Living My Life : Volume 2, Chapter 51
(1869 - 1940) ~ Russian-American Mother of Anarcho-Communism : She is an Anarchist, pure and simple. She represents the idea of Anarchism as framed by Josiah Warren, Proudhon, Bakunin, Kropotkin, Tolstoy. Yet she also understands the psychologic causes which induce a Caserio, a Vaillant, a Bresci, a Berkman, or a Czolgosz to commit deeds of violence. (From : Hippolyte Havel Bio.)
• "Man's greatest battles have been waged against man-made obstacles and artificial handicaps imposed upon him to paralyze his growth and development. Human thought has always been falsified by tradition and custom, and perverted false education in the interests of those who held power and enjoyed privileges." (From : "The Place of the Individual in Society," by Emma ....)
• "Patriotism is inexorable and, like all insatiable monsters, demands all or nothing. It does not admit that a soldier is also a human being, who has a right to his own feelings and opinions, his own inclinations and ideas." (From : Patriotism, A Menace to Liberty," by Emma Goldman,....)
• "...it requires less mental effort to condemn than to think." (From : "Anarchism: What It Really Stands For," by Emma Go....)
Volume 2, Chapter 51
THE ROOM I WAS ASSIGNED TO ON THE ISLAND ALREADY CONTAINED two occupants, Ethel Bernstein and Dora Lipkin, who had been rounded up at the raid of the Union of Russian Workers. The documents discovered there consisted of English grammars and text-books on arithmetic. The raiders had beaten up and arrested those found on the premises for possessing such inflammatory literature.
To my amazement I learned that the official who had signed the order for our deportation was Louis F. Post, Assistant Secretary of Labor. It seemed incredible. Louis F. Post, ardent single-taxer, champion of free speech and press, former editor of the Public, a fearless liberal weekly, the man who had flayed the authorities for their brutal methods during the McKinley panic, who had defended me, and who had insisted that even Leon Czolgosz should be safeguarded in his constitutional rights --- he now a champion of deportation? The radical who had offered to preside at a meeting arranged after my release in connection with the McKinley tragedy, now favoring such methods? I had been a guest at his home and entertained by him and Mrs. Post. We had discussed anarchism and he had admitted its idealist values, though he had doubted the practicability of their application. He had assisted us in various free-speech fights and he had vigorously protested by pen and voice against John Turner's deportation. And he, Louis F. Post, had now signed the first order for deporting radicals!
Some of my friends suggested that Louis F. Post, being an official of the Federal Government, could not go back on his oath to support the mandates of the law. They failed to consider that in accepting office and taking the oath he had gone back on the ideals he had professed and worked for during all his previous years. If he were a man of integrity, Louis F. Post should have remained true to himself and should have resigned when Wilson forced the country into war. He should have resigned at least when he found himself compelled to order the deportation of people for the opinions they entertained. I felt that Post had covered himself with ignominy.
The lack of stamina and backbone on the part of such American radicals was tragic. But why expect a braver stand from Louis F. Post than from his teacher Henry George, the father of single-tax, who had failed my Chicago comrades at the eleventh hour? His voice carried great weight at the time and he could have helped to save the men in whose innocence he had believed. But political ambition proved stronger than his sense of justice. Louis F. Post was now following in the footsteps of his admired single-tax apostle.
I sought comfort in the thought that there still were some single-taxers of integrity and moral strength. Bolton Hall, Harry Weinberger, Frank Stephens (my comrades in many free-speech fights), Daniel Kiefer, and scores of others had stood their ground --- against war and the new despotism. Frank Stephens, arrested as a conscientious objector, had in protest even declined to accept bail. Daniel Kiefer was another libertarian of true metal. Liberty was a living force in his private life as in his public activities. He was one of the first single-taxers to take an active part against America's entry into the war and against the "selective" draft. He heartily abhorred renegades of the type of Mitchell Palmer, Newton D. Baker, and other weak-kneed Quakers and pacifists. Nor did he spare his friend Louis F. Post for his betrayal.
Judge Julius M. Mayer, of the United States District Court, dismissed Harry Weinberger's writ of habeas corpus and refused to admit us to bail. But the hearing elicited valuable information. The attorney for the United States Government stated that Jacob Kershner had been dead for years; in fact, he was dead at the time his citizenship was revoked, in 1909. The official admission definitely stamped the action of the Federal authorities as a deliberate attempt to deprive me of citizenship by disfranchizing the dead Jacob Kershner.
