Getting Out of Russia


AFTER having spent the years 1918, 1919, and 1920 at Petrograd, and having been through all the horrors of life there, how I managed to escape from prison and the danger of death is perfectly miraculous! I had to live under my own name of Wrangel, as it was impossible to change it on account of my innumerable acquaintances; I figured in the registers as ‘Miss Wrangel, Bookkeeper.’ I worked during two years at the Town Museum that had been arranged in the Anitchkoff Palace (former residence of the Dowager Empress), as custodian of the section of Architecture — a responsible post. I had to sign my name in my own handwriting every day in the registers, for this was an essential condition for obtaining a loaf of bread. At the time when the Yudenitch army was at the gates of Petrograd, Trotzky and Zinovieff had organized a military camp at the Anitchkoff Palace, with machine guns along the Fontanka Street. Military authorities roamed about the palace, and the registry books, with all our names in them, were always in evidence.

When the White Army began operations in the Crimea, under the orders of General Wrangel, my eldest son, all the walls of Petrograd were covered with proclamations: ‘Down with Wrangel, the Dog! Down with that German Baron! Down with the Enemy of the Republic of Workmen and Peasants!’ I was then obliged to change quarters, to take the name of Veronelli, and to pass for an artist. And though I was General Wrangel’s own mother, God preserved me, when so many mothers, wives, daughters, and sisters of the officers of the White Guard were thrown into filthy prisons, where they suffered for months.

To begin at the beginning. At the end of the year 1917, my husband, president of several financial groups, having acquired the conviction that life at Petrograd was becoming a nightmare, proceeded to sell all our belongings, pictures, furniture, silver, china. He deposited the money in his bank, as nothing at that period indicated the great catastrophe that was yet to come. It was only forbidden to transfer one’s capital to foreign countries. Very soon afterward, private accounts were cancelled, and finally the banks and safes were rifled. We were left, as many others, in the most critical situation.

My husband decided to remove his business to Reval, and to settle down there himself. I refused to accompany him; it was so long since I had seen my son, who had been living with his family in the Crimea since the retreat, and whom it was my secret intention to join as soon as I could. Besides, the prospect of meeting Germans at Reval was insufferable! Therefore we decided that my husband should leave for Reval, and that I should go to the Crimea, though we should keep a flat at Petrograd for our visits to town.

In those days we could still indulge in these cheerful plans! We found two sunny rooms, with a kitchen to ourselves, in an old lady’s dwelling, and furnished them very simply with the few belongings that we had kept; surrounded by the photographs of my dear grandchildren and that of my son, I even enjoyed this simplicity and realized— as many others probably did, too — how my life had been full of unnecessary complications, and that I had been till then the slave of my own fortune!

As soon as my husband had left, I began without losing time to take the necessary measures for my intended journey to the Crimea.

My children had proposed to arrange it with the help of Skoropadsky, the Ukranian leader. I therefore wrote and wired to them to this effect, but did not receive a single word of answer. Meanwhile, I had managed to collect all the necessary documents, with the exception of a passport, when I suddenly learned that it was all of no use! The frontiers had been closed. I was a prisoner! I had received four letters from my husband who, after many adventures, had arrived safely at Reval; he had never received any of my letters!

Well, the only thing to do was to stay in my little flat. I had been lucky enough to find an excellent maid-of-allwork, and I began to seek employment for myself. At first, I worked at the Alexander III Museum, but obtained a better post in the Anitchkoff Museum, with the help of friends. It was quite a pleasant job; my employers were more interested in their artistic work than in politics, and as Custodian at the Section of Architecture, I was paid 18,000 rubles a month, unfortunately without food.

I then, rather mysteriously, received another letter from my husband, from Finland, where he had fled, having learned that the Bolsheviki were about to take Reval. He had been very ill and wrote thus: ‘Be prepared; one of these days a friend will come to fetch you, and you can trust him.’

I immediately sold all my belongings for a very small sum, even my dresses and my fur coat, as my husband had added that I should have to travel without any luggage. Alas! — I waited in vain; the mysterious friend never appeared, and I received no more communications from my husband.

