Book of personal experiences and experiences

- Elena Stanislavovna, this is your second book on illegal intelligence and personal experience in a short period of time. Was it difficult to retrain from a scout to a writer? Who is your main critic and censor?

- I was very encouraged by the success of the first book, “A Woman Who Can Keep Secrets”: over 10 months - several additional runs. I am especially glad that the youth audience showed interest. Writing is a completely new occupation for me, but no less exciting than my previous professional career. I draw ideas from my own experience. My main critic and assistant is my husband Andrei, with whom we have worked abroad for more than 20 years. Like no one else he knows the intricacies of this work, he followed the believability of the story, gave ideas for the plot and various scenes. Not without the help of my co-author of the first book and fellow countryman from Tomsk Andrei Bronnikov.

- The first novel, although artistic, was nevertheless based on the story of your family. And which of the real events can be seen in the new book?

- It has a lot of my own experiences, personal experience. Despite the fact that the story is fictitious, it is woven from the features in which we worked. In the book, I turn to the topic of terrorism, which was especially relevant in the early 2000s. After September 11, the world faced a common threat. About the same as now with a coronavirus that knows no boundaries. This was a common problem, which, in theory, should have unified the resources of all states. Like today. But national interests do not go by the wayside. Western countries then tried to use the situation to carry out their plans against countries that they did not like. In particular, the United States in various ways influenced Russia in order to weaken it and undermine sovereignty. All Russian intelligence in the early 2000s faced the task of resisting these efforts and tracking any attempts to organize terrorist attacks, their financing, and fueling ethnic hatred. We also received a task taking into account our capabilities and sources. Therefore, we can say that this is partially based on our experience.

It was interesting to me to show methods of work, especially with people. The work of a scout is, first of all, work with people, because they are a source of information. A striking example is the search for an approach to the person with whom you need to establish contact. The way this is done, sometimes with errors, not the first time, is believable. We experienced this ourselves.

Can a scout fall in love

- Your heroine Dasha, working under the name of journalist Stella from Hong Kong, loves a foreigner and hides it from the Center (the central foreign intelligence apparatus in Moscow. - RT ). For such a violation in real life punished?

- Such things will always be condemned by the Center and punished. But at the same time, as there are no ideal people, there are no ideal scouts. Deficiencies exist and may affect work abroad. Especially when the heroine lives and works alone, experiencing everything inside. Mistake at an early stage, a fear of harming the nascent sense of love and the need to make a decision - such a turn seemed interesting to me. She appeared to readers more humane. But at the same time it did not fail, it did not decrypt.

- Love in intelligence is generally happy? Is your story with your spouse an exception to the rule?

- True love exists, and scouts of different times have proved this: the spouses Gevork and Gohar Vartanyan, Mikhail and Galina Fedorov, recently declassified Vitaliy and Tamara Netyksa. Working in pairs is, of course, easier. Common work on one idea unites. And such people rarely allow everyday problems to prevail over their relationship. Far from their homeland, their family is like an islet that they even subconsciously protect. It is more difficult for us to live a normal family in conditions when we need to conspire, work under a false name. It is more difficult for us with children who cannot know the whole truth. It is more difficult with parents who are far away and with whom we cannot communicate.

  • Retired Colonel SVR Elena Vavilova
  • © Photo from the personal archive

- The book has an open ending. Can I wait to continue?

- The task was to complete in such a way that the reader had a desire to find out what would happen next. I would like to touch on various topics that have become relevant in our time: total surveillance in the digital world, biological and chemical weapons ...

No evidence of an artificial pandemic yet

- Then the question is on the most urgent topic - coronavirus. According to British media, their government believes that the COVID-19 pandemic could begin as a result of a leak from a laboratory in Wuhan. In the Russian media there were various versions about the possible fault of the Americans. What, in your opinion, can be behind this pandemic?

“A scout, like no one else, draws conclusions only based on specific facts.” All the work of a scout is a search for reliable information that may not yet be in the public domain and has not been used to make political decisions. As to the origin of the virus, there is currently no evidence to support the theory of the artificial creation of a pandemic. When the situation ceases to be so complicated, an international investigation of the sources of the virus is necessary. In the meantime, there are more questions than answers.

