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MEMOIRES OF the DOCTOR ALEXANDRE OKINCZYC
(Doctor of the poor in Villepreux)
DEPORTATION AND ESCAPE
MEMOIRES OF OUR GREAT FATHER ALEXANDRE OKINCZYC
Our grandfather Doctor Alexander Okinczyc was born on 28 January 1839 in Siedlce, Lithuania. The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was annexed by Poland, five times smaller country, in 1386 by the marriage, for reason of State d' Hedwige (Jadwiga) of Anjou, fundamentally catholic queen of Poland with the Grand-Duke of Lithuania Vladislav Jagellon (Jagiello) of pagan origin. This marriage converted Lithuania into Catholicism. Alexander Okinczyc made his secondary studies in Pruzany (in the district of Grodno) then he studied a medicine at the Faculty of Moscow. He had just settled in Cherechew near Pruzany when the insurrection of April 1863 erupted in the province of Grodno against the Russian occupant. He joined insurgent, the captain Karol Sassulicz, with two hundred partisans. The insurrection having failed, our grandfather stopped in November 1863 at his parents, was taken along to Pruzany, arrested and condemned to twelve years of forced work in Siberia. After deportation and escape described by him hereafter, he settled in France where after continuation of his studies of medicine. He followed his occupation in Villepreux-les-Clayes, not far from Versailles. He died on 18 March 1886 as a victim of an epidemic of influenza contracted at the bedside of his patients. Villepreux venerated him, a street carries his first name "the street of Doctor Alexandre" and on his tomb in the cemetery of this city, one can read "slave of the duty, victim of his devotion".
PARIS, September 2, 1865 25 street of Ulm
"Lithuania, O my fatherland
You are as health
That one only can appreciate
Who lost it for ever."
More than two years already passed; two years that I remained without writing, without fixing on paper the facts of which I want to have the memory. It seems in a so short time! A few years ago, I devoted a few moments of freedom to note all the events run out from my childhood until our insurrection. These memories remained the property of my family. I did not have then, by them writing, of other reason than my personal pleasures and to close friends. Today, I am pleased to have these memories left to them. When I am gone, they will find some consolation in this reading.
These two last years are richer in events then the first part of my existence. Dear parents, now that I am here healthy and that especially I am free, I still remain painful with the thought that perhaps I will never see you again. I am trying to say to you, forgetting nothing, the smallest things that can interest you. I hope that you will read it one day.
My happiest wishes are to send these memories to you… or perhaps, who knows, to give them in person. But when that will be possible? Will I still find you on this world, my dear parents? You are old, you endured such an amount of misery and the infamous Russian government overpowers you still unceasingly with new misfortunes. O my God, why can't I any more, like formerly, to support you, to comfort you? What will become from now on with my two younger brothers? You will not be able any more to give them a good instruction. The poor boys! What kind of future is reserved for them? This thought alone can kill you my dear Parents and me... I would like to come to you with assistance!
Today, I write all that for you. You expected of me to be condemned to a more terrible fate. If I can manage here to earn my living, I will be increasingly happy, because I am not any more between the claws of the Muscovite bear: I am completely free and I only depend on me. I would prefer working here and rather gain painfully my bread than to be in the mines of Siberia and to depend on despotism. It is said that who was not in prison does not know happiness. That is true, but we can taste happiness only when we have the chance to escape and feel completely free. All that is already past... I am unaware of what will be the future... whatever it is, I will see it coming with the impression from happiness because it is freedom... I am not more in the Muscovite hands. To be free! To be free! What a joy! It is really necessary to understand how it feels to weigh on its shoulders the painful weight of slavery... I was overpowered for so long time under the Muscovite yoke that still I cannot believe that I am today free. The past appears a dream to me and then my joy is so deep and so soft since August 10 that I am in Paris on this so accessible and hospitable land for exiled!
Being still in Russia, I sent a letter to you, my dear parents, through Ludomir Pisalka, my brother-in-law. I said to you that I was escaped prisoner, but I wrote in such way that you could hardly doubt it because it did not have to be forgotten that I was still in St. Petersburg. From Siberia, I had written to you previously: you should then have recognized my writing. But I am afflicted while thinking that if my letters could comfort you, they could not, however, to reassure you completely on my subject and that today still you tremble for me and you wonder what I became. I comfort myself only with the thought that earlier or later you will receive these pages. What a joy it will be then for me! I had already projected to write these memories when in Siberia I thought of escaping. I thought of it like a reward for all my sufferings. Now wipe your tears, all made a success of me and I am saved. I wait for assurances that you accepted my fate.
At the time that preceded the Insurrection, many facts came to give us hopes for the future. I was then in Moscow where I finished my medical studies. We received frequent news from the country that then gave to the Muscovites continual evidence of Polish vitality. We spoke about patriotic demonstrations that proved to the Russians that the Polish Nation lived despite everything. Even a service for five young Polish killed in Warsaw was celebrated officially. The students took part in the assembly of Horodlo; during this time the government seemed to sleep and pretended all to be unaware of anything. One can believe however that it feared fatal consequences then and that it was in the embarrassment in front of the extent of the movement.
In April 1863, the Insurrection erupted in the region of Grodno. Because the passage of Roginski in the district of Pruzany which was carried out in winter it did not have a continuation then. I however report these facts after the dislocation of the party of Roginski. One of his partisans named Samulski became then the true head of the detachment of Pruzany. He was a man of doubtful probity as it later was known and who finished sadly. A bullet left the rows of his compatriots and reached him in full face only marking it. He survived but working in the service of the Russians thanking him for his treason, sent nevertheless to Siberia. As I had received the command from Wojewodzki, I went at once to the place indicated for the gathering and the concentration of the volunteers. During this voyage, I went from house to house, throwing there a call to the Insurrection for all entreated. There I then passed in front of the house of my parents without being able to enter and my heart was tightened with the thought to be able to receive their blessing; but the time was running away and it was necessary to hasten.
Our concentration was carried out in the forest of Lesmiezowka. We were initially only one to score. Then later Samulski joined us with his partisans so that soon we were 70 and almost all without neither weapons nor ammunition. Our goal was to join Felix Wodsk, a current head of our district and who gathered the insurrectionists on another side. There during several days, we sought to join in, not being able to arrive, because it seemed they fled. After a few days of useless travelling, we withdrew ourselves to the forest of Michalin. We remained there until we could slip into the party of Gustav Staminski, made up of more than two hundred men and where we formed the Third Company under the command of the Captain Karol Sassulicz. As for me, I was named a doctor of the troops. I met there my two German cousins Stanislaw Okinczyc, Russian lieutenant of artillery, and a student Felix Okinczyc from the University of St. Petersburg, like some other friends. Stanislaw had taken the command of the Second Company.
Soon also we had weapons and ammunition and were ready to fight. We had among us many peasants armed with forged weapons. We had only one score of horses. We had a strategic plan and missed neither of money nor food. We often sang patriotic songs accompanied by a flutist whom we had in our company. All those who formed part of our district had the heart filled with hope since our meeting because they had been believed lost under the command of Samulski. He did not inspire confidence. What a solemn was the meeting and what a cordial greeting was made to us! In other words, that made me think at this time to celebrate and solemn ratification of the union of Lithuania with the Kingdom of Poland, accomplished in Lublin under Sigismond August Jagellon in 1569. On the dark horizon of the forest, one could see our detachments which one recognized with the white caps of confederated. They went to the steps, led by their leaders. The hearts beat in this moment, then the junction took place: I still see a painter trying to reflect a view. Our immense virgin forests kept an imposing and majestic charm. Fires of bivouac illuminated gigantic trees. The multitude of men armed sauntering like almost unreal phantoms in the half-light mobile and changing by the play with the flames. These groups with insurrectionists sitting throwing their patriotic songs with the echoes with the forest whose oppressed ground seemed to quiver and shout the alarm clock of freedom. The steam of the kitchens, these spaced fires, the rattling of weapons and the laughter, the jokes even and sometimes with far the plaintive sound from a flute: all that composed a unit so full with charm and serene harmony which there will remain forever engraved in my memory. These impressions of then are all the more deep in me that they were born from the pressing breath of hope that animated them alas... all things that had sunk so quickly in the defeat and the ruin.
I forgot to report a fact of the first days of our forwarding. Under the command of Samulski, we passed in the surroundings of the town of Bereza. We had to cross a village called Ogrodnik during the night. The moon lit the countryside. After having taken some food from an inn located at outskirts of the village, we followed again the main road. In the horizon, we saw far away the martyrdom raised on a small hill and two small trees. The hillock was covered with stones as we saw it under moon light by approaching. We experienced all this sad landscape in the middle of the quiet night. All around the Martyrdom extended as far as the eye can see from the brownish fields and with far small castle. This sight attracted us and animated all of a common feeling, we approached the cross, this encouraged our redemption, and we knelt and, from our hearts escaped a burning prayer towards the Creator. At this moment, the moon was reflected in many high eyes towards the Sky. Silence was so deep; we were in immobility so complete that one had been able us to believe changed into statues. There was however in us of this moment so much of life, so much of feelings! It is true that our ecstasy was of short duration, but each one of us was raised with new forces, trustful in the future and the heart full with courage. Our holy and noble cause entrusted to divine protection.
At some time from there, being not far from Alba (pertaining to Puslowski) one morning around 3 A.M., we heard distant shots. Soon after a peasant arrived who came on these sides and told us that a few kilometres only from us, the Russians had met Wlodek and after having exchanged some bullets, they started shooting from different sides. Hoping to join Wlodek, we left the field in the direction that the peasant indicated to us. It is necessary that I tell here that, the day before, our small detachment entered the camp, had seen Russians in small number close to the village on outskirts of the forest. Wlodek wanted to go after them and required which were those who wanted joining him. At once, all our Company approved and was held ready. Hardly the Russians had seen us at the moment, leaving the food that they were preparing.
We left as I mentioned it above, but soon we realized that the peasant had disappeared: someone was sent on all sides in order to find him, but he was in vain. By approaching the indicated place, instead of seeing Wlodek, we saw only Russians installed in farms. At once, the command was given: a company was to remain with the camp and the two other groups go on sides and to surround the enemy. We were in the plain. Before we carried out the given commands, the Russians had seen us and fled losing their legs. We rushed after them. One told us that after having stopped a little there, they were fleeing towards Michalin. We sprang in this direction and before arriving at the inn located at one half-kilometer of the village, our avant-garde saw Russians and massacred them at once. At the same time, troops on the two sides started the shooting. It was already midday. Before Wlodek had given the command to move back to the camp towards Nuka, I was already in full fire and I saw simultaneously two detachments. Ours fought valiantly. At the end of one hour hardly, I could not believe that of a whole Russian battalion and a score of Cossacks, there did not remain even one soldier upright. Their camping, their ammunition, their drums, all was for us. The Russians perished in a great number: I could not say how many, because we did not have time to count deaths. They had a great number of casualties whom they transported to Siedlce and Pruzany, and of which not even one, as I was told, did cure wounds. Those which could escape fled without helmet and weapons, towards Siedlce and Pruzany, entering the city and howling like daemons: "More than 5 000 Polish fights us and moves towards Pruzany". The wounds of our enemies were all the more serious since our insurrectionists were using angular bullets.
Nobody of us thought to chase them. We remained on the spot, i.e. to three hundred meters from there. Rifles that we had seized from escaping enemy killed more than one Russian. For example, at entrance of the inn, Wladyslaw Leckiewicz shot down many on the bridge that crosses the road. We had few losses compared to those of the enemy. We had to deplore the death of Adolf Klebowicz, chancellor of Pruzany, two peasants (armed with forgery) of which I am unaware of the names then we had two mortally wounded men. Antoni Wladyczanski and Denis Strawinski died soon. The first expired the following day in the thatched cottage of a forester and the Russians during our second encounter, of which I will say some words further, killed the second. Among our casualties, Antoni Zukoroski had the two fists crushed by bullets. The binoculars of Wlodek that hung from his belt were broken, and a bullet crossing a sleeve burned the skin above the fist. I can give these details because it is myself who bandaged his wounds. Feeling of joy overwhelmed us all when we found ourselves healthy and safe in rows on the road. We regretted our died comrades, but we had killed so many Russians! Each one of us forgot tiredness of the day. We did not doubt any more our own forces and regained a confidence. It gave us so great proof of courage and calmed down our minds. With buckled tears, we embraced ourselves all, expressing by this mutual assurance what our hearts felt. At this time there, no word could have expressed what we tested. This moment, alas, was of a short duration! The second Russian company that we had wanted to attack the day before had learned (undoubtedly from the peasant who had informed us so well of their presence) where we are. Thus knowing that we had their battalion in front of us, they moved in carriages in order to gain a speed and attack us behind at the time when we left the battlefield. The day started to fall, our ammunition were almost exhausted. The combat did not last a long time: it was necessary for us to withdraw. We had one casualty, Roman Nadolski of Pruzany, who was reached in the groin. Our dead comrades were mutilated so much by the Muscovites that it was difficult to recognize them. Thus our comrade Klebowicz killed in the preceding combat received so many blows of bayonet and was gashed with sabre that his sisters could recognize him only by the cloth that he had and which Russians had not stripped because they found it too much soiled in blood. They also killed an old man, a glassmaker, an absolutely innocent person killed only because of his complete deafness. He did not understand the Russian language so he could not answer their questions. The Russians took this dumbness for lack of co-operation and dissimulation. Such was this memorable day.
I took a share with the Insurrection only as doctor, but unfortunately, I could not be of a great help, the field of our action was mainly in Lithuania. Always walking, we could not transport with us the patients and the casualties. We would become even less operational. It was impossible for us to get to them and calm them down which required their state. It was difficult for us to leave them with compatriots with the risk to compromise those who lodged them. In the final analysis, the wounded generally died on the spot for lack of essential care that we could not lavish on them. This was unhappy situation for us all: better was worth being killed with one blow than to die after long and cruel anguish! And what a dreadful position for a doctor seeing oneself reduced with the impotence in front of the casualties who required so much delicate care! Because of that and especially because of my bad health, I did not remain a long time any more in the Insurrection. The wandering so painful that we unceasingly made on foot through the forests deteriorated my health so much. I was little accustomed to such an excess of tiredness that I had to continue. I often disappeared. Then one day the wheel of a carriage heavily crushed my foot. I then lost the little of force which remained in me and it was impossible for me not only go, but to hold myself upright. My legs were swollen, I suffered terribly from the kidneys. Fortunately not far from the place where we were then my uncle lived, in Kobylowka, a field belonging to Zamoyski. My uncle was the manager. He sought me and took me along to his place; from there, I went to my parents where I remained until my arrest.
Before even as I had returned to health and had regained my strength, I lived already to see the fall of the Insurrection. Therefore I tried only to return to my comrades. In addition, my parents had a great need for my assistance. Unfortunately, the reality was different. Initially, I felt so weak that I could not hold myself upright, neither to remain lying, nor to even think without tiredness. When I was in a position to leave, I was going to visit our unhappy wounded. I could not find them at the same place because, in order not to be taken, they were obliged to wander in the forests under the guard of a decent person who took care of them. Among them, of terribly wounded, in the height of the summer the worms generally invaded the wounds which were bandaged only very seldom. I do not know by which miracle these men whose wounds were mortal returned little by little to health. Their horrible wounds cured and were closed and one hardly could believe in a similar thing when one thinks under which conditions of hygiene these unhappy were. I could quote many examples, in addition to what I saw myself, I can quote many cases similar provided by my colleagues from the Kingdom with whom I was in contact either in prisons or on the road to Siberia and even during my stay in Tomsk.
Staying at my parents, I intended to speak about cruelty and about cowardice of the heads of the Russian army, for example of one named Kremev (major) which one can call "the assassin" and of his worthy collaborator Domazyrow (lieutenant). This last had been born and been living in Lublin. They behaved like Mongolian generals as their names suggested. Both of them allowed cruelties imposed as well on the prisoners during the Board of Inquiry as on inhabitants of the cities and the provinces killing the most innocent with blows of whip (nahajki) during the investigation. A young man, treasurer of the village of Kimatyck named Paszkiewicz had the crossed rib cage right through and died the following day. The Russians forced the doctor to declare that he had died of tuberculosis. His death involved his wife who fell through and the child. They ill-treated a poor disabled person, Medard Skoczynski. Then they focused on an old man and on many others whom were tortured. They also did it to a widow of old age, Sabina Ostromecka. I do not insist to mention all the insults of which were watered with each step on their victims and of the insults such as only can utter the worthy children of the Russian Empire. In the surroundings of Pruzany, they set fire to a whole locality and ploughed down the ruins and all the inhabitants were sent without judgement to the eastern part of Russia. They stripped even the children of their clothing. The little poor had to cross Russia in full winter and in spite of the feelings of pity of the inhabitants of Moscow where men and women covered them with their furs and gave them money, all died before arriving to the destination. They set fire to Pruzany and blamed the insurrectionists to have put fire, in twenty places at the same time. Exasperated, the inhabitants managed to seize some Cossacks while arming themselves with wood from their houses in ruin and trailed them in front of the commanders whereas they still held in hand the torches that had lit the fires. They claimed justice with the military authorities. Russians immediately promised it to them and here is the conclusion: occupants immediately slackened the defendants and in all the newspapers, they made appear articles showing the insurrectionists to have put fire to the city. We could not have put fire to this city during the Insurrection. We were far away from the cities. And what kind of goal would have been a similar act? We could not even have acted by revenge because the town of Pruzany always carried out with zeal all that it considered useful to our cause. No one could from now on go any more from one district to the other, even from one village to another without obtaining a Government written authorization. The contributions overpowered all the noble ones. The state confiscated their goods. The government liquidated the land. The art objets were mutilated and destroyed with vandalism without precedent. The country was subjected to all abuses with fire and blood. Local officials were replaced by worst kind of servants sent from Russia. The exiled or other civil servants whose only crime was to be a Catholic or to bear a Polish name were fired. This rabble was staying long evening in the inns and it was not rare to see decorations trailing in the mud of the brooks. Muraviev, the "peacemaker"! This wound of Lithuania shone already in all the glare of its infernal glory and vomited on our unhappy country all tortures of the hell.
Generally, each insurrection involves after it certain abuses. On one side the despair and the revenge on an oppressed nation and the other side the fury of the usurper enter in scene. Under these conditions, it is difficult to put a brake at the atrocities and massacres which accompany any civil war fatally. In all these infringements with the military laws, one can recognize the character of people, a degree of intellectual development and, so to speak the value of a race. It was whereas the Russians proved how much it still was in them the character of their ancestors and several centuries were not enough for them to remove this cruelty that glorified formerly their fathers. One can easily find a proof of what I say in the attitude of Ganeckoy. He was a man of ripe age with the congested face that expressed a constant state of anger. Outside, he was thus little engaging, thin, always agitated, carrying a grey cardigan and wearing long boots: here, in a way, a typical portrait of a commander of Russian Army troops. One did not know which were his origins and why this station had been entrusted to him. It was visible that he avoided fighting with us because partisans traversed the district from one end to another with the speed of light. He wished to be liked by the Emperor and preferred to be useful in delivering bullets. In truth, he was this kind of man whose life was more in safety. It would be difficult and long to enumerate his exploits. I will speak only about facts of which I can be sure of the authenticity. One day, he walked in full gale in Pruzany. He met a teacher with name of Giedroyc, he asked him where was the post office. At once, the teacher indicated to him politely in which direction he should go. They separated. After few steps, pretending to have forgotten to request another information from Giedroyc, he turned back, called him and started to challenge him, pointing out to him that the teacher had dared to speak to him without a proper respect: he should however have seen with whom he dealt. Ganeckoy asked, " Who are you? " and when he learned that he was a teacher, reacted with a fury against the person. He had a very special aversion for the teachers, probably because they spread around them the civilization that he feared. The poor fellow would certainly end up in prison if, by a fortunate coincidence, an officer had not appeared suddenly and Ganeckoy focused on him reacting like insane, insulting him in Russian and in this way he forgot his first victim. The similar event to the retired old teacher happened to Charewski who sat on the threshold of his house, rather far away from the road and had not taken off his cap with the passage of Ganeckoy. That day, poor Jew could not escape a punishment and had to accept fifty blows of whip, just on the street. Ganeckoy satisfied with the work done in Pruzany, went to Szeretew. There, from morning to evening, he worked for his Tsar in the same way. It should be mentioned here that at the time of the passage of Boginski in this village, we took two inhabitants and a Jew and condemned them to be hung for their betrayal of Boginski, when they revealed to Russians where he was. One of captured inhabitants succeeded in fleeing and thus escaped death. The other and the Jew were hung. Ganeckoy, in his incomprehensible kindness, ordered to the inhabitant who escaped with his life from our hands to execute two hundred blows of whip on someone else in the public place. The punishment was directed to one of our partisans, a young student who got lost on the road and whom I do not remember any more the name, could not come to the right place and the enemy captured him. During the execution he was treated in an atrocious way. When the unhappy one started to die and he had to be held upright, his hands were attached to the arms of cross and he was struck so cruelly that he became almost dead. Without leaving the great place of the village, the commander called for the orthodox priest, ordering him to come and celebrate a funeral service on the spot in the memory of the inhabitant and the Jew who had been hung. Frightened priest ran at once. The service was celebrated in the presence of uhlans, of the inhabitants and the Jews that he had made come and whom, on the command of Ganeckoy, had to kneel and be raised several times during the ceremony. I hold this account to the priest who told me that when the finished ceremony required kissing the cross and the relics by everybody, he did not know how to react. Thus, he turned to Ganeckoy; he asked him whether all without exception were to kiss the cross. Fortunately for the priest, Ganeckoy was in a hurry to finish the celebration and kissed the cross with his officers and turned to the Jews, shouting: " bring wine! ". In a wink, one brought wines and glasses. Then filling two glasses and by taking one in each hand, he ran like mad through the place, forcing all the assistants to shout "Hurrah for the Tsar!". Misfortune waited those who abstained from doing it. The wine that fell from two glasses stained his clothing. During this time, his officers emptied bottles; magically the alcohol did not get to their heads. At the end, they got all into carriages and left the village.
This General would never allow that his orders were discussed. The unhappy one who had this audacity had paid his temerity with the whip. It was not all what happened in our vicinity. The General had required that everybody provide him the carriages for the transport of the whole his regiment from one small village from the surroundings. However the village was too poor, so that the execution of this kind of order was not possible. One of noble having dared to make the remark of it was condemned to the torment of the whip. Another time, he spent the night at the orthodox priest, in the district of Kobrynsk, near Triel. There was a small field whose owner was an old gentleman. While staying there, the priest had some unkind comments with Ganeckoy about the old landowner, so that the next morning, the old man saw his field invaded by uhlans. He was afraid that they arrived to him just to annoy him. At once, Ganeckoy approached him and asked where was the owner. "It is myself " "Where is your son?" "Two years ago, I sent him to the University of St Petersburg and I did not see him since; He writes sometimes, but for a long time I did not have any more any news from him." "You lie, you son of bitch, you sent him to the insurrectionists". The old man said that the commander was wrong and he said true. "Seize him". Soldiers threw him at once to the ground and one of them coiled blows of whip. His wife and her daughters ran and threw themselves to the knees of Ganeckoy, beseeching his pity. He pushed them back brutally with foot and little was required that he could order to beat them too in turn. They had to flee back to the house while crying, where soon someone brought the old man without consciousness.
Hardly this drama had been just completed that another started. The treasurer seeing how the Russians maltreated his master feared for himself. He hid well imprudently in a haystack. The uhlans and the Cossacks were searching everywhere intended to find a guilty; they found him and dragged him in front of their commander; they assumed that because this one had hidden he must be quite guilty. Ganeckoy did not need any reason. He ordered to give 50 blows of whip to the unfortunate treasurer.
It is painful to tell similar things: it would seem that they are Arab tales of Thousand and One Nights. However, all that is only too true, alas! Here is the typical Russian officer, supporting the Tsar, the representative of this "wise government" and here that he made us to endure of their share. In our district the peasants even had to suffer more. There was between Pruzany and Bozany an inaccessible road during the winter and which the government wanted to improve. The commander Ellis decided, in order to facilitate the passage of the troops, to remake the road. He brought the men per hundreds from all of district to work there although at that time of the year peasants were occupied with the agricultural work. To achieve his goal he had to cut down part of the superb forest belonging to the count Zamoyski. More than 1,500 men worked there in order to finish it as fast as possible. I heard this story from the mouth of the military assessor of Siedlce when he submitted his report on the execution of last work to the military commander. At the time, I was not yet arrested. Ellis while speaking about this colossal work, he expressed himself: "this way, I was made to raise a monument here". But he did not worry how much this work had cost tears and sweats to these poor people, how much of curses were launched against him by all these peasants oppressed by tiredness. God keeps us never to forget it! The Pharaohs of Egypt raised formerly pyramids which testifies still nowadays to their dreadful despotism: all people were used to raise these stone giants, built with the sweat and with the blood of their subjects to satisfy only their pleasure. But how all that is far from us! The Tsar could have raised a city on desiccated marshes. He built the foundations of his palaces using craniums of his subjects. However why a small personality such as a head of district has the right to force thousands of men to work thus to satisfy his whims. That of the fate of our unhappy country can judge one.
I was arrested and taken to the prison of Pruzany on November 22, 1863.
I was captured in the house of my parents and was transported to Pruzany by the military commander who had to denounce me as having taken share in the Insurrection. The searches that were made in our house did not bring the discovery of any compromising paper. I was thus determined not to acknowledge anything: however I knew that it would be to me difficult to prove where I was during the time of the Insurrection. I could have declared that being a doctor of the district, I traversed the entire district, but unfortunately it was easy to check my statements, because each time I went in a village, I was obliged to sign on a register to announce my passage. Moreover, while seeking where, why and when I left Cherechew and discovering the trace of my passage, I compromised all those at which I had stopped at the time of my departure for the Insurrection, and even my brother-in-law, Ludomir Pizanka who helped me was jeopardised. I decided thus only to let myself guided by the circumstances.
The military commander accepted me rather politely and he even enabled me to go to sleep downtown under the only condition that I would give a written promise to him not to leave the city without his authorization and before my lawsuit was not finished. It seemed to me that circumstances arranged themselves for the best. Obviously, I took care not to acknowledge anything. The commander did not consult with me his hand-written report. He sent his adjutant to the chancellery to write my promise there. When this one returned, he gave to the commander a sheet while showing him a passage that related to me. I guessed that it was about me and about a denunciation. The commander opened large eyes, looked at me fixedly and posing the paper sheet on the table, he exclaimed "There is however unquestionable evidence that you took part in the insurrection". I denied vigorously, explaining to him that the person who denounced me had undoubtedly made an error having intended to speak not about me but about one of my three German cousins who were in the Insurrection. Among them, I said to him, I was not only a doctor and all three were called Okinczyc. I could speak about my cousins without fear, because the doctor was already exiled in Kungur, in the province of Perm and my two other cousins had already fled and were beyond the border. I did not manage however to convince him. He enabled me nevertheless to go to sleep downtown, but gave me the command to show up at his place the next morning at 10 am. I suspected that I would have then in front of me "eyewitnesses" who would testify against me. I speculated that if, at this time, I had had a score of roubles at my disposal, I would have fled towards the border, but alas, I did not have anything. I had intended to say that those who did not want to acknowledge were condemned on the only testimony of eyewitnesses and they were not less persecuted from those who acknowledged all. I thus decided to make for best, to acknowledge if that became necessary and to act according to circumstances', while returning the following day at the hour indicated in my judge. When I arrived at his place around 10 a.m., I managed to clear myself a passage among people who were there with some difficulties.
When I was in the centre of the room, the commander asked witnesses by pointing at me if they recognized me. O misfortune: all, unanimously, recognized me. My heart sunk hearing a similar cowardice; turning my glances towards them, I suffered even more ensuring that among the people present none was known to me. They came to testify wrongfully under the threat, or it can be, they repeated only whatever the oppressors had intended them to say. Let’s God be the judge! I forgave them for a long time, of similar people being worthier of pity than contempt. The commander turned then to me and said: "I did say to you that I would convince you". I was furious. I solved all through acknowledging costs versus other costs. I approached then and I said to him that I wished to speak only to him without any witnesses. It appeared magic. With a sign of hand, he made all the assistants come out and took along me to his room. He did not let to me open the mouth before I had not sat, probably believing that while acting politely, he would obtain more complete consents and even some denunciations. When I said to him that indeed I had taken part in the Insurrection in the capacity as doctor, he spelled to me at once a whole Russian speech, arguing that my fate would be much better if I could make more complete and more sincere consents. Naturally I promised to him to acknowledge all and nothing to hide. He then put in front of me a paper sheet, a kind of questionnaire where, with the glance, I was to register my answers. For all the defendants, the formula was the same one: "Who are you? To which religion do you belong? Which is your social position? When have you joined the insurrection? To which group have you joined? Quote the names of your comrades. Who was your commander? Who provided the weapons, the ammunition and the food?" In my answers, the words "not" or "I do not know" generally appeared and, instead of quoting the name of my comrades, I have cared to put the names of those who had died or whom had fled abroad. He read my answers, made a sad figure and for the second time, he repeated his long speech but could not, in spite of that, to obtain more consent from me. At the end, he asked me what had been my intention by taking part in the Insurrection. "Which were the moral reasons which pushed you to take part in this insurrection?"