Realizing that I was gradually spending all the money of my last poor little sale to get food, I began to tremble as I thought of the future! Prices were always going up: 1 pound of the most appalling black bread, 400 to 300 rubles (4000 to-day!); 1 pound of butter for 1000 rubles; 1 pound of sugar, 12,000; 1 pound of meat, 1500; 1 egg, 350; 1 pound salt, 350; 1 bottle petrol, 800; 1 candle, 500; 1 pair of boots, 150,000; 1 pair of rubbers, 20,000 1 pair of stockings, 6000; 1 needle, 100;

1 reel of cotton, 500. (All these prices are ten times higher at present.)

The old lady of the flat decided to go and live in the country, and I soon heard that she had died of hunger. My poor little maid, under-fed and overtired, used to faint several times a day; she had to wait daily for hours in line, to receive our miserable allowance of bread and a few herrings. Seeing her in this state, I found a more comfortable home for her with people who were better off, though it was sad to part with her. It was then that I truly realized the miseries of life.

Every morning at seven, I would run to the nearest public-house to get some boiling water for my daily cup of coffee, made of ground oats, which I would swallow without milk or sugar, with a little piece of sour black bread. Then, putting on my tattered shoes over bare feet (I had to substitute old rags for stockings), I would go to my work, in any weather. Lunch was a public meal, with groups of workmen, sweepers, servants. It consisted of an indescribable brown soup, made of decayed unpeeled potatoes, and a smoked fish, hard as stone, or a dish of lentils and a herring. Add one third of a pound of bread made of sawdust, and a handful of flour of barley. We ate this disgusting food in tin bowls, with broken spoons, on sticky wooden tables, painted black. The women and children coming in constantly from the streets, blue and pinched with cold, were hungrier than we were. Children would hang on to my torn dress, moaning, ‘Leave some for us, please,’ licking the plates we put away.

At five, I would go back home to clean the rooms, lighting the stove every other day, and preparing my supper in a smoky little oven. Always the same supper: six boiled potatoes (250r a pound), that I used to eat with a little salt; and sometimes, for a treat, with an onion and black radishes. Afterward, I would try to mend my tattered garments, scrubbing the floors on Saturdays, and doing the washing on Sundays. This was the greatest ordeal of all: to wash the linen in ice-cold water, with one’s swollen hands aching and sore with chilblains. It was no use shirking the task, as laundry in towm could only be done for unheard-of prices, even if one gave the soap, costing 5000r a pound, one’s self !

No more of those famous houseporters of the Russia of old days! One had to empty one’s rubbish alone, and carry one’s wood upstairs. When the order was given to all the lodgers to attend to the service of the front door, I protested in vain that my age allowed me to be exempted of this drudgery. The President of the Committee of the House remained inexorable, and declared that I was quite capable of doing it. Therefore, I took turns with the other lodgers to guard the front door! From 10 P.M. to one o’clock at night I would sit outside in the fog, and ask the name of all those entering or leaving the house.

Since the maid had left, I was most afraid to have to sleep all by myself. Many of the flats in the house had already been robbed; and though I had no valuables left, I did not feel very safe. Therefore I asked a workman, who had formerly been General Gourko’s chauffeur, to pass the nights in my little kitchen. He consented to do so, as well as to saw my wood and help me with the rough work, for 1500 rubles a month (without food).

The President of the Lodgings Committee, under the pretense of controling the lodgers, would constantly visit the flats. Walking into my rooms one day, he saw my son’s photograph, and abusing me most violently, he threatened to send me to the scaffold if I persisted to adorn my rooms with ‘generals.’ I hurriedly removed the photos.

A friend of mine, Baron Putvitz, formerly a millionaire, who had lost his eyesight from lack of proper nourishment, died one night in the flat next to mine. His wife carried his body to the churchyard in one of the baskets used for the laundry, and he was buried with many others in a sort of pit.

