Chapter 4 - Revolution and Escape
A devastating international situation, coupled with a deteriorating domestic economy, contributed to the universal feeling that something ominous was coming. Zworykin sensed very quickly in early 1917 the approach of what was eventually to be one of the most prophetic events in history. In these next pages he describes the manifest uncertainty of life during that extraordinary year.
When I returned to Petrograd in January 1917, I found an entirely different atmosphere than when I left it. The dislocation of civil life, already evident before, had greatly increased. If before people worried only about reverses at the front, now everyone seemed convinced the war was lost. The frustration of just a few months ago was replaced by near panic. Everyone was convinced that something drastic and dangerous was inevitable, only no one knew what it was or when it would occur. The prevailing attitude was that the sooner this inevitable unknown happened, the better. It was expressed as "whatever happens will be better than the present."
Thus when the big event finally came, on February 17, hardly anybody noticed since it came so gradually, so unpredictably, and because its coming was taken for granted, it turned out not to be what everyone expected. I may add that the result of this change surpassed both the fears and expectations of everyone, including the people who actually engineered it. The breaking point can be traced to the demonstration in front of the Moscow railway station where a police lieutenant ordered the Cossacks to disperse a demonstrating crowd. Instead, one of the Cossacks killed the lieutenant.
From that death, the revolution was irreversible. Workers from big factories struck and began converging on the center of the city. Two elite regiments from Petrograd arrested their officers and joined the demonstration. The rest, of course, is well known. In a few days, Tsar Nicholai [sic] II abdicated and all power went to the "Duma." It is hard to describe these first days of the revolution. The city was in a holiday mood. Everyone was in the street; nobody seemed to be doing anything. Everyday life came to a standstill. The casualties in those first days were very small and the newspapers were very jubilant, labeling what was happening as the "great bloodless revolution." Still it was very (p. 49) dangerous for officers to show themselves on the streets, especially those who still wore officers’ epaulets. Most of the officers removed them and began wearing red ribbons on their sleeves or red rosettes in their lapels. Still the curiosity to personally observe what was going on simply forced everybody into the street. On the second day of the revolution, I found myself walking through the corridors of the Duma. Since now everyone was supposed to be equal, no passes were required for anything and there were no restrictions on anybody. Thus, in spite of the fact that the Duma now was the center of government, anybody could walk through Tavrida Palace, where the Duma was assembled, and even enter rooms where government meetings were in progress.
While walking through the Tavrida Palace, I met a friend of my father, Professor [Aleksandr I.] Guchkov, a member of the Duma and the new provisional government. He asked me if I were still in the Signal corps since they needed somebody to immediately organize radio communications directly from the Tavrida Palace, particularly to the Island of Kronstadt, situated in the mouth of the Neva River, where there was great danger that the commander of the fortress might be executed by the sailors. Since after my return from [left blank: probably Turgay] I spent most of my time at the Russian Marconi factory, I told him we could use radio equipment from there, which I knew was ready for shipment to the front. I asked him to get me the proper official documents, which he did, and then I rushed to the factory which was located on another side of the city. That day the streetcars were not running and if I went by foot, it would probably have taken me several hours. There were many automobiles standing in front of the palace, with military chauffeurs. I did not have much success trying to requisition one until I was accosted by a chauffeur whose face looked familiar and I recognized him as one of the mechanics, named Loushin, who had been with me on the expedition. I told him of my predicament, and since in these days the authority of a private was much higher that of a general, he soon procured a motorcycle with a sidecar which from then on became my personal transportation for several months. He took me to the factory where Dr. [S. M.] Aisenstein, on the strength of the personal letter from the minister, agreed to release the equipment. Now our problem was how to deliver the equipment, which was mounted in the truck, to the palace and how to find a crew to operate it. Here again, Loushin had a solution. He suggested going to the Officers’ Communication School and calling for volunteers.
We found the school in turmoil. A big meeting was in progress. For me, being an officer, to interrupt a meeting was impossible, but it was different for Loushin. Without asking permission, he jumped on the roster and addressed the audience composed entirely of soldiers, describing the imperative necessity of immediately establishing radio communication at the Tavrida Palace. He (p. 50) called for volunteers. The response was so tremendous that we had difficulty in selecting the most qualified. Back we went to the Marconi factory, this time with two big trucks filled with volunteers; picked up the radio truck, and returned to the Tavrida Palace.
By the end of the day the radio station was set in the garden of the palace and soon communication was established with Kronstadt. I immediately contacted the minister and reported that the station was ready for operation and communication began. The first two days I was stationed day and night at the palace, organizing the operation of the station, but at the end of the third day after delivering some of the dispatches to the minister’s office, I decided to explore the rest of the building. Walking through the corridors, I noticed a big sign—"Radio Communication," and I found a large room filled with desks, each one occupied by either an officer or a soldier, and lots of girls, presumably secretaries. Everyone seemed very busy trying to look important. Sitting at the biggest desk was a captain in the Signal Corps uniform, so I asked him what they were using for communications. He answered that everything was in the preparation stage only; they hoped to presently use the big station located in the outskirts of Petrograd, but as of now it was not available. He was astonished to hear there was a radio station operating already in the palace gardens and was very indignant that nobody had reported to him. And just who was I anyhow? After explaining to him what I had done, on the direct request of the minister, and where the equipment had come from, he became most jubilant and appointed me as some sort of third secretary to him.
This new appointment consisted essentially of sitting behind the desk and pretending to be busy. New commanders at the station, and by now there were several of them, did not even let me in for a visit. Very soon after consulting with Colonel [Ilya] Mouromtseff who was still the head of the Communication School, I was reappointed to a permanent job at the Russian Marconi Factory which suited me very much. However, the work at the factory also began to disintegrate. Regardless of where you went, to the shop, to the drafting room, or to the laboratory, all you would find were continuous meetings, endless resolutions, and very little work.
The city never came back to normal life. The demonstrations and parades continued on one pretext or another, and the food supply began to get worse every day. There were continuous lines in front of bakeries and food stores. The only milk available was from private farmers, mostly from Finland. If you could find one there was always a near riot among those anxious to buy his milk.
On practically every corner was an orator, mostly returned soldiers from the front, calling for new freedom and "down with everything." Around the villa of a famous ballerina, there was (p. 51) always a tremendous crowd hoping to hear and see Lenin who lived there and spoke quite often. Meanwhile the disintegration of the front continued. Frantic efforts by the remaining organized troops failed to stop the Germans who were now advancing on Petrograd. The provisional government tried to organize new troops, mostly from officers and volunteers to protect the Capital.
