Kitty Harris bigraphy, stories - Spies

Kitty Harris : biography

May 25, 1899 - 1966

Kitty Harris (May 25, 1899 – 1966) was a Soviet secret agent and "long-time special courier of the OGPU-NKVD foreign intelligence during the 1930s and 1940s."


In 1899, Catherine Harris was born to a poor Russian Jewish family in London. Her father was a shoemaker from Belostok, Russia (now Bialystok, Poland). In 1908, the family emigrated to Winnipeg, Canada. In 1912 at age 13, she began to work, first at a cigar factory, then in a clothing factory as a seamstress. She joined the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or "Wobblies") union and was a leader of the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike. Between 1919 and 1923, Harris moved with her family to Chicago.

In Chicago, Harris became secretary of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers local. She joined the Communist Party of the USA by January 1923. In 1925, Harris may have married Earl Browder, a prominent CPUSA functionary and later party leader. In 1927, Harris transferred to the Communist Party of the USSR. In 1928, she visited Shanghai, China with Browder: there, he became secretary of the Pan-Pacific Trade Union Secretariat (part of the Comintern) and she a courier. In 1929, she followed Browder to Moscow, where he reported for "special work. Harris returned to the USA [year?] and worked for the American Negro Labor Congress.

In 1931, Harris joined OGPU foreign intelligence under "Illegal" operative Abram Einhorn. In 1932, she went to work Berlin (a center of Soviet espionage operations, particularly passport forgery). In October 1935, she went to Moscow for training in radio operation, photography, and cryptography.

In 1936, Harris went to Paris as an NKVD radio operator. In 1937, she returned to Moscow for training in new equipment then went to London as keeper and courier of a safe house. Under rezident Gregory Grafpen, she liaised with Donald Maclean of the Cambridge Five. In 1938, she followed Maclean to Paris as liaison. In 1939, Maclean married an American: his relationship with Harris ended. When France fell to the Nazis in 1940, she escaped to Moscow, where she worked in the NKGB foreign intelligence reserve.

In 1941, Harris went to the United States to work on Soviet penetration of the Manhattan Project. In 1943, she went to Mexico City as courier for rezident spy Lev Vasilevsky. Vasilevsky sent her to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where her role included running a safe house within a drugstore.

In December 1937, Harris had applied for and received Soviet citizenship. When retired from active service [dated?], she received an apartment in Riga. There, problems with alcoholism and mental illness surfaced.

Harris died in Gorky in 1966.


Harris's code name in the Venona files appears as "Ada" or "Aida". Her real identity was only discovered in 2001.

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