Hardly knowing what next was in store for me, I reported at once to the High Commission. Here I was told that their inquiries concerning me were finished, and that I had better see the Minister of the Interior. At this ministry I was informed that I was in no immediate danger but that I would remain under police surveillance.
There was little sleep for me that night, but tired as I was by morning, I greeted happily the unkempt cook and his messy breakfast plate. All day I waited with the dumb patience only prisoners know, and at early evening I was rewarded by the appearance of Sheiman and Ostrovsky. "Put on your coat and follow me," said Sheiman. See more
"I have resolved to take you, on my own responsibility, to the hospital." To my nursing sister, who had spent the afternoon with me, he gave orders to go to Helsingfors and wait for further directions. At the prison gate Sheiman signed the neces- sary papers, and hurrying me past two gaping Bolshevist soldiers, he led the way down a bypath to the water. Boarding a small motor launch manned by a single sailor, we started off at high speed for Helsingfors. There was one bad moment when we approached a low bridge occupied by a strong guard, but at Sheiman's directions, uttered in a short whisper, I lay down flat in the launch and we passed unchallenged. The first stars were shining in the clear autumn sky as we reached the military quay of the town. We ran in under the lee of a huge warship and stepped ashore. There was a motor car waiting and the chauffeur, who evidently knew his business, started his engine without a word or even a turn of his head. Sheiman spoke only one sentence. "Tovarish Nicholai, drive to—" naming a street and number. At once we were off, my head fairly swimming at the sight of electric lights, shaded streets, and people walking up and down. Turning into a quiet street we left the car, all three of us shaking hands with the discreet driver. Bidding Ostrovsky find my nurse and my small luggage, Sheiman conducted me to the door of the hospital where a nice clean Finnish nurse took me in charge and put me to bed in one of the freshest, airiest, most comfortable rooms I have ever occupied. "Take good care of this lady," were the last words of the President of the Helsingfors Soviet, "and let no one intrude on her." His words and assured smile of the nurse were good soporifics and I fell almost instantly into a deep sleep.
Although we did not know it at the time, our fate really hung on the outcome of a Congress of Soviets which was then being held in Petrograd, and to which both Sheiman and Ostrovsky were delegates. Sheiman returned to Helsingfors and visiting my cell told me that both Trotzky and Lounacharsky were insistent on the release of Kerensky's prisoners. That evening, he said, would be held a secret session of the executives of the Helsingfors Soviet at which he would urge the recommendation of Trotzky and Lounacharsky. If the executives agreed the question would then be referred to the entire Soviet, made up principally of sailors of the old Baltic fleet. That evening I was invited to tea in the officers' quarters, and while sitting there the telephone rang. "It is for you," said the officer who answered the call. I picked up the receiver and heard Sheiman's voice saying briefly: "The executive has voted unanimously for the release of the prisoners."
Erika and I were pushed into a small cell with two wooden bunks covered with dust and alas, nothing else. The place smelled as only old prisons do smell, and the only air came in through a small window high in one of the walls. Wrapping ourselves in our coats, we lay down on the hard planks and tried to sleep. See more
In the early dawn we got up, our backs aching and our throats choked with dust, but the Irrepressible Erika laughed so heartily and sneezed so comically that I found it impossible to lament our surroundings. The place was a dreadful hole just the same, no proper toilet facilities at hand, and of course no opportunity of washing, to say nothing of bathing. We had to pay for our food at the rate of about ten rubles a day, at that time no small amount of money.
The prisoners were exercised every day in the open. Doctor Badmieff continued to be a center of interest in the prison. Erika, his faithful disciple, demanded the privilege of attending him, and this was granted. Every day he sat cross-legged like the Buddha he so much resembled, dictating endless medical treatises to Erika. In the evenings he used to put his lamp on the floor at the foot of his bunk, strew around it flowers and leaves brought from outside, burn some kind of ill-smelling herbs for incense, and generally create what I assumed to be the occult atmosphere of his beloved Thibet.
Excellent weather. Got news that Anya Vyrubova, together with the others, should have been brought to the border, wherefrom she should have continued on her way to Sweden. During the trip she was detained and brought to Helsingfors, put aboard the “Polar Star” and in a few days was put in Sveaborg (fortress).
As night fell, we arrived in Helsinki. The most frightening part of it all was walking out onto the square in front of the train station. There must have been a thousand sixteen people, and we had to get past all of them to reach the automobile. See more
It is awful to hear the insane cries of those who demand your blood! But, miraculously, the Lord saved me…
At 11 o’clock, just as I was going to bed, a commissar with two “adjutants” arrived from Kerensky. He demanded that I get up and read some papers. I quickly covered myself with a shawl and went out to meet them. There were three, Jews judging by their appearance. They said that I, as a counterrevolutionary, was to be exiled abroad in 24 hours. I composed myself, although, under the irony of their gaze, my hand was shaking when I signed the papers. See more
I implored them to delay the journey by another 24 hours, as there was no way I could get ready in this time: I had neither money nor the permission to take anyone with me. The policemen handled me like a dangerous counter-revolutionary. The director of our hospital, Reshetnikov, and the nurse Veselova were called on to travel with me.
