[Home] [Volume I]
MEMOIRES OF the DOCTOR ALEXANDRE OKINCZYC
DEPORTATION AND ESCAPE
Under the government of Tomsk
I already mentioned before that ours were sent to the government of Tomsk, to reside in the cities, that is to say like deportees in the villages to be there under the monitoring of the rural communes. The State allocated little help neither to some nor to others. Kienowicz alone gave them a few roubles per month, a decision which displeased extremely all other Siberian governors. Even many reported against him to St Petersbourg what Diatramel confirmed, a military governor, man without character. When he was persuaded that Kienowicz acted very badly, he entirely believed in it. Kienowicz was thus called to St Petersbourg in order to explain the way in which he wasted the government funds. It seemed that logic of the business had a little importance. Kienowicz's action could be so well explained. This was why he was allowed to continue to help the deportees, and even he was decorated and obtained a gratification. He returned to his place. He made fun of everyone and, moreover, the central authorities gave the command to the other governors to make them like him and ordered to distribute help. But the things remained like formerly in the other governments and the sums intended for us were only used to increase the wealth of the governors. Kienowicz had reported to St Petersbourg that he gave help only to those of ours who were driven back by the hunger, who could revolt. Otherwise each one of us, then, would have had to choose, to die of hunger or start to escape or kill. "If we did not give satisfaction to most of them", Kienowicz had said, "he cannot answer for the consequences."
Those of us who were to live in the city still had the chance to be able to find work to earn their living, either in a trade, or in all other work. He defended of giving money from the government to us. Those who lived in villages were really feeling sorry for themselves, and they were the greatest numbers. In Tomsk, we were about 150. The peasants of this area could cultivate soil as much as they wanted it. Although the population was limited, they did not seek to take workmen and thus to increase their incomes.
All that they did, these peasants, was to drink, not making any money. Drunkenness in Siberia is very widespread. There are some that drink to the last shirt and do not have anything left on their premises. The misery, which results from a similar existence, does not correct them. The Siberians prefer to flee or kill rather than to change their life. Similar examples are frequent. One of us, sent to the countryside, was thus assassinated by his owner, in his village, during our stay in Tomsk. He still had, from the time of the insurrection, a wound in the leg. One day, by bandaging it in the presence of his owner, he exposed to him involuntarily a small bag hidden under his knee; another time to pay his rent, he took money from there. He did not have, in all, more than ten roubles. This imprudence lost him. He remained in this house with a comrade. One day his colleague was missed, the owner returned drunk and sought a subject of discussion. My comrade seeing that he had in front of him a drunken man yielded to him in all. At the end, when he tried to move away, he was struck strongly in the head. Blood spouted out. He fell, then he still raised, had the force to come out to the street and to arrive at the office of the peasants where he fell and lost consciousness. During that time, his colleague suspecting nothing returned to his place and seeing blood asked the owner what that meant. This last one told him stories. Then, suspecting that a drama had had to occur, he left to search his comrade and found a friend. He still had the force of him to tell what had occurred and expired. His body as well as the assassin was brought to Tomsk. The assassin acknowledged that he had killed. In spite of that, as we learned later, the peasant left the prison at the end of three days. Such is the life of ours in Siberia. And yet, the Russian courts considered condemned to the deportation in the cities and villages as condemned to light sorrows. What a horrible situation!
Ours seek by all the means to earn their living, but nothing is sure and seldom they succeeded. For example, one of them knowing the veterinary art by the courses that he had followed in Morymont started to look after the inhabitants and succeeded. Many could have earned their living while learning how to read and write, but in Siberia few peasants make a point of making inform their children. I know one example. He was a comrade who graduated from the 7th class from the college of Bialystock. He was condemned to live in a village, arrived there with a few roubles only. Being in a very precarious situation when this money was exhausted, he only knew that his future was bleak. He had still a gold ring, a memory of his past, which he held much and from which he had sorrow to separate. The profit would not help him too much. It was necessary regardless of any costs, to find in all haste a solution. It was not easy matter to achieve. The city was far away and to go there, was required one day. He had needed a written authorisation of the head of the commune and it was difficult to obtain it! Assigned to this village it was necessary for him here even to find a solution to gain his life. He had chance however. It is said sometimes that misery and the need lead to demoralisation and cowardice. Can it be applied to us in Siberia? I doubt it. A hard-working and sober owner could have been successful here, if not with a fortune, at least be well off. I knew them well and he was one of these that my colleague was likely to meet. He remained at this man since his arrival to the village, he ate at his place, not causing much trouble and devoting his time to reading books that he had brought with himself. By seeing him thus reading his owners concluded from it that he was erudite and noble. They imagined to themselves soon that they placed on their premises a count or a prince; perhaps the gold ring, which he carried on the finger, was the cause, because it seemed to them of great value. They believed that he was rich because he paid them regularly. They asked him sometimes if he was rich and as he was defensive in answers they took that for the modesty. They urged him to buy a house, horses, etc. They did not suspect that his last roubles were going to be exhausted. They were persuaded of his high birth and his fortune. One day however, they tried to ask him and it is until my colleague expressed such an amount of impatience. This saved his misery, because his owners gave at once to him home and the food in payment for the lessons that he gave to their children. He took his task to the heart, occupied the children and the brother of owner heard about his reputation, encouraged by what he saw sent his children to him, what increased the income. Via his benefactors, he hoped to obtain a place in the office of peasants where, for a little work, he would have had a good learning facility and gifts offered by the peasants. His owners were good people. They gave a proof of their kindness during the disease that my comrade was reached soon. Care, such as they gave to him, did not succeed. It is true with everyone that one should see there only the intention and their sympathy in the circumstance. I spent a little too much time on this account, but I think that this description proves how some of us managed to create a good situation in the countryside, but it was, alas, the small number!
The disease of which reached my comrade rather frequently prevailed in Tomsk, it appears. As far as me, I never could note of it, except only one case during my stay at the hospital. Here are the symptoms: the body covered with red spots, which became pustules of different sizes similar to those that produce the application of vesicatory. The patient had a strong fever and complained about pains at the places reached. Then the pustules released pus and dried out at the end of a few weeks. The patient was cured, but the red spots remained a long time visible on the body then ended up disappearing. There were some that died of this disease so much because of the fever, because of the considerable number of pustules.
When my comrade fell sick, his owners were initially afraid of believing that he may be lost, then having already seen in their life of similar cases, they proposed to him to look after him in their way. Because of the doctor being very far, he agreed to accept their care. Here, in many similar diseases, i.e. external, the remedy consisted in applying compressed urine, what was more harmful than advantageous. With a certain quantity of this cream, one added a lot of ammonia. All that together was mixed and it was the universal cure. When someone applied to the patient such a remedy, the wound opened and the patient suffered terribly. It should be said that this application was done in a Siberian bathtub. When our comrade was dying, the owners were frightened; they brought him back to the thatched cottage, laid him down in the best bed than they had made all possible to revive him. They poured water to his mouth, then brandy and, finally, with their great joy, the patient reopened the eyes. The owner who had an active share in the just given care cried with heated tears when the patient returned to himself. The farmer asked for forgiveness of what they had been the involuntary cause of his fainting and promised to him to compensate it. And, indeed, thereafter they proved by their conduct towards my comrade that they did not resemble all the other Siberian ones. When my comrade could rise and turn over to a sound old room, they did not want to agree to it and he had to remain in the most beautiful part of the house. At some time after that he had to go to Tomsk. The owner invented a story saying that it was necessary for him also to go to Tomsk to sell his honey and he went along with him. At the time of the departure, they covered my comrade with several furs, because it was in winter and they feared that he could get cold. And this man was so full with gentleness for him that he chose a road where they could stop in villages after a few versts, where parents or friends could receive them with open arms and where they could be heated. I precisely became acquainted with the young man during his short stay that he then made in Tomsk.
The majority of those who were sent to the villages lived miserably with what they had been able to bring to themselves. The shoemakers could find work here and there. I knew the three Stawinski, the father and his two sons, who earned their living in poisoning the foxes and the wolves. Ours did not have the right to have a rifle. Those like us, fought for a long time with misery, all these tests though quite hard diminished from us neither the hope nor the forces necessary to the combat the life. But the young people suffered more, whose life had run out on flowers, who had never known so extreme distress. Only despair remained with them and some became insane. Many of those who lived in the villages at the end of a certain time could leave, because of their good conduct, obtaining the authorisation to live to the cities for some time, and even to stay there indefinitely.
I would like to speak now about those of ours condemned to live in cities. Their fate was much better; they were able to earn their living more easily. If they had been able to obtain an employment for the government, many could have found a livelihood in relationship to their aptitudes. At the beginning many bosses were happy to take us working for them, but one-day a strict order defended this possibility. We were even prevented working on a purely private basis. Whoever knows the employees in Russia and can then compare them with those of Siberia would be astonished by their despotism, but would be obliged to acknowledge that those employees outside of Siberia are model workers for those of Siberia. It is quite difficult, sometimes, to recognise in a drunk individual, in wrecks, often without shirt and boots, an employee in charge of a clerical work and one wonders how an administration can allow such conduct. However, one cannot find others behaving better. All are of the same category. Nothing thus astonishing that ours were required to replace these sad individuals. In Siberia the inhabitants have such an opinion of this class of individuals that, probably after many experiences with their conduct, it was promulgated a law prohibiting to take to the gold mines two classes of people: Gypsies and former employees. I found it astonishing by no means. In Tomsk, there were many families coming here as condemned to the deportation and these were well to feel sorry for. To arrive at being able to nourish family members having no fortune or any help of the State is a quite painful thing. Fortunately for some, when a member of the family could find work. Some of these families rented big residences and dividing all in small parts. They lived in one or two rooms and sub-leased the remainder to other deportees. They cooked for them and that helped them to live. Often some of them earned their living by giving lessons in languages, especially French. Some had odd occupations. One of us, for example gained 15 roubles per month, moreover the food, housing, a horse when he needed, in return for giving to the son of the house French lessons and good manners, i.e. to learn how to be held in a show, to greet, to sit down, etc.
Madam Ostromecka had found a place as a German and French professor in a school for girls. One of us, Michalowski from Wilno, gave lessons in piano playing and it is him who had the good position because he managed to gain a few hundred roubles per month. Komar from Wilno was a professor of dance in a school for girls, although he could not almost dance. It however flattered him that he excelled as a professor, probably finding that this profession suited him very well. He was a twenty-year-old young man, fair with long hair. And to increase an attraction of his appearance and especially of his feet that were to play so great role, he carried trousers of yellow colour with one bordered black and nice boots with high heels. He had even acquired special steps when he walked. He looked like he was going to start dancing. We made fun of him. We said to him that if he continued to go so outwards he would give himself such distortion and would lose balance. Szyszkowski from the Kingdom, a technician by profession, installed at his place a workshop: he was a clock and watchmaker, mechanic, chemist, all that someone wanted from him. He proposed to a commercial rich person to install for him at his place electric bells to call the servants. His business did not go badly and he hoped to do better in the future.
I also knew two brothers Pininski. These young people were very intelligent. None of them could neither draw nor to carve. It did not prevent that in Tomsk one of them carved the portrait of a Jew made of breadcrumbs, eternal wanderer, which was so successful that the experts found there no anatomical defects. In addition the work had an admirable size. The governor of Tomsk bought this figurine for 15 roubles. One day we had a need, at the hospital, for an apparatus to make points of fire. It was a piece of iron of special form that someone could flame with the red for the operation. Pininski happened to manufacture some although they never made similar things before and these instruments worked admirably well. Their work was if looked after their fame. They attracted many customers to themselves and they gained a lot of money all along. Abbot Dzierzynski occupied himself carving bones. On the way to Siberia he did that to distract himself from boredom, but not long he improved and liked this work as his work became very elegant and had a huge success. He had never learned anything from similar works and all his new skills derived from his practice. Some other people occupied themselves making wax flowers. They had a lot of difficulties to amalgamate the colours with wax, but the need is the mother of the invention, one says. They arrived to the city and their bunches of flowers were very pretty. Their flowers were bought readily. They put these bouquets in baskets or made various things decorated with flowers. Especially coloured bread with the rice mingled with dissolved lacquer in alcohol was successful, which gave the illusion of the coral. Among these manufacturers of flowers was Zygmunt Mineyko, my comrade of voyage, of which I will speak again later. But he did not continue this production and soon he gave up this trade making caps and pillows out of saffron. Many manufactured these flowers even in Poland still either as pastime or remembering their parents, and their friends who had to leave their fatherland. Here in Siberia, it was for some other reason, just to survive. Some of these bouquets very pretty but were appreciated often little for their right value.
I had with me two doctors Orzeszko of which I already spoke and Matuszewicz condemned to be settled in the government of Penza. After some effort, he obtained a permission to stay in Tomsk, where he proposed to marry Miss Barbara Witkiewicz. Soon the wedding was organised. These two doctors as all others who were in Siberia succeeded because after their arrival they had never had any shortage of customers. I must say to our honour that those of us who lived in cities did not forget those who were in the hospitals and in the prisons. And these patients often did not have a penny to buy a glass of tea. By making visits among them they were able to distribute sugar, tea, and the cakes and meat during holidays. They shared what they had with them. Our worthy wives dealt especially with that. Among them, I remember Miss Elzbieta Fabienska, Witkiewicz and their family, the Stubrynski, Madam Kowalewska and her daughter, Miss Babianska, etc. Thanks to them Boleslaw Ponset, from Livonia, obtained the permission to found a house for workers in downtown. The foundation was done in name of a famous tradesman of the city. Merchant Tolkaczof accepted readily and gave thousand roubles as a loan for the first needs. Once the house was organised Ponset managed to enter there the condemned workers previously residing in the countryside. There were also tailors, and shoemakers. Prisoners could later obtain own place in the city. At the end of one year, if a workman had always behaved well he could move to own place, however only after obtaining required papers from authorities. I remember Nicolai, from Kowno, who found his own place working in the gold mine. We found easily Polish books in Tomsk: they were from the collections of the prisoners of 1831. Others were provided by people of the city or were brought by several among us. Thus I had in my hands a Parisian edition of Mickiewicz. I had books about medicine in big quantities. We could then speak in Polish freely, in Siberia. Nobody prevented us from doing so. It sometimes happened to us to meet in Siberia Russians speaking Polish. The most extraordinary thing, there were among them some who had never even been in Russia and even less in Poland. They spoke our language correctly and knew well our literature. I knew for example in Tomsk Mr. Jepimof who usually spoke our language and I had not guessed that he was Russian. To my great astonishment I learned later that he had never left Siberia.
Before finishing my account about our stay in Tomsk, I must still add that we did not have the right to gather and we were very supervised by the authorities. One of our comrades, deportee for a long time, Mr Boncza Rutkowski had wanted to found lithography there. But he was prevented from doing so because we often met at his place and he was a suspect in eyes of the authorities. He officially defended himself that all required apparatuses were already controlled by the state and that he waited for them in any day. As a result he lost 3,000 roubles and he was not rich. This was another event that can prove the cowardice of the Russians. Another of us, condemned to live in Tomsk, a landowner from Lithuania whose I do not remember more name, had resided there for a few months not socialising with anybody and being devoted to the literature. Soon he was informed that he had to be held under guards and that he cannot keep any books at his place because the authorities were intrigued by their content. This was caused by providing a library and by his writings. Everyone knows how much Russians are wary of educated people, since in front of their courts, they condemn to the deportation in Siberia ours for the only fact of being informed or to have finished the University. And they give as pretexts that they could become dangerous. Our comrade joked about this threat until one-day authorities descended on his place and took him along. At once he remembered what someone had said to him, of the warning that had been given to him and feared to see losing all his work. He could not draw any information from those who took him along. He was not surprised when at the office someone asked him initially this question:
"What is your fortune? Do you have one?"
"Yes, I had one."
"We have just received a paper concerning you."
"About which subject?"
"You must pay us a hundred and one roubles twenty kopecks although you did not pay. The paper ask to require payment from you."
"But my God, all my estates were confiscated by the State and with what will I be able to thus pay since I do not have anything any more?"
"It is required that you pay. Do not you have the sum?"
"But, it is to insult my misery. What do you want, Messrs?"
"Then, there is nothing to do but answer that you do not have the necessary sum, and now we have to enter your premise."
This was so barbarian. It was hard to believe if I had not seen it myself.
Last days of my stay in the hospital
During last days of my stay at the hospital I looked after the patients of the hospital helping Doctor Pokotujewski. I looked after not only ours but the others patients. The hospital had 150 patients. It was composed of a principal building and two houses occupied especially by ours and of a house intended for insane and among which were three of us. My comrade of the University Calixte Pawlowski arrived soon at our hospital. He belonged to underground organisation in Warsaw and had been stopped in Moscow on the business of "Earth and Will". As a result he was condemned to forced work. Two of us dealt with all patients. He had brought a large collection of medicine books, to which I had been used during all my stay in the hospital. At some time after I was completely cured and could leave, I made good customers downtown. I continued to occupy myself with treatment of the patients in the hospital, and I gave consultations to those who came to see me from the city.
On this my account during my stay in Tomsk I often named the Polish doctors who lived in this city. There were five of them by counting the two deportees. Moreover there were four, five Russian doctors. The Poles had the most devoted customers and the best reputation. While speaking about the doctors I counted neither my comrade Pawlowski, nor me, because we were only on passage to eastern Siberia. The reason for the popularity was not that they were Poles. It was because perhaps of some successful cures or some new remedies applied successfully. We had good reputation and the city knew about both of us. I speak about all that because this reputation was to me thereafter an obstacle and caused me worries about which I will speak in its time. I want also to say some words on the diseases that reigned in Siberia. Between patients we had at the hospital a young countrywoman, widow, a very pretty woman what is rather rare among them. She was under observation in order to check if the attacks of which she was effected were epileptic fits or if she simulated them. These crises occurred each night. The cause was the following one. A few days after her marriage, it was a time of the harvest. She worked hard beside her husband. In the morning, one day, she saw her husband dead. He had had his head cut off and she had not understood anything. At once she was reached by epileptic fits. Her innocence was recognised. Under such conditions, it was not impossible that she had not understood anything of what happened around her, more especially during these night crises. She always rolled on the left side and consequently she had been able to move away from sound husband. It thus had to be made sure that these crises were true and were not simulated. We had soon the unquestionable proof that she was well effected by epilepsy. The patient was to remain six weeks at the hospital, term fixed by the law, therefore we benefited from looking after her and we succeeded with wonders. We made her take sulphate of quinine in high amounts; her crises were spaced then decreased by intensity and, finally, disappeared.
The other diseases, which reigned in Siberia, were the scurvy, typhus, delirium tremens (disease coming from intoxication). During the winter we often had men with the two hands or the two feet cold and consequently gangrenous. We did many amputations, but only one among us, and it was not very significant. The reason was that the Siberian often found themselves surprised in their sleep in the cold. I saw thus several who did not awake any more, and I do not find anything more alarming than these faces pale and stiffened like a bone with open large eyes. Not once we did not manage to save them, they were always drunkards deadened outside and found on the street.
Night aggressions and the assassinations were frequent. I had of it unquestionable evidence which I saw with my own eyes. One day we removed from the shoulder of one man several pieces of glass coming from a bottle. He was attacked in full day on the street. Each day, we had to look after wounds coming from the same cause. Once we made the autopsy of a girl killed in full day. The murderer was not discovered. Then it was a woman killed by her husband and a son-in-law poisoned by his father-in-law. These poisonings were frequent and the authors were never punished. With share the patients whom I looked after at the hospital, I had others thereafter whose I looked after downtown. For example, I went to the house of Boukharin to look after the eyes of the host. If I had not been a doctor, I would never have had the occasion to see the wife of my customer, because the women, on their premises, are always locked up. Only the doctor is authorised to see them. As far as the features of the face, this Boukharin exceptionally represented the Asian type of race with a head large and round with eyes like flowers on the head. He could have been 40 years old. He carried a large black coat attached at the front and decorated with small crystal buttons and tight according to his size by a belt. On his shaven head he carried a gilded cap and the saffron shoes on his feet. On his chest in addition to a watch hung a rich person charm of gold coming from Europe. His wife had been a very different type and seemed to be of another race: large, rather beautiful, being approximately 25 years old. Her hair was dark blond, spread on the face and fell on the shoulders in two large plaits and finished by a whole chain from currency of gold and of money. With each movement of the head these currencies resounded pointing out a little noise of a Krakowian attachment (a little bell from Krakow). She carried on her arms the gold bracelets of an eastern kind. Her chest was covered with a shield made up of an enormous quantity of money and gold coins. From the neck also hung a collar of this kind. As clothing, she had a long tunic or blouse of only one part and tighten to the size. If it was not rather yelling colour of this clothing one would say that it was rather pretty and of good taste. This was an extraordinary outfit, equipped differently from what I saw before. I chatted with her husband and we had sat on a settee, close to a table, when a noise of steps on the carpet drew my attention. With my amazement I saw the mistress of the home with my own cap on her head. Indeed, it resembled a black astrakhan cap that was a little higher like belonging to our countrywomen. She took it by mistake. In addition to this cap posed gracefully on the side, she had a second dark tunic, reaching only her knees and not sticking at the front. Her costume suited her well. Her teeth were painted in black, they were remainder and very spoiled. She consulted me even on this subject. This was a rich house. It got my European attention, pointing out my curiosity to the East with its parquet floors covered with carpet of great value. I remained on their premises several hours. I had taken tea, provided by the samovar and accompanied by many accessories as on our premises, for example yellow-lemon, coloured-cream and various other things. We spoke naturally Russian. They spoke very badly this language with a dreadful accent. We did not find easily a subject for conversation. The presence of the housewife occupied near the samovar was the only our distraction. Suddenly, the host rose, crossed the room running and stopped at the gate. I believed that I asked what there was. The husband explained to me, then, that somebody had just entered the premises he wanted to see who was there. He feared that this was an ignoramus. He did not want him to enter the house and see anything inside. The husband left and warned the visitor that he had to wait one moment. While he was turned over towards the new visitor, on the another side the young woman entered without being seen by him. The visitor was also Boukharin. Then, I left because I was strongly bored with two similar types. The poor women, for their happiness they do not know the emancipation. They believe that this seclusion is a divine command and not the human jealousy, which reduces them to such slavery. Seemingly she seemed to yield to such a fate. I noticed however that this woman had been quite content with my visit and that it was a quite rare event in her life.
This proofs that the man is created to live in a company. In winter, one of my parent's distant cousin August Kuszelewski (from Wolyn), a student arrived at our hospital. Being in Tobolsk, he had met his first cousin George Kuszlewski, a mining engineer who, for 18 years had lived in Siberia, working for a private individual. He had done some discoveries in Siberia and he had published certain works. August had one of his works with him. I read it and it appeared quite interesting to me. I will try to give some extracts from it. His account refers to the north-western part of Siberia, that extends from the government of Ienissei to the Ural Mountains and which I do not know. In the northern part of the government of Ienissei is the city of Truschansk located at the edge of the river Ienissei, in the surroundings of which are the graphite mines. They belong to merchant Sidorof, where Kuszelewski worked as engineer. These mines did not have great success because of the difficulties in communication. The graphite of Turschansk had to be transported to Krasnojarsk, then to Tomsk, Tobolsk and Tiumen by water and then by overland route through the Ural Mountains until Perm. From there again on land and water, it has to go through a long way to the various ports of northern Russia. Then one can load it on English ships. It is easy to understand what expenses this transport so complicated may generate. Having taken all of this in consideration, Kuszlewski undertook a voyage in the northern Siberia, with an aim of arriving directly by overland route through the Ural Mountains and on the river Putchona to the government of Archangelsk. Sidorof and his friends made thousand objections, suggesting that it was not possible. But Kuszelewski, thanks to the influence that he exerted on the owner and with his own expenses, he arrived where he planned. With a compass in the hand and accompanied by some Ostiaks, he left with reindeers. The voyage lasted several months because he had to cut through a path with the axe and, from time to time, to build a hut in which he left food for the path of return. These regions were so deserted that except snow and forests, he did not see a human being and not a trace of savage animals. He ended up achieving his goal with enormous joy of his fellow travellers who allotted the happy result to the protection of St Nicolas whose statue had been placed on the sledge at the head of the procession, trailed by two beautiful reindeers. That had been one of the conditions for which he had to yield. Without it Ostiaks would have refused to go. Ostiaks are for the majority, orthodox. The voyage caused to give all the confidence of Sidorof to Kuszelewski and he made possible other projects. The following year he proposed to Sidorof to go on a second journey. This time, he wanted to follow the way by water and not on land. Sidorof accepted the proposal. Kuszelewski started from Turchansk while following the river Ienissei to its mouth. From there he reached the river Taz by taking the overland route and following the marshes of this river. He arrived thus at the river Ob. He embarked on Ob and arrived at Obdorsk, the farthest city of the government of Tobolsk. Not stopping, he went up there on the river Wojkar (affluent of the Ob) which takes its source in the Ural Mountains. There, through the mountains, he discovered a valley accessible in a length of 60 versts where he traversed with his reindeers. He arrived thus at the river Petchora and while descending it, he arrived at the sea of ice. This voyage could have been done only during the hot season, consequently during his voyage time was crucial, but it appeared convenient and sufficient to the duration of transporting the quantity of graphite extracted during a year. Transport by this way became ten times less expensive and shorter for Sidorof. The quantity of fish that existed in the marshes that Kuszelewski crossed was such as that he could have carried barrels and salt fish to preserve it. Because of this fish the cost of the voyage would have been even less. Today the boats that transport graphite return additional benefit from it bringing back an enormous quantity of fish. Kuszelewski, while crossing the Ural Mountains discovered significant gold mines and places containing of the precious stones. He also discovered kaolin, which could be used to manufacture porcelain similar to that of China or Japan. With the occasion of his discovery of a gold mine, Kuszelewski was called to St Petersbourg in order to give a report to the government. He was committed giving to the State 60 poods (Russian wight measurement) of gold per annum, but they could not agree on the price. The State had too little for payment and Kuszelewski required too much. I do not know how the business finished but soon Kuszelewski fell seriously sick from typhus in Tobolsk. A thing worthy of remark is that he discovered new parts of Siberia, unknown races at the edge of the rivers. These people, living only between themselves, were far from suspecting that the Russians would for a long time had stripped them from freedom. He could not hide this discovery and was obliged to speak about it to the government. In Tobolsk he met my uncle and as he was nearest relative of my aunt he was delighted to have found him and promised to me to make any possible way to come near my uncle and to help the poor old man. Via Kuszelewski, Sidorof required from the government to allow the Poles condemned to forced labour and work in the graphite mines, under the pretext that it still was a work of mines. But actually, this work was much less painful and Sidorof was sure to obtain what he asked. In spite of so long stay in Siberia Kuszelewski had forgot neither his country nor his native language and only dreamed to return to his Wolyn, after he made a fortune.
In every about eight days a convoy of prisoners arrived to Tomsk. Since more than in two years all the roads of Siberia were encumbered by our prisoners who, similar to a torrent drawing his source from Poland would have run out in form of convoy by convoy to eastern Russia and to the borders of Siberia. Imagining us to see this immense wide stream, we followed this sad procession marking its passage by the many crosses that bordered the roads. We will have in front of us one of the quite black pages of the history of our country, of our suffering, of our blood martyrs. And even over there ours never lost courage. They supported themselves morally sharing between them not only the bread and salt but also their knowledge. The tedious and long road still became more insipid when, in spring or in autumn, their convoys found stopped for several weeks because of the state of the roads, which, in this season, became impracticable. And a decree was to stay in a village or in a city. As example of what ours did I will say some words of the convoy which arrived at Tomsk in winter and of which the "starosta" was Mineyko. Among the educated men forming part of this convoy were: Napoleon Debiski, an excellent draughtsman and Warsaw caricaturist, Kryniewicz, a landowner from the government of Kowno, Leon Dabrowski, a teacher from Stucka, both who left the University of Dorpat and many others. They had chosen as a "starosta" or a head of the convoy their comrade Mineyko. He accepted a role only under the condition that he will balance any day labour equally for all. This fact proves well the nature of his character. They stopped in the autumn because of the bad roads. At once, they organised courses of literature in Polish and of art history as far as the special conditions allowed them, in which they were lacking of books, etc. These courses were taken by writing. I had the occasion to read them later and considering the circumstances in which these conferences had been made and with a so noble aim appeared to me very documented and said in a beautiful language. Moreover, each week, they made to appear a small newspaper, under the title "the Stage", and the other "the Wasp". Debicki made illustrations. They represented usually scenes of their life of nomads. For example one represented the burial of one of ours at the stage. Comrades carrying a simple coffin preceded by a captive priest and a comrade carrying a poor cross, coarsely cut and which will be posed on the tomb then followed by the friends of the late one. Other times appeared the caricature of a comrade which one could easily recognise the features. Execution was perfect. The artists drew also their ideas from the episodes that someone told in these newspapers. For example, the meeting of Narbut, he sat in the house of the owner. Or in other example, Kutkowski from Radom, a soldier of 1831 when nine as of us under his command held their position against Russians. These newspapers contained the chronicle of the week, various articles as poems and prose, of the telegraphic news in the kind of "Alexandre II was not drunk", etc. Then authors agreed between them and which all interested them and, finally, the serial where Mineyko told the beginnings and history of the School of Genoa in Italy which he knew personally.