At a time when I was feeling that I could bear no more, a friend asked me to live with her in a large flat she had been able to keep. I accepted with enthusiasm, but was not allowed to enjoy this unexpected happiness very long. Less than ten days after, the Political Group of ‘Cadets,’ to which my kind hostess belonged, was branded as ‘outlaws.’ My friend managed to escape from the city; her servants disappeared the same evening: I was left all alone in the big empty rooms. My sole companion was a great black cat, with hungry green eyes. We proceeded to starve together! I used to rise at night, to drink some water and munch a raw carrot, so as to stifle the terrible gnawing pain in my stomach.

How well I remember the agony of the long cold evenings in the flat, from which all electric light had been cut off, except during the nights set apart for perquisitions! I did not possess any oil or candles, and had to spend hours in the dark, with the most ghastly thoughts, using one of my precious matches now and then to see the time. Those other nights, during which the entire flat would be flooded with electric lights, meant an ordeal of another description: the terror of a sudden descent.

During one of these nights, when it was impossible to put out the lights, I was awakened at three o’clock by loud ringing, thumping, and shouting at my door. I understood at once: it was a perquisition. I was sleeping, as usual, with all my clothes on, in the icy room, with my son’s photograph and letters on the table beside my bed. I hid them in my bodice, rushed to open the door, and let in five disreputable individuals, the two bearing rifles being the President of the House Committee and the house agent, formerly the general servant! After questioning me and examining my papers, they were forced to admit that I was a civil servant in one of their own museums; but they began to look for my friend, seizing and tearing up all the books, papers, and letters they discovered, pocketing the things they fancied, upsetting furniture, and the like.

At last, at five o’clock, they left the house and I rushed to my work at the Museum. My friend managed to let me know that she would not return to Petrograd, and the flat passed into the hands of some Jews and their friends, one of whom had formerly been a servant in my own uncle’s house!

But my greatest enemy was a dreadful Krasnoarmeitz (or soldier of the Red Army), who slept in the room next to mine! All these new tenants had naturally taken the best rooms, and left a tiny passage to me. They led a merry life, treating me like a pariah, laughing at my poverty and rejoicing in my misfortune. How often I felt faint in passing beside their kitchen, from which came the delicious, half-forgotten smell of a roasting turkey or joint! The Red soldier would stroll through the flat in his undergarments, smoking a pipe, and singing revolting songs. He would jeer at me, calling me ‘Comrade Wrangel,’or ‘ex-Madame,’ and prevent me from sleeping all night by the noise he made in his room with similar friends. Still, these were only worries: my age preserved me from worse dangers.


During February, 1920, fresh complications arose for me. My son’s name began to appear in the papers; the walls were covered with proclamations and hideous drawings; nothing was heard in the streets but tales concerning ‘that dog Wrangel, the paid servant of the Entente.’ Wrangel seemed to be the only word in my ears as I went about the town. I had to forsake the flat, and to change my abode every other day; my friends advised me either to get another passport, or to leave the town.

A secret group of artisans of General Koltchak proposed to support me, if I would consent to cease my work at the Museum.

But I would not have liked to be registered as an invalid, and my work was the only comfort left to me, the only way to forget. I therefore gratefully refused that generous offer, but consented to live in a sort of boardinghouse, just outside the town, under the name of Veronelli-Arkst. I was relieved to be farther away from the authorities, and quite resolved to go to my work every day by tram.

The boarding-house seemed a paradise to me. What a strange paradise, though! I had only a quarter of a room, divided, as the one in Gorky’s novel, The Mud, into four partitions, by thin curtains. Each partition included an iron bedstead with a narrow mattress, a cupboard, a table, two chairs, a washstand and a pail. Two people enjoyed the windows, and the other two —I being one of the two — the door. Two of my companions were good souls; but the third, my neighbor, was an ailing old maid, an ex-schoolmistress who, having suffered in past days, was glad to revenge herself upon me. She would abuse me sometimes as if I were a dog!

In the house there were other people, ‘ghosts’ of the past, who had miraculously survived so many horrors; charming women, some of whom concealed famous names beneath a nurse’s uniform or a working girl’s overall.