We were living among wild rumors, not knowing what exactly was going on because even the newspaper stories were untrustworthy. One day I received a notice to report immediately to the revolutionary tribunal. This was a very frightening summons since, according to rumors, officers seldom returned home from such summonses, either being sent to prison or even executed for no other reason than being a career officer or on the complaint of a former subordinate.
When I came to the indicated address of the tribunal, which was in the railroad station, I was brought to a room full of people, mostly soldiers. Behind a long table covered with a red cloth, sat the judges—two soldiers and one civilian. The presiding judge asked my name and I gave him the summons. He searched among the papers in front of him and finally said that I was accused by my former orderly Tovarisch Konstantine of inhuman treatment, when he was at my mercy. It sounded completely incredible because Konstantine, fat and lazy, was probably the most pampered orderly I had ever encountered. I spoiled him at the very start and he had taken full advantage of this. He disappeared soon after the revolution, coming only occasionally to tell me fantastic rumors and receive an allowance which I started to pay him from the beginning of his service and which I continued, even after he had stopped working for me.
Completely bewildered, I asked the judge, who was glaring accusingly at me, what kind of mistreatment I was accused of, since I could not recall ever harming Konstantine. At this, the judge called the plaintiff. Konstantine appeared very confused and red in the face, mumbling something about officers always mistreating poor orderlies. One of the judges stopped him and told him to tell exactly how he was abused. Here Konstantine told his incredible story. He told of the many hours I had forced him to speak all kinds of nonsense "through the hole in the box" and that I did it to humiliate him. He obviously was referring to our experiments with the wireless telephone. I looked at the judges and found by their menacing expressions that in spite of the absurdity of his accusation, they believed him. As I tried to explain, feeling at the same time how futile it was, one of the spectators, with the permission of the judge, asked me if he understood correctly that I was working with new radio-telephone. When I confirmed this, he delivered a veritable (p. 52) oration, partly to the judges, partly to the rest of the public, present in the room. He accused Konstantine of gross ignorance and told him that he should have been proud to help me in any work instead of accusing me of mistreatment. His speech so relieved the accusatory atmosphere that the judges began whispering among themselves. The presiding judge then announced that the case was dismissed and told me that I could go home since the accusation was not proved. He then turned to Konstantine and said—"Get out and don’t show your face here again." The next week Konstantine again appeared at my apartment for his monthly allowance and I gave it to him.
At that time I met again an officer that I knew before, who suggested that I enlist in a new contingent he was forming with large new motorized artillery pieces. He expected to be sent very soon to the front and he badly needed an engineer familiar with trucks, motor generators, and radios. He persuaded me to join him so I moved to the outskirts of Petrograd for my new job.
In Petrograd, away from the chaos of Moscow, Zworykin was assigned to a special-purpose heavy artillery unit. This unit (T.A.O.N.) was completely motorized and had new six-inch heavy guns. He was responsible for the outfit’s mechanical affairs in addition to the training of chauffeurs, mechanics, and radio operators. Since, like himself, all of the officers and men were volunteers, the unit was free of the corrosive atmosphere of hatred and suspicion that permeated many of the regular Army units. He remembers the atmosphere and relationships in this unit as most congenial—a refreshing change from his previous experiences.
Many of my duties were new to me so I had a lot to learn, not only about the complicated gun mechanisms but also about tractors, trucks, and light automobiles which were either of American or French manufacture. Most of my time was occupied by the automotive equipment and the training of drivers. Fortunately, I succeeded in having Loushin transferred with me, and although he had been a motorcycle driver, he quickly became a very good chauffeur and helped me to train the rest of the crew. Still we had a lot of trouble with accidents, equipment breakdown, and even injuries to the personnel. One of the (p. 53) accidents almost proved fatal to both Loushin and myself. Our unit received a new, light, French-made open automobile (Renault) and Loushin and I went to the railroad depot to get it and drive it back to our outfit. It arrived with several spare tires and boxes containing additional parts and tools. On our trip home, with Loushin driving, we ran into heavy traffic (horse-drawn carts) so when we saw a break in front of us, Loushin drove into it in order to bypass a stalled column. However, we soon discovered that trucks were stopped at the crossing of a suburban steam railroad and as we had almost reached the track, we saw to our horror a locomotive coming full speed toward us. Loushin quickly stopped the car and tried to reverse it but in the excitement forgot that the Renault had a different gear shift than the other cars we had in our outfit. Instead of reversing it, he sent the car forward.
I will never forget the next moment; I have since seen it many times in my dreams. The impact of the collision threw the car in the gutter [and] propelled both of us high into the air. The spare tires went flying with us and created a fantastic picture of slow motion as they rotated around us in free flight. Remarkably, when I landed in a field quite a distance from the place of collision, I found that with the exception of a wide open cut of one of my military boots and a scratch on my leg, I was unhurt. Some of the cart drivers rushed to help me, but when we started to look for Loushin, we could not find him. Our first impression was that he was covered by the wrecked car and with great apprehension lifted it only to find no one was underneath. Then we saw someone approaching us from the direction of the river, dragging someone with them. It was Loushin, completely wet, and in bad nervous shock. The soldiers said that they had fished him out of the river where he was evidently attempting to drown himself. I found that he also was completely unhurt, but had a strong impulse, after landing in the field, to run and before he realized it, he was in water and someone was dragging him out.
The next few days were frantic for both of us. The car was a sad sight, with crumpled fenders and a dented body, but the chassis and motor were intact and after straightening the fenders and changing two broken tires, we were able to start it up again. To return to our unit with a new car in such a condition was a disgrace and since the Marconi factory was not too far from the accident, we drove there. A closer inspection revealed that most of the damage was to the body. I appealed my predicament to Dr. Aisenstein and he gracefully let us use the shop and factory tools for repair. Loushin got additional help from some mechanics he knew and in three days the car was completely repaired and repainted so that when we finally delivered it to the battery, hardly anyone noticed the damage. I have mentioned only of one many accidents we had in the training of the chauffeurs out of raw recruits. (p. 54)
One of the most troublesome characteristics of untrained chauffeurs was their curiosity towards complicated mechanisms and their tendency to take them apart at the slightest opportunity. Since it was forbidden to disassemble such parts as carburetors or ignitions, they often did it away from the base, on the pretext that the machine was stalled. Quite often I would receive either a telephone call or a messenger with information that a car was broken down twenty or thirty miles away and needed help. On arrival I would often fund a disassembled carburetor with some parts spread out on a soldier’s overcoat and the parts already lost, broken or reversed. So the machine had to be towed back for repair. Additional trouble came from the gasoline, which was often full of lint from the filling hoses. Tires were also unreliable and seldom lasted more than one or two thousand miles.
