They made us promise to write them from Russia. Cars cold, unheated. The compartments are locked, with Finnish guards on every platform. Even within are the White soldiers, at every door. Silent, forbidding looking. They refuse to enter into conversation. We are practically without food. The Finnish soldiers have stolen most of the products given us by the Buford. Through our car windows we noticed a Finnish worker standing on the platform and surreptitiously signaling us with a miniature red flag.
We waved recognition.
We need the help of revolutionary Russia. Wired again today to Tchicherin and Shatov, urging haste in sending a committee to meet the deportees on the Russian border. No reply from Russia yet. The Finnish military authorities demand we should cross the frontier at once.
We have refused because the Russian border guard, not informed of our identity, might regard us as invading Finns and shoot, thus giving Finland a pretext for war. A sort of armed truce exists now between the two countries, and feeling is very tense. We refuse to leave the train. Representatives of the Finnish Foreign Office agreed to permit a Committee of the Deportees to go to the Russian frontier to explain the situation to the Soviet outpost. Our party selected threepersons, but the Finnish military would consent only to one.
In company with a Finnish Officer, soldier, and interpreter, and trailed by several correspondents among them, needless to say, an American press man I advanced to the border, walking in deep snow through the sparse forest west of the destroyed frontier railroad bridge. Not without trepidation did we trudge through those white woods, fearing possible attack from the one side or the other.
After a quarter of an hour we reached the border. Opposite us were drawn up the Bolshevik guardstall, strapping fellows in strange fur attire, with a black-bearded officer in charge. The officer motioned me to step nearer, his soldiers standing back as I approached. It was happy news.
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The Finnish authorities consented to permit the Russian Committee to come on Finnish soil as far as the train, to meet the deportees. Zorin and Feinberg, representing the Soviet Government, and Mme. Presently arrangements were completed to transport the men and their luggage to the other side, and at last we crossed the border of revolutionary Russia.
The Beauty and the Bolshevist
January 20, O. Driven out from the United States like criminals, we were received at Belo-Ostrov with open arms.
The revolutionary hymn, played by the military Red Band, greeted us as we crossed the frontier. The hurrahs of the red-capped soldiers, mixed with the cheers of the deportees, echoed through the woods, rolling into the distance like a challenge of joy and defiance. With bared head I stood in the presence of the visible symbols of the Revolution Triumphant. A feeling of solemnity, of awe overwhelmed me. Thus my pious old forefathers must have felt on first entering the Holy of Holies.
A strong desire was upon me to kneel down and kiss the ground — the ground consecrated by the life-blood of generations of suffering and martyrdom, consecrated anew by the revolutionists of my own day. Never before, not even at the first caress of freedom on that glorious May day, — after fourteen years in the Pennsylvania prison — had I been stirred so profoundly.
I longed to embrace humanity, to lay my heart at its feet, to give my life a thousand times to the service of the Social Revolution. At Belo-Ostrov a mass meeting was held to welcome us. The large hall was filled with soldiers and peasants come to greet their comrades from America. They looked at us with large, wondering eyes, and asked many strange questions. How soon shall we get help for Russia? The crowded place was heavy with the human smell and the fumes of tobacco.
There was much pushing and jostling, and loud shouting in rough border speech. Darkness had fallen, but the hall remained unlit. I felt a peculiar sensation in being swayed here and there by the noisy human billows, without being able to distinguish any faces. Then the voices and the motion ceased.
The beauty and the Bolshevist | Harper's Magazine
My eyes turned toward the platform. It was lit by a few tallow candles, and in their dim light I could make out the figures of several women clad in black. They looked like nuns just out of the cloister, their countenances severe, forbidding. Then one of them stepped to the edge of the platform. She spoke passionately, vehemently, with a note of bitter defiance at the antagonistic world at large. She told of the high heroism of the revolutionary people, of their sacrifices and struggles, of the great work still to be done in Russia. She castigated the crimes of counter-revolutionists, the Allied invasion and murderous blockade.
In fiery words she forecast the approach of the great world revolution, which is to destroy capitalism and the bourgeoisie throughout Europe and America, as Russia has done, and give the earth and the fullness thereof into the hands of the international proletariat. Tumultuously the audience applauded. I felt the atmosphere charged with the spirit of revolutionary struggle, symbolic of the titanic war of two worlds — the new breaking violent path for itself amid the confusion and chaos of conflicting passions. I was conscious of a world in the making, of the all-uprootingSocial Revolution in action, and myself in the midst of it.
Then several of the deportees appeared on the rostrum. They were deeply moved by the wonderful reception, they said, and filled with admiration for the great Russian people, the first to throw off the yoke of capitalism and establish liberty and brotherhood upon the earth. I was stirred to the depths of my being, too profoundly for words. Answer him! I looked up. Bianki was speaking, the young Russian of Italian descent. I stood aghast as his words slowly carried comprehension to my mind. If you attempt it, it will mean war between us. I jumped on the platform. Socialists or Anarchists — our theoretical differences are left behind.
Comrades, heroes of the great revolutionary struggles of Russia, in the name of the American deportees I greet you. To learn and to help! The deportees applauded, other speeches followed, and soon the unpleasant Bianki incident was forgotten.
Amid great enthusiasm the meeting closed late in the evening, the whole audience joining in the singing of the International. On the way to the station, where a train was waiting to take us to Petrograd, a large box of American crackers fell off the sleigh. The accompanying soldiers hungrily pounced upon it, but when told that the provisions were for the children of Petrograd, they immediately returned the box to us.
Another ovation awaited us in Petrograd, followed by a demonstration to the Tauride Palace and a large meeting.
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