It was impossible for me to lie more, like furious soothsayers, I launched openly risking to be condemned to die: "in the name of an old and very known feeling: to deliver my fatherland out of the oppression of the enemies". That was enough for him. He squeaked the teeth and told to me: "At present, I am obliged to stop you". Pretending an exaggerated courtesy, he devoured me with his eyes. "Do you still allow me", I asked, "to sleep downtown if I give you my word of honor that I will not leave the city without your permission?" "I then grant that to you", he answered me curtly, hiding his hands in its long sleeves as if he had fears that I would shake the hand with him when I advanced towards and I gave him my word of honor. He could remain calm: I did not have any intention to shake the hand with him. "But", he added, "I will send you to the n°4, you will be there better than in any other prison". It should be said that no other district had been as cruelly persecuted as that of Pruzany. Not only the prison n°1 could not contain all the prisoners, but also the three houses, which the Russians had had to rent for this purpose, could not handle the load. It was right to say that one was better in the houses, because one did not smell others there being not surrounded by walls as in the prison and one could, at least to see the passers by the windows and that even was a great pleasure. For my account, however, I preferred being in the n°1 because a good number of friends and even my first cousin Witold were there. I thus answered the commander: "please send me to the n°1". Not understanding the reason which pushed me to ask him that, he raised the shoulders, rolled of large eyes and greeting me as it was appropriate to an officer of the Guard, he answered to me: "With great pleasure!"
Directly from his place, I was taken along to the prison. It was on November 23, 1863. At the time, when I left with the officer, my brother Zenon who watched for my passage joined me. He met me when he learned the fate that awaited me. I said to him in a few words how my parents were to behave and how they would have to answer. It was necessary at all costs that they support in front of the judges that I had left for the Insurrection. I had still time to warn them, I tried to teach my brother what he would have to answer if he would be called before the Board of Inquiry. What a dreadful sorrow for me when it was due to leave my brother: his tears made me still more suffer that my own situation. I was at this time in a feverish state, I was agitated with the possibilities: in other words, I did not realize yet well of my sad situation; I could not believe that all that was real. But when the gates of the prison had been closed again on me and at the end of a few hours after seeing all my captive friends, I entered a painful moral state. I revived all my past, I understood that I would have to soon leave the present life, to endure quite cruel tests; all my dreams of youth disappeared, in a word all my present situation appeared to me in its afflicting reality. During a few days, it was impossible for me to sleep and I taken no food. But in this world all has an end: the man is even able to be accustomed to an unhappy sometimes fate and, with the help of my comrades who, despite everything, took again courage, hope, we spent quite soft moments in prison. Only one among us, Alexander Wyslonek, was always inconsolable. I remained in this prison until April 1, 1864, i.e. until my transfer to the prison of Grodno. My brother Wladyslaw sent each day to us food. My parents forwarded cloths and all I needed to me. Thanks to the Russian soldiers that one could buy with bribes, we managed to communicate with the people from the outside. In spite of the incarceration, we got books, paper, pencils, cards, and brandy. One locked up us with key only for the night and as we were there by three in the rooms, we were not bored during the long evenings. Almost all the nobility of our district was locked up in the prison. There was among us only one woman, Mrs Sabina Ostromecka, widow of an older age, in company of whom I made later the whole voyage to Siberia. It is she to whom I owe my life, her role near me was always that of a devoted mother: besides she was a remarkable woman. I do not believe that in our district, there was one noble who was not in prison and who, moreover, did not have to pay a big amount of money. My parents, for example, had to pay a sum of 200 roubles, to have taken me at their premises when I left the Insurrection. They had to pay these 200 roubles as soon as possible and my parents did not have this kind of money available. My mother, although extremely suffering, went to her parents in order to borrow the money. Her step succeeded only in half, but when at the end of three days, she returned to the house, a new misfortune awaited her. My younger sister Stanislawa died almost suddenly of the croup ... I do not believe that in our country, there was a family that could escape the tests from all kinds. Poor country!
As long as the Board of Inquiry had not ruled on my fate, it was forbidden to me to see parents and friends. But in spite of this rule, we had found a means of seeing them here and there. There was a well about a hundred steps out of the prison, not far from the thatched cottage of an invalid soldier. It was with this well that we were going to obtain water under the escort of two soldiers. To make it working, we had to dress in such way that one had sorrow to recognize us in the street. We had to be careful, because the Russians could suspect our trick. We approached close to the well and there, parents and friends came to see us. One hardly saw others a few minutes, but how much this so short time was precious and desired for us! Fortunately that this pleasure only cost us little, so that we often paid soldiers again and again. Later, when the investigation was finished, one enabled us to see parents and friends, but only in the presence of the officers. I will say some words about our lawsuit. On the Day of the Kings, for the first time I had to appear before the Board of Inquiry and then a few days later my lawsuit was finished. For me, it did not occur anything new, because I did not add anything to my first consents. If I had wanted to bring some changes even there, I could not, because the Russians had already questioned my servant; he knew where I had been and did not find anything any more which could worsen my situation. During these investigations, I became acquainted with a man of a remarkable honesty with whom I bound friendship and whose memory will remain to me always present. It is all the more extraordinary since this man was Russian and the President of the Board of Inquiry: he was major, Serge Dejnatowicz, originating, I believe, from the district of Tulsk. Among so much the malicious ones that were sent after us, only he had real heart. Unfortunately, he could not do much for us, because it was impossible for him to do something without the consent of the other Members of the Commission. But in many circumstances, he gave us evidence of his honesty, never showing us, seeking on the contrary to excuse the answers that we provided to the Board of Inquiry. At the end, disgusted role that he played, role unworthy of his honest nature, he resigned. The first time when I saw him, I benefited from the only moment when we were alone saying to me how I should answer the Board of Inquiry. I expected little on behalf of a Russian. I suspected him to trick me. But fixedly looking at him in the eyes, I realised that he was an honest man unable of such cowardice. He, on his side, could read in my eyes how much my accusations were serious. I knew that my lawsuit would finish badly and that nothing could improve my situation. He said to me later many times how much he considered it regrettable that I had carried myself, at the time of my first consents: without that, my fate would have perhaps been less dreadful. When my lawsuit was finished, I had more often the occasion to speak to him, and then I appreciated it more. He relied on my medical knowledge and on a very particular friendship with me. When he had become acquainted with my parents, he comforted them, and as soon as the opportunity arose, he enabled me to see them. Lastly, when I was due to leave for Grodno and I had just bidden my farewell with my family, I was already placed on the carriage he approached me with tears in his eyes. He told me these words full with simplicity and generosity: "Do not loose courage, it is not for nothing. With the assistance of God, the corn will be grounded and there will be flour (proverb) ". Who could have suspected that his sympathetic thought would be carried out one day!
I would extend more on this subject, because all that is referred to the time when I was still near my family that I often saw them. I knew well when there were last days when I passed near my parents. From one day to another, I expected to be separated from my family forever. I knew that, soon, I would be obliged to leave my native soil, to say good-bye to all that I valued on this land! There were terrible tests and this is why their memory is deeply engraved in my thoughts and my heart. And today, while reviving here all details at the same time these dear and painful moments, it seems to me that I dream and that the dreadful moment of separation did not arrive yet. I wish that we were not in hiding-place, but I would prefer to be able to pass the whole evenings together in the open. We had so many things to say to each other! We forgot all our misery and these hours became for us moments of happiness. These interviews admittedly took place in the room of the Board of Inquiry, in the presence of officers, but the room was very vast; we were very numerous and we knew each other. We spoke in low voices and in Polish and we could not speak about all. The officers, to distract themselves, generally came to sit down near the women and these poor unhappy were often forced to smile. They tried to say a witty remark although their heart was mortally sad with the thought that their father, brother or husband vegetated in prison, waiting until he was exiled or that one will be connected with a wheelbarrow in the mines of Siberia. These meetings were sometimes animated that a person being unaware of our situation would have been able to believe that he witnessed some merry meeting. We could see parents and friends from 4 to 9 o'clock in the evening twice per week. Anyone rather easily could obtain the authorisation to see his family another day in an emergency. The good Dejnatowicz never refused us anything. He even enabled me to attend the burial of my sister: he gave only one soldier without weapon and I could remain all the day downtown. At this time, Dejnatowicz replaced the commander as a head, if not he could not have given me such a broad authorization. Around 9 hours, the officers looked at their watches and, at once, silence was in the room: more than one tear ran during the good-byes. In the life, all finish thus? After the joy comes the pain. What joy? Is not this an illusion, one moment of distraction, the lapse of memory, for one moment, of our true situation? Thanks to these interviews, we could get all that was required for the defence. They should have made it available at the time of our entry to the prison. We were always in good terms with the soldiers and the warrant officer of service, who every evening came to lock up us with key, received some money from us. Sometimes he got bribes more than the service that he returned to us. In prison, one of my great distractions was to draw with the pencil the portrait of my comrades: I made some more than three hundreds. How much I would like to have them still with me today! What a soft memory for me! I made also many drawings in Siberia and during my stay in Tomsk. At the time of my escape, I kept two of them: the portrait of my uncle Felix and that of my benefactor Mrs Ostromecka.
Among the distractions which we still had in prison, it is necessary me to mention our walks to the bath. Every Saturday, we could leave the prison, cross some streets. The establishment was extremely dirty and we went there generally only "pro forma..." We walked in-groups surrounded by ten soldiers. What a joy of breathing a little air, of seeing people, of greeting them, of shaking with them hand sometimes. The people who wished to see us went to the establishment of baths and there, with the help of money given to the soldiers, one could socialise at ease, during one hour. The soldiers were quiet in order not to be seen by some officer who had suddenly passed. I wonder why I am anxious to tell so much about the last happy moments in prison instead of all the sufferings that we must have endure. But it is true that the sufferings are erased more from our memory then joy. In the life the memory of the past would be quite bitter if miseries, the concerns and sorrows remained as present at our spirit as the happy moments. Let us listen to speech of an old man. For him, the memory of the past is always important, it defer unceasingly like the sunflower towards the sun. Why? However, the sky as life could not free from clouds. Miseries, the sufferings that he has endured have a charm for him today precisely because now they are destroyed in the past. Today, I feel the same thing as the old man. In addition to all these quite thin distractions seemingly and from which we all could profit, I have, as doctor, the advantage of leaving downtown to follow my occupation. Unfortunately, I obtained this permission only during the last month of my stay in Pruzany and it was, alas, too late. I could then to see not only the patients, but also the friends quite bearing under a pretext of looking after them. I remained absent sometimes two and three days. What a joy for me to feel free for one moment! Although an officer escorted me, it was enough for me to nourish him well and to make him well drunk, and I was removed from his presence. All the time I had to remind myself that not enough freedom was left. I will tell how I obtained this very special permit. One morning, I learned from a person from the city that someone was appointed to search in our prison under pretext that the day before some other person had seen my Wladyslaw's, sister-in-law and Mrs Alexander Bummel crossing through the gate. Some even said that they had certainly had to penetrate in the prison. All this was false. To prevent any punishment, we hid all the risky objects which we had such as pencils, colors, cards... etc in our pockets. We were very seldom searched. Since morning, we circulated the faggots from pocket to pocket. Suddenly, at 10 o'clock, a prison guard called my first cousin, Witold before the Board of Inquiry. It was rare that prisoners were asked at this hour, therefore we expected the worst which was going to occur. Fifteen minutes passed before officials called my name. Both of us met with Bummel, we were the only prisoners who could have been suspected to see her the day before. I was so exited that I forgot that my pockets were full with suspicious objects; I remembered of it only too late and then I could not do anything about it? My concern grew more and more. In the anteroom, I did not see any cardigan, nor fur. That assured me that authorities made us come - not to see any member of our family - but for some unpleasant reason and that certainly, they were going to investigate us. When I opened the door of the room, seeing my aunt Felix with my German cousin Sophia Kulikowska and her daughter Helena, a pretty girl, surprised me. My brother was also with them. My heart felt discharged from a great weight at this sight and I was very merry of this pleasant surprised. Their furs were near them. There was no officer present in this room. I had embraced them and I prepared myself to sit when the famous Domazyrow, this brigand of which I already spoke, entered. He went directly towards me and ordered me to follow him to his room, contiguous to that where he found us because he wished to speak to me. My forecasts seemed to be confirmed more. While entering his room, I saw a whole bunch of officers, employees, and spies in a word, all the joined together rabble. At once the door had been closed, Domazyrow turned to me and asked me to check his health because he felt very suffering. My trial had given him whole confidence in my knowledge. Thank you God! I thought, all would finish thus.
With this moment, I preferred to see him on the scaffold for all his crimes, but what could I do if not to check his health. He was rough and big size, but he was very narrow and very weak in the chest area. Frequently he had spat blood with a great violence. I thus evaluated him at once and gave him an ordinance of which the effect was immediate that one week afterwards he could go to the ball, which delighted him. My fame was made and as from this day, I could follow my occupation. Consequently, Domaryzow treated me as a friend, at least pretended to be one, because I believe that rascal was not capable of noble feelings.
There was not for me of greater trouble when, at the visiting times the eyes of everyone focused on me, he came to me across the room in order to show me his sympathy. I felt a major dislike for this monster and I did not manage to hide the feelings that animated from me. Another cure increased my fame. I made the exact diagnosis of the disease of the officer Tomaszewicz whom someone wrongly defined as typhus. I was called for consultation and my care given to him brought him soon on his feet. I had written to the commander and asked him to allow me to go and see the patients and the business was concluded. I was allowed always to go with a "guardian angel". I went several times to Stara Wola, Wreko, located a mile from Pruzany to see Bummel who had one sick child. I also went to Cherechew to see orthodox priest Tokarewski. I also went to Bialowiez at the forester whose woman was seriously sick. I noted then how much I was loved in Cherechew where I had been established doctor and how much I was regretted. It was with a grand sorrow when I walked in the streets because many attacked me on all sides, embracing my knees, the hands and thanking me for having saved one his wife, the other his brother. This one owed me the life of his/her child.
I was blessed, someone cried over my present situation. When sometimes, seeing me only in the street, without being escorted by the officer or the soldier who always accompanied me, the brave men inhabitants believed that I was saved forever and free. They believed that I returned among them for always. But when I said to them that it was not the case, they required being comforted, they promised me to request for me and they were certain that God will listen to them. It may be, indeed, that God heard their prayers. How I have just told is one of the most cherished memories that I remember from my fatherland!
When the child of Bummel had been transported to Pruzany and when my brother Wladyslaw who was then in prison could not look any more after him, I went there almost each day. I remained from morning to the evening there. A soldier led me to him and came only to get me in the evening. Often, Dejnatowicz himself came to take me. He would not have had more sorrow if his own child had been sick. Bummel was still in Stara Wola, Dejnatowicz found me with full hands, asking me to let him help near the sick child. With this intention, he had prepared harness for horses and we left immediately because at 8 next morning Dejnatowicz was to be sitting as President at the Board of Inquiry. He did not close his eyes when he saw harms. Later, he begged Bummel to accept his own carriage when it was required to transfer the child to Pruzany. In front of him, we could escape with freedom. He only informed us to be more careful, because somebody could have listened at the door. What a brave man with Russian heart!
I have the joy of visiting twice my parents, the first time when my mother was sick and, the second time, passing not far from their premises Dejnatowicz lengthened a little the trip and stopped there. He helped me even sometimes to make some visits in the surroundings. I always returned from my excursions with letters, cigars, and delicacies. I brought back also a little money, because I accepted pay without scruples from orthodox priests and the Russians who claimed my care. My comrades waited my return impatiently, because I shared all with them. And then, I always brought back so much news from the outside. One evening that I re-entered from the cold, having left slightly shivering, I found myself so glad coming back to a hot barrack room that I could not prevent myself from making a remark to my comrades. "Nothing astonishing, answered me Berndt, is not there a proverb which says that one is well everywhere but best, at home". The good chap always had the word to make us laugh. He was always merry and never allowed the others to sadden. He still comes to my mind when a sad episode took place at the time of my stay in Pruzany. I will say of it only a few words. The subject is too painful. I want to tell about the balls that the commander gave as a head and to which assisted many noble Polish and women. It is true that, perhaps, some were forced there, but how much went there by pleasure! Could they have fun whereas the prisons abounded in victims and that their brothers still poured their blood for the Polish cause? What a disturbing reality...
My departure to Grodno.
About the last days of March 1864, I received the command to leave from Grodno with a certain Mister Wielowiejski, also prisoner in Pruzany. With this news, my heart filled of sadness: the moment approached where I was to separate myself from all mine and I envisaged well that it would be a final separation. I wanted absolutely to reunite with my parents before my departure, but I knew how much that would be difficult for me, my parents living many miles from Pruzany. I did not have time for sending them news that my departure was being imminent. As for Wielowiejski, his family lived even further and as he was unaware of the fate that he awaited, it would have meant a lot the last good-bye to his wife and to his girls. This time still, the brave Dejnatowicz came with assistance to us. He made delay of three days for departure. In this way, we had time to inform our families; Dejnatowicz even enabled me to write to my parents and he let my letter forwarded to my sister-in-law, the wife of Wladyslaw, who gave it to my family following day. I awaited the arrival of my family with a feverish impatience. Anxious not to see anybody and fearing of new misfortune at home, I was ordered to hasten, because the hour of the departure approached. My envoy met them on the road. Their delay to come to see me was due to the fact that, they did know about my so close departure, also my parents hoped to give me many things like linen and clothing and these were not completely ready. Not having a servant to help them, my mother and my sister, Constance had to prepare all themselves. Each object was flooded with their tears, therefore work advanced only slowly, in spite of their great desire to come to see me as quickly as possible. Finally, I lived to see my father and my mother, my brother Zénon and my sister Constancy. We lived through quite sad moments. I comforted them as well as I could. I tried to give courage to my poor parents who lamented unceasingly. My heart broke sorrow by looking at them. I doubt that one can meet on earth such a loving family, so attached, as plain as was ours. It is then easy to guess what pain filled our hearts. It seems to me that those who did not have happiness to live with close family, who never experienced their sorrow with the heart of a mother, who, only, is animated with fully satisfied feelings. Those finally of whom the tired face is never revived under the kisses of a mother, these, I say, are unaware of completely what can be the attachment and the devotion of a family towards one of its members, feelings unknown in the world apart from the family. It was terrible to think that I had forever to be separated from all that. I had moreover the knowledge that the enemy hand broke so close links. It was atrocious. It was a pure pain! We felt feelings of revenge; we comforted ourselves with the thought that each one of our tears, to us poor innocent, would fall like pitch on the conscience of our enemies.
Until the day of my departure, we saw ourselves twice per day. However I do not remember more subjects of our conversation. How could I repeat those moments? Our thoughts did not have any continuation: for us, the past and the future did not exist, there were only present days. Bitterness and then pain corroded our hearts. We found no consolation, and no courage. By seeing my so desperate parents, my heart broke. Their future therefore was worthy of pity. My father had become blind for last few years. My mother aged before the years by the concern of the life and education of her children. I foresaw for them a quite dark future: the land that they had, even if it had not been burdened with taxes could not be enough any more for their modest needs. Moreover, it was impossible for them to give my two younger brothers, Victor and Theodore a sufficient upbringing. During these days, we did not even need to speak, we understood ourselves mutually, we guessed our dark thoughts, and we did not have any need to express it. Only one glance said sometimes more than a flood of words. I still remember little details. My mother and my sister wore black cloths and these dark colors were harmonized so well with the state of their heart. In addition to clothing and linen which my parents brought to me, I still preserve today many objects which were given to me then by my mother, my brothers and sister at the time when I left the prison: a comb, a book of prayers, one spoon... etc. These objects became for me genuine relics. They did not leave me during my voyage towards the bottom of Siberia. They were my consolation inseparable during so many adventures of all kinds. How much these dumb and inanimate objects could tell things!
At the moment of my departure, so many good people whose I forgot names sent me ten roubles, believing that I was without money. I hope that God rewards them many times for what their hearts did for me! Thanks to my Russian customers, I had piled up about fifty roubles. At once, I gave to my mother money that others had just given to me and with grand' sorrow she accepted it. I knew that she perhaps required them still more then me. A time of separation approached, this so dreadful moment for us all.
It was on April 1, 1864. The day before at the evening, all was ready for the departure and the commander formally prohibited seeing each other. Thanks however to my friendship with Dejnatowicz and even with Domazyrow, my customer, it was decided that we would leave the following day not directly from the prison, but from the room of the Board of Inquiry. In this way, we could still remain with our families. In hiding-place, we were prevented to come early to the room of the Commission. At 7 o'clock in the morning, we were called to the room; we arrived with our modest luggage. There we spent two more hours with our parents. In addition to the family, some friends had come to shake hands with me: Mrs Bummel, my beautiful sister, Mrs Camille Grudzinska (a young person and pretty widow), Kiernowski, the owner of the house where the Board of Inquiry still sat. We cried to comfort ourselves from the bottom of hearts, although we did not have any glimmer of hope. Ah, how it was dreadful to think that we are leaving forever! "Forever": what a terrible word! The brave man, Dejnatowicz helped me with his comforting words. His sincere words and his sentences, often misunderstood by my parents who did not know the Russian, however managed to stop their tears. Kindness, the sympathy that emanated from his figure made them guess the words full with heart that he said to them. I thanked him with emotion for all kindness that he had for us and I shaken the hand full of heart with him. Tears rolled from his eyes when he told to me good-bye. The good-byes lasted a long time: we could not leave. It was easy to understand our delay. Finally, two carriages stopped in front of the house that a small garden separated from the street. My parents were not allowed to leave, even on the front yard, so they were not seen. Some Cossacks, led by an officer, waited for us near the carriages; our luggage was loaded and, in a few minutes all was ready for the departure. Dejnatowicz was the only one who shaken my hand when I was already in the carriage. All the windows of the nearby houses were shut. We saw friendly figures waving to us a last good-bye. I turned back and once again I saw my family which, in spite of orders, had come out on the front yard and agitated waved with hands as a sign of good-bye. Then the carriage shook led by a Cossack who, by ostentation, made his horse to jump forward; soon, all that we had valued disappeared before our eyes. Hitherto, I had managed to be in control of myself; while trying to comfort myself, I had managed to persuade that there was perhaps still a little hope in the future. However, when I was alone, it seemed to me that a block of stone fell on my chest. I could not breathe and I fell into a state of desperation that I could not overcome. The officer who had led us until Volkovysk was Tomaszewicz. He was one of whom I had cured some time ago and Dejnatowicz had chosen him purposely so that he could soften for us the road. I then have to say that he was good for us, leaving for us a certain freedom. I will never forget what he did for me while risking to expose himself. About three miles from Pruzany, we stopped and spent the night on the property of Wladyslaw Andrejkowicz. Tomaszewicz did it only because my parents lived not far from there and they, prevented by law, arrived for the night that we passed together. My poor mother ran the first, then my sister Konstancja and my three brothers Zenon, Victor and Theodore. Without this circumstance, I would not have any chance to see my two young brothers. Unfortunately, I could not meet my sister Evenile Pisanka who lived too far, just as my brother Franciszek who remained in the district of Okobrynsk. During the night my mother was calm, but, in the morning, when she had to again leave, she sobbed and the tears started again. My lawsuit had never finished before the Board of Inquiry, so that my family preserved the hope that perhaps the Council of War in Grodno could pardon me. Not knowing the outcome of my lawsuit, my parents could be easily deluded, this fact gave them a little courage. Thinking that all the Russian officers were like Dejnatowicz, they hoped that in Grodno, I would meet also brave men and decent people. Alas! I do not recall anyone similar to Dejnatowicz. To arrive at Volkovysk, we had to travel three days. The second night, we slept in an inn where we were rather free although soldiers guarded us. While arriving at Volkovysk, our officer realized that he had forgotten to take from Pruzany our identity papers that he should have had with him. The colonel or major Kazanli, famous for his cruelties and his cowardice did not want first to receive us and he insisted that it was necessary to turn us over to Pruzany. He subjected himself to authority of our officer who submitted to him a detailed report and the colonel allowed us to enter the prison of Volkovysk while waiting for our papers to arrive.
We remained five days in this prison. I met many friends there, fellows from my school, then the abbot Ciotkiewicz, who had baptised me and then, in prison, one makes friends quickly. The men sympathize better in misfortune. Someone sent food from the city to us. While we were discussing with the abbot Kostowski many subjects time passed even more agreeably. We spent one Sunday in Volkovysk and that day had an aspect of cheerfulness that had its charm. It was a mass on Sunday led by the abbot Taraszewicz, the priest of Swislocz, a priest of great value. With some problems we could obtain two horse-drawn carriages. As a result authorities did not make us set out again on foot, without regard to the age or the precarious state of health of Wielowiejski. In Volkovysk another prisoner joined our group: he was a soldier who had taken part in the Insurrection. His first name was Stanislaw; I regret that I have forgotten his last name but thereafter, he became my fellow traveller as far as Siberia. We were supervised by a new detachment of infantry led by an officer of the army of the Caucasus that was to take us along to Grodno. We had to suffer from the temperature; it rained without break, the wheels were submerged in mud, the horses fell and, moreover, we were soaked to the bones. The officer, entirely wrapped in a large coat, having his feet in long boots, a cap on the head, did a lot of mileage on foot. He said to us pointed out the steps which he had made formerly in the Caucasus, during fifteen years of his service. I did not want to follow his steps and because the road was tedious, I preferred to remain in the carriage. We travelled three days before arriving to Grodno. We rather agreeably spent the first night in the castle of Werejki. The officer decided to go there not so that we were more at ease, but because he knew well that there, he could find good food and with drinking, which for him was the main thing. I was happy of being able, finally, to dry myself and sleep a little. Wielowiejski, a great admirer of Chopin, had the joy of discovering a piano not too much deteriorated on which he played works of Chopin all the evening. For several months, he had not been able to do it. We spent the second night in Judav, where Stanislaw Radowicki joined us, owner from Volkovysk. He had been stopped suddenly and taken along immediately to Grodno by gendarmes. I had seen him on Sunday in Volkovysk during the visit with the prisoners. He appeared then of excellent mood and was far from suspecting that he was going to be stopped, and that he would have to pass a long time isolated in a prison and then he would be set off to Siberia. The gendarmes prevented us from speaking to him. In approaching Grodno, we stopped at the gates of the city, so that the soldiers who escorted us could polish their uniforms. At that place, we passed a young woman whose face expressed the pain. She returned from Grodno and was a wife of some innocent victim. In passing close to us, she threw at us a glance full of sadness and blessed separately each one of us. We took off our caps thus thanking her for sound expression of sympathy and the officer pretended not noticing anything.
Grodno! O, dear Grodno! How much time I contemplated with joy the brilliant cupolas of your churches when I left or returned from holidays! Today, this city that I saw lost in the fog, in sad weather and rainy was well worth the image of my dubious future. This spectacle still fills me with sadness. And then what we had learned in the prisons of Grodno was hardly comforting. We knew that authorities put the prisoners not only in the prison but also in convents, and a place called "castle of summer". Anyone sent in this last place was the least sorry, because the stay was more tolerable there. There, the people of the city could go to see the prisoners, an advantage of that the other prisoners of Grodno did not enjoy.
It was on April 10, 1864. It was 10 a.m. in the morning when we entered the city of Grodno; we advanced step by step. The clouds had been dissipated and the sun promised a beautiful day. We crossed Niemen on a ferry, and soon we were on the central square. From there, we took the street of Brigidska in the medium of which we stopped in front of the house of the military commander. Our officer entered there and as for us, it was necessary to wait two long hours, surrounded by our soldiers, for the return of the officer. During this time, I passed some people whom I recognised and greeted. Some unknown women asked us who we were by asking us some questions prudently and in haste. Then they moved away to great us from the distance. When the officer reappeared, he beckoned to us to turn over on our feet, i.e. to return towards the central square. It was there that our fate was going to be decided, because according to the prison where we were going to be sent, we could conclude our degree of culpability. Knowing Grodno, I immediately understood that authorities carried out us towards the prison of the city. That did not announce anything good.
