The Cork Board

Book Review: “Dear Fiona, Letters from a Suspected Soviet Spy” – Fiona Fullerton

There can’t be many two lives more contrasting than that of a young Lancashire lad from Nelson, wrongfully charged with being a Soviet spy, and that of a beautiful young actress about to embark on a glamorous international life of stardom. A more different pair of teenagers you couldn’t find.

Yet that is the unlikely backdrop to years of correspondence between the actress Fiona Fullerton and Anthony “Alex” Alexandrowicz, the son of a Cornish mother and Ukrainian father, growing up in Nelson at the end of the 60’s and early 70’s.

Alex had a difficult childhood and petty burglaries kept him in the eye of the authorities. But it was the innocent attempt to obtain a Visa to visit the Ukraine to track his grandparents that landed him in serious trouble – and was to result in Alex being the victim of one of Britain’s worst cases of wrongful imprisonment and injustice. A miscarriage of justice that can be mentioned alongside those of the Guildford Four, the Birmingham Six, The Bridgewater Three, and, sadly, the list goes on ….

… Fiona Fullerton in “Angels” – around the time of the start of the correspondence …

Intrigued by his fan letter, Fiona Fullerton responds, and a tentative correspondence begins that would lead to a friendship spanning decades.

Alex is clearly an intelligent young man from the start. He has a defined political intellect and a clear sense of right and wrong, which jarringly contrasts with the Penal System that blurs the edges and supports an injustice that wielded such improper power over his life. His letters contain dry wit and an obvious talent for the poetic. (Alex uses a gag at the end of one letter that I can’t get out of my head. Something about not liking to eat cheese late at night because it disagrees with him – but it’s entitled to its own opinion.)

What comes across is Alex’s deep emotional strength and fortitude buoyed by his writing and the correspondence from Fiona Fullerton repeatedly urging him to “stay out of trouble”  – which one can only imagine, in prison, being a tough call.

His letters develop from youthful fire to maturity to a feeling of resignation after years of prison horror, medication and stress… and repeated failures by Review Boards to see that this was a glaring case of wrongful imprisonment.

What do these two people have in common ? Humanity. Each helps and encourages the other through times of stress, loneliness and insecurity and on to better times.

This is a moving story. It is a shocking yet ultimately enlightening read. Two people leading different lives but also so similar in so many ways.

But you are left with a feeling of anger. Who has enough evil in their heart to condemn an innocent teenager to this hell ?  To rob him of his most productive years ? Why have they not been brought to book?

Kindred spirits have been formed…… but the injustice goes on, to Britain’s shame.

… Alex and Fiona’s friendship endures to this day …

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