Nobody’s asking you to weep for him if you didn’t know him. Maybe you’ll weep with me because he was such a perfect immigrant.
I met Lev Navrozov on his very first day in America. It was in the early 1970s and the Cold War with the Soviet Union was going full blast. Lev and his wife, Muza, got permission to leave the Soviet Union through one of those rare flukes that occasionally allowed Soviet citizens to head for freedom, even though a few infantry divisions should have been assigned to make sure those particular people never got away. His English was so good he could do much more than a plain old "translator." He could transform boring Russian propaganda documents into soaring literary heights in English. Lev’s dacha (country home) outside Moscow was close to those of the top Soviet High Command, like Molotov and Kaganovich.
Lev was one of those ground-kissingly grateful immigrants who loved freedom all the more because he knew the anatomy of Communist enslavement from the inside. Lev and I were invited to the same July 4 barbecue the day he arrived, and we became old friends at once.
Lev lived in a state of chronic exasperation with an awful lot about America. Our foreign policy, our naiveté, our refusal to understand the ways, means, and objectives of Communism and, yes, American stupidity. Almost everybody on earth was stupid compared to Lev Navrozov. Very few editors were as smart as Lev, but some were smart enough to recognize how smart Lev really was, and among those his penetrating essays, written in dazzlingly great English, found a ready and eager market.
Lev was not made for the practice of cozying up to other brilliant people as if to say, "Aren’t we lucky to be so brilliant?" He put his guts and his knowledge to work for America from Day One. At one of those Washington breakfast seminars in the 1970s, Lev stood up and confronted CIA Director Stansfield Turner. "Admiral Turner," he said, "Your CIA would be more effective if it were composed one hundred percent of Soviet agents! Such a CIA would occasionally turn out accurate and valuable information about the Soviet Union. Your CIA, Admiral Turner, never turns out anything accurate and valuable about the Soviet Union."
Admiral Turner did not challenge any part of that indictment.
This next fact of Lev’s life is almost totally lost on those accustomed to life in a free democracy, but I include it anyhow. Lev actually voted against Stalin! You children of democracy are entitled to say "So what?" Please understand, this was not a matter of marking a ballot and dropping it into a box. It was probably the only such vote in the whole Stalin era, and its accomplishment was more like an Israeli Mossad operation, requiring six or eight separate deceptions to foil the Soviet secret police, since Lev’s ingenuity and knowledge of the system robbed the Communist police of all their many ways to trace people who would commit such an unspeakable act. He pulled it off, and smiled as the police shut down four or five complete neighborhoods in their desperate attempts to catch the "traitor."
I scolded Lev for that stunt. Freedom can lose a lot of lovers that way.
Lev would occasionally hold court for those of us who followed Cold War gyrations, at upscale restaurants over luncheons his admirers were only too happy to host. At one of those luncheons he told a tale I would have checked assiduously had the source been anybody except Lev Navrozov.
Adolf Hitler was having a tough time moving the Nazi Party forward in the years prior to World War II. How could Hitler duplicate the power of Christianity? Finally one of Hitler’s ardent anti-Semitic henchmen took him aside and said, "Adolf, the Christians are smart. They have a 'devil.' You, too, need a devil."
If Lev’s tale is accurate, and I’ve yet to find one that isn’t, that was when "the Jew" popped up on Hitler’s imaginary screen. And that was the beginning of the Holocaust!
Lev alone warned us of "aggressive mimicry." Some animals capture their prey by pretending to be their prey. In the ‘70s and ‘80s, when America was delirious that Russia was behaving like a "normal country", Lev warned, "Don’t be fooled." The Soviets had managed to put up some "opposition" and a rock concert. They even arranged a UFO sighting in Russia!
Lev’s son, Andrei, in letting Lev’s closest friends and admirers know of his passing (on Jan. 23), told of the Russian Orthodox priest who came to Lev’s bedside to hear and absolve him of his sins. Alas, he could not do so because the penitent was unconscious and unable to confess. Andrei said, "No big deal. My father had no sins. He was innocent of every conceivable act of sinning!"
Bullseye, Andrei! Those of us who knew your dad rise in standing applause. If Communism were a religion, your father would be a major sinner. As is, however, he’s safe on first, second, third, and home.
May the good Lord grant Lev Navrozov the richness of his eternal reward. I’ve lost a great friend. Freedom has lost a great lover.
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