‘What are you possibly going to do for Z?’ you were wondering. And here I am finishing not with just a single Z, but a double Z, fittingly at the end of Katharine’s life!
For a long time, there was a single photo on the State Library of WA’s catalogue labelled ‘the last photograph of KSP’ by the donor, her good friend John Gilchrist. During one Covid lockdown, I asked SLWA to digitise the rest of Gilchrist’s photographs, which they kindly did. It introduced some ambiguity – there was a second photo from the same moment, and delightfully spontaneous. I present it now; I used the other one in the book because Katharine has her eyes open in it.
In September 1969, two representatives of the Soviet Women’s Committee, Zoya Zarubina and Olga Chechetkina, were visiting Perth as guests of the Union of Australian Women. They stayed with Katharine’s friends, John and Roma Gilchrist, and Katharine invited them for morning tea on Friday 26 September. Gil photographed a smiling Katharine with her arm around Zoya, whom she hadn’t met before, their heads touching. They stand on the verandah at the front of the house, the same one where Katharine danced the Charleston with Hugo in 1927. The stone wall in the background is cracked and the bare chicken wire covering the eaves of the verandah hangs down.
Zoya was a language teacher and sports administrator. As a young woman during World War II, she’d been a KGB translator for Joseph Stalin when he met with American president Franklin Roosevelt. Katharine would probably have been thrilled to learn of this connection to Stalin; it might explain her arm around Zoya. Zoya was less likely to have discussed her role translating stolen plans for the atomic bomb or her dismissal from the KGB in 1951 when Stalin sent her stepfather, a high-ranking KGB officer, to prison. Perhaps fittingly, the ostensibly benign final image of Katharine is coloured with Soviet intrigue.
An American woman was so taken with her friend Zoya in the 1990s, she wrote a biography of her, not held by any library in Australia – I think I must be one of the few people with a copy in our our country! Until today, I had a furtive hope Zoya, born 1920, was still alive somewhere in Russia, invisible to the web, as I couldn’t find any record of her death. But now Google is showing that she died in 2009.
Thanks, dear readers, for following this A to Z! Thank you too for buying/ borrowing/ reviewing/ gifting The Red Witch. Your support means a lot to me! (If you’re a fan of The Red Witch and would be willing to help it out, you could rate it on Booktopia – it is showing up on Google with a 3 star average due to a single rating.)
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