Chance encounter that led to torture and Siberian work camps

A Ukrainian Jew, now settled in Israel, recalls his friendship with British soldiers in Stalin's Soviet Union

On the eve of the defeat of Germany in May 1945, Anatoli Shandalov, a 17-year-old student in Lvov in western Ukraine, was asked the way in the street by two sergeants named Frederick Grace and James Logie, belonging to a British military mission.

"We became friends and met several times at the hotel where they were staying," says Mr Shandalov. "On parting they left me a note: `We, two Englishmen, are very glad to have met you. We hope that our friendship will be everlasting. Long live Churchill! Long live Marshal Stalin! Fred and Jim.'"

Half a century later in his apartment in Haifa in Israel, Mr Shandalov, a short, courteous man speaking perfect, slightly literary English, recalls sadly, but without visible bitterness, how his chance meeting with Fred and Jim ruined his life. He says: "It never occurred to me, a naive youth, that a contact with allies might be considered a crime by the Soviet state security."

But within five years the Cold War was in full swing. Any contact with foreigners was suspicious. The hotel staff had monitored and reported on the meetings between the Soviet student with an enthusiasm for Dickens, Fielding and Wordsworth and two foreign soldiers. Just as Mr Shandalov was about to write his diploma essay on George Bernard Shaw's The Chocolate Soldier in 1950 he was arrested by the security police, jailed, tortured, given a half-hour trial and sentenced to 25 years imprisonment as a British spy.

Seldom can anglophilia have had such catastrophic results. Mr Shandalov has a very complete memory of how it all happened. Born a Jew in the western Soviet Union in 1928, he was evacuated with his family to the Urals at the start of the war. They returned in 1944 after the German retreat. He says that James Logie and Frederick Grace told him they were part of the British Military Mission in Moscow. He says: "We talked about what was happening on the battle-front, drank and sang songs." He hums a tune from Noel Coward's London Lights.

Mr Shandalov never saw the two sergeants again. He wrote letters, but received no replies and assumes they were intercepted. Partly as a result of his meeting, "I resolved to master English and eventually to defect to the UK. I entered with difficulty Lvov university". He thinks that at first the MVD security police (later renamed the KGB) may not have thought it worth detaining him, but with the onset of the Korean War there was a wave of arrests. Later, in prison, he met a lawyer serving 10 years because he comforted a client, whose son was about to go to jail, by saying: "Don't be afraid. In prison now there are many decent people."

A few days before he was arrested he received a mysterious phone call from an unknown woman who said "a friend of hers, an American journalist called Goldberg, was coming to Lvov and I should go to meet him at the airport. Of course I had no intention of doing so. I knew how dangerous it was to meet an American. But I had a foreboding something awful was going to happen."

On 4 August 1950, two MVD officers arrived at his parents' flat where he was living and searched it. Mr Shandalov says: "They took me to the local MVD headquarters. The interrogation lasted three days and nights. I was beaten black and blue. They asked me how I became a British spy." On the third day he was taken to a jail with a fearful reputation in Lonsky street in Lvov. At first he was in solitary confinement, but was then moved to a small cell with 70 men in it. "To turn over at night one of the inmates used to give a command," he says. "The only toilet was a big pot."

Interrogations were held at night only, but prisoners were forbidden to sleep during the day. Mr Shandalov says: "If you don't sleep for three or four days they can do what they want with you. My first day's interrogation was on my 22nd birthday. They beat me with a rubber hose."

After 11 months in Lonsky street he was brought to trial before a military tribunal charged with treason, espionage for the British intelligence service and anti-Soviet agitation. His parents had, with great difficulty, found him a lawyer, but his speech for the defence was even more hostile than the prosecution. Mr Shandalov had, in any case, already signed a full confession under torture. He received a sentence of 25 years in prison and five years deprivation of civil rights.

Mr Shandalov just survived the next few years of work camps in Siberia. News reached the camp slowly. In 1952 an officer stopped in front of him and a group of prisoners and said: "Today at 5am Comrade Stalin passed away." But it was four years before he was released. There were small signs of change. In 1956 the camp chief and his staff sat down with the prisoners for New Year's dinner. Soon afterwards he was freed.

Even then life was not easy. He says: "I could not get a job. As a former political prisoner I had been turned down wherever I applied. I was constantly under KGB surveillance." At one moment he was given 24 hours to clear out of Lvov. He thinks he may have made a mistake in not returning to Siberia, which was full of former political prisoners. He worked at a design firm and a research centre, keeping a low profile. In 1990 he and his wife Emilia took advantage of the new freedom for Jews to emigrate to move to Israel, but at 68 he finds it difficult to get a job or afford his flat in Haifa. "Unfortunately we have not found a haven in this country," he says. "We are desperately unhappy here."

Out of curiosity Mr Shandalov has resumed his search for James Logie and Frederick Grace, writing letters to the BBC and the Ministry of Defence. The reply from the ministry notes petulantly that he had not supplied enough information "to enable us to find the right service documents among the many millions we hold". Nevertheless, he still feels an urge to find out everything about the chance encounter in Lvov which determined the rest of his life.

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
News
i100
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
Arts and Entertainment
A shared vision: Cerys Matthews has been familiarising herself with Dylan Thomas’s material, for a revealing radio programme
arts + entsA singer, her uncle and a special relationship with Dylan Thomas
News
In other news ... Jon Snow performed at last year's Newsroom's Got Talent charity event
people
News
i100
Life and Style
Text messaging changes as a relationship evolves
life
News
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
peopleComedian's quip about Reeva Steenkamp was less than well received at music magazine awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SSRS Report Developer - Urgent Contract - London - £300pd

£300 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: SSRS Report Developer – 3 Mon...

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000 plus benefits

£32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?