- Your spouse in a recent interview said the following: "The crisis will greatly change everything around, including the geopolitical position of Russia itself." How can it change and what to prepare for?

- Of course, the world will come out of this crisis different. There will be a struggle for markets, influence. The problem of national security will increase, countries will move even further from a unipolar world. Today, the world needs common efforts and mutual assistance.

- Was it necessary to send a plane with humanitarian aid to the United States, which still blocked the UN initiative to lift sanctions?

- It is necessary, because our rule at all times is never to respond evil to evil. At the beginning of the epidemic in China, the United States also helped them. And we have helped the States now in the hope that if we need help, we will also receive it.

How not to stick out at home

- Advise how it is easier to survive self-isolation? Not all citizens have a Nordic character, like scouts ...

- For many years I lived in constant tension and conspiracy. Moreover, I went through isolation in an American prison, in solitary confinement. That experience showed me that in any difficult situation it is necessary to be patient and not lose heart. A scout initially has the makings of being flexible and patient, and in the process, these qualities are enhanced. Even after going to jail, none of our group gave up. After returning to Russia, everyone said that on the contrary, the body was then mobilized to fight. In prison, I had a desire to understand the situation as clearly as possible and find a way out. I spent a lot of time reading and exercising. It was important to keep yourself in good shape. It helped me not to stick out.

People in self-isolation should understand that this is necessary and temporary. You need to switch yourself to the search for positive moments, to catch up on something that has never been enough time, to get new skills. A positive attitude will help our immunity, allow us not to suffer and not to count days. I wish everyone not to lose heart and look for inspiration in a situation in which we were not through our fault, but with which we must put up.


Elena Stanislavovna Vavilova was born on November 16, 1962 in Tomsk, in 1985 she graduated from Tomsk State University with a degree in history. She served in illegal intelligence for more than 20 years with her husband Andrei Bezrukov.

June 27, 2010, arrested in Boston, where she lived under the name Tracy Lee Ann Foley, a real estate agent. In July of the same year, she returned to her homeland, after she, her husband and eight other illegal immigrants were exchanged for four citizens of the Russian Federation, previously convicted in Russia, among whom was an ex-GRU officer Sergei Skripal. At the same time, the already adult sons of Elena and Andrey - Tim and Alex - before the incident considered themselves Canadians.

Retired Colonel of the Foreign Intelligence Service of Russia. She was awarded the Order “For Merit to the Fatherland”, IV degree and other state and departmental awards.

For a long time, Vavilova preferred to be in the shadows, but last year she released the best-selling book “A Woman Who Can Keep Secrets” based on her family’s story. And now the second novel has gone on sale.

  • Russian illegal intelligence agents Andrei Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova
  • © Photo from the personal archive

Next, we give excerpts from the new book by Elena Vavilova “Encrypted Heart”.

Do not shout at the hospital in Russian

- How do you feel? We were all very worried when we heard about the operation. How did it go in the hospital? Were you under general anesthesia during surgery?

“No, I did not shout“ mother ”in Russian,” Stella laughed. “So you can pass it on to everyone.” When the anesthesia departed, it was painful, but I wailed and cursed in Chinese, she added with a malicious smile.

- You passed this exam, well done! - said approvingly Yuri. “But you know ...” Krasnov added, deliberately not calling the girl by name, “sometimes I regret that I recommended you for this work ...”

- Why? - Stella was surprised.

- I would live in safety now, walk around Moscow - a relaxed and carefree student. Would be in less danger and tension and not so far ...

“But here I do more good, don't I?” And I'm not sure that your life is calm and carefree on the embankment of the Moscow River. After all, the country is not very safe right now?

- Yes, the country is facing difficult times ...

... Yuri paid the waiter and followed Stella into an open area on the second floor. There were no tables, but it was possible to stand, take a break from the noise and breathe fresh air.

- On the flash drive, which I will give you now, there will be a new schedule of radio sessions and descriptions of new places for hiding places. Unscramble everything upon arrival home. In a paper bag - money.

