Maria Andreyevna Ostrakova, a Soviet émigrée in Paris, is told by a Soviet agent calling himself “Kursky” that her daughter Alexandra, who she was forced to leave behind, may be permitted to join her for “humanitarian reasons”. Maria eagerly applies for French citizenship for her daughter, but time passes with no sign of Alexandra and no further contact with “Kursky”. Realising she has been duped, Maria writes to General Vladimir, a former Soviet general and British agent, for help. Vladimir immediately realises that Maria was unwittingly used to provide a “legend”, or false identity, for an unknown young woman, a ploy which KGB spymaster Karla has fruitlessly tried before. Vladimir also recognises that the operation is wholly unofficial, because Karla uses blundering amateur agents instead of trained intelligence officers.
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