In 1981, a co-worker and close friend of
mine, Clara Tatiana Walser, was assigned to an official Trade Delegation in Russia. The
group was interested in business prospects for natural resources--the tracts of timber,
pools of oil, deposits of palladium--and human labor resources, as well, of that region of
The city in which she was stationed--a stately city on a river with a harbor--was in the
Her job as a mid-level researcher required top-security clearance at the time.
Although Clara found it difficult to live always under surveillance and out of touch with
her friends and family here at home, she liked the city very much.
Since communication was uncertain, her letters came through unofficial diplomatic mail
(that is, hand-carried by our committee members who entered or left the country).
The censors tended to object less to letters written in Russian--if they could read the
letter, they were less suspicious. I translated the letters and forwarded them to
Our system worked well for some years. Her posts to me were always short and personal; she
avoided political issues. When the political climate of both countries warmed up a bit,
and Clara could resume other connections, my job as intermediary was no longer
necessary--but I enjoyed the occasional note, a photo or two.
Along the way, in the file I kept, I
began accumulating clippings from the newspapers, and, later, downloads from the Internet.
I did not send these to Clara.
Last month, I got a post card from Mikhail, her Russian lover, informing me that Clara had
died in a seacoast town, Tiksi, in the far north. And then, just days ago, a letter came
from Clara. It was dated before her death.