I speak with author Ethan Scheiner whose book “Freedom to Win” describes the gripping story of a group of small-town young men who would lead their underdog hockey team from Czechoslovakia against the Soviet Union, the juggernaut in their sport.
In 1968 Czechoslovakia is experiencing the Prague Spring, an attempt to moderate and soften communism. However, a sudden invasion by 500,000 Warsaw Pact soldiers halts the reforms.
We hear the inspiring story of how the young players of the national...
The BBC Wartime Broadcasting Service (WTBS) is a little-known piece of Cold War history that would have been for many the last human voice they heard after a nuclear attack on the UK.
Iain started work for the BBC in 1988 and due to the pressure on training space, was trained in the nuclear bunker at BBC Wood Norton.
After training he went to Broadcasting House in London where he first encountered some of the technical infrastructure the WTBS would use. Iain did a spell in the main control...
Jonny Whitlam has been a Berlin tour guide since 2010, and since then he’s been showing travellers from across the world the fascinating history of Berlin.
We met via social media after I noticed his great videos describing well-known and lesser know 20th-century historical locations in Berlin.
We discussed doing an episode to help you see Cold War Berlin sites without needing a tour guide and this episode is the result. However, if you would like a personal tour check out Jonny’s tours on...
South Africa in the 1980s is a brutal, racist Apartheid regime. Those who oppose it risk their lives. Apartheid was a system of institutionalised racial segregation that existed in South Africa from 1948 to the early 1990s
Sue Dobson is moving easily through the echelons of the racist government in her work as a journalist, whilst concealing her espionage and military training in the Soviet Union, and her intelligence work for the banned African National Congress. She interviewed Apartheid...
South Africa in the 1980s is a brutal, racist regime. Those who oppose it risk their lives.
Sue Dobson, was a young white South African woman who was also a spy for the banned African National Congress. The ANC was a liberation movement known for its opposition to apartheid
In the 1980s she built a legend, a fake persona where she pretends to conform, moving easily through the echelons of the racist government in her work as a journalist, whilst concealing her espionage and military training...
In November of 1982, at the height of the Cold War, Samantha Smith, a 10-year-old girl from Manchester, Maine, wrote to the Soviet leader Yuri Andropov and asked him if he was going to wage a nuclear war against the U.S.
When an unprecedented response from Andropov arrived, and Samantha received an invitation to visit the USSR, she and her family embarked on a journey that brought the two warring nations closer together.
We speak with author Lena Nelson who was born in the Soviet Union and...
Communist Poland had universal conscription and the armed forces were huge by contemporary standards. The Polish People’s Army, Navy, and Airforce had just over 400,000 troops for most of the 1980s in a country of 36 million.
Tom was a conscript in Polish People's Army from 1987-89. He served as a radio operator in Legnica for the rocket artillery.
His service was at an interesting time when the communist dominance ended as Poland began to embrace democracy in its first free elections before...
It’s 1966 in Berlin and the city has now been divided for 5 years by an almost impenetrable wall erected by the communist German Democratic Republic.
Together with his friends, West German student Volker Heinz joins a group looking for ways to help would-be fugitives escape from East to West.
Their search ends at Checkpoint Charlie, the most heavily secured border crossing of the Berlin Wall. By hiding the fugitives in the trunk of a diplomat's car, Volker Heinz helps East German citizens...
Colonel Terry Chester’s flying career spanned some 42 years, and 10,000 flying hours. He joined the RCAF in Sept 1964 and in 1968 was awarded Navigator Wings.
Terry flew for 3,000 hrs on the Argus Maritime patrol aircraft where he spent a good portion of his RCAF career hunting for Soviet Submarines in both the Pacific and Atlantic areas of operation.
He was instrumental in the design criteria for sub-hunting capability when Canada procured the new Aurora, for anti-submarine hunting in the...
The second part of Svetlana’s story starts shortly after her arrival in West Germany with her husband Oleg who is the Chief Editor of the Russian Service of Radio Liberty a CIA-financed station beaming Western propaganda into the Soviet Union. Listen to the previous episode here https://coldwarconversations.com/episode288/
To Svetlana’s horror, Oleg reveals that he has been working for the KGB for 14 years. Svetlana is now trapped. She is in a quandary. Should she betray the man she loves and...
Svetlana came from a dissident Jewish family opposed to Soviet rule in Latvia. Her parents survived World War 2, but during the Stalin era two members of her family were held in the Gulags. The family never resigned themselves to Latvia's occupation by the Soviet Union in 1940.
It was almost impossible to legally leave the Soviet Union, however, in 1971 the first opportunities for "Jewish" emigration appeared, and Svetlana, then aged 12 and her family left legally.
At the age of 16, she is...
We continue Steffen’s story where he tells of serving in three armies – firstly, the NVA, secondly the East German Army between the first free elections and unification, and finally the unified Bundeswehr.
We start the episode in the Autumn of 1989 where demonstrations are growing against the government in nearby Leipzig and Steffen’s unit is on high alert and confined to barracks. It is clear East Germany is on the cusp of change however, what will be the impact on Steffen and his...
Steffen was born in Karl Marx Stadt and was conscripted into the NVA (East German Army) in 1988.
When he left school he started an apprenticeship in electronics learning how to build radio receivers at REMA, a then-famous producer of HiFi equipment.