We were fortunate in having a very competent and energetic commander. Since the time set aside for organization and training was very short, he forced all of us to work close to twelve hours a day. He took us on practice marches, and later started accustoming us to simulated combat conditions. To make us give accurate information concerning shell landings, he would fire live ammunition over the heads of the advance observation post, and after receiving the distance of overshot, he would [fire] half this distance. Therefore the closeness of second shell bursts depended on how accurate our information was. The next shell would land behind the post to discourage estimations of too large an overshot. After a few scares from close bursts, we became very accurate in our ranging. Furthermore, at first we were reluctant to dig our observation trenches too deep, but a few close shells rendered all of us expert, swift and energetic diggers. Fortunately, we had no casualties during these practices.
Finally, all the unit preparations were completed, most of the equipment was obtained, and we received orders to proceed south. We did not get very far. We stopped near Kiev because the front had disintegrated. Germans occupied Ukraine and installed Getman [or hetman, "leader" Pavlo Skoropadsky] in Kiev. Our unit found itself in a very complicated situation. We stayed on the opposite bank from Kiev, on the River Dnieper, in the village of Brovary. Across the river from us were the Ukrainian troops of Getman and Germans. On one side were Cossacks who were independent and did not accept orders from Moscow, and on another side were detachments of partly demobilized troops, which did not accept any authority at all. They were leaning toward the Bolsheviks, although officially power was still in the hands of the Duma and preparation were being made for the election of the Parliament. Every day we were visited by all kinds of political propagandists who held meetings and tried to influence us, each in different direction. Nobody knew anything for certain so we just stayed there and awaited (p. 55) new orders, but no one arrived. To augment my personal difficulties, my wife arrived from Petrograd since life there began to be very difficult. I succeeded in finding a room for her, but intended to move her on to Kiev later.
Meantime the general situation grew more and more obscure and we began to have frequent incidents between members of the battery and demobilized soldiers returning home and anxious to appropriate anything movable. The battery had to entrench itself and our commander put us on military alert.
One day an invitation came to attend a meeting of delegates of different army units stationed in surrounding territory. One noncommissioned officer and I were elected to represent the battery. The meeting was very large, noisy, and fruitless. I doubt that at this time if it was possible to arrive at any majority decision. The army was divided by a multitude of different political creeds—from monarchists to communists—and although most of the parties agreed to support the election, communists had already launched their slogan "all power to soviets." The meeting changed nothing so we started home by train. The station was more than usually crowded, and in our attempt to squeeze into the car, I was separated from my companion. When the train crossed the river bridge it was stopped at a small station and surrounded by a large mob of demobilized soldiers, some of whom tried to board it. When they saw the many officers who were returning from the meeting, they wanted to remove and disarm them. Many fights started and there was some shooting. Railroad officials, in an effort to stop the riot, started the train, but some of the more militant members of the crowd had already for on board and began moving from car to car disarming and abusing officers. I was riding in the middle of a car, near a window and when the militant began to close in on me, I jumped through the window and rolled down a slope, landing in the soft wet brush. It was already getting dark so the few shots they fired at me from the windows fortunately missed. Although I was a little shaken, I was not hurt. I walked to our unit which was about five miles away.
This situation changed suddenly and radically when the unit members were awakened one night by the sounds of shooting to find themselves surrounded by an armed regiment of Ukrainian soldiers. They surrendered themselves and their weapons without resistance on the condition that the (p. 56) Ukrainians (who actually demobilized them since they were on Ukrainian territory) allowed them to keep two of their trucks to deliver men and baggage to the railroad station. Thus, out of uniform, Zworykin went to Kiev where he joined his wife.
Life in Kiev was far from peaceful. There were rumors that the front was retreating and the Germans were going to evacuate the city. We had to decide what we would do next. My wife wanted to be evacuated with the Germans, which was possible, but I was against it and wanted to return to Petrograd. This led to another separation, this time we thought, because of our many problems, the final one. My wife left for Berlin with a family whom we knew before, and I succeeded getting passage on one of the rare trains going to Moscow. When I arrived there after a very hard trip, I found the city calm and soon located my sister Maria, who was still working in a hospital. From her I learned that my Father had been dead almost a month. This was a great shock to me and I departed as soon as I could for Murom.
The situation in Murom was much worse than in the big cities, which was probably typical for most of the country at this time. The governing power in Murom had passed abruptly from old police and local councils to the local soviets, consisting mostly of workers from local factories and demobilized soldiers. This not only made the life of the more wealthy people completely miserable but also disrupted the life of the whole city.
For a time, most of the citizens did not realize what had happened. They considered the change temporary and expected that everything would return to its old accustomed pattern. The story of what happened to one family, soon after the Bolsheviks seized power, will serve as an illustration. The head of this family was a successful merchant, philanthropist, and one-time the mayor of Murom. He died shortly before the Revolution and left a large family. Soon after his death, his eldest son got drunk and created a disturbance in the house. When such things happened before, his mother, if she could not handle the situation personally, used to call the chief of police. This gentleman would arrive in full uniform and medals, have a few drinks with the son, then gently suggest that he peacefully go to bed. Not realizing that anything had changed from the old times except the names, she called the new commissar of police to come and talk with her son. When the commissar arrived and the son not only refused to obey his orders to go with him but started to argue (p. 57) [line illegible; possibly with him, the commissar shot him dead. Soon after their home was] was confiscated and the family was dispersed. This situation had a personal aspect to me, since one of the daughters in the family was my first romance. The girl I met under such unusual circumstances during the disastrous demonstration in Murom.
Our house had already been requisitioned for a Museum of Natural Sciences, but my Mother and my oldest widowed sister were permitted to use, temporarily, a couple of rooms. I tried my best to persuade them to move to Moscow where they be less conspicuous, but they would not leave their home. This proved to be a fatal mistake. I learned what happened to them only many years later. I also learned that my aunt Maria Solin was murdered in her house by the lover of the girl she adopted. The motive evidently was robbery since she had a large collection of Holy Icons that were incrusted with precious stones. Our other relatives also suffered. The father of my cousin Ivan, who it was said cared as much about his race horses as he did his children, shot himself when his horses were requisitioned.