Suddenly rumors were heard, to the effect that our house was going to be seized, to become a Club for Workmen, and that we should be turned into the streets. I felt mournfully indifferent. T had been deprived of news of any member of my family for so long that I no longer cared if I was going to be put in prison or to die of hunger. I had no hope left and lived in a sort of complete stupor. And then, quite unexpectedly, while we were all waiting to hear the worst, a girl called for me at the Museum one October morning. She said she was from Finland, and wished to speak to me in private. I managed to arrange this, and she gave me a paper on which I recognized the writing of my best friend living in Finland: ‘Your husband is alive. I should be glad to receive you here. Trust my messenger entirely. Do not trouble about details.’

The price of the journey to Finland was then about one million rubles, or ten thousand Finnish marks. To my eager questions, the girl answered that I was to start the next day, without any luggage; to be warmly dressed; that we were going to travel by sea; that I was not to trouble about anything. She then left me, telling me where to find her the next day.

It all seemed very dangerous, but I could think of no other way. Nights were beginning to grow cold; the Gulf of Finland would soon be frozen; it was the last chance — and not to be lost. I returned to the boarding-house as usual at five. I could not sleep all night, and left for Petrograd the next morning at seven. I had a little office to myself at the Museum; quickly collecting all my papers, I left a big inscription on my desk, to the effect that owing to a complete breakdown I requested two months’ leave. Having done this to keep my employers out of trouble, I left the Anitchkoff Palace with a feeling of regret, in spite of all.

There were no trams that day on the Nevsky (the largest street at Petrograd), and I had to walk to the Toutchkoff Quay, where I was to meet the girl. Yes, she was there! Without speaking, we ate a little bread, and walked toward the station for Finland. Being Saturday, — the day the trains of wood are due from the Baltic, — there were hardly any trains for travelers. We had to wait more than two hours, and then only managed to get into a carriage by hanging on to the steps and pushing our way through masses of struggling people.

The girl told me not to speak to her again; she had informed me that my friend’s brother was fleeing with us; having tried to escape before, and having been caught in the first attempt, the boy was very frightened this time. Indeed, on learning that I was to be with them, he had nearly decided to go back home. He had only started on being assured that we should all be at liberty to escape alone in case of danger! Nearly all the last attempts to cross the frontier had been unfortunate: young Princess Galitzine, born Beckmann, had been shot at the frontier, and many others thrown into prison.

I was struggling with conflicting emotions. To be shot for my son’s sake, to suffer in his name, as so many others had suffered for their dear ones, seemed a vision of glory to me; but at the same time, I felt it would be humiliating actually to give the Bolsheviki real grounds for putting me to death.

However, there was nothing else for me to do but to place my trust in the Almighty. As it was, we were painfully traveling in a cattle-car, there being no passenger coaches on this line. Many Red soldiers were going to the country, for the most part to Oranienbaum, for the week-end. If they had only known what a precious hostage was traveling with them!

At one of the stations, my companion silently touched my elbow. We got down; it was already growing dark. We walked for a long time in an aimless way — I feeling all the while that my companions would be ready to forsake me at the first sign of danger. As we were nearing the sea, a figure suddenly moved toward us. I shivered — then thankfully realized that the girl was expecting him.

Yes, she was talking to him and signing to us to follow. Always in that same impressive silence, we walked on, soon reaching a few miserable hovels, built along the main road. Ye stopped near one of them, out of which came a man — Russian — and a woman — Finnish. Casting anxious glances around them, they made us enter the hovel, hurriedly closed the door and shutters, and lit a flickering oil-lamp. At my question, ‘When do we start?’ they answered that the departure would take place in two hours’ time, when it would be quite dark; and they told us not to leave the hovel and not to talk, on account of the patrols of Red soldiers. As we had asked for food, they gave us coffee (of ground oats) and boiled potatoes.