At once we arrived in front of the gate of the prison, the officer ordered to get out of carriage, guards seized our luggage and the gate was closed again behind us. I was in a long and obscure part of the prison with two gates. I noticed the outlines of the prisoners curious to know who were the newcomers and the others were a staff in waiting room. Leaving this part of the building, I saw a large court at the other end of which rose a large surmounted building with latticed windows. Arrived in the court, we turned right. I threw a glance around me. I was soon in the center of a large court, surrounded by three sides by an immense wall. With right-hand side, the wall was replaced by a useful building of three floors. I learned later that it was a secret prison. There were also the rooms of Commissions and kitchens. These buildings had belonged formerly to a convent of Jesuits. Everything remained as before, except the windows on which administration had nailed boards. Thus, occupants refused the poor captive even a sunbeam. Above the gate of the prison, there was also a stage. More than ten people walked then in the court. The soldiers assembled guards. Finally, authorities brought us to the building on right-hand side and after many peregrinations through corridors and staircases, guards inserted us into a dirty room where our luggage were deposited. Then, someone made us attend the room where officers were occupied deliberating on a case that was to be judged "ipso facto" and we attended the discussion. Here what it was about - an orthodox deacon, already an old man, had taken part in the Insurrection, providing food to the insurrectionists, visiting camps... etc. There were present some peasants with sad figures, with the low head, looking at the floor. It was obvious that they were forced to soak their hands hardened by honest work in the mean actions of this business. The officers excited that the deacon was still speaking, said to him that he would be rewarded and that he could celebrate with dignity the Easter which approached. The poor noble one denied all the facts with which he was faced. One of accusers was seen that he had liked to coil the deacon with blows, he would strangle the arrested if he had been free of his movements. He showed the rage on his face. I do not know how the business had finished because the case was postponed for later and the officers dealt with us. First of all, an officer examined our luggage, removing many items considered offensive: in fact between reading materials he left only our prayer books. I was glad that he left all my needles. We were not to have more than three roubles and I had some more than fifty. The officer who was in charge of the revision did know about my tricks without suspecting it. Before leaving Pruzany, for more safety, making sure that we were not left without any money, I had bent all my roubles in different pockets of my wallet. I had cared to leave only a few roubles in obvious part of it. This trick was successful. Unfortunately, the pencils and paper were removed.
During the revision of our luggage, colonel informed Ostrug about our arrival, hastened us to run. Ostrug was a president of the Board of Inquiry. While passing close to me, he asked me whether I were Doctor Okinczyc and disappeared in the other room. Afterwards, he gave the command to put us in the secret prison, which was carried out immediately. We were locked up separately one from each other. As far as me, I was locked up on the ground floor in a rather large room of which the three-quarters were encumbered. There was a bed of camp height, a table, large fenestrate placed very high but latticed. The walls were very wet and had certainly not been whitened again since the departure of the Jesuits; they were covered with inscriptions of all kinds. On the dirty floor under the window, I discovered a heap D of yellow sand: I do not know for which use it was intended. The ceiling gave reluctant feeling and a gate with a vista completed my barrack room. While inspecting my prison, it seemed to me that I found myself in a cellar, so much the air was repugnant and wet. My first thought was to open the window. I taken my bag and placed it on the sand heap, then I still added to it a box which was useful to me in travel to keep my food and I climbed up, I reached the window. I managed to open it and sitting on the edge to take a little air. It helped me not to plunge again into my sad thoughts. Soon, I saw from there my uncle Felix, an old man with white beard, who could see me while passing under my window. He greeted me with a sign of head and tears rolled from his eyes. Later, I met also the abbot Aurélien Mackiewicz, Golanski, a gardener, who worked for marshal Sawykowski of Pruzany and some others. The court was filled with prisoners walking in all the directions. There were some women, the priests, men of all classes and various costumes. This unit made a group of a very particular kind. I envied their happiness of being able to walk outside. The pleasure of looking in the court did not last too long. The guards inquired from me why I opened the window. I quickly answered to them that I had opened the window with the intention to ask for water because I was dying from thirst. They believed me and allowed me leave the window open. I understood that they could take away the option of opening the window any time, which would be to me a great deprivation. I was accustomed already a little to the prisons, however when I lived myself alone for the first time between my four walls, I suffered cruelly. I suffered even more because during the last weeks of my stay in Pruzany, I had been so free. And then during the voyage from Pruzany to Grodno, I had breathed the air with full lungs. Therefore this sudden change was felt more depraving for me. Finally, I had made dark conclusions about my future release because I was locked up in the secret prison.
I forgot to mention that while I was looking out through the window, some of the prisoners made me understand that tea would be sent to me. They also made to me other signs that I tried to understand. Soon after, the key squeaked in the lock, the gate opened and a soldier brought a great quantity of tea and two breads to me. I did not want all of it to eat and tried to give some of it back to the soldier when while breaking bread mouthful, the bread got half-opened and I saw a paper and a small end of pencil. I kept the breads and made the soldier leaving my cell empty-handed. Knowing all the tricks in the prison of Pruzany, I continued to learn well new tricks in Grodno. I benefited from this first lesson and I proved to my colleagues that it was worth it. My uncle had written the small note. In these small letters, he informed me to be very firm, very tough during the interrogation. Moreover he warned me about that colonel Finkow, dishonest man, who was the President of the Council of War and he then asked me to tell him where was my lawsuit and, finally, gave me more news about himself. On the same paper that he had written his words, I answered without losing one minute. Then, having taken breadcrumb, I surrounded the same paper by making a pellet and I awaited for favourable moment to throw it through my window. I did not have to wait a long time: a prisoner whom I knew passed precisely nearby. Benefiting from the moment when the soldier who went and came under my window had the back turned towards me, I launched the pellet that was collected in a wink and was hidden in the pocket of the prisoner. I closed again my window, I explored my cell in all its content, I spread my clothing on the desired shelf and I went to rest a little. It was impossible for me to sleep. Thousand thoughts rolled in my head. I wondered what I was going to become and what my fate would be. Why the authorities had locked me up in the secret prison? Why they made me come to the cell so abruptly, a thing that those authorities did not make for others? All that made me agitated in turn and the horizon seemed to me quite black. I rose, I walked, I laid down myself again during these few hours and my thoughts referred towards me, towards those which I certainly had just left for always and I cried. All-with blow, I intended to open my gate. A soldier entered, bringing to me my dinner in a ground basin and a wood spoon of Russian style. I tried to find out what this dish contained. There were balls, I believe, made up of buckwheat hulled grain not scaled and mixed with small pieces of meat. I tasted some by curiosity, but it was impossible for me to swallow it a mouthful because of the scales, which were put in my teeth: fortunately I did not feel any hunger.
The night arrived and no light was given to me. O, that the night appeared long to me! About the morning, I had fallen in sleep a little. Afterwards, in midday, the authorities made me come to the Board of Inquiry. They sent for me a gendarme. We entered initially a room where two individuals curved over one table and were occupied writing. One of them told to me to wait there. At the end of half an hour, the gate of the close office opened and colonel Finkow, fat and large with short hair and sideburns, beckoned to me to enter. I obeyed and found myself in a low-size room, longer than wide, rather obscure, having one only window. In the medium, there was a table covered with a green carpet, encumbered with files, around, chairs and the portrait of the Tsar on the wall. I went therefore to appear before my judges. In addition to the colonel, I saw some officers in uniforms of uhlans; all were with white nozzles without moustache.
Nobody asked me to sit down; the colonel measured me from feet to the head with an expression so malicious that he seemed ready to devour me.
The Russians call upon beginning of each investigation with a stupid habit that consists asking if a charged does not have anything to say against the Members of the Commission that must judge him. Misfortune waited anyone among us who had dared to express anything against anyone from them! Anyway, the members who composed these Commissions were sometimes so unworthy that it would be difficult to select anyone above the others: all were equally animals, cowards and prejudiced against us. What criteria anyone could use to select a good person over others? I came to the conclusion that I did not draw aside any of them. Then, one of the members made me read aloud all recorded interrogation against me in Pruzany. When I finished, the colonel recited a speech inviting me to acknowledge all my wrongs sincerely. He tired to convince me much, because he spoke a long time, repeating more than ten times the same thing. At the end, he made me write "yes" or "not" to confirm my proceeding consents and he asked me if I had anything to add. While answering that, not only I did not add anything, but also I sought to excuse me from the delicate questions that worsened my case. Actually, that was not useful for me, what I found later. At the time it was necessary for me to hear a second time the speech of the colonel in all points similar to the first one. After final question that I was asked, I declared firmly that I did not have anything to add to what I had written previously. The Commission allowed me to go away. They made me to leave the secret prison; I was far from doubting that I would leave from there so quickly. Comforted, I settled at once in the barrack room where was my uncle Felix. It was a long, dirty building with a window facing the gate of the prison, the building located in the middle of the court. Along a partition, there were enormous beds, kinds of shelves on which there were held more than ten people, one beside the other. Although prisoners were tightly packed each beside the other, they made a place for me. I had remained so long time in prisons that I was feeling quite comfortable. It is good that when a man is subjected initially to hard tests, then, the little improvement in his fate is for him a true joy.
The first days passed in listening to accounts of Pruzany, to find friends and inhabitants from my district, to join them and gain new knowledge about events and to get news about them. There were then nearly 400 people in prison. Soldiers locked up us for the night. During day, we could freely move around, to visit each other and to walk together in the court. I remained there until May 15. Friends sent food to us from the city; therefore as from midday, we gathered along the gate in order to see some friends at the time when the gate would open. The most favourable moment was when the guards brought a water barrel to the prison. The gate, then, had to be opened with two leaves and a mass of friendly people came and gathered in front of the prison so we could see them. It was hardly that we had time, sometimes, to greet them: however, it was all our pleasure. We could correspond with people from the city and the other prisoners, thanks to some gendarmes or to some soldiers who helped their weak wages. The keys of the gate of the prison were kept, each day, by a different warrant officer who had the command to examine whoever entered the prison, and to control the objects that one brought to us. All, fortunately, were not very faithful to the instruction that commanders had given them. Some, while controlling food, granted a good share of it to themselves, however, we could not feel sorry for us. Many prisoners passed the written words, through the gate, wrapped, of course, in a handkerchief or a towel in which the friend from the outside passed back a little tobacco or some oranges. It was more difficult for us to correspond with the prisoners in secrecy. I invented many new tricks, and we had still used of other means. We made them send many things in food, even money hidden in butter. We managed, sometimes, to go and see the prisoners in the secrecy, but at the price and with difficulties and, moreover, that cost us too much. We had among us a certain Dziegelewski, a former soldier, still young person, who, very skilfully, managed to see the prisoners in the secrecy. As for me, I dealt exclusively with comrades from my district; once, 44 arrived from there and authorities put several of them in the secret prison. Each day at 4 o'clock in morning, I received letters that were intended to them and my daily task was to forward to them these letters and to receive the answers from them. It is necessary me to tell here which means we employed to see the people from the city. On the third floor, beside the secret prison, there were still rooms occupied by our other prisoners. The latticed windows facing a neighbouring court surrounded by buildings having also belonged to the Jesuits and to the church parochial. On the bottom floor, the organist lived and while going to his place, someone could penetrate this court. While placing oneself at the angle of the wall, one was below our windows. From there, while raising the voice a little, while even shouting, we were able to get in touch with the people of the city or to throw letters to them. Unfortunately, we did not benefit a long time from this means: somebody was spying between us and he contributed to stopping our talks. In the secret prison, there were certain windows on which administration had not nailed boards, therefore some of those which were loose let the prisoners to pass their heads through the grids and to exchange some words with us. But that was achieved with a great difficulty, because in front of their windows, day and night, the soldiers assembled the guard and they were not allowed approaching us. In order to cure the problem, we projected to plant trees in the court under pretext of killing time. We had among us an excellent gardener Golanski, we suggested transforming the courtyard into gardens with bushes and flowers. The Russians agreed to it and authorised us to do it. Work started, lasting from the morning to the evening, and there were not even one among us who did not join the work. In time of the Jesuits, there were gardens in the place of our jail. They did not exist any more, then, except a very old and very large white lilac which, until there had been the only ornament of the court. We tended gardens. We decorated them with banks of boards. Although we tried to work usefully, our life was quite monotonous. When festivals of Easter arrived, our sadness increased more with the memories that they brought back. The monotony of our existence was sometimes broken by the arrival of new prisoners and the departure some others to Russia or Siberia.
Nobody was relaxed during my stay in prison. And there is nothing astonishing as far as charges, because Russians did not judge on the facts, but on the testimony of other people. It was enough that one made his studies at the university or that one defended oneself firmly and with presence of mind to be condemned at once to be offset to Siberia and even to the mines. At the Board of Inquiry, the logic behind was as known as more less the following: "You finished your studies at the university; you are thus an educated man and it is impossible that you did not take part in the Insurrection". On this argument basis, they condemned many wrongly and through. I remember a student of the University of Kiev who was most innocent. His fate was terrible. The judges were obviously prejudiced against him and by condemning him so wrongfully, they obeyed a given command. It seems that the Russians, believing that the district of Kiev was completely Russianized. Contrary to this believes this district was one of the most active in the Insurrection. Realising that they were misled in their forecasts, they avenged thus on the unhappy students. As for the way in which condemned prisoner was offset to Siberia, I will speak about it by quoting myself. For those who were condemned to be hung, all was done in the greatest secrecy and generally during the night. The Russians had shame or feared some noisy demonstration? Was this in the Russian ways or were they so kind as to make suffer the poor victim more?
Wanting to know what had been a judgement for me by the Council of War, I went to see the clerk and for two roubles, I bought the sad news: I had to wait day in day for my departure. A few days afterwards, I was called so that my description was taken and the following day I passed the medical examination. The guard made me strip all like at the front of the Draft Board or during sale of a slave. He and someone else examined me on all sides; he looked at the teeth, etc. On the chest, I still had recent marks of wounds; I had an obstinate cough and, moreover, varicose on the legs. All that was not useful to me and I was declared well being. The young doctor who had examined me, German and good man as I had later the proof, wanted to plead in my favour. But Finkow who was present prevented, insisting and intimidated him by saying that I would be examined later and that if the results will be positive, it is him who would be punished.
After all these preliminaries, I end up in front of the Council of War in order to hear my judgment. It was Finkow who, upright close to the gate, pointed out the words exactly. "By the Council Decision of War in Grodno, composed of such and such, to have taken share in the fight, being involved voluntarily and maintained the relations with the Central Committee of Warsaw, according to such and such article of the Penal code, the defendant belongs to the second category. In the first category prisoners were condemned to die. The defendant loses all his rights and personal prerogatives and, according to his social position, he also loses all the privileges of the nobility, right to any heritage for the present and the future. With the approval of the governor of Grodno (here came all his titles), the defendant has his sorrow commuted to twelve years of work in the mines. After this, there cannot be any recourse". Finkow read slowly, accentuating each word. He unceasingly raised the eyes on me, seeking to strike me by these terrible words. Only this detail shows the cruelty of this man for whom the misfortune of the others was a true pleasure.
I knew in advance with what I was condemned, as I told higher. However, despite everything, I did not believe in it as much as I did not want to hear it from mouths of my judges. I still had at the bottom of myself a weak gleam of hope. The effect of the reading of my judgement had been dreadful. I had noticed shining in the eyes of my enemy with the joy. The judges enjoyed the sight of my despair. I gathered all my forces, all my energy to hide what I felt; I made an effort to even appear indifferent to all that I heard. I had even the strenght to smile in a way that could seem natural. Thanks to my courage, my torturer did not gain the joy. I triggered at once his fury, he became crimson from anger and, showing me the gate, with the rage in the heart, he exclaimed, "Get out!" - words worthy of an employee of the Russian Empire. From this moment, I became always ready to leave; I knew that it might happen at any hour, I could receive the command to leave the prison of Grodno. I also hastened to finish some urgent businesses. I had written from Grodno several times to my parents; I sent my letters through hiding-place. I wrote a letter of good-bye then to them; I still did not ask them to come, because I knew that it would be for them such sad spectacle with so many good-byes! I feared for them for their emotions.
I knew that all were condemned to work in the mines and those of ready to leave were stripped from clothing and linen which they had. I had fortunately some warrant officers and soldiers whom I had gained with the money. They were obliged to me to be useful for all the secret correspondences with which I was charged. Through them, I managed to give my clothing and my linen to friends from the city. They committed themselves with giving these things to my parents. The poor Mrs Ostromecka who was condemned only to the deportation, was hoping that she could preserve her clothing. Unfortunately, she was also stripped of all and the Russians had even the audacity to tear off padded clothing from her which she wore and in which she had bent all her money. The poor already old woman with a very delicate health had to suffer, as a result of the lack of clothing. She was a woman of a great nobleness in her heart and much of merits. Before dispatching us, a barber shaved us completely, the beard and the hair. He left us only the moustache. To avoid this painful drudgery, I did the work myself. This changed me so much that my best friends could not recognise me more. Fearing not to be recognized by the people from the city at the time of my departure, which were to come to tell me good-bye, I warned them that I would carry glasses. I thought later that these glasses could be used by me to obtain some money by selling them. This object was not removed from us. By giving money to the clerk, I learned soon that I was to be dispatched on May 14, i.e. the following day, at 4 o'clock in the morning. I informed immediately my friends from the city and I prepared immediately myself for the departure.
The last day of my stay in Grodno I still remember with a sorrow. Since for some time, I lived in a bigger and more convenient barrack room. The company was very selected there. In addition to my uncle Felix, I had with me two young doctors, one Nuskowski from Warsaw and the other was Jules Birfriend, one of my colleagues from the University of Moscow. We were good friends. That day, we were joined together all three, plus a fourth who lived with us, called Count Witold Watowicz. We gathered together while completing a small bottle of cognac that, by chance, had reached us. We were of good mood, forgetting for a moment about the separation in the following day. Suddenly, a gendarme appeared, saying to us that Birfriend was to appear before the Board of Inquiry. This news was always quite worrying. Birfriend had hardly enough time to remove his pockets with suspicious objects. He gave me his wallet containing the correspondence of the prisoners between them and followed the gendarme. With sorrow we saw him one hour later through the window of the secret prison. We could nothing learn from what had happened and, by gestures, I bade my farewell. However, I failed to be noticed. Later, when I was in Siberia, I learned that he had been condemned like me to twelve years of work in mines and he was in Tobolsk. I never met him again. I spent my last night in arranging certain objects and packing some shirts that I hoped to be able to carry with me. I still had about thirty roubles that I managed to hide. I had fallen in sleep for hardly few hours, when gendarme Leonow, known man without spite by all awaked me. I had to follow him immediately and went down to one room at the ground floor. There, I found a civil employee who held in the hand the list of the names of all those who were to leave the very same day. There were still there soldiers and two officers of whom one had the command over us. We had to wear the clothing given by the tsar. On that day, fifteen men and only one woman (Mrs Ostromecka) were to leave the prison. I was one of them. We were almost all from different prisons so that we knew each other only a little. Soon, we all were gathered and the gendarme locked up us between two gates in a kind of passage and he called us each one after another. Not to waste time, he lined us up to shave and to cut the hair. When my turn arrived, due to avoid this horrible clothing, I left my small luggage between the hands of a comrade who had already passed through this sad ceremony and I moved away with naked head, having on me a very ordinary cotton costume. I hoped that oppressors would not desire to torture me. But I had been mistaken: they tore off all clothing from me. It hardly believed what I obtained from them. It was left to me old and worn linen that I had to put on and that was done purposely. I wished that they did not touch me with linen, because all my small capital was stuck to my skin and I hoped that the Russians did not find it. They left me also my boots. Then, one of them covered me with Russian style shirt, the same Russian trousers with a very special cut and whose no European tailor can have any idea. The trousers were retained with the size by a slide of tie up. All clothing was of the same size and naturally, no attention was paid if they suited us or not. Moreover, I received the second shirt and the other trousers and finally a pair of shoes called "koty", I do not know why. I received also a bag. Then, they gave me a wholesale grey cloth with the height up to the knees with a seal on the top of the back. This clothing was not double that no one could even guarantee that it could prevent against cold. Finally I received the same cap packs, without visor. When we all were thus equipped, someone once again started again to make the call. For to be certain that we were present and not trusting only at their eyes, the Russians while counting us came to touch us with the finger over the chest, with the arm or with the head. Thus, they were sure that we exist. We were sixteen. Then, guards connected us four by four by the hands according to the social position, prisoners from lower class were shackled together, and the prisoners from higher position were also shackled together. I never could understand why, since any privilege was removed from us by their judgement, they still made a difference between the noble one and the churl. Only Russian logic could perhaps answer that! It could be five hours of the morning when the gates giving on the court opened and the authorities let us leave in front of convoy troops prepared for this purpose. We did not have time or the possibility of saying good-bye to our comrades from the prison. Guards hastily tighten the hand of those who were closer to us, and made a sign of head to those who were further. We left at once. It is impossible to define the impression and the feeling that we experienced after being locked up for a long time between the four walls of a prison, that we found with the free air, between free men from whom we were however separated by an alive barrier, formed by the soldiers of the convoy. Even in the similar conditions, man tastes a little happiness to breathe freely and to see a distant horizon. Among the people of the city whom I had been able to become friendly, I saw, with my great joy the friendly ladies and others. I saw my aunt Felix, my sister-in-law, a wife of Wladyslaw, Mrs Alexandre Bummel, Léocadie Lubkiewicz, Mrs Victor Abramowicz and some others which came to tell me good-bye. First of all, the soldiers did not allow them to approach us, but at the end, on the request of our friends, the officer allowed to shake the hand with them. This dreadful moment will remain always engraved in my memory. I had not wanted to encounter my parents. I did not want any more to break the heart by such a cruel spectacle! Having warned only distant relatives and friends, I thought that these good-byes would be less painful. But I had been mistaken. I experienced so much affection. Sincere tears run from their eyes, their features expressing a so poignant pain. All these glances, this moving silence, these tender pressures made me see and smell my complete insulation, my abandonment was dreadful. Today I do not know any more, for the most part what you became, my precious, and God alone knows if it will be allowed to me to meet you again, to contemplate your dear features. So only these some lines which I write could arrive to you and to prove to you how much your memory is important to me and what a deep recognition I have for you all, you who in one supreme moment told me a last good-bye.
Though we are in May, the morning was very fresh and I was cold, more especially as my clothing was made of light fabric and that I did not manage to button it. Moreover, I did not have anything to put around my neck. This did not escape your far-sighted eyes, you my very precious. Ah, how much it was useful to me, this black wool bordered of purple that Madam Bummel withdrew from her head and put it on my shoulders! I regret being obliged to separate myself from this dear memory. I gave it one day to Madam Ostromecka, my second mother. It remained between her hands.
Let’s return to the time of the departure: my aunt gave me a few roubles then; each one gave me a small present. We walked together through some streets, to the street Polna, close to the station of the railroad. There, we had to be separated and I could see by far, at the edge of the road their signs of good-bye and the handkerchiefs that they agitated. I was held then on the platform of the train: I saw them; my heart would have liked to go towards the parents, the friends, but, alas! I could not any more. I resigned to dreaming: slavery, Siberia, the mines, the loss of all that I had moreover valued so much. All that tortured my spirit and tore my heart. I did not realize any more time; I remained upright. Fixed eyes, looking in front of me and not seeing anything, because my tortured spirit full of pain wandered in thoughts, stopping with darkest, the most painful images.
Suddenly resounded the signal of the departure. We entered into the coaches and a few moments afterwards, Grodno had disappeared from our eyes. We moved towards Wilno.
Wilno was located from Grodno about 201 versts (route measurement used in Russia and 1 verst correspondent with 1 km 066 m). Only the simple soldiers escorted us and we were happy. The soldiers of Russia are not malicious and if someone wants to give them some money or to offer them some objects, at once they all want these little bribes, even with the risk to compromise themselves. We had already crossed some stations when some officers entered into our coach. We were obliged to hear quite painful conversations for us. Besides that, nothing interesting happened during the way of a few hours which separated Grodno from Wilno, except that a German woman did not want that we pay her for the modest lunch that she gave us and that had been useful to us. We approached Wilno, the capital of so famous Lithuania formerly and which has so many historical buildings. The city of Wilno is precious and famous for its miraculous image of the Virgin of Ostra Brama towards which so many generations came to request and draw blessings. Today, in approaching this venerated place, only sad thoughts crossed my spirit: is not this then the place of stay of our mortal enemy, the persecutor of Lithuania, and a satrap, Muravieff. It is in this city he ran the blood of our martyrs for freedom; it is there that were signed so many decrees condemning ours to death, by hundreds, and with work in the mines of Siberia per thousands. At that time, there were in Wilno more than ten prisons and all were full up to roofs. Authorities placed us in the n°8, if I remember well, except for Mrs Ostromecka, who was taken along in the prison reserved to the women. To arrive to our prison, we had to walk more than one kilometer, through repugnant mud, bearing our bundles on our shoulders. For us, still acceptable, but for poor Mrs Ostromecka with the immense and heavy clothing that trailed in mud was too much, although we took her luggage. When we arrived at the gate of the prison, the call was made. I feared that someone snitched on us, because I was surprised that many things were confiscated from me which I had succeeded in carrying from Grodno. For the most part they were the memories or the objects that my mother had given me during my stay in prison: some objects coming from the house. And then, I had a few tens of roubles that were bent in my clothing, which was not done very carefully. By one fortunate coincidence, part of it was not discovered, there or nowhere until my arrival to Tomsk. Then, I have to say "by chance", because those of my comrades who came by stages from the governments of the South, Kiev, the White Russia or government of Minsk, all were pitilessly stripped of all, not only their books, money, knives, etc. but even their private pipes and their tobacco.
In Wilno, our prison was as dirty as those that we had already inhabited were. We found it filled with prisoners and with some difficulties we could deposit our luggage and find a little rest; naturally, we slept on naked boards. Each barrack room had some straw mattresses, but they were so old, disgusting, and although for long months, we were accustomed to the dirtiness of the Russian prisons, it was impossible for us to make use of it. We used our ridiculously short clothing as bed linen and our bag as a pillow for our head. In spite of the enormous number of prisoners, we intended to remain in Wilno for a few days. I met there one of my former comrades, Michal Polkowski who, being took part in the insurrection against the government of Minsk, there was taken, condemned and arrived at foot to Wilno. I was separated from Mrs Ostromecka, although I was unaware if we were not separate forever. Among those who were with me, I knew no one before. But in prison, one makes friends quickly.
We remained nearly one week in Wilno and I had already made a number of friends. Initially, I bound with Polkowski, then with Etienne Wyganowski, Konstanty Wroblewski, captain Czyryk, etc. A few days after our arrival in Wilno, a new convoy brought my uncle Felix and some others with him. They were brought to our prison and crowd was so dense that, in the corridors, one could pass only from one place to other with difficulties, so many prisoners slept there. Youth is always youth and being thus joined together, we even managed to brighten the old men. The days were not wasted. We spent time on getting known newcomers, to seek among them a relative, a friend. Then, we shared all the meals that the city sent to us. Wroblewski, who knew many people in Wilno, was for us a great help. In evenings, when our barrack rooms were closed with key, we lighted a samovar, we shared the tea, we sang. And then gatherings ended in a joint prayer. A good expert was found to repeat our songs, but if the right note was missed sometimes, the feelings made us vibrate, especially when a melody referred to the family, the fatherland was so true, so strong, so powerful! Someone could guess by these songs that painful wounds open our hearts. He could feel that we were all unhappy victims. Generally, I remember only the beginning of the melody:
"Know you this country where on the edge of the brook
grows the forgets-me-not and sorbs... etc."
Afterwards each stanza, we repeated the refrain:
"I cry and I sigh
after this dear country
as after a paradise.
Happy, I will not be able to say
when one day I will see again
this country, these harvests!"
My poor old uncle cried with tears by hearing this song. In spite of his advanced age, he had nearly 60 years, oppressors had him condemned to be offset to Siberia, to Tobolsk. He could not hope even any more to return one day to this cherished soil, this country for which he had already suffered in 1831 (prisoner in Minsk) and for which he still had been so devoted. He left over there a woman and a girl who, after the last events, were without any resource to survive. There thus did not remain to him more any hope to return to his fatherland, considering his age and his infirmities. He even doubted to be able to arrive at destination. He asked whether his health would make it possible to face such a long voyage and so long distance through Siberia. In our prison, there was a catholic vault: one day, we could attend a mass. Thanks to this circumstance, I foresaw Mrs Ostromecka: she told me that her prison was still worse than ours. Then she indicated to me, in a few words, the means of seeing her and I was not long in making it possible.
The meals were prepared in our prison and from here prisoners carried it to the other buildings escorted by soldiers. When someone wished to see someone else, one could with the help of some bribed soldiers obtain the permission to hold one of the ends of an enormous stick with the medium of which was balanced a wood tank filled of soup of a doubtful odor. In this way, one could move to the other prisons and discuss a little for fifteen minutes.
Mrs Ostromecka was in a repugnant prison. Company was horrible, because there were not only political prisoners, but of all categories and these dominated. A brave man, Pasteur protested. I forgot his first name. He was from Wilno and he acted when he learned about his daughter fate from Mrs Ostromecka (who belonged to the same religion). She gave him the things more useful then affection, clothing, bed linen and some prayer books. Without this providential chance, he would not have had in what to dress and would have had nothing to rest his head. As for me, I bought also various objects in a shop of Jew who was in the court. Anyone could find there many things, except the censored objects. I thus bought a cap, made of the fabric from which I made myself two enormous pockets that I packed with my clothing. Later, when I had a little more money, I allowed such a luxury that I made a costume with folds behind, collar right, attached with hooks and decorated fur. But this happened in Tobolsk.
