The Defection of Simas Kudirka

The Defection of Simas Kudirka is a 1978 American made-for-television drama film based on actual events, featuring Alan Arkin as Simas Kudirka, a Lithuanian merchant seaman who attempts to defect from the Soviet Union to the United States by jumping onto a U.S. Coast Guard cutter. Among the movie's awards are two Emmys and another three Emmy nominations. The movie was directed by David Lowell Rich.


The movie revolves around the true events of a Lithuanian man named Simas Kudirka, who was at the time was a radio operator on a Soviet fish processing vessel. When his ship meets at sea with a U.S. Coast Guard cutter near Martha's Vineyard in 1970, Kudirka makes a dramatic leap from the deck, landing on the USCGC ''Vigilant''. He announces that he wishes to defect, but confusion over U.S. policy on defections prevents the Americans from offering him asylum. As the crew of the Vigilant looks on helplessly, Soviet officers are allowed to board the cutter, beat and bind Kudirka, and drag him back to his own ship. This tinderbox political incident occurs during a Soviet/U.S. conference over fishing rights.