Mary-Kay Wilmers

A distant relative of mine was a general in the KGB. ‘As long as I live,’ Stalin said of him, ‘not a hair of his head shall be touched.’ Stalin didn’t keep his word – which can’t have been wholly surprising even then. Unlike many of his colleagues, however, my relative wasn’t shot: he was beaten and tortured and kept in prison for 12 years. He died in 1981 with – I’ve been told – a portrait of Stalin by his bed.

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[*] Special Tasks: The Memoirs of an Unwanted Witness – A Soviet Spymaster by Pavel Sudoplatov and Anatoli Sudoplatov, with Jerrold and Leona Schecter. Little Brown, 509 pp., £18.99, 19 April, 0 316 91217 4.