The Late Mikhail Klochko, Scholar, Defector, Benefactor

by Leah Schnurr – with contributions from May and Peter Hyde

May Hyde remembers Mikhail Klochko not so much as the internationally acclaimed Ukrainian chemist who defected from the Soviet Union in the 1960s, but as the man who cooked buckwheat kasha in her kitchen, the aroma pervading the house.

Now the Administrator for Carleton’s Department of Philosophy, May was 11 when Klochko came to live with her family in 1967, six years after his dramatic escape. His defection was a daring act: if Soviet authorities had caught him, he would have been assassinated, on orders issued by Khrushchev.

Klochko decided to move from Montreal to Ottawa to have access to Carleton’s library. He met with May’s father, Peter Hyde, then a Russian translator, who invited Klochko to stay with them, and offered to translate for him.

May recalls Klochko spending most of the 10 months he lived there, secluded in his room, working from sunrise to sunset. Besides being a consultant for INCO and several government agencies he produced a series of short stories, written from the unique perspective of one who had lived on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Klochko paid many visits to Carleton’s library, engrossed in scientific journals that were suppressed in the USSR.

“He liked the academic climate in the library,” says Carter Elwood, Professor Emeritus in the Department of History, who co-edited a book of Klochko’s stories. “It was his home away from home.”

In the early 1980s, May, working in the library, encountered Mikhail again. The two renewed their friendship, often meeting in the Loeb Café. Upon his death in 1986 Klochko bequeathed at least $6,000 to Carleton’s student housing. The rest of his estate was left to the people of Canada.

Later, the National Archives of Canada contacted Larry Black, also Professor Emeritus in the Department of History and Director of Carleton’s Centre for Research on Canadian-Russian Relations, commissioning him to compile a collection of Klochko’s works.

With the aid of Klochko’s diary, Black, Elwood and Ph.D. student Vadim Koukouchkine wrote a biography and edited a number of Klochko’s short stories. Mikhail Klochko: Soviet Scientist, Cold-War Defector, Canadian Storyteller was published in 2002 as volume three of CRCR’s Russia-Canada series. Recently, the Archives donated the remainder of Klochko’s estate, $80,000, to Carleton.

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