Saturday, December 31, 2016



(THE GULAG, SIBERIA)-- Another background note from the files--

By TOM TIEDE CENTREVILLE, Md. (NEA) a- Bartow Van Ness just can't believe it. Just "can't believe it.''
Here he was, living most of his life in this tiny town, minding his o‘vn business as the sediment Control officer, asking nothing but a little decency and a chance to salute the flag during the high school football game. And then all of a sudden — "all of a sudden" — in come these Communist infiltrators. Yes, Communist infiltrators, to plant their flag right on the banks of the Chester River.
M'God. The Russians have come, the Rus-sians have come.
It had been rumored for a couple of years. Word was that the Soviet Emboss` in nearby Washington was negotiating a deal to buy 45 acres of vacation retreat land just outside town at Pioneer Point.
Bartow Van Ness, a John Birch Society member and chairman of the Support Your Local Police Committee, was one of the first to protest. So were the county commissioners. Said one of the latter, in a gripe to the U.S. State Department: "We don't want a Russian flag in Queen Anne's County."
But it happened anyway. Last March Soviet diplomats concluded an agreement to buy the 45 acres. including two large mansions there-on, for just over $1 million. Short while later some exploratory Russian limousines began showing up in the area. Then a couple of river cruisers. Somebody started the rumor that a submarine was spotted in the Chester. And, Lord, the town was flapping: "This is the big-gest thing around here," says one woman, "since those college kids went nude in Chester-ville."
The submarine, of course, proved mythical. So did some other stories about radar antenna, frogmen and parts for MIG jets. But the Rus-sian presence here in Centreville, America, is established fact.
The land they bought is not onl■, Ow►'s, but is now in effect Russian soil. Ilicy have erected "Keep Out" signs at the cntranue. They ha\ e constructed a Sears-Roebuck chain-N% I e !ICC on the adjacent roads. And they '\ asked local law enforcement officers to help guarantee their privacy. `They're here to stay," says Bartow Van Ness III, fuming, "like it's Moscow. Somebody in tow► has sug-gested that we change the name of our river to the Volga."
Van Ness is the most outspoken opponent to the Russian presence. He says his reasons are simple: "Leopards do not change their spots. An FBI report of recent years states that a large majority of Russian diplomats and em-bassy personnel are intelligence agents and spies. Communism is not mellowing as some Nvould have us believe. It is a totalitarian Wm of government. I have no quarrel v ith the Rus-sian people themselves. But I don't want their ideology in this country, in this communit).''
Others in town, equally ant i-Russian, have different complaints. The county commission-ers lament the fact the new Russian land en-joys diplomatic immunity, thus the area will lose $10,000 in property taxes every year. A man outside the police station says he doesn't like the idea of the land being fenced off, and wonders if "the bastards will shoot tres-passers." Somebody else states simply that "we are not allowed to buy land in Russia, so why should they be able to buy land here?" Not everyone, naturally, is so chagrined. Tony Kontos, 77, a Greek immigrant, a restau-rant owner, a "George McGovern man," and a "good citizen for nearly 50 years," welcomes the Russians.
"They are gentlemen," he says. "They come into my store for a beer and they con-duct themselves well. Why should we not wel-come them? We are not at war. I remember when they first came, there was this Jewish organization in New York, those kooks, the Jewish Defense League.
4.They said they were going to come down here, for God sake, and protest the Russians because Jews arc oppressed in Moscow. For God sake. Well. the Jaws may be oppressed in Moscow, but they damn «ell aren't here. We got one J('I\ in town. Ile owns the furniture store. First thing the Russians did when they came was to buy $7,000 \r wilt of new decora-tions from him."
The furniture deal won a number of towns-folk over to the side of live and let live. Mid where money hasn't talked, the Russian diplo-macy has. They haven't caused a peep of trouble," says one law officer. Indeed, except for trips to the Acme supermarket, and stops at Tony Kontos' restaurant, the Russians stick to themselves, at their retreat, away from in-c►lent potential. During the weekday, a small tuntingent, mostly children, live on the land. Weekends the group grows to as many as 70, including, on occasion, Ambassador Anatoly F. Dobrynin. Whatever the size of the group, how-ever, it stays well hack on the land, barely visible from the road, and separated by many acres of open field from their nearest neigh-bors.
Some of the neighbors, by the way, provide a touch of irony in the whole matter. The pres-ident of an insurance company lives nearby, the top executive of the Maryland National Bank does, too. There is even a retired general in the neighborhood. Capitalism and commu-nism. "Man," says one observer, "talk about coexistence."
But if the Pioneer Point dacha has become, in recent weeks, one of quaint chuckling rather than squabbling worry, there are still some in town who believe that, well, "there goes the neighborhood." The neighborhood is almost Mason-Dixon, pink plastic flamingos on the lawns, staunchly conservative — and among those who want to keep it this way is Bartow Van Ness III : "If the Russians are allowed to come and live here, who knows, the Red Chi-nese may be next."


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