During our stay in Wilno, the day of the visit came, day blessed between all. For me, I was delighted only little, not hoping to see friends. However, I had soon the joy of seeing seven people who came to visit me. The people from the outside were obliged, before entering the prison, of saying the name of the prisoner whom they wished to see. However here how the things occurred. Thanks to someone's boldness, a brave lame Polish came each day to the prison. He took care in hiding of all our correspondence (it is by him that I sent my first letter to my parents and to the uncle Theophilus by the post office) and helped many others. He knew many people in Wilno. Therefore, he hastened to spread among them the last and first names of all prisoners. Our names were said from mouth to mouth until one of them met a known name to him, he run, said the last and first name in all safety and was at once allowed to enter the prison. The visits took place under the eyes of an officer and some soldiers, but we could, in spite of that, to talk freely and even some brought gifts to us. The first person who visit me was Miss Birfriend, the sister of my comrade about whom I already spoke. I did not know her at all. By her brother, she had learned that we had been comrades, and knowing that I arrived to Grodno where I had not been for a long time. She wanted that I give her news about her brother and her grandmother. I satisfied her in all points, however I hid some details that I considered unnecessarily. Since the beginning of the Insurrection, the poor girl had not had any news of him. I was happy to meet the sister of a friend. Then, I had the visit of the two young ladies Andruszkiewicz, whom I did not know either. They were the two sisters of Miss Victoire Andruszkiewicz (today a wife of Vladimir Wyczolkowski) who was then the teacher of my sisters. They knew my name and came to bring two boxes of cigars and some drill plates padded to put on my chest. I shared all these with my comrades of barrack room. It was a use to give something to the prisoner whom one came to see. Thus Miss Birfriend gave me also tea, sugar, but what pleased me the most was a pair of wool cuffs, which she made with her hands, asking me to accept them to remember her. Mrs Pawlowicz visited me, the German cousin of my father, as my uncle Felix knew her very well. The poor old man was very happy to see her. She brought with her some other young and even very pretty ladies. This day of visit was happy one, more especially as I expected not to see anybody.
On May 22, a commandant let us know that we were going to set out in the morning. Hardly we had any time to swallow a little tea. Guards gave us the command to leave our barrack rooms and to gather in the court with our luggage. They closed at once the gates of our prisons so that we could not return there. We believed to start a trip by the train, but this was not the case! We remained in the court under a hot sun up to four hours in the afternoon. So much long the preliminary starting ceremonies lasted. The prisoners who were not to leave with us all had been locked up with key. Administration allowed only the women and the children come out from the prisoners, so that they left with us. Mrs Ostromecka was brought in her turn. We went therefore to be again joined together. Heat was so strong that many among us drank too much water, which caused later several diseases of intestines that gave us a concern. About midday, some officers arrived sent to review all of us and to chain prisoners as well as it was in Grodno. They put these chains for the road. All these preparations lasted up to four hours. At the end, the carriages entered the court and we deposited the luggage there, some women and the children who were to be led to the station got on too. There were hundreds of prisoners and the luggage of those who prepared to live in Siberia were very numerous, our packages were quickly lost in the huge pile and we had a difficulty to find them later.
At the time of leaving the prison of Wilno, the government of this city assisted us. Few employees were asking us whether we did not have any complaints against employees of the prison so, henceforth, preventing the abuses, not only in the prisons of Wilno, but in all the other prisons where we had remained so far. All that took place only as a formality, because although a number of us complained, nobody gave any satisfaction to any among us. Authorities made promises that were never carried out. Thus, Mrs Ostromecka complained about the brutal way with which guards had stripped her of all that she had taken from Grodno. "What are you condemned?" someone asked the Polish governor. "A deportation to the government of Ienissei". Some among us complained about a General called Mikolziowski, who, although he did not have the right made prisoners shave half of the head and having put them in row, made fun of them in an outrageous way. Moreover, and although the Russian law was against it, he stripped them of all the money which they had. This money had been given to them after their judgment for the trip and, consequently, was considered like alimony made to the prisoners. The Russian law authorizes to receive and keep this money. To steal from the poor people, of whom all fortune consisted of a few roubles, to leave them without penny was an inhuman act and which required revenge. This money certainly remained in the pocket of the General who, having acted immorally, could not give these sums back to the government. And what the governor answered them? He declared to the prisoners that this money would be returned to them soon. That was limited to this promise, we had never received them. I can affirm the truth to these facts because, being in Tobolsk, we asked again and we received a negative answer.
When all prisoners were installed in the carriages, guards made us leave from the prison while counting us and touching us by the hand in order to make sure well that we existed. In front of the prison spread a large undeveloped yard, crossed by the road leaving the prison. As soon as we were outside, we saw that a hedge of uhlans on horses kept two sides of the road, some with the naked sword in the hand, the others with spades decorated with small flags. Soldiers made us to stand in row two by two, and, finally, we left. The uhlans prevented anyone from approaching us and more over anyone who advanced too close was wounded, especially in the narrow streets that we had to cross. Many inhabitants of Wilno and especially many women attended this sad procession heading to the station, each one of us took again his luggage and guards piled us up in coaches under the escort of soldiers and an officer. Then the train shook, carrying us to Dynabourg, Pskow and Petersbourg where we unloaded on the third day. In Wilno, the command had given us the money for our food: fifteen kopecks for the noble ones and ten kopecks for the others. To those who were condemned to the deportation, they gave sixteen and eight kopecks per child. Until the arrival to destination in the content of Siberia, I must say that no one gave us again money. On the way, when we had taken our meals, the train stopped longer at the station. The command sent twenty to thirty soldiers to make a kind of hedge which surrounded the train and created a room where we ate and at this time only authorities let to us come out of the coaches. In those, we were literally choked, because the lack of air. From Wilno to St Petersbourg, there are 210 versts. We arrived there at 11 o'clock in the morning. Soldiers made us leave the coaches and they locked up us in rooms of the station of which all were kept by the troops. Naturally, officers counted us again. We remained only a few hours there; we went to the rooms of the dressers where we could had dinners, beer, the tea and the coffee.
Madam Tamiecka, wife of the General and some others ladies dealt with us distributing clothing, linen, tea, sugar, and other things collected for us by subscription. We had the authorization to see our friends who lived in the city. We were even allowed to inform them about our arrival in advance. Many among us benefited from this permission. As far as me, by no means I expected to meet two of my cousins here: Albin Dziekowski who waited day in day for his brother, Karol, the student and Alexandre Sniecka who lived in St. Petersburg. Since the beginning of the Insurrection enemies burned their property Doubizna, they killed their father and all servants, all innocent. This event had a great repercussion and was known by all. I met Mr Roman Malachowski there too. I did not know that his brother had been arrested at the same time as me. I gave him news about his brother of whom he had known only a few facts. I gave him his letters passed by the censure of the military governor. In St Petersbourg, we left some patients and travelled towards Moscow.
After one day and half of voyage, we arrived to Moscow at two o’clock in the morning on 26 May 1864, about 606 versts from St Petersbourg. The path traversed between Wilno and Moscow was quite familiar for me: it did not present anything new in particular, especially in the state of mind in which I found myself. Formerly, I felt happy to traverse this road, because it enabled me to go more quickly and helped me to be near my family. Today, on the contrary, I preferred a less fast means of transport, in order not so quickly move away from my dear country. Moreover, I felt sad and that discouraged me more. My only consolation was to feel close to my uncle, Mrs Ostromecka, which made the separation from my parents and my fatherland less painful. But this only my joy was removed from me soon. With our arrival to Moscow, forty were condemned to forced work, were separated from others as with the Last Judgement. My uncle and Mrs Ostromecka, only condemned to deportation, were taken along at once with the others to a more comfortable prison.
I knew Moscow, having followed the courses at the University. I tried to inform myself about the distance from the soldiers who assisted us on the trip to our prison, more especially as I felt very weakened and a long trip frightened me. But none wanted to answer me. I dragged myself to the distant prison several kilometers. Street Miasnicka, we passed near the post office, then not far from the Large Theatre, close to the University of which the sight tightened my heart. Many times before, I came there, merry, working hard with hope in the future... and now...
Lastly, we passed in front of the Russian church of Spasa Wulikowo. On street Waska, soldiers made us enter through a gate that did not have anything which resembled a gate of prison, if not its dirtiness. We entered into a small court that was like the hall of our prison. There lived the "smotrytiel". He was awaked. He came out very deadened and, holding the list that someone had given to him, he called us all one by one. We left by a small gate and we were in the second court. Then he disappeared and someone else led us further. Soon, we arrived in front of a building without stage, terribly dirty and old, in front of which soldiers assembled the guard. This external aspect made I us to imagine what would be the interior. It is enough to say that, very little time before, this building contained the stables of the horses of the gendarmes: today it was found good to place in them condemned to work in the mines. The place warned us about soon destination.
If one thus treats us at the beginning, what will be in Siberia? How will they treat us when we arrive instead to our destination, over there in the mines, since authorities acted thus, in the capital, towards us?
The hour was still very morning: my burden on the shoulders, I traversed all the corners, stopping, looking at those who slept because the prison was already full with prisoners, seeking to discover some friendly face. More than one hundred people slept there, wide on boards, like Lazarus. I examined them all attentively, leaning on them. All slept calm; seldom one of them opened the eyes, looked at me and not recognizing in me a friendly person, he turned over and fallen asleep again at once. All rested with calm, quiet features: immediately anyone could see that these prisoners were not criminals corroded by the remorse of conscience, but the unhappy ones and innocent victims. It is during our sleep that our heart is reflected best on our features. The spirit not receiving more the directions and any feeling from the external world expresses itself, free of all that surrounds it, and reflect more freely on our faces. Here one recognized well quickly of the Poles martyrs! Per moment their faces expressed the joy, a smile wandered on theirs lips. Perhaps they dreamed they were back in their country, with their families, their promised in marriage, and their friends. Perhaps they were free in the medium of all their sleep, free ones of this fate seen so dreadful that the enemy reserved to them. Alas, the dream always does not last and soon, it is necessary to awake with reality to suffer still more from its own misery. In passing near all these unhappy, I recognised two: Kepski, comrade from university and Valentine Kieronowski, an employee of Pruzany who, by error, was among us. Since they slept both, I did not awake them.
I laid down on a bank, also trying to sleep and dream, but neither the sleep nor the dream calmed my suffering. I was cold and to cover myself I had only my too short clothing and on my head, I put my bag. If I lay down on my clothing, I suffered cold and if I put it on me to be used as a cover, the bank seemed to me quite hard. At the end, I was perhaps deadened by tiredness, because the rising sun, the temperature became less cold, but each one started to be agitated and rise. It was noisy, and, finally, I recognised that I will give my rest later. Here we were nourished very badly. We were obliged to come for the meals to the city with our money. Fortunately, authorities did not prevent us from doing that. We did not have anything to do. All day, we moved ourselves from corner to the other corner, in the court not knowing with what to occupy us. Nothing came to break the monotony of our existence; we were unaware of what would be for us in the following days. When a prisoner is not busy, a man suffers and he vegetates decaying as a plant that cannot grow in a new climate. The man was here only a number in the registers and the Russians used only the name of "condemned to work in the mines". It was necessary for us to endure these jokes and more than once it cost me a lot, with my sensitive character I could not conceal it to me. I spent eight days in Moscow, but I did not remain always in the same prison. By a stroke of luck, one of our comrades, condemned like me to work, was, by error, sent to the same prison as my uncle. The Russians realised their error and three days later they returned him to our premises. Benefiting from the occasion, my uncle let me know that if, by an unspecified means, I managed to remain a few days more in Moscow, I could perhaps leave with him. Among us, the gossip ran already that we were to leave the following day. What could I do? To expose my case in front of our superiors would not have brought any change as far as my departure. I needed therefore to use of trick. There were only means related to my profession. We were subjected to the medical examination; I declared myself sick and superiors sent me to the hospital. Indeed, I did not feel quite well, but I was not enough sick not to be able to leave the hospital the day when I would like it. It was my only and last hope there. Having rented with my expenses a horse carriage, I was taken along under the escort of three soldiers to the hospital "Catherine". During my stay in Moscow, when I attended the courses at the University, I went to this hospital. I knew it in all its recesses. The prison authorities had held there some rooms for prisoners: it goes without saying that we were well better there than in our prison. I found friends immediately, a Hungarian who joined our insurrection with the name of Jean Pacanowski. He said to me that I could without fear, via the doctor who visited, to write letters and even do shopping. Benefiting from this occasion, I wrote immediately a letter to my parents. I made a small bag to put my letter and some notes to my uncle. This stay at the hospital was a joy and time went quickly. But if my great desire had not been to leave together with my uncle, I could have remained at the hospital for long months. On the way, I could be of a great help for my uncle, considering his advanced age. Otherwise he could not to survive a similar voyage. Four days after my arrival at the hospital, one of my comrades from the prison of my uncle admitted plans to escape the following day. My uncle communicated to me that the number of prisoners was leaving. Wanting to join him, I signed required papers immediately and I requested to be turned over to the prison, but, to my despair, I realized that my uncle did not leave the following day: false information had been given to me. In my prison, I became acquainted with Doctor Ignacy Tomkowicz, Wankowicz, Fiodorowicz and some others.
On June 2 in the morning, guards read the list of those who were to leave the very same day. I was included. It was Sunday. They counted us, recounted us more than ten times and, at the end, we left the prison. Our luggage had been carried at once and we did not have any doubts about departure. The luggage was taken to the station for the direction of Nizni-Novgorod where we were to go. The station was far away from the prison by several kilometers. Guards did not lead us to it immediately: it was reserved one surprise for us which we expected by no means. At the end, they placed us in a house located out of the city not far from the station and making a destination very special. For a long time, there exists in Russia a custom that consists in giving alms to the prisoners without regard to their position in rows and to the place that they occupied in the transport. In the same way there is another custom that consists in repaying debts of the prisoners condemned for debts as a part of Easter celebrations, this last custom has rather a religious character. This custom is widespread only in the lower classes of the company and especially among the merchants. The custom of supplying alms to prisoners was done twice per week, Thursday and Sunday, which was not exaggerated considering the number of unhappy prisoners that the government transported. These alms were not given to us by sympathy to us, or by pity for our misery. Quite to the contrary, the entire Russian people saw in us criminal culprits towards the Tsar, their second God. By giving these alms, they said to each one "pryjniy vadi Chrysta" (take it in name of Christ) and they were offended if the prisoner rejected. This sad ceremony lasted a few hours. Around eleven o'clock, guards offered to us a lunch that could had been good for "believing old men" being composed of one cabbage dish with meat and "kasza" with butter. Moreover, rye bread and "kwas" (Russian beverage). We were one hundred strong. However, prisoners had to share offered food. We sat behind large tables with bowls made of wood and we also had spoons made of wood. During all the time when we were in this house, we were forbidden to smoke. We had been warned about that, although we strongly opposed this rule. Those among us who were accustomed to smoking were very unhappy, especially after the meal, when any smoker feels that he needs it even more. After the lunch, guards brought us to another part of the building and while crossing a room, we saw an enormous table covered with small heaps of copper currency. In front of the table a Russian pope stood and some old women, old men. Soldiers made us stand in two rows in order to leave a free passage between us. Then the gate was closed again in front of us; we understood nothing there. Suddenly, the gates were reopened and we saw an old man in a very old, large frock coat "sarafan" taking and holding in the hand a wood bowl filled with small change. Passing close to us, he gave us to each one a penny (kopeck). A few minutes later, another old man appeared and made the same thing. We understood whereas that alms were made and we thought that this ceremony was going to end and that we were not to be annoyed again. It is easy to understand that this custom was painful for us. One accepts more readily an invitation to dine, but to be obliged to tighten the hand to receive alms is a very painful feeling, a kind of humiliation and the man says to himself "What am I thus become?" It is true that we received some clothing, some small objects from our compatriots, it is always alms, you will say. But that cannot be compared with alms made by an enemy hand. Those Russians had not made us evil, but the only "Russian" name fills our heart with hatred and dislike. How atrocious thing to be obliged to accept alms like a beggar. Then we saw entering some comic old women, but at the end of one hour and half, we had enough of all this exhibition, we were tired and annoyed to the last point. They gave us not only small change, but also cooked eggs, cucumbers, cakes, belts of wool, ribbons, etc. Then when the ceremony was going finally to finish, the orthodox priest encouraged by our good behaviour gave to each of us an imitation of Russian Jesus-Christ and written text according to the orthodox religion. What could have been done? We needed to accept this gift, which made the priest happy. To prove how long had lasted this painful ceremony, it is enough for me to say that we collected thus each one 6 roubles. Our pockets were packed with small coins. Lastly, soldiers led us to the station and they lined us all in coaches with latticed windows where openings were so narrow that we were choking. We were forbidden to get out of the coaches during all the way from Moscow to Niznij-Novgorod, i.e. during 14 hours (390 versts). After one night and a morning of voyage, we arrived finally at the place where the network of railroads of Russia finishes in Niznij-Novgorod.
We arrived to Niznij-Novgorod on June 3. This city has the largest market of Russia. It is built at the edge of the Volga not far from its junction with the river Oka. Its station is located on left bank of the Volga in the countryside. That station is a verst and half from the city. Large trees surround many houses; they are built without symmetry. Above the city, one sees the citadel and, on the right, at the top of a mountain, one discovers an old tower in ruin, remainder of some old castle. All that is picturesque. The river whose water was high at that time of the year seemed one broad ribbon being held at the foot of the city and beyond. Punts can reach the banks. Since our arrival, we stationed in the neighbourhoods of the station. All these area was full with kind of closed barns at the time when we were there and they opened only at the time of large fairs. They are large buildings belonging either to the state, or to private individuals, built out of stones or wood, according to products that they must contain. We crossed streets formed by these buildings, and we reached the river that we had to cross by a ferry. From June 24, time when the large market takes place and when water is lower the bridge is put. The day of our arrival, heat was very strong and to reach the river, we had to walk, with our luggage, therefore we reached the destination exhausted. At the river, we rested a little. On the opposite bank, we saw a street going up towards the city and, from there, a great quantity of people having the eyes fixed on us and very intrigued with our arrival. The river was so broad that we could not distinguish the figures. The Poles could not have been so free and there would have been so many of them? However, our arrival downtown could not wake up so much curiosity of the Russians. But we were unaware that the Russians consider the Volga second Styx and on the other bank, authorities did not supervise us as much. Anyone could leave prisons without escort freely. They did not fear any more. We could not pass back the river. These were thus ours whose we saw: they benefited from quasi freedom that government left to them to run on the bank seeking some friendly faces. Among them, many were only deportees living in Niznij-Novgrod. It was quite rare that someone did not find a friend: when he was not a compatriot, he was a comrade from a prison or a road. We crossed the city and, on the other end we saw our refuge "stage" what we did not know yet. But here as elsewhere we were separated. Those condemned to work went to the stage and the other simple deportees occupied a large house located close to the gymnasium and having a large garden. Without any monitoring, their fate was envied in comparison with ours. A "stage" is a prison built out of wood. In the medium of the court, one saw the buildings intended to shelter the prisoners and the soldiers who accompanied us from one stage to another. All the windows were latticed. The kitchens were located nearby. The dwelling of the stage included stables, wells, etc. These stages were spread twenties or thirty versts and that through all Russia. They are especially intended for prisoners going towards Siberia. All these stages resemble each other except for those that are staged between Perm and the mountains towards the district of Tobolsk where the buildings are painted in yellow so that they already by far are distinguished. These stages symbolised dirtiness: they could be used as field of study to a naturalist who would like to deal especially with the study of the insects of the "parasites" family as researchers name them in zoology. All the inconveniences that it was necessary for us to endure were by the fault of the guard or many officers: we did not have drinking water and our food was not cooked, because did not have wood to heat and we did not have bed linen. It was Niznij-Novgorod that I saw for the first time in this kind of dwelling. I remained there for eight to ten days. During this time, I managed to go several times downtown. It was with problems that I obtained this favour. Generally, I asked the officer for the permission to make some purchases several times. He let us leave escorted with two or three soldiers, without weapons. But at once when we were downtown, each one of us took a different direction and the soldiers not knowing whom to watch let us go asking us to return at the same time. On the return, we gave them some change. In this way, I visited soon the whole city and I found it extremely interesting. The houses all are surrounded with gardens that embellish and refresh the city. But one sees no orchard, the climate being too hard. At the foot of a raised hill, one comes to the catholic church which, by its small dimensions, would deserve to be called vault rather, but it is new, clean and of good taste. One sees some pictures there painted with talent. While thus walking through the city, I felt very happy; I had sorrow to believe in this freedom at that moment and, involuntarily, I turned back from time to time, to see whether, actually I was not followed. In spite of the heat that was torrid, I was glad to trail all the day through streets, enjoying this pretence of freedom. At this point in time I made a photograph at Wisiljew and I sent one of my photographs from Niznij-Novgorod to my parents and my uncle Theodore Galoff. I was very happy because my parents could see thanks to photograph that I was not too much maltreated: perhaps even they would believe that I was free. Also my costume could tranquillise them in this respect. It was in this city that I met my comrade Lucjan Kraszewski. It was there with his wife and her child on the way to Kungur where he was assigned for residence.
When I returned to the stage, I was already of bad mood, not only to feel myself under the bolts, but because of the many inconveniences from which it was necessary for us so much to suffer. We were there packed very densely, an unbearable odor reigned there, everybody missed air and, moreover, heat was intolerable. Moreover, the insects about which I spoke did not let us sleep during the night. Formerly, a professor of zoology said to us that these horrible insects could with only one blow cross a distance equal to thousand times their length. I believe that he exaggerated, this figure was still too tiny, because we could not escape them: these animals joined us everywhere. Tired to turn over myself on the board that was used by me as mattress, I was going to spread myself in the court on the naked ground. There I had hardly rested a few moments, amusing myself with the idea of finally being able to sleep, I, alas, was attacked soon by hundreds of these insects which devoured me pitilessly. The nights were then short and clear. The temperature was same during the night and the day: in the morning only freshness was felt a little, the insects fled; tired, the heavy head made me sleepy for one hour. This week of suffering was hard to support. At the end of a few days, I rented from a soldier a straw mattress and a pillow, thinking that the lack of bed linen was the cause of my insomnia. But that was for nothing.
We organised ourselves a kitchen. During days when I did not go downtown, I wandered from place to place, unoccupied and unhappy. Heat removed from us the little of strength that we had and made us apathetic. Our evenings were a little less sad, because we met all in the interior court and we sang some love songs and the patriotic songs. I did not like merry songs: they were not harmonized with my state of heart. They resounded with my ears like a bitter irony with our own distress. I will never forget the impression that produced on me the song of the prisoners:
"Song of the young man off-set to Siberia
The impetuous wind blows on the deserted steppe
And raise towards the sky of the snow eddies
And the white swirl breaks and disperses
As under the hurricane the thick dust
Driven out by snow in one moving swirl like the wave
Kebitka moves fast on the road to North
Its small bells sadly tinkle in the distance
Like the funeral knell for the departed
In Kebitka one distinguishes the silhouette of a young man
His glance was sad but full of trust
His animated face was coloured of fugitive freshness
Which however was to disappear soon
And near the prisoner a gendarme, irons his feet
Irons are heavy on the feet of the prisoner
The prisoner is young; but why is he in jail?
From where does he come? What is his crime? God alone knows it.
He leans out of Kebitka, he shakes his head little
He triggers an anger of the gendarme
He turns the eyes towards the native land
And he starts to sing:
They see in vain that my eyes, it is in vain
My eyes turn towards the West
Where my country disappeared at the nebulous horizon
I will never again go back
I will never see my family
Neither my house neither my mother
Nor my beloved
I will see them never again, never
The cowards have shackled my hands in irons
But they will not be able to imprison a free heart
Unlock the chains; give me weapons
I will teach you what is freedom"
This universally known song is sung on plaintive notes that go straight to the heart. Sung then by those with a beautiful voice, could be returned by a listener with a grand and real feeling. It is easy to imagine the impression that made on us all this splendid song. (Mickiewicz deeply reflected the tearing pain of this young man, his atrocious suffering when taken into slavery, he sees himself carried towards Siberia at the time when he formed dreams of love, glory and happiness and that he feels impotent to fight against his characteristic misfortune). I always had this in memory. At the falling night, a singer was joined together in great number in front of the prison. We surrounded our singer. He remained upright in front of us, the head high and with moving expression. Tears ran from his eyes. Under his poor costume of prisoner, he appeared to us as inspired. When he sang it was with such an amount of expression and then revealed so well the state of his heart and that of all those who listened to it in a solemn silence. Only our tears proved that each line of this song found an echo at the bottom of our hearts.
During my stay in Niznij-Novgorod, a violent fire burst in a full day. All the buildings being used for the fair were destroyed. Fortunately that it was across the river, what prevented the Russians from blaming of us as authors. If they had been able to do it, we still would have been more cruelly treated. We could not have gone downtown, etc. We thank God for not to have removed this little of freedom.
At the end of eight days, I awaited the arrival of Mrs Ostromecka and my uncle when I learned that an enormous group of ours arrived from Moscow and was at the gate of the stage. We precipitated in their meeting waiting, but the gates were still closed. Through the slits of the gate, we sought to see some figures. Not being able anything to distinguish, I preferred to ask a man who was in front of the gate if he could say to me if among them were Felix Okinczyc and Mrs Ostromecka. My choice was good because I had addressed myself to Huwald, a marshal from Bialystock who was their friend and formed a part of their company. I felt very happy to be joined together with them and though we were crowded in the narrow stage, we would be all together. Hardly I had had time to kiss my uncle that guards took him along to a hut in the city, because he was condemned only to deportation. Mrs Ostromecka remained with us. The following day, I managed to go to see my uncle. The house where he lived I found apart from the city behind military stores. The house was made of boards and resembled a stable rather. I found my uncle who placed there with Huwald. I agreed with my uncle that because next departure will be soon, we would ask the colonel of the garrison on whom we depended to leave together. We heard that he was a good man that he would not refuse it to us and it was what happened. Poor Mrs Ostromecka became exhausted in the stage. She was allowed only once to come out downtown. Her only distraction of monotony was the daily visits of friendly people and whom she had known from the prison of Moscow. We received also the visits of our compatriots who had left before us, and were condemned to live in Niznij-Novgorod. They were allowed to enter our place without any difficulty. It was there where I met Karol Dziekowski who came from Niznij-Novgorod to see his brother Albin. He was the last free Pole whom I saw. He was like a last good-bye before my enormous pilgrimage. It is necessary to say here that condemned to work in the mines after having finished their time could obtain in Siberia some help in the beginning and a patch of land to be cleared.
We were to carry on our travel on a steamboat on the Volga, Oka, Kama until Perm. The distance to be traversed was 1 500 versts. The preparations for the departure were begun. Authorities drew up the lists of those who were to leave and I was lucky to be included with my uncle and Mrs Ostromecka. As of this moment, we were not left more alone in our stage. Administration placed also the criminals there. The government had a special building and guards locked up them for the night. In the course of the day, they moved freely in the court that was common with us. They caused no trouble for us. Here why: although many of them were without morality and they were able to make more great crimes without the least remorse of conscience, they had as a principle and they did not derogate from it. It was always necessary to respect comrades of prison, being men of the same category as them. If they had done something to us, we would have had only to feel sorry for us. They chose among them a person to maintain peace and the good command, and at once justice had been returned to us thereafter. This approach worked on the boats, in the stages and in the prisons of Siberia. I realised that when I knew them more closely. Later, I will have the occasion to speak about it. I must still say that they all were chained and that it was necessary to see in what state they arrived to unlock their chains that seemed designed so well. They kept them all the day, but they removed them for the night. One of our prisoners kept chains on his feet (he was called Kosopolski) because he was escaped prisoner from the prison of Kowiensk. He escaped to see his friend to say good-bye and promise her marriage. A convict helped him and thanks to a tiny sum, he was allowed to remove the chains. Thus two criminals removed their chains and tried to escape from the stage. The following day the guards realized what happened, it was done much noise, but search remained vain. Large forests where it was easy for them to flee surrounded the city of Niznij-Novgorod. A similar escape could be done only with the assistance of the outsiders. This incident woke up in me for the first time the idea of escape. I did not excite with the desire to escape, but I foresaw a many insurmountable obstacles. I then had not enough people with right knowledge around me and I would not have had all the necessary help. I thus had to give up the project for the moment. But this incident was as a grain that germinated in my head. It took root there and grew to produce its fruits later.
