A NEW book will reveal the secrets of a spy who some say was responsible for the start of the Cold War.

Historian Ben Macintyre has recently released ‘Agent Sonya: Mother, Lover, Soldier, Spy’, which tells the story of Ursula Kuczynski, who was based in Great Rollright, near Chipping Norton.

Compared to other spies, her story is relatively unknown, however thanks to extensive archival research, including in the Stasi archives in Berlin, MI5 files, private writings and interviews with the spy’s surviving sons and family members, Mr Macintyre is able to tell her story in full.

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Through Ms Kuczynski, the Soviets not only found out that the UK and USA were building a nuclear weapon, but the secrets would enable the Soviet Union to build its own atomic bomb.

She passed information to Moscow using a powerful radio transmitter she had built in her outside privy.

The spy was also involved in a plot to assassinate Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in his favourite Munich restaurant.

Oxford Mail: Ursula Kuczynski in 1936. Picture courtesy of Peter BeurtonUrsula Kuczynski in 1936. Picture courtesy of Peter Beurton

The plans however were aborted just weeks before being implemented because of a diplomatic agreement signed between Berlin and Moscow in 1939.

Ms Kuczynski spent her days in Oxfordshire caring for her three young children, before staying up late into the night sending coded messages back to Russia. 

Although she spied on the country, she was an Anglophile whose family were German Jews, who fled Germany and found safety in Britain.

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Ms Kuczynski was very much a part of village life in Great Rollright, baking cakes for her neighbours.

Mr Macintyre says in the book: “If you had visited the quaint English village of Great Rollright in 1945, you might have spotted a thin, dark-haired and unusually elegant woman emerging from a stone farmhouse called The Firs and climbing onto her bicycle.

“She had three children and a husband, Len, who worked in the nearby aluminium factory. She was friendly but reserved, and spoke English with a faint foreign accent. She baked excellent cakes.

Oxford Mail: Agent Sonya by Ben MacintyreAgent Sonya by Ben Macintyre

“Her neighbours did not know that the woman they called Mrs Burton was really Colonel Ursula Kuczynski of the Red Army, a dedicated communist, a decorated Soviet military-intelligence officer and a highly trained spy who had conducted espionage operations in China, Poland and Switzerland, before coming to Britain on Moscow’s orders. 

“They were unaware that she was a German Jew, a fanatical opponent of Nazism who had spied against the fascists during the Second World War and was now spying on Britain and America in the new Cold War.”

In 1950, with MI5 closing in, she moved to communist East Germany with her children.

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Under the name Ruth Werner, she wrote children’s novels, which sold in their thousands.
She became famous as a writer, while her espionage past remained a secret.

Mr Macintyre summarises Ms Kuczynski, saying: “She fought Nazism, loved well, raised a family, wrote a small library of good books and helped the Soviet Union keep nuclear pace with the West, ensuring a fragile peace.”

Agent Sonya was published by Viking on Thursday.