Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Spy Sons Long Way Back

I already wrote about Jack Barsky and how a spy career and family life don't always mix that well. I mentioned Tim and Alex Foley, the sons of Donald Heathfield and Tracy Foley who were arrested by the FBI in 2010. Their parents' real names were Andrei Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova, two illegal agents of the Russian intelligence agency SVR. After their trial, the spy couple and their sons Alex and Tim, then aged 16 and 20, were expelled and put on a plane to Russia, together with eight other illegals. It was the biggest spy swap since the Cold War after a decade long operation to uncover a large spy ring in the United States.

Alex and Tim Foley (now Vavilov)  in 2010

Alex and Tim, who now carry the surname Vavilov from their mother, were born and raised in Canada, briefly lived in France and then settled with their parents in the United States. They never knew anything else than the fake family history, fabricated by the SVR. Despite the fact that they testified never knowing about their parents' spying career, they were also stripped from their Canadian citizenship. Since they left the United States, they are in a legal battle to get back their Canadian citizenship and return home to pick up their old life. The only life they ever knew. 

Now, a Canadian federal court ruled that Alex Foley's citizenship should be restored. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) however says that his older brother Tim knew about the secret life of his parents and that he was sworn in by the SVR. At McLean's you can read about their struggle to return to their old life and the current legal battle. Fascinating story, but again, a spying career can put a heavy burden on your kids. More spy family trouble in a previous post.

Below a July 2017 interview with Elena Vavilova about her work as illegal SVR agent, raising Tim and Alex and how it was to live in the United States. In a way, she's the real Elizabeth Jennings from The Americans, the acclaimed Netflix series, inspired by this spy case (non-russian speakers can set translated subtitles).

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