The Family That Hid Here After Leaking Russian Secrets

 

 

Yes, truth really is stranger than fiction.
British fellow spends years hiding with his young family in WA’s remote far north, avoiding snakes and crocs and surviving by catching fish. A tough life, all because the fellow, Nick Stride, who’d spent time working in Russia, believed he’d made a powerful enemies there. Author Sue Williams has just written a book about Nick’s bizarre story, Run For Your Life: The Remarkable True Story of A Family Forced Into Hiding After Leaking Russian Secrets.
She chats to The Starfish:
Sue, what’s this book about?
It’s the remarkable tale of British man Nick Stride. He went to Russia to work, fell in love with a Russian woman, had two children, then fell foul of the Kremlin, so fled to the furthest country he could think of: Australia. He settled in WA, then whistle-blew on Putlin’s deputy, Igor Shuvalov. When he was denied political asylum here, and told his wife would be deported back to Russia and he and his kids to Britain, his fearful little family went on the run. They hid out in the Dampier Peninsula for over three years, living on fish and crabs they caught on various remote beaches, and helping out in Aboriginal communities.
An extraordinary story; how did you stumble on this one?
I was lucky. I’m friends with a film-maker who heard about the story and told me about it, then introduced me to the family. I wrote a proposal and my agent sent it around to some publishers and Simon & Schuster picked it up.
Tell us about the WA connection to the story?
When they arrived in Australia, they travelled around the country for 6 months, then settled in Bunbury. They loved the town and the people. Nick and his wife Ludmilla soon became a valued part of the community. The children, Michael and Anya, went to school in Bunbury and loved it, making lots of friends.
Author Sue Williams
Nick’s story reads like an airport thriller; did you find it hard to believe any of it when you first heard about it?
Yes, it’s kind of part Survivor, part Swiss Family Robinson, Alone and The Mosquito Coast. It sounded just unbelievable in this day and age. I thought it was such an extraordinary story, it couldn’t possibly be true. But it is!
Did you meet Nick when you were interviewing him or was it all done from afar?
I first met Nick and his family on Zoom as they are now living in New Zealand, and interviewed Nick many times online. Then I went to New Zealand to meet them and interview them there. I went the last time just before the book came out to talk to them again about what was happening.
Why did he want to tell his story to the world?
He’d been in hiding from the Russians – and then Australian immigration — for so long, he finally wanted to break free and tell people what he and his family have been through. They had a very torrid time, and they really wanted to share the ups and the downs with the rest of the world.
Nick and family
Did you learn a lot about Russia when researching the book?
Yes. I’ve visited Russia once, and found it an absolutely fascinating country. But it was amazing to see it through the eyes of a foreigner who’d lived there for such a long time and seen the strengths of the country, and also the darkness when things go wrong. Putin’s regime can be quite terrifying, from close up.
In the book we’re reminded of people that have been murdered under Putin’s reign, including journalists.  Was it at all unsettling for you to be putting your name to a book critical of aspects of Russia?
A little. I don’t think I’ll be visiting again any time soon, and certainly while Putin and his cronies — including the man who Nick upset so much — are still in charge. And sadly, I think that will be a very, very long time yet.
Where is Nick and his family now and what does their future look like?

Nick sadly split up with his wife Ludmilla after the strain of living on the run for so long. She’s remained in Australia and is still fighting for political asylum. Nick Michaal and Anya were given protection and refugee status in New Zealand eventually, after being denied those rights in Australia. They live in an undisclosed location, to protect their safety, on the North Island. They hope, one day, to be allowed to return to Australia. Much as they like New Zealand, and are grateful for the opportunities it has given them, they feel Australia is home.

Do you think this horrific ordeal could have happened to any of us, or in some ways did Nick bring his bad luck upon himself through his actions?
I think Nick and his family were very unlucky that the Russian regime is so uncompromising these days in its demands for absolute loyalty for anyone working for any of its members. Nick’s difficulty was that he has a very strong sense of injustice and became outraged that many people were becoming so rich there, while many others were so poor, and felt he had to speak out about the unfairness, the corruption and the double standards. Perhaps it would have been wiser to have said nothing, but he was determined to provide a good example for his children in speaking up when something is wrong. Nick would be the first person to say he’s made mistakes, but despite the huge price his family has paid, he feels he would probably do it all again.
Do you keep in much contact with Nick now the book is done?
Yes, we’re in constant contact. He’s thrilled the book is doing so well, as am I!
This book comes just months after your last success story,  the award winning That Bligh Girl. How do you manage to churn them out so quickly?!
Ha! I’m lucky – I just love what I do. I really enjoy writing and sharing other people’s lives — whether they’re living and breathing today, or were amazing historical figures.
What are you working on now – if you can tell us?!
I’ve gone back to the First Fleet of 1788 and have written a novel, coming out later this year, on Philip Gidley King, the third governor of the new colony of New South Wales – which was to become Australia. Called The Governor, His Wife and His Mistress, it’s the story of the two women in his life, and the battles behind the scenes.
Run For Your Life, by Sue Williams (Simon & Schuster) is out now.

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