Two former Soviet citizens will share the stories of their defections to America during this year's Freedom Festival Patriotic Celebration.
The Patriotic Celebration will be held on Saturday, June 23. In the past the event was known as a Patriotic Service and was held on a Sunday. Festival organizers decided to change the name and move the event to Saturday to allow additional festivities.The Patriotic Celebration will feature a parade of flags, a troupe of international folk dancers, a performance by Lois McDonall of the English National Opera and music by the Mormon Youth Symphony and Chorus under the direction of Robert Bowden.
"Expect a lot of patriotic flair," said Carl Bacon, first vice president of the festival. "We have many elements that will make this an interesting, uplifting and thrilling experience."
Highlighting the evening will be Alexandra Costa and her husband, Stanislav Levchenko, whose desire for freedom independently brought them to the free world. The couple met and married in America following their defections.
Costa, formerly known as Yelena Mitrokhina, grew up as the only child of a Soviet Air Force colonel and a journalist. A trained sociologist, Costa has degrees from the University of Leningrad in Scandinavian languages and from the Moscow Institute of Sociology. In the Soviet Union, she taught Marxism at a special institute for foreign communist students.
While int the Soviet Union, Costa enjoyed membership in a privileged class in an officially classless society. But she wanted to be able to control her own destiny. In 1978, Costa defected while her husband was working in Washington, D.C., as the First Secretary of the Soviet Embassy.
Costa details the account of her escape to freedom in her book "Stepping Down From the Star: A Soviet Defector's Story." Her book also describes her adjustment to life in America.
"The most important thing that brought me into this country is the freedom to control my own life," Costa says. "It is not very original, but Americans take so much for granted - especially their freedom."
After Costa's defection, she earned an master's of business administration from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and today runs a computer consulting business.
Stanislav Levchenko, author of "On the Wrong Side: My life in the KGB" and a former Soviet spy, was characterized by Jack Anderson and Dale Van Atta in the Washington Post as formerly being "one of the KGB's most effective agents." Their editorial indicates he was skillful at planting disinformation with witting and unwitting editors and was positively brilliant at luring susceptible foreign nationals into working for the KGB.
During the time he was working for his government, Levchenko became a Christian and grew disenchanted with the Soviet system. In October 1979, he defected in Tokyo, an event that prompted a secret military tribunal in Moscow to find him guilty of high treason and sentenced him, in absentia, to death.
He did not provide substantial information about his work until 1980 when he realized the KGB had thrown his wife out of work and she had nearly starved to death - prompting him to declared war on the KGB.
"I work very hard to contribute to the protection of my new country (the United States) and the free world, and it is my earnest hope that this book will help you recognize the threat posed by the Soviet leaders and their most dangerous tool - the KGB," he wrote in the preface to his book.