Let’s Backtrack: Igor Sergeyevich Gouzenko, January 13, 1919 to June 28, 1982


Igor Gouzenko was born in the village of Rogachev, near Moscow, on January 13, 1919.  He was a cipher clerk (coding and decoding messages) for the USSR during World War II, and was stationed in Canada.  In September 1945, he and his family (back when the USSR didn’t use families as hostages for those working abroad) were ordered back to the USSR.  Gouzenko knew the political situation at home and in Canada, and made the choice to defect.  He took massive amounts of documents with him of Soviet agents in Canada and elsewhere.  (The link lists a different birthdate, but same month and year.)

Gouzenko was the first high profile defector of the Cold War.  As such, there was initially no paranoia or willingness to listen to him.  The Ottawa Citizen newspaper turned him away, and the RCMP actually considered handing him over to the Soviets.  In a rare display of competence by the RCMP, Gouzenko was taken to Camp X and questioned by Canadian officials, MI5 and MI6 of the UK, and by the US’s FBI.

Twenty spies were caught in Canada, the UK and US, along with Fred Rose, the leader of the Communist Party of Canada.  (Rose was ahead of most Canadian politicians, the first to propose a medicare system and introduce anti-hate legislation.)

Gouzenko was given a new identity (the imaginative name of George Brown) and lived a middle class existence in Toronto.  He wrote two books, one about his defection (“This Was My Choice”) and a novel (“The Fall Of A Titan”) which won a Governor General’s award for literature.  He died of a heart attack in 1982.

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