Our counsel was not one to accept defeat easily. Beaten at one place, he would train his guns upon another. The United States Supreme Court was his next objective. He would apply for a writ of error, he informed us, and he would insist on our being admitted to bail. Then we could proceed with the fight for my citizenship. Harry was irrepressible, and I was glad to take advantage of every hour left me on American soil.
Sasha and I had long before decided to write a pamphlet on deportation. We knew that the Ellis Island authorities would confiscate such a manuscript, and it therefore became necessary to prepare and send it out secretly. We wrote at night, our room-mates keeping watch. In the morning, during our joint walks, we would discuss what we had written and exchange suggestions. Sasha made the final revision and gave it to friends to smuggle out.
Each day brought scores of new candidates for deportation. From various States they came, most of them without clothes or money. They had been kept in jails for months and were then shipped to New York just as they were at the time of their unexpected arrest. In that condition they were facing a long voyage in the winter. We bombarded our people with requests for clothing, blankets, shoes, and other wearing-apparel. Soon supplies began to arrive, and great was the rejoicing among the prospective deportees.
The condition of the emigrants on Ellis Island was nothing short of frightful. Their quarters were congested, the food was abominable, and they were treated like felons. These unfortunates had cut their moorings in the homeland and had pilgrimed to the United States as the land of promise, liberty, and opportunity. Instead they found themselves locked up, ill-treated, and kept in uncertainty for months. I marveled that things had changed so little since my Castle Garden days of 1886. The emigrants were not permitted to mingle with us, but we managed to get from them notes that strained all our linguistic acquirements, almost every European language being represented. It was little enough we were in a position to do for them. We interested our American friends and did the best we could to show the forsaken strangers that not all of the United States was represented by official barbarians. We were loaded with work, and neither Sasha nor I could complain of ennui.
An attack of neuralgia proved very timely. The island dentist failed to alleviate my pain; the commissioner, however, refused to let my own dentist attend me. My agony becoming unbearable, I made a vigorous protest, and finally the island authorities promised to communicate with Washington for instructions. For forty-eight hours my teeth became a Federal issue. Secret diplomacy at last solved the great problem. Washington consented to let me go to my dentist, accompanied by a male guard and a matron
The dentist's reception room became my rendezvous. Fitzi, Stella, Helena, Yegor, our little Ian, dear old Max, and other friends gathered there. Waiting for treatment became a joy, time passing all too quickly.
Harry Weinberger was meeting with unexpected difficulties in Washington, due to bureaucratic pettiness and red tape. The Clerk of the Court refused to accept his papers because they were not in printed form. Harry successfully appealed to Chief Justice White. On December 11 he was permitted to argue his motion, but the Court denied us the writ of error. A stay of deportation for Sasha was also refused. The documents in my case were ordered printed and returned within one week.
I decided that if Sasha was to be driven out of the country, I would go with him. He had come into my life with my spiritual awakening, he had grown into my very being, and his long Golgotha would for ever remain our common bond. He had been my comrade, friend, and coworker through a period of thirty years; it was unthinkable that he should join the Revolution and I remain behind.
"You are staying to make the fight, aren't you?" Sasha asked me at recreation that day. I could do much for the deportees, he added, as well as for Russia, if I should establish my right to remain in the United States. The same old Sasha, I thought; always considering propaganda values first. I could hardly restrain the pang I felt over his detachment even at such a moment. Yet I knew the real Sasha; I knew that although he would not admit it even to himself, there was a great deal of the all-too-human underneath his rigid revolutionary exterior. "It's no use, old scout," I said; "you can't get rid of me so easily. I have made my decision, and I am going with you." He gripped hard my hand, but he said not a word.
Few days remained to us on the hospitable United States shores, and our girls were busy as beavers with the final preparations. No effort was too hard for my darling Stella, no task too difficult for Fitzi. They went about their work with aching hearts, yet they were always cheery when with us. Separation from them and from Max, Helena, and other loved ones was poignant indeed. Some day we might all meet again, however--all except Helena. I entertained no such hopes concerning my poor sister. I had a feeling she could not last much longer, and I knew she intuitively echoed my thought. We clung to each other desperately.