On the steamboat we were to leave Niznij-Novgorod on June 13. We were four hundreds. Since the morning, no one left a moment of respite for us. Guards counted us, they recounted us, finally they placed us in row and under good escort they took us along to the edge of the river. The bank is beautiful there. The street that leads to the port goes down soft inclined towards the river and is bordered with trees. The city rises on a covered mountain with grass and trees. The river is crowded with steamboats, boats, and rafts of many forms and different sizes. The other bank is empty and confuses with the horizon. This landscape presents a majestic spectacle. Many blouses of various colors or white clothing because it was very hot and our troops added a picturesque accent to this view. But someone had not then had to probe our hearts and the state of our spirits. Anyone would have been saddened by it. We were neither the first nor the last. Alas, we were found grouped on this bank taking on board for this sad voyage. The company of the steamboats had undertaken to transport per annum 45 000 prisoners from Niznij-Novgorod to Perm. And this transport did not last only one year. Today still these transfers go on, moreover, how many of us go to Perm by overland route. What an appalling figure that must be!
Our steamboat was moored on the quay ready to leave. Behind it, there was a barge joined together with the boat by some boards. The steamboat did not present anything special if not to mention that it was driven using two wheels placed on both sides. The barge deserves that I include a more detailed description of it. The men only used it; the women were placed in the cabins of the steamboat. The barge that was going to take us along had had lately used to transport corn and flour, because we found remainders of them a little everywhere. The bottom of the barge, rather major part of it, was divided into two compartments. In the medium of it was left a passage over the entire length. First of all, there were only small attic windows, all at the top, as in an attic. Someone then decided to bore some holes for the lower levels. But these air intakes were in so small number that the lack of air was cruelly felt when we all were embarked. At the top on each end of the barge, there were two openings by which one entered a staircase leading to the lower floors. A third input was used only for criminals and led to the part of the barge in which the convicts were locked up for the night. The bridge was surrounded with a high palisade. In the center there were cabins covered with a very flat roof. The front and the back were free and it was intended to receive the various apparatuses being used for navigation. In cabins, the officer of the barge, soldiers, and a doctor lived. Moreover one could see the kitchen and the infirmary where the command could place three or four patients at most. The mast dominated all that I have just described and around the cabins there was still a rather broad passage. The length of the barge was twenty pitch-stirrers and its width of three pitch-stirrers and half. We were there very close each to other. When we were embarked, we found already soldiers and the officer installed on the barge. The doctor was not long in arriving; we could thus leave. But it seemed to us that some character was still awaited. Lastly, he arrived, he was a Russian colonel who commanded the load of the steamboat. He was a large man with glasses on the nose. He reviewed everything, asked many questions, but his features expressed anger. Perhaps he had badly slept or his dinner of the day before still weighed on his stomach. Circulating everywhere, he seemed to seek a victim: finally the opportunity arose and he found a prey on which he could freely appease his rage. A soldier serving as the guard on the bridge was very drunk. He noticed that the bayonet that the soldier held was a little leaning and that he could not held upright. Furious, he precipitated on the soldier and triggered such a blow of fist on him that the skin split and blood spouted out. At that time, it was already interdict in Russia that senior officers cannot strike a soldier without preliminary judgement. In this case, the colonel should have stopped the soldier and inflict a punishment on him. He deserved indeed a reprimand, but it would have been necessary that it be given to him in a less barbarian way. The colonel was not satisfied with only one blow of fist. He struck at once the another side of the face and also cruelly, twice, three times and soon on the teeth, the nose and the temples. The spectacle was dreadful to see. The soldier accepted all that with patience and remained motionless. At the end, his rifle slipped from his hands, he fell on knees and rolled without conscious on the bridge. The spectacle, which had been able to move a stone, did not make any impression on the torturer whom finding the punishment was still insufficient to stop him. What is necessary to notice: the holy and superhuman endurance of the soldiers or cruelty of the officers? It is difficult to answer it. If, nowadays, Russia seems more civilized that formerly, it is only seemingly, because actually it remained as barbarian as it was at the time of Ivan the Terrible. How many Russians behaving in the same manner as this colonel play the role of liberals and philanthropists! It is well not very probable that the Russian people revolt soon like some predict. In Russia, the people do not trust their own forces. They tremble with the only name of the Tsar - their God on the Earth - which they believe, is more powerful than God in the sky does. Would their conspiracies ever succeed? If they revolted one day, because they would not understand where it was heading then, consequently, their own initiative was doomed. Or well their uprising would be partial and for unimportant reasons. For example, the people were indignant when the government gave them the command to cultivate potato, which took place not yet a very long time ago in the districts of the south of Russia. In Russia, the people are still plugged and stunned by the despotism. It will still pass many years before a higher idea is born among its population and for which they will be able to fight and overcome the despotism.
After the painful scene that I told above, soldiers removed the small bridge of boards that connected our barge to the steamboat. The other closed the palisade and the boat shook. We were soon separate enough by a space from it and connected to the boat by a cable. Until Perm, during one week, none of us went out on the land, although the steamboat made stopover many times for a few hours to load wood and the food. Food was made on the barge for all the prisoners and it was from there that guards sent it to the women. It was while thus transporting the food from the barge to the steamboat that painful accident occurred to the troop of prisoners which followed us. Eight of us perished: they were assembled on the small boat and, holding the cable, they advanced towards the steamboat. Suddenly, one abrupt operation of the boat rectified the cable, the boat capsized and all those who were there fell into the river. Nobody had to think of carrying the help. Some soldiers were also embedded while trying to save them, and two of them only who could better swim arrived after many efforts at the bank. But none of ours was saved. A little distance from Niznij-Novgorod, we left the Volga to follow Oka. A voyage was more monotonous. The banks were very depopulated. They were mainly covered with glazing bar. Seldom, it sometimes happened to us to see some birds or some hunters. The banks were sometimes very beautiful, but I had been accustomed to see very populated places, therefore this loneliness produced on me sad impression. All that could have made a similar voyage charming. Sun being reflected in water, fogs in the evenings that seemed to us to be fantastic creatures, fountains of sparks which launched on the black bottom of the night by the boats that we passed, etc. All that could have distracted me from the obsessing thoughts. I moved away more and more from my country. Hour in hour, I approached the eternal chains in the mines of Siberia. We crossed sometimes fishermen. They were held by group of several, each one of them being held in a very small boat that was balanced like plucks on water. They moved around and each one of them supported a corner of an enormous net, to tell the truth it was a pretty view. But nothing could distract me, even one moment: at once that my spirit sought to stop with merry mood or laughing, the image of my sad future was drawn up in front of me and overrode all other thoughts. I had in me an interior voice that rose to inform me not to forget anything. From now on, nothing could distract me.
We spent all the day on our barge, going from place to place, sometimes at the bottom, sometimes on the bridge or the roof of the cabins. We missed so much open space and especially of air that some among us preferred to stay on the bridge and expose themselves to the heat of the day and the moisture and the penetrating cold of the night rather than to breathe the air of the lower stages. It was with large pains that we obtained this permission from our officer: perhaps he feared that one of us could fall to water. But the roof was flat and the barge trailed by the boat hardly stirred up air. Moreover, a high palisade surrounded the bridge and we saw thereafter that in the most tightened parts of the river, when our barge butted against the shore, we could remain there in full safety. In spite of these shocks, the barge was balanced very well. During the day, the criminals came to join us. They played between them various plays and always for money. Sometimes they came to tell us episodes of their lives. When they spoke about the greatest crimes, of the most dreadful assassinations, they did not lose their calms and appeared, on the contrary, very satisfied with themselves. We quivered from horror by hearing similar accounts and our hearts filled with hatred for similar monsters. But after some reflection, they seemed to us to be very unhappy beings of the World because, morally, they had fallen so low and not so much by their faults but by the fault of the ashamed Russian institutions. We defended ourselves from heat in taking showers on the back of the barge. Our officers granted this favour to us. On the barge, soldiers sold a certain drink (kwas) to us. It was a poor drink, but by not having any other, we could not choose. It is true that at each stopover of the steamboat, many little boats approached our barge to sell to us various products such as cutters, milk, rolls, etc. But we were so numerous that the quantity was never sufficient. When we exclusively passed cities dealing with shoe manufacturing, the inhabitants came to sell to us shoes very well done and not expensive. One day, someone brought a kind of drink to us that inhabitants of the city called beer (piwo). The weather was very hot and well for a long time I had not drunk a beer and the kwas disgusted me completely. I let myself try and bought some "beer". I then drank of it less than one half-glass: I had been misled. This drink did not resemble beer; it was a red liquid, not fermented and of an indefinable taste. My greediness cost me a disease: I was overcome with vomiting, fever and a violent headache. I was due to remain lying a whole day; happily, the doctor took me into his cabin; I wondered how I could have remained at the bottom where the lack of air had already made me suffer so much. The doctor had a pharmacy quite rudimentary. However, I did not find there what I needed and the following day, I did not feel anything but one great weakness. The doctor kept me in his cabin until the end of our voyage: thus I got him to know more. He was a young man who had finished his studies in last two years in Kazan, but he was a Russian fanatic. The conversation with him was irritating to the highest degree. He believed in all the calumnies launched against us by the Russians; he saw all of it by the eyes of Katkow (writer from Moscow). What surprised me more, he did not know anything about the history of Poland, more than a dog about the stars.
The boat stopped always four versts from the cities. The largest city that we crossed was Kazan, but we saw only from far this capital of the Tartaria. In Kazan, i.e. four versts from this city, we stopped longer because of the unloading of some of us bound for districts of Orenburg, Wronec and Penza. Among these people were the young ladies Misiewicz whom I had known from Niznij-Novgorod and a young Persian abbot Padigrob, a student of some Russian university. When our insurrection burst, he joined a detachment and he remained some time with them. He learned even Polish there. He was one of our enthusiastic friends and he stuck with all his heart to our cause. I still remember like if it was yesterday when he said farewell to us by leaving Kazan; he wore a costume of gray coarse cloth in the Polish way, a "konfederatka" white, bordered with black goat on the head. It was his favourite clothing. This costume made him look wonderful, with his pretty figure, his long fair hair and his so slender imposing presence. I regret not knowing about him other details. He had certainly, nothing Asian in him, especially when I saw Tatars of Kazan. Those had cast eyes very little split, flattened noses and very projecting bones of the face. All the faces that we saw around reminded us more that we were in Asia. Soon two other prisoners joined us. One was Alexander Majewski, a student of the University of Petersburg, and the other Michajlow, an ex-officer involved in the business of "Earth and Freedom". They had escaped from death. They were judged in Kazan and they were part of four. Two were shot and two were condemned to twenty years of forced labour. They were shackled with irons. Kazan is famous for its soap factories. Also, with our arrival to this city, many Tartar merchants came to us with their products. We bought from one of them some quantity because their soaps were of good quality and it was a good market. We washed ourselves our linen, so that each one among us needed to make a certain provision. These merchants attacked us on all sides, offering to us and praising their products. When we had exited Kazan, we entered a river Kama and we followed the course until crossing Perm, from there some cities of the district Orembourg and Perm like Sarapoul, Dared, Okhansk, if I remember well. But neither these cities nor the banks, which we went along, drew my attention. We passed great uninhabited and uncultivated spaces; the cities appeared all ugly and dirty and inhabited by Tatars and Russians. It had been said to me that the banks of the Kama were very beautiful especially right bank of the river which was very mountainous to me. I always expected to discover some beautiful landscape, but I did not have a chance to see anything of such. I do not want to say that those who had spoken to me about these beauties were liars, but that proves once more that our impressions depend on the state of our hearts. So that each one sees through own eyes and differently one from the other. On the Kama, we had fish at a cheap rate. Those who liked it could be regaled some. As for me, I appreciated only one between many species and which was caught at the edge of Perm (13,470 inhabitants)
At the end of eight days, we arrived to Perm on June 20, 1864, atrociously tired. While going down from the boat and although I knew that we moved towards the prison, I felt happy to be able to breathe a little freely. We walked a verst thus.
Guards installed all of us in a vast enclosure surrounded by high palisades and with two long buildings in the middle that had been at one time used to make the exercises with the soldiers. One of the buildings was composed of four bored walls with windows, without parquet floor and with a single gate. One could find neither stove there, nor bench to sit down. The other building was intended for the patients and there were many of them in that moment because of an epidemic of typhus that prevailed among the prisoners. This hospital was a dreadful room for the patients. The wind blew by the gate and by windows and when it rained, the rain penetrated through the ceiling and more than one patient soaked to the bones in his bed. It was in this hospital that we found Doctor Florian Ovresko with typhus. By miracle however, in spite of the lack of care, he could be cured. In this building, there was one part that had the advantage of having a kitchen stove and some beds. We left it to the women and to the children. Much among us preferred to settle in the open air, in the court. I was one of them, like my uncle. I feared for him because of his age: first of all, I opposed it, but soon I discovered opposite the hospital a shelter for him. It was a kind of large cupboard made of boards and which had been used for the exercises and gymnastics. In this niche improvised very high and yet with the free air on a side, we were able to place three of us. We could enter three beds there that we found in the court. Then we closed the entrance of our hut with a rush mat attached by a cord at the top. We were delighted with our installation, but the rain obliged us to dislodge on the following day. We were forced to install ourselves in front of the gate of the room with women. We were as the bird on the branch. A few days later, guards led us to another prison. It was there an enormous enclosure surrounded by boards and planted birches. On left, one saw some large buildings that were under reconstruction. Part of these buildings was restored and the command had installed criminals, i.e. those which were under the bolts. Then there was an old vault, of round form but without windows. We installed Mrs Ostromecka there and soon some people who lived there left. I moved there with my uncle. The building on the right-hand side was used for the garrison soldiers. Ours settled by two or three at the foot of the birches. In glazing bar with the variation, where the trees were brought closer, we built a small vault with rings: we attached the image of the Virgin to it and always, one saw there one of us knelt in prayers. This formed a quite touching spot. Our dear Mrs Ostromecka discovered a small kitchen and started to prepare the meals for us. This tired her so much that we had to stop her work. It was in Perm that I became acquainted with Victor Czarnocki who remained with us a few months. For us four, we brought our meals from the city. One day, I asked for the "Kolduny", for my preferred dish. Although they were awful, I ate some nevertheless, but my greediness was punished soon. I got sick of dysentery and during a whole week I was quite ill, which worried much our dear friend Mrs Ostromecka. To take my drugs, it was necessary for me to follow to the letter all its regulations and to swallow all remedies that she made me take. I obeyed of fear to make her sorrow and as my disease was not mortal, I knew well that I would cure myself well. When I was better, she questioned me very skilfully to know what in such a case it was necessary to do to complete convalescence. Not seeing anything, I have the awkwardness to speak about wine. At once, she managed in secrecy to get a bottle of wine and obliged me to drink some. I was upset much because she did not want to accept money.
In Perm, I witnessed a barbarian process that the Russians often employed towards us. I want to speak about these battles which took place between their soldiers and us on command of their heads and without any reason. Before our arrival to Perm, one of these battles finished even with the death of one of us who expired as soon as he was transported to the hospital. Here is how the thing occurred. The colonel, instead of giving from ten to fifteen kopecks per day to us for our food, wanted to reduce this amount to six and ten kopecks. We did not want this arrangement and declared that we preferred nothing to take and threatened the colonel to complain to Tobolsk as soon as we would arrive there. He did not want to loose his profit. But in order to justify his act, he blamed us to revolt and ordered to his soldiers to be thrown on us and to strike us with blows of sticks. The Russians attacked us with sticks whereas we did not have weapons. The fight was unequal. Sometimes, there were bricks in the court and a Russian fell when one from us had aimed well. As far as the case about which I speak here, I do not know how that would had finished without the intervention of a certain employee who, observed this scene. He stopped excited soldiers.
The military governor of Kazan arrived during our stay in Perm. He sent his aide-de-camp to inspect our prisons. It goes without saying that all this was done only "pro forma". The colonel of the garrison accompanied him everywhere. He asked the one among us if he was satisfied with the conditions. Each one of us knew that there was nothing to answer because it was a waste of time and effort. They arrived finally at the old vault of which I spoke and where Mister and Mrs Keligowski lived with their children, Mr Czyzyk, a former captain, very sizeable man and very loved his companions from the prison. The aide-de-camp questioned this last one. He instead of keep silent answered that this part in which he was and the dwelling of the women were the best of all the parts of the prison. His answer was very ironic. The aide-de-camp did not have to look further. Czyzyk prepared himself well to confront the visitors. The aide-de-camp had turned back with painful expression on his face. When he was gone, the colonel caught Czyzyk by the chest and sharply approached him for having dared to express himself and to forget that he was only a simple prisoner. The prisoner’s blood was not made of water. Although he was condemned to twenty years of forced labour in the mines and was deprived of all his rights, he was not a criminal and he had not lost the feeling of the honor. He pushed back the hand of the colonel:
"Also, I am an officer, and perhaps less bad than you", exclaimed Czyzyk.
"You are not any more an officer now, but a prisoner and I then can do with you all that I like now: I will shackle you in chains".
"Yes, I heard you", answered Czyzyk, "you can chain me, this is true, but please do not grab my chest and do not lie, because you are not right and I will not support it."
"Stop it", shouted the colonel.
The commander forced Czyzyk to take all his punishment and soldiers led him downtown. During this time, the colonel precipitated for a moment in the barracks. Soon, the aide-de-camp left while making pretence be unaware of what had been held in front of his eyes. The colonel was on the point of leaving. The women advanced towards him, begging him to forgive Czyzyk and all were requesting it, they approached the gate at the same time as him. At this time, I was close to another building where an unspecified employee was occupied with distributing clothing to the neediest. One of my companions approached me and reported the event. When I learned what happened, I joined the women and I begged the colonel to forgive Czyzyk. But he bit only the lips, lowered the head and moved towards the exit without saying one word. At the same moment, Czyzyk came out of the prison and the colonel followed him. Very sad, we turned back to our prisons. All-with blow, whole company soldiers with a warrant officer at their head sank on us and before we could return any account to us about what occurred, several among us fell to ground covered with blood. The frightened women fled into our small vault. The warrant officer, sabres drown, drunk-death, threw himself on us and continued his excess. Happily, the employee who distributed clothing witnessed what occurred. In one moment, he was close to us, started to shout against the soldiers and managed to control them. He could influence some of them, because he had a cross hanging from the neck and a little love of God left at the bottom of his heart. Seeing a similar scene, he ordered them all to re-enter to the barracks and the warrant officer would have to answer about the facts that had just occurred. He made, indeed, immediately a list of all those among us, who had been wounded or simply struck. When he finished his work went to the military governor. All this business was cleared up. Soldiers had attacked us on command of the colonel. As for Czyzyk, the command spread the gossip that he was going to be shot. Similar people are able of that! Nothing more dreadful misdeeds when prisoners are allowed to open the mouth to defend themselves. The intervention of this brave employee had to disturb all their plans. But finally, Czyzyk was slackened and he was carried on his road towards the mines as of the following day. As for the colonel, superiors made him no harm: the wolves do not eat themselves. Among the casualties, Gietmanowski was most cruelly reached with blows of stick to the temple. He had the bone naked. The old Zeligowski was contused on all the body so much because he had received blows with the stick of rifle. In addition to his wounds, Gietmanowski was stripped of what he had. He had the practice to carry attached to a button of his blouse a small satchel in which were his gate currency, the photographs and his last roubles. The soldiers saw this small bag and they did not fail to tear off it from him in one moment. A soldier sold his little wallet emptied of its contents later to one child of the prison: the culprit was thus discovered, but what good is it to ask for justice! Vain dreams! The poor Gietmanowski could not comfort loss of his photographs.
Since Perm, we were to advance by stages. Authorities started again to pay us per day for our food; noble were entitled to a carriage for two and the others were to pile up by twelve per carriage. But the things did not occur thus. Generally, we installed by three or four by carriage. Taking us on board for so long, the voyage was painful. We had to make a full food provisions. For this occasion, the command allowed us to go downtown. Perm has 14,000 inhabitants; it is still a new city. The houses are out of stones, built well, the streets are broad, roomy with great places. But the city seems dead, without life, any movement. In the streets, one meets nobody and there is not movement in the prisons and on the places of market. It would be said that this city is there only for the transport of the prisoners towards Siberia, and to supply all these poor people. Although Perm was located on the edges of a large river and on the direct road to Siberia, it made no trade there. There majority of the inhabitants of this city were converted Jews; especially among the soldiers. They had been sent to Siberia being children under the reign of Nicolas First. I knew that many then had died travelling so far, but I learned on the spot what persecutions, which atrocities they had to endure those who did not want to convert to orthodoxy. Although they were children, they endured sufferings before giving up the religion of their fathers. I knew an account, which was told to me in Moscow, when I was at the University by a person who had to endure this martyrdom. He was a son of shoemaker. His master sent him to me one day to take a work. Nothing in his features struck me first of all. Only in the accent of his voice, there was something Jewish. I asked him who he was. I realized the joy that he got from this question.
"I am a Jew of Berdyczew", he said to me.
"How did you come here?"
"Ah! If you want to listen to the account of my life that is a little long thing, I will do it readily."
"With a great pleasure", I answered him, "but do you have a spare time in front of you? If so, sit down and take a cigarette."
"Thank you, Sir, for so much of kindness. I am not doubted that you must be on my sides. A similar happiness does not often happen to me. It is usually a good thing when a man can discharge by revealing his sorrow. If I make someone feel sorry when he listens to my story I do not suffer from it, if he wants to listen well attentively."
I asked him from which city he came from and I asked him to continue his account.
"See you, Sir, these two dents which I have under the eyes. These are the tears that I poured so much in my life that formed them; See by that how much I suffered. Very small, I lost my parents and during a few years, I lived as a poor wretch in Berdyczew. I knew only the Hebraic language and I did not have any notion of the laws of my country. The list of the conscripts was displayed. I was unaware of if it was presented to me. I however believe that not. But not having any relative whom dealt with me, I was stopped and I was a soldier. I suffered much, not understanding one Russian word. Authorities sent me into the content of Russia; they started to teach me the Russian language and it did not pass a day without I was not being beaten.I have certainly received more blows than I do have hairs on the head and yet I worked to better myself. But it was not all. Superiors started to persecute me so that I change religion. I did not desire steps to agree to it. Each day popes were sent to me, but they did not arrive at anything. Then my martyrdom started. They put me on knees all the day on a stony sand, obliging me to hold in tended arms a heavy board. They deprived me of food. One of them beat me without pity, locked me up in frozen dungeons, etc. I suffered with courage and I decided to die rather than to change religion. I cried without cause and my forces gave up me gradually. One day, someone found me unconscious. I remained a long time without any knowledge and I was seriously sick. The first time that I opened my eyes, I saw a doctor who spoke to me in German. He was a good man. He questioned me about all and I frankly told him the cause of my disease. He promised to quit a conversion due to health. Indeed, before completely given up my faith, authorities allowed me return freely home. I thanked God for surviving, finally, for having pity of me and for the force to resist all these tests. I did not lose a minute and left for Berdyczew. But my freedom did not have long duration. I had left so precipitately that I had forgotten to carry papers attesting that I had been reformed. At some time later there appeared again the list of the conscripts; again one registered me as a soldier and my martyrdom started again; it was whereas in consequence that my tears opened these two dents. I did not see any more the possibility of surviving a similar test. I solved the problem cutting my throat, but I did not have what it was necessary for that. During a whole month, I lived only on dry bread and the "kasza" that was given to me. I sold a little of it each day in order to collect enough money to buy a knife. Finally, I contemplated with a joy the knife that I had just bought for me. However one thing prevented me from putting my project in an execution. When I removed my knife and I contemplated to use it, only one thought came to me - the religion. Later, because of my dents on my face, I was striped from the regular army and the army sent me to a shoemaker of Moscow, to learn a trade. When I finish my training, I will become shoemaker of my regiment."
"And how do you live here?" I asked, "Is your master good for you?"
"I do not have any disagreements with him. He let's me be in my own ways. I do not work during the day of the Sabbath and Sunday, he let's me work for his account. I find sometimes a few pairs of boots to be mended and thus, I gain some money for my account too. I then like that to buy a little tobacco for me. I eat with my master."
In Perm, one Polish dressmaker made a blouse, with a little linen that I bought, for my uncle and me. In Perm, I met Lucien Wyganowski. He had been obliged to leave Poland with his wife and their six children. The Russians seized all what he had and was condemned to twelve years of work in the mines. During my stay in Perm Mister and Mrs Kraszewski arrived downtown, with Miss Wilkiewicz, a teacher of their daughter. She had started with liking and then being engaged to Doctor Felix Orzeszko, who was sick at that time in Perm. After his cure, they married at once. He was condemned to live in Tomsk, in Siberia. They were both good people. I met also here Czajkowski, my comrade, but I could not recognise him. A little time before, he was a strong man in spite of his fifty years: he was held himself up right, had strong moustache, gave pleasure to look at. Today, I saw in front of me a man very curved, with a cane in the hand, morbid, the bandaged head. He had the air of an old man. No one has to be astonished by the change: he had suffered so much on the way; he had been beaten so much by the Russians. And more than of his disease, he suffered to have left in the country his wife and his children without any resource. This moral sorrow removed any courage from him and completed cutting him down.
On June 29, the day of St Pierre and St Paul, we left Perm. While leaving, I wrote to my parents, because it was the name day of my mother (Pauline). We left four hundreds strong. At the moment of departure, we chose ourselves Wiskowski as a head (starosta), a student of the Institute of Koryloreck. His duty was to represent us before authorities, to take care of the good command; he distributed the money, installed us on the carriages, etc. Sometimes the duties that fell to the "head" were tiring, but one energetic "head" could make good so much and avoid for us so many nuisances on behalf of the commanders of stages. It happened more than once that the prisoner's head beat the officer of the stage and threatened him with the blows. Sometimes, we fought true battles, on one side condemned and the others were soldiers or even the peasants who sometimes joined them. But the peasants were not so terrible when we came quickly to ending any disputes with some soldiers from the stage. As for our convoy, we never had to many similar businesses, because we had a good officer. In our convoy, there had been several doctors: Lagocki, Lasocki, Wolicki, Tomtowicz and me. However leaving Perm, I found myself alone, the four others had already left before me. It was up to us to defend, to look after ourselves on the way. I found also a pharmacist with the name Drellinget and we organised a pharmacy.