The "Wasp" was a small newspaper, which, as its name indicates it, launched points to the culprits and of criticisms to address of the sister newspaper "the Stage". It was for me a true satisfaction to traverse these two newspapers. It is regrettable that their existence was so short. "The Stage" appeared during nine weeks and "the Wasp" even less long. I would be happy to have them today. Thus were distractions for ours during their sad voyage.
This convoy, moreover of Mineyko, included Dabrowski, Kryncewicz and then Alexander Czekanowski of Ukraine, all from the University of Dorpat. All of them entered the hospital where I found them. Later French with name of Perin came there. He studied in Paris. He joined Polish uprising in order to fight for our cause, was arrested and condemned to 12 years of work in the mines. We formed a small group of friends and we all were almost completely cured. To distract ourselves we played cards in the evening, what Perin liked particularly. He started to learn Polish and to play cards. He could soon sufficiently understand us. We could also sometimes play with the ladies remained at the hospital: Mrs Ostromecka, Miss Truchanowska, and Mrs Kostanka (from Warsaw). Towards Christmas, I received 25 roubles from Louis that came at right time because my purse was almost empty. We organised an eve of Christmas Day at the hospital and we invited some people from the city, our friends like dear Gmewinski and Julian Biescekieski, both from the Kingdom. Several times we made "kolduny" (meat minced in paste) under my direction and they always succeeded with wonders. Kaminski, from Wolyn, made "kluski" (balls of pastes thrown in ebullient water), but as we could not get cheese similar to that common in our country, they were not always successful.
My comrades could not be always the same ones during the long stay that I made at the hospital. Some arrived, others settled downtown as condemned to live as deportees, others still managed to hide downtown and lived there under false names like Kaniewski and Mineyko, condemned both to work in the mines. Many were sent further to live in the government of Ienissei, in the town of Krasnojarsk, about 554 versts from Tomsk. Others were sent to the town of Irkutsk, about 1,000 versts from Krsanojarsk, or even beyond the lake Bajkal, in the town of Nierzynsk, about 1,500 versts from Irkutsk. Some others had to go to more distant mines. Dabrowski, Czekanowski and Szembel left us during terrible cold, all condemned with work in the mines. We had very seldom any news about them because of the difficult communication, especially for the prisoners. Their fate was sad because they went there very unhappy. Beyond Irkutsk, the authorities put chains on all prisoners and they had to go on foot and had only 6 kopecks per day. The prisoners did not own neither any businesses nor their money sent to them to Irkutsk. Before leaving to Irkutsk guards searched them scrupulously. Because of the lack of food, typhus reigned among them permanently and it was more serious than in the other areas of Siberia.
When ours arrived to mines of Nerczynsk authorities piled them up in immense prisons being able to contain up to 17,000 prisoners. These buildings started constructing ten years ago had just been finished. They were not completely finished in lower part. However were secure enough against the possibility of revolt. Ours, from there, were dispersed to other parts of Siberia, beyond the lake Bajkal, to the government of Jakutsk, etc. Everywhere ours were separated from the other prisoners. To prevent any leniency, authorities made to guard them by especially selected men. Ours could write only three times per annum and not more than 5 lines at the same time, in order not to tire the censure. And still these 15 lines allowed per annum did not arrive in entirety to their recipients. Disabled person, old men and those who had their families with themselves were sent less further. All these details are not very exact and it is possible that the existence of ours over there is more painful and that more martyrs could be left there. Who could say it to us? And I doubt that the Russians have pity for us and could save anyone. The unhappy poor that we are!
I should still add that those who denounced the others in the investigations, hoping by this means to avoid the punishments, were equally badly treated. Russians, after having drawn from them all that they wanted to know, sent them to Siberia as someone throws a bark after having eaten the fruit, without any sensitivity to their sorrows. Their fate was cruel in Siberia, because not only ours but even the Russians rejected their company. They became martyrs of their own conscience. I often felt sorry for them but it was not for bad intentions, but for weakness of character and fear that they showed of others. The word "spy" is a dreadful, alarming and fatal judgement. For that one there is no more safety. If someone could envisage moral tortures that are to be held and which is nothing beside the physical pains he would prefer a torment of the hand of his enemy.
During my stay in Tomsk, there was one certain scholar Mr Czernyszew of a Russian University, who went through Siberia, stopped in each city to make public conferences. He divided them into five parts. The subjects of these lessons were past of Siberia, its current state, its future and its needs. In the first part of these conferences in speaking about passed of Siberia, he reported the cruel facts about the governor of Kamtchatka, named Koch. He took pleasure in shooting innocent people. Because of the presence of the governor and other employees on these conferences, Czernyszew was very careful while speaking about the current state of Siberia. He did not certainly make any praise. However, Mr Czerniszew predicted for Siberia a very great future. Myself, I claim that Siberia is destined for a brilliant future, and which will become the principal establishment of Russia when this one is isolated from Europe. As for the last chapter, i.e. with the needs for Siberia, he insisted on the need for establishing a University there. But this project is far from the realisation here where the schools are very few and are more badly held that in Russia. The public made a festival for Czernyszew and received him with enthusiasm. He spoke well and clearly. It was enough to pack the hall with listeners. I liked the subject in spite of my plans of escape and my work downtown.
My plans to escape from the city
During my stay in Tomsk, several people ran away either from the hospital, or from the prison, benefiting from the disorder that existed in papers, and settling downtown under false names. That was neither careful nor sure but was better than forced work. I reflected on what I was to do myself, because I could not wish one moment more favourable position for my projects. I had gained some knowledge of downtown and these made me better foresee the situation that was offered to me. About in the middle of the Lent, a Russian with sick eyes came to enter the hospital. He had the cataract on two eyes and hardly could see. He was approximately 45 years old, with a large beard and long fair hair and with beautiful features. He was called Nicolas Wiercholinski. While making the visit of the patients and seeing the yellow costume of the in-patients I could not guess if he was pope or peasant. But as he expressed himself well, I asked him which were his occupations. He answered me that he was a painter by his profession and that his eyes did not allow him to continue. He decided going to Russia to consult a doctor. On the way, his eyes ignited so much so that he was forced to remain here. At the end of a few days, having met him in the corridor on which my room was I bound conversation with him. While speaking to him, he made me understand that he was different from a simple peasant of Ienissei as he had been registered. This interested me, I approached him more, I invited him to come to see me and while speaking about various subjects, I saw that he knew many things and that all Russia, Siberia, and Lithuania were known for him. However I did not learn who he was. I liked to socialise with him and I insisted that he saw me what he accepted with joy. In certain evening, he realised that I could not harm him, he asked me with what I was condemned.
"A twelve years of work in mines", I answered him.
"Why, Sir, do not think of escaping; one does not need anything big for that".
"How to make it since I have neither money nor papers".
"It only appears that for you, Sir", he says to me while laughing.
"It is either so difficult or one needs such an amount of money".
"Have only 25 roubles, that will be enough. Myself I crossed all these adventures and yet I am not rich. You are so good for me, Sir, that I feel the duty to come to you with assistance".
One can imagine with which joy I heard these words. I doubted that my escape was so easy thing, but the hope had spouted out in me. I seized the occasion, which woke me up. He told me what were works in the mines. He described me the dreadful way in which guards treated the prisoners. He spoke to me about these mountainous and wooded regions where he had worked, of these guards hidden at the top rocks, supervising each path which left the mine. And before the unhappy prisoner escaped and had been able to make some hundred meters, he was already noticed and stopped. The escapes were frequent, but prisoners had to ran away with weapons in order to be able, if necessary, to defend themselves and resist. More difficult and more painful still than to escape his guards was the crossing of the lakes or the sea Bajkal. If one wanted to circumvent it, it was a death of unquestionable hunger, but then how to cross it? The storms are so violent and steamboats sunk. And whereas to say that these unhappy ones who launched out on some boards or in a barrel had any chance! Were not they the toy of the winds and did not run they ahead of an unquestionable death! That proves still how hard their sufferings in the mines since to escape from it they risk their life so easily. In winter snow and the cold still make these escapes even more difficult. I acknowledged from him, then, certain things that were not in his advantage. He was a man whose heart seemed monstrous, but in the heart there remained still some bits of honesty. He did not do things to sacrifice himself. Selfishness proceeded all in his actions. I feared him but the need obliged me to draw from such a dirty source the information necessary for my safety. He told me that he had been at the school of the engineers in St Petersbourg, that he was an officer and that he committed bigamy. As a result he had been sent in envoy for the forced work the first time. Then, he had been a manager for a landowner in Mohilew and that one day in the government of Witebsk, he had stolen 12,000 roubles from the post office with false papers. He spent all this money in Twer. Often in the market of Niznij-Novgorod, he sold goods that did not belong to him and, then, fled to the other end of Russia under a false name. He sometimes happened to play the role of colonel, peasant, of merchant, of orthodox priest, etc. He had changed so many times name than he could remember none. It had been eleven years that he was in Siberia but initially as prisoner, then playing various roles. He never lost his presence of mind and knew Russians well and all their subtleties. One day he manufactured forged identity papers related to finance. The police sent to him a woman (one of their agents) asking him to make a certain documents. At the time when the paper was ready and when he was reading it with the woman, a policeman entered his place with ten others. They tore off the paper from his hands and removed all false seals and spread them out on the table. Someone could have believed that he was lost. It was not the case at all. He knew very well that the deposition of the agents does not have any value in the Russian society. They are the lowest agents of the state. The testimony of one or two people is insufficient to determine a crime. The policeman must have with him people called "powiatich". He acknowledged nothing and claimed to the contrary of the police officer, saying that he was upset with him and had done all of it to him in order to harm and he was not condemned. Judges believed him. The second time he escaped from forced work. He arrived to the town of Kansk in the government of Ienissei and joking with the merchants, he was on the point to make a brilliant deal. The chance made that he could not succeed. There was in Kansk a young person and a rich widow whose husband had committed suicide in a moment of depression. My friend plunged in a violent pain. He fasted all the time. Poor widow trusted money to him, speaking to him about life of the Saints believing that he was virtuous like them. The second step that he prepared was suggesting the widow to make a pilgrimage to the Mount Athos. As a result, she believed in him as in oracle. To go on such a journey, one needed a strong amount of money, the more so as one had to travel for several weeks. He was to accompany her and with some miles from the start of the journey, he would have fled carrying the money. Unfortunately, he told me, one day several people were brought together at the widow's place. One of them was a uniform police officer. He used to be one of his comrades of works in the mines. His name was Rejuhard, who had obtained a position of a police officer in Kansk and came to present him to the widow. It was impossible that he had not recognised him. But he did not want to challenge anyone at once. After it he had greeted everyone. He approached my friend and said to him:
"Are you also an inhabitant of this city?"
"Not, I am one of Daour (race living the south of the government of Irkutsk)", he answered without disturbing himself.
"How come do you not have the dyed hair nor the projecting bones of the cheeks, as those of over there."
"You do not see", retorted to him, "that I joke." I am of such place, he added by naming an unspecified locality, indicating that his first explanation had not succeeded. And then he finished their conversation. He understood at once that he would have in Rejuhard a keen persecutor. He judged carefully to give up his plan and to leave the city. As long as his sight allowed him, he falsified his papers as well for him as for the others. He manufactured false seals, etc. Then, misleading everyone, he planned to move as far as Russia and I asked him whether he would continue over there the life which he had carried out until this day.
"Oh no, I want still arrive higher", answering it with full hope.
After he had explained me how to prepare my papers, i.e. in the way more practical, he proposed a plan of escape. He suggested preparing this plan by him and he offered to be my guide. Here is what was this plan: to leave the hospital disguised as a peasant and to flee towards south. Then, not far from Tobolsk, at the place where pilgrims celebrate their faith, to pass as a "bohomelec" or a pilgrim. There, he suggested joining a group of pilgrims travelling over to Russia and from there, outward to journey where I seem to prefer. He told me that the pilgrims always are received well by the inhabitants who invite them to their homes, and nourish them for nothing, so that it is not necessary to have much money. In the difficult moments, I would not have to, he said to me, trust him. However the experiment would cause me to withdraw from my business.
"I allow myself to point you out", I said to him, "that my disappearance from the hospital would compromise Pokotujewski."
"You have too many scruples."
"But why should I lose a good man?"
"My dear Sir, in similar circumstances, one does not worry about the details of this kind. One day, when I was forced to flee from Wilno, I gave up my best friend, exposing him, but what could I do? Remaining as a slave you can cure that. You do not want to harm Pokotujewski. We can sacrifice a character of less importance, the supervisor of the hospital, for example. You are in good terms with him, you will say to him that you should leave the hospital for 24 hours. He does not have the right to let to you come out, but for you he will do it. And in 24 hours, we will be far. Moreover, when he sees that you are not returning on the following day, he will fear of consequences and he will not haste by no means to announce your absence. Perhaps he will wait for two or three days, always hoping to see you returning before authorities realise of your disappearance. He will be punished, but for us this lapse of time will be completely sufficient."
This project made me indignant. I desired not discuss it with him. I preferred to say to him that I would think of all that what he proposed to me. By sharing his manner of seeing things, I could not have any guarantee in a guide offering a similar project to me. At the first occasion, he would sell it for his personal gain. I thus did not refuse him categorically, ravelling information for my benefit. I benefited from all that. He had given me information being useful for me in a project at which I put my thinking seriously.
During this time another character arrived at the hospital. He was an old man, employed downtown. He had chronic rheumatism in the legs and it was me who looked after him. His name was Nicolas Bielow, which I read on the sign above his bed. I took him for a Russian. One day, he addressed me with the word in Polish and said to me that he was from surroundings of Wilno. He could not say anything more to me in the presence of Russians who were there, but he left. Then, he saw me in my room and told me his life. He spoke to me about 1831. But I believed that he did not take an active share in the insurrection and it was for another reason that the state had sent him to the mines of Nerczynsk, where, having remained for five years, he managed to escape under the name that he carried today. He arrived to Tomsk where he had lived for more than twenty years. He was employed. He married and had a girl Maria. Later she had married to an employee with name of Andrei Stiepanowicz. They lived all together. When young couple's little daughter fell sick, someone called me and thus I had the occasion to know Bielow's daughter and his son-in-law. Mr Bielow, recognising the care that I gave him, stated that he wanted to help me in my projects of escape. His consulting was sincere, but alas, like those of the others, I could not follow them. He advised me to start as being an employee. As for my papers, I would have needed that I become acquainted with a man of the city, of a small employee of the same age as me. I was to make him drink several days as much as possible and, then, to offer him to buy his papers. Bielow offered to find me this person and to put all this together. For 30 roubles, he said to me, I could buy his papers. And if ever this employee had complained too early about misplaced papers, he ensured me to take care of him. He promised to poison him if that was necessary. Is not it the plan of a Siberian proportion!
Twice disappointed, I desired to ask more for consulting and not having enough money. I could not think of escaping. I limited myself to some places downtown where I asked for suggestions under false name. Each condemned, sent to the government of Tomsk, went through Tobolsk, a city where was the central office of the prisoners and all their papers. All papers came from there where all charges were made and all judgements. These papers were given to a legal office called "Soviet". This office was attached to the government. Moreover, each convoy had the list of all the prisoners who were deposited at once in the jail and in a court called "prykaz".
The justice department made the list of those who were sent further. Names of all those who were to remain in the city were sent to the Soviet to be checked and from there the list was returned to the "prykaz". The "prikaz" had right to decide fate of each one. An employee, sent by St Petersbourg, called baron Felker, had the right to decide where a prisoner can settle down. A person who was condemned to live in Tomsk received for this purpose a ticket of the head of the justice with a seal and its signature and it was all. It seemed that the thing was simple and easy to organise and that in the event of abuse all could be discovered easily and can be proven. But on the contrary there existed in this bureaucracy such a chaos, such disorder and further increased by the venality of the employees of the justice and other branches of the administration! With money anyone could manage to put on the list of those forced to leave further and those who remained downtown under a false name. This was for us a benefit and I counted much on the above.
One of us who had been made put on the list, lived in the city under the false name of Wachowicz and had made relations among the employees of the justice and of the "prykaz". He facilitated many things for us. I requested him to deal with me and he obtained for me a ticket for a housing downtown. I endeavoured to pay for it. All of that had cost. During this time, visits or inspections took place each day at the hospital. Authorities suspected that prisoners being allowed to remain in the hospital much too long time. They caught some of them under a supervision of Pokotujewski. However they could never show that he had accepted somebody who was not sick. As for me, because of my wounds to the legs, I was quiet on this point, but that irritated us all. Each day, it was a colonel of police or the governor or the vice-governor or the head of the justice, or others that came to see us. Being able to find a proof of what only they believed (and each one of us proved how much we were sick) they ordered in their anger to transport us all patients from the hospital to the prison. As a result, each one of us occupied premises of the justice system, either in the prison, or at the house of the Companies with prisoners. We were then fifty at the hospital. One day, authorities ordered to all of us to leave. Mrs Ostromecka and I had come to the prison which was run very badly and what was the worst, it was that we could never to leave downtown from there, as I mentioned above. It was bad deal for me. All my projects seemed to disappear. I decided to change the situation. I went to find the supervisor of the hospital and asked him whether Pawlowski, Mrs Ostromecka, Miss Truchanowska and myself can remain at the hospital. He was a drunkard like there are so many in Siberia. At some time previously, he had been very sick of pneumonia, and he had been very grateful for the care that we had lavished on him. He was always saying that he was our real friend and I hoped to obtain a benefit out of it. Afterwards some reflection, he declared that he authorised for us to spend still a night at the hospital and, during this time, he was going to find the vice-governor to plead in our favour by providing serious reasons. He was certain that he would do all that was possible for us, but nobody could count too much on him. In order to be more certain of our fate to four of us, I obtained from the head of the hospital office that he registered us as patients from the Companies but not from the Prison. It cost me a rouble. It made a difference if we should leave the hospital. If he had been discovered of having done that for us, he could always clear himself while saying to have made it by error.
The supervisor returned with a negative answer, as we feared. We thus had to leave the hospital. It was the week before the Holiday of Branches. The winter still prevailed. I became obsessed thinking that for me, all depended on this departure. One could escape from the Company, from the imprisonment, but one could not carry that business as I planned to do, saying to the director that I would return later to the hospital. By a fortunate coincidence, at the moment of leaving the hospital August Kuszelewski saw me. He was with the Company, in charge of some business since the day before. He was going to render a great service to me that I tell presently. By dispatching us from one place to the other, guards sent us to tie up books where our names were registered. Each one of us registered his/her name in this book. The gatekeeper of the hospital had a command to accompany us at the place indicated by helping us to carry our business. He left for one moment the famous booking office, with us inside the room. At once, we benefited from it changing our names, making them illegible while adding signs to certain letters, etc. Then when all was ready, we left (all the four) and Kuszelewski was the fifth one. At the Company of the prisoners, nobody could recognise yet the prisoners and Kuszlewski, because he was there only since a day before and there were many of us. I thus asked him to enter in my place to the Company of the prisoners, because the main thing was that four people were present to the call. I slipped downtown. I bribed the gatekeeper.
One hour afterwards, I rented a carriage. I carried my business in the hospital and I transported my belongings to Biescikenski who lived downtown. The first most significant step was made towards my escape. I did not have yet "ticket", but I knew to which name it would be given, because from now on, I was called Mieczyslaw Milewski.
My stay in Tomsk
I stayed in Tomsk. At the time of my departure to downtown, I did not dream about anything other than to remain in Tomsk as condemned to live there. In order to keep the incognito I had to give up my profession of a doctor and to live off an unspecified trade; I still preferred this life, so hard that it was, than a forced labour. The famous ticket that was so essential was soon in my possession. I was unaware of completely how this ticket was obtained for me from the justice department. It was enough that it was with my name, with seal and the signature of the head of the office with his number as the secretary himself on who all depended. To supplement my incognito, I went on the first day to a barber, the single one in Tomsk in order to return being unrecognisable. Hitherto, I wore a large beard and rather long hair: I decided to shave myself completely and to make my haircut as close-cropped as possible. Then in the place of clothing that I usually preferred, I wore a jacket and I put on glasses. In this costume, I left going to the barber. The evening fell and the boy who dealt with me could complete his work without light. At the moment when he finished, a young man came in going with crutches. Initially I did not pay any attention to him, but soon I heard the following dialogue.
Somebody asked him: "Why do you have to use crutches?"
"A few days ago, I was operated on the leg by a Polish doctor in the civil hospital."
"Who did operate you, because there are two of them over there?"
"It was not Pantowski, but the other one." He never could remember my name.
Indeed I remembered that a few days before I withdrew the tibia from his leg which had formed two dents. I was unaware then who was this young man and I did not doubt of meeting him. I did not even remember his features. Fortunately that it became dark and that I did not have any more my beard. If I could be quiet, he would not recognise me. The conversation continued in these terms.
The first person said: "Eh well, think that these two Polish doctors will remain here for ever, because you must know that the city requires them here not in Omsk. The military governor agreed to leave them here."
"I know it, but it appears that Omsk has answered that it was impossible because they are both condemned to a very hard sorrow."
"The future is quite unhappy for them!"
I did not wait for the rest of the conversation, I paid barber and I left. One week after not suspecting that I can be recognised, I returned to the same barber. I was so transformed that even my close friends did not recognise me any more and one of them, Milewski, introduced himself to me. When he did the scene it was quit amusing. I thus entered to the barber and this time it was only one young customer who finished shaving. At that time he paid, then he approached me and said to me:
"Please forgive me, Sir, aren't you a doctor?" He wanted undoubtedly to consult me not suspecting anything about my new situation. This question made me trembling because I was by no means prepared for that. I answered him briefly and I left immediately. This young man had seen me only one time during his operation and my features had been engraved so much in his memory that, in spite of my transformation, he recognised me immediately. This made me more careful. I left for downtown less frequently making sure that many people who had known me at the hospital could have recognised me. I bought a razor and, since then, I shaved myself. I had always hoped to be able to remain downtown under a false name, but a particular event soon ensured me of the opposite. I realised that I could succeed as long as I would not have exhausted my scanty means. I then did not need to leave downtown. But earlier or later, it would be necessary for me to come out of my hiding place and to seek work, and that could be fatal for me. And even if my resources had been sufficient for me without working for my bread, this was a torment of living thus always inactive, obliged of me to hide, without friends and in a constant fear of having a sword of Damocles above me. Was it any good a similar life? All these reflections were coming to me, following my visit at the barber. However gradually, when I saw that my friends continued not to recognise me, that all was calm and quiet in Tomsk, I started to have again a hope and then there remained still with me some pocket money. But it was time to think of finding a means of living! In a few days, I found an occupation in combing sugar eggs of bunches of flowers. We were at the beginning of the Holy Week and these eggs were for Easter. This work did not require main effort from me and if I spent two roubles, I gained five out of it. I bought eggs of sugar and through the mediation people whom I knew, I ran out of them very easily. It was the first time that I combed on sugar and I realised that it was by no means difficult. If I had started to paint some earlier before Easter, I could have piled up small savings. The festivals arrived, sadder and bitterer for me than that last year with my comrades of prison, in my fatherland. Mrs Ostromecka saw me several times, because I had made known to her where I lived while going to the Company of the prisoners at once after I shaved myself. She brought to me a little "blesses" (bread prepared for Easter and blessed by one catholic priest). A friend from the city had given it to her, but I almost did not touch it. My thought was continuously absorbed by the search of the means of communication with my parents. I could not receive any more their letters addressed to my name and how to inform them what had happened? It was difficult to find a solution and I still had another torment.
Before Christmas, I did not make any project of escape yet and my disease obliged me to remain at the hospital for long months. I had written to my parents, asking them to send to me a little linen, clothing and the books. This package could arrive any day but it was not possible any more for me to take possession of it. I regretted so much today having asked them for that, but it was too late! I could still easily survive without all that what my parents sent to me. I realised that this package had had to cost them more than 200 roubles. Taking in account the painful situation of my family, the spent money could have been useful for them and this thought tormented me, tortured me. I never received this package which, as I learned later, had arrived well, including the linen and clothing which was sent to me by members of my family. The forwarding had been made to Irkutsk where I never arrived.
I did not remain for a long time at Biestckinski, because he was a mean person. I went to live with Madam Kowalewska where I had to pay a cheap rate. This stay was very pleasant because I could remain all days without leaving and to have in addition the company of housewife and her daughter, a young girl and Miss Babianska who lived there like several others of us. Another tenant there was Napoleon Debicki from Warsaw, an excellent draughtsman and caricaturist, a very sensitive man with sympathetic personality. Another company was also pleasant and we found both of us in the same situation. He was called with name of Lampi. The last person was Wachowicz. He was that one who obtained me a ticket and for whom, despite everything and the services that he returned to me, I had only antipathy and my aversion started since the first day when I saw him. The chance of the life had brought us closer one to the other, not only in Tomsk but still thereafter. The human destinies are odd: he was to me the cause of many troubles. But I owed him a great recognition for my escape. These thoughts made me reflect even more because I had only antipathy for him. It happened even more when he approached me and tried to gain my sympathy. He arrived to my new house. He came to me promising a ticket, although it was a complete forgery, as I found out later. However the police chief of the district did papers. To get it I had to go to the office myself. I carried the receipt to the police station and I met an agent who kept my ticket and who told me to return the following day. Wachowicz worried about that all while not showing it to me. He was afraid that someone could find out the falsification of the ticket. Fortunately, the following day, all occurred well. The agent returned my ticket noted to me in the regular way.
With share of few friends that I attended downtown, I spent the evening dining at Doctor Pokotujewski. I was known under the name of Milewski. But my host, imprudent, often making mistakes and calling me with my real name had to be constantly corrected which was not always easy matter to achieve. His wife and the teacher of their two daughters, Miss Elisabeth Fabenska knew my secrecy. One day Pokotujewski truly ambarassed me. I came to dine when Pokotujewski missed it. Almost at once I finished the meal and I left. In front of the house, I saw the host with a lady whom I did not know. I stopped one moment in court in order to let them leave in time and I tried to pass the gate, but Pokotujewski, having taken some steps, left the lady and re-entered his place. Suddenly, he saw me and pointed out the lady and presented me to her as a doctor, fortunately without naming. He said to me that the husband of this lady was a patient with a bad eruption in the head and asked to me whether I did not want to go to see him in his company. What to make out of it? I stopped to be a doctor, at least I could not be challenged about it and I could not expose my identity. Once I came to the lady, she asked me whether for a long time I was in Tomsk, etc. I lied ensuring that I did not make customers (patients), etc.
I was very dissatisfied with this adventure and I reproached Pokotujewski. But fortunately this did not have an annoying consequence for me. It had been already a few weeks that I lived in downtown and all was calm. Nobody suspected my disappearance, and on the lists of the police, I appeared like having been sent further away. One day, I dined at Pokotujewski. I entered and sit down at the table. Suddenly, the host entered precipitately, and by a glance at him it made me understand that he had encountered something annoying. I run behind him to his cabinet and there he told me that the police sought me. The most terrible experience would not shake me more. I was not unaware of what waited for me if I would be taken again: it was a death or thousand blows of stick. Here that was the cause of my search: the whole city knew me, was interested in me. Authorities knew from my hospital that I had not returned and that I was not in any prison, in conclusion I had to hide in downtown.
My fame lost me while so many others were by no means worried. I returned home and through Wachowicz I learned that the police was searching me under my true name. I could thus not torment myself too much since I had a ticket (identity papers) with the name of Milewski. But could I be sure that after more meticulous search wouldn't all be discovered? What should I do? If I had had enough money, I would have fled the city, but it did not remain with me even ten roubles. Here began for me a true martyrdom, a continual fight and concern, knowing at any moment that I was sought and not seeing the means to draw me from this situation. I endeavoured to find some money, but it was not easy thing, everywhere, I faced a refusal. At the sight of a policeman, I feared, believing that he was after my case. I started shake so much that it was a great and constant my concern. I believed that sooner or later I could be taken, therefore I decided to leave Mrs Kowalewska, not wanting to compromise her. With Wachowicz, we went to remain at the widow of an employee, Mrs Fabiana Stiepanof. She was a dressmaker. Once installed there, we did not press ourselves to expose tickets, in this way the police could not easily find us. Our hostess did not know anything. She did not know about the decree forbidding accepting at home anyone without the ticket being issued by the proper authorities. We also thought that in the event of betrayal the government would not oppress her too much because she was Russian. It was obvious that she did not know too much the law.
This housing was, under the circumstances, quite convenient for us. Although it was located at the centre of the city and not far from the dwellings of the governor, this house had to be demolished soon, and had nothing any more inside but us as tenants. We were separated from the room of our owner by an enormous part. In other words, we did not have useless witnesses and that rendered a great service to us. Moreover the servant was a deaf-mute. We had a place for 18 roubles per month, housing and food, for Wachowicz and me. Often the owner asked me why I never left, but nothing was easier than to tell her anything because she, suspecting nothing on our subject, always believed us. One evening, I was going to see Biesekowski, Quisoneski, Trebinski, and Witkiewicz who lived in our old house and I was going to give respect to Mrs Kowalewska, but in the course of the day, I never left. I occupied myself with nothing. I did not have any moral regrets. Not wanting to remain alone with my sad thoughts, I often went near our owner where lived two of her sisters, one widow and the other young lady, dressmakers too. From them, I learned the Siberian expressions about which I hardly worried before and I made an effort to acquire the true accent. I sang with them melodies which I learned by heart without any specific intention and which, later, were to me of a great help. And then the command of my good mood removed from my owner any suspicion that my constant presence at the house could have suggested to her. Today still, I remember these melodies:
"Say to me, my mother, why my blue eyes are filled with tears."
