For Russian version of the story, please refer to

Major characters:
• Anabelle, a daughter of a former Estonian Bolshevik leader who became a Red Army officer and was executed later.  She is a political prisoner unbroken by 13 years of hard labor and capable to love, sacrifice and act firmly, sensibly and nimbly.
• Samuel Peterson, a US Navy sailor who happened to end up in GULAG  at the Russian Far North.
The year is 1952.  The place is a restricted access area of the “Death Road” construction site near the Polar Circle.
A labor camp physician asks Aram Karapetov, a civilian surveyor, to accept to his team a female prisoner tired of her life struggles. After being convicted for political crimes, she spent thirteen of her thirty years in hard labor.  Aram himself is in danger: his real name is Boris Samoilovich Berman, and he changed it trying to escape detention during the hunt for cosmopolitans. Being a war veteran, he cannot reject the physician’s plea.
Annabelle returns to life while working for the surveying team.  At some point, Aram and Annabelle fall in love with each other.  Their love affair advances despite extremely harsh polar conditions, high security and abundance of criminals around.
Annabelle is set free in 1953.
She lives with Aram in Inta for some time; however, she decides that you cannot build your happiness on someone else’s grief.  At her insistence, Aram returns to his wife and children.
In March 1954, pregnant Anabelle meets a tall drunk man at the outskirts of Inta.  He courteously gets out of her way by stepping from the sidewalk straight into a deep puddle.  That how she met Samuel Peterson, a former American sailor.
His ship sunk when sailing in support of Lend-Lease, and he lost his dog tag and was pulled unconscious out of water.  His burnt clothing was disposed of in the rush of war.  He was in coma and it was impossible to find out who he was. By the time he slowly regained consciousness, all US servicemen had returned home and it had been declared that no American was left behind in the USSR.
When it was found who he was, people at MGB  became afraid of being asked how they failed to identify an American serviceman timely... An even more dangerous question lurked, “Was it premeditated?”
It was easier to solve the problem once and forever by getting rid of Samuel. Authorities issued fake Russian documents for him and sent him to a labor camp as a convicted criminal.  The local MGB officer was tasked with his liquidation.  A criminal attacked Samuel at the labor camp but, being a trained sailor, he was able to repulse his attacker.
Samuel was placed to a seg for this fight.  By the time he comes out of seg, other inmates killed his criminal attacker for snitching, and the MGB officer in charge of his killing was suddenly detained under a very different case and sent out by prisoner transport.
Hopeless labor-camp life have lingered. Little by little, Samuel learned decent Russian, and even criminals started respecting his martial skills, tough build, courage and fairness. In the labor camp where daily life and customs were very peculiar, inmates christened him as “Uncle Sam.”
In 1953, Sam was set free under the Beria’s amnesty; however, he could not go anywhere farther than Inta.  He works at a boiler room and drinks vodka to blunt his longing for home.
The situation changes after he meets Annabelle.  Remembering as someone helped her and saved her life, she believes that helping Sam is her duty.  He falls in love with the strong woman who is still attractive after years of hard labor.  Annabelle is not ready to return his love but she admits at a minute of sincerity that, with the exception of her son, she has no one more close to her than Samuel, and it is necessary to stay together as her and Samuel’s fates are alike.
Annabelle insists on drastic action.  Sam writes a letter to his brother  David in the US, and Raevskaya, a former professor of the Moscow State University who just ended her term for political crimes, undertakes to bring this letter to Moscow. Being a friend with Annabelle, this courageous old woman decides to take this risky step.
During the meeting at the Moscow State University, Raevskaya manages to pass the Sam’s letter to a female American journalist without being noticed.
The American delivers the letter to David in Geneva.
David understands that it is impossible to request release of his brother officially and directly as  he would disappear without trace.  He places his hope on the Eisenhower – Khruschev summit being prepared.  However, a letter is not a sufficient proof as one can always claim that it is a forgery.
It is decided at the top level to send a photographer of politically neutral National Geographic magazine and an intelligence officer to the USSR for taking pictures of Sam in the background while shooting photos of a polar landscape.
An artist from Langley draws Samuel’s portrait aging him by at least 10 years.  A CIA officer who is an Ivy League graduate realizes that local assistance is necessary for taking Sam’s photo in Inta.  After reading a postcard sent to her, Raevskaya understands an American plot.  A former professor of the Moscow State University and a highly educated American form an intellectual tandem that is more efficient than brute force under the circumstances.  A draft plan is prepared for taking a photo of Sam.
“Priroda” (Nature), a magazine of the Russian Academy of Sciences, supported an American idea to publish an issue with gorgeous views of Polar Ural dedicated to the Eisenhower – Khruschev summit.
Lubyanka  finds American idea suspicious; however, the Central Committee of the Communist Party directly requests to publish this issue the day before the Geneva summit and present their country more favorably.
KGB decides to send an English-speaking Priroda photographer who is their informer along with a KGB officer responsible for security of foreigners.
They arrive to the shooting site, a small railroad station among Polar Ural mountains.  After shooting many photos, they stop in Inta on the way back.
The protagonists consider arrival of an American correspondent as a call for action.  On the day before shooting, Annabelle thinks setup through and instructs both Sam and Raevskaya.
English-speaking Raevskaya is asked to escort Americans in Inta.  During shooting of Northern landscapes, she points Sam (standing at a distance within the shooting view) to Americans.  The intelligence officer recognizes him.  Photos are taken, and it is possible to go home now. A roll with photos of the American is substituted just as a precaution in case of being subjected to censure.
The Big Four summit takes place in July 1955 in Geneva.  After discussion of global issues, Eisenhower pleads personally to return Samuel Peterson and his Soviet family to the US.
When Khruschev states that there are no Americans at the USSR soil, he is given photographs taken recently in Inta and Samuel’s file.
Khruschev has to agree, as it is not an issue that he wants to strain relationship with US over.
KGB objects against letting Annabelle go.  As a former political prisoner, she can share her personal GULAG experience with Americans.  However, such details are deemed insignificant within the general scope of preparing the historical visit of a US leader to USSR.  Moreover, the US President personally promises that press will be fed with most general information only and everything relevant to labor camps will be classified.
However, the most radical KGB groups keep tension high during the entire transfer of the American with his family, and leave all options open including their physical elimination.
At night on August 1, 1955, two cars stopped at a bunkhouse at the outskirt of Inta.  Annabelle, her son and Samuel are sent to the US.  Through the entire transfer process, they are in the crosshairs of sniper rifles; however, no one gives an order to shoot.
Many years passed.
Annabelle is sitting in a concert hall in New York.  Her son who has Peterson surname conducts an orchestra. 