Our officer, who was in charge of our convoy, was called Iwanowicz Malimir. He was a young man; a good heart and we gained affection for him. On the way, an unpleasant adventure happened to him, from which we saved him because he deserved it. As a result, he became even closer to us. Because of lack of law in Perm, he lost 140 roubles that he had in order to distribute to us for our food during a few days. As we could see, he was in despair, because he did not have other money to replace. His pay was quite tiny remainder and would not have allowed him to cover these expenses. Moreover, to have lost this money, he could be condemned and have to undergo the same fate as we did. Seeing his concern, we made him a grace of giving him money and thus drew him from a great embarrassment in which he found himself. His recognition and his joy were without limit. Later, I will still speak again about him. Leaving Perm, one enters a mountainous area. It is already the Ural Mountains and the landscapes are very beautiful. Our convoy formed a long file of carriages, hardly escorted by some soldiers advancing on foot and with an officer following us on horse. We walked step by step. Advancing so slowly when we had to go up, when we could not remain in the carriages. When we went down we made then the road on foot. Moreover, heat was intense. In many places, the forest bordered the road. The lime, the fir, the pine and the larch composed these forests. One saw also birches, tremble and of the sorbs. In this area, one does not see already any more oaks nor alders. We saw also wicker, pinks wild, raspberry canes. There were fruits of the cutters, chickweeds and blueberries. The vegetation was very rich there. It was the harvest time and we saw how people accomplished it. Many women worked on the fields. As we approached the mountains, ground became less fertile, but rich in ore. On the other side of the mountains, one sees a fertile soil again. As for the mountains, they are covered with immense forests being composed of the already quoted trees and cedars. The inhabitants of certain Tartar villages sometimes exclusively nourished on extracted fruits from cedar. Sometimes, we stopped on the way on monticules and there, we discovered marvellous panoramas, only everywhere reigned immense loneliness. Here one meets villages all the twenties or twenty-five versts apart and in these places contained the stage, the post office and the assessor. Tartars inhabited these villages. Some have a church and mosques with a crescent at the top. The thatched cottages are completely similar to the Russian dwellings. They are rather clean, very out of wood; one sees some that has a stage. The Tartar houses differ from the Russian thatched cottages only by their interior. There first time when I entered one of these thatched cottages, the large stove was lit and a fifteen-year-old girl, clothed in rugs, stirred up certain liquid in a large basin. I was extremely curious to know what that could be. Tartar in not a very comprehensible language explained me why in this dish, there was corn, milk, sheep, flour, salt and water and to give more taste, she added grease to it. She said to me that this was their favourite dish. I had to tell to myself "gustibus not is disputandum". All these Tartars deal especially with the breeding of the horses. The horses can be distinguished one from the other by their thinness. The Tartar language is difficult to understand because it is composed rather of sounds than words. Tartars are developed very little from the intellectual point of view as from the moral point of view. The cities even are civilised less. A sad fate is reserved for those who are obliged to live in the similar regions. It is necessary to have been born in this country not to suffer from it. It seems that air that one breathes is soaked with crimes. Providence protected us during the six weeks that our voyage lasted, from stages to stages. Being exposed to the free air all the day we did not have a drop of rain. Fortunately, instead of resting while arriving at the stage, we would have made our clothing dry. We would have the diseases that would certainly occurred. The program for our days was the following. The carriages arrived in the morning between six and seven o’clock and were parked in front of the stage. Each one of us loaded there his luggage. Our head dealt with installing the women, the children and the old men. These carriages were called "tarantas". Having made part of the trip, we stopped for half an hour in order to take a little rest. This rest was called "prywat". We preferred to stop in the villages in order to find a little food. If we stop at some distance from a village, the village women ran, offering us various products that we bought, especially hot and cold food. They sold often to us a kind of omelette with milk, hard-boiled eggs, curdled or not curdled milk, then cucumbers, potatoes, bread and cakes. Once when we had arrived at the stage, we started with installing us there. We formed a group of five people: we were inseparable. We did all required work and we did not allow that my uncle and Mrs Ostromecka made a thing. Then, I ran to see all the patients of our convoy. Czamocki was going to the village to buy food. Stanislaw was going to seek water, wood. He lit fire and at once, with his assistance, Mrs Ostromecka prepared us tea and food for the very same day and to carry on the following day. Then, we were going to lie down. When the day had been hot and when a river was near the village, we went to take a bath. When we stop more than one day, we had to make also more. We washed our linen in the river. We visited the surroundings and, above all, visited those who had preceded us. O! There were tombs everywhere! One can say that all the road of Siberia is bordered with tombs of ours. Typhus for the adults, the croup and the scarlet fever for the children made many victims. Few children arrived at the end of the road. We did not have any distraction and lived a purely vegetative life, therefore when we stop at the stage, we were happy to interest us in something. The soldiers lent their rifles to us and we went hunting. I never liked this kind of distraction, I was satisfied to climb the mountains. I conversed with the inhabitants of these areas. One day, we were ridden on the top of a mountain and there, we prepared ourselves for rough-hew with deadwood. This mountain was covered with forests. We were certain that nobody would approach us if we destroy wood. As far the sight could extend, one saw only forests ad infinitum. We had fun like children and in the evening, we put fire at immense wood cluster. We moved away while looking at these flames by far arising on the black bottom from the sky, these sparks which flew well high, these swirls of smoke which scattered in the air encouraged us to dream. Who of us did not remember to have dreamed at his place about the hearth of the chimney? The image of the paternal house appeared to us with all and this thought stick to us. O my thatched cottage, you are like health. Who lost it can only be aware what he lost!
Our life was monotonous. Our interminable voyages were stopped only by the accounts more or less how we carrying ourselves. We advanced slowly; we crossed Kungur, Ekaterinbourg, Kamychlow, etc. I always travelled in the same convey as my uncle; that gave me great pleasure, because he told me his memories of youth; he spoke to me about his stay with prince Eustachy Sapieha in Dereczyn and Szkuda. It was so natural that a man in the position of my uncle, who had suffered so much and who did not see any more in front of him a better future, liked to refer towards the past, about the days when all smiled to him. He was for some extent revived while speaking to me. His short memory for the recent events was very fresh for the memories of the past. He hardly spoke to me about facts that occurred yesterday. My uncle had been a land surveyor for prince Sapieha.
Kungur was the first significant city that we crossed about 88 versts from Perm. I knew that one of my German cousins Louis, doctor like me, had lived in this city banished there. I wanted to meet him, but I wondered whether that would be possible. Thanks to one letter that I had sent to him and given by one of us which had left before us, he was warned about our arrival and he waited for us. Happily, we were to remain three days in Kungur. Thanks to his popularity which he had downtown, very appreciated as doctor, he was allowed to invite us to live at his place, my uncle and me. Mrs Ostromecka placed herself at Olechowski from Mohilew, whom she had known before. Czarnocki also went to remain at friends. The town of Kungur is very well located: the soil is very alabaster and appears very white, just in the middle of green grass. The city is surrounded by mountains covered with firs and birches which are reflected in the water of the rivers. The white roads because of alabaster resound under the shoes of the horses and under bearing of the carriages. On right-hand side, there is the mountain. On the left, there is a narrow valley and, in front of oneself, a marvellous flatland. All this is beautiful, but the heart said to us that nothing is more beautiful even than bogs of Polesie because they are ours. The city seen from far made a beautiful effect. The river White crossed in the middle, it has some Russian churches and the surroundings are gorgeous. It has 1,000 inhabitants, for the majority are Zyvangs. It is an Asian race having a language incomprehensible and whose features approach our Jews. Louis met us at our arrival downtown and consequently he did not leave us any more. Our convoy was separated in three parts. The first part of ours was placed out of the city in old stores: they were rather free there. The second was installed in some parts at the office of the government: they were there very badly treated. As for the third part of which we formed authorities put us in the center of the city, in a house, salty and repugnant. It did contain a stove to make the kitchen and yet it was one of the best installations since they led the women and the children to it. Louis Okinczyc knew all these places, but he suspected that we would not go there, my uncle and me. And it is what happened: Louis, this brave heart, accepted us for worst or better and bought us various things that we needed. Thus he gave me his fur with which he had arrived to Kungur. Then he made me clothing extremely convenient for the rain and the cold ("bazlyk"). He also provided me with some essential surgical instruments for the rest of the way. I benefited from my stay in Kungur to reorganise my small pharmacy. When we left, he gave us a quantity of food, because he had a kitchen at his place. These three days we spent with my cousin and the marshal Huwald, a nobleman from Bialystock who lived with him and in this Polish hospitality shown to us he seemed to us so soft! We were not accustomed any more to such an amount of wellbeing. Not a soldier watched us. I met at my cousin a marshal of nobility Lappa from Minsk and his daughter, Mrs Bykowska who had been sent to Kungur. I went with Louis to see his customers. My cousin had a bath belonging to him on the river, so that we took excellent baths. His business went well and he would have already piled up not bad money if he had not had the concern coming from assistance of his close relations. He had near him an officer of health Nowicki, also condemned to the deportation, one very worthy man, and though his situation was lower than that of my cousin, this one treated him on an equal footing.
Finally the day of our departure arrived and our good-byes were quite sad. The thought that we would perhaps never see each other again made this moment crueler. During the last night that I spent under his roof, I drew with the pencil a small draft that I had given to him as he had asked me. At Kungur, a young person Szadewski joined our convoy; I had become acquainted with his father and his brother-in-law. While speaking about Kungur, I then omitted to speak about a wonder located near the city, but that I known however only by the account that someone made to me. It was a very known cave, which is located some versts from Kungur: it is a long canyon dug in alabaster by nature. It is known where it finishes. However nobody has dared to venture beyond some versts. The visitor sees various very beautiful aspects, one sees there small lakes, fantastic ceilings, then narrow corridors, vast arcades like those in the churches; in certain parts, the ice remains all the year on the walls and forms splendid bouquets or many stalactites. Visitors penetrate in this cave with torches, but daylight bores at certain places. The city that we crossed then was Ekaterinbourg, distant from Kungur by 300 versts. The way was long and took three weeks for us, but we did not see anything remarkable. While approaching Ekaterinbourg, we crossed an immense village of Bilimbajka which counted a few thousands of inhabitants and where there was a foundry. We arrived just at the moment of casting. We went to see this work which is so painful for the workmen that those are obliged, after working for 24 hours, to rest two days. I looked at them working with sadness because I myself was condemned to work in the mines. I was going soon to find myself in a situation similar to theirs. We found us already full in the mountains of the Ural. I had not seen mountains differently from engravings that appeared in descriptions that I had read. I was thus extremely curious to contemplate mountains, I thought to see this marvellous landscape of giant mounts springing towards the sky with their nodes covered with snow and with their feet extending from the fertile valleys. But nothing similar was offered to my eyes. The road that went up along mountains was inclined so soft that day in day we rise without noticing it. I did not see these landscapes changing at all, these imposing outlines until I waited patiently; I did not see a covered node with snow, the landscapes were held monotonous, sad, without life. One saw sometimes the road which, yellowish, curved over there like a ribbon, disappeared to reappear when someone saw it merging with the horizon. In some places, enormous blocks of granite bordered the road, drawing up itself with a great height. Sometimes, one saw patches of wood emerging from these large rocks. Then we climbed there, seeking to see some new landscape, but anything, always nothing! As we approach Ekateringbourg, the road became rocky so that often we roll on an enormous block of stone. When the breeze raised the dust from the path, one saw there naked stone. The soil was increasingly poor. The people worked only in the factories. I did not realize of the altitude of these mountains, but to the eye, the highest nodes seem to be on different side of Ekaterinbourg. The population of this area does not present any characteristic features: it is composed mainly of deportees and Russians from various provinces. Very often one noticed in the villages of the thatched cottages different aspects and forms, which proved well that the source of those who lived there was different, and it applies to many villages beyond the Ural. We crossed, finally, to the more fertile land in meadows and wooden so those inhabitants devoted themselves there more to the breeding of the horses. Therefore a palisade surrounds each village from two to three versts length only cut in two places to let pass the road which leads to and from the village. These two passages are maintained constantly by peasants who constantly take care of it that the cattle and the horses, which wander everywhere in freedom, do not leave the enclosure. The difficulty is substantial when someone wants to seek his own horse and that requires much time. It happens that from the autumn until the spring, the owner does not see his horses. The inhabitants are very lazy; they almost do not make provision of hay so that, often, not being able to manage to nourish their animals until spring, especially if it comes late, they perish for lack of food.
On August 1, 1986, we arrived to Ekaterinbourg. From Kungur, there were 275 versts. All the houses are made out of stones and beautiful constructions are seen there. The city misses water; however there is a small lake in the surroundings. The commercial life was vibrant, without comparison, larger than in Perm. The city is famous for the good market of its precious stones such as amethysts, topazes, rock crystal, etc. Although not being rich, I bought myself a topaz pin obtained with money of 5 zloty (Polish guilder which is worth twelve kopecks and half). It was for nothing and I let myself still say that I had stolen it. I regret not having brought it back: that would have been a memory for me. As the voyage that we were going to undertake would be long, I bought the crayons, pencils, and notebooks for drawings in a French store. It was in Ekaterinbourg that in one of these notebooks, I made a portrait of uncle Felix. I made a success of wonderful resemblance. Then, thanks to a collection made in our convoy, I supplemented our pharmacy and it was essential because we had patients more and more. Typhus and the scurvy reigned permanently. Population of this area dies much of this disease and that is explained a little by the lack of food and fermented drinks. One can get vinegar only at the pharmacist and there are complete lack of fruits and vegetables. Moreover, the summer is very hot there. The air is charged with morbid steam there and drunkenness is a true plague. Despite all precautions, many of ours succumbed. Our poor and dear Mrs Ostromecka was reached by typhus and little was necessary that could loose her. She fought a long time against the evil and though feeling quite sick, she travelled with us until Ekaterinbourg. But there, her state worsened, although I had not lost any hope to save her. We confined here during three days. At that time, we were in a barracks outside the city. Happily, we succeeded in placing us in the building with an old kitchen. It was a relief because we could keep our patient far from the noise of the rooms where ours were piled up per hundreds. And as for putting her at the hospital, the patient did not wish it and we did not want to give up her. They were so dreadful, these words of hospital, good only for condemned! I already spoke about these hospitals at the time of our stay in Perm and yet there were still the worst ahead of us. With a total lack of comfort, patients remain there without care, any monitoring. Well sometimes it was necessary for us to decide to enter someone to the hospital when we were in absolute impossibility to continue our road and to follow others. Only imagine the sorrow of this poor patient seeing himself without his or her comrades of convoy who had been able to take care a little of him! It was not astonishing that the mortality in the hospitals was so large. We were thus very anxious about Mrs Ostromecka. We were aware of her state, but to leave her at the hospital, it had been to voluntarily condemn her to death. When she remained still with us we had chances to save her. We could not hope to remain more a long time in this kitchen, because we would have been separated and authorities would have taken her along to the hospital. We were five and only one who he had been her husband, his brother or nearest relative, would have been allowed for the price of great difficulties to remain near her. In the moments when she was not delirious, she realised of all this and she suffered from it. Our only hope was in these three days to rest that we had in front of us. Thus we waited what God would decide. I scratched my head to find out what I was to do; I could not remain, I had for the respect to my uncle of some urgent duties. He had, on the way, unceasingly need for me to help him. And never authorities would agree to leave here my uncle and wait for the following convoy. Moreover, in our convoy, I was the only doctor and by that extremely useful because any patient preferred to travel than to remain in the hospital, and my help was thus quite necessary on the way. And, thanks to God, I believe that these voyages, although through mountainous regions, by choking heats and in the middle of all the difficulties inherent to the state of "condemned" were more salutary to our patients and they cured and the mortality rate was lesser than in the hospitals. What played here role was more than the care. It was the moral rest of the patient, the state of his heart.
During the three days that we remained in Ekaterinbourg, we were therefore very anxious. On the third day in the morning, as by miracle, our patient opened eyes fuller with life and we saw that the evil was overcome. We had, fortunately, a rather human officer and who had pity for this poor widow, old and sick and although she was of an extreme weakness, he allowed us to take her along with us. She remained weak for a long time, we transported her in our arms in the carriage, having had cared to upholster it before on all sides with all the pillows which we found. How to describe the joy of our patient when she saw that she would not leave us. The officer and the starosta (head) would think about it and would always give us the best carriage for it, they would choose those covered with fabric or of tree barks so that it was more at ease. At the end of a few weeks, our protective returned completely to health. She returned to us a deep recognition for what we did and spoke to us with a greater solicitude; she repeated to us unceasingly that she owed us the life and that she never could pay back such a debt towards us.
Three days thus after our arrival to Ekaterinbourg, we left moving towards Kamychlow, a city of the district of the government of Perm. It is located on the different side of the Ural, and about 218 versts from Ekaterinbourg. It is the last town of Russia in Europe as indicated it frontier posts, although actually in fact the Ural Mountains constitute the natural border. We reached Kamychlow on August 9, 1864. It is a small city of no importance of 2,000 inhabitants. To place a convoy as significant as ours, it did not have there enough satisfactory housing. Therefore authorities separated us in four groups and we were placed in stores and stables. For us, we had a small house (close to the schismatic church) not inhabited. We installed there with some families of ours, because we were to rest there during three days. The city did not have any pharmacy, a miserable hospital without drugs or almost and instead of a doctor, an officer of health. At the hospital, we found some of ours like always on the road. Those who had passed before us inevitably left their patients. By learning that a convoy had arrived and that there was a doctor, they asked for me at once. In what a state I found them I! I will never forget Mrs Majewska (Wilno) sick and who was without hope of cure. The commander had left a husband near her. The poor people; they had to gradually sell all that they had so that the patient could have something to eat because hospital food was repugnant. And the government did not pay a labourer who entered to the hospital. The disease was long and with little of hope of cure. Both were in an utter destitution. Dreadful situation! How much could I still quote of more terrible cases among us, poor unhappy!
Border between Europe and Asia.
When we had crossed Kamychlow, we saw two posts borders: the first, out of wood, indicated the old border which was deferred today to a few tens of meters further and was marked by a granite post, planted in an elevated place. Although I envisaged myself for a long time in Siberia, I experienced a quite painful feeling by crossing this border. What frightened especially, it is the enormous distance, which separates us from our country. Since so a long time I travelled on the boat, on railroad, by the carriage, I thought that it is hardly I arrived at the border of Siberia. And it was necessary for me still to go further through Tobolsk, Tomsk, Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk, Nyrczynsk to mines and perhaps still further! What an appalling distance! That it is enough for me to say that in the only government of Tobolsk which is one of smallest, one could place there three countries like France and in that of Tomsk four of them.
Tugutyn was the first village on our road; it is larger borough than Kamychlow with well traced streets and bordered shop signs. It is located on the edges of a river of which I forgot the name. One would say rather a city than a village. In all Siberia, except the main towns of government and district, there are not small villages. But it should be hoped that with time and with the settlement of this country, the need to have cities will be felt and these large villages such as Tugutyn will then take the name of chief town of district. In Siberia, one distinguishes only two classes of society: the peasant and the employee. The prisoners provide the greatest quota. One does not meet landowners. We remained two days in Tugutyn; almost all were placed at the inhabitants while paying like always for the service. At that time the dysentery prevailed in the village and carried many children. Our owner lost two of them during our stay at his place. The peasant does not look after himself. Moreover the village does not have an officer of health. It is in Tugutyn that I saw how the coffins were made there. The peasants take one piece of fir, cut it into two, dig some the two parts and the coffin is ready. Once the body put inside, the two parts encases one in the other and one nails the edges of them. When ours died, we buried them in the Russian cemeteries, but we had to ask for the authorisation of the pope. We almost always had a priest in our convoy and it was him who recited the prayers over our poor tombs. And when the priest was missed, one of us prayed. We planted a simple wood cross of fir that we made ourselves by putting an inscription on it in Polish: the first name, the name and the date of the death of our comrade. The death certificate was registered in the registers of the officer of the stage. Our stay in Tugutyn coincided with the harvest. Heat was torrid. The corns were ready for harvest very quickly and all at the same time. The shortage of workers and also the idleness of Siberians obliged some of the farmers to propose the prisoners to hire them with the help of two or three zloty per day and for food moreover. Much among us accepted, especially our peasants who knew this kind of work. Most of us wanting to be distinguished cut down even more work than the owners themselves. They could not have worked a long time with as much zeal and certainly that, even on their land, they had not done such an amount of work in one day. Therefore the inhabitants of Tugutyn admired their work, their zeal, complained about workmen whom they found in the country. In evenings, at all the gates, they spoke only about that and they praised the heat of Polish. Among the farmers was one poor widow who, not being able to pay as much as the others, had not been able to find of workman, so that she had already much lost corn. Ours went there to help and in one day harvested all her corn. It was heard that people blessed them when they returned from the fields.
When my time was free, I made here the portrait of Mrs Ostromecka who almost completely returned to her health. This portrait is in my possession and it is a soft memory for me. To bid our farewell with our officer, we organized a small festival which took place at Biescekiewski and Kacel (the first was from Kingdom and the second was an emigrant and had a false name). They both were placed at a peasant whose court was covered with grass. We installed some tables there that we covered even with something white and we prepared two or three dishes. An immense samovar, a little cognac, a rum bottle, lemon, all that did not announce a great reception. We had several guests for our feast. Besides our owner and the officer, old man with white beard honouring with his company our presence, then Wiskowski, old "starosta" and his substitute Brami, then Alojzy Brzorowski (from the government of Mohilew), Szadurski, Charles Sassulicz (former captain of the Russian army, then ex-serviceman of Company in Pruzany), finally Maciejowski. It was the afternoon. The day was beautiful; those among us who had not found a place behind the table could have been installed conveniently on the thick grass, without ceremony. We had not invited any woman. My uncle took the first the word to thank our officer in the name of all the convoy for the honesty with which he had always treated us; he spoke in Polish not knowing the Russian language. The officer understood all. The way in which he received it we proved him our sympathy and our recognition. We passed all together some good thus hours. He bade touching farewell to us, repeating several times how much he felt happy to have met us, although he served the government which was our enemy and who, during all his life, the moments spent with us will remain dear memories. He still thanked us for our kindness towards him at the time of the loss of money of the Treasury that he had made. He had suffered, still said it to us, to be forced to play so painful role for us. He felt sorry for the fate of us all Poles whom he knew formerly only by the accounts of the newspapers of Moscow but today that he had seen us and had closely understood us, he found us worthy of a better fate. We believed all his words, because he was an honest man; we had learned to know him during our long voyage. On the way, I had made his portrait. I gave it to him and I kept a copy for me that I had made. Unfortunately, I do not have it more. The following day, we recovered from the party on the way. The officer accompanied us to the nearest city and thus remained still with us for a whole day. He spent the evening with us as well as the employee who was going from now on to deal with our convoy. This one was a man rather decent, enough educated, which astonished me much because I had very opposite idea of what the employee in Siberia is. It is true that he made an exception like I had the proof thereafter. All there evenings, he told us various things related to the government of Tobolsk; he spoke to us about its inhabitants, his customs. He knew all that, having lived there for years. In order to give an outline of this part of Siberia, I will quote some extracts from his accounts.
The northern part of Siberia is occupied almost exclusively by Ostraks. The employee had lived ten years in Obdorsk, a city located more up North, five hundred versts from the city of Berezow where our compatriot Ewa Felinska lived. Obdorsk is already one of these cities of north where for six months of the year is night, and other six months is day. And even when the sun is seen, it is like a sphere of fire, all the time at the horizon. This is the country of the aurora borealis, of this phenomenon marvellous that no account ever could express. The districts of the South such as those of Tiumen, Jatuloworsk, and Kurhan are very different from those of the North, especially with regard to the climate. Thus, for example, in Kurhan, people cultivate melons. I bought it in Tiumen and it was not expensive, in the same way there are apple species. I return to my Ostraks: the employee got known them well during ten years, he had been a tax collector on their premises. They paid it with animal skins. It is a wandering Asian race, enduring the cold, not having any thatched cottages and living on hunting and fishing, and they worship the bears. Here how is made their dwelling: they dig a hole in snow and plant branches of tree on the side where wind breaths, then they cover it with the snow which they dig; this makes them a kind of rampart against the frozen north wind. Their clothing is made of reindeer skins; they consist of enormous low that goes up above the knees, the hair inside and of the same of the trousers and the kind of shirts. This forms clothing of below. Over, they put on similar clothes, but the hair outwards and, moreover a leather belt that maintains their costume very hot. A costume of the women is similar to that of the men. The way of heating itself does not differ from anything in all Siberia from north and it is rather odd and enough practical since the merchants, the travellers, people of passage employ themselves this mode of heating. Before lying down in their hole they dug snow, they light not far a large fire. Then each one takes trembles (poplar), cuts the largest branches and puts the node in fire from there while the other end is put under the arm while he falls asleep. The result must be the following: the green branch burning with difficulty warms up and transmits heat to the sap contained in the stem. This one in the form of steam is spread until the end placed under the arm of the sleeper and heats it. The cold reach sometimes -50 °C., it cannot be explained how the children can tolerate a similar temperature. Although the Ostraks have a true worship for the bears, they make them there drive out; they know admirably where are their dens. They kill them however only when they are certain to find the sale for it. In spite of the dangers incurred during hunting for the bears, they are so sure themselves which one can say "that they sell the skin of the bear before to have killed it". The animal belongs to that who has discovered its den. The other Ostraks would never touch this bear. The employee told me an episode from his life among the Ostraks. Before leaving for his round as tax collector, he had received, once, a letter from one of his friends who lived in the South asking him to buy a large skin for him of a black bear. He especially held so that the legs preserve their claws. The employee thus got information that he could find a skin similar to that which a friend asked him. One day, someone brought an Ostrak to him, who stated to him to have a skin such as he wished and asked him the price that he gives.
"And how much you want for that?" asked the employee.
"Four roubles and a bottle of brandy"
"I would like to see it" "I then cannot satisfy you, Sir, because the skin is still in the forest"
"How is that?"
"Yes, Sir, the bear is alive, it sleeps in his den."
The employee did not want to believe it and asked his Cossacks what that meant.
"Be quiet, you will certainly have it, as certainly as two and two make four"
"When the skin be ready?" he asked the Ostrak.
"When do you want it?"
"In three days"
"It is agreed and it will come out."
The Ostrak held the word. On the agreed day, the skin was ready and such as one wanted it. When the Ostraks thus kill and animal, a ceremony follows from which they cannot exempt themselves. The penalty for not obeying the custom is meeting the other bears that will avenge for their comrade killed. This is the origin of a death and this must take place before the end of year. This belief easily could find followers during hunting for the bear. It was not rare to see unhappy accidents occurring. The ceremony consisted: the skin of the bear was torn off, a hunter stuffed himself in it and posed as bear on the ground. In front of this "animal", others brought different dishes prepared with meat of the bear and the Ostraks will eat during the ceremony. On that day, they wore all their clothes of festival; then this who had killed the bear with his hands approached and made directly to him a speech. He initially greeted him with respect, then he addressed the victim with a moved tone, admitting a committed crime, saying that he had killed him by error, that he asked him for his forgiveness, etc. The festival ended with feasts and dances. Many unhappy accidents which occurred during hunting comes from the fact that hunters never try to withdraw from the claws of the bear when, very often, the thing would be easy for them. A wild prejudice says to them that such is the destiny of this man and that it is a sin to interfere with the intentions of Providence. When an Ostrak swears by embracing a claw of bear, listener can believe his word. If he is questioned and that he does not want to be truthful, it is enough to oblige him to embrace a claw of bear and at once he says all the truth. The Ostraks employ the reindeer. They are not occupied never with finding food for these animals. What they find under snow is enough for them. The furs or rather the skins not treated are plenty on markets in Siberia, except however for the skin of black fox which is sold for hundred roubles. The most beautiful sable costs a few roubles only. Siberia does not have good tanneries. This is why the prepared furs are more expensive in Siberia than in Moscow, where traders dispatch the skins to be tanned. I never nowhere saw as the beautiful ones and abundant furs as here. The Ostraks use the skins of reindeers not prepared and all their costume does not cost more than twelve or fifteen roubles. Therefore much as of us bought some of it from them. As far as sable a rather curious phenomenon occurs and that the merchants make handsome profit. It is known that the most required sable is strewn with silver plated hairs. Contained during three or four years in cloth culvert, these skins are strewn with silver plated hairs and it is very difficult to distinguish them from the true sables. Only at the end of ten years, the sable becomes very white.
We always remained in Tiumen (11,500 inhabitants) and Tugutyn, we were not further from Tiumen, the first city being under the control of Tobolsk. We arrived there on August 17, 1864. While entering this city, the first building that got our attention was the fortress. We stopped there and authorities wanted to put all of us in two small and dirty buildings, which was physically impossible for as big convoy as ours. We refused to enter there. Then the command gave us a small house not far from the fortress for those who were with families. And the others were placed in an enormous court that surrounded the stores of brandy which belonged to Koziello-Paklewski. It should be said that he held all the monopoly of brandies for Siberia of North. In one of the corners of this court, we found a very small house undoubtedly intended for a guard and who had a kitchen. We settled there with our companions and the others lined themselves under other roofs and in huts of all kinds. For this quite relative comfort however and our disobedience, we accepted a blame coming from Tobolsk.
We stayed in Tiumen for two days; we could go downtown for our purchases. It was a city of poor having only houses made of wood and nothing remarkable. From here we were to embark on the steamboat, on the river Irtych, that made the service between Tiumen and Tobolsk. However, water was so low that the boat could not approach downtown and we had to make some versts while skirting the river. The country was entirely flat. The plain extended in front of us as far as the eye could see. The grass was very desiccated. For the next part of journey, we left the river behind; we followed the zigzag from there without finding any trace of the road. Heat was torrid. Hardly we could endure our shirts; we walked and with the carriages we made a long caravan; we breathed with sorrow. Silence was deep and stopped only from time to time by the swearwords of a Russian or well by the conversation of our coachmen in Tartar language. I felt terribly sad.
Soon we however saw buildings of the government of more populated Tobolsk; we saw villages here, there and often six or eight windmills. Here also the soil is richer, but because of the climate, especially of the long winters, farmers cannot even sow wheat. Sometimes, certain landscapes reminded my Lithuania; I paid attention to it everywhere to deceive myself, would be this only for one moment. After rather long walk, we reached a village from where, three days after, the steamboat took us along to Tobolsk. A day before our departure, one of us drowned bathing without anyone being able to help him. The road by boat was rather tedious. The only pleasant thing that we had was to be able to lay down on the ground at each stopover, which we had not been allowed at the time of our first voyage by boat. River Irtych is enormous, but does not offer anything remarkable. The river Ob that we followed then and which is one of the arms of the Irtych does not have anything curious as well. We travelled a whole week and in this short space of time several among us were reached with typhus and the children acquired the scarlet fever. We all were piled up on a barge drawn by steamboat: nothing astonishing so that the diseases took on us. One night, we all almost drowned. When the boat was going to stop, it was necessary for it to pass a way against the current. Otherwise the current of the river would have move our barge and crash the steamboat. The night thus was black. The boat slowed down its functioning, undoubtedly wanting to manoeuvre as I explained higher. Our barge was connected to the boat by a long rope trailing gently behind it. To prevent a strong blow, someone called and warned a boat. Our sailors believed that the commander gave them the command to drop an anchor, which they did at once. The boat suspecting nothing accelerated its functioning. The barge squeaked in a sinister way and it was a grace and coolness of the one of our sailors who, in one moment, of a blow of axe, cut the rope, which prevented the barge from breaking and saved us of an unquestionable death.