"Why I then have to sing more with my friends?"
"Why can't I any more make my hair with joy?"
"I look with sorrow at the gatherings of the girls."
"I wait for somebody who must come one morning."
"My dear child, at your age your sadness will pass."
"The young girls wait for their fate."
"Your very young heart will be often sad,"
"As long as will not calm it the caresses of a young man."
"Myself being young I cried in hiding-place,"
"My life was quite hard with my father;"
"But of the day when my beloved gave me a ring,"
"My figure of virgin is embellished by the joy!"
"Happiness is not beyond the walls, nor in a foreign country"
"And with spring will return cheerfulness."
"You will find a charming companion, and then, young child"
"You will understand my words."
And another song that the Russian prisoners sing in Siberia:
"The day rises, its glare embellishes the divine world. I will see the sea and the skies, but I do not have any more my fatherland! In the given up paternal house, the grass grows. Only a faithful dog cries at the gate. On the thatched cottage an owl shouts. One hears it in wood. My heart is tightened, I am sad because, only, I am not over there; In the horizon, the forest is dark! Let us entrust all in the destiny. Good-bye arches native skies. How the night is favourable for you! Tomorrow morning my wife and my children will think of me. They will pour bitter tears."
Spring started, the sunbeams were hotter, snow melted. Nature seemed to awake from long lethargy. This beautiful glare of nature in these first days of spring made on me a quite painful impression, because I was to remain locked up with nothing to do, without being able to benefit from these beautiful days. In front of the house there was a garden with birches and sorbs. As soon as I noticed first buds on the trees and growing grasses, I applied myself to the garden, which was to me a great joy. That helped me to drive out my sad thoughts. But these distractions could only daze me a little; they were too weak to erase my spirit what I ruminated unceasingly, these revived thoughts always increased by the increasingly worrying news. It was necessary for me to flee absolutely, it was not an other exit. I also combined an inexpensive plan because I did not have almost any more money. At this point in time I understood how much was hard for a man in a situation similar to the mine. Oh better would be finish all of these, to die in one moment rather than to endure similar tortures!
I was not the only one wanted. Others were Zygmunt Mineyko, Stanislaw Kamienski, Trebinski, etc. The list on which we were registered did not contain the names of all those which, like me, hid downtown. Among us, there was someone whose fate was even more painful than mine. Lampi, for example, he had lived in Tomsk for several months without any ticket (any papers). He had been completely forgotten, besides some knowledge about him, nobody was aware of his name. But when authorities learned about him search started and nobody wanted more agree to house him without ticket and it was not the moment to make a forgery. He was not reproduced on the list of those who left further. He was thus obliged to wander from one house to the other, the poor unhappy one spending the night sometimes at one place, sometimes at the other, never stripping himself in order to be always ready to run away in a case of inspection which was done at any hour. He did not have any more money to pay for the housing. He could not paint any more. But it was not all what concerned him. He received a letter from his wife from Warsaw, announcing to him that on April 1, she would get under way with her two children and go to join him in Siberia. This letter came to him on April 15, at one time when she had already left and he had no possibility to prevent her from getting under way. What a situation! He had already written to her under the name of Lampi, but he could not keep her informed about the current situation and his wife, unfortunately, could nothing guess. She had probably only just money necessary to come to Siberia, but not for a return voyage. A few days after having received this letter, the poor Lampi changed so much that he was not any more the same man. One could easily guess what was going to occur when his woman would arrive. In one so critical moment, she could be the involuntary cause of the loss of her husband, her children and herself, if God did not have pity for their fate.
After these sad examples and our unhappy migration downtown and when, I was convinced that Wachowicz had manufactured our tickets and that the secretary had hardly recorded them, and that it was not a sure remedy against the evil, I advised Wachowicz to give up this process. When I saw that my advice was not taken seriously, I addressed various people so that nobody would employ any similar means. The river Tom started to thaw and one expected one day or the other that the river would have finished carting the ice. We could see the first steamboats leaving the harbour. A voyage by water appeared to us the least expensive and easiest, therefore we started to think of it seriously. I waited impatiently for the moment when the river would get rid of its ice. I went on bank everyday to get an account of it. Once, being thus on the bank, I witnessed a dreadful spectacle: a man carried very far away undoubtedly on an ice floe and without any hope to be saved. When he crossed the city, crowd went on two banks. The bells reflected sounds as for a death. The unhappy one understood what the ringing announced, he raised his cap, sadly inclined towards us all, and soon disappeared before our eyes, grabbed with a tremendous speed by the current. He went towards an unquestionable death!
During the time when we waited for the departure of boats, we befriended our baker. He was young man, a native of Wiatka, Theodore Iwanowicz Kiscielew, who came to Tomsk with some other his compatriots to earn his living. He had been trained in Kazan and Niznij-Novgorod as a merchant where he vegetated. But somebody persuaded him that in Siberia, he could make a fortune. Hardly it happened in Tomsk. He had a great disappointment and with sorrow he found earning his living while carrying the bread downtown. Thus disappointed, having spent the winter in Tomsk, he intended to leave the city in spring and one day when we get together he proposed a project for us to escape from Siberia, offering himself to assist us. We knew him sufficiently to know that he was honest and did not propose it to us then to betray. We liked his proposal and we bounded with him even more, without however delivering our secrecy to him that he did not have to know, being unaware of even our names. He knew only that we were Polish, were condemned to live in Tomsk, and nothing more. He showed us his identity papers delivered on a plain paper by the office of the peasants, and he advised us to obtain similar. By entrusting his ticket to us as a model he only asked us to describe ourselves originating from another village than he was. He made us write the name of the village of Chotunick, fearing that in the case of discovered falsification of our identity authorities would not suspect him of conspiracy. He explained to us the seal and told us that it was to bear the following names:
We thus knew how our tickets had to be written, but it was necessary to do them and get a seal for us. Wachowicz knew some sculptors. He went to find them, but one asked him for 25 to 30 roubles; that exceeded our means. Then I tried myself to do it; it was the first time in my life when I made a similar work. I doubted the success, but pressed by the need, I wanted at least to try it and produce a seal again later. On a slate, with a graver made of a branch of birch and using a simple penknife, I applied myself to the work. What was my joy when a few hours later, my seal was finished and then I had to say perfectly imitated. Having this principal instrument ready, our tickets (papers) were made forthwith. We were thus going from now on as the peasants of the government of Wiatka. However this role was difficult. It was necessary for us to pretend, especially for me who spoke Russian with a foreign accent and I had the short hair and shaven beard, contrary to the customs of Russian peasants. Wachowicz spoke Russian very badly but he was more the Muscovite type than I was. We had very little money and it was necessary to get costumes for us. Our baker came to see us each day and we took decisions about our voyage. It was decided that we would leave with him on a steamboat, like his inseparable comrade, Yvan Fiedorowicz. We sent our baker to the office of steamboats in order to get informed about the day of the departure and the price. It was him who was to buy our tickets. Disturbing news suddenly changed our plans. The police fearing that some prisoners could flee on steamboats decided that at the time of the departure the chief of the police in company of some agents would check all passports comparing them with the police records. This news disturbed all our projects and left us in a great embarrassment.
A misfortune is never final, people say, as, at the same time when I learned this worrying news, someone told me that authorities sought me under my false names. It was for me one terrible blow! How they had guessed under which name I hid, I could not manage to understand it. It is true that the chief of the police while giving the commands to his agents put only one of my names and instructed them that the search could not last a long time. The results of this search were negative. Concern and waiting for my misfortune which seemed inevitable to me this time, tortured me. I had neither one day nor one night quiet any more. I wanted to save myself escaping on foot, without much hope in such an insane project. But I preferred this than to be taken in Tomsk where I could be immediately recognised. However as the example for the similar story three comrades were who, as I intended, had come to Tobolsk on foot, without passport, almost without money and without knowing the language of the country. They arrived thus to the river Amur and had taken this direction to avoid being caught. According to any probability, they were wanted in Russia and, moreover, it appeared that, on the Amur, they could embark on an English or American boat. But this project did not succeed and they were constrained to reconsider their steps and they had to traverse all Siberia. What they became then, God knows alone. But the possibility of crossing Siberia in outward journey under similar conditions encouraged me to go on a similar trip. My comrade did not want to decide to leave on foot. He formerly spent summer in Nerczynsk, I do not know so far for which reason. He had fled from there on foot and did not have any more, as he said it to me, a desire for starting a similar journey a second time. He had 60 roubles; we were to sell all our useless clothing, which could bring back a few tens of roubles to us and, then, we were on the way with the assistance of God. I realised well that with such a tiny sum, earlier or later, it would be necessary for us to do a lot of mileage on foot, more especially as we were to pay for the voyage to two Russians. Then my comrade Zygmunt Mineyko joined. I was delighted to have a company of Mineyko, especially when I knew more Wachowicz and he seemed to me a monster. As far as the two Russians we risked all the same a little in sharing of our goods and our misfortune. They were people too different from me so their company could be to me a softening in probably hard adventures of our voyage.
At this time my former priest of Szeretiew, Aurèle Mackiewicz arrived to Tomsk, as condemned to live there. We lived on very good terms formerly. I knew he was rather rich although someone had stolen his belongings in prison. I decided to ask him for money. What a brave man: he did not have more than 50 roubles with him and he shared it with me. I did not tell about it to Wachowicz and I hid money in the lining of my boots. It seemed to me that one day it would be necessary for us to separate on the way and, then, in this case it was necessary that I have some money. That proved how little I had hopes in the success of our voyage. However, I started the enterprise with the small happiness. A few people only knew about our project downtown. Mrs Ostromecka deplored my project and she fasted every Friday wishing me well, hoping that I was saved. I did not know from where she drew 15 roubles that she obliged me to accept, begging me. Moreover I did not refuse her this happiness that she was able to contribute to my delivery of the project. The second person whose memory will be precious to me all my life was Miss Elisabeth Fabienska, a great friend of Mrs Ostromecka. Apart from them and of abbot Mackiewicz, I remember neighbours of Witkiewicz, their son-in-law the doctor Matuszewicz and Doctor Pokotujewski, all helping me in sharing with their means. Mineyko dealt with us buying necessary clothing and we prepared us to leave. Only we could not departure directly from the house where we lived, that had been too visible.
Before I tell how we got over this difficulty, I want to say some words about my colleague Pawlowski. He was with the Company of prisoners since our reference in the hospital. It is regrettable that he had so little courage because he had been able to flee more easily than I. He had more than 600 roubles with him, without counting his clothing, his linen, his books and other things which he could had sold. This sum was more than sufficient to try the escape. He envied me for deciding to leave with so little resources. However he could not decide to leave although he had twice occasions to prepare his escape and most easily possibly successful. He wanted nothing to risk, fearing a treason. "Someone who does not risk anything has nothing", quite true proverb. An employee of the hospital agreed to resign and then give him all papers under the condition that nothing he will reveal in next six month. He asked for 300 roubles of which he would have lived during these six months, not touching a pension. His requirements were modest and this project could succeed very well.
Another opportunity, still better, arose. An Austrian subject offered to sell his passport for 250 roubles to Pawlowski provided that he would not say anything about the matter as long as Pawlowski would not have had time necessary to cross all Russia to the border. With this passport, he had been able easily to cross the border and that would have succeeded perfectly because he spoke German and referred as a Southerner. Having money necessary, he would have done the journey openly through posts and nobody would have any opportunity to put sticks in the wheels of his carriages. When someone would have realised of his disappearance, he had been already very far. My friendly relations with Bielow whom I had known from the hospital and his son-in-law André Stiepanowicz Kungurof, continued after my exit from the hospital and after my installation downtown. I visited them on their premises last Easter and they also came to see me. Bielow knew about my projects, as far Kungurof and his daughter, they knew only that I hid downtown under a false name and that, consequently, I was not a doctor. They were all good people who, not only had not wanted to harm me, but also still were delighted that I succeeded in successful hiding in the city. It should be said that this Kungurof was a head of the search office for the escaped prisoners. In many circumstances, he gave me good consulting and excellent information. For this reason, I maintained this so useful relation. When our project of escape from Tomsk was definitely stopped, I was forced to make in front of Kungurof a confession trusting to him all details of our plan. It was necessary that we had somebody who could facilitate certain formalities for us, who could give us good consulting, that we could accept it like coming from a qualified man on the matter and on whom we could count boldly. They remained together in a house, on their property, far away from the centre of the city, in the suburb called "Colony for the soldier". They did not have a servant. The house was surrounded by a large garden and it contained a little varied growth. That was easy for me to go to see them without being seen by anybody. The house was so small that when all three of us moved there it did not have any other space for other tenants on the property. The moving out was carefully pre-arranged. When we had to leave our housing, Bielow, knowing well all his neighbours, decided to place us at the gentleman from Mohilew for a few days. He explained to him that we were on the point to leave to the countryside, being condemned living there and that it would be more convenient for us to start from his house. The gentleman had a wife, old woman without any children. He was a carpenter by profession. Sharp and hard working, he lived quiet in his house and dealt neither from what occurred downtown, nor with the fate of the prisoners. He could have been easily misled. We were to pay him to compensate, therefore he accepted us as a natural thing. In his house on the street level a widow lived and they kept a small part in the court. It is there that we must spend a few last days in Tomsk. We were located very close to the Bielow, in a place very little attended, where the police never appeared and where walkers were never coming. About May 12, as far as I remember, we warned our owner that we found an employment in factories and we saw ourselves forced to bid our farewell to him. Our so sudden departure astonished him much, especially before the end of the month. However he calmed down when we announced to him that we would pay him for the entire month, making sure that he did not lose finacially. We separated with him on excellent terms. His wife deplored to lose such good tenants to whom she was attached and she made us a promise that on Sunday we would come to dine at her. According to what had been agreed, the following day, I went to see Bielow who led me to the neighbour where I remained until my departure. Then Bielow even rented a horse from one of his neighbours on his account to transport our business. He took care of that himself in order not to show from where we came. The same Wachowicz and Mineyko arrived bringing our costumes prepared in advance. Thus the day of departure arrived. We remained there without leaving; we did not show ourselves outside as long as it was dawning. We did many things for our old owner so that he did not suspect our projects and so that downtown no one was aware of where we had left. As for our two Russian comrades, who came to see us in order to know what was decided, we informed them about our secrecy.
In the evening, we went to Bielow and Kungurof. I learned there that if I had been taken in Tomsk, my sorrow had been cruel, because much of people knowing me, nothing would have been left for me to deny. It is a procedure that each escaped prisoner taken again and suspected of wanting to flee is sent to the nearest city, and the interrogations start there. In this case, only safety is to deny all, nothing to acknowledge and with the questions: "what is your name? From where do you come?" etc. the answer is that you forgot, that nothing is known. This case is envisaged in the articles of the Russian law. It is there a question of "that which does not remember any more its source". If authorities proved who I am the case is lost. Always deny until the end. Then one is condemned for four years in the Companies of prisoners and then for all his life to live in Siberia. This is less terrible than 12 years of forced work. I thus had still a chance to try. During these investigations, authorities do not have the right to beat nor to torture, prevented in any manner. But misfortune waits for those who acknowledge who they are, especially in light of civil laws. They are condemned to the mines! I saw myself dreadful. All these details, I had collected them conscientiously in the event of misfortune. During this time, I learned that authorities had just ordered search again in all the houses and corners of the city and, this time, with our descriptions. To excite the inhabitants against us, it was stated that all three, Kamienski, Mineyko and me formed a committee having for goal to set fire to the entire town of Tomsk. The police fabricated a claim that they found a ball that if thrown on the floor would at once ignite the parquet floor made of wood and would produce such a fire that water even could not extinguish. And they concluded that one of us being a doctor and knowing chemistry had been able to manufacture such a machine. Fortunately that our owner was unaware of all that, because even this figure of three could have not worried him. We were fully alert, waiting for the moment of leaving Tomsk. When this time arrived we had to face many kinds of obstacles. Our first fear came from what our owners received when their friends and neighbours visited to honour us. The majority were the Poles, old men and of the working class. Among them there was even someone who spent the night with us and asked us many questions. We were then tight like herrings in a box. But, thanks to God, all occurred without incident.
All businesses that we had to yet attend we entrusted them to a friendly person even before coming to this small house. Then this person had to sell many things to make money for us. On the day marked for our voyage, we decided to ask our Russian companions to leave ahead in order not to draw too much attention. We gave them a few roubles to rent horses and obliged them to leave us on May 14 in the evening so they could go to the close village and could spend the night there while waiting for us. The next morning, we were to join them as by chance and making pretence that we had met accidentally, we were to leave together further. But, new trouble! They left on the agreed evening and during the night, Wachowicz informed us that our personal businesses had not been sold; consequently, we did not have enough money. The person who was to sell them complained that it rained and not believing that the matter was so urgent had decided to do it the following day.
Because of this delay, we had to remain in Tomsk one day more. But that prevented us from meeting Russian comrades. It was impossible to oblige them to wait us more. They could return, involving us in new expenses or they could doubt us and believe that we had misled them trying to get rid of them. And, then, they could have harmed us. All was possible because we had realised at the last moment that they seemed to be wary of us. And then, counting on the fact that their voyage was on our expenses, they had spent all their money a day before their departure. After some discussion, we decided that I would leave the following day and that I would join the Russians and we would meet all at an agreed village. There, Mineyko and Wachowicz would join us. I did not have to hesitate more and I was very anxious to leave. Mineyko did not know the Russians. Wachowicz was to finish the sale of our business and to bring back the money. I offered myself to leave because I had if little confidence in Wachowicz. I would not have liked to bet that once with the Russians, he would not have left us alone, Mineyko and me. Leaving him one day more in Tomsk with Mineyko, I knew that this last one would prevent him from making some stupidity. Our situation was even more risky since we did not have between us the confidence, but what to do? It would have always been necessary to perish in one way or another and this forwarding was a last hope. And yet I left without much hope of success of our escape.
It would be time to describe here our costumes. We were to play the role of peasants. But because of our hair and our beards hardly started to push back and that was contrary to the customs of peasants, we were forced to equip us like workmen, of people of the city who allow certain rather European reforms. We had black caps with visors, colour shirts sticking out with two buttons on the side of the neck. We had trousers falling down on our boots and, around the neck, the red percale handkerchiefs. We had Siberian coats over. As for me, I had a black one that had been given to me previously by my brother. In the event of rain or of cold, we carried clothing typical for the country called "osijan", very common here among the peasants. It was a long and broad clothing made out of skin of camel, of yellowish colour with a large collar, long narrow sleeves around the wrists. This clothing was double too large for the size, but sufficiently hot because the skin is thick and, moreover, impermeable. Clothing such as I described is worth from 15 to 20 roubles. The red shirt that I put on and a cap, I had bought when I lived at Tatiana Stiepanowna.
At that time, I almost fell in the hands of the Russians. One Sunday, I had gone to the market to buy these things, in order to pay for them less. I had just paid for my cap when while turning over, I saw Mr Szostak a few steps from me, a very known employee that I had looked after for the eyes and who recognised me very well. He was a malicious man and a real enemy. We had unquestionable evidence of it. I dodged myself as fast as possible going through the mud. I bought a shirt later from a peasant on the street. I had already bidden my farewell with Mrs Ostromecka. I did not see the need for bidding my farewell with other people, by prudence it was preferable for my incognito. On the evening of May 14 (I remember this date so well), I left Bielow, leaving my host under an unspecified pretext. I gave him a cap that I had carried so far and he was delighted. He liked it so much. I arrived at Bielow, with my costume covered under some other cloth. I put some small things, a memory from my home that I could not separate with, into a small leather bag. Bielow went to rent horses, which were to come to take to me at 3 o'clock in the morning. During this time, his son-in-law and his daughter worried about me like about one of their, envisaging the difficulties that it would be necessary me to overcome and giving me consulting. We did not sleep during the night. Bielow had been formerly working in the stations and knew wonderfully all the roads of Siberia. He advised the best way to take in order to avoid as much as possible cities dangerous for us.
I had like a fever. Thousand thoughts went through my mind. I foresaw the dangers and the difficulties of all kinds, my imagination worked until I deadened on a settee with an agitated sleep. In dream, I foresaw the continuation of this nightmare where monsters appeared before me. Before Wachowicz and Mineyko left, we swore ourselves henceforth to speak to ourselves only in Russian, even without witnesses, in order to improve fluency in this language and especially not to betray us. For me, there was still another danger: in dream, I spoke often in high voice and very distinctly and naturally I expressed myself in Polish. I could betray myself. Today there is not any peasant in Siberia who does not recognise a Pole even by the accent while speaking in Russian, not to mention when I spoke Polish in dreams. At one o'clock in the morning, I woke up and waited the decisive hour for my destiny. Bielow went for the horses. His children prepared me tea that I drank on their pleasant insistence, because I could swallow nothing.
Horses arrived at 9 o'clock. It hardly started to be dawning, the East was tinted with pink, and the city was plunged in the sleep. I said good-bye to Bielow and the Kungurof. I promised them that once beyond the border of Siberia, I would write some words agreed upon between us to them. Very moved, I threw myself on the carriage, on the straw. The coachman whipped the horses and my voyage started. It was on May 14 of the year 1865. From this day, I was called Alexief Iwanowicz Kortow, a peasant from the government of Wiatka.
Departure from Tomsk - the escape
I then was thinking only about the time of the departure: I was in a single state that can be understood only by someone who was in a situation similar to mine. Nature was coming back to life, the grass was growing again, and tender greenery was showing on the birches. One morning radiant rose grew. But then nothing could distract me. A suffering, a weight, a crowd of thoughts held me down, I choked or well I tested a feeling of rage, but above all these pains planed a single thought, similar to evening star that shone with far or with the anchor of the hello. This thought, it was the reward of all my sufferings, it was the happy moment between all where it would be possible for me to inform my family, with despair, that I am saved. That only gave me the force and energy. Today, at the time when I trace these lines, I reached this star which seemed to me inaccessible, I have the reward of all my pains, I am amply rewarded because They are happy, content, They do not cry more! My God, graces are returned to you!
In spring, two roads lead from Tomsk towards Russia. They meet with a few tens of kilometres from the city. One, the principal one, skirts the prison and the river Tom. It was that which I had followed to go on. The other led to the village of Gravel Bank where it passes the river of the same name that it is necessary to cross on a raft. This road was preferable in spring because of the facility to cross the river in this place. It also had for us another advantage, we did not skirt the prison, we did not have to cross Tom close to downtown where always the gendarmes and the police stationed, quite awkward road for us. The distance from Tomsk to Gravel Bank could be divided into two stages: one in the village where the Russians awaited me, the other from Gravel Bank.
Hardly we engaged on the road, I felt despair towards to my coachman who prevented us from galloping to the city. I was certain that it was treason, that the coachman had recognised me as Polish because of my accent. I waited a moment to ensure myself some more and, then, to jump from the carriage and to flee anywhere. But when we arrived to the city he took another road saying to me that he seldom passed by here. He was misled and than he followed first road led in the fields. Thus, when we envisage the danger, all frightens us. The least trifle takes dimensions of a misfortune. The remainder of the road occurred without an incident: I lay down making pretence of sleeping in order not to be obliged to speak. We reached the village where I was supposed to find our Russians. Where to seek them in a village that had several streets going in all the directions? Someone proposed to me to rent horses, but I hastened to say that the price of the voyage being very high, I would be happy to find somebody who could travel with me. I had to wait for an occasion. Then I stayed in the village in the hope to find those whom I sought. Happily, one of the Russians having heard the horses had come to meeting me and there, in the presence of the peasants of the place, we appeared not to know us, and we played the comedy arranging our joint voyage. I taken immediately my bag and went to their premises. It was when I met for the first time the second Russian of our companion, Jelcyn. I explained to them what had been decided between us. I drank with them tea in order to spend time and not to leave immediately for Gravel Bank where it would have been necessary for us to remain too long time. Then, we rented a troika and we left for Gravel Bank. Consequently, I was a little less sad. Jelcyn appeared intelligent to me, brave, merry and being cool. And then I did not afraid any more myself and could speak freely with them without fearing to lose because of my accent. Our first stages cost us very dear but we did not hesitate to pay several roubles and we could not have continued thus doing for a long time. We had good horses. In a few hours we were in Gravel Bank where we had to spend the night. It was then midday; it was a little early, but what could we do? It was necessary for us to wait for Wachowicz and Mineyko or rather for Michel Sudnow and Nicolas Iwanowicz Nikolajew, because such were henceforth their names. To spend time, we prepared food to dine. My Russian comrades recommended me to wash the hands before the meal according to the Russian custom in one special container called "rukomojnck". It is a bowl full of water and suspended by two handles on a cord and which has a nozzle like a teapot. One leans the bowl by washing the hands and as soon as one ceases holding it takes again its balance on the cord. The second lesson was that they showed me the manner of sign in front of the icons and after the meals. For each time it is necessary to make three large signs of cross and a small fourth on oneself while curving enough low by making the three large signs of cross. It is necessary to proceed to this operation all the times that one enters a residence and, then, one is addressed to the Master the house by these words: "dzien dobry, gospodaru". It is necessary to be signed for the tea as for the meals. First of all I was caught there awkwardly, but then, when my hand had been accustomed to this kind of exercise I soothsayered as skilful as my comrades. I speak only about the gesture because the lips do not pronounce words. After the dinner, we lay down to kill time, but because I did not eat, the sleep did not come. I lay down in order not to attract attention. The evening arrived finally. Our host asked us from where we came and where we went. We told him that we left to the close city as workmen, but we also had our luggage and we wait to know if our bag did not remain with our preceding stage. If it would not be found, it meant that we would have lost it on the way and, then, we let us carry on our trip immediately. In order to cross short to this conversation, we requested him to give us something to eat. The evening fell. We occupied one room being used for the travellers and in whose there were a bed without bed linen, a table, some chairs, a bank against the wall and a curtain cutting the part into two and behind which was the bed. Separately from us, there were not other travellers. I remember all the details of this day, because that night, I had my first test, my first danger.
When one of us started to eat, the other put a lamp on the table, because it grew dark. At this time one unspecified employee entered my room following-up with some peasants. I made pretence absorbing myself with eating so that I seemed not to see them, but in myself I asked whether they had not come to seek me. He entered. He did not want to speak about a hasty departure. This scene impressed me even more than that with the employee, because it was the realisation of what I provided before. We would always have in Wachowicz a bad comrade. When I had left him in Tomsk explaining why I only left ahead, Wachowicz squeezing my hand said to me, with fire: "be sure that we will not be mistaken: Wachowicz will never betray!" At that time there, these words were expressed with such a sincerity in the voice and the gestures which made me forgot all the past and I believed him. What was my astonishment when I learned things that disappointed me. I learned some facts bitterly.
The shortly after my departure from Tomsk, Miss Fabienska, a great friend of Mrs Ostromecka, learned by I do not know through which chance about our hiding-place and came to tell me good-bye. She brought 40 roubles to me for the road and a letter from Mrs Ostromecka. But when Wachowicz said to her that I was not there any more, she did not want him to believe and, melting in tears, she said that it was badly of my share to have left without meeting with her. Reassured, finally, on my fate by our comrades, she gave the letter to him and the money and she wrote some lines with her hand, requesting Wachowicz to give me all that. In order not to oppose her, our comrades took the two letters without making the least remark, but for our security, they could not keep such letters with them. As soon as she had left, they decided to read these letters and to destroy them at once. When seeing me they would communicate the contents of these letters to me. As they were two, Mineyko took the letter of Miss Fabienska to read it; it contained only good-byes and wishes. Wachowicz took the letter of Mrs Ostromecka. I am unaware of what she said to me in this letter, but she undoubtedly warned me about Wachowicz of whom she had a very bad opinion. It appeared, told me then Mineyko that Wachowicz, while he read the letter, took a savage air and without completing it he threw it in the stove that flamed. He did not say a word to Mineyko about the content of this letter, but as from that moment, he was of very bad mood. This fact explained his anger against me because he could only suspect me of having said evil things about him to Mrs Ostromecka. In that he was mistaken because, quite to the contrary, each time we spoke together about Wachowicz, I took always his defence, would be this only to tranquillise her about my escape. Misfortune wanted that this letter fallen in his hands, this letter of Madam Ostromecka which, by very maternal solicitude had not been able to prevent from recommending to me to be wary of him, having probably learned some things on his account. Nobody could do anything any more about that, but that cost us on behalf of Wachowicz many nuisances. When I left Tomsk, Mineyko and Wachowicz remained all the day in their house, waiting the evening to get the money for our clothing. We hoped to get some well 60 roubles, but they were worth 100, but one gave them only 25. What to make out of it? In addition our owner could report us at any moment because I had left so quickly, saying to him hardly goodbye. Our comrades tried all to reconcile for the best. Bielow prepared horses to them as for me. Late in the evening they left the owner, in addition to the payment for the rent and food they paid three roubles for clothing and the linen. Then they went to the house of Bielow carrying the remainder of goods. They took them in bags and they gave the part of it to Bielow. At the moment of the departure they also gave a few roubles to him which he accepted without too much resistance.
