Tamara Bunke: Kgb Spy And Communist Soldier

Tamara Bunke worked as a Cuban guerrilla under the name Tania; she also worked as a KGB spy sucessfully infiltrating the Cuban government.

Haydée Tamara Bunke Bilder was born in Buenos Aires, Argentinia on November 19th, 1937. Her parents, Nadja and Erich Bunke, were German Jewish communists who fled to South America in order to avoid Nazi fascism. Both her parents worked as teachers; her mother taught Russian, and her father taught languages, gymnastics, and fitness.

Under what would become auspicious circumstances, Tamara Bunke grew up speaking several languages. In Argentinian schools she learned to speak English and Spanish. Her parents, planning to return to Germany, taught her German. Her mother taught her to speak Russian, hoping that Tamara would read works of Russian communists. Knowing all these languages so fluently, Tamara wanted to become a translator.

In 1951, the Bunke family returned to Germany. The landscape had changed since WWII; the war treaty divided Germany into two sectors, East Germany (DDR) and West Germany (BDR). Naturally, the Bunkes (being a communist family) had no problem settling in the DDR, which the Soviet Union controlled. Nadja and Erich Bunke found good jobs as teachers, and Tamara was nearly finished with high school. In 1952, Tamara and her family worked with a communist youth group called the Association of Sports and Skills. Under this group, Tamara became a women's shooting instructor and won several awards for marksmanship.

With her father's help, Tamara enrolled as a student of political science at Humboldt University. While she attended lectures on the principles of Lenin-Marxist rhetoric, Tamara also trained to become a KGB spy. During her training, the KGB asked her to sleep with wealthy West German businessmen and officials in order to get blackmail information.

In 1956 Tamara became an official translator of Spanish and German. During one of her assignments in 1960, she worked as translator for Che Guevara, a Cuban communist leader. She was so overwhelmed when she heard Guevara's speeches, she longed to visit Cuba. Just a year later, she would translate for the Cuban Ballet when it toured through the DDR. She was so impressed by the stories of the Revolution in Cuba, that she persuaded a ballet performer to give her his ticket back to Cuba. She arrived in Cuba on May 12th, 1961. Only a few months earlier, the KGB entrusted her in their ranks. Knowing that Tamara wanted to bring communism to South America, the KGB encouraged her to work for the Revolution in Cuba. They especially wanted her to sway Che Guevara away from Moaist communism, such that Cuba would become a Soviet satellite country.

Once in Cuba, Tamara Bunke immediately attempted to become a part of its Revolution. However, Cuban leaders were cautious about giving any new immigrant such a high ranking job. Nevertheless, the Cuban government needed a translator, and Tamara was given a high priority job at the Ministry of Education. In 1962 she was allowed to broadcast news on the national radio station. Eventually, she would write songs for the revolution, and would arrange many pro-communist social gatherings. She worked with the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the People and the Federation of Cuban Women. Ultimately, the Cuban leaders admired her tenacity and her ability to unite the people through creative activities.

By March 1963, Cuban officials were so pleased with Tamara Bunke's accomplishments that they provided her with more operative powers. Living in Havana, she became a leader of revolutionary movements. Her responsibilities included: working mail detail, finding medicine and food, organizing the community, and preparing for war. These responsibilities were so vital to the revolution that she assumed another identity to prevent information leaks. Tamara named this new guerrilla identity---"Tania."

By 1964, Tamara Bunke had found a man who would make a suitable husband. However, she swore that she would never marry until she had achieved victory in the revolution. On April 11, 1964, Bunke wrote a letter to introduce this man to her parents. She warned them that she would not get married yet, but asked if they would consent.

Though this letter was written in sincerity of the matter, Bunke wrote it to keep her parents from knowing what she was really doing. Only a month earlier, Che Guevara had called Bunke into his office. Knowing that Bunke wanted to be a part of the guerrilla revolution, he asked her to become a spy. Bunke would have rather jumped into combat gear, but she understood the importance of espionage to the revolution, espeicially since she was still working as a Soviet spy. With her consent, Guevara sent her to Europe with fake passports. There she learned the principles of Cuban military coding and communications. She was also asked to develop an identity characteristic of the bourgeois society.

As Bunke traveled through Europe, she observed and critiqued bourgeois culture. She noted that women were treated differently in these cultures, often as sex-objects. She observed that bourgeois people centered a significant portion of their lives around organized religion, whether they actually abided to the morals of that religion or not. She also criticized the lower class of these countries. The people who were most hurt in the society were also the most likely to sell-out information to the police and other state agencies. Usually, they would rat each other out for bribes of money or drugs. Bunke's final report concluded that a communist must be suspicious of every class in the bourgeois society.

After traveling, collecting information, and learning French and Italian, the Cuban government sent Bunke to Bolivia. She assumed the identity of Laura Gutierrez, an Argentinian anthropologist. As she traveled through Bolivia, she used her feminine charms to persuade diplomatic figures into giving her information and the strongholds she needed to continue living in Bolivia. She managed to obtain an official Bolivian foreign travel card and a position with the Bolivian Ministry of Education.

The positions at the Bolivian Ministry of Education were completely volunteer-based. A small group of professors kept the project alive, and they were eager to incorporate a young foreign anthropologist. They were most pleased to see that Bunke owned a tape recorder, since they had been requesting one from the government for years. They asked her to record the sounds of Native Bolivian folk rituals in the area. Tamara not only taped these folk rituals, but she arranged folk dances and cultural events in the Bolivian cities.

Eventually, Che Guevara sent members of the Cuban Army into Bolivia. A representative met with Bunke and told her the news. Bunke was so thrilled that she insisted on moving from espionage into combat. The representative explained the importance of her work, and encouraged her to continue everything she was doing. Bunke said that she understood, but made other plans.

When Che Guevara set-up camp near Bunke's residence in Bolivia, she visited him in the jungles. This time she insisted that he file her into the ranks of his guerrilla army. Guevara rejected her desires and told her to continue at her post. But as Bunke left, she noticed Bolivian troops headed for Guevara's camp. She rushed back to warn him. Then Guevara's troops prepared for combat, and Tamara Bunke fought her first guerrilla battle.

Tamara Bunke treked through the Bolivian jungles with Guevara's army. As soldiers became sick, they left the campaign. But Bunke, having a fever over 102F, continued onward.

On August 31, 1967, as the guerrillas crossed a river near Puerto Marico, the Bolivian Army opened fire. Tamara Bunke was in the middle of the river, when a bullet shot through her left lung. Her body washed downstream, where it was found seven days later. She was found to be 4 months pregnant.

The life of Tania, the guerrilla identity of Tamara Bunke, still lives in the poetry, songs, and art of the Cuban people. They rejoice her as a communist heroine who played an important role in the struggle for Cuban nationality. Thus, Tania appears in Cuban artwork, often portrayed beside Che Guevara. The KGB denies working with her, even though she is considered one of their most successful spies.

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