Saturday, December 20 was a hectic day, with vague indications that it might be our last. We had been assured by the Ellis Island authorities that we were not likely to be sent away before Christmas, certainly not for several days to come. Meanwhile we were photographed, finger-printed, and tabulated like convicted criminals. The day was filled with visits from numerous friends who came individually and in groups. Self-evidently, reporters also did not fail to honor us. Did we know when we were going, and where? And what were my plans about Russia? "I will organize a Society of Russian Friends of American Freedom," I told them. "The American Friends of Russia have done much to help liberate that country. It is now the turn of free Russia to come to the aid of America."
Harry Weinberger was still very hopeful and full of fight. He would soon get me back to America, he insisted, and I should keep myself ready for it. Bob Minor smiled incredulously. He was greatly moved by our approaching departure; we had fought together in many battles and he was fond of me. Sasha he literally idolized and he felt his deportation as a severe personal loss. The pain of separation from Fitzi was somewhat mitigated by her decision to join us in Soviet Russia at the first opportunity. Our visitors were about to leave when Weinberger was officially notified that we were to remain on the island for several more days. We were glad of it and we arranged with our friends to come again, perhaps for the last time, on Monday, no callers being allowed on the island on the Lord's day.
I returned to the pen I was sharing with my two girl comrades. The State charge of criminal anarchy against Ethel had been withdrawn, but she was to be deported just the same. She had been brought to America as a child; her entire family were in the country, as well as the man she loved, Samuel Lipman, sentenced to twenty years at Leavenworth. She had no affiliations in Russia and was unfamiliar with its language. But she was cheerful, saying that she had good cause to be proud: she was barely eighteen, yet she had already succeeded in making the powerful United States Government afraid of her.
Dora Lipkin's mother and sisters lived in Chicago. They were working people too poor to afford a trip to New York, and the girl knew that she would have to leave without even bidding her loved ones good-bye. Like Ethel, she had been in the country for a long time, slaving in factories and adding to the country's wealth. Now she was being kicked out, but fortunately her lover was also among the men to be deported.
I had not met either of the girls before, but our two weeks on Ellis Island had established a strong bond between us. This evening my room-mates again kept watch while I was hurriedly answering important mail and penning my last farewell to our people. It was almost midnight when suddenly I caught the sound of approaching footsteps. "Look out, someone's coming!" Ethel whispered. I snatched up my papers and letters and hid them under my pillow. Then we threw ourselves on our beds, covered up, and pretended to be asleep.
The steps halted at our room. There came the rattling of keys; the door was unlocked and noisily thrown open. Two guards and a matron entered. "Get up now," they commanded, "get your things ready!" The girls grew nervous. Ethel was shaking as in fever and helplessly rummaging among her bags. The guards became impatient. "Hurry, there! Hurry!" they ordered roughly. I could not restrain my indignation. "Leave us so we can get dressed!" I demanded. They walked out, the door remaining ajar. I was anxious about my letters. I did not want them to fall into the hands of the authorities, nor did I care to destroy them. Maybe I should find someone to entrust them to, I thought. I stuck them into the bosom of my dress and wrapped myself in a large shawl.
In a long corridor, dimly lit and unheated, we found the men deportees assembled, little Morris Becker among them. He had been delivered to the island only that afternoon with a number of other Russian boys. One of them was on crutches; another, suffering from an ulcerated stomach, had been carried from his bed in the island hospital. Sasha was busy helping the sick men pack their parcels and bundles. They had been hurried out of their cells without being allowed even time to gather up all their things. Routed from sleep at midnight, they were driven bag and baggage into the corridor. Some were still half-asleep, unable to realize what was happening.
I felt tired and cold. No chairs or benches were about, and we stood shivering in the barn-like place. The suddenness of the attack took the men by surprise and they filled the corridor with a hubbub of exclamations and questions and excited expostulations. Some had been promised a review of their cases, others were waiting to be bailed out pending final decision. They had received no notice of the nearness of their deportation and they were overwhelmed by the midnight assault. They stood helplessly about, at a loss what to do. Sasha gathered them in groups and suggested that an attempt be made to reach their relatives in the city. The men grasped desperately at that last hope and appointed him their representative and spokesman. He succeeded in prevailing upon the island commissioner to permit the men to telegraph, at their own expense, to their friends in New York for money and necessaries.