Feeling somewhat stronger, we waited impatiently for the arrival of the wife of the fisherman in whose boat we were to travel. She came at last, very troubled and sad, with the news that the fisherman was so completely drunk that we could not think of starting that night, at least! A terrible moment! What was to be done! Return to Petrograd? An impossible solution, the last train having left! Would this frightful effort of ours give no result? I felt that I had no courage left to begin again.

Anyhow, we resolved to spend the night in the hovel, the girl and I on a bed of very doubtful aspect, my friend’s brother on the floor, our hosts in the adjoining kitchen. Morally and physically exhausted, we soon fell into a deep slumber. In the middle of the night, we were suddenly awakened by heavy tramping and excited shouts. ‘The Red soldiers,’ I murmured, as I jumped out; of bed. Then I heard a rumbling noise, as of something heavy being dragged along; then the steps leading to the small attic creaked ominously.

I could not bear this dreadful suspense, and rushed to the door, followed by the girl. Our companion was snoring peacefully on the floor. Through the half-open door, we saw men dragging cases and bags to the attic. What could all this mean in the middle of the night? The girl only answered me by desperate looks, signing to me to keep still.

Our hosts, having escorted their visitors to the door, gayly came back to bring us the cheerful news that contraband goods had just been brought to them: twenty-five bottles of spirits, and a great quantity of flour and tobacco! They were in for prosperous trade: they would have many buyers. Once more they asked us to remain very quiet. We were, then, in a den of smugglers! It would really be terrible if General Wrangel’s mother were to be arrested in such company! The Bolsheviki would have good cause to rejoice.

At daybreak the buyers arrived: we heard more noise, just whispers, then quarreling, then the sound of luggage being dragged. I sternly asked the girl to answer my question: ‘Would we leave that night, yes or no? For, if not, I was determined to return to Petrograd.’ The girl promised that we should start at nightfall, cheerfully reminding me that the drunken man was locked up!

The day passed mournfully, in anxious waiting. They gave us black macaroni and sour milk, for which we had to pay 8000 rubles. We did not grudge them the money of the Soviets. At last came the twilight that we had been expecting so long, and with it our saviors — the fisherman, or smuggler, with his two companions. They had evidently been ‘refreshed’ by our hosts, for, without being quite drunk, they reeked of spirits. However, we had neither the time nor the means of hesitating; making the sign of the Cross, we followed the men to the sea.


The night was icy cold, pitch-black and dismal. On the beach, the fisherman, having cast anxious glances around, thus unnerving us yet more, dragged a boat from its shelter and put it into the water. It naturally drifted away from the land so that it was impossible to reach without wading. Before I had time to speak, I was seized by the fisherman who was standing in the water, and deposited, for all the world like a sack of potatoes, in the bottom of the boat.

The girl had remained at the hovel, fearing to come with us to the beach. We were five: the three fishermen, myself, and my friend’s brother, as silent as the grave. The boat was of the most common type of fishing craft, with a sail. As it had stuck in the sand, it was quite a long time before we started. At last the terrible voyage began in earnest. The night was bitterly cold, the boat rocked upon the waves, which threw up their icy spray into our faces, while the fishermen took turns to empty the water out of the boat. My feet were drenched.

We had started at seven o’clock; but suddenly the fisherman began to look anxious; the wind was gradually changing in a way that was not favorable to our plans. The fishermen busied themselves with the sail, warning us to be silent, as we would be obliged to go round the isle of Cronstadt, from which powerful lights were constantly radiating over the sea in all directions. I was finally ordered to lie down in the boat — in the icy water! And there I lay like a frozen mummy, with chattering teeth and the feeling that this dreadful cold was far worse than the danger itself.

I was not afraid, I only longed for warmth. At last, Cronstadt and its terrors remained far behind us; we were all alone on the dark heaving sea.

And the hours passed; stiff and dazed with the cold, I was yet able to notice that our voyage had far exceeded the three and a half hours which it was supposed to take. At two o’clock, just after I had glanced at my watch, a fierce blast of wind tore off our sail and broke the mast. I began to tremble. The fishermen, rising to their feet in the small boat that rocked furiously, strove to mend it, the while they swore at each other and lost their heads. Each time they moved, the waves swept over the narrow boards. But I was so cold and miserable that I felt incapable of anything else, even of being afraid. How my body smarted and ached under my wet clothes, pierced by the icy wind, during that stormy October night!