Four passengers jump down from a railcar running board and stretch they legs.  Jack Stevens, a tall, unshaven and untidy National Geographic photographer, takes a professional look at the view he is going to shoot.  Robert Burkholder, a short cultural attach; at the US Embassy, stands next to Stevens along with Vadik, a young, slightly insolent and sarcastic “Priroda” photographer who switches incessantly between Russian and English, and a quiet KGB captain.

(grumpily in English)
I hope this is not a strategic site. May I finally unpack my gear and start shooting mountains?

(translates for captain)
Mr. Stevens asks your permission to take photos of Ural Mountain sunder light of rising sun… As an exception, he wants to take a few photos en-route to our destination.

The captain looks around, sees neither mountains nor anything suspicious.  A boundless forest stretches to horizon.  The area is wild and uninhabited.
You need a telescope to see mountains from here…

(ignoring Vadik, looks around one more time)
Yes, please, but the train is leaving soon, hurry up…

Jack brings promptly a big trunk, fastens a huge Zeiss lens to his camera, and skillfully snaps away with it.

(with admiration)
Yeah, sure you can see anything with this toy.
(cannot resist to boasting)
Soon, they will give me a long Helios too …

There are two Americans in the compartment.  Jack sleeps in the top bed.  Robert comes close to him.  They speak in English.

(speaking in low voice barely heard through train noise)
What would you say if I asked you to take a photo of someone?

Get lost, Rob!  You know our policy… That’s why we work without any strings attached in each country.

I know.  But a good picture can save a man sometimes…

Jack turns angrily to the wall without a word.

Big Inta River landscape downstream from a bent. A gorgeous forest frames a vast expanse of water at both sides.  The entire production crew came for the last day of shooting.
Both photographers, Jack and Vadik, snap away aggressively with their cameras.
The captain, Robert and Raevskaya who serves as a guide to local landmarks stand together.
Vadik steps away toward the river.
Jack finds a higher point for shooting and sets a tripod there.  Robert assists him.
They are ten meters away from everyone else.  Robert looks back at the captain with a silent question about shooting.  The captain waves his hand agreeably and looks away for a second to scout other lines of view.
Raevskaya looks intently into Robert’s eyes, then, looks at a man next to the river, and gives an unnoticeable nod.
The man unpacks his fishing gear and can be caught on camera while shooting a faraway forest at the riverside.
Suspenseful Tchaikovsky Andante Maestoso flows through crisp morning air from a radio speaker hanging on a pole.
Vadik comes back from the river with his camera.

(to the captain)
I would suggest this angle also…
(points to the direction opposite to the shooting angle)
The scenery is gorgeous even with these shacks in sight.