Messenger boys hurried back and forth, collecting special-delivery letters and wires hastily scribbled. The chance of reaching their people cheered the forlorn men. The island officials encouraged them and gathered in their messages, themselves collecting pay for delivery and assuring them that there was plenty of time to receive replies.
Hardly had the last wire been sent when the corridor filled with State and Federal detectives, officers of the Immigration Bureau and Coast Guards. I recognized Caminetti, Commissioner General of Immigration, at their head. The uniformed men stationed themselves along the walls, and then came the command: "Line up!" A sudden hush fell upon the room. "March!" It echoed through the corridor.
Deep snow lay on the ground; the air was cut by a biting wind. A row of armed civilians and soldiers stood along the road to the bank. Dimly the outlines of a barge were visible through the morning mist. One by one the deportees marched, flanked on each side by the uniformed men, curses and threats accompanying the thud of their feet on the frozen ground. When the last man had crossed the gangplank, the girls and I were ordered to follow, officers in front and in back of us.
We were led to a cabin. A large fire roared in the iron stove, filling the air with heat and fumes. We felt suffocating. There was no air nor water. Then came a violent lurch; we were on our way.
I looked at my watch. It was 4:20 A.M. on the day of our Lord, December 21, 1919. On the deck above us I could hear the men tramping up and down in the wintry blast. I felt dizzy, visioning a transport of politicals doomed to Siberia, the étape of former Russian days. Russia of the past rose before me and I saw the revolutionary martyrs being driven into exile. But no, it was New York, it was America, the land of liberty! Through the port-hole I could see the great city receding into the distance, its sky-line of buildings traceable by their rearing heads. It was my beloved city, the metropolis of the New World. It was America, indeed, America repeating the terrible scenes of czarist Russia! I glanced up --- the Statue of Liberty!
Dawn was breaking when our barge pulled up alongside of the large ship. We were quickly transferred and assigned to a cabin. It was six o'clock. Exhausted, I crawled into my bunk and immediately fell asleep.
I was awakened by someone pulling at my covers. A white figure stood at my berth, probably the stewardess. Was I ill, she asked, to remain in bed so long. It was already six o'clock in the evening. I had shut out the hideous sights in twelve hours of blessed sleep. Stepping into the corridor, I was startled by someone roughly grabbing me by the shoulder. "Where are you going?" a soldier demanded. "To the toilet, if you must know it. Any objection?" He loosed his hold and followed me; he waited till I emerged again, and accompanied me back to the cabin. My girl companions informed me that guards had been stationed at our door since our arrival, and that they had also been escorted to the place of pressing needs every time they left the cabin.
At noon the next day we were conducted by the sentry to the officers' dining-room. At a large table sat the captain and his retinue, civilian and military. A separate table was assigned to us.
After lunch I requested to see the Federal official in charge of the deportees. He proved to be F. W. Berkshire, an immigration inspector detailed to manage the Buford expedition. Did we like our cabin and was the food good, he inquired solicitously. We had no complaints to make, I told him, but how about our men comrades? Could we take our meals with them and meet them on deck? "Impossible," Berkshire said. I then demanded to see Alexander Berkman. Also impossible. Thereupon I informed the inspector that I had no desire to cause trouble, but that I would give him twenty-four hours to change his mind about allowing me to talk to my friend. If my demand should be refused, at the expiration of that time I would go on a hunger-strike.
In the morning Sasha was brought under escort to see me. It seemed weeks since I had beheld his dear face. He told me that the conditions of the men were harrowing. They were cooped up in the hold of the ship, forty-nine in a place barely large enough for half that number. The rest of them were in two other compartments. The bunks, three tiers high, were old and worn out; those in the lower ones bumped their heads against the wire netting of the uppers every time they turned around. The boat, built at the end of the last century, had been used as a transport in the Spanish-American War and later discarded as unsafe. The floor of the steerage was wet all the time, the beds and blankets damp. Only salt water was to be had for washing, and no soap. The food was abominable, especially the bread, half-baked and uneatable. And, worst of all, there were only two toilets for the two hundred and forty-six men.
