Q&A With ‘The Real Argo’ Houseguests, Cora and Mark Lijek

“Although I loved the movie ARGO and found it kept me on the edge of my seat, Locked Up Abroad gave us the opportunity to tell the true story of what happened to us.”

CORA AMBURN-LIJEK

About Cora: Cora was 25 and working as a consular assistant in the visa unit of the U.S. embassy in Iran during the height of the Iranian hostage crisis.  Her husband Mark Lijek was a Consular Officer in the embassy. After the hostage rescue profiled in Locked Up Abroad: The Real Argo, she accompanied Mark to his subsequent posts in the US foreign service. She pursued her ESL teaching career in Hong Kong, Nepal, Poland, Germany, and the US. Now living in Washington state, she has been working for the Skagit Conservation District for almost 15 years as a staff assistant.  Cora and Mark have a son and a daughter now 26 and 24. 

Q:  Why did you agree to tell your story to National Geographic Channel for Locked up Abroad? What does LUA offer that the movie ARGO doesn’t?
I agreed to tell our story for a few reasons.  First, I want to tell people how wonderful the people and the Canadian government who helped us out in a dire situation were and to know the terrible risks they took.  They deserve a lot of credit and attention for what they did.  I also do not want people to forget about the hostages and what they went through.  The premise of National Geographic Channel’s program was also intriguing.  Although I loved the movie Argo and found it kept me on the edge of my seat, LUA gave us the opportunity to tell the true story of what happened to us.

Q:  Have you been back to Iran?
I have not been back to Iran.  We were told in 1979 that we were on an arrest list.  Even though Iran is an historically interesting country, I would not be willing to go back unless there were a regime change and a true democracy or benevolent ruler were in place.

Q:   How did your experience in Iran change you?  How did it help or hurt your marriage?
Because of the family type atmosphere the Sheardowns provided us, I decided that I wanted to have children.  That changed our lives a lot more than I realized it would, but I think it was a good decision.  I like to think it also made a better person in that I would like to think I am willing to help people.  Going through such a difficult and harrowing situation made Mark and I closer than we were although we were already very close.

MARK LIJEK

“The Iran experience affected me in many ways.  I was young and impressionable.  I learned a lot from our host John Sheardown about courage and determination and doing the right thing regardless.”

About Mark: After his experience in Iran, Mark continued working in the Foreign Service, and took assignments in Hong Kong, Kathmandu, Nepal; Warsaw, Poland and Frankfurt, Germany. He also served several tours at the Department of State in Washington, DC. The Iran experience remained a constant in his life. While media interest came and went, Lijek never forgot the selfless help provided by Canadian Embassy personnel during the crucial months following the takeover. He remained in touch with several of the Canadians and served as the US-side coordinator for the periodic reunions hosted by the Canadian side. He and Cora continued their friendship with Tony Mendez, the CIA officer who masterminded their rescue. Both were involved on the margins with the film Argo, a dramatized version of Tony’s escape plan. Following retirement the Lijeks returned to the Pacific Northwest. He is the author of “The Houseguests: A Memoir of Canadian Courage and CIA Sorcery” available at: http://marklijek.com/.

Q: Why did you agree to tell your story to National Geographic Channel for Locked up Abroad? What does LUA offer that the movie ARGO doesn’t?

Argo is heavily dramatized.  While I think it is an excellent film, it is primarily the story of Tony Mendez and there are considerable gaps as far as the days we spent between the attack on the embassy and our reaching the Canadians.  In addition, the portrayal of our time with the Canadians is not accurate. LUA offered an opportunity to tell the complete story.

Q:  Have you been back to Iran?
We have not.  Last I heard, admittedly some 25 years ago now, I was on an arrest list.

Q:  How did your experience in Iran change you?  How did it help or hurt your marriage?
The Iran experience affected me in many ways.  I was young and impressionable.  I learned a lot from our host John Sheardown about courage and determination and doing the right thing regardless.  I think I developed more self confidence, a sense that I can cope with adversity.  I do not think it changed our marriage.  We were fortunate that the circumstances under which we lived did not stress our marriage, both in the sense that we did not, I believe, have any fundamental disagreements about the decisions we made during the time in Iran, and in the sense that the actual experience of our day to day life did not create a stressful environment on the marriage, even if it was, at times, stressful in other ways.

Tune in to Locked Up Abroad: The Real Argo this Sunday, May 5th, at 10P

Comments

  1. […] I knew. I was at the theater in a New York minute because I am a huge fan of movies. This link (Q&A With ‘The Real Argo’ Houseguests, Cora and Mark Lijek)  features the real story (not the dramatized version from Hollywood, the one that won an Oscar, […]

  2. edscan
    Medford OR
    January 26, 2014, 7:26 pm

    What Cora and Mark were before they were assigned to
    the Iranian Embassy in Teheran would tell a different story
    than ARGO. Why don’t they really tell the truth?

  3. Argo Yahoo Movie Hk | Movie BJ
    August 25, 2014, 8:27 pm

    […] Q&A With ‘The Real Argo’ Houseguests, Cora and Mark … – “Although I loved the movie ARGO and found it kept me on the edge of my seat, Locked Up Abroad gave us the opportunity to tell the true story of what happened to us.”… […]

  4. edscan
    Medford OR
    June 25, 2015, 4:14 pm

    If Mark and Cora told the whole truth about the Iranian takeover
    of the American Embassy, it would blow the roof off of the Middle East.
    Argo was a lie.

  5. Edscan
    United States
    April 4, 12:37 pm

    Mark and Cora were both Bush CIA people assigned to
    Iran right before the takeover. They made the takeover
    occur by giving the students actual contingency files of
    the Embassy. There were four of them.

  6. Edward Scanlin
    Medford OR
    August 5, 11:42 am

    When did they arrive in Tehearn?
    What was their mission?
    There were four of them.
    Same mission.