In the meantime, the man with fishing gear squats with his face out of sight.

(posing as a professional)
These shanties spoil the view.  Why don’t you shift your camera a bit to the right…

The man squatting afar straightens up.

(quietly to Jack)
Please capture this man with your wide-angle…

Since when you manage magazines from the Foggy Bottom?

The middle part of Andante movement reaches its climax.

Please!  Just capture this angler with the river in background…

Jack glances at Robert, than at the angler, quietly replaces the lens and promptly finishes shooting.  He removes the roll right away swiftly and gives it to Robert without being noticed.

(to Raevskaya and the captain)
You know, we have enough of landscapes.  We are shooting them three days non-stop… Give me a break!
(turns to Jack)
I would better go and look through my wide-angle toy…

While he is approaching, Jack loads a new roll into the camera and, by the time Vadik comes with his camera, shoots a couple of dozens frames with different lenses.
Andante ends and applauds are heard from the speaker.
The captain finishes his mouthpiece cigarette, catches himself, climbs to the tripod also, looks at Jack inquisitively and, then, glances into the eyepiece.
The crosshairs are aimed at the horizon where the tall forest comes to the wide expanse of smooth water.
The picture in the frame is gorgeous indeed.
The captain slowly aims the crosshair lower, adjusts focus and sees a truck at the riverside, a few anglers and a back of another one who comes to them.  A guy sitting at the truck footstep waves to the coming man and says inaudible hello to him.
The captain shifts the camera to the right and, seeing houses and a long street, finds nothing interesting there too.

(to Jack in English)
Do you want to capture the anglers?

(returning the crosshairs to the river view, grudgingly and barely audibly)
I am not working for the Hunting and Fishing magazine…
(shoots until the roll ends)

You spent the whole roll here?

Yes, he shot tons of frames for one view.  This is his job.
(to the captain)
Do you want to take it for censure?

The captain contemplates, then sweeps the entire view and looks at Vadik.

And how many rolls you have shot in total?  I finished six ones and one more is in the camera… Is it your habit, Jack?  To waste miles of film?

Jack silently opens his trunk.
A stock of sealed boxes is packed into the large compartment.  He offers one box to Vadik: – This is a present.
Cartridges with exposed rolls are stuffed into cells of another compartment having twenty cells in two rows.  White stripes with dates are visible on 17 boxes.
Jack concentrates and points with his finger while counting silently.
Then, he unloads another roll from the camera, pastes a white stripe to the box and scribbles: "May 17, 1955, INTA."

(giving a new roll to Jack)
The total of 18 rolls are exposed…

(speaking with gloomy bass voice)
If I don’t bring them to New York by June 1, nobody would need them… I would give them away as a present, Vadik…

Two Americans and two Soviets drink in their compartment celebrating they successful trip to the Polar Ural.  Vadik tells jokes in both languages. Jack who recovered from misanthropy attacks participates in the feast.  The mood is of camaraderie.

(to the Captain)
That said, should we submit the rolls for censure in Moscow?

(showing marvels of the new Soviet democracy)
I asked and they told me that they would review the landscapes later as published.

Standing away from a crowd of passengers, four business travelers say goodbye to each other and shake hands.  Vadik stretches his arms to hug.
A man in civilian clothing comes to the captain and whispers something into his ear.

(somehow apologetically)
I am sorry but we have to view the exposed rolls…

(going ballistic right away)
They are undeveloped, and who is going to develop them?  I have no trust!

An awkward pause.

Jack, we can develop at the magazine’s lab in your presence.

Do what you want!
(slams the trunk against the platform in rage)
Just know: I will not cover your asses! You needs these photos also…

Jack storms to the exit without saying goodbye.
Everyone looks at the trunk.

I have no orders to impound his gear.  Why is he freaking out?  He has his job, and I have mine…

Why don’t you take 18 rollsat your own risk.  The nineteenth one is in the camera but he didn’t shoot it.  You saw it with your own eyes.  Let’s get in touch by phone and decide where and when to develop them, and Jack would come there.

Robert drives a large car, and Jack settles at the back seat.

Russians are funny folks.  They were not too lazy to scroll all films.

Funny… We lost almost the whole day staring at the screen.  They busted my butt with their vigilance.

Yeah, but he saw all your landscapes…

Listen, I would be cooked if this photo were leaked to papers.

Don’t worry, it won’t.  Even if it were leaked and they gave you a credit, there would be nothing to worry about.  You don’t know your bosses.

And you don’t know newsmen.

OK Jack, don’t worry.  If you ever see this rusty again, you would see the Capitol in the background.