THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL
JimOwen is the eldest son of the late FSO Robert I. Owen andMary Owen. His father joined the Foreign Service at the end of WorldWar II and served
in the Dominican Republic, Finland, the Soviet Union, Germany and the former Yugoslavia, retiring in 1971. Born in Ciudad Trujillo (now Santo
Domingo), Jim lived inMoscow twice during the 1950s, the second time as amiddle-schooler in 1958-1959. Jimand his wife, Jan, settled inMaine in the
early 1970s. To his delight, their twin daughters went just to Bangor schools until they left for college. Jim is now retired, and enjoys writing poetry. Photos
courtesy of JimOwen.
Coming Out of the Cold
BY J I M OWEN
I was assumed to be a spy when I was in seventh grade.
You see, I was an American living in Moscow, USSR,
And the oldest son of an American diplomat.
Accordingly, I was believed to be a threat to the
Soviet Socialist Republic.
There were big, uniformed guards at the entrance
to our apartment building,
Not so much to protect me from Russians,
But to keep track of my coming and going,
And to dispatch their spies to watch what I was up to.
You don’t believe me?
I was old enough, and had just enough Russian,
To go get a haircut onmy own.
The barber shop was a few blocks away,
And I could walk there in just a fewminutes.
Every time I went my guards wouldmake a call,
So that two of their KGB agents could followme.
They wantedme to know they were there,
Wearing coats on a warmday
When everyone else was in shirt sleeves,
Just in case I had any funny ideas.
I did have funny ideas.
I subscribed to
“Spy vs. Spy” was one of my favorite cartoons.
I was also reading Tolkien, books about Narnia,
And the great spy story,
by Rudyard Kipling.
Since I was sure my bedroomwas bugged,
I used to talk and read things tomy walls,
My very own information counter-offensive.
I wantedThem to know
That I knewThey were there,
That I could play the Game too,
And I wanted to exposeThem to the corrupting influence
Of a 12-year-old American Spy.
The Kremlin Tower and St. Basil’s
Jim Owen and his mother in
front of their first apartment
building. They were forced to
move when the building was
The view from their new apartment.