“I see,” said Stella.

- And now about the task. It is extremely important. According to some reports, Caucasian militants, financed by the West, intend to carry out a number of major terrorist attacks in Russia. And work to counter them is carried out in two main directions. The first is the suppression of money channels, and the second is the neutralization of gang leaders. We are especially worried about the activities of one of them named Basayev. There is evidence that communication with them is maintained by Arab emissaries, who are controlled by the Americans. We have already blocked many financing channels, and new channels are shifting to the Asian region. The difficulty lies in the fact that I can not give you more accurate information both on the characters and on the financial institutions used. But work must begin immediately.

“I see,” the girl said.

“Now I have to go,” the young man said dryly. - I'm going to the airport. Three hours later - my plane.

“I'll see you off.” Even a bit...

- No, it’s not necessary.

Yuri silently handed Stella a small bag and, as if by chance, kissed her on the cheek. Then he resolutely, without turning around, headed for the exit. Stella looked after him, barely holding back tears. Yuri's departure seemed to her the most bitter parting in her life. It seemed that nothing was stopping her from rushing right now and catching up with Yuri, talking to him yet, but the scout had no right - these were the laws of that dangerous game that she herself had chosen several years ago.

Encryption in a bowl of water

Before Stella lay a page scribbled with numbers. Now it was necessary to decrypt the message and immediately destroy the evidence. A bowl of warm water stood ready so that it could soak the paper and turn everything into pulp before flushing it in the toilet.

Gradually, the letters lined up from the numbers: “... the Center thanks for the work to investigate the fate of Sensei. We will report the death of an illegal immigrant to his relatives in Russia and support them. Now they will learn the whole truth about his heroic service to the Motherland. Considering the information received during the conference in Seoul, we recommend that you establish contacts with one of Amtek's employees. If possible, find out how likely it is to supply components for Korea’s missile defense, and also try to get information about the prospect of combining missile defense systems of the two countries - the United States and Korea. ”

The girl has long established a rule for herself: after each communication session, immediately destroy all traces of work. So now she hid the cipher-notepad and the radio in a safe place and was about to read the text of the message again before it was destroyed.

Suddenly there was a loud knock on the door. Stella froze. A burning wave of fear paralyzed her for a moment. However, the girl quickly pulled herself together and rushed into the toilet room. There she hastily crumpled a piece of paper with a decrypted message under a stream of tap water, threw pieces of wet paper into the toilet bowl, pressed the water flush button and rushed off to open the door.

- Who's there? - Stella asked angrily.

- Who, who? Who else can come to you at night? - She heard the cheerful voice of Henry.

- It's you? - the girl was surprised, opened the door and was immediately in the arms of a man.

- Did not expect? - laughed Henry. - Happy Birthday!

- Thanks! You have not forgotten, ”the girl exclaimed, with a subtle trembling in her voice. In the toilet, the water filling the tank continued to make noise. Stella snuggled closer to the young man. Her heart was pounding - both from happiness and from the realization of how lucky she was that Henri had not appeared here before, in the midst of a communication session. It is very good that at one time she did not give him the key to her apartment, although the guy insisted on this.

How to lay caches and put "bugs"

She squatted next to the last column, looked into the water. Small green fish glided smoothly in the dark. Stella photographed them several times.

Without changing her position, she looked away and immediately saw a container at the base of the column disguised as ordinary gray stone. Stella calmly took it and inserted the blade of a previously prepared folding knife into the slot. The "stone" fell into two halves. Inside was a carefully sealed plastic bag. Putting the bag in her bag, Stella threw both halves of the “stone” in the water away from the coast and went back.