This city is 258 versts from Tiumen. On August 14, in the morning, we arrived to Tobolsk, the city that all are obliged to cross of those who go to Siberia. It is here where was the main office of the prisoners of Siberia. It is there that they were classified and that the government sent them in all the directions. From the far already, we had seen on the left bank of river Oka, drawing up to ourselves like an immense castle, an imposing building. It was the fortress of Tobolsk. The city, which is spread out at its feet, is of modest appearance; the streets are paved with wood, which it is easier to get than stone. There were 17,000 inhabitants, the city had a Polish church with a Polish priest. The governor was waiting. He arrived, finally, surrounded by some notabilities of the city, the colonel of police, the judge and others. The governor, a handsome man approximately 45 year old, with moustache and black favourites, wearing civil clothing and having only more than one red ribbon in his cap, addressed us in Polish. He was a Polish descendant with name of Alexander Despot-Kienowicz. He reprimanded us at once for our refusal to obey in Tiumen. It was really painful for us to hear him speaking to us in Polish. Our mother tongue sounded ironically. It had been better if he spoke in Russian. Later, when we knew Kienowicz better, we realised that he was not a malicious man, one not very odd but acting with understanding and making believe in the Russians whom he served. He once was in an envoy himself in Siberia and he was condemned to deportation. He had succeeded, without making any dishonourable sacrifices, to arrive at the post of governor of Tobolsk, the post that, at that time, was rather a delicate matter in his capacity as a Pole. When he had left us, soldiers led us to the prison. What an enormous masonry! Eight large courses were separated by a building and by high walls provided with gates. Thus each court was isolated one from the other. The civil prisoners were brought together to the specific court. We occupied the other courses. Everywhere prisoners were crowded. I could not say exactly how many we were in all, but I then was sure that we were several thousands. In the first court vis-a-vis at the entry was our hospital. On the left were kitchens.
It is necessary for us to admit the justice to the governor that nowhere elsewhere we had been so well nourished and we had not seen a hospital equipped so well. Kienowicz dealt himself with all and took care that the results were perfect. We could then realise that the money, which was intended for us, was sufficient for our food, as nobody had any reason to complain. Kienowicz asked us to choose among us a comrade who would have the role of receiving daily products directly from the merchant, to take care that everything was weighed well and of good quality. Among us, he chose some voluntary cooks whom he paid every month. Each barrack room had to provide in turn some men for the weeding of vegetables and he selected "starosta" (a representative) among us who made the call in each barrack room. In one the "starosta" was Henryk Gluchowski (from Austria), a technician of the University of Vienna and a very good painter. One day he drew on the gate of the barrack room his portrait with the charcoal and with chalk with this inscription below: "Messrs, with potatoes". This drawing very was successful. Kienowicz had suddenly passed by there, saw the portrait, laughed at and prevented it from erasing, so much for his large heart. At midday, we had several dishes and only one during the supper and then excellent "kwas" for drinking. A doctor of city Czemaszanski, a Russian, directed the hospital. Kienowicz proposed to make look after the Polish prisoners by the Polish doctors whom we found among us in the convoys. We accepted his idea. When he left, other doctors arrived with next convoys, so that our patients were always between the hands of our compatriots. Moreover, thanks to Kienowicz, the patients missed nothing. He came almost each day to the prison and to the hospital in which he was interested particularly. Sometimes even he sent wine and lemons to the patients. He always asked them if they had all what they needed. He found only that the hospital kept the completely cured patients or even of quite bearing people under pretext of disease too long time; this happened especially for those who were listed for the next departure. Kienowicz liked to show being annoyed and shouted at us, but it was only for the form in order to make believe that he was very hard on us. He always spoke in Polish just as all his employees who, except for one Russian of the name of Pietrow, knew the Polish language. It was rather odd to hear them all speak to us in Polish whereas in our country this language was persecuted.
As I remained in Tobolsk more than a week, I occupied myself drawing my comrades. I made the portrait of Doctor Ignacy Tomkowicz, a buffoon, and a joker that Kienowicz liked much: this work came out wonderfully. Then I made the portrait of Doctor Czeskawski, from Austria. He was a very educated man and a very good man. I also drew the portrait of his large friend, a painter Gluchowski. This last one also made my portrait in the same notebook. Then, I made a portrait of Fiedonowicz, a close friend of Tomkowicz, and also a doctor. I did this one without him realising while he slept being sick at the hospital. In my notebook were still portraits of Alojzy Brzozowski, Stanislaw Witkowski and others. What an invaluable memory would have been for me this notebook today!
A few days afterwards our arrival to Tobolsk, authorities led us to a certain office where we entered one after the other and where our age was registered, where we were measured, someone examined our mouth in order to see whether we had all our teeth. They were the preliminaries to form the basic lists. A few days passed, then one of us entered again into the same office where in turn we heard the fate which awaited us. This decree was more laconic, but this requires an explanation: all those among us who were condemned to public works were sent to the mines of Nerczynsk and others were placed in the government of Irkutsk and even still further. But to go there, it was necessary for us to pass Irkutsk where prisoners found a second office where authorities occupied themselves with those condemned to work. There, a prisoner received his final passenger waybill.
In Tobolsk, officials told me that I was to go to Irkutsk. We formed three groups of prisoners: the first group included those condemned to work in factories, the second of those for the fortress and the third of those condemned to work in mines. Those, which were not condemned to the deportation, were sent to the governments of Tobolsk, of Tomsk and of Ienissei. Beyond, officials sent only those who were intended for the battalions of the area of the river Amur.
In the second part of my decree, it was said that I had to travel by overland route, stages, and not by water. The distance between Tobolsk and Tomks is of 14,769 versts and can be done by boat on rivers. Despite everything, guards left us free to choose our means of transport. Therefore each one of us hastened to register for travelling by way of land, others by water. Kienowicz had presented to the government a project that facilitated the transport of condemned. He proposed to make them 100 versts without relay and to transport all convoys and not as before when the nobles only were entitled to the carriages, the others had to do a lot of mileage on foot. Kienowicz showed that in this manner, the government would gain. Transport would be more expensive admittedly but it would last much less. Thus a voyage which, formerly required one year, was done now in three months. The government liked this project and it was adopted. Today, carriages transported us all and it was called "the post office". Officials gave us an escort of soldiers and without stopping a long time we could make the way from Tobolsk to Tomsk in fifteen days instead of three months that it was necessary formerly. My uncle was sent to the government of Tobolsk and he preferred this city. The districts of the South like Kurhan and the others were pleasant as far as climate, but he preferred to remain in Tobolsk because of the Polish church, of the Poles who lived there and the means of communication. Soon after, authorities gave him his freedom. Among the people who were to settle in Tobolsk was Jaskulowski, from Brzesc, that my uncle knew for a long time. They settled both in the same residence. Our good-byes were sad. I had been able to bring my uncle up to now in a rather good health, which I never hoped because of his advanced age and health. I bade my farewell when he left us from the prison, but I obtained the authorisation of going to see him for the last time downtown, in his housing. It was not an easy thing, because with others condemned to work, I was prevented from coming out. I employed a trick. The commandant came every morning to the prison and gave a written authorisation to those who could come out downtown, but never to those who were condemned to work. I lined up with those who wished to come out this day.
"How do you have nerve to ask me for the permission to come out?"
"Alexander Okinczyc, aren't you one of those condemned to work in the mines?" I was lost, I thought.
However, I answered, "No, I am only sent for the settlement in the town of Tomsk." "Then, you can leave", and he registered me on the list.
"I hope that none of you, Messrs, misled me", he added.
"Of course, who would dare", I answered.
Everything went all right, I thought, but provided that the head of the prison will not check our names in the register. Happily, he did not do anything like that and soon afterwards, we had left. The paper, which the head of the prison gave us, was to be presented to the officer of guards at the gate. This one gave us a soldier who, supposedly, was to follow us everywhere downtown. But hardly out of the gate, we left him. We were to return to the prison the same day. I knew exactly the address of my uncle; but I did not find him. After an hour, I saw both of them, Jaskulowski and him. Jaskulowski was also of the advanced age. They were delighted to see me. My uncle feared that my escapade would bring bad consequences. I remained with them until the evening. I dined and drunk the tea. First of all, our time was rather merry, then when conversation ended and we spoke about the good-byes, we became deeply sad. My uncle liked me like a son and he was for me like a father. He had been my benefactor and guardian since my childhood. We had never been separated. Today, it was necessary for us to separate forever. The old man started to cry: "you are young", he said to me, "you will still live to see better days, but me, I will certainly leave my bones here. It will be hard for me to die here alone. I will not have anyone to close my eyes, neither by my woman neither my Hedwige (her daughter) nor none of you will be around my bedside. You cannot imagine, my Alex, how I suffer separating myself from you.", and he choked with the sobs, he added "forever". I cried and we remained thus for a long time covering us with caresses.
"God bless you", he said then making the sign of the cross over my head. We embraced ourselves once again and I left quickly.
From this day, our departure from Tobolsk was imminent. The day of the departure was announced to us. Hundreds condemned were indicated for this departure. We found ourselves all together, those from our company, except my uncle. In Tobolsk, I had bought an old samovar, but very good one; I provided myself with boots, because the cold started to be felt and I made provisions of tobacco. I prepared myself well for the long voyage that I was going to undertake. As we carried out an idle life, our greatest occupation and distraction was smoking. And by misfortune, in Siberia, the tobacco cost the double of what it would cost in Russia and it was quite disastrous for our poor purse of prisoners. In Tobolsk, there was a factory of tobacco, but this tobacco was even worse and expensive. The tobacco that I smoked was worse than tobacco that I smoked in my country, but I was accustomed to it and I forgot that I had smoked a better quality.
Departure from Tobolsk.
On the day of our departure, on August 24, 1864, the command gathered us all in front of the prison on a front yard. We were called several times in turn. Guards asked us our names. It was a rumour that they wanted to learn names by heart. Then, they distributed large fur-lined coats (kozuchny) to us. Coats were dreadful; I took however one so that I could use it to sleep on it. Until now, I had always slept on wood and the fur-lined coat given by my cousin was used by me as a cover. My uncle gave me a small pillow. Gradually, I grew rich and I could have anything what I needed before I reached Irkutsk. My family had dispatched to me linen, clothing, not knowing my intention and then with joy I got rid thereafter of all that I had. The carriages were ready; our "starosta" chosen by us was Sutyriski (from Wolyn).
The soldiers waited for the commands. We, for the tenth time, had bidden our farewell with our friends who looked at the departure through the grid of the gates of the prison and we did not leave yet! We waited for the governor, who made a point of bidding his farewell to us, as he had come to our arrival to Tobolsk. He did not have anything to say to us and appeared constrained. "Well", he said to us, "you will leave". We started all laughing and one of us undoubtedly answered him "since it is necessary, we can take him along as well". This disturbed him even more. And his expression was to us more interesting than what he said; words could not tell more what he felt.
In our convoy, there were women who had preferred to travel on carriages because the boat was more inconvenient for them. However a similar voyage required so great pace. It was to be for them a quite great tiredness: we were to stop only every fifteen days. A stop for a few hours in the middle of the night and during which it was necessary to make food, unpack all and remake packages again, was not a rest. We asked Kienowicz to allow us a day of rest every eight days. But what a swindler! Not wanting to be seen by us as refusing, he said whispering to our "starosta" that the warrant officer who controlled our convoy was Polish; we would have to only ask him and he would not refuse it to us. As far as him, he would turn his eyes away, would not say anything for that but himself could not give such permission. But Kienowicz made a joke of a bad taste out of us. The warrant officer had his money and passenger waybill day per day for our food exactly for fifteen days. How he could arrange to lose one day?
Kienowicz left us, finally, wishing us happy voyage. We left with sharp pace and soon Tobolsk disappeared before our eyes. We were on the road to Tomsk. The first town of district that we had to pass on our road was Tared. Before reaching this city, I still want to explain certain things. All Siberia, separately divided into governments, is still divided into two parts: Eastern Siberia and Western Siberia. The Western part belongs only to two governments of Tobolsk and of Tomsk, and Semipalatinsk and this part is controlled by one General-governor, Duhamet, the resident of Omsk. The General-governor Korsakow who remained in Irkutsk controls the Eastern part.
Government of Tobolsk was governed by Kienowicz; by the command which reigned there nobody would believe that it was possible in Siberia, because he held firm all his employees and persecuted drunkenness with extreme prejudice. At once after his nomination, he drove out drunkards per hundreds and they fear him like fire. The roads are well maintained and the difference is seen when the government of Tobolsk is left. The peasants like it much because he often traverses all the territory and deals with many details. The surroundings of Tobolsk are very fertile. The soil is so rich that it does not require any manure. As a result, the manure piles up into enormous grinding stones around the villages. Anyone can buy farms for a very good price, even in the immediate surroundings of Tobolsk. Grounds, meadows, forests are marvellous, but unfortunately the effects of labour are minimal because of the idleness of the inhabitants and the number of drunkards. And then the workman asks for very high wages. The horses are small and ugly but extremely tough. One can make trips of a thousand versts on these horses in winter. After arrival to the destiny, one has the practice to attach the horse short so it does not eat snow and it is only the following day that food is given. In spite of the intense cold that prevails here, the inhabitants do not even have cattle sheds and stables suitably built. They quite simply take dozen tree trunks torn off with the roots and they plant them out of ground not far from their dwelling. Then they join together the node with wood and cover it with straws and branches of fir planted in snow close the sides. Harnessing is similar to that of Russia; most inhabitants have a "tarantas" carriage covered with fabric and leather. Iron is very cheap here. The carriages are built well. The road that we follow was completely flat, although we entered the forest. From time to time we saw a small lake and marshes. Perm after Tiumen, and on the road that we followed we met caravans of merchants with any type of products, the tea, the skins, greases. In all Siberia there are many Gypsies, these true cosmopolitans. They have their thatched cottages in the villages; they are sedentary, but only during the season of winter. At once when the grass starts to grow they fly away all like migratory birds taking with them their luggage and they live under the tent; they go from a place to place until next winter.
We often crossed their camping sites on the roadside. This view was quite beautiful: in the middle of the greenery were spread out their white tents near the carriages. Between the trees on cords hung the multicoloured linens and with the horses far in the meadow. We could see a large fire around which Gypsies of any age had sat; further one saw a young Gypsy returning while carrying a water jug. For us these outlines were truly nice distractions in the middle of so monotonous voyage.
In Siberia, one meets everywhere of the "believing old men" (starowiery). Their religion forbids smoking in thatched cottages. They never allow lending kitchen utensils or goblets for drinking to strangers. They claim that if our lips touch them, they would be tarnished. They have many other prejudices. For example a girl and a man can drink tea but a married woman does not have any more the right to do, unless she is old. In general, people in Eastern Siberia are very little civilized. It is rare to see a man knowing how to read and write. There are much less monks than in Russia and all their religion consists of external practices including fasts. Manners are pitiful.
Tara, Steppe Baraba.
Near Baraba, we arrived to Tara on August 26 at the night. It is a distant town of five thousand inhabitants, five hundred and sixty fifteen versts from Tobolsk. Authorities piled us up in various buildings where, it goes without saying, we were very badly squeezed. As far as my company, I succeeded rather conveniently placing myself for the night and without much waiting. While entering the room we could rest, our horses not being able more to move. Two young Poles ran to meet us and asked:
"Is there a doctor among you?" They were inhabitants of Tara.
"Yes", I answered.
"We waited for you and we request from you to come to see one of ours who is sick. It is Dobrowolski, citizen of the Kingdom, deportee and seriously ill and we do not have a doctor in Tara."
"Well and where does he live?" - I asked.
"You can go to his place with all your company; you will spend the night over there. We have the permission of the commander. And we can lead you to him."
Very readily, they jumped on our carriages and in a few minutes, we had arrived to Dobrowolski. The patient, approximately a thirty-five years old man, suffered from a chronic disease of the liver; he was very weak. I did not find anything serious but the patient had been frightened because his legs started to swell. I prescribed what it was necessary and I tranquillised the patient. He was not a poor man: he lived at ease and we had at his place a delicious rest. Tared is a small city with houses made of wood and not having anything worthy of remark. Next morning, we set out again for our long voyage and a few days afterwards, we crossed the border of the government of Tobolsk entering that of Tomsk.
The landscape changed, we saw as far as the eye can see a land covered with marshes. On the raised land, one saw villages made of wood. In other words, we were in the steppe of Baraba which extends to 1,000 versts squares and which surrounds Tomsk to the West. It was the country of water birds, wild ducks, woodcocks, swans white and curlews, etc. Although people hunt them here, birds are not afraid of man and let approach themselves very near. In the steppe, we could never eat pig meat. I asked a peasant why he did not raise pigs. He answered me that it was because of the Gypsies.
"And for what reason?"
"They would steal them immediately from us, because they are very greedy".
In the steppe there are only two cities belonging to the government of Tomsk: Kanisk and Kolywan.
The beginning of my disease.
The ninth day of our voyage, we spent the night in a village. Having arrived a little earlier than usually, we asked our hosts to prepare us baths. Here, any owner has a bathroom, but what an installation! The bathroom is very small, the head touching the ceiling. The walls are coated with loam so that with the smallest movement, one dirties oneself. The room is without window, without chimney. There is only one hole in the ceiling by which comes out smoke when one lights the hearth under the bathtub. What there is even more unpleasant, it is the fact that it is necessary to be stripped outside. It is possible that this bath is the cause of my disease of which I will speak soon. I left the bath with a violent headache perhaps caused quite simply by the smoke that asphyxiated me. The following day, we spent the night in the thatched cottage of a peasant, slept on the ground like always. I felt still quite strong. Even there I made some drugs for my patients. The scurvy started to prevail between prisoners. We still made a day of road and we arrived in suburbs of Kanisk (3,000 inhabitants, 524 versts from TOMSK). We stopped for the night in a small village, because it was already late evening and it was not enough time to arrive at Kanisk. It was necessary for us to cross the river on the ferry, dangerous activity during the night.
On September 4 in the evening, I did not have more any appetite and I also lay down early. At midnight, a violent pain awaked me in my left foot, towards the bone of ankle. I lit the candle and I felt at this place like a pinprick and I saw a small redness surrounding. First of all, I believed to be wounded with a piece of glass the previous night. I had at that time prepared some drugs and by opening the pharmacy box, I had realized that some flasks had broken; at once, I had thrown the remains away. Before moving around, I had however swept the thatched cottage, but as I was very agitated while sleeping, it could be that I had left a small piece of glass and that it had wounded me. At least it appeared to myself that what happened; I examined the small wound to see whether there had not remained glass there, but I found only one small clot of blood. I whitewashed the place with tallow and the pain calmed a little. I laid down again without however being able to rest until the morning. I noted then that my foot was swollen, but I suffered less. My boot was hurting me, I put a slipper on my sick foot and I left. We crossed the river in a ferry and, without stopping in Kanisk we travelled further. We made 33 versts without stopping. Bumping of the carriage revived my pain more and more and when we reached the village where we were to sleep, I hardly got out of the carriage, I could not put the foot on the ground any more and the suffering was so acute. The inflammation was increasing. I wanted to return to Kanisk and to enter the hospital facing the impossibility of continuing the voyage. But the warrant officer misled me ensuring that not far from here was a hospital, a pharmacy, a doctor and that I would experience as much tiredness to be turned over on my steps than to going there. Moreover he pointed out to me all the embarrassment that I would give him if he were to make me going back to Kanisk. He would have to give a soldier, to rent a carriage and he did not have any authorisation for that. If I had known what was going to happen to me, I would have agree with him and I was ensured that it would not be any trouble. It was necessary for me to travel two days before arriving at the hospital. Impossible to describe the sufferings that I had to endure. The first and the second night, I put leeches, but I was not relieved of anything. The inflammation went up more and more and when I arrived at the hospital, my leg was swollen to the belt at such point that it was necessary to cut my clothing for me to strip. Someone carried me to my bed. My leg was very brilliant and red. I had an intense fever. We were at the thirteenth day of our voyage, about 300 versts from Tomsk; I was in the village of Itkul and we were there on September 6, 1864. I was happy to have arrived here because this voyage despaired me such an amount of suffering. But again, I was misled. The hospital was more miserable like always for the prisoners, without pharmacy and doctor. There was an officer of health who did not know anything about the simplest things. One laid me down among the civil prisoners because there was no Pole here. I was thus to remain alone here. All was then indifferent for me, because I had a little hope to cure. It seemed to me, as I believe it still today, than I was bitten by a snake. I owe my life only to my dear Mrs Ostromecka. At once when we had arrived at Itkul, she went to find the officer of stage with the "starosta" of our convoy and kindly requested him to leave her near me. Which was not to my surprise that this worthy and brave person would remain near me. I began again then to hope in my cure. I am not sure how long it lasted, because I lost soon consciousness. My state worsened more and more. An intense pain had exhausted my forces during a whole week. I was between the life and death. More than once, Madam Ostromecka cried for me believing that I was finished. In the moments of clearness, I saw very well that I was quite low. Here was the state of my leg: in several places, I had spots and bluish bulbs as after ulcer was opened, eight wounds were shown. The bulbs were size of my hand, and by the openings that they made came out subcutaneous greasy fabric in the form of suppuration. I had a disease called in Latin as "eresypelus phlegmondus", the most often mortal. To give an idea of the gravity of my disease, it is enough to say that, when I returned to health at the end of more than four months, I finally put the foot close to the bed, but it was only after eight wounds cured. My tibia always preserves broad scars, memory of my stay in Siberia. It was thus a quite hard disease, but it was beneficial to me. Without it, I would not be free today. I was far from being at ease in one small room with also held Russian patients. Happily, a doctor visited the hospital. By regard for my medical profession and not because I was Polish, he gave me a separate room where he installed me with Mrs Ostromecka. With each Polish convoy which passed Itkul, I received the visit of some friends and even unknown Poles to me. Among them were doctors. I benefited from their opinions, because it was for me quite difficult to look after myself. Once I had during two days a kind of hallucination like "the obsession", the insane one. Being awaked during the night, it seemed to me that I was not far from Irkutsk from which I was then distant about 2,000 versts; I saw myself sent to this city and having a store of photography; I was well equipped and in a good company. I foresaw Irkutsk in imagination in all details, absolutely as if I was there. I spoke about all this with those who came to see me. But what interested me more, it is that I saw my mother flying in the air with some people condemned to the deportation in Irkutsk and with whom she intended to live. I saw them flying above my head and not being able to drop to me; I saw them arriving to Irkutsk, camping at the edge of the river, then to rent a house for me downtown, to nail finally the story there was with me my teacher of photography. Someone waited for me impatiently. In the morning, after being awaken, I requested Mrs Ostromecka quickly make harness, because we were going to start our journey. But she was afraid of seeing me in this state and had persuaded me to wait still a little. I accepted it under the condition that she sends our luggage that we had, so that as I saw in imagination, to arrive to about 30 versts from Irkutsk while passing from hands to hands by men placed purposely for this reason on the edge of the road. It appeared to myself that all that I thought, my mother heard and answered me, that she could instantaneously to send all to me what I needed. Once even, I obliged Mrs Ostromecka to go out to the court and to take my watch there that, on my request my mother had just forwarded to me. The night that followed, I precipitated out of my bed with a superhuman force, but I felt such a pain in the leg that only a few hours later than I was calmed. The following day, I was in the same state. I met then some friendly people who came to Itkul with the convoys. I spoke to them about all that I saw in dream and I was delighted. But friends did not contradict me and they could have done it easily, I believe. At certain times, I doubted myself what I told them. But when I asked them whether that was true, they ensured it to me, then I continued the idea that obsessed me. For anything else, I had a full knowledge of what I was saying. The officer of health was accustomed to coming and consulting with me about patients and always asked me to write a report for him because, being of Jewish, he did not know the Russian language well. The same day, I wrote a half-page without making any error. I wrote lying and by resting several times. Mrs Ostromecka cried with tears seeing me so animated, pale with the brilliant eyes. Somebody who had come to see me had said to her that my state seemed very serious and without hope (she told it to me much later). The following day, calmed a little, although my spirit was filled with the delicious stay that I had with my mother in Irkutsk, I started to think and to analyse all of it. Then, timidly, I asked Mrs Ostromecka if our luggage had left.
When she answered me that they are still here, all my illusions disappeared with one blow, and fever disappeared.
I felt lower than ever. After the joy that I had just survived, I fell down in there with sad truth that was very painful. The general shock followed. Lastly, gradually, I begun again to gain a little forces and I returned to the life. The officer Tatarynow controlling this stage, a drunkard, had some regards for me because I did not ask him for money or food. His wife, Polish, someone said, had been chambermaid for the count Plater, came to see me from time to time and always brought to me something. In village, a deportee named Kejmatowicz lived who came also to see me. All things considered, I would not have been treated too badly here if it were not the trouble that corroded me. I started to feel better. I would have liked to occupy myself with something so that the days seemed less long to me, but what could I do? I had a dislike of the tobacco. Mrs OSTROMECKA unceasingly occupied herself either washing or making our food could not be always near me. When I felt better, I saw steppe Baraba, the open space until the horizon and this landscape was so monotonous. I could not have read a long time without tiredness and besides, I did not have any books. I was bored terribly; I tried to draw, but that did not help me too much. I thus remained mostly inert and the only distraction of my days was bandages made on my leg. After these operations, I fallen asleep tired. I made my bandages supported by pillows, because I was weak. The officer of health could not be helpful there. Soon I lost the sleep; only with my thoughts, without any future, even if I had suddenly been cured, irritated and weakened, I tormented during the long hours of the day and the night. During two weeks, my room was enlightened during the night by the sinister gleam of the steppe in flames. The fire had started because of a badly extinct hearth and soon it was spread with such a speed that one could not think of the rescue. All the corn in the plain, all of them in haystacks, all became the prey of the flames. Tatarinow lent to me a description of Siberia for reading in the last days of my stay. I traversed greedly for the knowledge about a country that was indifferent for me formerly. I will try to make a short rather summary of it. In these accounts one dealt especially with the government of Jakoutsk located in the east of the governments of Ienissei and Irkutsk, in the part of Siberia where, at that time there was not even one Pole. But formerly, the government sent many of them beyond that area and it is possible that more than one sleeps there of his last sleep. Remainder of all Siberia, in all its width, is a cemetery of our martyrs. This government of Jakoutsk is immense, largest of all those of Siberia, in north is the icy sea, in the south there is chain mountains of Jablonoi which formerly separated Siberia from China, in the east, the Kamtchatka. The area is crossed by river Lena, the queen of the rivers of Siberia. It is the single way that connects north to the south. On its banks, it is built a principal city Jakoutsk and some other district cities. A visitor sees immense forests and marshes, especially at the mouth of the Lena where one has sorrow to find himself on her banks. The climate is very hard; the winter lasts ten months and half and there remains the spring, the summer and the autumn for one month and half. Towards the south, the climate is a little lenient. The forests abound in stags, hinds, wolves, bears, hares, foxes, etc. Sometimes, in the south one meets some tigers, hosts very dangerous for the inhabitants. All traffic commercial is done by boat on the Lena; thus traders bring the corn to the area. Iron is a main resource taken out. The population of this area is made up of two races: Jakoutes in north and the Tungurus in the south. There are also many old men coming from Russian envoys sent here on the command of Nicolas not to have wanted to embrace the orthodox religion. The Jakoutes and the Tungurs are wandering races. When a Jakoute discovers a convenient site where he will be sure to have game and a river in the vicinity for fishing, he builds a residence that is composed of four beams to the four angles. A roof has a large opening to let escape smoke. The fences are made of manure covered with snow in winter. In the middle of the thatched cottage, Jakouts place a kind of square case. They fill it with soil and on the top, they make their fire. This hut is so small that they find hardly the place to lie down.