I located my school friend Vassili and found him an invalid, severely crippled during the war. He had married just before the mobilization and now was supported by his wife. He told me about some of our other classmates, many either killed or scattered all over the country. One had become very prominent and occupied an important post in Moscow.
When I returned to Moscow, I discovered that the Russian Marconi factory had been evacuated from Petrograd and was now in Moscow. I reported to work and was gladly received by Dr. Aisenstein, but the work in the factory was completely disrupted. Most of the equipment had not arrived yet; and what was there had not yet been installed. We spent most of our time at the railroad yard, hunting for missing machinery or in long lines waiting for food and other necessities.
In October the provisional government failed, and Bolsheviks seized power . This did not improve our situation and, as a matter of fact, brought work at the factory to a complete standstill. The new government started moving its offices to Moscow, completely overloading the railroad between Petrograd and Moscow, thereby making the transfer of factory equipment increasingly difficult. Even the local communist cell, which was now in charge of the factory, was powerless to help locate the necessary equipment. In desperation one day, Dr. Aisenstein asked me to help a laboratory representative locate some important cases containing instruments and get the proper papers so they could be released from the railroad. In order to get a pass for anything, one first had to get a pass to enter the office where such passes were issued. My companion was an old mechanic (p. 58) from the laboratory, a long-time communist, and a very decent fellow. He was upset and ashamed by the disorder we found in the offices. Since he could not find any information about passes, I suggested that he use his party card. This worked like magic. All he had to do now was to flash his card and nod. In my direction and say "he is with me" and we were able to pass through all the doors that had previously been closed to us.
However, that was only the beginning. Nobody could tell us who the proper person was that could help us. Finally we located a desk where there was a long line of people with problems similar to ours. Some were protesting the long delay, and one in the line, who started a conversation with my companion, told him that he had already waited for more than an hour. Just as he reached the desk, the official got up and left and nobody seemed to know when he would be back. "All he has to do is to put a rubber stamp on my paper," he said. I meekly suggested to him that if only a stamp was necessary and the stamp was here on the desk, then why not use it himself? That aroused some interest but nobody made a move. So three of us left the line and approached the desk. I looked at the papers for the equipment we had brought with us and found that they were in order. All that was needed was an official stamp on the proper place indicated on the paper. It was too tempting to resist, so I affixed the stamp. The third fellow grumbled but followed my example. This created an uproar on the line but he passed the stamp to the next one and we quietly departed. This was still not the end. We needed a number registering the paper in the book of the office where it was issued. For this, we were sent to another room and found the proper desk with a young girl sitting behind it. She was munching on a piece of bread, and said she was busy and refused to register our paper. After some arguments she admitted that she was new, and was only sitting in since the girl responsible for this had gone and might not return all day. So we volunteered to teach her how to complete the registration. My companion showed her his party card and, after registering our papers in the official ledger, we completed all the necessary requirements. By the end of the day, we received our box of instruments.
Zworykin now made his most difficult decision—to leave Russia. He was restless; sick of war, chaos, and death; and wanted only a place where he could do research in a laboratory. A Civil War was brewing—something he had no taste for. In addition, the new government continued strict orders for all former officers to report for enrollment into the Red Army. He describes his feelings and eventual departure in the next pages. (p. 59)
It is hard to describe the complex and contradictory reasons that brought me to this decision, but I think they were not much different from the general feeling of many individuals with my background. The feeling in the country toward the new regime was widely divided. The most homogeneous and organized supporters of the communist government were factory workers, probably because of the socialistic pronouncements by past generations of intellectuals, with which I was so well acquainted during my student years. In direct opposition to them were the career army officers and most of the wealthy class, particularly those who lost their lands and industries. Intellectuals, who were in the minority, were divided into dozens of different political creeds, ranging from completely for to completely against the new regime.
The peasants were a bewildered mass; on one hand they were pleased by the seizure of the landowners’ property and gloated over the loot they got from their pillaged mansions, but were apprehensive by the uncertainty as to whom this land belonged—to them or to the government. The wealthier peasants, so-called "Kulaks" who had already accumulated some land which they augmented during the revolution, were neutral for the time being, but eventually swung to the right and in the end were eliminated.
The large mass of the Russian population, the main reservoir for recruits on both sides of the conflict, was more or less neutral and, as later events proved, oscillated politically according to which side was stronger at that particular moment. Ironically, one of the most decisive factors in cementing the allegiance of the mass of the population, in my opinion, was the foreign intervention. The effort of the Allies to keep Russia at war with Germany actually aroused the masses’ dormant nationalism and unintentionally strengthened the position of the communist government.
Of course all of this was not so clear to me at that time, but its profile was dimly foreseeable and unquestionably influenced my decision to leave the country. Since I wanted to work in a laboratory where I could develop the many ideas I had, I was willing to go to any country where I could find such a facility. America seemed to me to be such a country.
To leave Russia was very difficult, since strict precautions to prevent this were in effect on all the borders. The best way to leave was to obtain the proper identification papers and some sort of official orders to go abroad or at least somewhere near the border. Our radio factory was under military orders, and therefore it was impossible that an engineer could be sent abroad officially. However, I (p. 60) had friends in a large cooperative organization that had offices in America and in the Siberian city of Omsk. I succeeded in obtaining from them an order to go to Omsk on an official mission. Most of the officials at that time who checked identification papers were half literate, so the most important items in any paper were an impressive letterhead and a large seal. So soon as I had secured those, I began my preparations to leave.
Although I tried to arrange my departure in as legal a manner as possible, under the circumstances, still the life at that time was full of surprises and one had to be prepared for all kinds of emergencies. Your papers had to be both current and always with you in case you were stopped on the street or your apartment was searched. If whoever questioned you was not satisfied, even though you were absolutely innocent of any political activity, you could be taken to jail, from which it was very difficult, if not impossible, to be extricated. In spite of all these precautions my departure occurred very dramatically and abruptly.
One day while I was walking home from the laboratory, a car stopped by me and I recognized the driver as my friend Loushin. I invited him up to my apartment, but he motioned for me to enter the car. As he sped away in the opposite direction, he related how he had tried to find me at the laboratory but had just missed me. He was now working as a military police driver and by accident found out that there were orders out to search my apartment and to arrest me because they found out that I was a former officer who had not registered. Since it was very dangerous to go to any place where I was known, Loushin took me to the railroad station where I telephoned my apartment. Someone was already there. I had to leave Moscow immediately. I bought a ticket to Nijni [Nizhni Novgorod] (now Gorki) where my family once had a steamship office that was now nationalized, but still retained our name. After reaching Gorki, I found most of the former employees were still there, although in reversed positions; one of the junior clerks was now in charge of the office and I went to see him. Fortunately, we had been friendly in old times and had even hunted together. He obtained a ticket for me on the steamer to the city of Perm (now Molotov) on the Kama River and gave me money in exchange for some jewelry I brought from home.
