The photo above, from the 1950s, shows my husband David (left) with his older brother Paul (right), and Paul’s wife Coco in a betting shop. Uncle Dutch, the family bookie, probably took the photo at the Charlestown racetrack here on the East Coast.
Born in 1920, Paul was nine years older than David, and when he was alive, Paul bossed David around as big brothers (and sisters) do. This led to many conflicts. I’m not going into all the details here, but I have encouraged David to write the story of his family for the grandchildren. Today, I provide a few snippets from the past.
The first time I met Paul, I thought he was a bastard. Even Paul’s father didn’t like him. “Keep an eye on your brother. He’ll cheat you son,” David’s father told him before he died. The first 10 years of our marriage, David, Paul and Nancy, David’s ex-wife, were involved in a legal dispute concerning property they owned jointly in NC. “Your brother lied and cheated you,” David’s lawyer told him. The case was resolved out of court and the lawyers got rich.
Paul served with US Intelligence during WWII. The Russians arrested him, when they found him in Estonia. “I’m looking for my grandparents, he told them.” The grandparents were Russians living in Narva Estonia the last time Paul and David visited them in 1935. When the Stalinist purges began, the communists seized the grandparents assets and “collectivized” them along with other wealthy Russians, sending them to the camps in Siberia. We know this because at least one letter to the family arrived in the States after they died.
At first, the Russians did not believe Paul was American, because, as he told it, “My Russian was so good, they swore I was Russian and they wanted to conscript me for their army.” Paul was out of his US uniform, and although he carried an US passport, the War was going on, and the Russians were very suspicious. After a while, they released Paul. We never found out how or why, but David thinks they sent him home to irritate the Americans.
After the war, Paul worked for the State Department for many years as a foreign service officer attached to the South America desk. During his tenure with State he served as the second in command at US embassies in Peru, Columbia, and Nicaragua. All these places experienced the overthrow of governments friendly to the US while Paul was there.