To America, or Son to Father?

The “De Grass” was scheduled to sail from Le Havre on December 5, 1947. George’s American visa had come through, and he was to be on it. The visa window for arrival was only thirty days. The “De Grass” passengers were to embark on a special train from Gore du Nord, which would deliver passengers directly to the peer in Le Havre.

On December 4th, George received a telegram from his father saying he would arrive in Paris on December 10th by train from Cologne. This was the first passage available. George had not seen his father in almost four years. When he received this news of his father coming to Paris to see him, he was immediately torn between going to America and staying in Paris to see his father. His passage to America had been paid for by the Friends, and the visa required a limited period in which he was to arrive in America. As he debated should he stay or should he go, his friends as well as the Quaker organization that had helped him through months of bureaucracy to obtain his visa all advised that to stay meant missed opportunity. The visa would expire, and there would likely not be another.

With excitement about going to America but heavy heart about missing his father, George boarded the train to Gare du Nord. Upon arrival, representatives of the shipping company announced the dock workers had gone on strike. There would be a delay, and the passengers would be returned to Paris and flown to New York. George felt a surge of happiness. Not only would he make it to America, he would have time to visit with his father.

The surge of happiness was short-lived, however. When he arrived back in Paris, he found that the shipping company had booked its passengers via Amsterdam with a 16-hour layover and then on to New York’s La Guardia with KLM Royal Dutch airline on a “Super Constellation” — the first leg of the flight leaving on December 8th, two days before his father’s arrival.

To the disappointment and sadness of both his father and George, there would be no reunion until many years later. Then, his father would be old and in the early stage of dementia.

I write of George’s life as he told it to me and of the federal trial that destroyed his life as I studied the trial transcript in my book:  “Observer: The Story Of Colonel George Trofimoff, the tale of America’s highest ranking military officer convicted of spying”.

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