The boat was reasonably clean and comfortable, with plenty of food, so I had a very restful and pleasant week of travel. In general, the farther we moved from Moscow, the more peaceful the country became. However, (p. 61) when I arrived in Perm I learned that the railroad to Omsk was not running because of fighting and it was impossible to go farther. I met several engineers I knew before who reinforced the fact that the situation on the railroad was very chaotic. Former Czech prisoners from the Austrian army, who volunteered and formed a special Czech division, refused to disarm themselves as ordered by the new government. They occupied the city of Kasan on the Volga River and were fighting their way along the Trans-Siberian Railroad (which went on to Vladivostok on the Pacific coast) in order to return to their country, and this action of course disrupted the railroad communication.
This introduced a completely new and unpredicted element into an already complex situation. The Czechs seized the national gold bullion, stored in Kasan, reported to be worth half a billion dollars. This action of course raised the hopes of the anti-communists who expected to inherit this gold. Eventually, only part of the gold reached Vladivostok, and that part was confiscated by the British.
I discovered that trains were still operating to the north and was advised to try my luck through the northern mining region and from there to go by boat to Omsk. I decided to take this suggestion.
Without much difficulty I reached, by train, a large mining region by the name of "Nadejdinski Mines" [Nadezhdinsk, now Serov] and on the advice of the conductor, I planned to spend the night on the train because it was the end of the line. During the night, the train was boarded by a military patrol, who demanded to see my papers. Although my papers were in order and I still was traveling according to orders of the cooperative via Omsk, having been diverted by the Czech situation, they were not satisfied and decided to report me to the main office. This of course was very alarming since in this part of the country local officials were very independent. To my surprise, the office answered to bring me to the guest house where a room was ready for me. In spite of my protests that this must be some mistake, since I did not expect to stay and was just passing on to Omsk, I was taken very politely but firmly to the guest house where not only a room was ready but in spite of the late hour, I was treated with a good dinner. I was very alarmed with such an unexpected reception but since there was nothing I could do until morning, I had a good sleep.
In the morning (p. 62) there was a knock on the door and the hostess brought me breakfast, informing me that it was late and that a reception committee had already been waiting for me for quite a long time. I was now certain that someone had made a mistake and that the reception committee had taken me for somebody else. I did not have the slightest desire to be an imposter, besides it was very dangerous, so I decided to tell them frankly about their mistake. When I entered the reception room, I found half a dozen people who greeted me and began introducing themselves. At first I tried to convince them that they had mistaken me for someone else, but eventually I gave up when they continued to insist that as an engineer from the Center, I should still be interested in inspecting their plant. Outflanked, I finally agreed.
It took me several days to inspect this big establishment. Gradually, it became clear to me that the new management was anxious to impress Moscow that the work was progressing satisfactorily so they could get confirmation of their authority and receive money for current expenses. Even to my inexperienced judgment this was only partially true, since some of the blast furnaces were stopped without gradual cooling and therefore completely ruined. and some of the shops were not operating for one reason or another. The management was expecting a commission from Moscow to inspect actual working conditions in the Ural industries so a priority could be assigned to funds and materials; they mistook me for such. With some argument I agreed to confirm, by signature, their statement of plant working conditions, after they agreed to state correctly the exact number of operating blast furnaces and shops. This confirmation was to be sent by special messenger to Moscow. At the same time, I asked them to help me get to Omsk. They suggested I return by the same railroad and change trains at Ekaterinburg (now Sverdlovsk).
This proved to be very difficult. At the exchange station I found that trains to Ekaterinburg were very rare, and seats were assigned by local soviets who promptly refused to honor my traveling orders. So I had no other choice but to hang around the station waiting to find a place on one of the trains. Among one of the newly arrived passengers on a train from Moscow, I saw an engineer whom I had known before in the Institute. He told me that he was a member of the group sent from the government to investigate conditions in the Ural industries. It was lucky that I left there when I did, otherwise it would have (p. 63) been very unpleasant for me in spite of my emphatic denials of not being a part of this investigation commission. Still our chance meeting helped me to get a seat on the train vacated by my friend and that was how I finally reached Ekaterinburg.
I found the city on military alert because the Czechs were moving toward it along the railroad. The military patrol at the station was not satisfied with my papers and told me to remain in the car until they sent someone else to check on them further. This was dangerous so I left the car as soon as they had gone. I went to the station and got a horse taxi to take me into town. But at the gates we were stopped by another patrol and when they found that my papers did not have a release stamp, they sent me back to the station under guard, to the same fellow who told me to remain in the railroad car. With a convoy, I was sent to town to a hotel that had been turned into a prison where all persons suspected being either Czech partisans or former officers were being detained. Here I found many different people: some panicky, some indignant at the disruption of their travel and shouting for immediate release, and ominously, some already resigned to their doom.
Several days after my arrest, we heard from the guards that Tsar Nicholai II who was under arrest in the same city but in a different house, was shot with all his family. This news of course caused panic among the prisoners. We knew before that periodically some individuals and even groups were taken out of our hotel prison and were not returned. After the tsar’s execution, we believed that most of them were shot. Soon after, I was called for interrogation. Since I was traveling in a military overcoat, without shoulder straps but with the engineering badge on it, the accusation naturally was that I was a Tsarist officer trying to escape over to the counter-revolutionary forces. This I denied, insisting that I was mobilized during the war, had the lowest commissioned rank, was demobilized by the Ukrainians, and was now being sent by the cooperative to Omsk as a radio specialist. I was able to support all of this by proper documents.
This however did not convince my interrogator, who tried to trick me with all kinds of intricate questions, including some about radio. Since he was a dentist before the revolution I was able to hold an upper hand on his technical questions. Thus I was sent back to the prison to await Moscow’s verification of my credentials. Although this was a momentary gain, my troubles were not solved because communication with Moscow was very slow and uncertain, and furthermore the status of the cooperative with the new regime was quite precarious. (p. 64)
The atmosphere in the prison was panicky and full of rumors, some brought by new arrivals and others invented by the inmates themselves. Most speculation concerned the intention and location of the Czech troops. Down the street we could hear sporadic shooting, and someone advocated overpowering the guard and escaping. When in the next few days, the food situation deteriorated to the point where we were literally starving we began to prepare to break out. Someone found out that the Czechs were already in town, and our guards began to disappear. In no time, the doors were broken open and all the inmates rushed out into the streets.
