Victor Karlovich Stember - Diary
Below are Victor's diary entries that he began writing in 1918 when he was 55 years old. The hand-written diary was translated from Russian into English by Olga A. Fuhrman. Click any of the Month names below to begin reading, or you can expand each Month name and click on specific dates. "October, 1918" is the start of the diary.

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The complete list of Victor Stember’s family mentioned in the diary.

Friday, January 3, 1919 - Petrograd

Twelve days (since December 21) that I am languishing again here, in Petrograd. They have been bustling days: no time to sit down and write my diary. The whole time has been spent in trying to procure some food, and at the same time being hungry just the same, actually starving. A fear has come over me: no more bread is being issued. In the Public Diner the fare is scanty. At home we cook unchangeable sluggish barley with no butter. In the morning and in the evening I feel nauseated. On the streets one sees people staggering like shadows. The heads of some of them are covered with ulcers, caused by lack of fats in the diet and frost in homes. It is told that in the hospitals people are dying from starvation by the dozens – anemia of the intestines. I had hoped to leave for Dubrachok a week after my arrival here. I long to be there hoping to find there salvation. Instead, on arrival here, attending a meeting on the subject “Art and the Proletariat”, I was carried away by the subject and wrote a report, presenting it at the following meeting a week later. It became the cause of a little scandal...

At the meetig I saw Maria Lvovna (my cousin sculptress). I was shocked by her looks: eyes dead, face pale, swollen. They say that is the second stage after losing weight from starvation: man becomes bloated!

All day today was spent either standing in line at the Cooperative, or in running from the little stove to the Public Diner and so being able only by snatched moments to attend to the packing of things in my studio and the rest of the apartment. It is a sad occupation – this liquidation of one’s life at Chernishov Pereulok – as if salvaging things after a death...

Sunday, January 5, 1919 - Petrograd

On the whole I am feeling quite rotten. A strange weakness...Is it from all the work, I wonder, or packing things in my studio and in the rest of the rooms, or from the poor food? This morning we drank black coffee and ate nothing. For dinner we had hoped to eat to our fill at the Public Diner on the 6 tickets that Kolya’s pupil had promised us. But when she came for the lesson, she brought only 2 tickets. We dragged ourselves to the Diner at the “Kontan” and got there half of an eighth of bread, fish soup and pickled herring each, one cup of black coffee with a piece of hard candy. Then we went to another Diner by the Blue Bridge where late comers are taken care of. We got into line just to find out that dinners are to be served there beginning only tomorrow. After the salty fish our thirst was tremendous. We stopped at Kolya’s pupil for a bottle of kerosene (4 rubles). Then entered a beer shop and drank some substitute beer (4 rubles a bottle). Longingly looked at some suspicious looking pastry, size of an inch, price 5 rubles. We went on: I went to the third Diner where they served a “plat du jour” – beef cutlets (from what meat?!) 12 rubles a portion and a glass of tea. (only 2 glasses of glass ware for the entire Diner). While I drank the tea three ladies were standing in line watching me blow on my tea. Kolya went to the Dimanis for dinner. Coming home – darkness and not a drop of water in the faucets for 24 hours already. We lighted the end of a candle, poured kerosene into the lamp and lighted it. From different pans and kettles we gathered leftover water. It did not fill the samovar. Just the same, we heated it with shavings. We drank tea with saccharine and citronine (krendel in imagination). Talked about the superiority of Berenovsky cakes over those of Weber. We read the paper that was promising increased rations of oats for the Christmas holidays. And now we are sitting in Kolya’s room, the only heated one, and are feeding ourselves spiritually. Between the business of these days I have finished packing and tomorrow I shall start bustling about to get my ticket for Tarusskaya (stop of train for the Dubrachok estate). I wrote a long letter to Natasha under No. 1, January 1, 1919 new style. Am taking advantage of the Domanis Mother and Daughter, going via Finland to Kiev.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. My God, what a sad Eve! How I regret that I did not get for Christmas to Dubrachok. The only consolation is that because of it, Kolya’s not going to be alone. I wonder if I will get to Dubrachok for New Year’s. Rumor has it that on the railroads something terrible is going on!

