Oleg Gordievsky told the prime minister that without his wife and young daughters his “life has no meaning”, papers released by the National Archives show
Oleg Gordievsky, the most prominent Soviet agent to defect to Britain during the Cold War, personally pleaded with Margaret Thatcher to help secure the release of his family from Moscow.
The KGB colonel told the prime minister that without his wife and young daughters, who were prevented from following him to London, his “life has no meaning”.
Files released by the National Archives reveal that MI6 secretly sought to broker a deal with the Russians to secure the safe passage of his family. When the offer was rejected, Mrs Thatcher insisted on expelling every KGB agent in Britain.
Mr Gordievsky, who was one of the most important spies during the Cold War, provided Britain with reports on Soviet operations for more than a decade.
When he issued his appeal to Mrs Thatcher in 1985, she responded personally in an emotive note on Sept 7 1985 urging him to have hope.
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“Our anxiety for your family remains and we shall not forget them,” she said. “Having children of my own, I know the kind of thoughts and feelings which are going through your mind each and every day. But just as your concern is about them, so their concern will be for your safety and well-being.
“Please do not say that life has no meaning. There is always hope. And we shall do all to help you through these difficult days.”
Mrs Thatcher went on to suggest that the pair should meet when the “immediate situation” – the public announcement of Mr Gordievsky’s defection to Britain – had passed.
Her personal involvement was greeted with extreme gratitude by Christopher Curwen, the MI6 chief who had arranged Mr Gordievsky’s extraction from Moscow.
Curwen said: “The reassurance that his family would not be forgotten provided the help and support which he most needs at this difficult time.”
Her comments “greatly assisted” MI6’s dealings with Mr Gordievsky at a “very dificult time,” he added.
Mr Gordievsky arrived in London as a result of an emergency extraction sanctioned by Mrs Thatcher in the summer of 1985. Originally recruited in 1974, Mr Gordievsky became Britain’s star source inside the KGB after being posted to the Soviet secret service’s London bureau.
However, on May 17 1985, having just been promised the job of head of station in London, he was suddenly summoned back to Moscow and subsequently accused of being a spy. He eventually escaped to London with the help of MI6, who smuggled him across the border into Finland, after giving his KBG minders the slip.
When she formally announced Mr Gordievsky’s defection Mrs Thatcher said she hoped that “on humanitarian grounds” the Soviet authorities would agree to his request for his family to join him in London.
However it was another six years before he was reunited with his wife Leila and children. His elder daughter Mariya was 11 on her arrival in London in 1991, and his second child Anna was 10.
The National Archives files show that the prime minister took a close interest in Mr Gordievsky’s well-being, asking his handlers “whether he has some sort of companion to talk to and confide in at what is obviously a very difficult time for him.”
By Edward Malnick7:00AM GMT 30 Dec 2014
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