic time. Her allegations of bumbling incompetency within the federal government would hardly bring a yawn today as such incompetence is offered daily by cable TV. Her allegations of corruption within the ranks and a few lower level employees taking the fall have been repeated in instances such as the Abu Ghraib prison torture allegations. That her book created such a stir in the late 1940s and early 1950s probably had more to do with three factors: first, she happened to make those allegations in the height of the Cold War and McCarthy communism hysteria, second she chose to forsake her country of birth and live in Russia, America’s antithesis at the time – an unforgivable sin in the eyes of many patriotic Americans, and third her book attacked only American foibles and corruption without comparing them to those within the Russian government. The fact remains, however, that she was one of Clairton’s most famous, if not infamous, citizens.

A little blogging music, Maestro: America (My Country ‘Tis of Thee) played by John Phillip Souza.

Dr. Forgot,


Bella said...

Thank you very much! this article has opened my eyes for many things, which was happened in my granny's life.
write you from Russia.

Anonymous said...

Hello, my name is Anastasia Kirilenko. I'm a radio journalist (radio free europe/radio liberty) based in Moscow and I'm trying to make a research on the Anabella's life. I spoke to a few people who knew her (and who are still slive). I found smth new(not so much) in the State archives of Russia).
But it will be a great pleasure for me to speak to somebody from Clairton abouth this mysterious women.
bella, are you her agranddaughter?

Olio, can I contact you? to precise some information.

Thank you in andvance

Anatasia Kirilenko

Anonymous said...

Hello, my name is Anastasia Kirilenko, i'm a journalist of the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, based in Moscow, Russia.

Since several months i'm trying o make a research about Annabella's life. I spoke to a few people who knew her (and who are still alive). i found smth (not so much) in the State archives of Russia.

But it will be a great pleasure for me to speak also to somebody from her hometown.

Olio, can I contact you please?

Bella, are you her granddaughter? May i please speak to you?

Thank you very much in andavance.

Anastasia Kirilenko

anon said...

How did bucar eventually die?