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… from the shadowlands

M

OSCOW | Despite traveling to Russia every six weeks for more than a decade, the 43-year-old couldn’t speak anything but English. His accent was hard, his jokes long and when he tilted his chair back at a café in Moscow we all knew we were stuck. His stories, like his slow sentences, never came to resolution.

But this lanky windbag was a highly effective undercover do-gooder. Far south of Moscow, Chechnya is hell’s waiting room. In that troublesome republic, where foreigners were then forbidden, the steely determination of this awkward father of two meant he’d established a home for war orphans.

In a tiny village near Grozny, he’d built a beautiful compound housing 45 parent-less kids. The authorities don’t know the place is funded by western money. If the secret got out, the home would be closed. The kids would be sent to join thousands of other feral youngsters living in the rubble. The American windbag would be shot…