Across a cemetery cluttered with Russian crosses, a thread-bare American flag is framed between 23-carat, gold-leaf cupolas that poke skyward from St. Mary's Russian Orthodox Church.
This is Russia in New Jersey, a sprawling and steadily dissipating group of communities about 60 miles south of New York City, where thousands can recall how Russian Communists killed their relatives, where wrinkled Russian-Americans sing the "Star Spangled Banner" with wet eyes, and where there are still memories of the vodka-guzzling bash in 1953 that celebrated Stalin's death.
Here, the word Communist is a synonym for damned, and it was where Ivan Rogalsky, a 34-year-old former Russian seaman, was arrested last month and accused of being a Russian spy.
Rogalsky, who lived, played cards and drank around here for nearly three years, was arrested for unsuccessfully trying to coax defense secrets from an RCA engineer who works at an astro-electronics plant near Princeton. He was nabbed by FBI agents moments after the RCA engineer, who was working with the agents, had handed the Russian "highly classified documents" related to satellite communications.
Like thousands before him, Rogalsky came to this village of Russians because it was easy.
After jumping ship in Spain in 1970 and coming to the United States a year later to become a permanent resident alien, Rogalsky slipped easily into a community honed by four generations of Russians out of what had once been deserted Jersey pinelands.
The first wave of Russian immigrants, those who had fled their homeland just before and after the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, bought a 1,400-acre resort here in 1934. The emigres, in an organization called the Russian Consolidated Aid Society of America, paid $50,000 for the land, money gathered from thousands of Russians.
The resort was named Rova Farms and Russians from across the country moved here and bought land from Rova Farms. Many of those who settled were from White Russia, a geographical area around the city of Minsk in central Russia. They were the children of peasants and they had a difficult time adapting to American culture and language. At Rova Farms, they built two Russian Orthodox churches and brought up their children speaking Russian. They were mostly craftsmen and laboring people; they paid their taxes, took care of each other and did not cause any problems for the local Jackson Township government.
The second generation, the sons and daughters of the emigres, who grew up on Rova Farms or who lived in New York and spent their summers here, became adults with many of the cultural and language problems that had plagued their parents.
Nicholas Zill, the son of a Minsk-born laborer, grew up in Manhattan and rode in buses full of jabbering Russian teenagers down to Rova Farms during summers in the late 1930s. Zill, now 60, says most of the people of his generation wanted to blend into American society, be successful, make money, but they didn't have the opportunity because there was not enough money for most to go to college.
During the youth of this generation, the late '30s and '40s, Rova Farms blossomed as a thriving Russian resort and community. On St. Vladimir's Day, one of the major holidays of Russian Christendom on July 28, crowds of 10,000 or more would swarm Rova Farms in the 1940s to watch a priest dip a gold cross in water, and then to dance and drink.
Tanya Sawyer, now 57 and living near Hackensack, N.J., says she and her friends would come down from the city without even knowing where they would sleep. There was free dancing all summer and bus transhore. When the dancing was over, she said there were always families offering places to stay.
The children of the second generation, who are now in their mid-20s, have made it in American society. They have gone to college and, according to Zill, who has become a chronicler of Rova Farms, many have gone on to top professional positions across the country. Few visit Rova Farms and almost none have settled nearby. They've outgrown it, it's that simply," says Zill.
One other group of Russians are the "displaced persons" from World War II, who were hauled out of Russia by the Germans and forced to work during the war in farms and factories in Bavaria and around Berlin.
After the war, they came to this country and, like the alleged spy Rogalsky, moved to this region of New Jersey because it was easy to fit in.
Soya Alchevski, the wife of a contractor who had first invited Rogalsky to come to Cassville, was a displaced person, or D.P., as they are called. She is a short, chunky woman of 50 with a square face and reddish brown hair that is combed back straight and simple. Her nose is broad and the skin of her face has a permanent reddish flush, as though she'd just come in from the cold. Her eyes are gray-blue and intelligent. She speaks Russian, Polish, French, German and English, all well.
When she was 10 and growing up near Leningrad, the Communists sent her father away and he was never heard from again. When she was 15, the Germans stole her away to do farm chores near Nuremberg. She was married in Germany and came to New York and found a job as a cleaning lady in 1953.
Fourteen years ago, she and her husband bought a summer house here; last year they moved from a deteriorating New York neighborhood and settled here permanently.Like all the D.P.'s living near here, her hatred of the Communists is visceral. Her eyes seem cold and her face belligerent when she talks about the current Russian regime. She thinks the United States far too ready to believe Soviet leaders. The Soviets will sign anything, promise anything to get what they want, she argues. The Helsinki accord, with its guarantee of basic human rights for the people of Eastern Europe, is for Mrs. Alchevski a bad joke.
Besides hatred, there is fear of Communism among the fourth generation of Russians, the D.P.'s. Herman Schultz, 53, is the managerof Rova Farms. He, too, was hauled off to Germany during World War II. The Communists killed his father in a near Minsk. He says he is afraid of the KGB, the Soviet secret police, both for his sister and for himself.