Monday, January 6, 1919 - Petrograd - Christmas Eve Old Style

Yesterday I wrote to the Zabelins the following letter:

My honorable and dear Antonina Nikolaevna and Nicolai Ivanovich: Tomorrow is Christmas Eve – the eve of a holiday, regardless of all else. And then is followed by the old “New Year” with the traditional New Year’s hopes and best wishes! Friends, acquaintances shake hands, smile, congratulate each other, express their good wishes – everything as it should be during the “joyful” days of Christmas and the New Year! And so will I too be glad, smile and express my good wishes. It does not matter that my joy is as dim as my room lighted only by a small bit of candle, since we have no electricity, kerosene, nor any other lighting means, and though my smile resembles more a grimace and my “good wishes” sound like a mockery!

Nevertheless, am sending you my greetings – greetings from a doomed one. “Ave Cesar Moriturite Salutante”! Translated into Russian means: “May you, my friends, live in plenty, - you are greeted by a hungry one”! On what else can a citizen of the Great Northern Commune concentrate his mind and feelings? All his thoughts issue from an empty stomach and are directed toward one ideal, the only bright spot of his constant, but, alas, useless dreams, - to EAT! May you, my dear ones, live in plenty, not just now but forever and ever! While I, during the last two weeks here, have lost all strength the fat and happy disposition that I had stored up while with you in the charming atmosphere of your “cure-all” home, have succumbed to Petrograd’s treacherous work! I walk like a shadow from one cooperative to the other, I freeze while tied up in queues....and all without success; our holiday menu is the same as that of every day: oats instead of bread and some dried fish in the communal Diner. On the Eve of the Holiday “Peace on Earth and Goodwill among men” people look at each other like wolves, spiteful from huger, and for any morsel are ready to jump at each other’s throats.

My only consolation I find is in the remembrance of your peaceful home! There is, I dare say, a place in this world and people who live there calmly and peacefully, cozily, by well-heated fireplaces, inwardly warm, and without the torturing pain of an empty stomach! There is a Christmas tree at your house today, a real one, a big one, with children and their happy voices, with their carefree world strange to all the vulgar “political moment” that surrounds them. How I would like to rejoice with you both, instead of sitting in a bare, unheated apartment, often without water and without light. It were better to forget oneself among the surrounding of wellbeing of others than to be left in one’s deserted nest and to be watching the vegetation of one’s son, his terrible moral depression, his great artistic powers squandered on trifles, one worries over securing food, and on lessons in a rather stupid “workingman’s home.” Just the same, your kind invitation to visit YOU for the holiday and to see in the old New Year with you, as tempting as it is, I could not accept.

All my longing is for my family. At the same time I shall not be able to be with them tomorrow. They will observe Christmas without me, in vain looking forward to the arrival of the Grand-dad bringing gifts for the little grandson. May God help that the bureaucratic scorpions let loose their grasp and let me leave during the next few days. And so, am leaving for the Tula district until spring. In the spring, if you permit, I shall be with you again. Should you wish to make me happy, write me a few lines about yourselves, the children, about your warm and cozy home life!”

Tuesday, January 7, 1919 - Petrograd - Old Style Holiday of the Birth of Christ

A sad day! Kolya and I are sitting in an empty, cold, desolate apartment. I feel so painfully today all the destruction, and of being forsaken. I feel so sad, so grieved, hurt as if I was in the solitary confinement, and as if a heavy weight is hanging over me! I drive away these thoughts and reminiscences, but they keep assailing me because it is Christmas - the holiday of Peace on Earth and Good will among Men! A Holiday of family coziness, children’s joys and grownups’ happiness surrounded by the children and their voices. It is little Victorushka’s holiday, that of little Kiril, that of little Ksenya, passed on when 5 years old. It is the holiday of my four children, grown up now. Not so long ago they were little and danced around the Christmas tree that we had decorated with sweets and toys, in deeply peaceful, carefree happy times!

Kolya and I woke up late and did not hurry to get up, since we did not expect anything good and joyful from today. We knew there would be no holiday-table set in the dining room, no steaming samovar, tasty coffee, cream, butter, krendel, rolls, and all kind of other delicacies, also no Mother sitting at the samovar with the rest of the family sitting around the table – no holiday atmosphere, but only chaos, dirt, and vacancy. At 11:00 am Kolya began to grind the barley-coffee and I began to light the little stove. Suddenly – the telephone! The Dimanis are calling us, asking us to have coffee with them! What a miracle! Naturally we accepted, got ready and left.