Sasha advised against pressing our request to eat with the men. It would be better to save what we could from our food for the sick boys who could not stomach the rations given them. Meanwhile he was trying to see what improvements he could secure. He was negotiating with Berkshire a list of demands he had submitted. I was happy to see Sasha full of vital energy again. He had forgotten his own physical troubles the moment he saw that the others were depending on him.
The officers celebrated Christmas in the dining-room in grand style. Ethel and Dora were too ill to leave their berths, and I could not bear to be alone with our jailers. Their Christmas feast was the veriest mockery to me. During the day we were taken out on deck, but not allowed to see the men. Insistence by Sasha and myself finally resulted in permission for him and Dora's friend to visit us.
Friction had developed between the deportees and those in charge of the Buford. The men were given no exercise in the fresh air, and Sasha had protested in the name of his comrades. The Federal representative, Immigration Inspector Berkshire, seemed willing to grant the demands, but he evidently stood in awe of those commanding a large force of soldiers. The inspector referred the men to the "chief," but Sasha refused to apply to the latter on the ground that the deportees were political and not military prisoners. Prisoners they were, indeed, continuously locked below deck, with sentries stationed day and night at the doors. Berkshire seemed to realize that our comrades were determined, and no doubt he felt that their resentment of the treatment they were receiving was justified. On Christmas Day he informed Sasha that the "higher authorities" had granted the demanded exercise.
Even then we were not allowed to associate with them. Political prisoners in other countries could freely mingle together during recreation hours regardless of sex, but American puritanism considered such things improper. To save morality we were kept locked in our cabin while the men were out for an airing. They had to remain on the lowest deck, with the waves often sweeping the boat and drenching them.
We were in rough waters, and many of the deportees fell ill. The coarse and badly cooked food was causing general stomach-complaints, and the dampness of the bunks laid many of the men low with rheumatism. The ship's doctor, too busy to attend the increasing number of patients, called upon Sasha to aid him. My offer to serve as nurse had been refused, but my hands were fully occupied with my two girl companions, who had to keep to their beds almost all the time. It was a very strained atmosphere those Christmas days, with forebodings of impending strife.
Our guards were extremely antagonistic, but with the passing of time I seemed to detect a gradual change. At first very forbidding and taciturn, their severity presently began to decrease. They entered into conversation with us, always on the alert, however, for the approach of an officer. Soon they confided to me that they had been tricked. The order for duty had reached them only the day previous to embarkation. They were in ignorance about the purpose and probable length of the voyage, and they had no idea of our destination. They had been told that they were to guard dangerous criminals being shipped somewhere. They were bitter against their officers, and some cursed them openly.
The sentry who had so roughly grabbed me the first day was holding out longest against us. One evening I kept watching him as he paced up and down in front of our cabin. He looked exhausted with the endless walking and I suggested that he sit down for a while. When I placed a camp-chair before him, his reserve broke down. "I daren't," he whispered, "the sergeant may be along." I offered to change roles with him: I would remain on the look-out. "My God!" he exclaimed, unable to restrain himself any longer, "they told us you were a desperado, that you had killed McKinley and are always plotting against someone." From that moment he became very friendly, ready to do us any service. He had apparently spoken of the incident to his buddies, and they began to hang around our door, eager to show us some kindness. Our cabin had also a special attraction for them: my good-looking young companion Ethel. The soldiers were wild about her, discussed anarchism every free moment at their disposal, and became greatly interested in our fate. They hated their superiors. They would like to drop them into the sea, they said, because they were treated as chattel slaves and punished on every pretext.
One of the lieutenants also was very courteous and humane. He borrowed from me some books, and when he returned them, I found a note containing the news that Kalinin had become President of Soviet Russia and hinting that we were not to be taken to any parts occupied by the Whites. Uncertainty as to our exact destination had all the time been a source of great anxiety and worry among the deportees. The information of the friendly officer proved a great relief in allaying our worst fears.
Meanwhile our men comrades were busy "agitating" their guards and fraternizing with them. The soldiers offered them their extra shoes and clothing for sale --- "Might come handy in Russia," they said. Sasha's tact and his rich stock of humorous stories helped to win the hearts of Uncle Sam's boys. Posting a sentry as their look-out, they would crowd into his compartment and ask for funny yarns. He knew how to arouse their interest, and presently they began to put questions about the Bolsheviki and the soviets. They were eager to know what changes the Revolution had made, and they heard with amazement that in the Red Army the soldiers themselves elected their officers, and that even a commissar or general did not dare insult a private. They thought it wonderful that officers and men were on a footing of equality, and that all shared the same rations.