However, the fishermen managed to adjust the sail at last, and began to assure us that we should soon arrive. But, alas! our troubles were not yet at an end: it began to snow, and we were encompassed, as it were, by impenetrable white walls. The snow, melting as it fell, trickled down our backs. I felt that my head had turned into a block of ice.

Four o’clock! We had been traveling for eight hours, the last one without any direction whatsoever! All at once the fishermen began to look excited, and my silent companion, who had not stirred since our departure, actually rose and smiled. Through the falling veil of snow, they had just caught sight of land. Removing the sail, the fishermen rowed vigorously toward it, the while I reflected that my soul must have frozen too, I felt so indifferent! Once again the boat stuck into the sand at some distance from the shore. As I was not even able to rise in the boat, the three fishermen lifted me up and threw me roughly upon the sand, as if I had been a corpse. Enjoining us in terrified whispers to be silent, they then brought their bales of contraband goods, and disappeared with them in a neighboring wood. They had nothing more to do with us, or we with them!


My companion and I were thus left alone, and free! I did not realize it at all then; I had no strength or feelings. The boy, on the contrary, seemed another person. Laughing and talking, he helped me to rise, and advised me not to lose time, but to follow him.

It was 4.20 — but where were we, after all? Whither should we go? We decided to cross through the forest. As I walked, the cold seemed to lift itself from my shoulders, and I felt that I was thawing both morally and physically! Dawn was breaking when we suddenly walked into some barbed wires! A hurried inspection showed us that we had come to some fortified area, and my companion, who had lived in Finland all his life, recognized the fort of Ino. He knew now that we should go in the opposite direction, toward the small town of Terioki. So we walked on through the forest, passing between closed villas and barred doors, a deserted summer resort.

At last we came to a village, very silent at this early hour, and we wandered about till we saw a light in one of the small houses. We knocked at the door, soon opened by an elderly Finnish couple to whom we explained that we were refugees from Russia, solely desirous of resting for a while and getting warm. The peasants received us most hospitably, leading us into the livingroom where I saw — oh, joy — a glowing stove!

As it was, the ice upon me began melting, trickling in small rivulets down to the floor. The woman helped me to remove my drenched clothes, wrapping me the while in warm blankets, and making me sit close to the stove. I think that moment was one of the best in my life. As soon as I had introduced myself as General Wrangel’s mother, I was surrounded, comforted, and greeted by all the members of the household. The man told us that all his sympathies lay with the White Army, and that he had often been to Petrograd in former days.

In a minute the table was covered with excellent food, the like of which I had not tasted for two years: hardboiled eggs, cheese, butter, milk, and especially white bread! How queer I must have looked as I stared with such rapture at these homely treasures! And they gave us coffee too, real coffee, with milk and sugar! I ate and drank, and felt almost too warm! My tattered garments having dried, I dressed again, and carefully tied on my boots with pieces of string. My coat stood out Stiffly around my thin body, and my hat was a limp bit of felt.

Our kind hosts told us that we could not avoid some days of quarantine at Terioki, twenty miles away, but that they would take us there in their carriage, which proved to be a cart, full of straw. However, we were most thankful to be in it, and expressed our deepest gratitude to our benefactors.

During the time I stayed at Terioki, all the Finnish papers having spoken of the ’brave traveler, General Wrangel’s mother, who had managed to escape to Finland,’ I received quantities of letters from unknown friends, and a moving letter, signed by many Finnish families, expressing their joy at the knowledge that I was safe in Finland, and their consideration for my son. The American Mission, who were then so actively supporting the Russians in the Crimea, were untiring in their efforts to help me. They supplied me with food and warm clothing. How much I was moved by all these marks of deference and sympathy, of which I had been completely deprived for so many years! I felt that I had been touched by the magic wand of a powerful fairy.