This was certainly a nice thing for the holiday. We found a holiday-table set, warmth, samovar, good coffee, milk, white bread, butter, cheese and ham. Of everything a little, but respectable. And for a minute sadness left the heart. Madame Dimanis is very kind to us but this is because she needs us too: She is storing many of her items in our apartment to save them from being requisitioned. Also Kolya will live in her apartment so as to reduce her floor space allotment. There is no goodness without egoism! By having invited us for coffee she was excusing herself from not serving Kolya dinner (she herself was invited by friends for dinner). Just the same, she asked us how we shall eat beside the Diner, where one can get nothing but dirty stuff. I said I got two pounds of pork but without any vegetables. She then gave us 16 potatoes and advised us to make some soup. After taking two candelabras (to save them from being requisitioned), we went home. I started to busy myself in the kitchen. Made fire in the stove, and by the way, roasted some barley and oaten coffee, while Kolya went to two Diners with 4 tickets (2 our own, 2 from others). He ate in the Diner two dinners and brought home two dinners. But, goodness sake, what dinners they were: from one Diner the sour cabbage soup was all water, herring with onion; from the other also all water with liverwurst awfully salted, pickled with cranberries that nauseated. I was busy in the kitchen until 4 o’clock, then came Kolya. I ate the dinner he brought, then we drank coffee that I had just roasted, with saccharine and yesterday’s kissel (a kind of jello dessert) made of oats. In the evening we shall eat the soup made from pork and we will drink tea. Just now we retired into Kolya’s room – the only heated one - and to distract ourselves by reading Pushkin. But that only deranged me more! I see always Mamulya, Nadya, little Kiril! I think what are now doing Natasha, Karlusha, Little Victor. Where is Sonya and what is she doing?...And how everyone must suffer from such a holiday of the Birth of Christ.

The sum of today’s holiday eating cost us: 4 dinners from Diner, 15 rubles; 2 pounds of pork, 70 rubles; 2 pounds of potatoes, 16 rubles. In all 101 rubles!

Saturday, January 11, 1919 - Petrograd

My bustling is drawing to its conclusion, i.e., departure from delightful Petrograd, though progressing with turtle’s steps. Every affair of a citizen of the “freest” Republic depends on such a mass of formalities, of special resolutions, clerical delay, as has never yet been practiced in any tyrannical government set-up. To get a permit to leave and then to return to Petrograd, I have visited more than ten offices during a week and still can’t see the end of all the torture. For instance, in order to buy in the shop a tablet with a cloth cover one has to get first a permit from the “Soviet Public Management”! In the meantime our life goes on as usual: we practically starve, then grow angry, as we did yesterday, and go buying provisions on the market to the sum of 70-100 rubles; but to carry these purchases is no problem. In all we bought two pounds of meat, some turnips, carrots, soup-greens, potatoes, a small enigmatic-looking can of pork-goose fat (45 rubles), which when used for frying exudes a nasty and sickening odor!

Thus yesterday was a day of cooking. The kitchen stove was lighted, soup was made for two days, pretty good too, potatoes were boiled for the coming day, oats with their husks was cooked for kisel (kind of jello) or for pancakes, but since neither one or the other succeeded it went into the garbage pail. Oaten and barley coffee was roasted in the oven and before we knew it the day was gone. To add to it yet, Kolya’s dinner at the Dimanis and mine at the Diner – we feel satisfied. With the approach of evening we read a book by Durnovo: Thus Spoke Christ. We were so carried away by this remarkable book that we did not notice the passing of time until the clock struck 3:00 in the morning.

Monday, January 13, 1919 - Petrograd

Today, according to the old style, is the Eve of the New Year. It is exactly 12:00 midnight. I was going to write down a greeting to the New Year, welcome it, even though without champagne, and stomach somewhat empty, and in loneliness, when suddenly (with the last strike of twelve) the electricity went out! Some welcome! We each, Kolya and I lighted the end of a candle and are just the same welcoming the New Year while sitting in an unheated room. I have not gotten away to this day – always some handicaps, troubles, disappointments. Kolya’s arrangements regarding his move to the Dimanis apartment is meeting all kinds of failures. At first Anna Andreevna was all for his moving into her apartment, promising all kinds of blessings regarding Kolya’s food and other comforts, and then suddenly last night changed it all. We can certainly detect in this bourgeois individual by her behavior an extreme egoism, materialism, slyness, and a virtuosity in knowing how to take advantage of people for her own use and disregard for their interests when there is no longer need of them and they can be replaced by others who can prove to be more useful! This has produced on us a very depressing effect, and has made me very uneasy regarding arrangements for Kolya. To stay for him alone in our apartment without any help is almost impossible. However, regardless of all our despondency we can still laugh and ironically speak of the so visible tactics of Anna Andreevna!