The horses were to lead them directly to Gravel Bank where I was waiting for them. The three strong horses brought them in a few hours to Gravel Bank. However they had some adventures there. Their coachman, originating from the Ukraine, man of strong stature, with thick moustache, had been for ten years in Siberia. Not only he had preserved his national costume. But he spoke his language and knew certainly well also Polish and recognised our accent. After he had exchanged some words with the travellers, he started to call them "side" (Mister). Our comrades were frightened, the more so as he was very talkative. He could have told to others what he had discovered and, moreover, not knowing it, our comrades overcame with fear. He even tried to insinuate to them that he was from as same region as them. It was necessary, in a skilful way, to render him that he was misled. The best argument was the brandy. However our comrades were constrained to drinking with him. When they arrived to Gravel Bank, they brought the samovar and invited him for drinking the tea with them, in order to have him always within the eye. It is precisely at this time that we entered the thatched cottage. Hardly we were left of the embarrassment, because the coachman having left a little time set out back to Tomsk. Then another trouble and another fear awaited us. Our desire was to cross the river as soon as possible, but the peasants forced us to wait until more carriages went on the vat. Anyone can easily understand our concerns and our fears. From one moment to another the employee could show up. Our fears were all the more founded since the owner at whom we had spent the night suspected who we were. Our two Russian comrades had two old coats of sheepskin and wanted to get new ones. Our owner wanted to have them to offer as little money as possible for old coats. They did not want leave him coats at this price. When our comrades hesitated, he said to them:
"do not haggle over so much, because sooner or later even all the remainder of your clothing will not be useful to you any more".
This sentence made us fear the worst. What remained to be made?
Lastly, after a long waiting, someone transferred us to other bank out of vat. We left with the tightened heart, being sure that sooner or later we would be taken again and that all would be finished for us. Before reaching the postal road, it was necessary for us still to cross another river, not broad, but in spring it overflowed much and formed an island. We crossed the first arm, then we traversed the island on foot, and, then, we took again the vat to approach to other bank. At once, we went to the close village to search for horses. At the moment when we left bank, some owners of the vat charged us for the encumbered carriages and luggage. It was for soldiers travelling with women and children. They were about ten. The peasants recognised us for what we were. They asked us an excessive price for the crossing and, addressed soldiers asking them to stop us, that we were the Poles. We heard this sentence, but without losing our coolness, we approached the soldiers. We were smoking our pipes; we endeavoured to appear merry, but we saw perfectly the eyes of the soldiers and the peasants directed them towards us. We were sure that that would finish badly. I believe that the only reason that made the soldiers to hesitate and stop to arrest us was that they all were with family and did not wish to attract embarrassments without any real benefit to them. After the soldiers had left, the peasants became less hard on us and even made us pay less for the crossing. We owed our safety only to our luck.
When we arrived to the village, we went from one thatched cottage to the other thatched cottage to have horses. Some did not have them. Others asked us too much for it. At the end, a peasant agreed to give us horses at an accessible price. We entered his house, while he harnessed horses. We asked the host to bring the samovar and fried eggs. We were then about twenty versts from Kolyvan, formerly the capital of the district and the horses were rented to lead us there. I remember so well this brave peasant who was approaching about sixty, a figure red like a framed orange with white hair. He was merry and started at once to chatter with us and it was not difficult for him to see who we were. Even Wachowicz talked too long. But he was a good man and he did not say to us openly who we were. He rendered a great service to us. We were on the point of leaving. Nobody except him was in the room at this time. He told us these words then:
"I think that you will have troubles and embarrassment in Kolyvan because authorities gave command to stop all the travellers passing by the city and to examine their papers."
We answered him that that we did not worry and that our papers were in order.
"But you see", he said to us,
"You will arrive late. Nobody will be there any more at the police station. You will be obliged to spend the night and perhaps a second one before anyone lets you set out again. You will lose much time and I warn you that the head of the police of this city is a rabble."
We could not answer him.
"One could cure the situation." - he continued,
"Since you have to only pass the city, I will ask my son to circumvent the city and to lead you to a village about 10 versts beyond."
Naturally we accepted his proposal, pretending the indifference. The idea was good although we would reach the city during the night and we would have to circumvent the city at that time. Once we arrived to the city we had some problems. The night and the black clouds arrived. The night became very black. However it was necessary to succeed. We thanked God for having sent so good man for us. We bade our farewell to him and went back to the carriage. He said to his son: "You will lead them to the village of... you know that when one approaches the city, nearly two miles, should be taken the road on the right ". In this way, we avoided the first city. Henceforth, it was our principle of avoiding as much as possible the crossing of the cities where there was danger for us because of the presence of employees, police, and soldiers. They could recognise us more quickly than the peasants and we could not count on their sympathy for us. We were terribly tired, were broken by so many emotions and the complete lack of rest. We planned to stay a little in this village towards which we slipped by. Alas, in spite of a torrential rain and a completely black night, it was necessary for us to go further. The reason was that, in this village, people celebrated the employers' festival. In Siberia, these festivals are celebrated with solemnity, orgies, and dances on the streets, songs. Inhabitants wear of their more beautiful clothes. The drunkards form a crowd, especially in the evening. There were cries, balls, the cabarets and very often the battles.
In the village where we arrived, in addition to inhabitants we could see soldiers coming from the close city to have fun. The evening fell, the drunkards shouted on the streets and, because of the rain, each one took refuge in the thatched cottages. Fearing to be taken over by some brawl with all these drunken men, we preferred to cross only the village. What a painful night still was for us. The road was very deformed and we missed the road several times falling in the ditch. Our only distraction was the flashes that furrowed the sky and crash of the thunder. We were terribly soaked and frozen. We did not have even one dry piece of cloth on us. Then I thought that if one of us fell sick, what would we do? I only trembled of thinking of it. Thank God, we arrived close to the village. We managed to obtain horses and the following day we set out again. We could rest one moment in the hot thatched cottage, sleeping on the ground and although soaked to the bones none of us fell sick.
The post route
Soon we were on the postal road, on the same road by which I had arrived to Tomsk. Here one other danger obsessed us, there were the "stages" in each village where one could easily recognise us, especially Mineyko who had been a head of convoy when he went to Tomsk and having been by that even more in sight he could be recognised. We had on the other hand approval to pay for the horses less money. Hitherto we paid three or four roubles from one village to another or an unspecified point at a decided place, which worried us enormously because the path that remained for us to be traversed was quite long and our thin resources decreased very quickly. Here we paid one rouble and without need to haggle for three horses trailing five people and for a course from 25 to thirty versts. They disputed between them who would take us along in these areas. It was their only livelihood. This competition was for us a good fortune. Often, we were challenged, one asked us who we were, from where we came. At the beginning, we were pretending to be workmen of various trades directing towards the close city to find work. Thus Mineyko said that he was a tailor. We called him Misza (diminutive of Michel) and as he looked so funny in his small jacket that we joked between us calling him "portniszaj" (small tailor). One day a good woman, the owner of the horses that we had rented having heard that one of us was a tailor she asked for help. She had bought black velvet to make trousers for her husband, she wanted to cut it by herself, but she did not dare, fearing to waste the fabric. She thus requested Mineyko to cut it for her. The moment was well embarrassing and we had fun to see that. At last, Mineyko explained to the good woman, in an improvised theory, how to cut the trousers. He advised her to cut it by herself and declined do it by saying that without his scissors which he had left at his owner, he could do nothing. It is necessary to acknowledge that in general the roles that we were obliged to play were badly made, but it is truth that it was not always easy thing. According to circumstances', we were either of the workmen going to Irbitz, or the merchants returning back from large markets of Siberia. We always indicated the city closer to the place where we were. People observed us often with curiosity. Our accent did not seem to them to be that of the government of Wiatka. Someone asked us why we were shaved, why we preferred the short hair. Even one day other person asked us whether we were not "actors", undoubtedly finding that we did not have the air of Russians.
According to questions that were asked, we answered what our comrades had taught us before, sometimes using details related to the government of Wiatka, speaking about their inhabitants, their "baryn" (lord) Ponomarof. We explained that we had been near him in St Petersbourg, in Moscow, and even abroad and that our different accent came from there. Very often we were believed, but I can say that, the majority time, people guessed the truth. Today, that any danger is drawn aside, that our escape finished successfully, we can speak about all this with calms, but then, those sufferings, concerns, and physical efforts, required coolness. It was necessary for us to have anything not to let see what we felt and not betray us. To pretend a simple man is perhaps the hardest thing for an intelligent man especially that this role had to be played for so long time. My great relaxation took place when sat on the carriage and I saw only the shoulders of our coachman. But there still, the rest could not be complete because he heard each word that I said and, familiar like always with the local dialect he addressed us with his expressions. My only physical rest was at the time of our night trips. When we slept in thatched cottages, for me it was intolerable. While my comrades could sleep all nights, it was necessary for me to take care of my unhappy defect of speaking high in dreams and so distinctly that each one could understand me. I could thus have betrayed myself more easily than in full day. While speaking Polish, I would have lost myself and, with me, all my comrades.
However when after a few days of voyage, we saw ourselves surviving fortunately situations sometimes so dangerous, the hope returned to our hearts and the dark thoughts made place for merry reveries. Then countries that we crossed, which had been so indifferent up to now for me, started to interest me. On the road, when we kept silent, my heart began to dream and I was meeting with my family, the house where I had been born, where I had run out my days of childhood. My thought went towards all those whom I perhaps never see again on this world. With what delights my glances went then towards my preferred flowers that arose in the medium of the spring greenery of the meadows. It was gold button (calta palustria). It was a quite common flower that one sees much in our land in spring and the sight of which reminds me of time when, as a little child, I ran on the meadow behind our house or in woods, or at the edge of the river. I made bouquets out of them. At this hour, this image was present in my memory as formerly at the time when I was happy and for one moment I forgot all these past days and so far from my present time. I forgot that my life so full of tears and reddened by blood and of which the present hour perhaps represented the most painful moment, this continual uncertainty, this so difficult situation which could, from one moment to another, become my last moment. But at this time even I thought only of the happy past while aspiring with full lungs delicious scent that assembled from meadows. My past appeared to me under laughing colours. It became again for me the present and so alive with the eyes of my heart that, just like formerly, all in nature seemed to smile to me. Formerly the life appeared so beautiful to me. I then did not know what it was the suffering. I dreamed about clear time, without cloud, about the house of my parents white in the medium of the greenery, the young growths of the trees, the murmur of the brook in the meadow. It seemed to me to see and hear all that. I saw the crowns of gold buttons that we braid together with my sisters in our joy and our plays.
These dreams were a rest for me, a relaxation and helped me more than the sleep, more than loneliness. It was enough to throw my eyes on my preferred flower and all my childhood was present with me. During our voyage, we were able to stop at Itkul, a village where I had been sick. We reached this village in full day. This place was full with dangers for me. Most people knew me, like the officer controlling the stage, male nurses of the hospital and most others. We entered the borough through a small side street, because of mud nobody could approach there through the principal street. By misfortune we met the officer. New test, but by a fortunate coincidence, the officer who had known me had been moved and from this one, I had nothing to fear. We left this danger. We fell into another. At the peasant's where we were to stop, we met several of ours that lived in this village and I had known them at the time of my stay here. The others formed part of the convoy and had been obliged to stop a few days because of bad condition of the roads in spring. At time of our arrival, they were on the front yard. Obviously, they recognised us at once only by the way in which they looked at us, but they were enough skilful to guess our situation and went to be locked up in their rooms until our departure. With precaution, they continued to throw their glances at us through the windows, not drawing any attention from guards. We did not stop for a long time, we prepared harness and we left on our road. In no manner, we could avoid passing the town of Kansk. We wanted to arrive there at the night, but that did not guarantee a success. If the roads had been in a better state, we could remain sometimes longer in one village, sometimes less in the other, reaching the city at the desired time. But it is true that it was also dangerous for us to delay longer in the villages. We had experimented with it.
The roads were so battered that in many places, our "troika" (a carriage with three horses), in spite of the good horses, had sorrow to advance even empty. We were almost always forced to go down and walk in mud. We entered Kansk before midday. We avoided the streets, but we met however ours which were condemned to the deportation in this city. Among them, there were some that we even knew. They looked at us with astonishment, undoubtedly recognising us, but not suspecting our project. We feared them because one of them could have challenged us without suspecting the evil that he would have caused us. Our coachman led us to the hotel that he knew and he rented horses. We made harness. Because the rain started to fall we took this as a pretext to cover the carriage. Thus, inserted in the carriage and entirely hidden by an apron of leather that closed the hood, we disappeared from the eyes of those who had been able to recognise us.
While coming out of the city, it was necessary for us to cross the rather broad river, on the vat. We were afraid of soldiers more than others. They could have noticed our Polish features. Our well-closed hood (there was not the reason to open because it always rained) concealed us from their glances. One of our Russian comrades came out of our carriage, paid the crossing and we moved away from the bank very invaded by the water which overflowed at that time of the year. It was necessary for us to cross the river Ob on the vat. These crossings of rivers on these vats caused us many concerns. Always there were more people and that was enough to put to us in agitation.
The village where we arrived was crossed into two by the river. On one side we found the Russian church and some houses. The other side extended the rest of the village. We came right for a wedding of an owner from other bank. The vats were ready and waited for the end of the ceremony, before going to the church. They were ready to transport guests on their premises. That made us lose much time. All were drunk and we did not manage to reach the other bank for a long time. And then, we saw, among guests of the wedding, bigwigs, like our "assessor" with all his sizeable body. We feared of repeating the scene of our first day of voyage and here, with so much of witnesses, our situation would have been precarious. But he was very merry to be on the wedding and he was already drunk. All employees occupied themselves and they fortunately paid no attention to us.
Thereafter, we did not have horses. Sometimes, it was necessary for us to wander through a whole village before finding an owner who could agree to render us horses. If we arrive at night, search was more complicated. We knocked on windows and called often in vein. In these cases, our Russian comrades were for us of a great help, especially Jelczyn. Their behaviour in our presence was good. At the beginning our Russian comrades felt a little constrained to be on an equal foot with us, which was obligatory for the role which we played. Gradually, they tamed down and became our simple and very free comrades and we realised that we could entirely count on them. They were the simple ones but good people. Kiszelow was a little apprehensive and in perilous circumstances, we could fear that he could betray us involuntarily. Jelczyn was a quite courageous boy.
Unfortunately I need to acknowledge here that the greatest nuisances which we all undergo did not come from them, but from one of us, Wachowicz. His extravagance caused perhaps by the feelings that he had against me or by his incomprehensible character, poisoned our life, which was very painful.I made, and we did all, what was possible for us so that our union was perfect, in order to soften his manner. But nothing worked and it is by miracle that he did not betray us and that so many times we escaped the danger. For example he very badly spoke Russian, not only with bad accent, but he mixed Polish words. He was a chatterer when possible speaking wrongly and when there was no need for it. We pointed out to him that he did not realise perhaps of what he said. When we requested him at least avoiding putting in his Russian sentences the word "ale" (but) he was offended and answered that since we want him to do it he would speak quite simply in Polish. And more than once, he made his speech when a thin partition separated us from other people. Incomprehensible sufficiency, incomprehensible madness! At beginning he did not say anything when for a voyage we paid a few roubles. But thereafter when we had horses well less expensive and that the owner asked for payment by versts, he did not want agree to give them money and forced us to remain at this place one day more waiting for a lower price. It always happened that if it were not more expensive we must at least pay as much and, in addition we had the expenditure of our food, for one day and without any need. While remaining more in the villages, we ran even more risks. We could never convince him and each time the opportunity arose, he started again his imprudence. He answered us only that we could be quiet, that he would not betray us. It was Wachowicz who dealt with the expenditure and who had all our money with him. Therefore when we reproached him telling that the delay which he caused us to make again, he brutally answered to us: "do what I want, otherwise I will return your money to you and you can go, I will remain here". These extravagances made us suffer and poisoned even the moments of freedom that we could have enjoyed sometimes. He was a quite odd man! He could not ever be honest nor agree with us although we never did anything wrong to him. Often, he made us so much to suffer that we would have readily separated from him, but on the other hand we did not know anything about this man. His past was mysterious and it was dangerous to leave him. We preferred to overcome all disagreements and to have him with us. Our Russian comrades complained much about him and that was all the more painful for us since his madness took place in front of foreigners. If our Russians had had enough money for the road, they had often left us. Wachowicz tormented them and then our situation would have become quite perilous. Perhaps the journey on foot, less expensive, would not have frightened them, but the sympathy, which bound them to Mineyko, and me retained them close to us. Like if we had not had enough external dangers, it was necessary for us to have in our small group this wound which tortured us without respite. God forgives him what he made us endure.
One day while arriving at a village in the evening, we realised that we had a small river to cross. We were alone on the bank; someone put to us on the vat and we were going to leave, delighted to cross so quickly. Suddenly we heard the noise of the small bells on the road. The vat stopped in order to take new travellers, supposing that it was a mail or the carriage of some employees. Our faces darkened at once by hearing the noise of this convoy and by seeing the vat returning towards bank. A shiver traversed us from the head to the feet when by bringing closer us the peasants on the vat recognised that it was "sprawnik" that waited. They were three in a comfortable carriage, undoubtedly with his cook and a servant. He moved his carriage on the vat without putting foot to the ground. On the other side of bank, a group of peasants attracted by the noise of the small bells were able to greet the "sprawnik". How long this crossing seemed to us! The "sprawnik" looked at us, but with good eyes it seemed to us to see in him Polish. In addition his servants spoke Polish between them. He did not address the word to us and we approached the bank without trouble. We were not curious to attend the reception of the "sprawnik".
Border between the government of Tomsk and Ekaterimbourg
On the road that we followed, we met many rivers that are numerous in Siberia.In rest of Siberia, there are still more. One of those, which we had to cross, had a name of Irtych, an affluent of Obi. We were constrained to cross three times because its course is sinuous. The first time, it was on 8th or 9th day of our escape. We were then about 800 versts from Tomsk and on the border with the government of this city. This point had for us a paramount importance, because, on the other side of the river, we could be little safer from chase directed against us from Tomsk. There we were going to go up a little towards North, towards the old chief town of district of government of Tobolsk, Tinkal or Tinkalinsk. In spite of our burning desire to carry on our trip as fast as possible, there was necessary for us to remain one whole day in a village located on the bank. A violent storm stopped us, which, similar to the snowstorms, often takes place in summer and is called "buran". Navigation is stopped on the broad rivers, because of the width, because the vats are obliged to work with the oar because it becomes impossible to tighten a cable from one bank to the other. Never one meets bridge in Siberia, except for all small rivers.
The storm, on that day, blew with such violence on the Irtych that the waves were so high that one declared no possibility for us to cross. We were asked to wait until the evening, because then the storm was calmed and when we left bank, the river was not agitated any more. Before approaching the other bank, the storm began again with rage, and although we had nothing any more but hundred step to make, it was necessary for us to fight and help with the oars before arriving.
In a verst from the river, our carriage broke and we had a great difficulty to arrive at a village and take another carriage. We were then still in the government of Tomsk. Leaving the side road that led to Omsk which, though broad, was badly maintained. We turned right and, by the road known as commercial, we moved towards Tinkalinsk, as I said a few moments ago. The road was bad, full with holes, mud, lost in the middle of muddy plains or powdered with salt. These last are called "solonczak", i.e. salt places. The whiteness of the ground comes from the salt which, because of the evaporation of water, crystallises and becomes visible. The flora, in these places, is very poor, the soil is, sometimes, completely arid.
We advanced slowly because of the state of the road and the difficulty that we had to get the horses. In spring, the horses are released freely on the steppe. I do not remember exactly on which day we arrived to Tinkalinsk. This small city is well located, surrounded by forests. In approaching the city, we took the road going from Tobolsk to Omsk, a road was maintained well. In general most roads in the government of Tobolsk are maintain well. The road was bordered with birches. It did not have any telegraph poles.
Tinkalinsk had 1,500 inhabitants and it did not distinguish itself from the other towns of Siberia: same habits, similar type. It is located 464 versts from Tobolsk. There, we supplied ourselves with tobacco and other products necessary for the road. We bought also meat that we cooked and we packed it in our bags. We ate always-cold food, generally in the carriage and we drank hot tea only during our rest. There, we could not eat local food because it was harmful for us. It was usually composed of a soup, usually very salted (perhaps because salt cost almost nothing) with cooked meat which it was crushed into small pieces. This dish of an indefinable taste was salted, bad and full of scum. Then someone gave us meat cut in small pieces by hands of doubtful cleanliness of the housewife. Then the "kasza" or the crackling paste came. For the dessert, host brought sweetened curdled milk. We did not have each day so abundant meal, generally these meals were composed of two dishes only. And during the fast, then it is difficult to say what they eat. Each one eats the same dish unless the number of people around the table is too large and that each one cannot have the same dish. We hardly remained only two days in Tinkal.
One of the most unpleasant adventures and painful at the same time as dangerous, during our voyage of escape, were our meetings with prisoners on the roads, with those who went towards Siberia. By far, we saw this long and sad convoy, being similar to a long ribbon on the road. They were on foot, having their luggage on carriages. It was a convoy of criminals with irons on their feet and a little convoy of ours preceded them. We could hear resounding irons long time before we could see them. This sound trailed them on the road. This noise was disturbing and, although we often heard it, our ear could never be accustomed to it or to accept it. When we crossed on the road a convoy of ours, we heard a sound of voice in our mother tongue. We passed very close to them, so to speak. Our heart tore with pain during these meetings. We passed them two or three times per day sometimes. Not only we could not stop them, to question them. But we were obliged, by prudence, to hide or divert our faces, in order not to be recognised by one of them.
With sorrow for us we were deprived of the joy of meeting perhaps among these poor somebody from our family, a brother, a sister, or a friend. We then feared them as much as ourselves because meeting a loved one, a second of lapse of memory, and a painful exclamation could have betrayed us and lose us. They also looked at us sometimes with curiosity and attention. We saw their sad glances with the eyes behind a lower part of the handkerchief that covered our faces posed there to preserve sun and heat. Perhaps sometimes we recognised someone. However we did not dare to seek among them a known face.
Then, we had less the occasion to meet convoys on foot thus, because a command had decided to make them hundred versts per day in carriages. These meetings, then, were less painful because the procession lasted less long; twenty or thirty carriages in full trot quickly crossed and we did not have time to look at them and they could not look at us. Then, when we travelled between Tobolsk and the Ural Mountains, we still crossed other convoys. These convoys made up at most 20 people, in station and an officer and gendarmes in blue costume supervised them. The convoys were political prisoners from the Kingdom and these "guardian angels" came from Warsaw to Tobolsk. From Tobolsk, they were taken along like other mortals. Occupants made them take the railroad until Niznij-Novgorod and, from there, in 12 or 15 days they arrived by carriage from station to station until Tobolsk. Their voyage was thus very fast. Among them, we could see women, old men, and priests. Some of them had irons. Why the government thus supported these prisoners from the Kingdom, for their long and tiring road? Why did one give them five "zloty" or 1/2 rouble per day? It was impossible to know why.
When we crossed these convoys on the road, nothing was changed for us. But sometimes, we were strongly in the embarrassment and in danger when we met them at station. The convoys arrived several times in full day at the station when we were obliged to take the carriage of station. We avoided as much as possible find ourselves beside them, fleeing from the prisoners and the gendarmes and, especially, avoiding speaking to them. God protected us, obviously, because nothing happened to us, but each one of these meetings was quite hard for us.
We always were directing the journey towards the west. We crossed Tinkal and we conveyed for Ekaterinbourg. We got around all the cities that we crossed on the roadside, but we could not in any case not to stop in Ekaterinbourg, because this city was on the single road that comes out from Siberia. But we were still far. We were to cross some cities of the government of Tobolsk like Jatatowosk and Kurhan towards the south and Tiumen towards north. Further, we had to cross the Ural Mountains, then the border of Siberia and two significant cities like Kamyntow belonging already to the government of Perm. As for Omsk and Tobolsk, we were already far away. Our road passed so to speak between these two cities, one in the south, the other in north.
We could not avoid stopping in all the cities that I quoted higher. Under these circumstances, we were happier in the government of Tobolsk than beyond the Ural Mountains. Over there, we avoided three large cities and further, we could get around only Kamystow. However we had to consider the detriment of our pockets and our health. We needed, there, to take a service road. We laughed when we thought about our roads of Pinsk and Polesia. We could not compare them with this road, and in this season. At each moment, we found ditches full of water, with mud, soft grounds in which we soaked ourselves, we broke axles, wheels, etc. Having experience of these means, we saw impossibility for us of continuing to take service roads. More we advanced in our escape more the roads became impracticable. We thus returned almost to the gates of the city and there, we however managed to circumvent it.
We realised, after that, the difficulty for a prisoner of escaping in the course of a convoy.To misled search, he would need to take the side paths. And how to flee among these battered roads: he could not travel neither on foot nor even on horse. Still in the government of Tobolsk or of Perm one meets inhabitants, villages at the edge of these roads. But in Siberia, there is nothing any more of all that. If one leaves there main road to take a by-path, look on the right and on the left, you will see only the steppe, the forest, the marshes and the sky. If the poor one prisoner would not be caught, it would be necessary for him to die of hunger. The escape is not possible in a large city. Our way of avoiding the cities and the information, which we asked on the service roads, made us quickly suspect. However we used a circumstance which was a skilful pretext.
But before speaking about that, I must say that we gained a good knowledge about functioning on the way shown by the employee Bielow in Tomsk. He had been employed for years with the mail service, knew exactly all roads and paths of most of Siberia. We thus did not have a need, for a long time, to ask for the right direction on the road. We were saying that we went to such or such place. From there, we advanced without asking. At the end, we did not have any more a plan traced in advance and especially when we arrived to the government of Jakutorowsk. The pretext about which I spoke presently was the following. Starting from this government, there was the post office free. The travellers do not travel any more by the "podorozna" and the peasants under penalty cannot transport travellers. The penalty of punishment is confiscation of horses. The post office thus had a kind of monopoly and the road was expensive. However, peasants, in spite of penalty, risked and transported travellers and, of course, for less money (what was for us a great convenience) and, for more security, by service roads. This circumstance was a benefit to us, that was to us less expensive, we avoided the main road and its dangers and we were very well accommodated by the peasants. A peasant brought to us a friend who further took us along and, thus, we advanced. Unfortunately, we could not benefit from this good means, as I will tell later. While speaking about the way in which we avoided the cities, I deviated a little from my subject, because I have to still tell about our voyage in this area. However, I prefer to say all that on this subject only once, in order not to repeat myself unnecessarily.
I thus return to our voyage in Siberia, on this side of mountains. The days were hot and often we travelled simply in shirts. During our exodus, we did not sleep only once. We never stripped ourselves. We took off only our cardigan and our shoes. We generally lay down on dirty parquet floors, washing us only "pro forma" and only hands generally; we resembled devils. Tanned, dirty as much as one can be, we would so much have liked to change linen and to wash suitably. It is true that, in this way, we resembled more peasants. But the state in which we were at the end exceeded the measurement of our patience. We had very little linen left and we could not wash it. One day we fell on an owner who took us along to a hut with bathtub. We benefited from this occasion but this bathtub was not better than that which I described above. But we did not have this pleasure for a long time. In our manner of being, we endeavoured to appear carefree, we always seemed to be in perfect mood as it is appropriate for free and happy people. I made a use of the fact that I learned Russian songs in Tomsk. We sang them in chorus, between us helping one the other and, often, the peasant who led us believed sincerely and sang with us. Sometimes we burst with laughing, singing songs about the white Tsar, revered by all Russians, where mixed more than one joke and then, the peasants were happier and laughed more with us. The road exhausted us more and more, but we were far from Tomsk: more than 500 versts separated us from there. Gradually, the hope filled our heart. We hoped to succeed and it was what gave us the force and resistance.
The landscape started to change; the plain succeeded with hills. It was easy for us to recognise that they were the first buttresses of the Ural Mountains. I will not repeat what I mentioned before about these mountains, landscape that we had before the eyes was similar, only we were under different conditions now and it is what showed to us all differently. When we arrived in the mountains, an icy wind with rain and snow froze us completely and, in spite of our warm clothing, we were stiff with cold. And we were there in June. The inhabitants told us that, since the beginning of spring, they had not had a hot day and, because of that, they had lost many horses. All their provisions of winter were exhausted. The grass hardly started to rise from the ground. They were constrained to open all the cattle sheds and to release the cattle. The poor animals, weakened by the lack of food, perished per hundreds from cold and hunger. During our trip, we saw their corpses with each step in the forest. Nobody took even their skins, the corbels and the magpies had sumptuous meals and the air, in certain places, was full of dreadful smells. This calamity also fell down on us because, considering the scarcity of the horses, we were to pay double or triple prices. And we lost much time because the horses advanced more slowly, falling or stopping and we wasted time with each halt.