At first, everyone tried to get as far away as possible from the hotel-prison, but then someone heard that the Czechs wanted us to go to the monastery where we would be taken care of. I personally did not like the idea of possibly being locked up again, so I separated from the group. It was a great feeling to be free again, even though I had lost all my money and my suitcase containing everything I had. The city was in turmoil. There was some shooting; some people tried to escape from the city and others were jubilant at the arrival of the Czechs.
Finally, after some wandering, I ran into a Czech patrol who searched me but were satisfied when I told them that I had just come from the political prison. They ordered me to show them around the city. Our communication was difficult since the Czech language is quite different from Russian, but when one of them began speaking German, the situation improved. When the patrol returned to their unit, they took me with them and fed me. One of the sergeants, who spoke German, told me that before the war he had worked as a mechanic at the Skoda Works. I happened to know an engineer who studied at the Institute with me and after graduation went to work at Skoda. The sergeant said he had heard about him. This established some sort of friendly contact and under his protection, I was permitted to go with their train to Omsk, where at that time power was in the hands of the provisional Siberian government who opposed the communists, having an agreement with the Czechs permitting them to proceed unmolested to Vladivostok.
As soon as we arrived in Omsk, I located the office of the cooperative from which I had traveling orders and was greeted very warmly. They agreed that they needed (p. 65) more engineering information from America and were willing to help me to get there, but Omsk was cut off on all sides, except the north, by various fighting groups and I had to wait until the situation improved. They also told me that they were visited by a professor of geology, I. [Innokenty P.] Tolmachoff from Petrograd, who also was trying to go abroad on some scientific assignment. I found Professor Tolmachoff, who said that he hoped to leave the country via the northern route—by the rivers Irtysh, Ob, and the Arctic Ocean. The professor had many friends in both the government and the cooperative who were helping him to organize his expedition, and if I was willing to join him, he said he would be glad to have me. So I found myself a member of the Arctic expedition. We had a small river boat that belonged to the cooperative which would take us to Obdorsk (now Solehard [Salekhard]) on the mouth of the River Ob. From there, we hoped to find transportation help from local officials. On the way we promised to distribute various supplies from the cooperative to some settlements on the rivers.
I was also told that Omsk needed radio communications and although the French government had promised to send equipment and a specialist to operate it, nothing had arrived. Thus, as a radio expert, I was commissioned by the government to approach the Russian Embassy in Copenhagen and London and if necessary, in America, in order to purchase the appropriate radio equipment and bring it to Omsk. So at the end of July 1918, our boat departed from Omsk to the Arctic Ocean. I found a very congenial crowd on this boat. Professor Tolmachoff and I became very good friends and remained so for many years in America. Also with us, besides the crew and some members of the cooperative, was an expert for the conservation of fish, who was sent to study the types of fish available in the rivers for commercial purposes. So, via his studies, we continuously had a supply of fresh fish during the whole of our journey.
This trip gave me a unique opportunity to see this part of the country. The Ob is one of the largest rivers in the world. It starts in the Altai Mountains, crosses the whole Siberian plain, and after 3000 miles empties into the Arctic Ocean. At the time of our travel, with the exception of a few cities, the area surrounding the river was sparsely populated and the shores were covered with an almost impenetrable taiga. Communication in summer was mostly by boat, and in winter by horse and sleigh. Our boat traveled quite leisurely, stopping at the small (p. 66) settlements.
On these stops we had the opportunity to meet and talk with the population. In many of the villages, they had heard vaguely about the revolution but, in some, were completely ignorant of what was going on. This part of the country was conquered at the end of the sixteenth century by Cossacks under Ermak, and for quite a long time was used by the government as a place for political and criminal exiles. Various native tribes had partly assimilated with Russian settlers, but most had retained their ethnic entity.
One of our most interesting stops was at the town of Beresovo, at the northern end of the River Ob. Here, on the top of a hill, we saw the remains of an old Schukchi settlement which according to Professor Tolmachoff dated to the pre-Ermak conquest of Siberia. We collected some pottery in various stages of preservation. We also saw a group of male natives with [a] shaman, dancing over bottles of vodka.
After a month of travel down the River Ob which in its lower stretches is several miles wide with very few settlements, we arrived at Obdorsk (Salekhard). Here we spent several days making arrangements for continuing our trip around the Yalmal [also Yamal] Peninsula (about 500 miles) to the southern end of the Vaygach Island where, on the strait between this island and the island of Novaya Zemlya, we would find a radio station built to report on ice conditions in this part of the Arctic Ocean. During our stay in Obdorsk, we visited neighboring native settlements, observing their life patterns and the methods whereby they caught fish, ducks, geese, and other wild fowl with fishing nets. We also saw the place where they worshipped their ancient gods, in spite of the fact that they officially were Christian. Here, in a place protected with unmanned bows and arrows, we found an accumulation of offerings in the shape of pelts and various household articles.
Finally, by arrangement with the local fishing cooperative, we boarded a small fishing boat and, in spite of a rather rough passage, reached the radio station about two weeks later. The last part of the journey was in dense fog, and since the boat did not have a radio, the area was located by the simple expedients of firing guns, ringing the ship’s bell, and listening for return shots from the station. By these means our pilot was able to bring our boat within less than a hundred feet of the rocky (p. 67) shore, in spite of a complete lack of visibility.
The station was occupied by two Russian radio operators and a family of Eskimos. The operators were on a rotating schedule of two years each, being replaced every other year. They eagerly awaited the icebreaker that would bring the new operator and fresh supplies from Archangel. The icebreaker had already been on its way for several weeks, but they had recently lost contact with it and at this point were unsure whether it would come at all since the ice was very bad and navigation ended usually on the first day of September, the day we landed there. The situation was aggravated by the fact that the captain of the boat that brought us, was anxious to return before the winter’s freeze and the only other way for us to return in case the icebreaker did not arrive was with the Eskimos when they migrated south to their winter quarters. But even they were departing soon in view of the coming of winter.
Finally, the captain gave us the ultimatum that if we did not go with him the next morning, he would leave us at the station. We were completely desperate when that night we heard a siren and a ship bell. The next morning we saw the icebreaker Salambola from Archangel coming to our shore. An additional surprise was that on the ship were the French radio specialists with the equipment for the radio station at Omsk. After a very fast unloading of the supplies for the station and then putting the French party on the boat for Obdorsk, we boarded the Salambola and started our journey to Archangel.