There are in the air rumors again of a coming change, of the end of some ultimatum, of great armies approaching some fronts, of whole armies having been wiped out, of the arrest of some “high official”, the murder of another, etc. Yesterday Kolya played publicly, in a collective concert in the “Worker’s Hall”, formerly the Army and Navy Club. He was prepared to play a Beethoven Sonata, but when he saw the assembled kind of “public”, and had heard the numbers and character played by other performers, he did not feel like playing the Beethoven, but instead plunged by impromptu into a Chopin Ballade that he had not played since summer. He got through it boldly though not flawlessly, but for the occasion, excellently enough. For this musical enlightenment of the proletariat he received 100 Kerenskys (paper money under Kerensky’s regime).

We walked home. It was still early. We bought from our neighbor 2 pounds of pork for 70 rubles, fried part of it and consumed it......Yes, I forgot to mention: before the “concert” Kolya bought in order to keep up his courage, ten Zephyr cigarettes in the Fair on Nevsky, for 7 rubles and 50 kopeks.

Tuesday, January 21, 1919 - Dubrachok

Yesterday, on the 20th, I arrived at last here, in the country, where from now on begins my idleness. I left Petrograd on Wednesday the 15th. That means the trip here took five 24-hour days. (normally it would take 3 ½ hours) And my God, what a horror it was! From 3:00 in the morning, on Wednesday, Kolya and I took turns standing in line on the Nevsky Prospect, at the International Office of Sleeping Cars, and only because of such efforts (by the way I almost froze my feet), we succeeded in getting a “sleeping place”, First Class, as far as Moscow for 120 rubles. But 9:00 in the evening we were already at the railroad station, but the train left with a great delay, so I let Kolya go home (from that moment I parted with him for a long, long time) since he was greatly tired, the railroad station was very cold, and there was no food in the dining room. As far as Moscow all went well. But in Moscow the trying experiences began. From the Nilolaevsky Station to the Kursky Station the isvoschik charged 40 rubles. In the Kursky Station – a million people. I checked the baggage and ate at the refreshment bar a hasty snack for 40 rubles. To get into the train and to get a ticket to Tarusskaya Station was absolutely hopeless. I decided to travel in the morning with the local train as far as the town of Serpuhov (25 versts from Tarusskaya 1 hour travel), and then trust luck!

Therefore I went to a nearby hotel to spend the night. I was given a dirty room, infested with bedbugs and unheated. No tea, no food. I laid down undressed, covered myself with my fur coat. At 7:00 in the morning I walked to the ticket office. The line was enormous! I did get my ticket but did not get to continue my travel because the check room where I had left my baggage was closed, it being cleaned and disinfected and therefore closed from midnight till 4:00 in the afternoon. Contagious typhoid fever had broken out. So I went to Uncle Dodo (my brother Adolf, nicknamed “Dodo”), whom I found in the process of dressing and preparing the morning coffee. I stayed with him two days and two nights. I was fed well. He and his friend Vronsky have organized a kind of working commune without any servant. At high cost they are getting the most necessary products (prices somewhat less than those in Petrograd). Through Uncle Dodo and Mr. Grushetsky I began trying to get either a seat in some delegations’ coach or get a man who would help me to get a ticket, to find me a seat with the baggage in a coach and accompany me as far as Tarusskaya. I offered as much as 200 rubles for it.

But no, all these hopes and troubles proved in vain. Sunday morning, at seven o’clock I went to the station. The town was dark and empty. Only in the churches morning services were held before a handful of worshipers.

At the station I found already a big crowd before closed doors. Distribution of numbers was going on for the person’s turn in line. At 4:00 pm there would be a roll call for the formation of a line in front of the ticket office which will be opened at 8:00 pm. My number was 142, so I went back to Uncle Dodo after having bought from a peasant woman two bottles of milk for 20 rubles. At Uncle Dodo’s we drank coffee with milk; then we went to visit Uncle Karl Medtner, whom we had not seen for a long time. He looked well, regardless of his almost 75 years, of all his adversities, a cold apartment, loss of his wife Aunt Sasha, etc. We lost much time on our walk there. The streets were crowded owing to the passing of a military procession and demonstration with music, as a protest of the murder in Berlin of Liebknecht and Rosa Luxembourg.

