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Two lives of Soviet intelligence agent Yelena Kosova

A remarkable woman - a talented sculptor and one of the most extraordinary spies of the XX century - has been buried in Russia in secrecy

MOSCOW, February 24. /ITAR-TASS/. A remarkable woman - a talented sculptor and one of the most extraordinary spies of the XX century - has been buried in Russia in secrecy. Her name is Yelena Kosova, and she died at the age of 89 last Friday, February 21.

Her destiny might be taken as a plot for an adventure novel, for Yelena Kosova has led two lives.

In her first life, she worked for the Soviet intelligence service and helped obtain US military secrets and, upon retiring from the security service, went abroad as a wife of a spy. Kosova was the first Soviet woman at the United Nations Organization, simultaneously working as a resident agent in New York, performing the role of a communications agent in a spy ring of Vladimir Barkovsky, who specialized in getting the information for creation of a Soviet nuclear bomb. Kosova participated in tens of successful espionage operations and failed none of them.

In her second life, which began after she had reached the age of 50, she became a sculptor who earned international acclaim.

In 1949, together with husband Nikolay Kosov, who was also an intelligence officer, Yelena went to New York. “I went on a mission to the UN office. This was my umbrella, but I mainly worked as a resident agent,” Yelena told reporters.

The US nuclear project was the main goal of Soviet espionage. “I have worked with two US female spies. I did not recruit them, they were passed on for spying to me. I received precious information from them twice a week,” she said.

“I was a courier in Barkovsky’s group. He gave instructions to me, say, to print a letter in gloves, to plant something in a concrete place or to meet with someone,” she noted.

In reply to a question on whether the Soviet central intelligence service set a task for her to charm someone, Kosova replied negatively. “Never. In general, many people believe that a woman takes a special place in intelligence as a charmer. That she is used as a bait. And if she goes for a meeting with an informant, she will cast her charm on him. I assure you that our intelligence did not use such methods,” she added.

Kosova did not have to recruit anyone. “Prepared leakers were given to me. They were usually women,” she said.

“In general, the Americans are very good people, and they look like us, Russians. They take us cordially. But I speak so of ordinary people, everything is the other way round at the government level. A nuclear war was ready, and reliable sources informed us that the United States wanted to drop a nuclear bomb on Russia in April 1949. We faced a task no smaller than saving the homeland, so we could not think about anything else,” she said.

Many episodes of the activities of the female spy are still classified. Yelena Kosova did not name any fellow intelligence agents, except Vladimir Barkovsky. Along with it, Kosova’s family keeps carefully the letters of legendary spies - Cohen spouses and prison drawings by Rudolf Abel.

At the age of 30, Yelena learnt that she was pregnant and decided to quit the intelligence agency, devoting herself to her son. “My mother is ill, no one can help her. And, generally speaking, I will not entrust anyone with caring for my son.”

Later, when her husband was dispatched on a mission in the Netherlands, she went with him already in a role of housekeeper. There the former female spy got acquainted with necessary people from time to time or safeguarded her fellow spies in complicated operations, but already not in the line of service, but with a desire to help her husband.

Her son, named Nikolay after his father, believed that his mother was a cook by profession, and learnt the truth accidentally when he ran across old documents in their Moscow flat. This discovery was a shock for the child.

In the early 1970s, Major General Nikolay Kosov was appointed as the official representative of the Soviet State Security Committee (KGB) at the Hungarian Interior Ministry. His mission lasted for 12 years. In Budapest Yelena has found her talent as a sculptor. She was even enrolled for the second-year course at the Dutch Academy of Arts, but did not study there. Yelena began to take sculpture lessons from the famous Hungarian master, Olcsai-Kiss Zoltan, who taught her mainly technical skills in sculpting for four years.

In Hungary Kosova had six personal exhibitions that enjoyed permanent success. Then she sculpted a portrait of Mayakovsky, as well as busts of Pushkin, Gorky, Chekhov, List and Beethoven. She sculpted Brezhnev, de Gaulle, Kennedy and...even her fellow spies.

Sculpted portrait of Margaret Thatcher made by Yelena Kosova was on the table of the British Iron Lady. The British prime minister could hardly guess that it was sculpted by a fomer Soviet spy.

In 1984 Yelena Kosova was named a member of the USSR Union of Painters. Her works are put on display at several European museums. She held many international and Russian exhibitions, making more than 60 pieces of sculpture. “The most important thing is that I have found second recognition at the age of 50, taking a piece of clay in hands. Let it be an example for all women. It is never too late!” she told reporters.

When she was asked which of two professions she would have preferred, if she had had to make a choice, Yelena Kosova said definitely, “In the years of my youth, only a spy. I was, and still am, a patriot. And I dreamt of doing something for my country. But now I consider myself to be a sculptor and ask my admirers to take me in this particular role," she concluded.


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