Sailing on the Arctic Ocean is never too smooth, but my memory of this trip was that it was the roughest and most unpleasant I have ever experienced. To begin with, icebreakers, especially small ones like the Salambola, have a round barrel-shaped bottom and therefore continuously roll even in calm seas. During all our trip, the weather varied from rough to stormy, and for the first several days I was seasick and stayed all of the time in my berth. On the wall of the cabin was a device indicating the degree of ship roll with metal stops at 45 degrees at each side. This device, which was clanging on these stops practically all of the trip, almost drove me mad. At the beginning of the trip the captain, when he found out that I knew how to operate a machine gun, attached me to the machine gun crew (p. 68) (since he was short of men) with orders to report to the position in case of alarm. After we started and I became seasick, I thought I would rather go to the bottom with the ship than move from my berth. However, when our lookout saw or imagined he saw a German U-boat and the alarm was sounded, I was able to crawl to the deck and was tied with a rope to the gun carriage. Evidently I was so scared and excited that only at the end of the alarm did I realize that my sickness had passed. I was not seasick any more for the rest of the trip.
When we arrived at Archangel, we found it was occupied by French, English and American troops. All the embassies moved here from Petrograd after the Bolsheviks took power and the German troops started to move toward Moscow. Since my instructions from Omsk were to go first to London, I asked the British Embassy for a visa to England but was refused on the grounds that they did not recognize the Siberian government. The U.S. Ambassador to Russia at that time was Dr. D[avid] R. Francis from St. Louis. He was very nice to me and was most interested in Siberia. I visited him several times telling him all I knew about his country. He gave me a visa to the United States and requested a transit permit from the British Embassy. The British agreed to this procedure and requested a visa from London however warning me that it would take some time to get it. I also had some letters to the Russian Embassy in Denmark, so I decided to go first to Copenhagen since the American visa entitled me to go there in transit. It was a very pleasant voyage by Norwegian boat through fiords, first to Christiana (now Oslo) and then to Copenhagen.
The trip was very unusual because the boat traveled partly by open ocean and partly through fiords, dashing in and out of them many times during the trip. The water in the fiords was calm, and it was like sailing through a lake, but the ocean was rough and our little boat pitched and rolled like the good Salambola. This created a problem in the dining room. If the meal time began in a fiord, the dining room would be filled with passengers, but if during the meal the boat went out into the open ocean, most of them, including myself, retired to our cabin returning only when we were in another calm. During the short night we were entertained by a fantastic display of Aurora Borealis playing almost continuously over the sky like a gigantic luminous curtain. (p. 69)
The passengers on the boat were almost all Norwegian, so for me this made conversation difficult. However, it did not preclude basic communication which was often by gesture, grunt, or smile. Someone would bring attention to the Borealis display, a seal, or to how the men were fishing with lines devoid of bait or lure of any kind—just by naked hooks. From childhood I detested cod liver oil, but now found that fresh cod is the most delicious fish there is, if properly prepared.
When we came to Tromso, the captain organized an excursion on the shore to see, behind an iron fence, seven trees, which were supposed to be the trees farthest beyond the Arctic Circle.
In Bergen, we were transferred to another larger boat which delivered us to Copenhagen, a city quite striking in contrast to the others I saw during my travels. It was immaculately clean with neat houses and orderly people. In contrast also were the plentiful displays of food and other commodities in restaurants and shops and the reasonably inexpensive life. I located an old acquaintance from St. Petersburg who was sent there with his family by the government before the revolution and subsequently elected to remain there. He showed me the city and told me about the inhabitants. On his suggestion I started to take lessons in English from a lady who was a Russian refugee. I had some arguments with the management of the hotel where I was staying because they did not like my having "lessons" in my room and insisted they be given downstairs in the general rooms.
I had to wait several weeks for the British visa and witnessed the first armistice of World War I, which later proved to be premature. The whole city went wild with dancing, singing, and drinking. When the real armistice came, I was in London, so I celebrated it for the second time. It took me almost a month in London before I was able to secure passage to the United States and straighten out the necessary formalities with my papers. Meantime, I was deluged with invitations from the Russian colony in London to recite my travels and tell all I knew about the situation in Russia. I noticed however that not all my stories pleased my compatriots, most of whom were living with their suitcases packed ready to return to Russia as soon as the revolution collapsed. Anything (p. 70) that was said that disagreed with their hopes angered them, and as a consequence, some even refused to believe the authenticity of my travels. I soon realized that the telling of my stories put me at a great disadvantage. It is hard to convince a listener that you did not choose these adventures, but like many others, ran into them by a combination of circumstances and could recount them only because by luck you managed to get out alive. So I decided to stop telling about my travels.
Finally the day of departure came and I boarded the S.S. Mauritania for the United States. This was my first trip on an ocean liner. I traveled first class and had access to the numerous living, smoking, reading, and other rooms and promenades. I enjoyed particularly the dining room and the enormous menus with their many choices of all kinds of exotic dishes, so in contrast to my spartan living during the war and my travels. Although in London I had bought myself a new dark suit, I still felt very uncomfortable among passengers who changed their dress several times a day, particularly having to dine in the same suit, when everybody was formally dressed.
My consolation, however, came much later when this experience of not having the proper attire prevented me from taking another boat, which was torpedoed and sunk. Therefore, the absence of a dinner jacket probably saved my life. The trip across the Atlantic was uneventful and we arrived in view of the Statue of Liberty on New Year’s Eve of 1919 and were held in the harbor until the next morning.
Due to difficulties with the English language, I was able to converse mostly with those who spoke French. At my table was a man by the name of [Augusto B.] Leguía Leguia who was from Peru and spoke French. He was returning home from England where he was in the insurance business. We agreed to celebrate the New Year together and before parting he invited me to visit his country where there was a big demand for young engineers. I said that my plans were very indefinite, but that I would remember his invitation.
Next morning I was surprised to see Mr. Leguía being met by a group of very official looking gentlemen who were dressed very formally. When I asked one of them who Mr. Leguía was, he told me that (p. 71) they were from the Peruvian Embassy and that Mr. Leguía had just become the president of Peru. Later I received a letter from Mr. Leguía on the stationery of the President of Peru with a more formal invitation to immigrate to his country.