On our return I began to hurry. We drank coffee, cocoa, ate potatoes. I was provided with bread for the trip and I left for the station where I arrived fifteen minutes before the opening of the doors. Here I had a little luck. I met an acquaintance in the crowd who slipped into my hand an order that entitled me to a ticket out of the line. I rushed to the window, but tickets were given only as far as Serpuhov. I hesitated only three seconds and took the ticket to Serpuhov. The train was leaving at 4:15. A quarter of an hour only was left to gather up my things, to check the baggage and to crowd myself into the coach. And thus, in spite of the big crowd I was able to do it with the help of two porters for 50 rubles.

The trip to Serpuhov was uneventful. But in Serpuhov I encountered a desperate situation: my baggage was heavy and there was no help. Crammed in tightly I the midst of my luggage I stood at the station for about 2 hours not knowing what to undertake. At last I spied a porter. I had thought to hire a horse and sleigh even if it would cost 100 rubles. But to drive 25 versts at night with the ammunition I had would be too risky. The porter suggested that I should take the local (in other words the freight train). This I did, boarding it at 9:00 pm. The train did not start until 5:00 in the morning arriving at the Tarusskaya station at 7:00 am. That means I sat 10 hours in the dark on my luggage, amidst dung, packed with people. I was chilled to the marrow and was sure to catch the death of a cold! In Tarusskaya it was still dark. I wanted to rest up in the Chikinov tavern. But the Chikinov had long ago been already ruined and had vanished. At 8:00 am a peasant happened to come along with his horse and sleigh. I talked him into taking me along for 30 rubles. Fortunately the weather was calm. The morning moon was shining through the mist. In the east was appearing the first blush of sunrise. I tried to recognize the road that I had never seen in winter, but finally I did arrive at my nest. Drove up to the front door and knocked. The domestic opened the door. It was warm inside. And there was Mamulya in her belted warm overcoat. She was already heating the little stove. She welcomed me joyfully, but also full of great anxiety: Kirilchik (3 year old son of Nadya) is very ill! Nadya is absent; she is in Moscow on business connected with her work. The day passed in going over the things I brought, in talk, in making sleeping arrangements. The sight of the child is pitiful. He has a severe case of measles. The doctor’s assistant has been in.

Friday, January 24, 1919 - Dubrachok

This is my fourth day here – a day of terrible suffering. It has been determined that Kirilchik has not the measles but the worst form of scarlet fever! And so we two, Mamulya and I are treating and nursing him without a doctor, without any medicine, lacking all comforts, and all this in the absence of his mother who regardless of our telegram, is still away, while death threatens her child every minute. Sometimes an assistant physician comes in from Koshkino (village two versts away). He left an inhaler and some homemade remedy. I took advantage of a chance (we have no horse) and went to the station yesterday to see about the hay that was confiscated from us. I was not successful. From there, taking advantage of another chance, I rode to Malahovo (the dispensary). Stood in line for a long time. Did not see the doctor, who is not on its staff, but a woman assistant who gave me some medication: an iodine salve for the throat and valerian drops to be taken internally!!! From Malahovo I went back to the station on foot! From there I rode home with a fellow traveler, for 20 rubles.

Both assistant-doctors promised to come today but none came so far. Mamulya is exhausted, has not slept for several nights; Nadya is still away....The child has all the threatening symptoms: convulsions, drowsiness, ulcers, numbness of tissues, foul odor from the mouth, heavy breathing with his head thrown back, eyes closed, temperature over 104 for the eighth day already!.....At the same time he would let no one do anything for him, keeps wriggling, moaning with teeth clenched and apparently in great agony. Today he has been refusing even milk.

I go daily after milk to the nearest village, 1 verst away. Am given out of charity three cups, the people having no milk for themselves. Beside taking care of the sick we are having trouble with providing heat, busy gathering wood, shavings, and in spite of it, it is cold, smoky, and dark from 5 o’clock in the afternoon till 10 o’clock in the morning. We are suffering at the same time for the child, waiting every minute for his mother. Why doesn’t she come? Will she find her child still alive?