The steerage quarters were cold and wet. Many of the deportees had been given no opportunity to provide themselves with warm clothing, and there was much suffering as a result. Sasha suggested that those who had supplies should share what they could spare with their less fortunate comrades, and the men responded beautifully. Bags, suit-cases, and trunks were unpacked, everyone donating whatever he did not absolutely require for himself. Coats, underwear, hats, socks, and other apparel were piled up in one of the compartments below deck, and a commission was selected for distribution. The story of the proceedings, as told to me by Sasha, strikingly evidenced the splendid solidarity and fellow-feeling of the deportees. Themselves not too well provided for, they gave of their very last. The distribution had proved so fair and just that there had not been a single complaint.
The strains of Russian melodies, ringing from a hundred throats, were resounding through the Buford. The men were on deck, and their lusty voices rose above the rolling of the waves, reaching us in our cabin. The powerful baritone of the leader intoned the first stanzas, and then the entire crowd joined in the chorus. Revolutionary songs they sang, forbidden old Russian folk-tunes surcharged with the grief and yearning of the peasant, or echoing Nekrassov's women who heroically followed their lovers to prison and exile. All aboard grew silent, even the guards ceasing their march and listening with strained ears to the heart-rending melodies
Sasha had become chummy with the assistant steward, and by means of him we organized a mail service. Copious notes passed every day between us, and we kept each other informed of happenings. Our friend, whom we had christened "Mac," became so devoted that he began to take a personal interest in our fate. He was very clever and ingenious, and he managed to appear at the most unexpected moments, just when he was needed. He seemed suddenly to develop the habit of walking with his hands under his apron, and he never came to us without some little gift hidden about his person. Delicacies from the pantry, sweet morsels from the captain's table, even fried chicken and pastry, we would find stuck away under our beds or in Sasha's bunk. And then one day he brought to Sasha several soldiers who confided to him that they had come as delegates of their comrades in arms. They had a serious mission. It was an offer to supply the deportees with guns and ammunition, to arrest all those in charge, turn the command of the Buford over to Sasha, and sail with all aboard to Soviet Russia.
It was January 5, 1920 when we reached the English Channel. The mail-bag carried away by the pilot contained our first letters to the United States. For the sake of safety they were addressed to Frank Harris, Alexander Harvey, and other American friends whose correspondence was subject to less scrutiny than that of our own people. Mr. Berkshire had also consented to let us send a cable to America. The favor was rather costly, amounting to eight dollars, but it was worth the relief our friends would feel at the message that we were alive and still safe.
When we left the English Channel, we were followed by an Allied destroyer. Twofold fear on the part of the Buford authorities was responsible for the presence of the warship. Our men had repeatedly complained about the quality of the bread rationed to them. Their protest ignored, they had threatened to strike. Mr. Berkshire brought Sasha "strict orders from the Colonel" for the deportees to submit. The men laughed in his face. "Berkman is the only 'Colonel' we recognize," they shouted. The military chief sent for Sasha. He stormed about the disorganization of the ship's discipline, raved about the deportees fraternizing with the soldiers, and threatened to have the men searched for hidden weapons. Sasha boldly declared that his comrades would resist. The Colonel did not press the matter, and it was evident that he felt he could not rely on the force under his command. Sasha offered to solve the difficulty by putting two of the deportees, who were cooks, in charge of the bakery, without pay. The Colonel was loathe to accept what he considered a reflection upon his supreme authority, but Sasha insisted and he won Berkshire to his side. Sasha's plan was finally adopted, and henceforth everyone enjoyed bread of the best quality. What might have proved serious trouble had thus been averted, but the talk of a strike, and the organized stand of our comrades, had had its effect on the commanding officers. Confidence in their exclusive power shaken, an Allied destroyer was a useful thing to have near. With a crowd on the Buford that had no respect for epaulets and gold braid, with two hundred and forty-nine radicals on hand who believed in strikes and direct action, the warship was a veritable godsend.