Our purse was already half empty. The free post office about which I spoke before existed also here, on the line from Tiumen to Ekaterinbourg. Here, we were obliged to use it because of the lack of other horses and the difference of the price became unimportant. Moreover we travelled this way much more quickly. We entered now the border between Europe and Siberia. In the west of the border there are not any special guards, only beyond this border. The Russian punishes hard the escaped prisoners caught on other side of the border. The authorities consider the passage of border as an offence bigger that increases by much the punishment of the escaped prisoner. Also, beside our merry feelings, the sight of these frontier posts that we reached and we could leave behind, perhaps less delights than the hearts flying away from sufferings. The border brought us to think perhaps that in the event of misfortune, it would be necessary for us to return on the different side of these posts for tests still worse and harder than those that we had lived through up to now.
We knew well that the government of Perm was most difficult to cross for escaped prisoners of Siberia because, here, the peasants themselves watched for escaped prisoners in their own interest. It had been, then, good time to remake our papers because those were aimed at Tomsk. We needed other papers without visa, having passed the border. We had to support that we did not come from Siberia and that we arrived from the government of Wiatok. I had a seal. Anyone could get paper and ink anywhere, but, alas, we were supervised so much that we could not make what we needed. It was necessary for us to leave further.
The first city that we met beyond the border was Szadrynsk, in the government of Perm. We arrived there at midday. Heat was choking. The city presented itself well. It has many stone-built houses. It has 6,000 inhabitants. The streets were broad and animated. We were 576 versts from Perm. After wandering for a long time in the city, seeking horses because we did not want to take them from the post office, we arrived to a widow. It was in a corner of the city convenient for us, because nobody could notice us. While crossing the streets of the city, we met many of us settled here. I did not know whereas I had a first cousin here, Witold. In all cases, I could not have seen him even if I knew that he was there. After having drunk tea, we left, directly towards Ekaterinbourg because, as I already said, it was possible for us to avoid Kamyntow.
Until Ekaterinbourg, nothing remarkable happened to us. We still had enough money to get us until Kungur where I had the hope to borrow money from my brother Louis, sent for the settlement in this city. Part of the money was in the hands of Wachowicz and my 25 roubles were always bent in my shoe. I had shown them to him one day, declaring to him that I held them at our disposal, if, one day, it would be necessary to pay for expensive horses. It was not a reason to delay us in the cities. While arriving at Ekaterinbourg, nothing any more but a few roubles remained in my possession. In this city, we went downtown and we stopped in an inn for the peasants. We did not want to remain in this city for a long time, but Wachowicz declared to us that it was necessary for him absolutely to see somebody among his friends in downtown and that we would have to spend the night, here. We agreed, but the following day he left in the morning and returned only at midday. I noticed that he was disturbed. At the end he called me in the court and when we were alone he said to me that at our last stop before Szadrynsk he had forgotten his wallet containing a false seal and 50 roubles, the last which we had. He had not wanted us earlier to frighten with the bad news. While lying down on a bank to sleep, he had put that under his head and, while leaving, he had forgotten it. He was sure to get money in Ekaterinbourg and it was why he did not say anything about it to us. At present, unfortunately, he had not found anybody where he hoped to borrow money: his friends had been sent to other cities and he could not find anyone there.
It is easy to imagine the impression that this news made on us. Until Kungur where was my brother, we had still 300 versts to make and after we would have paid our host for food and sleeping, it would remain to us nothing any more but a few roubles. If Wachowicz had said it earlier to us, we would have not spent so much money. But knowing nothing, we travelled through the post office all the time. We paid expensive prices in order to save time and to return to Kungur as quickly as possible where I was certain to obtain money from my brother Louis. Dreadful position! We scratched our heads, each one of us trying to remember if he did not know anybody downtown. Mineyko had one idea and left. We waited for him very feverishly. He returned without anything. Wachowicz kept silent. He truly was sorry. We did not want to even blame him and yet he had deserved it well. We often had suggested him not to place his money in this way because he was a sleeper and could easily forget it. But as always he did not hold any account for our observations, which he always took very badly, seeing them like an offence, and continued to behave as usually. He seemed that now he had been moved. We left the topic with silence.
I remembered that, at the time of my departure to Siberia, I had been called by Doctor Kietkiewicz, director of the hospital of Ekatrinbourg located near our camp. He was a very noble man. It was a very advisable to see him. He was a very good Polish. He wanted that each doctor of our convoys knew the character and the nature of all the diseases of Siberia. He had more than ten years of experience and he knew that we look after ourselves well. He was right thus and that training was useful to all.
Although we did not see ourselves for more than one year and we met for a very little time, I hoped that he would remember me. And knowing his value, I could trust myself to him and to request him to lend 25 roubles to me which, I thought, would have been enough until Kungur. I got information where he lived and I went at his place immediately, suspecting that it was preferable that I wait for him in his house. But I did not find him there. Someone told me that I could meet him at the hospital. In order to finish this business as fast as possible, I decided to go there at once although I knew a danger to arrange a similar business in the middle of many people. I took Jelczyn along with me and we left. The doctor was busy in the room of the consultations. I waited for him one hour in the corridor. At every moment doctors whom I remembered and had seen them one year ago, passed near us. At the beginning, they did not pay any attention to us, but after long time, they looked at us and perhaps some recognised me too. Several times, they asked us what we wished. I answered them that I waited for the doctor.
"But you can enter there", one said to me showing the room.
"I see that the doctor is occupied, I prefer to wait until he came out".
My answer appeared to intrigue them even more. When the doctor appeared in the gate, I approached him and I only said to him in Russian that I had some words to say to him, alone. He entered then with me into a small empty part and when we were in a corner, close to the window, I said to him in Polish:
"Perhaps you remember me; one year ago I came here, to this hospital on your ward". Obviously he did not expect me to speak in Polish. He looked at me with astonishment. "Yes, yes, I remember, but what means this costume?", he said to me quickly.
Then in two words, I informed him about my situation and I told him what brought me to him.
And he answered to me, separating each word:
"I lend money to nobody"
All my anger showed on my face in front of such a cynical and abusive answer. At one second, when I thought that it was not solely about me, and that he was for us a last hope, I started again requesting it. I affirmed to him that I would have received money from my brother, I would return it to him in a few days, that, without money we were going to perish. All was useless. Here is what he said to me:
"If I could, I would lend readily money to you, but at this moment, I do not have any."
It was a revolting lie after the first answer that he had told to me. I did not have to insist any more. I only added:
"I count on your honesty, Sir, you will not benefit from my consent."
And I tried to withdraw, but he stopped me and said to me:
"There are here Doctor Chrodowicz and an employee Grudzinski. Both of them are Polish and good people. You will find them easily - each coachman knows them both. Find them. Both are rich and they will come to your assistance readily."
I answered nothing and, at the same moment I left the hospital depressed and broken terribly by this turn of events. What to do? To go and find the unknown ones when this one had refused me any help? I did not have any more hope. I was afraid that I had entered the hospital. Everyone surrounded Jelczyn wanted to know who I was. He answered that we both live in the city. It should be said that they did not believe him because, when I came out, their eyes followed us and some even came out at the front yard. I did not care any more because I was so sure that we were lost that one hour, earlier or later, that all was equal to me. To risk once again and without any hope of success, what good is it! We returned to our comrades waiting for us like for the Messiah. We decided to find these two people indicated by doctor. I put on the black cardigan of Jelczyn. I rented a hackney carriage and I left. Grudzinski lived far, outside of the city. I found him alone at his place. When I told him the goal of my visit, he answered me politely but curtly:
"I ask you for forgiveness for not to be pleasant to you, Mister".
I understood very well his attitude, because he could have been in the presence of a Russian spy. So many of them were sent to ours. Myself in his place I would not acted differently. I regretted my step, but it is a quite true proverb: "sinking one clings to a razor blade". While returning, I passed close to the house of Chorodowicz, a doctor, my coachman said to me. I hesitated to enter his place. My coachman told to me that at the front of the doctor's house someone's carriage parked. And whose is this? It belonged to Doctor Kietkiewicz. "What a coincidence.". I said to myself. Since I do not know the owner of the house, his host will be a great help to me. I also thought that Kietkiewicz, after some reflection, had seen that he had acted badly towards me and that he came here purposely to prepare Chorodowicz for my visit and to repair the evil that he did. I thus entered. Undoubtedly they had seen me through the window because, after I hardly entered into the room, a man, about sixty years old, with a long white beard and a certain anxiety in his features of the face appeared before me on the porch. I asked him whether the doctor was at his place.
"It is myself, how can I help you?"
This old man was Chorodowicz.
I said whereas:
"I am sent by Doctor Kietkiewicz, whom I am happy to meet here. He knows me and he will be able to confirm who I am and that what I requested from him."
What that cost me, how much I was ashamed to beg alms. It exceeds all that one can imagine and, however, it had to be done. With sorrow I had finished my request:
"Sir", he said with trembling hands, "leave me from here as fast as possible and do not say to anybody that you came here."
And he waited impatiently until I was outside. Oh! He did not have to repeat it twice. It was enough for me. Even if I had liked it, I would not have been able to squeeze a word from my mouth and, like insane, I fled from his place. If this man had had a little heart, it was impossible that, seeing me in this state, he did not understand that I was not a spy. I did not have any needs to hide what occurred then in me. He could see on my features of the face that what I said was the truth. This mental anguish that they made me endure was all the more painful since it was inflicted to me by myself.
Having experienced by all the means of what we could draw from this embarrassment, we consulted each other in order to decide what to do next. To remain longer in this large city was very dangerous and then we did not have any more food. We had only a few roubles left. It was a dreadful situation. It was thus decided that we would leave the city with the convoy and then, we would continue the road on foot. We would have a too great danger by leaving the city on foot with our bundles on the shoulders. Anyone travelling by carriage could see us. Our Russian companions shared our fate without the least murmur, and even seeing us in a similar embarrassment they gave us the last roubles which they still had. And when we had started again our journey, we felt a relief and even, what can seem odd, we returned to our good mood so prevalent previously. Our decision taken by mutual agreement and the union, which reigned among us, was the cause of this mood. We could not mutually agree before having exhausted all the possible means to leave this distressing situation. We had not succeeded yet. However, there remained in us the hope that God would not give up us. Too worrying about what could happen to us, we rented horses and left the city Ekaterinbourg towards Kungur.
From Ekaterinbourg to Kungur
It could be about 5 P.M. in the afternoon when we left the town of Ekaterinbourg. Time was splendid, the splendid and picturesque surroundings. We slept or sat in deep "bryczka". We took breaks sitting on a rock by the road, smoking our pipes in the middle of our laughter and our jokes. We appeared to be completely happy. It is nothing greater than friendly youths! We did not think any more at what was going to happen to us in the village where we would stop. After two hours of voyage, we arrived in a village. The coachman brought us to one of his friends. There we prepared a samovar and "pro forma" we started to haggle over to have horses. During this time, the man who had brought us left going back where he came from. We, making pretence not be able to hear the price from the owner, we paid him for a tea and, carrying our luggage, we supposedly went on foot from there to seek something for the better price. The peasant claimed that nowhere we can find at less lower price because the food for the horses was too expensive.
"Whereas to get the better price, if we do not find anything here, we prefer outward journey on foot to the close village where we will perhaps arrange a deal."
"Over there, they are the same prices"
"We will see."
We left him. The evening started to fall, we crossed the village, not requiring more for horses, naturally and in this way, we had made a good beginning. We made thus some versts, then we entered in a forest in order to arrange our luggage to carry it with more ease. We attached our parcels with cords to be able to carry them on our back and, after having left all that was not needed, such as old shoes, old man linen, we cut canes and we moved further. The days were hot then but the evenings were fresh and we kept ourselves warm with our furs. We were to walk during the night and to rest during the day. It was the first time for a long time since we were only alone, without witness. We could then speak with complete freedom and we wanted to leave the role that we played and which started to weigh so heavily on us. Oh! How we were delighted with this little of quasi freedom! We spoke however in Russian between us. Walking thus, we could share our thoughts that we were formerly obliged to keep to ourselves. We had already supported each other so we often understood ourselves without speaking. Now we were able to do it aloud. Here, we breathed freely with full lungs. We chattered about our incidents that occurred in Ekaterinbourg. Definitely this city was for us a place of misfortune: with my passage almost a year ago, I had sick Mrs Ostromecka and this time I had not much break there as well. All these events, last and present, were for us subjects for conversation. Then we could dream about our hopes, we could dream about passing the border and to comfort our loved families. They were in sorrow because of us. Oh! We would have liked to have wings to traverse the 1,000 versts which separated us from them, to say to them as fast as possible that we were OK! But alas, all European Russia spread still in front of us because we hardly had just crossed the Ural Mountains, the natural border with Asia. We walked well, quickly, and soon we had traversed ten of versts. We sat down to rest only a little, we smoked a pipe on the way!
We crossed the following village in night. All slept, not a noise was there on the street and the night, though without the moon, was not too black. We were walking and it is certain that our voices carried far, more especially as Jelczyn always laughed attracting the glares of pedestrians. Perhaps awaked by this laughter, an old man looked through a window at the end of the village and asked us where we went.
"Thank you, a nice man for your fine words", our Russians answered him.
"We are travellers."
We left the village. We crossed some travellers on foot and on horse. We met sometimes travellers at rest, sitting close to a fire, surrounded by carriages and with horses feeding in the meadows, with the legs attached by a cord. At the end, our tired legs required rest. We moved towards a wood and there, settling with our parcels under our heads and with covers on us, we fell asleep until the rising of the sun. We would certainly have slept more a long time still, but in the morning, the cold became so prickly that we saw ourselves obliged to carry on our trip to heat us.
For us, being little accustomed to these forced marches, we would have needed a strengthening food, but, what a misfortune, the fast started among Russians, called "pietrowka". Playing a role of Russian peasants, we could not conceal ourselves without the observance of this fast. Up to now we had eaten meat and arranged very well little potions of food as I told higher, but during the fast, the peasants only eat very little and often onions, black bread and "kwas". We found seldom fresh or dried fish. In addition I do not like it much and it is a poor food. It is true that if we had found all that we wanted to eat. We would not have had to pay for it. Our principal food was tea and bread and sometimes we allow ourselves to add milk to it, according to the local customs. We made an enormous fault, true excess. Very often then, and for this reason, it was necessary for us to be deprived of milk. Russians called us "motoczniki", word that, on their premises, had a fading significance, because among Russians, who does not follow others as far as food, it is a true violation of fast. They say even that a murder is more quickly forgiven than the violation of the fast. It is a manner of seeing things through their eyes.
Because of the lack of food and in consequence of tiredness during our steps, our forces gave up us more and more. All became more difficult. Heat also weakened us much because we managed to walk for days, sometimes day, sometimes night, according to possibilities. And because of moral sufferings, which we had endured, were not increasing a provision of physical forces in us. And then the lack usually with this life was much because we noticed that the Russians suffered by no means, from walking or from the change of food. During our walk we had often the occasion to note the resistance of certain type of people under a similar circumstances to ours. We passed travellers on foot with whom we entered in conversation. They were for the majority of the "bohomolec" type who, having made a wish, launched out on a very long voyage, towards a famous place of pilgrimage. Who knows, perhaps, many times, under this pretext a fleeing prisoner of the fine bottom of Siberia hid? Thus those people, going day per day, made 60 to 80 versts per day, not resting more than a post horse (a verst is equivalent to 1.66 km). They thus managed to make 5 to 6,000 versts without being ever rested for a whole day. They go with regular and equal steps like the camels in the Sahara; their legs seem to be a machine which, put in a steady movement, always go and, not know tiredness. The rain, heat, the cold, nor the storm is an obstacle with their functioning. The road either in plain or in mountain is indifferent. Such men always caught up with us and had quickly exceeded us.
We lost our forces each day more. The second day, we could not already make more than 4 versts without rest, without extending our body on the grand for one hour. Our bags seemed increasingly heavy, and when we walked during day, we still had to carry our rolled furs. Our Russians taught us how to roll them very skilfully. We made a roller of it, then joining together the two ends, passed them through us on the back. Obviously, that was more convenient to us, but what a burden to be carried! Mineyko became the weakest from us all. He was plagued with scurvy. This upset him since we could not get the medicine for him that had been necessary for him. I was next. I tired myself more and then Wachowicz came. Russians, as I said it, were the most resistant although, often, they complained about their legs.
Although our parcels appeared heavy to us, we could not decrease the weight. We would not have liked to sell our furs, because it had been difficult to survive without it. The nights were too fresh. But these reasons could not prevail as long as we had enough money to nourish us. We advanced only slowly and our money became exhausted. As we saw it, it would be necessary for us to decide to sell our furs one day, more especially as, at that time, when we met horses on the road. We sometimes got on carriages with a horse in convoy, paying rather expensive for this pleasure. By this means, we advanced more quickly and we rested a little less so that after that we walk more courageously. Oh, as that seemed to us so good to find ourselves on the carriage! Here, an empty cart without a strand of straw appeared more comfortable to us and more pleasant than, formerly, a beautiful crew. But afterwards of such pleasures, the disadvantage of walking was enormous and we could not often avoid going on foot.
We arrived at the village of Bilimbajka about which I already spoke. There, we entered a thatched cottage and we paid to be served with fresh milk. I do not know why host found there nothing wrong with it, perhaps because the house did not have there a man. The women are often more lenient. We died of hunger and they believed that we were exempted from fast because of our situation of travellers. I remember still so well today this sumptuous meal. Milk was cold and appeared excellent to us. The girl of the house being about 15 years old contemplated us with a great interest. Perhaps because of our ways she saw that we were not peasants. I did not forget the beautiful glance of her blue eyes. She was a beautiful child like it had sometimes happened to me to see among the Russians. She was tall, thin, fair with deep eyes split out of almond, her face had a pure oval and nobody was so beautiful, her so pure lines under her percale dress which it could have been used as a model for a Greek statue. Even the belt which went up high on her chest and which disfigures the other Russian women seemed still to make her more similar to the Greek antiques. Her naked feet, which appeared under a skirt enough short, were without defect. By her presence she gave charm to our meal. We were going to leave. While paying, one of us complained about heat, saying that it was painful to walk
"Perhaps you wish to sell your furs", our hostess asked.
"And how much would you give us?" Wachowicz asked, showing his fur that was the best.
"And how much do you want?"
"I would give it for six roubles."
"It is too expensive."
But obviously she liked the fur, because she started to look at it and haggle over. Wachowicz, in addition to his fur, still had an overcoat. Therefore he had decided to sell it. It only had value. After a rather short discussion, the host gave him three roubles and half. This way a little, our funds were still a concern and we left Bilimbajka not walking.
This same day we experienced an annoying history. First of all it should be said that in these trimmings we never met any deserters, although they were here more than elsewhere. There are areas where the peasants receive them even on their premises, and they engage them as workmen or at least deposit food in an agreed place. But here, for their personal security, they avoid the risk. During the day one seldom meet deserters. They hide in the forests and leave only during the night. In the places which where not close to the road, we saw them walking or sitting near a fire. Generally they were called here "brodiagi" and they were extremely numerous. There were, someone says, so many of them in Siberia that one could classify them like population. It happens that these people tackle the passers by, at the stations and as they are in great number, it is a perilous business to catch them. We did not have to fear of them when they are caught up with us, because we had the air too miserable but we run another danger against which our friends from Tomsk, Kongurof and Bielow, warned. In the event of stealing or of assassination made by them, the peasants themselves help the police then and stop whoever appears suspect to them. Formerly, the peasants gave the culprits to the hands of the police. But, today, knowing uselessness for having such recourse, they made justice themselves. The police, for money, often gave the culprits a freedom. The punishment inflicted by the peasants is sometimes terrible, as one can think. The rage leads them to killing the culprits with blows of wheels and not only the culprits but also suspects. The authorities never interfered with that. Therefore in the event of misfortune, if we were taken, can we avoid a terrible death? And with such a number of deserters one could suppose that it had been there many misdeeds of all kinds and, in consequence of that, the search on behalf of the peasants.
While going on foot, we risked even more to be suspected and fall between their hands, as innocent victims. It was necessary for us thus to use as much prudence and to avoid anything which could make us to be noticed and forced us to show our papers. It was a quite risky business for us. While waiting for the worst, what could we do? The night was already advanced. We were going with sorrow on this stony road. We were tired, therefore we were careful only a little. Each one of us plunged in own thoughts advanced in silence. We were together, except Kiszelow who, like always, advanced at a certain distance from us. At this time a carriage from the station with small bells arrived towards us. Kiszelow took a brave idea. He wanted to cling to the carriage at the back, to get a little free ride. He did not think too much about the circumstances. The road being rocky, the noise of him running betrayed him and, at the same moment pointed out us. The coachman believing to deal with "brodiaga" stopped horses. In a wink, he was at the bottom of his seat and fell on Kiszelow. If this last had remained on the spot, he could have explained, saying that he had done it without reflection and he would have no consequences. But, he was frightened. He fled into woods. The coachman decided to leave him alone. However the traveller, German, as we could judge by his language, jumped out of the carriage and wanted to catch the culprit. We had just time to stop him. Kiszelow joined us and it was necessary for us for a long time to explain to the traveller before they left us in peace. The coachman wanted to bind him and take him along to the close village. At this point in time it would have all stopped. Kiszelow while thus sitting behind the carriage could have been wounded because we saw then that the axle postpones were roughcasts reminding large teeth made of iron, which he could not have seen because of the night being so black.
I then would like to say how much we travelled thus, on foot, but sometimes, very seldom, in carriages. We had made half of the road from Ekaterinbourg to Kungur, i.e. 150 versts. We were weakened so much that we could not any more to advance and we could not take any carriages. We could not obtain any money, even by selling our clothing and our linen. Suddenly, we had a brilliant idea: we decided to rent horses until Kungur because, over there, I hoped to find money. After arriving to a village, we started to search horses. We were not long before finding an amateur whom, needing to go to Kungur to the fair to buy salt and flour, agreed to take us along with him. The fair precisely started and we had a pretext for saying that we were workman and that our owners awaited us over there. That made a wonder. He agreed that we would give him 14 roubles. Certainly formalities were required. One of us made a call to the office of the secretary and there, we wrote a contract signed by the two parties. We were to give three roubles in advance and, for more security, papers of one of us were to be given to the person who took us along and who would give them to us back when we arrive at destination. At the half way, we were to give 4 more roubles and, in Kungur, finally, the remainder. He agreed with us to carry out the trip in three days.
These conditions were not accessible to us, but what could we do? Fortunately, we had still remaining three roubles required to pay in advance. We could not say that we would not pay the 4 roubles in the course of road because we did not have money and nobody would have taken us along. Under these circumstances, it was still better do half of the road quietly and, then, as a God permits it the other half. Once on the way, it was for us easier to ensure the total payment at the arrival in Kungur. Soon two carriages with a horse were harnessed. The peasant loaded hay on one of them and we left delighted by our invention. Our coachman, man of about thirty years old, fortunately for us, was neither suspicious, nor malignant. We could thus not fear of him.
With some time from there we had a coachman who caused us many fears. It was then cold and rainy day. We travelled in a "tarantas" covered and completely closed by a cover. Believing that we were in safety and far from the ears of the coachman, we sang popular songs, naturally without words. With the sad sound of these melodies, he guessed who we were and when we ceased singing lighting our pipes, he challenged us in naming us "sir" (Mister). Fortunately, this fact did not have for us any annoying consequence, but that taught us to be more careful.
But the coachman that we had to lead us to Kungur liked to drink more than to reason and it is him, then, who sang to us what passed to him from his head and hardly making any attention to us. We advanced slowly, almost always step by step. When we were tired of sitting, we walked, not having more weight on our shoulders. For the breaks, we stayed in inns where there were always many peasants whom we flee as much as possible, avoiding having with them long conversations and here why. As we approached the government of Wiatka, they could have betrayed us because of our accent that did not resemble that of people of this well-known government for them. And it is in these cases that our Russians were to us of a great help because we met often inhabitants of the government of Wiatka and not knowing neither their accent, their costume, nor their harness, we could have expose ourselves shamefully. Our Russians warned us in advance, spoke for us if it was necessary. Very often, they met friends. We often saw camping. They were volunteers who left to live in Siberia for their own liking and who went away carrying all their estates. A whole moving villages had been often seen. Carriages were generally harnessed with oxen. They had forks and spoons made of barks of birches in a different way according to the needs and the skill of each one of them. We formed on the road like a long chain and men, women and children surrounded us. Since the release of the peasants, those who, like them, worked in a factory and did not have smallholdings, intended to speak about the fertility of the soil in Siberia. The Russian agents propagated these lies. The peasants left towards this Promised Land thinking about finding the wellbeing there. And the unhappy ones were so much indoctrinated by this idea that if it sometimes happened to them to meet on their road of the convoys travelling in opposite direction, ghost of Siberia, with a sad experiences and very disillusioned and ruined, they do not believe them. They wanted nevertheless to be ensured in believing in their good fortune. We passed all along on our road many of them, the ones going full with hope, others returning poor and miserable. As on the first day of our voyage, we had to sell our boots. We did that in hiding-place so that the coachman did not see it and did not suspect the state of our purse. When we ate or drank, we invited our coachman, we offered to him the brandy that he liked so much and he believed in us as much as possible. While acting of this kind with him, we appeared as his friends. He would not claim the payment agreed for the half way, perhaps, by delicacy. He would not blow a word of it before Kungur. We were certain of it when we crossed the magic line. He did not speak about money to us.
Alas! Before setting out again after our second night on the road, he claimed the money. What hard words for us! We started to prove to him that he would be quite content to be paid the whole amount at the same time, because we had only one bill of 50 roubles and which it would be difficult to change here. We thought of calming him with that. But, he said, if you want, I can change it for you. He had with him money for the purchase of salt and the flour. After many tries, when we saw impossibility of drawing us from our predicament, we decided to say to him in this manner:
"We will say you all truth. We are serfs and we are going to Kungur to the fair, called by our owners. On the way, we had misfortune to lose 50 roubles and now, we are without any money. But at destination, we will pay you what we agreed because we will request payment from our owner on our account."
Hearing that, he kept silent, scratched the head obviously, being far from satisfied, but at the end, at once, a happy idea came to him:
"Well, what can I do? Give me papers of one of you and leave."
I gave my papers to him. In this manner he left us, thank you God, without any embarrassment. It seemed to us that we withdrew a heavy stone from the chest and we felt lighter. But we wondered however how that would finish. Because if, by misfortune, my brother was not any more in Kungur or even if he had changed a residence, all our projects would leave us in smoke. The peasant would have the right to denounce us to the police and we would be in a situation worse than before. I then have omitted to say here little more about our Russian companions from the government of Wiatka. They did not know anything about us. They thought that we were Poles condemned to live in Tomsk. They were unaware of our professions and our true names. Up to now we did not have any needs to inform them on this subject. But both of them were sick and they trailed without proper diagnoses for a long time. Then, I said to them that I was a doctor because they did want listen to my suggestions. They were looking after themselves with drugs that a "felczer" had given to them and which did them nothing. I gave them a prescription. I signed it with an unspecified Russian name and they went with it to a pharmacy in Kungur. Before we separated both of them were cured. They were delighted.
We did not travel more than three days before we arrived to Kungur. And we would have spent more time on the trip if I had not thought that it was preferable for me to arrive in the morning. It was a very good hour because I had more chance of finding my brother. During the day I was more likely to meet many people among whom I could have had friends. I knew many living in downtown. I promised therefore to the coachman one rouble moreover if he brought us to Kungur in the morning saying to him that I was likely more to meet our merchants on their premises. He agreed readily and, for the remainder of the trip, he fell asleep on the carriage. We took the reins in our hands and we made so that the sun hardly appeared at the horizon when we were downtown. There, our fate was going to decide. When hardly we got out of our carriage, we stopped in an inn. We asked for a room, and then I left at once taking Jelczyn with me. I left to find my brother. I remembered street and house. I did not dare to enter however there so openly. I preferred to watch surroundings and the street. I tried to find out if he was there. I looked through the rather high windows since the house had a basement. First of all, some things appeared to me be changed. Then, suddenly, I saw in front of a window many tools. This reassured me completely that it was the right place because I remembered that the old man Huwald who lived with my brother was dealing in wood. Happily the front gate was already open. We entered the house quickly, I opened the gate of a room on the right and I found the surgeon Nowicki who slept. He awoke, rubbed the eyes.
"What, is it you doctor?", and he jumped out of the bed.
"Yes, it is me, is Louis at his place?"
"Yes, he sleeps there."
I left Jelczyn and I run to his place. Huwald did not sleep any more. He recognised me at once, but to him I seemed to be in his dream. I shook Louis once, twice. He opened the eyes, looked at me and jumped off his bed.
"From where are you coming?", he exclaimed.
"What does it mean, did you arrive?"
"I flee, and I am here."
I told him that I had come to ask him for the money. He gave me at once 15 roubles that I sent to the coachman by Jelczyn. I remained only a few minutes still fearing to expose my brother. In two words, I told him about my situation, my plans. He gave me all that he had there, 45 roubles, I said good-bye and I left him. All this did not take for me more than 10 minutes. However I still managed to speak about other businesses and especially, I left to my brother addresses, those of Mrs Ostromecka and that of Bielow requesting him to write to them to make them known in the allegorical way that we had arrived to Kungur. They had asked us to write when we left but we could not do it ourselves. I had therefore informed my brother about Mrs Debicka, a wife of Napoleon. I asked him to get information on this subject at the post office. It had to be known if Mrs Debicka had passed through Kungur. We had left her husband in Tomsk in a situation so lamentable that she had to be prevented from travelling farther. She should turn over and come back home. I do not know so far what happened to her and if, by this means, I had prevented that she did not fall over there into one deep misery. I would be very happy if I prevented this disaster. I did not know it, but I had sympathy for them and I deplored their dreadful fate.
