How Ukrainian immigrants used a Tor-like network to send uncensored letters during the Cold War

Fusion

In the early 1980s, Helen Matwyshyn’s uncle was run down by a military vehicle while he was crossing a street. The uncle was a veterinarian in Ukraine — which was part of the USSR at the time — and a critic of the Communist Party. The family suspected that it had  been an attempted assassination, but he survived, suffering broken bones and permanently shortened legs. Matwyshyn’s mother got the news about the accident in a letter written by a cousin in Ukraine who sent it to a person in Poland who hand-delivered it to another person in Poland who mailed it to a family friend in Chicago who then delivered the letter to its intended recipient, Helen’s grandmother. The roundabout method of delivery wasn’t because that was how the postal system worked then; it was to evade government censors in the USSR who closely monitored written communication, especially letters being sent or received from people based…

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