Carmel author’s book reflects on student life in the Soviet Union
By Mark Ambrogi
Now that Latif Shams is retired, he is able to reflect on his life experiences.
Shams’ book, “Unforgettable: My Student Life in the Soviet Union,” was released by Page Publishing in June and is available on Amazon.com.
“I explained what was going on when I was there and what kind of dictatorship we had,” Shams said. “How they followed you. Even in the dancing halls, the KGB was looking and checking everyone. I cannot forget that because I was a foreign student. They were very nice to us.”
The book describes the education system, tradition and the culture of the communist regime. Shams kept some journals at the time.
Shams, who turns 69 Aug. 6, is fluent in English, Russian and Persian languages.
Originally from Afghanistan, he received a scholarship to study in the Soviet Union and was there from 1965 to 1971. He spent one year in Moscow learning the Russian language and then five years in Kiev, graduating from there. He did his post graduate work at the University of Maryland and then returned to Afghanistan and became president of the national insurance company.
However, Shams fled Afghanistan in 1980 after the Soviets invaded his country in 1979, starting a nine-year war.
Shams received political asylum in the U.S., arriving with $400. Eight months later, his wife and two young children joined him and settled in New York City, where he lived for more than 30 years, working in the insurance industry. Shams and his wife, Zohora, moved to Carmel four years ago where some relatives live. They still have a home in New York as well, as his wife is still working part-time.
When Shams was growing up, Afghanistan was a free market system.
“When I went to the Soviet Union, everything was ran and planned by the government,” Shams said. “There’s not freedom of speech and freedom of press.”
Shams said the book is meant to be informative for younger Americans who don’t know much about the Soviet Union, which dissolved in 1991.
Shams plans to write his next book on Afghanistan’s political history.
“I believe in political writing, you have to be neutral, so it takes a lot of time to research,” Shams said.