Coming back to my business, they told me that when Jelczyn returned so quickly with the money, the coachman could not held any more joy, wanted to embrace the hands and the knees all of them, thanking and ensuring that he had never known such decent people. He said to them that he had completely lost the hope to be paid because, he said, "it would have been so easy for you not to pay me once you arrived at destination." Having heard the report of this moving scene, we started to count the expenses of our voyage. We had our Russians until Kazan. Once we passed this city, we would be nothing any more but three of us. It was necessary for us to have enough money to go to Moscow. Being in Kungur, we could not hope to find some. After having calculated what it would be necessary for us to go in convey to Perm, from there on steamboat until Niznij-Novgorod and, finally, on railroad to Moscow, we realised that by taking very little food, it would be necessary for us, alas, to have 40 more roubles. We had to find them here. I thus wrote some words to my brother and I sent them to him through Jelczyn. He knew nobody in downtown and it seemed natural that he came to my brother for a consultation.
Louis, brave man, had to make many steps to collect this sum and he had said to Jelczyn that I should come at four o'clock afternoon to seek the requested money. At the appointed time, I presented myself at his place. He waited for me at the gate, not being able to invite me to enter at his place. Our interview was quite short. By shaking my hand, he slipped into mine the money that I had to require from him and, shaking my hands with large tears running from his eyes. He excused himself for not being able to receive me at his place, saying to me how much he suffered from it. I thanked him from the bottom of my heart for drawing me from my embarrassment and I promised him that if my business succeed, I would return all this money to him and, on this, I moved away.
Louis had pitied me, believing that all would finish badly. It seemed impossible to him that we can succeed because, he said to me, "in Kungur so many times the escaped prisoners of Siberia had been taken again and what dangers we were still to run beyond this city!" He recommended to us to be very careful.
The thing that was useful to us best was that we arrived to Kungur in time of full fair. There were many people who passed downtown so that we could pass there unperceived. Nobody was astonished by our presence and nobody paid full attention to us. Thus, thanks to the kindness of Louis, we were reassured as for the financial question. We remained in Kungur for a part of the day and, at four o'clock in the afternoon we left. While seeking horses we fell on a peasant from the surroundings from Kungur who, with the help of five roubles, agreed to lead us to Perm, the city distant from Kungur by eleven miles. In the whole world if one pays in advance it is that he must pay at least an instalment. Here, contrary to the common sense, it was the hirer who gave us one rouble to make sure that he would hold his word. We had not asked it from him, being unaware of this custom completely. He had two carriages with a horse. In one, he took along three wives of orthodox priests and in the other we settled and left the city without any incident.
We thought of travelling towards Perm. But hardly we had left the city our peasant said to us that it was necessary for him absolutely to go to his place, at the village about 10 versts from there to change the horses and to take what it was necessary for the road. We left the road and went by a shortcut. The owner was undoubtedly rich. He accepted us, offered tea to us, not wanting to be paid. Before the horses were harnessed, we had time to take a bath and we set out again. The wives of priests shared food between themselves. We had offered to them to take the tea but they refused and kept away. I do not know if they were the first the people of house who realised that we were Poles. We heard snatches of conversation on this subject i.e. the remarks that they did all about us. These remarks had frightened us more especially as before Perm these women were to be with us. But fortunately, they did not say anything in front of us and we set out again without troubles.
The horses seemed good and we thought of reaching Perm in one day or a day and half. But the owner advanced them with the steps of kind that this voyage could last several days. It was close to midnight when we arrived at the first relay. We asked our hirer to lead us more quickly. He did not agree. Indeed, and that had been an error on our share. We ensured him that we were going to pay for the part of the voyage that we had made and that we were going to rent another carriage or to take the post office. We knew that he was going to Perm to seek certain products and that, without us or with us, it was necessary that he would arrive there.
We went to the front of the station of the post office and, while Jelczyn entered there to arrange the deal, I was to pay our coachman. But he claimed that we agreed for sum of 5 roubles and he wanted to frighten me, saying that if we refuse paying it all he would not claim anything moreover, only he would arrive before us to Perm and we could regret it. He was on the point of setting out again. He made me understand that when he would arrive in Perm, he would denounce us as Poles. But at the time I did not realise of the reason for which he was in a hurry to slip by. The reason was the following: here also the free post office existed and he feared to be taken along. And, indeed, when police learned from Jelczyn by which horses we had arrived, the police chief had sent soldiers to stop the peasant. He made noise and, fearing that the peasant would denounce us and although he made a threat of troubles for us in Perm, I gave him five roubles. We set out again. He did not wait a moment, whipped his horses and fled the village. The agents were furious that he had escaped them and Jelczyn was sulky and shouted at me because I had given him five rouble without need. That put me in rage more especially as there I could give him the reasons that had pushed me with giving him the money. All my efforts were used for nothing. I then seized him by the hand and with such force that I almost broke him so that he kept silent but he was such an imbecile that he did not understand anything. Fortunately that it became completely the night and that no one could distinguish our features and read on my face what occurred in me.
Then, having taken our parcels, we went to the station. Jelczyn entered there to pay our places and we remained on the front porch waiting for the horses. For five of us the clerk wanted absolutely to make us to take five horses basing on received commands. But finally, after long debates and noting the little of luggage that we had, he agreed to give us four horses.
This road to Perm was expensive for us. The day started to come up when the horses advanced and, when we went up on carriage, a convoy of ours, surrounded by gendarmes, arrived in front of the post office in carriages. The attention of all went to them and we started, led by a Tartar coachman. Until Perm, none incident occurred. We advanced quickly, we crossed or we joined carriages with postman ("jeniszczyk") who run in gallop, in spite of strict prohibition to exceed the others on the roads.
Perm, Kazan and Niznij-Novgorod
We arrived at Perm on June 6, 1865 at 10 o'clock in the morning. Having learned on the way that the steamboat was leaving Perm at this hour, we went there directly. After having shown our papers, a clerk gave us tickets of 3rd class, three for Niznij-Novgorod and two for Kazan where our Russians separated from us. No one made any difficulties for us. No one asked us anything. No one checked our parcels, or us. But it appeared that, some time after our passage to Perm, the things did not occur any more in a kind way and even 17 people were stopped and among them two Poles. The poor victims!
Our places were on the bridge. We were sheltered there by a roof and we had banks to sit along on the boat. It was 3rd class. We took our places and, in order to speak to nobody, we spread ourselves on the banks and made pretence to sleep. Actually, as long as the steamboat had not left, we were too anxious to sleep, although we did not close the eyes on the previous night and we were tired enough. Initially, we were alone on the boat but soon many arrived, an employee with wife, merchant, peasant, and fellow travellers with their caps with stars and of the ladies in toilet. The company was numerous. Finally the steamboat whistled and, leaving the bank, it left very quickly according to the river course. It was soft for us to think that we were then about 2,000 versts from Tomsk!
We had not made half of the road yet, but now we were going to find steamboats and railroads that would lead us more quickly and more easily. There was a lunchroom on the boat. We could have eaten there, but it was necessary to remain in the role of peasants whom we had adopted. Mineyko did not feel quite well. I also suffered much. We were all weakened. However, we had to be satisfied with tea and wheat bread. In order to avoid the scurvy we bought lemons to put in our tea, those not being very expensive and we ate green onions with bread. Then, having seen peasants taking tea with milk, we were happy of being able to use it because the fast, for our misfortune, was not finished yet.
Among our fellow travellers, we had a brave man, ordinance of officer, who went from his place on leave. We invited him to take the tea with us because he was a poor boy although he was rather well behaved and he had good and honest figure. When he asked us from where we were, we answered that we came from our premises and that we went to Petersbourg called by our lord Ponomarof, who served there as the guard. He knew Petersbourg and he said that he knew him well too. In this way, we had a subject for conversation. He did not suspect anything on our subject. At the end, he asked us to go and see his uncle in Petersbourg, and who lived close to the bridge of Kukopuchkine, in the house of Wornin. We would have only to say to him that we came to give him a hello on behalf of Gregoire. This recommendation was very pleasant for us and we promised for him to make this as a useful visit for us. He still said to us that his uncle was known in the house because he was there for a long time as tapestry maker with a very good reputation.
Wachowicz as always could not retain his language under control and, chattering with one and with the other, lined himself one day in a very risky conversation with a merchant. The merchant could take him for an unfitted liar. Misfortune wanted that this merchant knew Tomsk perfectly as well as he was the richest merchant of this city. The conversation, started by Wachowicz, continued in these terms:
"From which city do you come from?", the merchant asked.
"What made you come over there?"
"Me, I was a merchant and, now, I am in St Petersbourg in my military service."
"With which merchant were you in Tomsk?"
Coming to that point Wachowicz realised that the merchant knew Tomsk and it meant that it was necessary to be careful. "With Totkraczef."
"What does he sell now?", the merchant asked, who could have known that he had a glassmaking business and he did not deal with nothing other.
Wachowicz not losing his face answered: "He had a fabric store." He quoted these words which he had heard but of which he did not understand the significance.
The merchant sought to open the Pandora box in front of his face and asked him this question: "What kinds of goods did he sell?"
Here Wachowicz lost his capacity and he could not answer. He started, drawing an embarrassment, to beat the bushes, very awkwardly, bringing the conversation to another subject, saying that this merchant had experienced a great loss of money, that he had found a quantity of counterfeit bills in his safe, which brought to him the bankruptcy today, etc. But the merchant answered nothing any more. He did not raise any more other questions. Only, he started to observe him with a strange expression, while Wachowicz spoke. He appeared curious and, listening to his foreign accent perhaps he did not recognised it too well. Perhaps he did not realise who Wachowicz was. As far as I was concerned, I would believe rather than he did not want to benefit from his discovery. We had very strong accent while speaking Russian and Wachowicz had pronounced it even more than us.
During the day we had neither too much heat, nor too much cold, but the nights were wet and cold and we did not have any more anything to cover us with clothing that we had at the beginning of the voyage. One night, the rain started to fall. It was a torrent and as it arrived straight on us. We were soaked to the bones, although we had a roof over our heads. We advanced quickly, because we followed the course of the river, but in spite of that the hours passed very slowly for us. Under the relative freedom, nights were quite painful because of the cold. However they were preferable for us because all rested around us. And then, thus, without light, we could throw the mask a little that we must have during the day.
On the third day, we arrived to Kazan, the city where we were to separate from our Russian comrades. The steamboat stopped for one hour at quay. Therefore we drank all together tea. We gave a few roubles to our Russians, because they did not have anything. We thanked them with shaking the hands for all that they had done for us. They also thanked us for having brought them here on our expenses and they thank me for having cured them. We embraced ourselves in saying good-bye. We did not have to regret confidence that we trusted in them, God thank you. In taking them with us, we ran risks because we knew very little both of them. We knew it only on the way. In leaving us, we were sure that they would not say anything to anybody. Besides they understood for themselves that they had been compromised. On the way, they had had some reservations towards Wachowicz, but at the end all was forgotten and we separated in good mood. They were grateful as much as possible for all that we had made for them.
We spent two more days on the steamboat before arriving to Niznij-Novgorod. No incident occurred during this time. We reached this city on June 11. We went downtown from the steamboat without being questioned, being challenged. The clerk asked for our tickets on the boat. To take the line to Moscow, it was necessary for us to follow the quay rather far and there, to make a transfer to the other bank. We travelled by a carriage and, for one kopeck anybody could pass us to the other bank. From there, we had still a bit to walk to reach the station. As we were with several people from the boat, we rented a whole cart and we arrived thus at the station. It was necessary to wait for the departure of the train for a long time. It was midday and the train was leaving at 6 o'clock. Benefiting from this time, Wachowicz and Mineyko went to eat to a bar. I went initially to the river, to wash the linen that I had on me. I bathed there and washed myself completely. It was the second time only since my escape. I returned towards my comrades. I urged them to do as I did. The day was beautiful and hot. The bath refreshed us. The small glass of vodka and the lunch more nutritious than usually put us in good form. I also went to lunch in the bar while my comrades bathed. But what gave us especially courage, it was the hope and perhaps even, sometimes, a certain feeling that since up to now the chance had smiled at us. God would allow our escape, started without hope of success, finishes fortunately. It was with similar provisions that we took seats in the coaches that were to carry us towards Moscow.
It takes fourteen hours of voyage from Niznij-Novgorod to Moscow. We arrived the next morning without incident to the capital of Tsars. It rained. Having taken our parcels, we left the station, without us to be rubbed by the gendarmes, who are always crowded in the stations of Russia, and we moved towards the city. First of all, we went on foot, but as the rain redoubled, we took a hackney carriage (prolotka). We had several addresses in Moscow, but we could not go there right away. We almost did not know the hotels. I remembered the Paris Hotel, from times when I had come to Moscow, and which was located at the street Tiverska and it was there that we went. Here began for us a series of incidents that for us made the impression similar to a man, having crossed a long distance, he sees himself sinking while arriving at the port. Coming to the hotel Paris, I knew that it was one of the most expensive although I never stayed there. Thinking that we would remain a little time in Moscow, I preferred to pay expensive price and to have a room. I was sure that we would be received, our costume of peasants would pass provided that we pay. But I was mistaken. Only when we entered the threshold of the hotel, the caretaker looked at my wet coat and my boots full of mud and required from me what I wished.
"To rent one room", I answered.
"Here is not your place", he said to me abruptly.
"If you want a room, seek an inn."
I did not have anything to answer, if not to ask him where were one of them in these trimmings.
"There is here one near our place."
At the bottom of my heart, it appeared natural to me that they did not want to receive us. We went to the suggested place. When we arrived at the front gate, we left Mineyko in the carriage and with Wachowicz I entered into the inn. The owner was not there. Someone said to us that he was in a small shop close to the post office. We went there and when we asked him to place us in his inn, he measured us from feet to the head:
"Who are you, from where are coming? Because according to my mind and your accent, I believe that you are Poles."
A beginning was great. What a blow of bludgeon for us! By miracle, we managed to smile and to answer him that if he wants to look at our papers he will see who we are. We were lucky. He had a little interest in it. It was clear like the day that, by prudence, we should not remain in this house where the owner had recognised us so well. But in order not to show it, we could not go away from this situation. We asked to see the rooms. He showed us a small room, with a bed, already occupied by a traveller. Moreover the partition, which separated it from the apartment of the landlord, did not reach the ceiling; being attached to it only by slats of wood as it is the use in the poor residences of Moscow. To have with us a foreigner and, moreover this partition, that was enough for us to prevent from renting this room. The more so as we were to remake our papers here. Not to mention the suspicion which weighed on us! We asked the price however; we haggled over as somebody who would like absolutely to remain here, but we purposely offered so low price that it could not yield a deal for us. Then we moved away frightened to two other different places. We then asked our coachman if he does not know another inn not far from the street Tiverska. We wanted this district because it was there that we must see various people. He led us to the end of the street that was called Tiverska Jamska. There we found a room on the floor, rather large, clean and separate from the other rooms by a full partition. The price was agreed at 40 kopecks per day, then we paid the coachman and we settled. Happy, if one can say, to be in safety here.
We brought the samovar and, during this time, Mineyko taking a cardigan and, having dropped his trousers on his boots, left going to downtown. He went to find the people that someone had indicated to us, because we could not survive any more. Roubles given by my brother were gone. There remained nothing any more than 5 or 6 of them. As far as me, I run to the shops in order to buy feathers, ink and paper, to copy and make new papers for us. I returned and, in the staircase, I crossed a peasant whom I had already seen at the landlord's. He stopped me, asked me who I was, from where I came and I noticed that he measured me from feet to the head. That gave me cold feeling in the heart more especially as I had not returned yet from my shopping to the inn. I went up to the room and Wachowicz let me known that the owner had asked him for his papers and that he had answered him that it was me who had them. Having thus taken our papers of three of us, I carried them to him in order to show them. His room was near ours. I found there, in addition to the landlord, a young man in a cardigan and a woman occupied with sewing close to the window. Probably she was a wife of the owner, who was 60 years old. I passed papers to him. He took them in hands, but obviously he could not read because he handed them to the young man to examine them and, turning to me, he asked me why my papers were on a simple paper. I explained to him why and, then, after having read them, he examined the seals then returned them to me without saying a word. I believed that all was lost when I saw the young man, but he had been called only to read papers. All became again calm and quiet. Wachowicz lay down on the settee and I prepared to copy our papers, when I heard behind the partition an increasingly strong conversation. I said to Wachowicz that it seemed to me that it was about us there. We listened to the conversation. But it was difficult to understand, because the landlord, not having his teeth, spoke very badly. We could not distinctly hear his words. I realised however that he was drunk and that he spoke to his wife who calmed him by these words:
But he did not stop. He packed more and more and shouted more extremely. I tightened the ear towards the closed gate that was between our two rooms and I heard these words: "Yes", it appeared to me,
"How they dared to undertake a campaign against a White Tsar."
There was no more possible doubt; they knew that we were Polish. Our rest did not last long. We saw that a new storm was prepared for us and, perhaps, our loss. The landlord, drunk, precipitates to our room and shouted:
"Get out immediately."
"What did happened to you?" - our answer was.
"I do not want to listen to you, get out!"
"How can you drive out us since we agreed to live here; we have our papers and which you have seen and how do you treat us?"
"Would like to feel sorry more when you have to explain yourself to the police? I do not want that you remain here in my place."
"We either do not wish to be at a man like you. But we cannot leave right now, because our comrade, the third one, left to downtown. When he is back, we will go from here on our own."
"Are you three of you?" He was so drunk that he had forgotten not only to see three of us, but also to have under his eye papers of three people.
"You just have seen three of us here?"
But as soon as he entered, he left. And where do we go now? Mystery and misfortune, Mineyko was missed and we must wait for him, because how he could find us if we leave without him. We scratched our heads on what we were going to do. So many times, we had overcome the embarrassment! But here it was the third place from where we were driven out and we did not have any more money to go further! Dreadful situation! We were on toes and, all the time we looked through the window to see whether Mineyko was able to save us from here as fast as possible. We were hoping if it was possible to go further. Each minute seemed one hour to us. We choked with the anguish. Suddenly, the owner returned to our premises with fury.
"Get out immediately", he shouted.
"What happened again to you, our comrade is not back yet, we will not demolish the partitions."
"What makes me crazy!"
"Yes, why cannot you take it any more?"
"Yes, I cannot understand how you dared to undertake a campaign against our Tsar. Yes, how you dared!"
"That is what you think about us. We are faithful subjects of our Tsar like you. We are orthodox like you and even perhaps better than you."
"I do not believe you. I cannot understand it", he was shouting at us while carrying his finger in front of his face. "Not, I do not want to receive neither money from you, nor nothing, but leave, leave at this moment."
We saw that we could not resist more, that all in the house could hear these cries and the police would have to interfere. With their involvement all of us would be finished.
"What to do, since you are insane; we leave, here the money for the tea."
We collected in one moment all our belongings and, having our bags on the shoulders, while he still was shouting, we stopped in front of the icon which hung on the wall in the corner of the room and praying several times like the orthodox does, we left. It put the landlord in a dreadful fury. He would have continued his cries on the street, if his wife had not retained him by the force, fearing a scandal considering that her husband was drunk like a pig. It was time for us to save us because other guests started to arrive and I asked even a woman:
"Is he always in this state of rage?"
She looked at us without answering. We did not have any other choice than to slip to the street, not knowing on which side to go. Fortunately that nobody followed us, because we would have been lost. It had been enough to shout that we were deserters or other thing, to draw any agent's attention to us and we would have been arrested and lost. Thank you God, it was still very early and the rain that fell prevented from being outside. Happily, we turned right and we met Mineyko. Lastly, we breathed out a sigh of relief by seeing him. At least we were all three as one unit. Thus our life was due only by one wire; we had once again left a danger zone. How could we find friends? Where to turn over us at that time? Oh! We encountered more difficulties there than we had during our trip. We told Mineyko in two words about our adventure and asked him what to do. Alas, over there either they cannot receive us (at the place where he went). However they gave us only 15 roubles so that we had to leave immediately to Saint Petersbourg. That appeared impossible to us, because again our papers were not ready and we cannot show that we came from Tomsk. It was our unquestionable loss. In spite of all that, we decided to try again a chance and to take a room in the hotel not far from the station towards St Petersbourg. If one refused us to take there, we would be constrained to leave further.
We travelled by a hackney carriage and, with a great astonishment, the owner accepted us without any problems. Then, we locked the room with the key and we started to manufacture our papers. I successfully created a wonder. Then, I burned our old papers and I broke the old. I created a new one. In this hotel, nobody asked us who we were and from where we came. We did not see even anyone. Only the servant brought the samovar to us. The hotel was not expensive. It accepted there, I believe, of the people similar to us. Here, I wrote a prescription for Mineyko and we sent the servant to pharmacy. I had put an old date on the prescription, naturally, and I had written it on an old paper so that it appeared quite old. The servant soon brought the drug. After having arranged our business we slept needing good rest after so much of sufferings. The following day, at 2 o'clock in the afternoon, we took our parcels and we went to the station for St Petersbourg. Never since the beginning of our escape we had doubted ourselves like today. Twice in so little time we had been recognised, therefore we thought unceasingly of that and we previously thought that no one could recognise us. Therefore it was our worry when someone took a seat close to us in our coach. He was a young person, who bidding his farewell to his comrades, who were held at the door. He told to them these words:
"Oh! I am happy finally to be able to leave. Here are three years since I was not in Minsk!" (He was a son of priest so that it appeared to me).
"We also envy you."
"As all is changed in a so short lapse of time. Thank you God, today all is different from the previous time. All is so beautiful, now everywhere reign the command thanks to the anger of Mouravief. His achievements of the commands of the Government are great. I congratulate the Government on this state of affairs, especially in his way of driving out these robbers of horses."
According to these words we understood with whom we would deal. And our fear was greater since knowing the region from where we were and perhaps even the Polish language. He more easily than anyone could see that we were Poles by our features and our accent. We travelled all the time with him at our sides, but fortunately, during all the way, he did not try to maintain with us his conversation and he did not even make a remark. He thus lost a beautiful occasion to show his zeal towards his Tsar and he had regretted it well if he had known who we were. I then have to say that I am sure of that because, in dealing with other people on our way, I could see what they were capable those faithful servants of the Tsar. The blood poured from ours would delight him. He would have been happy to see unobtrusive Poland on the surface of the ground and all its inhabitants massacred using the bracket, the whip and prisons. A similar man did not have certainly any pity for us. Fortunately that his pride coincided with unbalanced personality. He was blinded without any respect for us and nothing annoying arrived to us. We travelled a whole day before we arrived to St Petersbourg. We had not said a word during all this time. The sorrow was gone. We were gone down from the coach several times. Nobody recognised us. The trip was uneventful.
At two o'clock in the afternoon, we were in St Petersbourg, a memorable day for me: June 14, 1865. Here finished for us our voyage through Siberia and Russia. A new phase opened for us with the new and various incidents.
Our voyage from Tomsk to St Petersbourg had not lasted more than one month. For us, it was a lifetime. A month of happiness and month of torment! What a contrast! One slips by similar to the moment. For the others it seems one year!
How long, previously, a month ran without realising anything, in the middle of the family, between friends, under the paternal roof; months of holidays for example: how they ran out quickly and as I was happy! Here, only one month had been enough to change me in unrecognisable person. At 27 years, my hair started to go grey. I was thin, pale. I looked as after a serious illness, my body arched. My inserted eyes, the smile, and serenity had fled my face and all that had been done in the one-month. It is true that our martyrdom lasted much longer than a month because this month full with episodes still had an epilogue not less hard. It was during my stay in St Petersbourg. It is obvious that the beginning and the trip were the most terrible. As soon as we got out of coach and before we decided where to go, someone had offered rooms to be rented. He slipped a printed leaflet into our hands and took us along.
Not far from the station, at 4th or 5th stage, was the room where this man led us. It was very accurate because it was without sign where there was a room for renting, in which we could eat and in which we found already installed two individuals, the railroad workers who looked at us with curiosity. The room was not expensive, but we had too many witnesses. We requested from the owner to yield to us, for one day, his own room where he lived with his daughter, a person 20 years old. He agreed readily and there, we were very satisfied. Having eaten a little, Mineyko went downtown with the addresses that someone had indicated to us. By a fortunate coincidence, that was not far from the place where we were so that Mineyko was not long returning and bringing three other different passports to us, answering our needs on all points. Up to now, no one had asked us neither who we were, nor from where we came. So these passports were useful to us. My passport, for example, was in the name of a noble from the district of Kobrynsk in the government of Grodno. The person was the same age as me and the description answered so much my appearance that I could be completely quiet. However, this passport was false and was not stamped on all sides what required for each newcomer at that time. By an odd coincidence, the only difference that existed between this person and me was that he had had the broken left front arm.
Our passports were magic, because we could speak in Polish. Anyone would not have been astonished, but we preferred not to test it. Mineyko also told us that, soon we were going to be placed in sure place. He at once recommended to us to be held ready to leave from here as soon as he would be back. At that time, it was difficult to slip into a house and to hide there, because the caretakers had received command from the police to watch guests. Since the fires in the city, appeared, the dangerous newcomers were feared so much that with the slightest warning the police exaggerated its investigations and the secret police lined its nose everywhere.
In the whole world one knows that the Russian police is made up exclusively of the scum of society and their conduct code is the lowest kind possible. But on their premises, there is a thing that touches them more and by what one can gain them, it is the money. Often when the police arrest people it is possible to escape from the difficulty bribing them. The police efficiency is limited by sensitivity of their members for money. More than once during the time of our stay in St Petersbourg we had the proof of it. At the end of one hour, Mineyko returned and carried with him all paper work required to facilitate us. Without parcel we could pass for people of the city. As for him, it was summer. So walking without our luggage was not to draw the attention of the caretaker. When he returned, he was accompanied by one of our guards, a man of very big size. He remained in the staircase and waited there for us. I left with Mineyko and he presented me to a newcomer. Longin (his name) said to me that we have to bring Wachowicz to him at once, that he would wait for us on the street, then he would take a hackney carriage. He recommended to us to follow his hackney carriage, going where he would go. The path was tortuous. He could not give us other explanations. He said to us to make stop our hackney carriage where he would stop and we entered behind him the house. Mineyko started from his side. In one moment, we paid the owner who took from us a very expensive price and when I made some comments to him, he justified himself by telling me that he had just buried his wife and that he had had so big expenditure. He asked us not to be upset with him for a very high price that he took from us. A rather original turning, but he sounded so sincere in front of us. I paid the claimed sum. In addition to thanks he crossed himself in front of the icon. Having left, we did what had been recommended to us. Unfortunately, our horse was better than that of Longin. It was necessary for us to slow our coachman down. We made a long way, turning right, turning several times on the left to arrive at the house where Longin went.
I had on me the old cardigan of Wachowicz, a red shirt, and boots going up on my trousers and a cap on the head. Wachowicz had his fur. We saw Longin stopping and entering a house. But he had to wait for us long enough because, at the time of paying our coachman, we missed two or three kopecks. We turned over all our pockets, but we did not find anything. Seeing that, our coachman did not claim them, fortunately for us, but we had wasted time. We entered the house. Longin waited for us in the staircase. Hardly he had had time to say to me to remain on the street, because here he could place only one of us. The caretaker entered noisily, asking who we were and what we wished. I hastened to excuse me, saying that I only accompanied others and I went away. I left very anxious asking myself what was going to them. I remained on the street few meters further. My concern became increasingly overwhelming when at the end of 45 minutes, Longin did not return yet towards me. During all this time, I walked on the pavement; I could not move away. And I feared to draw the attention to me more especially as the caretaker was not held far from me. I saw suddenly a group of people in front of the house and one policeman. I believed that they had been decrees against it. But crowd dispersed, the street became calm, the day started to fall. I was cold, because I had a light coat and still I could not see Longin. And what would I become if a misfortune had happened to them? I did not have a kopeck in my pocket, I did not know anybody, I did not have any address, what would I do? I remembered suddenly that I had in my pocket two passports, because I had not destroyed my old one yet. If someone had found that I had these two passports, it had been enough to lose me. To cure that, I took out my old passport from my pocket and supporting it on the parapet that bordered with the river Fontanka, I tore it in thousand pieces. And I threw them into water skilfully in order not to point out myself. After that, I started to think what I was to do, when with my great joy, I saw a grey beard and black glasses. It was Longin! I asked him why he had remained for so long time over there. Longin answered:
"If we had been well equipped, the caretaker would not ask us any questions. He would have thought that we were people of the city and that we came to make a visit. But by seeing the unhappy ones like you, he remembered what was his duty and he asked us as you heard to whom we came and what we wish. Then I said to him that I knew that in this house, someone rented rooms. Wait a second, nobody wants a room to rent, caretaker answered me."
