Cossacks in Quebec

I have no idea if I told this story before. If you already read it on this blog, please disregard this post. But I discovered that people are unaware of the story and even find it hard to believe, so I want to share it.

After Nazi Germany was defeated, the British government decided to give a gift to Stalin. The gift consisted of 30,000 kossack soldiers who had fought against the Soviets in the 1920s and then found refuge in Europe. The British government just handed them over, like they were unwanted furniture. The wives and the kids were handed over, too Stalin sent them to the concentration camps. Almost all of them died. You can read the story in detail in Solzhenitsyn, for example.

In any case, some of these cossacks knew what was coming. They knew that Stalin had a long memory and that the Brits would hand them off easily. So they ran. A bunch of them ended up in Canada, in the North of Quebec under the theory that nobody would look for them here, in the wilderness. They were right. Those who reached Quebec survived. They founded the little wooden church you can see in the picture. There’s a little cemetery next to the church. My father is now buried here, and there are all the graves of these cossacks. “A graduate of the Odessa law school, class of 1914,” proudly says a headstone of one of them, born in 1891 and dead in 1965.

Why my father would have wanted to be buried next to the cossacks, who knows? But it’s a very restful, beautiful place.

4 thoughts on “Cossacks in Quebec

  1. Thank you for providing this very illuminating detail about the sycophantic attitude held by the British elite running the Foreign Office at the time. Not enough people are aware of the sway held by British Communist Party members and sympathisers over the civil service and, in particular, the diplomatic service, which had been infiltrated to unprecedented levels in the 1930s.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The true story of Kim Philby and the Cambridge 4 (5?) certainly reads like something that would have been rejected by publishers as too far fetched if it had been submitted as a novel.


  2. Maybe that’s exactly why he wanted to be buried there. It’s a place where such a legacy is honored. You’ve written before about his quiet opposition in the USSR—perhaps he identified with them in their fight to remain themselves. And then, like them, he came to Quebec and made a very good life for himself.

    Hugs. I hope you’re doing okay.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Talking of espionage, whether you’re a le Carré connoisseur, a Deighton disciple, a Fleming fanatic, a Herron hireling or a Macintyre marauder you will love this anecdote. If you don’t love all such things you might learn something so read on!

    There is one category of secret agent that is often overlooked … namely those who don’t know they have been recruited. For more on that topic we suggest you read Beyond Enkription (explained below) and this very current article on that topic by the ex-spook Bill Fairclough. The article can be found at website in the News Section. The article (dated July 21, 2021) is about “Russian Interference”; it’s been read over 20,000 times. Anyway, since you seem to be interested in all things espionage we guess you’re interested in Oleg Gordievsky, so this anecdote should make for compulsory reading.

    John le Carré described Ben Macintyre’s fact based novel, The Spy and The Traitor, as “the best true spy story I have ever read”. It was about Kim Philby’s Russian counterpart, a KGB Colonel named Oleg Gordievsky, codename Sunbeam. In 1974 Gordievsky became a double agent working for MI6 in Copenhagen which was when Bill Fairclough aka Edward Burlington unwittingly launched his career as a secret agent for MI6. Fairclough and le Carré knew of each other: le Carré had even rejected Fairclough’s suggestion in 2014 that they collaborate on a book. As le Carré said at the time, “Why should I? I’ve got by so far without collaboration so why bother now?” A realistic response from a famous expert in fiction in his eighties!

    Gordievsky never met Fairclough, but he did know Fairclough’s handler, Colonel Alan McKenzie aka Colonel Alan Pemberton. It is little wonder therefore that in Beyond Enkription, the first fact based novel in The Burlington Files espionage series, genuine double agents, disinformation and deception weave wondrously within the relentless twists and turns of evolving events. Beyond Enkription is set in 1974 in London, Nassau and Port au Prince. Edward Burlington, a far from boring accountant, unwittingly started working for Alan McKenzie in MI6 and later worked eyes wide open for the CIA.

    What happens is so exhilarating and bone chilling it makes one wonder why bother reading espionage fiction when facts are so much more breathtaking. The fact based novel begs the question, were his covert activities in Haiti a prelude to the abortion of a CIA sponsored Haitian equivalent to the Cuban Bay of Pigs? Why was his father Dr Richard Fairclough, ex MI1, involved? Richard was of course a confidant of British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, who became chief adviser to JFK during the Cuban missile crisis.

    Len Deighton and Mick Herron could be forgiven for thinking they co-wrote the raw noir anti-Bond narrative, Beyond Enkription. Atmospherically it’s reminiscent of Ted Lewis’ Get Carter of Michael Caine fame. If anyone ever makes a film based on Beyond Enkription they’ll only have themselves to blame if it doesn’t go down in history as a classic espionage thriller.

    By the way, the maverick Bill Fairclough had quite a lot in common with Greville Wynne (famous for his part in helping to reveal Russian missile deployment in Cuba in 1962) and has also even been called “a posh Harry Palmer”. As already noted, Bill Fairclough and John le Carré (aka David Cornwell) knew of each other but only long after Cornwell’s MI6 career ended thanks to Kim Philby. Coincidentally, the novelist Graham Greene used to work in MI6 reporting to Philby and Bill Fairclough actually stayed in Hôtel Oloffson during a covert op in Haiti (explained in Beyond Enkription) which was at the heart of Graham Greene’s spy novel The Comedians. Funny it’s such a small world!


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