It’s a testament to my late father that he managed, even in death, to surprise me. While recently in Germany for Jim’s funeral, I discovered that Jim admitted to my sisters that yes, we probably have a sibling or two in Russia. Given Jim’s propensity for mendacity when discussing his children (in particular, denying their existence), his admission was a surprise.
Just to recap for those not following the story: our father, Jim, had—that we know of—seven children by four women. Aside from children who had the same mother, we didn’t know about each other and it was many years of work to find out about each other’s existence and eventually locate each other. We’ve grown very close, despite our father, and now it turns out there may be “one or two” more, probably born near Moscow in the early 70s. That’s not much to go on.
So what do we have to go on?
I’ve been told that the KGB would have had, at the very least, cursory files on any Americans living in the Soviet Union during the height of the cold war. Given Jim’s background and the fact that he spoke fluent Russian, he would clearly be a person of interest. The KGB files might have information about Soviets that Jim knew (“knew” being such an overloaded word there). Though I’ve a few Russian contacts, I assume that any such records are not available to me.
While in the USSR, Jim was married to woman named “Janath Valentine Poe”, possible family name of “Heritage”, probably British. I haven’t found her. She might have more information. (I’ve found hints of her online, but I don’t know if it’s the right person and I don’t have contact info).
One of Jim’s friends was Dennis Blewitt, a journalist working for the Daily Mail. Blewitt was later expelled from the USSR in 1985 in apparent retaliation for the UK expelling Soviets accused of espionage. I’ve reached out to the Daily Mail a few weeks ago, but have not heard back from them. I was hoping they could put me in touch with Mr. Blewitt and that he might have some recollection of who Jim knew.
In Jim’s effects I found a letter from Sweden written to Jim in 1978. I shared that and some other information on Reddit and a sharp-eyed reader managed to make out a nearly illegible signature and produced the names “William Aldridge” and “Belkacem Bazi”. These two aspiring filmmakers went on to make a number of films together. Given some clues in the letter, I found that the writer, Aldridge, likely knew Jim when he lived in the Soviet Union. Aldridge wrote:
In any case, I have no forgotten my debt to you, nor has Belkacem who sends you his regards.
Sadly, further research has revealed that both of these men have passed away. Short of me finding family members who know something, I’ll never learn exactly what assistance Jim offered to these two men. At the time of the letter, Aldridge was in Sweden and Belkasem was in Canada. There’s no suggestion of a connection with the Soviet Union, though in 1999, these two men collaborated on a French series about Russian cinema.
So that’s where we’re at. Aside from Janath Poe and Dennis Blewitt, we have no leads. Jim, to the very end, provided no help. Going through his documents has also provided little help, but we’ll press on. We have more siblings to discover!