I headed up, at the end we climbed. The caretaker, furious, sought the owner of the house who, happily, knew a little Longin. Ignacy Laskowski had hidden for some time in this house and the owner knew it. Longin made him understand that the person whom he brought with him was similar to Laskowski. "Does he have papers?" he asked. "Naturally that yes", I answered him. It was not a question of housing because, indeed, there was a room to rent, which the caretaker was unaware of. The owner put the caretaker at his place. The owner went with Longin and Wachowicz to make sure that authorities could accept him. Such was the cause of Longin's long absence. The crowd in front of the house came from an argument in a cabaret located at the ground floor of the house and the police had had to intervene. Lastly, three of us were already put. However, I was going stay somewhere else. Without wasting time, we left towards the place where I was to live. We crossed the river Fontanka on a vat then we travelled by a carriage. In order to resemble the other men more, I made my trousers to fall on my boots. I put up the collar of the cardigan to hide my red shirt. We made a half-verst because it was beyond the Neva at the other end of the city. The hour was late when we arrived but, at that time, the nights in St Petersbourg were almost as clear as the day. Most people were on the street. Longin offered a cigarette to me. I learned from him that authorities forbid smoking on the streets by fear of the fires in two capitals. Travelling, we could not speak about fear to be heard by the coachman. We stopped at the street Nikoska. We went down not far from the house where we were going. Longin gave me his cardigan so that I had a more presentable air. We entered. Nobody was in the court. On right-hand side, there was a small house without stage into which we entered, further we saw a small garden with trees and, behind, another house much larger. In the hall, Longin asked a woman if Mrs Hussakowska was present here. She indicated a gate to us and, after one moment, I was installed. The housewife went away. Only her sister was there, a very old person. These ladies did not have a servant. Then Longin having recommended me to this lady and having given me a few roubles for my expenditure, said to me good-bye, promising me to meet me again the next day. I had not suspected that I would be in a Polish house. I was delighted. Mrs Hussakowska was a widow. She had two girls of which one finished her studies. She was a teacher in Rewla. Youngest finished her school year and was to return the following day with her mother and was to spend all her holidays here. The sister of Mrs Hussakowska was also a widow. At once, when Longin had left, the good aunt, as we called her always thereafter, gave me something to eat. Then she made a bed for me. I went to rest. For a long time, I had not had similar joy. I was quiet and as it seemed to me, completely in safety and in a good hot bed. I slept all the night like a deaf person, having beautiful dreams.
The people who were interested in helping in our cause were entirely devoted. They lived under false names in St Petersbourg and, often, had forged identity papers manufacturing them by themselves. They all were compromised like us. Our country paid all expenses. Our guards were not numerous. I met only some of them hardly. But each one of them was knowledgeable in his business. Their personal contacts helped level many difficulties of all kinds and they were able to get information from the authorities about all that mattered to us. In this way, no provision appeared either officially, or quasi-officially, which they could not be informed at right time. The principal leader, on whom the organisation depended, was located at downtown. He maintained constant correspondence between Moscow, Siberia, the country and abroad. He was called Mr Stanislaw. We did not know his true name; he was 32 years old hardly. The second one, not less active, was Longin, about whom I already spoke before. He was Ukrainian, a former lancer in the Russian army. He was still a young man. He lived in St Petersbourg under the false name and made living by giving lessons. He knew Polish as well as Russian. In addition to these two people, our guards, I met here several other people, but as they did not take such an active share with what concerned us, I will not speak about them.
I will say only that: us and all others, who hid then in St Petersbourg under false names and with forged identity papers, were generally called "spirits". Thus when we said that three "spirits" had arrived from Tomsk everyone knew what we wanted to say. This denomination was not only convention but it expressed well our condition. I was called "spirit", but wasn't I free like such? Today, I was this one, tomorrow that one, one day I was Russian, later German, who knows what else! It seemed that I did not belong to any race, any nation, to any family. One month ago, I was in Siberia, today in St Petersbourg and soon in America, perhaps. Ever limited by any human law, because I escaped from it in such a manner. Only a "spirit" could be so free, detached from all, it was a new metamorphosis. We knew little about the past of Mr Stanislaw. We knew only that he was originating from Wilno. He had taken his share in the insurrection and the leadership had entrusted to him the difficult mission that he filled in St Petersbourg. Previously, he had been in Riga from where he had saved many ours before arriving to St Petersbourg. We were the first escaped prisoners of Siberia with whom he had occupied himself.
Warsaw had sent Longin here with a very eulogistic recommendation. This good man, who still served in the regular army, gave a lot of evidence of devotion to our cause while exposing himself. This difficult situation obliged him at the end to take off the military dress to hide under a false name. I will quote some features of his beautiful conduct. Being a soldier, he was often sent as the head of a squadron to proceed house searches, or to stop the fugitive or even to seek weapons, papers, etc. As soon as he had received an order and generally during the night, he ran as fast as possible to one of us so that someone immediately could prevent the unhappy ones from the arrest, those whom were going to be searched. Then he arranged the delay of his departure as much as possible in order to leave the poor people time to arrange whatever was possible before his arrival. One day, his superiors gave him the command to seize Tangut. He warned him at once and Tangut fled immediately. It was necessary to proceed the searching as strictly as possible, more especially as authorities gave him some Cossacks with an officer at their head. This animal-officer of Cossacks did not leave him during the searching. To get rid of him one day, Longin, while he was searching himself the parts of the house, sent him to search in the barns, hoping that this would move him away from him for a time. But this Cossack, curious to know what Longin could find in the house and preferred obtaining cash in the rooms than in the cattle sheds, dispatched his searching very quickly and came back before Longin had finished his work. If Longin had been only with his soldiers who knew him well and liked him, he could have drawn easily each one from these situations, but with a similar witness, it was hardly possible. Longin was even more anxious. When directing towards a certain part of the house he saw the owner displaying a desperate expression on her face. He suspected that there was to be something hidden there. It came to him a happy idea. He charged the officer of Cossacks with remaking the searching in the other parts of the house that he had just made. He asked him to report the results of the search. At that time, he remained where he was. He remained only with the owner. He said to her openly that he suspected that in this room was something and which if she wanted to avoid a misfortune, she had to give the object to him immediately. It was for her the only gate of survival. This lady did not know it by any means. She did not understand anything from his request. She hesitated for one moment, but having looked in the eyes, she realised that she did not have business with a traitor. She thus decided at once to take a revolver from a drawer and she gave it to him. In its haste with making everything to disappear, she had forgotten about the revolver in a drawer.
"Do you have anything more?" he asked.
"Now you can relax, Madam."
The searching was completed fortunately and nothing was found. When the soldiers and the officer of Cossacks had left, Longin remained alone one moment in a room in order to return the revolver. The owner was not then in this part of the house. The owner did not know anything of what had occurred. Longin took out the revolver from his pocket and tended towards him while saying what happened. But the owner moved back, not understanding anything and did not want to take it back. Longin lined, then, and put the revolver under a pillow of the bed while recommending to hide it better another time.
Here is an another episode, even more interesting. One day, an enormous bundle of papers coming to General Kruk-Heidenreich fell between his hands from the Russians. There were all kinds of receipts, writings, and correspondences being able to compromise large number of people. Someone had sent these papers from Warsaw and had entrusted to a Russian General the responsibility to examine them. It was known that all these papers were there, but how to seize them? Longin, hearing about that had an idea and said that, in one hour all these papers would be between his hands. He put on a uniform of dragons, and knowing that the General lived only with an ordinance and that evening, he went away to play cards, he went to the General. He knew the ordinance:
"Is the General at his place?"
"He is away, he went there and there, your Excellence."
"Here take one rouble, take a hackney carriage and as fast as possible run to find the General. Say to him that an officer immediately asks for an audience for an urgent business. I will remain here to wait for him."
The ordinance left to do what Longin ordered him, hardly suspecting what was going to occur. Longin entered the close room. He saw pieces of furniture. He opened the cabinet of the General. He looked around. He saw a box and a table with drawer. The drawer had contained all famous papers. He inserted between the drawer and the table an iron bar that he had brought in his pocket. At once, the boards yielded and he found, happily, all that he sought. Having collected in haste all papers, he lined them under his arm. Then he put on a large coat and fled to the street. Not one of papers of General Kruk remained and a hundred people were thus saved. The Russians were alerted when they learned who had arrived. The General suspected at once his ordinance of being accessory to the flight. The police dragged the poor boy in front of the courts and it was only after a long time when they realised finally that he had been victim of conspiracy. No one ever could find the author of this daring flight, because no officer of dragons answered the description given by the ordinance. Longin had risked his life if he would have been discovered. He would certainly have been condemned to death.
Meeting many people in the area where we lived for one month and half, I trusted some of them and spoke to them about my situation and I listened to advice.
In order for us to be independent as much as possible, Mr Stanislaw had rented a house which was already furnished and which had an entrance directly from the street. This apartment was at the ground floor in an enormous house. The cabin of the gatekeeper was at the end of a large court. In this way, the people who came to Mr Stanislaw were not exposed to meet the gatekeeper and it was the main thing. This apartment had been rented in the name of Karpinski, a conductor of the railroad between St Petersbourg and Warsaw. Karpinski was a very good boy. They had made a woman and a young lady, Anna, to come from Warsaw. Both of them dealt with the maintenance of the house. These two people, only, had been declared with the police although in addition to Mr Stanislaw who remained all the time he had there always some "spirits". Usually they remained there until he had found for them another shelter. In this private apartment, the gatekeeper did not have any reason to come there and did not dare to penetrate there. If he had something to say, he entered only to the kitchen, which come out to the court. He was unaware completely what occurred in the other parts of the apartment. The apartment was composed of four rooms.
Therefore there was enough room to hide and the windows towards the street had curtains. This apartment was about three versts from the place about which I will speak now and where Longin had brought me. Shortly after my installation, Mrs Hussakowska and her daughter arrived. They yielded one of their rooms where I was to remain hidden for a whole week, with the drawn curtains and where I could not even walk at ease. Below me remained the gatekeeper. If he had heard the sound of steps of men in a house where there were only women, he would require my passport.
Mr. Stanislaw had recommended to me to wait a little before moving around freely. The following day, Longin saw me, brought my belongings and my overcoat and then Mr Stanislaw came whom I saw for the first time. Before I had other papers, a whole week passed during which I was bored enormously. Lastly, I was given four months for leaving country under the name of employee Wasilenko (Urainian), from Moscow. However reporting myself to the police, it was necessary me to play a comedy. One evening, benefiting from the fact that nobody was outside, I ran away myself, and I went to Mr Stanislaw who gave me his address. I spent the night at his place and the following day equipped with clothing of Mr Stanislaw and completely shaved and with glasses, I returned to Mrs Hussakowska. I found, according to what had been agreed, on the gate a sign announcing that she had a room to rent. I came there and as others did, I entered the gatekeeper and asked him to visit the rooms. He showed me one, but I found it too small and told him that I would return the following day if I could not find anything better. Actually, I wanted to inform my guards about the reason why the sign of Mrs Hussakowska was not indicated. The cause was that the gatekeeper made her difficulties saying that she wanted to rent room illegally. The following day, I returned and in the presence of the gatekeeper, Mrs Hussakowska invited me to see the room. I remained one moment at her place, supposedly to get along with her. I called the gatekeeper and declared to him that I will remain here.
I still had to do a thing the most significant: to organise my leave from the country at the police using my false papers. Fearing that someone could recognise false papers, we agreed that it would be Mrs Hussakowska who would carry it to the police. I would remain three days at Mr Stanislaw, i.e. as long as the authorities would accept my leave. All occurred without trouble; the approval of my leave was returned to me. I returned to Mrs Hussakowska and I remained there all quietly until the end of my stay in St Petersbourg. One had made me pass for Ukrainian. My way of speaking Russian approached more this dialect. Also, with my neighbours, it was necessary for me to speak the Russian language. The role of an employee was simpler for me to imitate and it appeared that with my shaven head, I resembled on all points a Russian employee. Mrs Hussakowska housed me and gave the meals and the tea, but I spent more time at Mr Stanislaw than at her, because even I slept there sometimes to help him in his work.
Mineyko remained in a hotel at Polish who knew about our business and he was safe there. Mr Stanislaw gave him also papers, which were prepared without difficulty, and all went, as it should. I did not go to Wachowicz and I did not meet him even once and, to say the truth, I did not wish to see him. However I knew that he was in a safe place. Installed well, we were completely free. We could, finally, rest from our tiredness of the traversed road, but, soon, the prospect for our next departure was going to obscure our sky, although it became without cloud.
My first thought, at once, was to write to my parents. This was happiness of which I dreamed since so long time. Oh! It was one of the happy moments of my life! I wrote some words to my brother-in-law, not directly to my parents. I wrote to him saying that I was well. My written letter sent from St Petersbourg and not from Tomsk was to say a lot to them. My heart had wanted to tell them all. I wanted to describe what I felt in my heart at this moment, but it was necessary to keep silent, to be careful in order not to lose them and me. I wrote two other letters, one to my uncle and aunt Theodore and the other to Mrs Barszczewska. I asked my uncle to sent money for my soon departure abroad. I wrote to them as my parents. I wrote that I had just finished the University and that a serious illness had had prevented me to go near them. I also told him that if I left abroad, I would recover from my disease and that I would improve my studies. I also asked them if somebody could come to see me here, that I would be quite merry. I also wrote to my uncle Felix in Tobolsk and to Madam Ostromecka in Krasnojarsk where she had had to be sent after my departure from Tomsk. During my stay in St Petersbourg I received a response from my cousins of Witebsk and 300 roubles from my uncle Theodore. Mrs Barszczewska sent linen, a pillow and a book of prayers to me. We still had time to correspond several times. I learned that my escape had succeeded well. My parents and Madam Barszczewska had sent 50 roubles and the linen to me. With the received money from my uncle Theodore, I was equipped from the feet to the head and I did not miss anything. I had passport for abroad.
My life in Saint Petersbourg
When I have told to our guards history of my escape and when they learned that I had engraved myself a seal, they required from me to manufacture several of them to others. They provided me with all the instruments that I needed and that seemed more convenient to them than to work with a badly sharpened penknife, as I did it in Tomsk. It is true that the seals that I had to imitate here were much more difficult to carry out, like the seal of the Inspector of the Ministry for War, like that of the Police chief of the district of St Petersbourg and many others. But in spite of the difficulties, I succeeded with wonders beyond my hopes. I engraved these seals on marble employing sharp razors and having like model of these seals a mould in lacquer. In addition to those that I made, I corrected others that were not imitated very well. I did this work at Mr Stanislaw. Each seal took several working days for me, i.e. I spent a lot of time doing them, especially as I remained far from there. In addition to the seals, we manufactured also forged identity papers for the "spirits", certificates, vacation, resignations, etc. As I could draw well, I easily imitated all the signatures and that was very useful. When we arrived to St Petersbourg, several "spirits" were going to leave. Among those, we met at Mr Stanislaw Mokrzycki who was entirely ready for sound very close departure. Mineyko left short time afterwards. We had more difficulties with papers for Wachowicz. He did not want to leave abroad, but to go to Warsaw. Nothing could persuade him that it was wrong. We had to manufacture Polish papers for him, because he could not play the role of a Russian. Our guards could get a certain document delivered by the governor of the town of Minsk. To recopy a similar paper was not difficult, but the seal was difficult to make and, moreover, it was of oval form. We sought a long time with Longin to know how we would achieve right results. Lastly, with a cut match and soaked in ink, we drew it. It was necessary to make letters around which I made with types placed the ones beside the others. At the centre of the seal, one was to see a shield with the eagle of the government of Minsk. It was necessary for me to engrave them separately, on marble. When the whole mould was completed I coated the whole thing with ink and I applied the seal with precaution. I withdrew it, but the impression was so weak that the difference was seen particularly on the sides and in the letters. What to do? I tried to coat it with more ink. Cheer! The result was so marvellous that one could not hope better; the letters so difficult to reproduce were perfect and identical; it had been impossible to distinguish my seal from the original. I am unaware of if Wachowicz could benefit from our work. Someone gave hundred roubles to him for the road and papers. And it is all that one could do for him. He spent quickly all this money and, when I left St Petersbourg he still remained as a load for our guards. What an odd man!
All the time that I remained in St Petersbourg, I left only once the city and still for the business. When I left Tomsk, one of our friends, Sulistrowski, had required from us to go and see his sister married and living in St Petersbourg and to communicate some things to him. I did not find her downtown. She was then in the countryside in a villa close to the forest institute. It was necessary to make nine versts to arrive there and by slow train. In city, I often went to walk to parks with Mrs Hussakowska and Miss Maria, her daughter. Sometimes also, I wandered myself in the streets without any goal to be able to enjoy my freedom. I very often went to Longin because I liked it much. He was a right man, good and quite. The poor fellow was often without money. One day, while coming at his place, he told me that he was sick. I examined him at once, but I could not make any diagnosis. I asked him whether he was not hungry and if that would not be the cause of his disease. He did not dare to acknowledge it to me, but while insisting, he finished declaring that he had not had anything to eat for two days. I then had a little money, I forced him to accept a few roubles, then I bought for him different things to be eaten and I cured him, alas it was not a disease. Through him I met Baramecki, a lawyer, very worthy man who facilitated me sending papers from home and that I received it in Paris. I will remain to him always very grateful. Baramecki was very active during our insurrection. He came to Mrs Hussakowska with a young man from Warsaw. He studied at the School of the Engineers in St Petersbourg. He claimed, I believe, for the hand of the elder girl of Mrs Hussakowska who was very beautiful, it appeared to me. I bound friendship with him. We left together. He visited me one day. He showed me the most beautiful monuments of the city. I knew St Petersbourg. I went there several times. I had visited the Hermitage formerly, or gallery and a famous church. I was happy to see the monuments that I did not know, but I did not get any satisfaction from these excursions downtown. Wanting to send to my parents my photography, I went to the photographer Jaszczynski that someone had recommended to me. As I had the cheeks terribly tanned and that a cap always sheltered my face, I was very white as well as the place of my beard, which I had shaved, was too white. The photographer wanted me to powder the face before photographing me. Photography was so exact that all the details transferred me. I had to start again the second photography. When I returned to see the results, the first photography appeared better than the second photography. I requested him to give me ink and brushes so to improve the results to make it even better. I sat in a closed part where I remained some time working. Suddenly, I heard the sounds of instrument that I could not define. I left and saw the photographer sitting at the front desk and carrying out a piece on an instrument using a harmonica, called "melodikon". He really played it very well and was on the point of giving a concert afterwards. As I congratulated him on his beautiful talent, he made me the honour to play different other pieces with accompaniment from piano, which gave me a great pleasure. His sister Miss Julie Jaszczynska played the piano. She was a very coldly made a girl of Italy where during five years she had improved in the songs and was allowed to sing after her return to the Grand opera of St Petersbourg. I did not intend her to sing unfortunately because I did not want to misuse their kindness in asking. I was astonished when this young man having told me some words about his sister, invited her to come and accompany him on the piano. Instead of seeing a young lady, I saw a person as a man.
"I introduce Mr Julian Jaszczynski to you", the photographer told me while laughing with good heart. She inclined herself while smiling and put herself at the piano. Her fair hair was raised in chignon retained in a net; her very small feet were fitted in pretty maroon shoes with a node and heels. It is all that, the features, revealed a girl. She carried a black jacket.
Since I describing all that happened to me in St Petersbourg, I then cannot omit to say that when I passed a certain street of the city, I often met there one of my friends, a former colleague from the University. He did not recognise me because he had the short sight and I did not dare to approach him because we would have to start speaking Polish and he could have called me by my name. And it is what I was avoiding at all costs because the secret police was always with the guests. This colleague was called Adam Markiewicz. Going to Mr Stanislaw, I crossed each day the Neva on the boat, what pleased me much. At that time, the thought of the death of the heir to the Throne was still present and the rupture of his engagement to the Danish princess, Dagmar. In all the shops, anyone saw their portraits. But here what struck me more: it was initially a book entitled "on a loss irrevocable" referring to died Great Duke and written by one of his tutors. The author was decorated after this fact and, however, he had not written this to gain publicity. He would have been ashamed if anyone would accuse him with an aim of obtaining this vain reward. Everyone in St Petersbourg did not believe that he had written this book for that reason. Everybody knew well that even the death of ten other members of the imperial family had not been a large loss.
Encouraged by this example, other artist pushed the zeal beyond the limits of the reason. That was essential to him to make! Here how he represented apotheosis. The picture had a bottom sink; one saw however from the far the Neva where the stars and the fortress of Petropawlosk were reflected. In the air the body of Great Duke heir was visible covered with crimson. Four angels supported him carrying him to the sky. Two of them, with palms and crowns in hands, supported the head and shoulders, the two others at the feet and one of them, in his extended hand, held an imperial crown. Above, the half-opened sky let see a luminous content the father God leaning to receive in its centre a so desired host. The head of the Great Duke, moreover, was surrounded by an aureole as one draw some saints. Under the image, a detailed explanation proved that the author himself feared not to be understood. It was believed that this image would make impression on the peasants. But out of their mouth even came out the question that was almost of indignation: "was he thus a saint?". The painter was however royally rewarded. The government accepted such stupidities. I write without any measurement, whatever my memories point out. I did not seek to report all what I saw in St Petersbourg.
The details that I tell did not relate to my situation there but occupied my spare time when I was not busy with the work about which I have spoken before. It seems to me that these accounts, sometimes unimportant, give a more complete idea of the life that I led then in St Petersbourg.
The first week that I passed at Mrs Hussakowska was most unpleasant because of the incognito that it was necessary me to keep. I sought any work in order to kill time. I desired initially to read, but the library of my owner was very restricted and, after having read all the books that it contained, I had to seek other things. My brave hostess helped me while often coming to spend good moments in my room. We made cigarettes together for me because, then, I smoked without slackening. I taught Miss Maria a card play called "small packages" and we often played there. Sometimes she played piano for me. We ate all together in a room. I realised how much it is easy to take a habit quickly and to make gestures completely unconsciously. When I sat at the table for the first time at Mrs Hussakowska, I was so much accustomed to crossing and praying in front of Russians before and after meals that I did not even realise that my hands made this gesture automatically. After several days, it was necessary for me to pay a great attention and to say to myself that my role was finished. I had thus crossed and prayed only during one month, therefore if it had been necessary to count the number of signs of crosses which I made during this time, they had been numerous and, from there, the practice taken.
Mrs Hussakowska lived very modestly. Very often, I went to dine at Mr Stanislaw not to embarrass her with my person. The government paid her in advance a pension and it allowed her to join the two ends with difficulty. While leaving I told her that I would not return to dine. Also, I always took into account her aunt, but these accounts never finished. Sometimes, she wanted to return money to me. But I refused, more especially as the risks that she ran while keeping me at her. My concerns of the material life were justified. All the small services that I endeavoured to return her favours could not compensate her efforts. Miss Maria, her girl, was not a very pretty girl, but she was a good creature although very Russian. She often cried and as someone pointed out it to me, without any reason. It was however visible that she suffered and was weakened. Thereafter, I discovered the causes of this disease. The tears were however not characteristic of the disease, but the expression of the cause, which was moral. The continuation of this cause did not allow curing it radically. This disease and the remedies that I prescribed to her got only momentary relief and sometimes no one. When I observed more closely their existence, when I got them known more, I understood why Miss Maria cried, why Miss Maria was really suffering. It was the fault of sound education; I realised that the girl had wanted to shine in the world, to enjoy the pleasures of the life, attaching too much value to it. It knew that having finished her education at the School level and having returned near her mother, she would be obliged to live and work to gain her bread, or to place herself as a teacher in a family. In one or the other case, she would play an erased role. She would suffer from the lack of the dreamed pleasures. She would suffer always morally, not seeing any possible exit from this circle of work and the duty. It was a very widespread defect among the women raised in the Russian schools. Miss Maria had enough of common sense and enough of devotion towards her mother not to acknowledge the true cause of her sorrow. Her poor mother had not been in the position to cure it and she had suffered much from it. I often walked with her in the small garden, which surrounded the house, when I bore the name of Wasilenko. I often brought the conversation to her favourite topic and I noticed that I was not mistaken. Knowing that pharmaceutical remedies produced no effect, I endeavoured to calm her moral sufferings by means of momentary distractions that my thin means allowed me. Who had been able to suppose what some bottles of perfume or all other trifle could calm her tears for long enough and would restore a little her health? Non-radical remedy but who showed enough that the evil was incurable.
My health improved much during my stay in St Petersbourg, especially thanks to the cold baths that I taken. They strengthened me much. Mineyko, whom I looked after, also returned to health, but he left completely to Paris. However have still a photograph taken at that time and nobody recognises me today on the photography made then. Little time before the departure of Mineyko from St Petersbourg, one of our comrades, who was the escaped prisoner from Tomsk arrived at the same day to St Ptersbourg. His name was Wladyslaw Kanienski, from the government of Grodno and he was 25 years old. I already spoke about him, because in Tomsk he was a part of our company. He was the escaped prisoner and he had taken the other road than us. From Tomsk, he went towards North to the town of Narym and travelled by water with Ostiaks. Then he arrived to Tobolsk, then to Perm and, finally, by steamboat and railroad, until St Petersbourg. He went through all kinds of adventures. Some deserve to be quoted. Equipped as a peasant in Siberia, he got along with Ostiaks who left Tomsk on rafts and accepted to take him along until Narym for the price of one rouble. Narym is about 500 versts in the north of Tomsk at the edge of the river Tym. At the time of leaving, Ostiaks required from him that the police issue his papers in their presence. His papers were false like ours, they were also my work, carried the same seal and the visa of the police was already affixed there. Until then, Ostiaks had not seen his papers. By their requirements, Kanienski understood that Ostiaks made their request about the visa as to ensure themselves that he was not an escaped prisoner. He did not want naturally to tell them that the visa was already affixed and decided what to do. But to go to the police, it was necessary that his papers did not carry any more a visa and the business was difficult because we were not there to manufacture another paper to him. He cut the bottom where the false visa was affixed. He went with Ostiasks to the police. He risked in a big way. At this time, authorities had sent his description everywhere from Tomsk. His audacity succeeded wonders. Indeed, at the police, he had been able to wait for one moment that a man had presented himself with a similar request! The policeman affixed to that man and him the visa without the least hesitation. Ostiaks were tranquillised. They did not doubt any more him and they were on the way.
He went through many miseries before arriving at Tobolsk where, happily, he succeeded in obtaining hundred and a few roubles from one of his friends. In this way, he could take the post office to go to Perm. In this city emerged a new difficulty for him. While approaching this city, he had intended to say that he took a steamboat. Before taking a ticket on the boat, he tried to see around what occurred there. He realised that actually, only people who came on the boat belonged to the higher classes. Kanienski looked like a peasant. He returned downtown and, thanks to the money that he had, he got dressed in an elegant way. He bought several shirts, of the linen, complete clothing, a cap and boots. That did not appear sufficient for him. He bought for eleven roubles a beautiful gilded silver watch that had a very good air by far, finally a bag. As he did not have what to fill it, he put old rugs in it and stones so that it weighed more. This trick succeeded wonders for him. He was not stopped. He took a place in 2nd class and arrived very fortunately in Niznij-Novgorod, and, from there in Moscow and St Petersbourg. When he arrived here, he met friends and, during three weeks, he wandered in the city, from hotel to hotel, before finding himself with us. There is the right in Russia not to register at the police a person who does not remain more than three days in the hotel. When someone remains in one hotel for less than that he is not under any suspicion. Fortunately for him, he still had about thirty roubles, which enabled him to live during three weeks, changing hotel every three days. One day, my friends asked me whether I knew Kanienski and asked me to give them his description. He came from Tomsk and that was what he claimed. It was necessary to be very careful in those cases, which was quite natural. Someone asked me to go at a certain hour in an establishment of baths and there, in the swimming pool, I was to meet the person in question. In this manner, I could return account if it was Kanienski. It was my first meeting with him, I greeted him in Russian and we from that moment went away together. Soon someone rented a room to him and the other person found for him a sure pension as it was appropriate for a "spirit" that he had become. As far as me, I started working on manufacturing forged identity papers for him. Despite everything, he was obliged to remain longer than me in St Ptersbourg in order to get visa and more money. At present, he is in Paris. The brave man, Karpinski, who remained at Stanislaw, was of a great help for our correspondence. He could facilitate underground post between Wilno, Kowno and even to the Prussian border where he had many friends. Our letters and our packages were dispatched at their address and they sent them at the post office in Prussia. He is a young man, from the government of Wilno, not a very distant relative of Franciszek Karpinski, our poet.
The services that he rendered to some "spirits" obliged him to deviate from his service that he had with the railroad of St Petersbourg-Warsaw and whose administration required precise action. The management wanted to fire him, but he managed to be maintained in the place. In the last days of my stay in St Petersbourg, Mr Stanislaw moved out to another house, under a false name, but after reporting with his forged identity papers to the police. As far as some my other friends, Miss Anna returned to Wilno.