The day I was to leave Terioki, my friend arrived to take me to her charming home where I spent four months, enjoying the rest and comforts, the while my passport was being prepared for Germany. Thanks to my friend’s devotion and care, I soon felt my own self again, though I suffered deeply, owing to my son’s great misfortune in the Crimea.

In February I was finally able to go to Dresden, where I found my husband who had arrived there from Finland some time before my escape.

We are living in Dresden at present, as refugees, who have not. lost courage and who firmly believe in the resurrection and the future prosperity of our beloved and unhappy country.


I do not wish to end this account without briefly describing the present state of the doomed city of Petrograd. The general aspect of the town is more that of a village. There is no traffic on the Nevsky (principal thoroughfare), and except for the cars of the commissioners and a few lorries, all the population go about on foot. Many of the streets, even part of the Nevsky (near the Alexander theatre), have become green lawns. As all the factories are closed, the air is much purer. People no longer use the pavements, but walk in the middle of the street; some carry big bags, the food-rations they have just obtained from the municipal shops; Others are eating their bread in the street, without waiting to reach home. Some time before I left Petrograd, there had been an unexpected distribution of apples, and the entire population seemed to be feeding on them in the street. A foreigner visiting Petrograd at that time is supposed to have made the following remark: ‘Why do the Russians complain? They have every reason to think they are in Paradise. They go about naked, and feed on apples all day long! ’

One often sees women wearing very smart dresses while their bare feet are hardly protected by sandals made of string. In winter, all the traffic consists of narrow sledges drawn by the people themselves, used for luggage, foodrations, sacks of potatoes, and in which tired mothers convey their children.

Every shop is closed, shuttered, and barred, for the food is ‘requisitioned’ and trade ‘nationalized.’ The people all have a weary, sickly, discouraged look; pale faces, drawn features, haggard or swollen eyes. The intellectual level is greatly inferior to what it was. My conversations with my colleagues of the Museum, all belonging to the educated classes, inevitably ended with discussions or questions of the most domestic character. People have grown irritable, suspicious, and have the appearance of frightened animals. Nearly all have partly lost their memory. The most prominent men have died of hunger or been shot. I know personally, of those who have died of exhaustion, Lappo-Danilewsky and Schakhmatoff, members of the Academy, Professor V. Hessen, and many others. I could give a long martyrology of all those who have been shot by the Bolsheviki, while in the full force of their manhood and talent.

Professors, students, and other people belonging to the educated classes, do not have a better time than the socalled aristocrats.

Both science and public instruction are declining. There are no books, no references, no academic material to be got; no more scientific publications are received from abroad, and none are published in Russia at the present day. The schools exist mainly on paper; in truth their number has been reduced to the extreme, because of the lack of abode, of fuel, of teachers, of books.

Owing to the prevailing system of mixing school boys and girls together, to the absence of discipline, and to the great slackness as regards morals, depravity is general. All the ‘icons’ have been removed from the schools, and the children dare not wear any religious emblem. So as to inoculate the children with Bolshevist principles, they are taken to cinemas to see revolting films figuring episodes from the life of Rasputin; and others, reported to be true, concerning the intimate life of the members of the Tsar’s family. From time to time posters are put up in the streets, representing ‘Nicolas the Bloody’ — the name which the late Tsar, tortured and killed by the Bolsheviki, is now given by them in Russia. With the crown falling from his head, the Tsar is pictured in a state of complete inebriation, wearing a long court robe, and standing over the bleeding corpses of workmen.

Petrograd is full of clubs for ‘Young Communists.’ I had the opportunity of hearing some of their speeches: I can only tremble at the thought of what the next generation in Russia will be.

The private chapels, and those belonging to schools and state and military establishments, are all closed. No drudgery is spared to the priests. The papers are full of insults directed against the clergy; the ‘Red Paper’ even boasts of a special column for this purpose! On the other hand, one notices a general increase of religious fervor. The religious processions, which have recently been authorized, thanks to the intervention of part of the workmen, attract thousands of people and far exceed those of the past in magnificence and piety. The public churches are always full, and congregations have been organized. The churches are entirely kept up by the parishioners, who have never been so ready to support the priest and decorate the church. The choirs are excellent.