My dear martyr, I cannot write, my heart is too full, I love you, we love you, thank you and bless you, and admire you—we kiss the wound on your forehead and your eyes full of suffering. See more
I cannot find words, but you know everything, and I know everything, distance changes our love—our souls are forever united, and through suffering we understand each other even more. All here are healthy, kiss you, bless you, and pray for you without end.
At six o'clock we heard a drosky driven at great speed over the cobbles, and as it came in sight we saw my uncle standing up and wildly waving the papers in his hand, "Free!" he called out. "Anna Alex- androvna, you are free !" The rest is confusion in my mind. There were laughter and sobs. People kissed and embraced me. I was In the drosky driving through Petrograd streets. I was In my uncle's house. The tea table was spread. It was like a dream. See more
After prison one gets used to freedom by slow de- grees. It seems strange at first to be allowed to move about freely, to go to church, to walk, to drive, to go wherever one desires, through woods, along leafy country roads. Not that I was entirely free to go where I liked.
Within a short time the cars stopped at the Detention House in the Furshkatskaya Ulitza, and I was, carried into the office of the commissioner. He was an officer, rather short in stature, but dignified and efficient. Offering me his hand, he asked me if I would be seated while he made out the necessary papers. See more
I had time to see that the House of Detention promised to be quite different from a prison. Indeed the soldiers of this house would not even permit the entrance of the fortress guards who had come with me. As if he divined that I was too weak to walk upstairs the commissioner gave orders that I was to be carried. It was into a large, light, clean room that they took me, and at my exclamation of joy at sight of windows the soldiers laughed heartily., But the doctor silenced them. "Go," he said, "see that her parents are telephoned, and send a woman to bathe and dress her. " His own arms lifted me from the chair on which I half sat, half lay. On a bed softer and cooler than even existed in my memory he laid me, said good night and gently left the room.
Three times, drunk soldiers burst into my chamber threatening to rape me and I escaped by a miracle. The first time I fell to my knees, holding the icon of the Virgin Mary to my chest, and begged them to spare me, for the sake of their mothers, and my elderly parents. They left. The second time, in my fear I threw myself against the wall, hammering and shouting. Ek. V. heard me and also shouted, until soldiers from some of the other corridors came running...The third time one sentry officer came. I pleaded with him tearfully and he spat at me and left.
Twice a day a soldier brought in a nauseous dish, a kind of soup made of the bones and skin of fish, none too fresh. Sometimes, if the soldier happened to be in an especially vicious mood, he spat in the soup before giving it to me, and more than once I found small pieces of glass among the bones. Yet so ravenous was my hunger that I actually swallowed enough of the vile stuff to keep myself alive. Only by holding my nose with my fingers was I able to get a few spoonfuls down my throat. What was left I was careful to pour into the filthy toilet, for I had been told that unless I ate what was given me I would be left to starve. See more
No food was allowed to be given the prisoners even when it was brought to the fortress by relatives and friends. When I begged the privilege of doing this myself the soldier replied: "A prisoner who works is not a prisoner at all." It was still very cold and when I lay down for the night I never removed my clothes. I had two woolen handkerchiefs, or rather, head kerchiefs, and one of these I tied over my head and the other wrapped around my shoulders for warmth. Usually I slept until about four o'clock when the bells of a church hard by broke into my slumbers. After that I tried to doze, but very soon came the tramp of boots on the stones of the corridors and the crash of wood which the soldiers brought in each day for their stoves, I always woke up shivering and my first move was towards a corner of my cell where the stones were dry and a little warm from the stove outside. Here I huddled and shook until the hot water and the black bread were thrust in.
My heart leaped and pounded in my breast and I clung desperately to my crutches lest I should fall into that unfathomed darkness. A few minutes of wild terror and then as my eyes grew ac- customed to the dark I saw ahead of me a narrow iron cot towards which I moved with infinite caution. In my progress towards the bed my feet sank into pools of stagnant water which covered the floor, and soon I perceived that the walls of the cell were also dripping with moisture. See more
The tiny window, high in the farthest wall, admitted little air, and the whole place was foul with dampness and the odor of years. It reeked with even worse smells as I quickly discovered, for close to the bed was an uncovered toilet connected with archaic plumbing. The bed was hard and lumpy and I do not think that the thin mattress had ever been cleaned or aired. However, that mattress was not to afflict me long. Within a few minutes my cell door was thrown open and several uniformed men entered. At their head was a black-bearded ruffian who told me that he was Koutzmine, representative of the Minister of Justice, and was authorized to arrange the regime of all prisoners. At his orders the soldiers tore from under me the ill-smelling mattress and the hard little pillow, leaving me only a rough bed of planks. Under his orders they tore off my rings and jerked loose a gold chain from which were suspended several precious relics. They hurt me and I cried out in protest, where- upon the soldiers spat at me, struck me with their fists and left, noisily clanging the iron door behind them. Wrapping my cloak around me, I crouched down on the bed shivering from head to foot and filled with such an agony of loathing and disgust and desolation that I thought I should die.
I saw the sailor Derevenko, who, lounging in an armchair, ordered the Heir to give him this or that. Alexei Nikolaevich ran around with sad and surprised eyes, fulfilling the orders. This Derevenko enjoyed the love of Their Majesties: for so many years they spoiled him and his family, showering them with gifts. I felt almost sick; I begged that they would rather take me away.