Before the departure it was time, finally, to think about myself. I decided to go to Paris. Previously, our organisation dispatched ours in many various ways. Generally, we "lubricated the hand" of the French sailors on the steamboat, which was very expensive. The illegal passenger waited for two days hidden under the bridge in the middle of goods until all official passengers were placed on the boat and the steamboat left the port. Later, another means was employed. It is truth that these new means were less expensive but they were very dangerous. I employed these new means for myself. I manufactured a resignation as for one employee because a similar document was, by itself, a passport valid for unlimited time in all Russia. I wrote that I had finished the College and the Faculty of Law, that I had just finished in Moscow my military service where, having obtained a rank, I gave my resignation because of my bad health. I bore a German name then and I was living in the government of Twersk. My resignation was dated as of 1864, because we had a paper stamped with that year, which was still in good conditions. Having affixed the official seal of the Administration to which I said to have belonged, I affixed the signature of the governor and other employees. Among them, many were imaginary and others were those of employees of whom we knew the names, but not signatures. We had only the facsimile of the signature of the governor. To obtain a passport, it was necessary to have a second document and a particular certificate of the police chief proving that on behalf of the police no prevention was opposed to my departure. I did not have many problems with making the entire document in half an hour. My certificate was ready. Having in hands all these documents I obtained a passport from the Chancellery of the military Governor for me. It was for me the most critical moment because, there, I was in person with all my forged identity papers manufactured by myself and, on their sight, I had to ask for a regular passport for the foreigner. There were two employees in the office where they delivered the passports. One of them arrived at two o'clock in the morning. He seemed to me be more accessible. Having made the sign of the cross, I went over there, but I found gate closed for two days because of the festivals given for the new heir. Because the following day being Sunday, I was due to wait for three long days. I returned to the office and I found only the young employee there who had spoken to me and nobody of others was present. I given to him my papers explaining to him what I wished. I was dressed in my better cloth, and I carried glasses. A time during which he examined my papers was one decisive moment, of life or death. It was necessary for me to take all my courage and my force to appear indifferent. I was a prey of a violent emotion. Lastly, he raised the eyes and said:
"It is necessary that you still write a request to me."
"Precisely", I answered him.
"There is in my papers a stamped paper sheet not used. I would be obliged to write this request and I will pay what it will be necessary. When will I have my passport?", I added. "Not before tomorrow, because thirty passports which must be ready for today have just arrived to us from the Court, therefore we would not have enough of time."
I knew the means to be used to hasten obtaining my passport and how to shorten the hours of uncertainty and fear. I said to him:
"What a pity! I believed to leave tomorrow. Could not you, Sir, to press a little work and I would be very grateful to you."
This term was very known by Russian employees and always achieved his goal. At once all the obstacles disappeared as by a miracle.
"Then, come this evening at 4 o'clock."
Wanting to pay for his kindness, I asked him what I owed for the passport.
"Five roubles for 6 months", he said to me.
I left him immediately a bill of five roubles, I added to it three roubles and I shaked his hand. Initially he wanted to say to me that the customers should pay for the passports only at time of their delivery. But when he saw that I he had given more than five roubles, he stopped. Finally, he took the money with satisfaction and repeated to me to come at four o'clock and that all would be ready. As you would think, I was exact; I arrived even about fifteen minutes in advance. I was amazed seeing nobody at the office. I could only make one conclusion. I believed that he had discovered that my papers were false. I looked around at surrounding of the building to see whether it had not been set up some trap, but except a few guards there was nobody. I suddenly saw a gentleman who seemed to wait too. I approached him and he said to me that he came to seek his passport and that the clerk had said to him to be here at four o'clock. He arrived at the moment when the employee left the building. He told him that he came to seek his passport. The employee made him aware that it was not yet ready for four o'clock. This encouraged me to wait. Exactly at four o'clock, the employee returned. Hardly re-entered, I wanted, through a rapid glance, to get impression if my business had gone well. But as soon as he saw me he made a gracious smile and took off his cap. All is well, I thought. We followed him. Although this gentleman had arrived before me and must have the priority, the employee called me the first loudly asking me to sign a book and he handed over to me a passport. He gave me it with a very pleasant expression on his face. My papers remained at his place.
My passport did not specify the place where I went. I could thus go where it seemed to be good for me. Under the terms of the Russian laws, it was necessary that my passport be renewed every five years. On my return, of which I hardly thought, the government would only have me claimed to pay 10 roubles per past year. I was delighted. It did not remain for me any more but one step towards my delivery, towards the crowning of my work, towards happiness, towards complete freedom. For the people who seek the strong feelings, obtaining a passport had been really a thing to be wished. As for me, I readily yielded my place on this planet. Hardly being on the street, I jumped in a hackney carriage to go as fast as possible to share my joy with our guards who waited for me with anxiety as they said it then to me.
It was on July 23, 1865. I remained only one week more in St Petersbourg. With a passport, the police did not allow me to remain more than fifteen days in the city, because it was necessary to remake a new visa. And, of course, I was in a hurry to enjoy my freedom. Shortly after obtaining my passport I made visits in three consulates, French, Prussian and Austrian and I met, there, no difficulty. In the French consulate, the clerk made me pay three roubles and 23 kopecks, in the Prussian consulate one half-rouble and in the Austrian consulate that did not cost me anything. That proves well that each country has own habits as the proverb said. These visas could be affixed at the time of arrival in each one of these countries, but I preferred to do it then. I went to these three consulates because I did not know which one of these three countries would accept myself without any problems. However, my desire was of going initially to France and to Paris. Today in many countries visitors are not required any more a passport. This progress was not felt yet in Russia and, probably, will not realise before a long time.
At that time, a formidable storm took place in St Petersbourg in the gulf of Finland, on the Neva, on the lake Ladoga and in many other places. It lasted only one night, but the damage was very significant. Several steamboats were lost in various places. Water of the Neva became so high that the river threatened to invade the imperial capital. Many tradesmen went bankrupt because of the losses experienced in one only night. It appears that astronomers announced this storm, but a little later it was predicted as minor one. This catastrophe had produced a great fright. For the predicted day, everybody took great precautions, because they still expected a catastrophe. All boats remained in ports having thrown their two anchors and each one waited with the anxiety a new misfortune. But nothing abnormal took place on the predicted day.
All my last week in St Petersbourg was spent on preparations for my departure. I bought myself what it was necessary for me for the road and, initially, I bought a small bag, a provision of tobacco, etc. And then I went to find out from the maritime offices which boat was to depart in the next days. I tried finding out which one would agree to take to me on the board. Having the intention to go directly to Paris, I went initially to the French offices. There someone said to me that because of the shipwreck of the steamboat which accomplished these voyages and which had to spend these days on repairs, the next departure, although advanced, would not take place before three weeks. Then only the ship would restore the normal service. I could not wait and I was due to seeking another means in so long time. I went to other offices and, at the end, I was obliged to take a place for Copenhagen on the English steamboat that was going to London. I paid 20 roubles for my ticket and food. The boats were moored in Cronstadt and they had two departures: "Volga" and the "Dzwina". In the office no one could tell me exactly which would leave the first. My ticket was valid on one or the other of these steamboats.
When I was almost installed on the boat on the day of my departure, I wrote to my uncle Theodore, to Mrs Barszczewska and, through some tricks, words to my parents announcing them that this time irrevocably I had, fortunately, completed my work and comforting them with my proper happiness. I was not glad not to have been able to take seat on a boat going directly to Dunkirk. In this way, I was obliged in Copenhagen to seek another boat. Moreover, on the French steamboat the passage to Dunkirk cost hundred francs including food. And I had already had to pay 20 roubles for the trip to Copenhagen and without food. But it was necessary to solve me everything in order to leave as fast as possible. At the exchanger I provided myself with little French money. For one rouble, the clerk gave me only 3.25 francs. I was hoping that the course would favour Paris. Alas, I did not suspect that Russian papers were to fall so soon and that the rouble would be worth only 2.35 francs.
Unfortunately, I did not have time to make my good-byes and I had to leave, i.e. initially for Cronstadt which are about sixty versts from St Petersbourg and then, finally, to go up on the English steamboat. I said initially good-bye to my dear guards Stanislaw and Longin. Then I entered for one moment only to my hostess Mrs Hussakowska to bid my farewell and to take my belongings that were packed since the morning. There was nobody in the court, I entered a hackney carriage, I put my bag, I still thanked Mrs Hussakowska for her hospitality, I kissed the hand of Miss Maria, I kissed the aunt and, I was on the way.
Any person leaving the city or arriving had to present himself to the police but as it is easy to turn the Russian law for those who left only for the surroundings of St Petersbourg. They did not have to obtain their passports. I asked Mr Stanislaw and Mrs Hussakowska to make all required formalities. They had to require from the gatekeeper to stripe me from the list of the inhabitants of the house, because I had left for the countryside. In this way, I escaped the police once again. I met Stanislaw close to the steamboat that took me along to Cronstadt. We chattered for half an hour. He gave me some letters for Paris and gave me some addresses that could be useful for me. He asked me to write and to give him my new address. The steam whistled. We still bade ourselves our farewell and I went up on the boat. It was on July 30, 1865 one Friday at 6 o'clock in the evening. There were many passengers but no one asked me anything and yet some concern disturbed me, I was sad, quiet and a dreamer. Perhaps that came from this sudden insulation, this separation, good-byes with people that I had just met recently but whom I liked, as they deserved it. I arrived to Cronstadt at 8 o'clock; I went directly to the port where I learned that the "Dzwina" had anchored a few hours earlier and that "Volga" would leave only on the following day at 3 o'clock in the afternoon. I taken a boat and I approached "Volga". I showed my ticket to the captain and asked for the authorisation from him to remain on the boat until the departure.
"If you wish, please remain here", the captain said to me.
I brought my luggage and one of the crew installed me in a very pretty cabin. On each foreign boat and as soon as the one touched a port, one sentry was placed on the bridge, with an aim of preventing anyone from going up without passport. He thus counted unceasingly those who went up and those who went down until the departure of the steamboat. That did not prevent that they were very often deceived. He supervised also the goods. The captain only spoke English and Danish; I could not have spoken to him if it had not been people of the city at his place and who served as interpreters to us. On this steamboat it had only one class and this is why the passage was so expensive. I was the only passenger and we were moored far from the seashore. The next morning, very annoyed and irritated to be obliged to wait so long time, I benefited from the fact that the captain went downtown to rest and I walked with him a little in the city of Cronstadt. At this time, I gave to him, as it was required from me, my passport so that he could go with it to the maritime office. I returned after two hours to the steamboat with the hope to leave one hour later.
All was ready, the chimney of the steamboat smoked for a long time and yet three hours passed without the ship moved. The captain, obviously, was impatient. He walked forth and back on the bridge, of bad mood, irritated and smoking his pipe. I could not guess what that meant. But when I saw that the hours followed one another and that at six o'clock we were always there, I was anxious to know what happened, what was the cause of this delay. I met a sailor extremely well speaking Russian because he had lived eleven years in Russia. This last one explained me why all this delay came from. My passport had not been brought back yet. Never similar thing had occurred. Usually someone from the crew carried the passport to the maritime office of Cronstadt where the officer affixed the visa and it was all. This news upset me terribly and my fear grew more and more, especially when at 8 o'clock in the evening all was without any change. I had with me letters written in Polish, a book of prayers and many objects being able to betray me if the policeman visited me and inquired that I was Polish. Because I did not doubt any more that someone discovered something on my subject in St Petersbourg after my departure: perhaps the secret police had detected my trace and had learned about my departure. I hid the book and the letters under hanging cloth in another cabin; I hid the other objects under the mattress, still not wanting to destroy them or to throw to the sea. If my fears were useless I could have regretted this movement later.
Eight hours and half had just passed. The sun was lying; I had sat in my cabin corroded with a feverish concern. Suddenly I heard somebody entered in the captain cabin close to mine and he started to speak in English. My heart started to beat up to the breaking point. Several times I heard the word "passport" what assured me that my fate was to be decided. They sat down at a table and the newcomer came calling me by my Russian name. I opened the door of my cabin with the pipe in the hand. I entered to them. He measured me from feet to the head and, undoubtedly wanting to hear my voice. He asked me this question, which did not make any sense:
"From which country are you?"
"Russia", I answered.
At the same moment, I saw my passport on the table, what tranquillised me. Soon afterwards, they completed the business with the captain and the agent went away. This event was a last test for me on the Russian soil. Later, I learned all history related to my passport. The agent had sent it back to St Petersbourg, to the Chancellery of the military general Governor, to the same office where I had obtained it, in order to ensure if this passport had indeed been delivered to me. St Petersbourg is about 60 versts from Cronstadt: here is thus the reason for this long delay. If by misfortune I had manufactured my passport myself, I would have been certainly lost. The suspicions which went the first time about the departure of the "spirits" were certainly caused by a coldly published letter in Gazette of Moscow and written without proper sensitivity by a "spirit... D..." and addressed to Katkow. This letter went back to Stockholm and in which the author did not suspect how much certain passages of his letter would prove that St Petersbourg was the centre of certain hostile operations against the government. Sending his letter to Stockholm it let to suspect that ours, to escape, passed through St Petersbourg. The secret police redoubled its efforts in order to discover something. I believe that the suspicions, which my passport inspired, had been a test of this kind in search for the subversive movement. It was still, for the happiness of ours a fact proving the incapacity of the Russian police, as I showed higher.
I left Cronstadt on July 31 1865 at 9 o'clock in the evening. I did not leave my cabin, with the eyes fixed on the horizon through the porthole. I followed all the movements of the ship. I waited with every beat of heart for the open sea. Signals were made, the steamer whistled and seemed to fight against the strong waves. Then it advanced quickly by moving back and it set out again ahead. I did not manage to understand the operations of the steamboat just as I did not understand anything spoken in the language around me. And all these evolutions of the steamer were a torment for me. I did not want to believe yet that I was free and, with each back movement, I feared that the steamer did not set on the right course. These fears were perhaps puerile, but I confess what I felt. This feeling was perhaps morbid, but when a man will achieve the goal that gave him so many sorrows and tiredness, it is to him even more desirable. My hope was stronger than fear. The smallest difficulty, even as I met on the road, made me fear all to see collapsing my goals. The place where these operations took place was close to an emerging bastion of the sea. At once the exceeded bastion, the ship increased its speed and launched out on the sea leaving behind two very long waves which deviated one from the other as we moved away. I left my cabin then and went up on the poop deck, I contemplated the wake and my glance going until the end of the horizon. I discovered Cronstadt at the horizon over there.
An odd feeling invaded me then: the enormous weight that oppressed my chest until then seemed to fall off in one moment. I breathed deeply and I felt so light, if I was free! It seemed to me leaving a choking atmosphere and to be thrown suddenly in the purest air. A feeling of triumph against my enemy made me tighten the fists with rage and, by far, I still was thinking about being separated for always perhaps from my country and from my beloved family? All boiled in me; I laughed and I cried at the same time; I did not realise of anything, my thoughts and my feelings followed one another fast like the flash.
I still remained in this chaos late in the night. Similar to the waves, which the storm raises to come and to be spread out over the bank and to reflect stars of a clear and calm sky. Two thoughts, two feelings, comparable in nature raised in me: clear, tender and calm. It was initially the satisfaction of my fortunately achieved escape, then to have sorrow, perhaps for always, of leaving my dear country and my dear family. Tired and irritated, I deadened a little only in the morning, of a feverish sleep because my head did not serve me well. When I woke up, I was calmer. Nothing alleviates us like a good sleep: the French say that the sleep is the repairer par excellence moral fibres and physics. Few people can fall asleep under the blow of an emotion. Up to now I knew only two people who, after a great sorrow, fell asleep of all the more heavy since the moral jolt had been stronger. One of these people is my mother, but I did not inherit this benefit. I stayed on the bridge during the night; we had quite advanced, we were on the open sea. I saw the sky and the sea and in time a vessel showed at the horizon. The weather was so fine. The night was calm that the ship was balanced.
After three days and fourteen hours we arrived to Copenhagen: during this time we did not see the land and a beautiful time remained always also calm. In the event of seasickness, I had carried rum and lemons. But I felt only little nauseous. What deprived me more was the lack of company and I did not drink rum to make me sleepy as much as possible so that time seemed less long to me. The sun rising and sunsets did not make on me the impression. I do not know if these phenomena of nature sometimes are more beautiful or if I was well enough to admire them. Perhaps this came from my state of heart, from my moral provision. In the morning at eight o'clock a waiter gave me coffee, then at eleven o'clock a cold meal and at 2 P.M. a dinner made up of five or six dishes with wine, English beer "ale", rum; with the dessert, the tea or coffee. At seven or eight in the evening, there was a supper composed of cold meats, of cheese... etc. For me, it was too much food; the kitchen was excellent, but my palate could not support certain too spiced English dishes. Sauces mainly had the rhubarb taste and colour, which was unpleasant and so extremely to the taste that my tongue was little accustomed to these seasonings. It could not support them. These meals cost me about 44 Francs, that is to say 13 roubles, which was a little expensive for my purse. I ate with the captain and his cousin, a Norwegian.
When I did not sleep, my only occupation was my pipe; I walked from one corner to another of the steamboat in order to take a little exercise and by curiosity to visit the machines. The sailor who spoke Russian explained me all and led me everywhere. I rewarded him with rum, which he swallowed like water. The captain had a superb dog that I often cherished, being a great amateur of these animals. It appears that one night, drunk sailor fallen into the sea, this dog saved his life. At that time, the ship was in a port and there was almost nobody guarding on the board. When the man fell to the sea, the dog precipitated into water and while swimming, howled, barked and made noise as much as one woke up on board and withdrew a sailor who was still alive. Since then, the dog became the hot favourite of the crew.
Nothing interesting occurred until Copenhagen: the days passed similar from the morning to the evening. It was my first voyage in the sea. I missed nothing any more. Before I had travelled on foot, on horse, in the carriage, on the boat on the rivers, on railroad and finally on the sea. On the fourth day, we saw the soil from far. I understood then what the joy Christopher Columbus had had when he saw the land. And I had these feeling after only travelling for three days hardly. I was in the joy when someone showed me the land at the end of the horizon. Only, I could not to distinguish the land because that rather resembled a cloud than other things. We navigated still a long time before arriving at the port. With a verst from the seashore, a boat accosted the new country and a Danish employee went up on our ship. This formality took place for each steamer. Anchor was dropped a few hundred meters from the edge.
The day was beautiful, hot; it was eleven o'clock in the morning. Copenhagen extended on the shore in a pleasant way. Right on the edge of the sea there was a terrace on which a great number of people walked. Below an immense park embellished by its greenery. The white walls of the bastion showed itself. On left, the houses were staged with their walls and their gardens. Over there, at the bottom, a forest of masts caught my eye. I saw a crowd on the bank. Having paid on the ship for my food, I got into a boat moving towards the city.
A commission agent carried my luggage to the maritime office. I proceeded to it to summary a visit and it was all. Nobody asked for my passport. The clerk took me for a Russian and as I did not speak Danish he recommended me the store of Mr. B Cohn where the owner spoke Russian. I asked him to indicate me a hotel. It was one not far from there and Cohn extended his kindness making his brother to accompany me there who facilitated the hiring of a room for me. The Jewish family of Cohn came from Poland, it appears. The elder one had lived in Copenhagen for twenty years and the other, younger, wanting to escape the conscription, arrived here and remained with his brother. I got informed about a French steamer; He told me that which had started from St Petersbourg would make stopover here only in three days.
I pointed out to the employees of the office that in St Petersbourg the agent had declared to me that it would not leave before three weeks. They ensured me that it was inaccurate since they had received a telegram announcing that the steamboat was on the way.
It was necessary for me thus to wait. Benefiting from time that I had, I decided to visit the city. Copenhagen was the first city that I visited since my escape. Therefore much of details struck me; I noticed a great contrast with St Petersbourg, because I had been transported directly a so long distance. The language, habits, then harnessing of the horses, etc., all were new for me. The city was rather clean. The old city with narrow streets was a little monotonous. The residence of the King was so modest that I could not believe it. Cohn told me that the King was very loved by his people, that he often met them on the streets of the city. Everybody knew him, respected him like a father. He was very accessible and he invited often the middle-class men of the city for dining at his place.
Hearing that, I envied the happiness of these people whose political existence did not know the interior disorders and divisions of parties. Why, my God, did you condemn us to the constraint, the prison, exile...? The portrait of Princess Dagmar and the promised in marriage, who died, I met on each my step. The Great Duke was represented there with a face expression so alarming that, certainly, this photography had had been taken a little time before his death. I visited here a church "Fran-Kurche" decorated with famous statues of Torwalsen, their compatriot. The immense nave of the church comprised the twelve statues of the apostles, of a marvellous work including six on each side. In the place where in our churches rises the Master-bridge there was a niche made purposely to put at it the statue of the Christ of the same sculptor. In front of Christ the statue of one angel was only one knee on the ground and holding in hands a baptistery in the shape of marine conch. All these statues are of great marble dimension, white and worthy to be admired. Moreover, one saw on the sides of the church the sculptures also made by Torwalsen. I was due to give two marks to visit the church. Danish mark has the same value as the franc.
During my stay, I heard several times the military music that I enjoyed enormously. They played in park at the edge of the sea, about which I spoke before. The park was inside the fortifications and everyone did not have access there. The orchestra was held on one raised lawn, under large trees letting see the sea very far. One could hear these concerts from the terrace about which I already spoke. The music played in the evening when heat had fallen, in time when it was good to walk. Time was superb, the sea was calm like oil, and many steamboats and ships of all colours embellished the landscape. Many people walked by boats not far from the port and other men and women circulating on the shore supplemented this landscape. And this so marvellous music with the delicious sounds still put a charm moreover everywhere.
I remained hours sitting on the banks of the terrace watering with all this my solitary heart. But in spite of seeing around me so many happy people, I felt even more my insulation. I was torn off from myself. It was my friends and family towards whom my thought fled and that my heart languished; here, on the foreign land, I was among this crowd as in a desert. "I am exiled, I am a pilgrim", each sound of the orchestra seemed to tell me. I was also at the cemetery. Little monuments, much of trees, much of covered tombs with flowers and a perfect maintenance.
During my stay in Copenhagen two warships arrived from St Petersbourg: one went to Greece and the other to Rio de Janeiro. I spoke to the officers on the seashore. They asked me who I was and from where I came. I met them also at Cohn's. They took me for indigenous. I must say that the Russian officer is completely different and foreign from what he is in his country. Here, they were civilised, more similar to the others. As far the sailors, I did not say much to them. I did not want to say who I was in order not to betray those who escaped like me, by the same road, I reddened of shame to pass for a Russian when I saw stopping these sailors in my presence. I noted that even here being free those people caused me suffering.
As the agent had promised it to me, the French steamer coming from St Petersbourg made stopover here on the third day of my arrival. I do not understand yet why someone had misled me in St Petersbourg. I would have avoided charges from St Petersbourg to Copenhagen. Then I did not have to stay in this last city. And from Copenhagen to Dunkirk the agent asked me for 100 francs. The sum was equal to what I was asked for the whole trip from St Petersbourg to Dunkirk. Having taken my place at the maritime office I showed my passport and I went up on a steamer. There I found English with two children, speaking Russian and French, a Frenchwoman with a child accompanied by a very French girl, very merry and very mischievous. Both spoke Russian. A man, who was French, was returning from Moscow where he had remained for a few years and now he was returning back to France.
The steamboat remained a few hours in Copenhagen to purchase goods and at nine o'clock in the evening the anchor was pulled up. That was on August 6, 1865. We spent three days before arriving to Dunkirk, while passing by the Sund and the North Sea. This voyage was for me less sad because I could speak with others, but I did not tell anybody who I was. French are talkative, merry, I prefer them from English; with their spirit, their imagination, they amused me. At the table, we had two more other French who formed part of the personnel of the steamer; one was the assistance of the captain and the other a mechanic.
It is always said that North Sea is always rough. Although we did not have a storm the steam engine pitched enormously and the waves passed over the bridge. I liked the sight of this agitated sea. It was a majestic spectacle. The waves seemed mobile and colossal mountains. A silver foam crowned at the top and their feet formed the temporary chasms. The steamer was inserted deeply at the bottom, then slipped on these giants. It was similar to a light feather carried by the wind. If it phenomenon of nature took place on daily basis, I could easily imagine what was to be a storm when this terrible sea was in a fury. I remained many hours on the bridge to contemplate this interesting spectacle and more than once I paid this pleasure of being complete watered. What interested me more, it was to meet waves, especially during the night. Two enormous mountains seemed to run one towards the other with fury, glazes of scum and terrible. When the shock occurred, a water cascaded dazzling similar to the silver plated lava of a volcano and being lost in thousands of drops, falling in all directions and during the day it reflected all the colours of the rainbow. During the night, this scum and these cascades had a phosphorescent reflection and resembled money in fusion. First of all, I believed that these silver plated reflections came from the fire of the lanterns suspended from the masts, but soon I observed same gleams in the most obscure places that the light did not reach.
During the first day after our departure from Copenhagen, I felt the pitching of the ship that caused my tiredness. But on the second day and until our arrival to Dunkirk, I had the seasickness with all its nuisances. I could not find a place where I was well and nothing relieved me. I was not only one who was sick; all my travelling companions were patients, the children suffered enormously. We could neither sleep nor to eat. Then either for my pleasure, or to refresh me I remained on the bridge. I received the shower from waves, strongly holding the ropes. I awaited with the anxiety the end of the voyage. This seasickness had cut down me so much that it seemed to me that I could not remain a day more on the sea. In addition to my faintness, I was of bad mood, I had a dislike of all, all annoyed me, and a universe was unpleasant to me.
On August 9 about the evening, we approached Dunkirk. The night was black. Headlights appeared far. We could not advance much because it was the low tide. We dropped anchor and we remained one hour waiting until water went up enough for us to allow approaching the quay. It was very late when our ship entered a channel and, tanned of the edge it cut through a path in the medium of a quantity of steamers similar to itself. Considering the late hour the crew advised us to pass the remainder of the night on board. As there was no more pitching, we remained there. The next morning, I waked up by the sound of the bells of the churches. I went up on the bridge and I saw Dunkirk. I had a pleasant impression; I felt at once that I was in the middle of people who were sympathetic to us, who had the same religion as us. The bells deferred me from thoughts towards my dear Lithuania. Here I felt so foreign. Sympathy that I felt for France and its people softened the pain of the exile. It seemed to me that I arrived to my country, towards good friends who, certainly, could not return my fatherland to me, but who would soften, by their friendship, my suffering.
Soon, we went down to the land. Someone carried our luggage to the maritime office where we made a haste visit; we went to have a coffee beside the office, while our passports were examined. I did not suspect anything negative, then, that if I had said who I was and why I arrived to their hospital soil, I would have been received with the same manner. But not knowing my situation, I showed my passport without speaking. In addition, as I was among my travelling companions, I did not want to make my confession in front of them. We carried our luggage directly to the railroad leaving towards Paris and we all went to a hotel, having to leave only in the evening. The day was beautiful; gaining free hours that I had, I walked through the city. Street vendors sold many fruits on the streets, especially pears and at very accessible prices. I was quite happy because I am true fruiting amateur. I thought of Siberia from where I came so far and where the turnip replaced the fruits and here they were for nothing.
Then my two French partners of voyage, proposed to me to go for a walk on the edge of the sea. I accepted readily. They knew Dunkirk. We went to the seashore; it was the low tide, the sea was far, with some versts from the shore, the sight was very beautiful. Groups of people had sat on benches, the women with their works, and the children played with yellow sand and all kinds of plays. Cabins assembled on two wheels and trailed by a horse took along the bathers to the sea. All this sand was swarming with all these travelling cabins of which the ones went towards the sea and others returned from there bringing back the bathers. On the edge rose a large hotel surrounded by gardens as banks. With the balconies, on the walls of ivy and a profusion of flowers, and always there were groups of people embellished and they gave variety to the landscape. My partners entered this hotel to lunch; I accompanied them but I did not eat, not being free yet from my seasickness. We returned together to our hotel. Being well rested, a slow train took us along to the station and at seven o'clock in the evening, I left for Paris with all my companions from the steamer. It was on August 10, 1865. We travelled all the night and the following day at five o'clock in the morning, we were in Paris.
I had arrived at the end of my travel.
I return my thanks to God to have saved me! If I had left healthy and after so many difficulties, I owed it to my chance. I remember, when I comforted my mother's tears, I quoted to her many examples taken from experiences that saved us. Being at home, I had always been grateful that God always sent a consolation to us after each test rewarding our suffering. That was so convincing, so true, that we believed in it firmly. The consolation was even stronger, since sorrow and sadness had been greater. Writing from Paris to parents, it was soft to share with them my current happiness and to point out the happy privilege to them that God always supported us. A new proof and more striking judgement for my conviction was my work in Siberia followed with my almost miraculous escape. This thought gave often more force to my family to support the heavy difficulties of the life. When I was, for always, torn off from their tenderness and I was sent towards the mines of Siberia, my parents could not hope that a happy event could compensate for a similar loss and they were in tears. My so fast delivery, which appeared so impossible to carry out not only, consoles me today, but confirmed in this belief that they had for so long time. I am thus delighted doubly that today they do not cry any more and with their faith in Providence, they can more easily support themselves in persecutions that the Russian government imposes on them and which had been often above their forces. I have the firm hope that they will not succumb under the yoke and that I will be able perhaps to see this happy hour when I will find them on the threshold of their own residence thanking the Sky for having returned to my fatherland. Let us see it!
It is your fate only, brothers and companions of Siberia that is worthy of pity...! What will you become...?
June 14, 1866
Paris, 241 street Saint Jacques
- - - - -