Saturday, January 25, 1919 - Dubrachok

The night was a nightmare. We hardly slept at all. Helplessly busying with the child. His tossing, moaning, delirium, outcryings, the sound of gurgling in his throat, difficulty breathing, sometimes no breathing at all and his calls of “mama” and “baba” – all this created such horror and despair at our inability to help!.....Then the worst horror: when we tried to use the inhaler and when, in order to give him only a teaspoonful of milk, we wrestled with him – at his dying hours. He does not want the compress nor any medicine, throws everything off himself and tosses from side to side; we were afraid he would fall off the bed. Horror and despair while Nadya is still away. In the night we had to heat the stove, the temperature was 47 (F) in the room; 14 below zero (F) outdoors. In the morning we had to heat the little stove again. Then finally, at 10 o’clock in the morning, Nadya arrived....poor girl....At first she could not see her son. But then all three of us went in. The child hardly recognized his mother. Just then the sun appeared, bright, brilliant. The child appeared improved somewhat and our spirits rose.

Sunday, January 26, 1919 - Dubrachok

At 3:00 am our Kirilchik died. From the night before we were at his bedside, doing all we could to save him – using the inhaler, cleaning his mouth, lubricating the throat, trying to pour some milk into his little mouth. We wore him out and ourselves still more. Toward the end of all our ministrations and in spite of his resistance he began to grow weaker and weaker. When we laid him down his breathing became more frequent, more interrupted, hardly audible at times. But the pulse appeared good. His mournful moans, calls for “Mama”, “Baba”, became weaker, more incomprehensible. Still, we continued to hope. His mother and his Babushka took turns beside him. And then I fell asleep. Nadya too began to fall asleep. Babushka was with Kirilchik at his last moment of life... and his mother too caught this last moment.

Gone was the light of our home!....In great agony died Kirilchik. For Mamulya and me the terrible night of December 14, 1893 repeated itself, when our unforgettable little Ksenya died. This was 26 years ago, but we remembered it as if it had happened only yesterday. She too had suffered horribly and died of the other fatal illness – dyptheria. And her illness also started here, in Dubrachok. It also was winter and snowing. She even resembled little Kirilchik – was chubby and bright, though older than he at the time. And near her were also Mamulya, I, and domestic help like near Kirilchik until his mother arrived...

Evening...Nadya has gone to the Strahovo village to order a grave in the churchyard. Mamulya has made a wreath from the branches of a fir tree...she found some berries on the briar bush and wove them into the wreath. He loved these berries; he would always wander somewhere to get them and then eat them. I will make a sketch of him by the lamp while he is still with us and before they will take him away and bury him.

Monday, January 27, 1919 - Dubrachok

Yesterday we, Nadya and I, were making drawings of Kirilchik until my fingers grew stiff. We tried to heat the room but had no luck. The wood was damp and the fire died out. After supper we went to bed. Nadya lay down dressed and with her fur coat on. We awoke at 7:00 in the morning with the temperature at 43 (F) in the room.

It is midday just now. Bright sunshine. Nature has put its finest white vestments covered with shining diamonds. Kirilchik has left it all. His shell has still his features: the little nose, forehead, hair and eyebrows, as if alive.

I walked to the village after the daily bottle of milk, but no longer for Kirilchik!

Two last loads of hay have been taken away. Our hay. The tovarischi (comrades) needed it. They did not care that because of it we had to send our horse to strangers to be fed. Just the same, we treated the drivers to tea and for that they left us the remaining ½ of a load of the hay.

Nadya and Mamulya are busy padding and lining the little casket that was made of old boards. They are trying to make it beautiful while weeping, recalling constantly Kirilchik’s words, exclamations, gestures. It is heart-breaking.

Mailed to Kolya letter #2.

Tuesday, January 28, 1919 - Dubrachok

Today is my birthday...It is a sad day. An hour ago they carried Kirilchik away. We awoke at 4:00 in morning, it being unbelievably cold – 42 degrees (F). Mamulya hurried to light the little stove. She and Nadya slept with their clothes and fur coats on. I awoke with a feeling of a cold. Making a sketch of Kirilchik in a cold room and the trips to the frozen toilet did it. We brought the temperature up to 50 degrees, succeeding only to increase the smoke (we are without wood, and brushwood creates only more smoke). The smoke gets into the eyes, anguish gnaws at the heart! I was congratulated on my birthday; we drank coffee with biscuits, and then busied ourselves with the last duties for Kirilchik. The village horse and sleigh arrived. We covered the child with a veil, placed the little wreath with him, then covered the casket and carried it out to the sleigh. Nadya as a driver, Mamulya behind. I joined them and rode as far as the village (after milk). I did not risk going farther owing to my cold. I felt ill. At the crossroads I followed them with my eyes, the two heart-broken women with their dear little corpse. I recalled Perov’s painting....

