Young George Trofimoff wanted to be an American. He wanted to have a country he could call his own, and he wanted it to be America. The stories told to him by his father still rang in his ear, the stories of how the Communists had murdered his grandparents and excommunicated his father and him from Russian citizenship, and how Germany, his birthplace, did not recognize emigres or their children as citizens.
George had been living at the Hartford YMCA and working at the hospital when one day he walked past an army recruiting office. A large U.S. Army recruiting poster with Uncle Sam staring him in the face was on the window. He stopped, decided to walk inside and ask some questions. He wanted to know if he dedicated himself and worked hard, could he become an officer. He had visions of the pomp and majesty of his grandfather and father, both colonels in the Czar’s White army, and thought he might follow in their footsteps. He wanted to know if he could seek a certain specialty. He suspected that his knowledge of the German, French, Russian and now English languages might help him rise in rank. The recruiter’s answers were affirmative all across the board.
George was 18, and almost impulsively, he signed enlistment papers and gave notice to the Hartford Hospital where he was working. He couldn’t wait to go to Sunset Farms and tell Uncle Paul and Aunt Libby the good news. He was sure they would be proud of him.
That weekend when he got to Sunset Farms and announced the news, the reception was much different from what he expected. Uncle Paul and Aunt Libby had spent their lives as conscientious objectors as Quakers, members of the Society of Friends. Uncle Paul felt that George should have asked his permission before enlisting, and there followed a long discussion about war and what it was really about and what happened to common people in war. George felt terrible and wished he had thought through what Uncle Paul and Aunt Libby believed, especially since he knew he would never have made it to America without their generosity and the Friend’s guidance.
In the end, Uncle Paul and Aunt Libby gave George their blessing and wished him good luck. They repeatedly insisted that their home was his home and that he should not fail to visit them when on leave. It was a tearful misunderstanding but a departure in love and forgiving.
I write of George’s life in my book: “Observer: The Colonel George Trofimoff Story, the tale of America’s highest ranked military officer convicted of spying.”