CHAPTER 53

Juliet #2

Boris was right. Martha had packed her itinerary too full and as a consequence found her journey anything but uplifting. Her travels made her cranky and critical, of Boris and of Russia, which struck her as a drab and weary land. Boris was disappointed. “I am very sad to hear that you do not like everything in Russia,” he wrote to her on July 11, 1934. “You ought to review it with completely different eyes than America. You should not settle with a superficial glance (such as bad clothes and bad food). Please, dear Miss, look ‘inside,’ a bit deeper.”

What most annoyed Martha, unfairly, was that Boris did not join her on her travels, even though soon after her departure he too had gone to Russia, first to Moscow, and then to a resort in the Caucasus for a vacation. In an August 5 letter from the resort, Boris reminded her, “You are the one who said we do not have to meet each other in Russia.” He acknowledged, however, that other obstacles also had intruded, though he was vague as to their precise nature. “I could not spend my vacation together with you. It was not possible for various reasons. The most important reason: I had to stay in Moscow. My stay in Moscow was not very happy, my destiny is unresolved.”

He professed to be hurt by her letters. “You should not write such angry letters to me. I did not deserve it. I was already very sad in Moscow after some of your letters, since I felt that you were so far away and unreachable. But after your angry letter I am more than sad. Why did you do that, Martha? What happened? Can you not be 2 months without me?”

Just as she had wielded other lovers to hurt her ex-husband, Bassett, so she hinted to Boris that she might renew her affair with Armand Berard of the French embassy. “Immediately threatening with Armand?” Boris wrote. “I cannot dictate or suggest anything to you. But don’t make any stupidities. Stay calm and don’t destroy all the good things we both have together.”

At some point during her journey, Martha was approached by emissaries of the Soviet NKVD seeking to recruit her as a source of covert information. It is likely that Boris was ordered to stay away from her so as not to interfere with the process, although he also played a role in her recruitment, according to Soviet intelligence records uncovered and made available to scholars by a leading expert on KGB history (and a former KGB agent), Alexander Vassiliev. Boris’s superiors felt he was not energetic enough in formalizing Martha’s role. They transferred him back to Moscow and then to an embassy post in Bucharest, which he loathed.

Martha, meanwhile, returned to Berlin. She loved Boris, but the two remained separated; she dated other men, including Armand Berard. In autumn 1936, Boris was transferred again, this time to Warsaw. The NKVD assigned another agent, one Comrade Bukhartsev, to take over the effort to recruit Martha. A progress report in NKVD files states: “The entire Dodd family hates National Socialists. Martha has interesting connections that she uses in getting information for her father. She has intimate relations with some of her acquaintances.”

Despite their continued separation and emotional battles and Martha’s periodic brandishing of Armand and other lovers, her affair with Boris progressed to the point where on March 14, 1937, during a second visit to Moscow, she formally petitioned Stalin for permission to marry. Whether Stalin ever saw or responded to the request isn’t known, but the NKVD was ambivalent about their romance. Although Boris’s masters professed to have no objection to the marriage, they at times also seemed intent on stripping Boris from the picture in order to allow better focus on Martha. At one point the agency commanded that they stay apart for six months, “in the interests of business.”

Boris, as it happened, was more reluctant than Martha ever knew. In a peeved memorandum to his superiors in Moscow dated March 21, 1937, Boris complained, “I don’t quite understand why you have focused so much on our wedding. I asked you to point out to her that it is impossible in general and, anyway, won’t happen in the next several years. You spoke more optimistically on this issue and ordered a delay of only 6 months or a year.” But what would happen then? he asked. “Six months will pass quickly, and who knows? She may produce a bill that neither you nor I is going to pay. Isn’t it better to soften slightly the explicitness of your promises if you really gave them to her?”

In the same memorandum he refers to Martha as “Juliet #2,” a reference that KGB expert Vassiliev and Allen Weinstein, in their book The Haunted Wood, see as indicating that there might have been another woman in his life, a “Juliet #1.”

Martha and Boris had a tryst in Warsaw in November 1937, after which Boris sent a report to Moscow. The meeting “went off well,” he wrote. “She was in a good mood.” She was still intent on marriage and “waits for the fulfillment of our promise despite her parents’ warning that nothing would come of it.”

But once again Boris revealed a decided lack of interest in actually marrying her. He cautioned: “I think that she shouldn’t be left in ignorance with regard to the real situation, for if we deceive her, she may become embittered and lose faith in us.”

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