Steffen is called up at 18 for his 18 months of service and he talks of the conscription process and incentives offered to him to serve for a longer period.
Steffen is posted to a unit in Leipzig that was responsible for telephone lines from the...
During the Cold War, the awesome power of nuclear weapons and its deadly fallout meant that every town, village and home in Britain fell under the nuclear shadow, and the threat of annihilation coloured every aspect of ordinary life.
I chat with author and fellow Cold War podcaster Julie McDowall about her new book Attack Warning Red!: How Britain Prepared for Nuclear War. We discuss how families were encouraged to construct makeshift shelters with cardboard, plastic sheets and sandbags, as...
In 1990, a country disappeared. When the Iron Curtain fell, East Germany simply ceased to be. For over forty years, from the ruin of the Second World War to the cusp of a new millennium, the GDR presented a radically different German identity to anything that had come before, and anything that exists today. Socialist solidarity, secret police, central planning, barbed wire: this was a Germany forged on the fault lines of ideology and geopolitics.
I talk with acclaimed historian Katja Hoyer...
Richard was 6 years old when he was uprooted from a school in the United States to a Soviet school 700 miles East of Moscow.
In 1988 the Soviet Union was opening up following Michael Gorbachev’s policy of Perestroika and American firms began looking at the possibility of trading with the Soviet Union. It was politically and economically sensitive and his family was chosen to be sent to the USSR to open a factory in the industrial town of Nizhnekamsk in Tartarstan.
They lived in a special...
Brian Regal entered the US Army in 1977 and served on the M60A1 tank initially as a driver. The M60A1 was America's primary main battle tank during the Cold War, with initial deployment in 1960 and combat service through to 1991.
After tank school, Brian was sent to West Germany where he was assigned to the 3/35 Armor in the Bamberg Garrison as part of the 1st Armored Division US Army, where the 3/35 was tasked to fight a Warsaw Pact attack across the Czechoslovak and East German borders....
In 1987 Martin received a letter informing him of his conscription into the Dutch Army. A number of European NATO countries had conscription during the Cold War. Holland’s applied to men over the age of 18 and included service for about a year, after which you were placed on the reserve.
Martin objected to military service as a conscientious objector on religious grounds. Conscientious objectors could perform alternative civilian service instead of military service. However to get to be an...
Mark Baker was featured in episode 9 where he told us about working in Czechoslovakia in the 1980s as a journalist for a small publishing company called Business International (BI). He was the company’s Czechoslovakia expert and with his Czech minder Arnold he travelled to Prague and other cities to report on significant economic and political developments.
In 2021, he published “Čas Proměn” (“Time of Changes”), written in Czech, it is a collection of stories about Central and Eastern Europe...
We return to Dirk’s story from episode 278 with a move to East Berlin following his mother’s divorce from his father.
Dirk finds school life more relaxed where pupils are allowed to wear Western clothing and to speak more openly, even questioning their teachers about the existence of the Berlin Wall.
After leaving school, Dirk starts work in a factory from which he can see into West Berlin and he longs for a life away from the restrictions of East Germany.
His mother’s new partner is a...
Dirk lived in the town of Bernau about 15 miles from East Berlin. Just outside Bernau was Wandlitz the residential estate of the East German leadership. As a result, Bernau had one of the highest densities of Stasi facilities in East Germany.
Dirk shares details of his childhood growing up in a Plattenbau block of flats where his school friends were children of NVA officers, Stasi officers, and Soviet Army officers.
He shares some fascinating details of school life and visits the homes of...
Ana Montes was the most damaging female spy in US history.
For nearly 17 years, Montes was one of the government's top Cuba experts, with easy access to classified documents. By night, she was working for Fidel Castro's Cuba, listening to coded messages over shortwave radio, passing US secrets to handlers in local restaurants, and slipping into Havana wearing a wig.
Her only sister, Lucy, worked for the FBI helping the FBI flush Cuban spies out of the United States. Little did Lucy or her...
Every weekday on the History Daily podcast, Lindsay Graham takes you back in time to explore a momentous moment that happened ‘on this day’ in history.
1989 was a pivotal year for the Cold War. The fall of the Berlin Wall, free elections in Poland, and the almost bloodless revolutions in the other Warsaw Pact countries apart from Romania.
However, two other important events occurred in 1989 and this bonus episode will cover those events.
So here is the 1989 US Invasion of Panama...
Tim Lyon was an officer assigned to the 400th Strategic Missile Squadron located in Cheyenne Wyoming. The Squadron was maintained 50 Peacekeeper ICBM missiles based in underground silos in farmers’ fields in remote areas of Wyoming.
Tim was one of two launch officers who were responsible for 10 of these missiles. He and his colleague would descend forty to sixty feet below ground to a concrete capsule that housed the Launch Control Centre. There he would spend 24-hour alerts ready to...
Warning: This episode does cover the subject of suicide. If you need help please use these links:
UK https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan/Rest of the World https://findahelpline.com/i/iasp
Dean Reed was an American actor, singer and songwriter, director, and Socialist who became a huge star in Latin America and the Eastern Bloc.
Neil Jacobs is a guitarist who first met Dean Reed briefly while renting accommodation from Will Roberts, who directed the documentary of...