"For those who were in Russia during the Stalin regime - everybody scared. Fear is still in them and in me. Now, I don't want to mix with politics. I am not political man."
The children of the D.P.'s, most of whom are in their early teens are spoken to in Russian at home, but they often prefer to reply in English. Zoya Alchevski is sending her 12-year-old son to a Russian church school in nearby Lakewood, a school that draws from the approximately 7,000 Russian-Americans who live within a 20-mile radius.
"I think he should be proud of the person he is.Jews conserve their identity for 2,000 years. Why should we forget we are Russian?" Mrs. Alcheski asked. Yet, her son hates the school, which ruins his Saturday play time. He speaks English around the house despite Zoya's threats to send him back to New York City if he continues to say "yeah."
The children of the D.P.'s, their parents admit, will slip away from their Russian heritage into American society as did the children of the first immigrants.
Although the 800 or so Russian-born D.P.'s and their families who've settled around Cassville have breathed new life into Rova Farms in the past 20 years, they have not offset what many here see as the inevitable dissolution and death of the community.
Herman Schultz, who has been running the banquet and restaurant operation at Rova Farms for years, says his best and most steady trade is in funeral gatherings. The Russians celebrate death with hearty meals. With the almost weekly death of members of the first wave of immigrants, who are in their 70s and 80s, there is a lot to celebrate.
Two organizations that were originally part of Rova Farms and that deal with old people and death have separated into independent corporations. Pushkin Memorial Home, which provides housing for Russian widows and widowers, is nearly always filled to capacity. St. Vladimir's Memorial Cemetery, which one local called a "delightful" resting place, entombs the bodies of Russian emigres from all over the United States. Nicholas Zill, the chronicler of Russians in Jersey, says the cemetery is the largest of its kind outside Russia and Eastern Europe.
There are two Russian Orthodox churches near here. St. Mary's, with its three gold cupolas, sits on a knoll in the Russian cemetery and most funerals are conducted there. St. Vladimir's Russian Memorial Church, with just one gold cupola, has no congregation. The church exists to memorialize the dead and pray for the soon-to-be dead.
Father Constantine Fedoroff, a pastor at St. Vladimir's, spends between 1 1/2 and two hours each day in a memorial service reading aloud the names of 2,500 dead and 1,500 mostly elderly Russian-Americans. In the church, which is partially walled with icons, the 38-year-old priest lights candles, stands before an altar in his floppy gray wool robe, white gold-inlaid stole and purple fez-like cap and reads off names.
It was into this dying Russian community that Ivan Rogalsky, accused spy, came to live. By his relative youth alone, he was an anomaly as a Russian-born emigre. And, in an un-spy-like manner, he lived a life that attracted attention.
John Alchevski, the man who invited Rogalsky down from the Bronx - they met when Rogalsky repaired Alchevski's car once - frequently spoke with the young Russian during his first year or so in Cassville. Alchevski says that Rogalsky refused to accept funding to start his own garage business. He says, also, that Rogalsky quit his part-time job at the One-Stop Garage after about five months. Rogalsky was known to frequently play cards for stakes in the hundreds of dollars.
Alchevski asked Rogalsky where he got the money to play cards and not work. Alchevski says the young Russian who traveled across the United States up to Alaska in 1975, replied that he had won a little at cards and made enough money to live by doing auto repairs.
In April, 1975, according to Jackson Township police, Rogalsky ripped a telephone from the wall at Rova Farms and threatened manager Schultz with a knife. Witnesses said Rogalsky warned Schultz: "You will be dead in the morning." Later, in the summer of 1975, according to witnesses, Rogalsky was paying his bill at Rova Farms for a bowl of borscht when he threatened to kill the waitress giving him change.
Nicholas Zill, who was honored last month as Rova Farm's man of the year, spoke frequently with Rogalsky in the resort's dining room and bar. Zill says Rogalsky offered to kill a man who he thought was Zill's enemy. Zill, who worked for Hearst newspapers in advertising for 25 years, doubts that Rogalsky could have succeeded as a spy.
"He went out of his way to draw attention to himself," he says.
When Rogalsky was arrested, Zill's reaction, along with that of Alchevski, was one of disbelief.
Both Zill and Alchevski say that if Rogalsky was involved in espionage activity he was duped into it by someone else. They have given their assessment of Rogalsky to the FBI, which interviewed them recently.
It has been nearly a month since Rogalsky's arrest. The story was front-page news in local papers for days and was broadcast on both New York and Philadelphia television news programs.
Yet, the Russian people here are not stirred up about the alleged spy for the regime they despise. Father Constantine, who has been out to more than 50 houses in the past month to give each his annual blessing, says that only one person has even mentioned the Rogalsky arrest.
Father Constantine says the accused spy just doesn't seem that threatening to the Russian community.
Perhaps a dying community, like a dying man, is difficult to scare.