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The Defection of Simas Kudirka (1978)

Based on the true story of the attempted defection in 1970 by a Lithuanian seaman seeking political asylum in the United States. Kudirka was denied asylum and returned to the Soviets, ... See full summary »



Won 2 Primetime Emmys. Another 1 win & 3 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Captain Vladimir Popov
Phillip Chadway
Marvin Silbersher ...
Commander Burkalis
Peter Evans ...
Dr. Paegle
Salem Ludwig ...
Assistant Supervisor
Donald Warnock ...
Stender (as Don Warnock Jr.)


Based on the true story of the attempted defection in 1970 by a Lithuanian seaman seeking political asylum in the United States. Kudirka was denied asylum and returned to the Soviets, charged with treason, and sentenced to ten years of hard labor. It was later discovered and verified that his mother had been born in Brooklyn and gone to Lithuania at a young age, which meant she was a U. S. citizen. As a result, Kudirka was declared a U. S. citizen and in 1974 released by the Soviets. Written by Steve Bulota

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Release Date:

23 January 1978 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La deserción de Simas Kudirka  »

Filming Locations:


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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


The Coast Guard cutter featured in the film was still in service as of 2017. Homeported in Cape Canaveral, Florida, USCGC Vigilant (WMEC-617) has been patrolling the seas for over 50 years. See more »


During Mr. Chadway's yelling in his officer of what has happened, for over five seconds, we can see what appears to be the boom mic hanging just in frame overhead. A couple minutes later when letting some guests in, on the left, upward, we can see what appears to be another piece of filming equipment. See more »


Commander Edward Devon: Now, where do you live?
Commander Edward Devon: Home!
Simas Kudirka: Home! Home Klaipeda, Lietuva. Klaipeda, Lietuva.
Commander Edward Devon: Lietuva? In Russia?
Simas Kudirka: No Russia, no! Klaipeda contrary. Russia take Lietuva. Lietuva prisoner.
See more »

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User Reviews

Production Trivia
21 January 2013 | by See all my reviews

The Russian fishing trawler portrayed in the film was Maine Maritime Academy's training vessel - the 'TV State of Maine' (formerly USNS Upshur). Several midshipmen from the Class of 1978 were used as extras, the filming being done during the spring training cruise. As a freshman, I was not eligible for a paid part, but did make it into the film by standing under the #6 lifeboat during a passing shot of the ship. I am barely distinguishable, but at least I know that it's me!

"Converting" the ship was done with some basic props, including cardboard signs inscribed in Russian glued over the standard English nameplates (e.g., for the radio room). I believe the trawler's name was done on canvas and somehow tied off to the hull.

Simas Kudirka's leap from the trawler to the cutter was of course performed by a stunt double, and resulted in a hard landing from a considerable height. The actor lay motionless for awhile, presumably to gather himself, before moving again. Of course, the final cut shows him jumping up immediately as if it was no big deal.

Fascinating experience for a kid to see. I wish I could find a copy of the movie.

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