On the way, she thought about those unknown to her masters who made this container. Unlike those who worked under the guise of diplomatic passports, Stella did not have protection, but she trusted the prudence, resourcefulness and skill of others; she imagined how these people first think over and develop a schematic diagram of a product, stipulate material, argue, draw drawings, conduct tests for strength and tightness, and select dimensions. And then a plastic container is melted in the laboratory, stained, hemispheres are adjusted, seams and joints are cleaned. And still, someone unknown long before this morning was picking up a place for laying a container, studying it first on the map, then on the ground, counting the steps, taking time, looking around, revealing unreliable sectors through which the agent could notice ... All these people thought about the safety of Stella, about the reliability of the place, that everything went without a hitch. And Stella, along with these strangers to her, was one team - united, faithful to her idea and her high goals of serving the Motherland ...

  • © Photo from the personal archive

Only at home, having opened a plastic bag, Stella fully appreciated the resourcefulness and skill of experts unfamiliar to her. She held in her hand a Buddha figurine, which in appearance was no different from the one that stood on a shelf in the room of an American John Bloom. But inside this figurine a miniature recording device was mounted.

October 31 came, Halloween night was approaching, which means the Blooms party. Stella dressed in a witch costume: a black long dress, a pointed hat, black gloves, taking with him a bag-bag for "potions" and a short broom. Other guests also came in eerie costumes: John’s colleagues dressed up in skeletons and painted their faces with dead-gray paint, someone from the American Club put on a sheet with holes through which laser beams pierced. The owner and mistress of the evening turned into a pirate and a black cat.

After making sure that John and Melanie were keen on talking with the guests, Stella went to the ajar door of the workroom and flirtatiously began to pull the zipper on the side of the dress, pretending to other guests that the clasp was stuck. Then, with a laid-back smile, she retired to the study. Going to the shelf with the Buddha, she with a deft movement of her hand in a black glove took out a double figure from her bag. A second later, the head with the built-in bug was already flaunting in a new place, and Stella was chatting again with the guests invited ...

"Continues to be stubborn - cut off the head"

After a while, the car drove up to the village. They were met by armed people and escorted to an adobe house. Most of all, Stella was afraid that now she, as a slave, would be handed over to the new owners.

In a small empty room in a folding chair near the window sat a large man in camouflage. The rays of the sun, shining directly into the girl’s eyes, did not allow her to carefully see the face of this man. Abdullah uttered several phrases in Arabic. The unknown nodded, paused a little, and then asked a question that Stella least expected to hear:

- Your real name? - the man said in English, but with an accent similar to French.

From surprise, the girl was a little confused, but then she pulled herself together and calmly answered:

- Stella Lay.

“I want to know the real name!” - viciously barked the man.

- Stella Lay. I have no other name.

- Good. Suppose, ”he quickly calmed down, got up and walked around the girl, carefully examining her from all sides. Only now, Stella was able to consider it. He was a man of European appearance, middle-aged, with a clean-shaven face. Through piercing eyes, the girl tried to guess his intentions. Judging by the first question, they did not seem to intend to sell it into slavery.

The man approached the girl and, looking intently into her face, asked: - Why are you interested in Henri Mansour?

“I love him ...” answered Stella. - And he loves me too ...

“Is that all?”

“Is that not enough?” - the girl replied impudently and, not looking away, continued: - And what about him? Why did you grab him? Why do we need you?

“Perhaps we will change the subject,” the man said after a short pause and suddenly sharply raised his voice: “Why are you sticking your nose into the affairs of Morrison Bank?”

“Morrison?” I heard something about this bank, but I don’t remember from whom ... - Stella firmly decided not to continue any explanation.

“Do you work for someone ?!” On whom? To the Chinese? I'm asking you! - the man continued in raised tones.

“I am a journalist.” I am a correspondent for the economic journal. I have nothing to do with China. I have never even been to Beijing.

- In order to work for China, it is not necessary to be in Beijing. You can live your whole life calmly in Hong Kong, ”the man suddenly laughed.

- What do you want from me? Shouted Stella.

The man took out a cigarette and slowly lit a cigarette.

“Your ward has strange behavior,” he said to Abdullah. “I can’t understand what is holding her back in her position?” She has little choice ... Okay, so far we’ll finish. Send her back. Let him think for a day what interesting can tell us. And if she continues to be stubborn, we cut off her head.

“By the way, tomorrow morning we will execute her neighbor,” Abdullah reminded indifferently.