The Tungurs build their thatched cottages in the shape of pyramid with an opening at the top. The roof is covered with skins and snow on all sides. As a gate, they make a hole covered with skins. Their religion is animism. Studying the Tungurs one can find some vestiges of the rites of the East. Thus, at some of them, one sees the image of St Nicolas, the favorite protector of Siberia; they hang him on the wall and, in front of it they burn a lamp or a candle. When they have neither lamp nor candle, and wanting to give to the saint all the worship that is owed to him, they suspend in front of his image their more beautiful furs. When a Jakoute or a Tungur wants to marry, he buys the girl from her parents, according to what was agreed between them, some reindeers or ewe. The Tungurs breed the reindeers. There is an odd habit that these same reindeers or ewe against which the girl was given are returned to the young grooms like a gift of the parents. Their costume is all made of fur. The Tungurs manufacture a kind of fabric made of skin from which they make clothing that they decorate with drawings made with various colors. Some do not miss taste. The costume of the women is similar, only they decorate them with brilliant ornaments, such as ices, small pieces of glass, coins, etc. The coquetry is known here as well; on the entire World, the woman is the same one. In addition to their weapons of hunting, they use the bow and are very skilful to handle it. In hunting, they are very courageous. For example, I will quote what follows: two families lived one with the other, one Jakoute and the other Tungur. The men left to provide for the needs, for food. Once, they saw about a hundred feet from them a bear that watched them and prepared to attack. Men had as weapons only axes and knives. They advanced towards the animal. At once one of them was seized in its claws. A Jakoute precipitated towards the animal and stroke him with blows of axe. But it is not an easy thing to kill a similar animal. The bear released its prey and threw itself on that who struck. Although wounded awfully the first hunter gathered his last forces and precipitated in turn on the bear. He opened its belly with his knife and he stroked it mortally. The bear was cut down, but its murderer did not survived the night because of his wounds. The other cured although he was very wounded. Many of them die in this way and then their families are completely without resources, especially between the Jakoutes who live separately by families. They organise thus joint hunting: they are especially hunting for the stags. In summer when the forest is filled with mosquitoes and insects, the stags not to be annoyed go to hills with overdraft. There, the wind being stronger, the insects do not come so much. To arrive to these raised places, animals have to cross a river. Jakoutes know it well. Therefore on the covered edges with heather and fern, the hunters hide in small boats and wait on two banks for their passage. Generally, initially one stag appears. He is in the charge of the herd. This one looks on all sides, tightens the ear and when it realises that no danger threatens, it disappears. A few moments afterwards, it reappears with the herd behind him. At this point in time none of the hunters can move. They wait until the herd left to the stroke. To a sign agreed upon, all the hunters come out of their hiding-place on their boats and encircle the herd. Then a baited fight starts, dangerous for the hunters, but which brings back to them food for all the winter. The hunters strike the stags with blows of iron bars in the shape of spear. The stags realising of being lost fight with despair. They concentrate all of their forces. Their legs strike the boats. If these blows reach the chest or the head of the hunter, he is killed. The killed stags are brought back on the bank. On banks, the hunters watch for those that try to flee and kill them. The Jakoutes share between themselves all those animals that were killed on the river evenly; as far as those that were killed on banks, the meet belongs to those who completed the killing. The return of the Jakoutes to their premises is merry and triumphing, their families always wait for them with fear, often, some of them do not return any more. They also make fish provision for the winter. The rivers in Siberia are very full of fish; they dry them either under sun if the weather is rather hot, or above their hearths. Then, they dig not far from their residence a large hole which they surround internally with stones and of moss; they throw fish in it, cover them with moss, then with soil. Really, "tastes one cannot discuss"; they wait then that the fish starts to rot and eat it. For European, only the odor of this fish would make him flee. However, they eat it straight from this hole, or they cover it with flour, and they roast it on their fire. They eat that instead of bread and without salt. The scurvy reigns very often here. Drinking two or three glasses of hot blood of reindeer per day looks them after. Their dogs nourish on remains of these fish and catch some fish like the otters. The dogs are used here to work as guards, then for hunting and even one harnesses them and they render in that great services, because they are very light. Here, there is no road traced, snow is thick; a horse wears itself down there too quickly, but the dogs are held for tasks perfectly. One harnesses them by six or seven at the same time, one in front of the other with sledges. These sledges are very small and resemble small boats for a person. The dog of head is always an animal drawn up to lead others and attentive to the voice of the master, because the traveller should not deviate from the good path. In the event of disobedience of the conducting dog (wanting for example to follow some track game) the man in the sledge holds a long stick, which he inserts deeply in snow if he wants to stop the entire attachment. Each year, as soon as ice melts down on the Lena, merchants, generally the Russians, descend the course on the river from the South to North on boats and sell flour, iron, etc. to the residents in exchange of furs. When the winter surprises them too early, they leave their boats and return to their premises by overland route. The voyage is done on horse and the goods are transported on the horses. Long caravans, long files of horses one behind the other return towards the South, loaded with furs by Jakoutes, owners of these horses. They do not worry about food for their animals; horses nourish on moss that they find on their road, like the reindeers. When the ground is covered with snow, they remove it with their shoes to find moss. It is a poor food and these poor animals are weak; During these long voyages they move slowly, one cannot request from them more than seven lay (Russian measurement) a day.
First of all, the road is covered with mud strongly dried on its surface by intense heats that prevail in summer. It happens sometimes that the horses fall and hurt themselves, quite annoying accident for the traveller who is pressed and here the reason. In similar cases, the Jakoutes do not try to withdraw the horse from mud, on the contrary, they cut all goods from the horse, settle with all the camping and start feasting. No prayer nor persuasion to continue travelling can change their mind, the Jakoutes will remain there as long as they will not have eaten the horse, which lasts sometimes a whole week. The road is long and monotonous. When one moves away from the North, snow falls in shape of large flakes and the snowstorms prevent from advancing. A traveller is forced to stay under snow and wait for the end of the gust, if not one would be likely to lose the good path. A merchant who wanted to return as fast as possible to his place separated one day from caravan with one of his companions during one of these snowstorms. They wandered a long time; finally after three days of search, they saw from the far in the forest a hut of Jakoutes. Delighted they went there in haste. What astonished them while approaching was neither to hear the dogs' bark nor to see any smoke escaping from the roof. While entering inside, the spectacle that they saw struck them with terror. Near the extinguished hearth, a twelve-year-old young girl was frozen, with hands towards fire as if they were still heated. The snow that fell through the opening from the roof covered it partly and made it resemble a statue of marble. The mother still holding in her arms a very little child, whom she seemed wanting to heat on this frozen land. They passed away, they died too. Travellers mislaid tried to revive these poor beings. Useless, death had for a long time made its work. They left the hut frightened with the fear of undergoing the same fate. The father had had to perish in an accident and this poor family had died of hunger and cold. What a sad life and what a horrible end!
Departure from Itkul.
I remained in the hospital of Itkul for three weeks. I left for Tomsk on the opinion of a Russian doctor, who suggested me the hospital of Tomsk as a place where I would find all comfort and the care that my health required. Moreover, the abscesses that had been formed again on my leg obliged me to leave Itkul, because the officer of health could not open them for me. I was too weak to do it myself. These abscesses made me suffer cruelly during the trip from Itkul to Tomsk. There were three hundred versts. It was papered a carriage for me as a bed and someone carried me there. With each bump of the cart, I felt a sharp pain. We changed horses on each stage and our soldier assigned to me acted as a leader in charge. Actually, authorities did not fear that I could try to escape, I was too sick and poor old Mrs Ostromecka knowing the Russian language hardly thought of fleeing. Officials had given us the money for the food and for renting horses. We made 50 versts per day and the night. We stopped in thatched cottages of the soldiers of the stage who were to take us along the following day. At the end of a few days, we arrived to Kotywan (2,500 inhabitants, 213 versts from Tomsk). I was transported to the hospital and there, the officer of health opened my abscesses and put a bandage. At once, I smelled rotten matter and I was certain to be able to reach Tomsk. The officer who controlled this stage, a Pole named Borowski, was very helpful. He was a former professor of body from Petersbourg, envoy here for three years like punishment. He urged me not to go to Tomsk, asked me to remain in Kotywan, promising to lend books to me and saying to me that I would have company here. But I had the head filled with all that I heard about Tomsk and I had persuaded him that I would be better there, I did not decide to remain and we left; The road was monotonous like always through the steppe Baraba. We were already in September, the leaves of the forests yellowed and carried by the wind of autumn, strewed the road. The nights were cold. Snow started to fall and covered everything with a white coat. It was quite sad to feel insulated in the middle of a so lugubrious landscape and in this season. In steppe Baraba, one sees from place to place, along the roads, on the two sides, large very high wheels that are used to show the way when snow is thick. But when snowstorms called " burany " prevail, these indications are not used for anything, because the traveller can nothing distinguish two steps away. These storms last sometimes a day or two and misfortune for the traveller who cannot stop at once.
On 29 September, on sixth day from our departure of Itkul, we approached Tomsk (20,000 habitants). In the suburbs of the city, we stopped to cross on a raft the river Tom. The first building that we saw was the prison, distant about a verst from the center of the city. The place was dirty and sad with its three stages and was built on the hill, in an isolated place. It was my first disappointment after all fair promises as someone had made to me. We stopped at front of the prison; a soldier took our card; an employee soon appeared who asked me to follow him to the top. Mrs Ostromecka was sent elsewhere. I was quit dismayed by it, but what could I do? Some Poles were in front of the prison, when they heard that I was sick, they took me in their arms and transported me to the third floor. I did not know where I was placed, when I realised that I was in a room of hospital where there were only Russians and not one of us. The air was heavy and it appeared to me all the more painful since I arrived from outside with fresh air. I believed that I would choke and, moreover, all was covered with dirtiness. And it was the hospital after which I aspired. I then regretted having come to Tomsk. I was hungry and thirsty and I did not know how to cure myself, because those who had brought me here were gone down again at once. Here, than ever, I felt more being in prison. At the end of first hour, our "starosta" came to see me. Nobody could enter here. We were under keys. The "starosta" brought to me tea and said to me that in this prison, there was a large part intended for the Polish patients and that I had, as of the following day, to ask the doctor to transport me there, for the third time. I did not close the eye during the night. I was then very weak and the moral shock that I felt at my beginnings here caused me to loose my strength even more. Around ten o'clock, in the following day, the doctor arrived. He was a young man called Woronow. He came to me. He could not distinguish me from others. I wore the same linen that them and I had the same bed. I said to him that I was Polish, doctor, who came yesterday and I requested him to put me with my compatriots. At once, he satisfied my request and moved me and there, I found my friend Calixte Andrejowicz. I was there better because I was among mine, but saying the truth, dirtiness was there also repulsing and I saw there many of insects one on top of the other. Here, we did not even have beds, but we were spread on boards, one beside the other, on disgusting straw mattresses. The panes of the windows were broken; there were large holes everywhere in the wall. A Russian deportee had taken an advantage of us. Food was dreadful. Ten of us were in this part. In the close other rooms, there were ours, but they were not sick. We were locked up only during the night, all the day our compatriots came to see us so that we would feel less sad. I saw Mrs Ostromecka only the following day. She lived in the bottom, in a kind of hole worse than ours. It was necessary for her to request, to beg before authorities allowed her to see me. During a few days, Woronow visited us only, because he replaced the Doctor Rogosnikow who currently suffered. We regretted much that Woronow could not remain our doctor because he was a good man, a conscientious and erudite doctor. Rogosnikow did not have any of these qualities. He did not deal with his patients, did not order anything for them. He traversed the room, and it was all. He was happy that I can look after myself and that others gave me what I needed. The officers of health were not worth anything either. Thus, to give an example, one of them, a certain Nowik, a postman, who was sent to prison for having shot, being drunk, at a postmaster, became an officer of health in this hospital. Nothing could astonish us, the most urgent care was absent for majority. My wounds were closing well thou slowly, but I could however sit and read. I preferred the good visit that friends made for me, because the reading still tired me. I had here a live book in which I could read the mysteries of this prison. I want to speak about the Russians. Wanting to give an idea, I will keep silent myself on various points because the feather would refuse to write things if I try to describe all horrors. Anyone could easily buy the soldiers and this is why the prisoners did here what they wanted. For example, the prisoners had made holes in parquet floors and ceilings so that during the night, although locked up with keys, they could communicate between themselves. The soldiers helped prisoners to manufacture many things. And what a documents! I had an opportunity of seeing some of them. They were made of simple paper and were written by the hand. One could wonder why they did it what they did. It was enough to have a look to see that they differed from real documents by paper, the color, the letters, etc. They manufactured also various documents, certificates, resignations, testimonies, permissions and all that on imperial paper with the seals and the signatures required. Even someone manufactured medals for the soldiers. The owner could take the role of reprocessed soldier, what really happened. It should be known that a reprocessed soldier provided with one medal can request everywhere where he passes for food and housing, which is enormous benefit for those who do not have anything. As far as the uniform, nothing was easier to get from our soldiers. We made or rather the soldiers manufactured brandy with the pieces of bread that remained after eating. The alcohol was made with samovars, arranged for that. But as this brandy in small quantities was not enough, anyone could get it from the city by the intermediary of the soldiers. They brought it in bladders, hidden under their clothing, because a bottle would have been quickly discovered with the visit, at the entrance of the prison. Sometimes, when they were going to watch over the sentinels, they brought brandy in pitchers and lined them in snow, among firewood outside the prison. Then the prisoners who prepared the wood paid them in prison, going so near, other guards did not check them at the entry. There was another kind of smuggling, but it was necessary for that that the night was quite black. In advance, someone knew the soldier and the hour to which this one would be in sentinel, during the night, outside the prison. Then at the appointed time, one descended a string by the window and had attached money there. The soldier could not leave his station but in advance he heard about the deal because a comrade came to see him. This way a prisoner bought a desired bottle and with a string he hoisted it into the prison. One could also get tobacco in the same way, because it was forbidden to smoke in the prison. I speak here only about the Russian prisoners and not about us. We had the right of leaving to downtown under the pretext of buying food. It was enough for us to show at the gate a card with the signature of our "starosta", and that we give it back at the return. At the end of a few months, I was not any more in this prison. The discipline became increasingly severe, authorities did not allow us any more to leave and we were obliged to eat the food of the prison. It was always composed of pea and water like soup, in which a cook boiled a pound of meat to share between ten (oil and "kasza"). With great difficulties, there was sorrow to swallow similar food and many among us vomited after each meal. These meals were not nourishing more than bread and many fell sick. The prisoners experienced also a lot of difficulties to obtain the authorization to see either a relative, or a friend. But only one kind of prisoners was so maltreated. The others were left with more freedom. The cause of this excessive severity towards us was false news widespread in all Russia by the government officials as the Poles were the authors of all fires. Even here Russians feared us. Therefore during a night when I was still in the hospital of the prison I had just extinguished my candle. When I started to fall in sleep, I heard some visitors coming. I opened the bolts and I saw several people entering with light by means of a small lantern. They entered our part of the prison examining each one of us attentively. Then they came out and put the bolts in place. This night inspection took place in all the rooms where they could find the Poles. The following day, I learned that those whom I had seen in the night were the governor Frizel and the baron Felkazam who was in charge of us in name of the government of Tomsk, then the head of prisons, the baron Frank, the colonel of police Kretkowski, etc. We then did not know the cause of this night inspection. After only a few days later, we learned that the gossip had been spread that us, Poles, were to revolt, that we hid weapons in the prison and in the middle of the night we planned to throw ourselves on a sentinel, to kill guards. Then that we planned to escape downtown and to put a fire there, etc. It is necessary to be Russian or insane to believe in similar nonsense. That night, the sentinels had been doubled and our commanders had come themselves to ensure that nobody could hear noise in the prison. From where we would have had weapons and how could we have achieve these goals in a large city? How would we have left our barrack rooms since we were locked up with the bolt on all sides?
At the end of a few weeks of my stay in the prison, my health improved, so much so that I was moving around without touching ground with my sick foot. I was happy of being able to move myself a little. At that time, two doctors, Doctor Matkiewicz and Doctor Iakiewicz, made an inspection. They were both Polish. I requested from them that I wanted to admit myself to the hospital of the city where I had intended to say that one was much better. I obtained the authorization, but only a few days later. They were happy for me, because I felt sicker for lack of care, of the bad air that I breathed and of cold. I slept near a window under which there was an enormous crack. We did not manage to stop it completely. The wind and the frost were very painful already. I started to cough and, soon, I caught typhus. Someone lined me in a sledge and entered me in the hospital of the city, in an isolated house. It housed only the Poles and we occupied three rooms. I met Kamienski and Dystowski there. I was placed near them. A day before my arrival, one of their neighbours had died of typhus, therefore they were frightened while seeing me arriving. They were sure that I was still a candidate for "the other world". I was infinitely better there than in the prison. I had a bed, a large room only for three of us at the ground floor, without frosted windows and with a soldier in a distant part. I was glad to see that the doctor who visited us was Polish, Pokotajewski. Our servant Leon was also Polish, he had been born in Kingdom and he was a glassmaker by his profession. He had been drafted into the army, was for several years in Siberia as a warrant officer and still spoke very well his native language. In spite of these good conditions, the disease followed its course. During a certain time, I was unconscious. I was quite down because my weakness was still quite substantial; finally I fought back.
Dear Mrs Ostromecka often came to see me in the prison although the distance was long from her place and that she did not have proper, warm clothing. She was very anxious of me. Typhus prevailed extremely everywhere and almost all caught it. Many of us succumbed to it in Tomsk. In our room arrived soon another typhic, Henryk Kotupajllo of the government of Wolkowysk. We could discuss together subjects that were interesting to all of us. We still had another comrade Jozef Kreczkowski, from the Kingdom. A disease reached him. He had been sent without judgement to Wlodym, a city of the district in Russia where authorities were to judge him and many others. But there, the judges did not try even to hear them. In their files, they registered randomly: "condemned to work in the mines" or "condemned to live in the government Orembourg", etc. The unhappy ones whose names were marked on these sheets were subjected without word to their unjust and cruel fate. They could not to appeal. Only the medical examination could change their fate. Kreczkowski was condemned to work in the mines. Young person, handsome, built admirably and in full health, he did not have any hope to be recognised as sick. He had an idea to see a doctor before the revision and ask him for help. It happened that a doctor was a brave man and with a good heart. He answered his request. But how to make a diagnosis acceptable before a commission made up of several doctors? He gave him an ointment that made him come out with a leg full of the abscesses. He was admitted to the hospital. This trick succeeded a wonder for a draft board and he was sent to the government of Orembourg. These abscesses had been easier to make than to cure. Here how he was in Tomsk. On the way to Orembourg, they had a German officer, a railroad employee, to supervise. Kreczkowski, who spoke well in German bound with him. One day, they became friends completely. When they were drunk and the officer let him examine all papers of the prisoners whom he convoyed. Benefiting from this friendship, Kreczkowski threw all papers through the window of the coach so that there was no more trace of his judgment. The officer did not have any trouble out of it. There is so much disorder in the red tape in Russia. In Nizni and Kazan, before further dispatching him and as papers were not present any more, authorities asked him where he came from. They also asked him with what he was condemned. He wanted to see Siberia, he said to them, and as he said to them he was sent to Tomsk. He preferred being a free inhabitant to deal with agriculture somewhere in Russia. On his word, authorities sent him to Tomsk. But once he was here, they requested information on him from Tobolsk, where were all the files of the prisoners. Naturally, nothing was found, but while waiting, they kept him in prison until explanation of his case. He was merry and distracted us much with his stories, because he had an astonishing memory. For a long time, he was handicapped with his abscesses until they cured him. In mean time, he often visited downtown. At the hospital, he had bound with an employee Lapinski who was charged to open all the letters that we received and that remained for a very long time at his place by negligence. He befriended this Lapinski so much that he let him act as a reader: he read the letters aloud to him, passing what it was to omit so that we could receive them more quickly and not censured. Unfortunately that did not last for a very long time because authorities obliged him to remain in the prison. The winter in Tomsk is very hard. We had a lot of snow. Our window was blocked by snow and the thermometer froze. We had -30°C and even during a few weeks -37, with -40°C sometimes. During these frosts, there is a fog so dense that one sees nothing in five steps. The winter lasted eight long months. In our house, the temperature was hot although the partitions were made out of wood and not very thick; we had double windows and a good stove where we could make food all that we liked. The snow, which surrounded us around, saved us also from wind and cold. We did ourselves our kitchen. During some time, I abstained from eating too much, but then I ate because of my hunger and it is what enabled me to recover rather quickly. However my wounds were not cured quickly, in spite of various remedies. I did not complain about this slowness to cure. Nothing pressed me and I suffered by no means as long as I remained kind of free. I had many books to read. Many people came to see me from the city, like my comrades of the hospital. I received letters from home and they were so valuable to me! I received them after a few months. The news was not fresh. Perhaps at the time when I read them the people did not exist any more about whom someone was saying to me in these letters? If they complained to be oppressed, the letter did not come to me. And then, they would not have liked to sadden me with bad news and which could change my moods from being merry? Only sight of these letters, to see this cherished writing, these letters traced by a liked hand, it was a joy for me. I read them again and again, all of them. I was happy and I suffered at the same time. It is easy to understand. My uncle Felix corresponded with me too.
It is necessary for me to tell here a small event which took place during my stay in this small house, and which will prove the character of my protective Mrs Ostromecka about whom I spoke so many times. During my transportation to the hospital of the city, I had left my things. Between them, there were not my favourite boots bought before my departure in Grodno. They were very high with shoed ends and had cost me seven roubles. One day, Madam Ostromecka said to me that she had liked my boots so much and that somebody who saw them would like to buy them. I answered that I did not want to part from them. She kept silent, but in a few days, she repeated the same thing adding that the buyer would give as much as I would like the person to ask. While joking, I said that I would not give them for less than ten roubles, certain that nobody would give such an amount for worn boots and having cost only seven roubles. My answer appeared crazy. I sought to know the name of the purchaser, or rather of the amateur, but she said to me that this person wished to remain unknown. I understood nothing here. A few days after this conversation, she brought ten roubles to me and gave them to me.
"What are this money for? ", I asked her.
"This is the price for the boots"
"Is the person agreed to give as much for it?"
"Certainly, and he is delighted to have them."
I was persuaded that he was a rich man who, to satisfy a whim, had given more than the boots were worth. It was a magic sale, because that allowed me to buy another pair and still, there remained in my pocket some money to buy other objects. Only a few months later I learned, by chance, all what that meant. My beautiful boots had been a pretext and, not wanting to say it to me, Madame Ostromecka had preferred to tell me this history and then to pay with own money as if she had been responsible for the loss of other my belongings. But it was not the end of the story. Not having ten roubles that I had had misfortune to ask for the boots, what did she do? She took her the most precious and expensive thing, the alliance with her husband and gave as guarantees to supplement the sum. She hoped that by knitting socks, she would gain enough to be able to repurchase the ring. Unfortunately, it did not reach that point. Before she managed to pile up the necessary sum, the person who had the dear ring, forgetting a promise or not having understood well the conditions, put the ring as a bat and this dear memorabilia fell into stranger's hands, lost forever. It was the only memory of a husband whom she adored. She had never spoke about all that to me and never wanted to accept my money, in spite of my insistence. I was in a deep sorrow. I had been the quite involuntary cause of a sorrow of my benefactor, and I did not know how to cure this sorrow.
Towards Christmas, I started to take some steps in my room while using crutches. It had been three months since I was sick. An astonishing thing, even in Siberia, the return to health caused me some joy. I was delighted when for the first time I felt upright, being content like a child. Soon Doctor Pokotujewski proposed to me to be moved to the principal building telling me that I would be better off there. I did not know that it was a building that I had seen through my window. It was a large white masonry, surrounded by a large court. It was a place of small gardens, covered with some snow and with planted birches. I liked all that then. Readily I was transported to the other building, in a quite enlightened room in which we were six. I found there several of us, either cured, or in the process of being cured. I met Julien Biescekierski with whom I had come to Tomsk and who came too to have typhus. He drew a little; we started to make sketches, and my album grew quickly. I remained in this room all the time of my stay at the hospital of Tomsk, i.e. until Easter, nearly four months. During my stay in Siberia and Tomsk, I remained there the longest time. I stayed there the all winter, and always at the hospital. I walked with crutches, then without them, but I could not put the foot on the ground for a long time. I had to often rest and keep my leg flat. It was always swollen and I could wear only felt boots. Gradually, I arrived at being able to endure a leather boot. It was towards the end of April that my wounds were closed. This slowness to be cured enabled me to remain a long time in Tomsk. And as I did not suffer in last months and that we were hardly supervised, I used to leave for downtown and I slept even there sometimes. This disease was a blessing, it enabled me to learn what I needed; thanks to it, I gained a useful knowledge; I studied Siberia and finally my dream started already in Nizni could be put in an execution. Before tackling this subject I want still to speak about Tomsk, about fate for us here and elsewhere and of my life during my stay at the hospital. The city of Tomsk resembles a town of Europe if one can say that of the Russian cities. Naturally that I do not want to speak about Petersbourg which does not have anything of national character. The city of Tomsk contains 20,000 inhabitants. It is located on the banks of the river Tom and another smaller river that throws into Tom. The smaller river separates the city into two parts joined together between them by a single bridge in the shape of "V" or rather of two bridges joined together in one from two banks. The city is very extended. The streets are broad but not paved, pavements in boards, because mud is enormous. There are many stone-built houses and with two and three stages. There are twelve Russian churches. In one of the prettiest corners of the city is our small church: it is built on a hill that dominates the city. It is very well maintained and has several tables of Chrucki (of White Russia). Trees surround the presbytery. Our priest sent here as political prisoner planted the cemetery with cedars. Tomsk has many Jews and these Jews are similar to those of Lithuania with their wicks of hair, caps, their bottoms, their slippers, their long black frock coats and always their hands in their belt. Their sight reminded me about my country and pleased me. Because one cannot imagine our country without the Jews: we do not have any idea how to trade and it is their life. Also here types of all Asian races are met. Many women get dressed in European style and they are pretty; they carry superb furs. The material life is less expensive than in Russia. The employees and the tradesmen form the city and all are condemned Russian. Among the employees, one does not meet however anyone who came here voluntarily to earn their living. The governor was called Lerceh, a native of Berdyczew, proud and brutal. However, he was not energetic enough and it was Mrs Fryel, the woman of the vice-governor who controlled everything for him. Everyone knew about it in all the government. The roads were everywhere smashed, reversed signposts, everywhere disorder, the venality of the employees up to their ears and drunkenness like always. Assassinations took place in full day, in the city even. I then felt sorry for myself because of this disorder and the venality of these employees. Now, on the contrary, I am grateful to them. Without that, for a long time I would work in the mines. It is necessary for me still to say some words about the trade, the industry and the tradesmen of Tomsk. Here, there is not a confidence in the tradesmen and credit is the base of any undertaken commercial activity. The tradesmen of Tomsk choose among them the richest and the most honest and he is called "starosta". This "starosta" must make known that he has a real fortune. He is charged to go to all large fairs of Irbits and Nizni-Novgorod in Russia, in a word with all the fairs where the tradesmen of Tomsk go. It is only then on a word of the "starosta" who stands as guarantor that these tradesmen can find the credit, but never for a sum higher than that by him acknowledged, because he is responsible for the sum advanced to this tradesman. There exist here little factories, the breweries of Paklewski, Koziello, then some glassmaking and some tanneries. There are also mines of copper pertaining to Popof. One day, someone found in this mine a copper ingot weighing 50,000 lay. It was one piece of pure copper seam that one cut in smaller pieces and that dispatched to St Petersbourg where it was again melted in only one part. It is Popof himself who told me this single fact. There are here gold mines called "Tajga" that belong to the big and small contractors. These mines paid back handsome profit formerly. Today the gold, which is in sand, is exhausted partly. The workmen who work in these mines are generally hired during the winter. The employer pays them a certain sum in advance that they quickly spent on drinking like all the Siberians do. Before even starting work, they are already deep in debt and work the following year to pay what they owe. In this way, they become the slaves of the contractor and it happens that some work all their life, not being able to spare even one year without working on their debts, with the joy of the owner who is sure, in this way, to have stable workmen. All these contractors belong to the Siberian rich class. One of the richest tradesmen of Tomsk, named Issakof, had made all his fortune in gold mines. The manager of his mine was Popof about whom I spoke previously and who was very poor there at that time. As manager, he worked hard, while stealing from his employer, making a small fortune. Everyone has the right to make excavations to find gold, anyone can carry out tests in the river and when the result of search gives 3%, it is worth to extract the gold contained in sands. This result is enough to prevent the authorities from sending on the spot a land surveyor to draw plans. For a small royalty, the person has the right to extract all profit from this place. Above the 3%, the result has to be reported, but often these mines produced the 5% or the 6%. Popof sought the profitable places without the knowledge of Issakof. Before starting a company under his name, he waited to have piled up of the thousand roubles. When he had achieved his goal, he left Issakof and at the end of ten years, he became, someone said, a millionaire. Issakof having learned about his practices brought a lawsuit against him, but Popof who, then, was richer than him, gained positive judgement. Thereafter, Popof having confidence in his happy star and although millionaire made even more daring attempt. In a hut belonging to Issakof and abandoned for a certain time because of the exhaustion of gold in sands, was one enormous copper tank sealed with a wall. Issakof intended to remove it from his property later, but while waiting for this tank nobody guarded it because, by its only dimensions nobody believed that it could disappear. Everybody had been mistaken: Popof had a desire quite incomprehensible and resembling madness. It hired some men, seized the tank and sold it. New lawsuit, but this time the event had done too much noise; it was known by all that the author of a similar theft could have a handsome profit. During my stay in Tomsk, the civil case was finished, i.e. the refunding of the stolen tank and the expenses of the lawsuit rose to 300 000 roubles. The tank was not worth it, everybody said, it was worth tenth part of this sum. At that time thus the action of theft was going to be judged and one hoped that the sentence would be even more severe. Here was how the things occurred. So rich individuals are never truly punished.