Sunday, November 22, 2009

More than one Bear

Annabelle Bucar – Clairton’s Mata Hari?
Or “Just another Woman in Love?”
Clairton Bear to Russian Bear

From a CIA memo: A memorandum in the files of the Central Intelligence Agency written by Leslie D. Weir and approved for release September 22, 1993, speaks to the book written by Clairton native Annabelle Bucar. It states in part, “The Soviets see verification of the relationship between diplomacy and espionage in such facts as General Smith's having been posted, after his tenure as Ambassador to the USSR, first to CIA and then to State, in Admiral Kirk's position in Naval Intelligence prior to his assignment as Ambassador to Moscow and his subsequent chairmanship of the American Committee for Liberation, and of course in the teaming of the Dulles brothers at the head of the twin foreign affairs agencies. Over the past eight years Soviet spokesmen have frequently quoted Annabelle Bucar's The Truth about American Diplomats, particularly the examples she gives to show that "intelligence agents are sent to the USSR under various guises: as counselors, second and third secretaries, attachés, and even ordinary clerks." Khrushchev's 9 May 1960 remark at the Czechoslovak Embassy exculpating Ambassador Thompson of complicity in the U-2 incident was a benign exception to the general view that there is no cleavage between U.S. diplomats and U.S. espionage.”

Story of a Clairton girl: Annabelle Bucar was born to Clairton resident Ivan Bucar in 1915. He had more than a dozen children most of whom became educated including Annabelle who graduated from Pitt and went into government service. She was sent to the American Embassy in Moscow in 1947 where she worked as a clerk. During her stint in Moscow she met and fell in love with Konstantin Lapshin, a singer in the Opera. They married and had one son. The son tragically was killed in an auto accident. Annabelle and Konstantin lived in Russia together for more than a half century. According to a Clairton resident who spoke to her by phone a decade ago – shortly before her death, she lived in a nice apartment overlooking Red Square. Annabelle lived to age 83. She lost her son to an auto accident long before her death and her husband predeceased her. According to another Clairton resident who lived near the Bucars, Ivan, the father who had immigrated from Croatia, near the Slovene border, had about 8 children when his wife became ill. He brought a girl to the U.S. from Croatia to nurse Mrs. Bucar, but she did not recover and passed away. Ivan married the nurse who had cared for his wife and had more children before his own death. The second wife still lives on and operates the Bucar farm.

Love is a many splendored thing: Although several Clairton residents remember the Bucar family – some remember Annabelle as well, the common reaction I received was, “What a shame she turned against her country.” Others spoke to Annabelle on her few trips back to the States and Clairton. They paint a picture of a girl who fell in love and perhaps followed her heart instead of her head. The policy in Russia at the time was to grant travel visas to only one family member at a time to insure that one would return, knowing that their family might face harm if they did not. Annabelle reportedly purchased items not available in the Soviet Union when she visited her hometown, particularly blue jeans for her son.

The not-so-liberal media: The press of the day excoriated Annabelle. She was accused of being a communist sympathizer if not a communist herself. Keep in mind that those were the days (late 1940s and early 1950s) of the beginning of the Cold War. McCarthyism ran rampant and anybody with a Slavic sounding name was suspect. To have chosen to live in the USSR was a sin the media and many Clairtonians were unable to forgive. If she had found sympathy among a few for being a foolish girl in love, that sympathy was dashed when her book was released. Although nobody to whom I spoke had actually read the book, all seemed to agree that it was nothing but communist propaganda probably written by the KGB. I was most curious about the book so I located a copy in England. It was a most interesting read.

“The Truth about American Diplomats” by Annabelle Bucar. The book is an easy read, only 174 pages in eight chapters. The last two chapters do read as though they might have been written by somebody on the staff of the Ministry of Propaganda within the USSR, but the rest of the book reads like that of an idealistic but disillusioned American State Department worker who was embarrassed and ashamed of the chicanery she witnessed within the American embassy at Moscow. She names names. Boy, does she name names. Loy Henderson, whom she describes as a WW-I draft dodger, was appointed as head of the Embassy. He was given three trainees, George Kennan, Charles Bohlen, and Edward Page as his anti-Soviet lackeys and underlings. After betting (wrongly) that Germany would overrun the Russian troops, Henderson was banished to Iraq, according to Bucar. She also names the following agents as either anti-Soviet or corrupt: Eldbridge Dubrow, Charles Thayer, Frederick Reinhardt, Francis Stevens, Richard Davis, Llewellyn Thompson and John Davies. They are described as bunglers who knew little and spoke poor Russian, rarely left the Embassy, and enriched themselves by buying rubles, gold, and Russian artifacts on the black market then reselling them at obscene profits.

Annabelle is not so naïve to think the OSS (forerunner to the CIA) did not serve a legitimate purpose. She recognizes the value of intelligence work. Her issue was with the State Department and diplomatic agencies that were supposed to have served as diplomats but who were so top heavy with spies and other intelligence workers that diplomacy became a joke. She claims that a core of anti-Soviet holdovers from WW-II formed a clique that ran the American Embassy in Moscow.

Anabelle also praised the free education system of the Soviet Union that rewarded academically inclined students with free education. She reflects on her struggles working and paying her own way through the University of Pittsburgh. She also lauds the medical care she received before, during and after the birth of her son.

Ms. Bucar is now gone, as is her son and her husband and most of those named in her book as corrupt. We will never know if her assessment was accurate or skewed by her love of her adopted country. One thing is sure, however, Annabelle Bucar is one Clairtonian who left her indelible mark on the world.

Thank you and hvala: Some of the Clairtonians who provided insights for this post include Jennie Peterson, Effie Batenich Liptak, Tom Nixon, and Kathy George. Thank you for your efforts in helping to piece together the story of this fascinating woman.

A little blogging music Maestro… “Back in the U.S.S.R.” by The Beatles.

Dr. Forgot

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