The year is 1962; The American and Soviet forces have just been through a Mexican standoff that could have resulted in the total annihilation of both superpowers. While Soviet ships attempted to cross the American embargo, several thousand miles away in Boston there is a child sitting on his toy chest banging away on the side like there will be no tomorrow. Allan Filipov 54, recalls that he was just 2 years old sitting in his house at the end of the hall on his toy chest. The chest, he described built by his dad, “Had a chain on it so it wouldn’t flip over.” Trying to cause as much disorder as possible, Allan was, as he described to be “madder than heck”, beating away at the chain in his chest calling out “Khrushchev! Khrushchev!” Like he was the name of some monstrous creature that was the cause of all problems in his life and the world as a 2 year old would know it. Knowing that a 2 year old can’t possibly comprehend the political dislocation and complexity of the Cold War and the relationship between the two super powers, it wasn’t till some years later he realised why he was so distressed over the former Russian General Secretary. The fact of the matter was that the 2 year old had no beef with Russian GS, but was in fact angry over his brother’s, David Filipov’s birth. “Everyone was paying attention to him, and no one was paying attention to little Allan.” It was due to the political context that everyone was talking about Khrushchev at the time, this led Allan to believe that it was Khrushchev’s fault no one was paying attention to him. “It was October 1962 and everyone in the world was saying his name; Nikita Khrushchev. And I must have heard it so many times.” Of course Allan never knew about the Cuban Missile Crisis nor did he even know who Khrushchev was, apart from the fact that everything was his fault. The story of course only came to make sense years later when Allan was older and more educated. It’s these moments in our life that bare such significance, even when we are completely unaware of them, they manage to stick into our minds. He remembers that it was only just a year? Later when was John. F. Kennedy was assassinated (this was his second memory). “Certainly we have memories in between, but it’s things like that. Everyone remembers where they were on 9/11, everybody remembers where there were on this or that”. Jump a year ahead; the boy screaming is now searching around his house for his mother in need of assistance. 1963, he was trying to tie his shoelaces and walked over to his mom who was on the back porch and crying. “I asked, why are you crying?” Allan said in such subtlety, to which she responded bluntly, that the president had been shot. “To not only be able to have an early memory but to be able to put your finger on it and why I was doing what I was doing and where is rather interesting”. Living In the United States at this age was especially a stressful and dangerous time for a child to be brought up. With the threat of nuclear war around the corner, the idea of this danger was enough to scare anyone. “My mother used to say she would burn our draft numbers and send us to Canada if we ever got drafted”. Luckily for David and Allan, they were young enough to not receive their numbers and get conscripted into the gruesome Vietnam War.
Allan currently lives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia where he works as a geologist for the Norwegian Oil Company, EMGS. When asked if this memory had any profound effect on his choice of career he quickly responded with no. However, his choice of location he argued was perhaps a result of him moving around a lot as a child. His brother, David’s career and location were somewhat similar. While Allan became a geologist David took on a career as a Journalist. “How did this memory affect my life? Not at all. But I know my brother David had very different memories”. With the fear of imminent nuclear annihilation schools in the United States would have drills where all the students and teachers would hide under their desks to avoid as much of the fallout as possible. “David was terrified”. Allan goes on to explain that our career choices change as we go on. David, who now lives in Boston, writes for the Boston Globe. According to Allan, during his time at university, David was very interested in French and when he went to university at Brown, he was more interested in Russian studies. As a result, he spent a lot of his time in Russia, which then led to his job working for the Moscow Times. David spent a significant amount of his career abroad covering stories around Chechnya, Chernobyl, and Afghanistan. Having a past that concerned itself so much with Russian politics makes it seem almost inevitable to get involved with it in his later years. Allan explained that during David’s time in reporting in Afghanistan he got several awards not just because of his powerful writing, but also because of their relation to Al Qaeda. Their father, Al Filipov, “He was in the very first plane that hit the world trade centre,” on September 11th 2001 he said softly. As a result, David covered a lot of the stories as the war was just beginning and had received a notable amount of attention. David is currently in Boston where he still writes for the Boston Herald
Being able to remember such poignant moments in history, I asked Allan if history was a particular subject of interest. “Well isn’t everybody? I like to see what was”. This, he said was one of the reasons why he thinks he liked the idea of being a geologist because you get to read the earth and look through the past. Not in the way an Archaeologist does, but more the mapping and seeing the decayed remains of the earth, which is now the main source of income for the company he works for. He also said that history shows us that human nature repeats itself. Allan was reading an article that was about an old Samarian artefact that when translated it told us about how they decorated their chariots, their women and the jewels and cloths they wore, “So even then they were talking about their ride, their bling and the women!” When asked if he would rather have studied history at university Allan said he would still have studied Geology. “Think about what kids know about it today: Earthquakes, volcanoes, dinosaurs and fossils. They start out with that and they have this wonderment” This childhood nature reflects on Allan so much that he said that if he could change his career, maybe he would be a teacher.
From Cuban missiles to dinosaurs, Allan’s childlike wonderment perhaps did affect his career and life today. Allan will be staying in Malaysia indefinitely and be seeing his brother in Boston over Christmas.