Another reason was the Buford itself. The battered old tub had been unseaworthy at the start, and the long journey had not improved her condition. The United States Government had been fully aware that the boat was unsafe, yet it had entrusted five hundred or more lives to it. We were heading for German waters and the Baltic Sea, the latter still thickly dotted with mines. The British destroyer was sadly needed in such a hazardous situation. The captain realized the imminent peril. He ordered the life-boats held in readiness and authorized Sasha to take charge of twelve of them and organize the men for quick action in case of alarm.
Many of the deportees had left considerable sums in American banks and postal savings. They had been denied time to draw their money, nor had they been given an opportunity to transfer it to their families. Sasha proposed to Berkshire that a statement be prepared of their holdings, to be sent to America with authorization for their kin to collect. The inspector seized upon the idea, but he left the work to Sasha. For days and late into the nights he worked tirelessly, collecting data and taking down depositions. When he got through, thirty-three affidavits were completed, disclosing that $45,470.39 had remained in the States. Some of the men had deposited their money in private banks and they preferred not to trust the government that had driven them out like dogs. It was all they had from long years of drudgery and economy.
After nineteen days of dangerous cruising we at last reached the Kiel Canal. Badly battered, the Buford had to remain for twenty-four hours for repair. The men were locked below deck, and special guards stationed on watch. German barges came alongside of our ship. They were in front of our cabin, and I threw them a note through the porthole, telling them who we were. They consented to forward a letter, and I covered two sheets in the smallest German script I could write, describing our deportation, the reaction we left behind, and the treatment of the revolutionists imprisoned without benefit of amnesty. I addressed the letter to the Republik, organ of the Independent Socialists, and I added an appeal to the German workers to make their revolution as fundamental as that of Russia.
The men locked in the steerage and almost suffocating in the vile air made vigorous protests, demanding the daily exercise they had won after the first days of the journey. Meanwhile they were bombarding the German workers on the dock with missiles in which messages had been secreted. Presently the repair men, their work done and my letter safe in their hands, pulled away, shouting cheers for the political deportees from America and die soziale Revolution. It was a stirring demonstration of comradely solidarity which even war could not destroy.
We learned that our destination was Libau, in western Latvia, but two days later a radiogram notified the captain that fighting was continuing on the Baltic front, and the course of the Buford was changed. Again we were at sea in more senses than one. Deportees and crew became impatient and irritable with the drawn-out, perilous voyage. Longing filled me for those I had left behind and sickening uncertainty of the things ahead. Roots embedded in the soil of one's entire life are not easily transplanted. I felt uneasy and restless, between hope and doubt. My spirit was still in the United States.
The ghastly trip was over at last. We had reached Hango, a Finnish port. Supplied with three days' rations, we were turned over to the local authorities. America's obligation was at an end and so were her fears.
On our trip through Finland we were kept locked in the train, with sentries with fixed bayonets inside the cars and on the platforms. Ethel and Dora, as well as a number of the men comrades, were ill, but though our train stopped at stations having buffets, no one was allowed to step out for purchases. On the border, at Teryoki, our compartments were unlocked and the sentries withdrawn. We were permitted to look after our supplies, but to our consternation we discovered that the greater part of our provisions had been appropriated by the Finnish soldiers. Presently there appeared a representative of the Finnish Foreign Office and a military officer of the General Staff. They were very anxious to be rid of the American political deportees and they demanded that we cross over at once to Russia. We refused to comply without first notifying Soviet Russia of our arrival. There followed negotiations with the Finnish authorities, and finally we were granted permission to send two radios, one to Moscow, addressed to Chicherin, People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs, the other to our old friend Bill Shatoff in Petrograd. Within a short time the Soviet committee arrived. Chicherin had sent Feinberg as his representative, while the Petrograd Soviet delegated Zorin, Secretary of the Communist Party of that city, to receive us. Mme Andreyeva, Gorki's wife, accompanied them. Arrangements were quickly made to transfer our luggage from the train across the border. Just at that moment the complete rout of Denikin by the valiant Red Army was announced, and the air was rent by the joyous hurrahs of our two hundred and forty-nine deportees.
All was ready. It was the twenty-eighth day of our journey, and at last we were on the threshold of Soviet Russia. My heart trembled with anticipation and fervent hope.
From : Anarchy Archives
No comments so far. You can be the first!
<< Last Work in Living My Life
Current Work in Living My Life
Volume 2, Chapter 51
Next Work in Living My Life >>
All Nearby Works in Living My Life