The New Republic, 1995

"Helsinki Postcard: The Thaw"

When Mats Dummel fell, there was a big noise in Finland. Headlines, debate, a court verdict of high treason. He had passed letters from Denmark to a Russian 'friend,' and was found guily in 1982 of spying for the Soviets. He lost his TV reporting job, his family, his apartment. He went to prison in 1984 for four months. He didn't know what hit him. How could he? Until then, having a kotiryssa, a "home"  Russian, was a guarantee of prestige.

Ten years later, on a bitter winter day, Dummel reluctantly agrees to meet me in a Helsinki cafe across from the Svenska Theater, up the tree-lined Esplanade from a turn-of-the-century, gazebo-style restaurant built by the Russians. A handsome, fortysomething man with an ingratiating manner, he is still bothered and bewildered by the whole experience. He blushes, laughs, nervously squeezes an empty wrapper for a last cigarette. Not because he thinks he was guilty of espionage, but because he believed that honesty was the best policy when police arrested him. He also believes that what he did by no means distinguishes him from dozens, probably hundreds, of other Finnish journalists, artists and politicians who regularly traded information, gifts and favors with their Soviet contacts. "Honesty," he confides, leaning close, "never conquered the world."

(full story is available upon request)

< Writing

Steven makes complex ideas vivid, readable, compelling. He aims to make sense of a complicated, often baffling world--and shed light on the efforts of creative people in myriad fields. As an editor and mentor, he is particularly passionate about helping others become better storytellers. Can he help  you?