Review: Agent Sonya by Ben Macintyre

The biography on Ursula Kuczynski (aka Agent Sonya) by Ben McIntyre is an exciting account of a woman who took many risks as a spy for the Soviet Union whilst being a mother of three children.

The book starts by talking about her childhood and her initial interests in communism. Kuczynski grew up in a well-off household and eventually left her comfortable past behind upon joining the KPD.

Initially involved in political demonstrations in Germany, she was then enlisted as a spy by the Soviet Union and drafted to China. That wasn’t without it’s risks though. There were times where she was caught but by chance had gotten away.

Next she was sent to the Soviet Union for further spy training before being sent on to Poland to help out before later moving on to Switzerland and then onto Britain. Getting into Britain was not easy for Kuczynski as she had to go through different countries first and upon arrival was questioned by British authorities. That was quite tense since they could have easily caught her.

Her success was primarily due to two factors – being a woman and having a dedicated commitment to communism. Given the attitudes towards women at the time, it turned out to be a good cover, especially since she was a mother with three young children. Her children would later assist her with spy work.

There are times in the book where her commitment to communism was put to the test, however she remained committed and as a result was rewarded. Receiving a medal in recognition for her work to the Soviet Union and gaining the rank of colonel in the red army, her former work as a spy granted her the recognition she deserved. She was also responsible for passing on information that enabled the Soviets to build their own atom bomb.

I recommend this book for anyone who likes to read about communist history, but also for those interested in thriller and spy novels.

Jenny Smith, is a member of the YCL’s Birmingham branch

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