On the advice of my new Peruvian friends, I first took a room at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, where they were staying, but soon found that it was too expensive for me and moved to the Ansonia Hotel on 72nd Street. With probably all new visitors to the United States, the thing that made the biggest impression on me was the sight of so many tall buildings, particularly the Woolworth Building which at that time was the tallest of them all. However, I was too preoccupied with my mission to pay much attention to the surroundings. I had several letters of recommendation from Russia to deliver and was particularly anxious to see my two friends who had arrived in New York before me. One was Colonel Mouromtseff, who left Petrograd soon after the revolution on an official mission in connection with the Government Purchasing Commission, and another was Mr. D_____ from Berlin who moved to New York after the beginning of the war. As soon as I was able to reach Mr. D_____ by telephone, he suggested that I take a subway near the hotel and come to his house.
Although he explained to me in great detail how to find the right entrance to the subway, where to put the nickel, etc., I still took the wrong train and soon noticed that the stations we were passing were not the right ones. I left the train, planning to return back to 96th Street and take the right train. Then I discovered that the nickel I had used at the 72nd Street station was my last one, since I had left all my money in the pockets of the trousers I had left in the hotel for cleaning. At first I almost panicked, particularly after attempting to explain my troubles to the subway guard who did not understand my poor English. Several other people, who did not have the time or patience to understand me, passed me by. One man, who guessed that I was a freshly arrived immigrant, stopped to listen to me. By switching from one language to another, I finally explained my predicament. He gave me a quarter and his address where I returned the money with much gratitude the next day. I called Mr. D_____ on the telephone and he suggested that I stay where I was in the subway station, and he came by car to pick me up. This was my first experience in New York. Afterwards, I did not have much difficulty in my new surroundings. (p. 72)
I soon located the office of the cooperative organization with whose credentials I traveled, and I spent several months with them, establishing communication with Omsk. In the spring  I got an order from the Siberian Government to return to Omsk since they needed a radio specialist. They asked me to bring some spare parts for their radio equipment. My situation was very uncertain. So far I had traveled and lived in New York on the funds I had obtained in Gorki, as I have already mentioned. Obviously, my funds could not last forever so I had to plan the future. To get a job in my profession without knowing English was practically impossible. The officials of the cooperative accepted me on the request from their office in Omsk, but were reluctant to pay me a salary because their resources were limited and additional funds were hard to get due to the very unsettled conditions in Siberia. Therefore, they were glad to get rid of me and agreed to pay my return expenses.
When I wired Omsk the date of my return, I received additional requests, some official and some private, and I started to the West Coast with a great deal of baggage.
The return, which lasted about six weeks, took me through Seattle, Yokohama, Vladivostok, and by Siberian railroad through Harbin to Omsk. After a very pleasant trip by American train and by Japanese boat, I landed in Vladivostok, which was occupied at this time by the allies. My papers were accepted but I was warned that the passage by Siberian railroad through Habarovsk or Harbin was uncertain. Both these cities were occupied by practically independent atamans—Habarovsk by General Horwat and Harbin by [Cossack] Ataman [Grigori] Semenov. The latter acted as a war lord holding a strategic point on the Siberian railroad. I did not have any choice and had to rely on my orders from Omsk.
This proved to be very optimistic as I was detained for days, repeatedly searched, some of my baggage confiscated, and was able to proceed only duo to telegrams from Omsk. On arrival there I found profound changes had occurred. The Siberian government was replaced by Admiral [Aleksandr V.] Kolchak and the civil war was going on all over the country. The fighting was in progress on several fronts between "whites" and communists, with variable successes on each side. (p. 73) Although the eastern part of the country was nominally under control of the Kolchak government, there were also several almost independent "atamans" besides the one I mentioned, who recognized no one and did essentially what they pleased. Whole provinces passed from one authority to another, and it was difficult to know from whom the population suffered the most. The chaos was spreading so I decided to return to the United States, this time for good.
In the meantime the Ministry of Transportation which was concerned with delivery to Omsk of goods purchased abroad, particularly in the United States was looking for someone to start organizing the shipment for the next summer navigation. I received a proposal to take part in this activity in America, which coincided with my plans, so I agreed to accept the job conditionally for at least one but not more than two years duration. So once more I started for New York, this time as a government courier with letters of recommendation to various Russian organizations in the United States. Since by now I was a familiar person in Omsk, with a reputation of successful travel to the United States by the Arctic Ocean, I was deluged with all kinds of commissions from cooperatives and other organizations, letters from private individuals searching for their relatives, and finally from the Russian Orthodox Church to deliver to the head of the Russian Church in the United States a vial of myrrh—a blessed oil used in church services.
This time I retraced the route by which I had come from New York. I reached Vladivostok by railroad, took a small boat to Suruga, and again by Japanese railroad arrived at Yokohama near Tokyo. When I passed through Japan the first time, I remained in Tokyo only several days and did not have a chance to see the country. On my return visit, I had to wait for a visa and steamship ticket for almost a month, so I decided to use the time to see the country. I made a traveling plan and as I was purchasing my tickets, I noticed a Japanese gentleman near me whom I had seen before in my hotel. I surmised that I was being followed, but since I did not have anything to hide, I approached him and speaking in Russian, showed him (p. 74) my tickets. I told him I assumed he was going with me, and I would appreciate it if he would be willing to show me the country. Furthermore, I said that I would be willing to pay him for his service. At first he was rather confused, but when I arrived at the railroad station for my trip, I found him waiting for me. In him I found an excellent guide and, in a way, a friend by whose aid and knowledge of both Russian and Japanese, I was able to see and appreciate the Japan of that period. When I visited Japan again almost forty years later, it was quite a different country. During these first travels in this country, I saw the real Japan which was probably the same as it had been hundreds of years ago. I spent the last few days in Miyanoshita, which in my mind is one of the most beautiful places I ever saw.
Finally my day of departure came, and I boarded a Japanese ship. We stopped en route for a day in Honolulu where I hired a car to see this beautiful island, also very different then from what it is now. On my way I saw a mound of pineapples for sale and stopped the car to buy some. Not knowing the language, I gave the vendor a dollar bill and left to take some pictures. When I returned I found that all the seats in the car were occupied by my dollar’s worth of pineapples. I decided to take some with me to bring to my friends in New York, but when I arrived at the San Francisco customs, the inspector threw them all out due to the plant quarantine. After a long trip by railroad, I finally arrived in New York, this time with a firm resolution to remain there. It had taken me eighteen months to make my journey of almost twice around the world from Moscow to my new home. (p. 75)