There is a new type of priest, more instructed than those of the last generation; they preach in a different way, too; one now feels a spiritual link between the priest and the congregation, united by misfortune and suffering; and these relations are both confiding and affectionate. Confessions in public are very popular. I have never observed in former times the atmosphere of intense piety now reigning in the churches, when, amid much sobbing, the entire congregation confess together; and I know many people who have grown profoundly religious in Russia since the Revolution.

The names of many streets and palaces have been altered; for instance, the historical Palace of the Tauride being now called the Autirzky Palace, after the Communist killed in 1918. The Nevsky Perspective, the Piccadilly of Petrograd, is known as the Street of October 25, date of the Usurpation of Power by the Bolsheviki; Tzarskoe-Selo, the palace inhabited by the Imperial Family to the day of their departure to Siberia, now bears the name of Dietzkoe-Selo — and so on.

Hideous plaster monuments have been erected all over the city to the memory of the ‘Fathers of Revolutions’: Lassalle, Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxembourg,Volodarsky. Amonument was dedicated at one time to Sophie Perowsky, who had taken part in the murder of Alexander II; but it was removed on account of the effect it produced on passers-by!

As the painters and sculptors at the service of the Soviets are peasants or workmen who indulge in futurist and cubist dreams, disastrous results may easily be imagined. The former court poet, Macakovsky, having glorified the Communist Paradise in his last poems, is greatly appreciated by the Bolsheviki.

The ‘Marsovo Pole,’ or parade ground, where the statue of Souvoroff still dominates the great empty space formerly used for so many brilliant military pageants, has become the modern Pantheon, where all the heroes of the Revolution are buried. It is in a deplorable state — all mud and dirt. The town itself is filthy, and, as regards sanitary measures, the situation is appalling. Houses are never repaired, owing to lack of material; it is impossible, for instance, to get nails. Most of the water-pipes have burst on account of insufficient heating, all the wooden houses, boats, neighboring forests, having already been used as fuel! The rubbish is thrown out of the windows into the streets, and the system of canalization is more than primitive, with disgusting effects. Houses, stairs, courtyards are all in the dirtiest condition; as there are no porters or menservants, the cleaning is supposed to be done by the overworked population, the greater part of whom are unaccustomed to these operations. The result is appalling; I need not dilate upon these lamentable circumstances.

During the whole winter, the temperature inside the houses never rises above zero; therefore the inhabitants are compelled constantly to wear their coats and keep on their hats. They have to write with woolen gloves, of which the fingers have been cut off. No one undresses to go to bed. No one washes more than once a week, on account of the cold, or puts on clean clothes more than twice a month, owing to the high price of soap. Lice and vermin— those foul sources of epidemics — abound, especially in the hospitals, public baths, schools, trams.

The mortality is incredible at Petrograd. The population is decimated by typhoid, Spanish influenza, dysentery, cholera, and, principally, hunger. In 1917 Petrograd numbered 2,440,000 inhabitants, and, in 1920, 705,000. Naturally, the emigration and the executions must be taken into account.

The state of the hospitals is terrible: patients are constantly refused admission, and die at the very doors; wounded soldiers were not always taken in during the last period of fighting. The medical staffs do not escape epidemics, any more than the rest of the population. There are hardly any medicines, and only one thermometer for 200 patients; castor oil, soda, and anæsthetics are not to be obtained at all; not a single public bath is fit to be used, and the lavatories can only be termed filthy sinks.

The deadhouses are always full of corpses, and there are no coffins or means of conveying them to the cemeteries. The nurses are coarse and have no training; they usually rob their patients, steal hospital property, and lead immoral lives.

People inhabiting provincial towns have often told me that the whole country is subject to the same terrible conditions as the capital.

These are, regarding life in the ‘Communist, Paradise,’ the few personal impressions I wished to put before the civilized world.

  1. Translated from the Russian by Nadejda Stancioff. The author is the mother of the celebrated General Wrangel.