Now I am at home. It became very quiet. The soul and gaiety of our home are gone. Before me are my three sketches of Kirilchik and his things are all around...all that is left.

Wednesday, January 29, 1919 - Dubrachok

They returned from the funeral yesterday all frozen and starved. After eating they fell asleep immediately. I got them up for supper at 8:00 pm. Nadya appears to be ill. And I have a sore throat. The rooms are full of smoke, the chimneys seem to be stopped up. No real wood can be had. No one from the village wants to come to saw it and Gryusha can’t do it by herself. We have to get along with brushwood which smokes more than gives heat. Today they will come to disinfect the premises. Thereafter we shall leave for the Strahovo village. There will be a new beginning.

Thursday, January 30, 1919 - Dubrachok

Nadya left last night. She left with a fellow traveler who happened to go as far as Tyapkino (village on the way to Strahovo); from there she hoped to find somebody to take her to Strahovo.

She left without eating properly. Mamulya gave her some meat and pancakes to take along, while I forgot to give her saccharine...I regretted it so much. Nadya herself would never have asked for it...she is so modest. She would have left without taking anything! We felt more lonely and sad after her departure.

I woke up at 6:00 this morning with the feeling of having caught a bad cold, of a difficulty in breathing. Never before has my organism been exposed to such extreme experiences, to such changes, from warmth to cold. Under four layers of blankets, coat, and fur coat, the body felt warm, while the head was exposed to a temperature of 43 degrees (F) during the night. Then one has to go to a part of the house with the freezing temperature. A few more such experiences and I feel I shall come down with tuberculosis or some other such disease. If we could only get away to Strahovo! How Mamulya can stand it all is a marvel!

My head is full of ideas, plans, of starting some intellectual work while my physical condition is bad. A strange weakness. I am mostly annoyed by a state of vegetation....I hardly can wait to go to Strahovo. Life has narrowed down, has been forced into some hole, a small impasse, a blind alley. Here we sit already only two of us. Mamulya and I eyes glued to the little stove in the corner – trying to keep ourselves a little warm in this cold, senseless existence.

The sun is shining. Apparently it has been shining for a week already. But it does not fill us with joy.... My thoughts keep going back to other places, to other times...Moscow, Arbat....There is sunshine too...but how different; it is brilliant; it warms. The muddy snow and ice are thawing, forming rivulets, in places almost rivers. People everywhere, sleighs, droshkies hurrying. This is life, joy....It is the eve of Easter. Everyone’s arms are full of parcels. And what delicacies everywhere, what a variety of merchandise – in the market, shops and stores! You have never seen the likes of it!

And then my thoughts go back to Nice: our marriage there. Then back to Petrograd – the celebration of Natasha’s wedding. The tables in the studio breaking down from loads of food – zakouskies, pastries, fruit....How beautifully dressed was everyone, and how happy we all were! And now, what has become of you, Natashenka? Does your heart ache at the thought of us? You can’t imagine how we have aged, how disorderly we have become and how we subsist on bread and potatoes only. How sorrowful we are not hearing from you for over a year now, even longer – so it seems. I have lost all count! You cannot see our tears or feel our heartaches! You don’t even know that we have buried Kirilchik....

Saturday, February 1, 1919 - Dubrachok

The anguish of the “animal” that has been driven into a dirty hole has lately grown somewhat less. In the physical sense the situation has become more bearable: 1) The weather is warmer, temperature outside 14 degrees (F); 2) My cold is better; 3) All chimneys have been thoroughly cleaned by Ivan Elizarov, whom we had called. This should have been done long ago. Five buckets-full of soot were carried away. The kitchen stove chimney was completely choked up. No wonder there was no draught, no heat, only smoke that smothered us. Mamulya constantly blamed the stove while I kept insisting that the stove was a good one. Any good thing, if neglected can be ruined. Well, all stoves are now in good order. The only thing we now lack is good firewood. We are waiting for someone from the village who will be willing to come and work for us.

Monday, February 3, 1919 - Dubrachok

Just now I am all alone here. Mamulya left for Strahovo to give a singing lesson – a horse and sleigh had come for her. Nadinka came from Strahovo yesterday. She wants us to move immediately there. She says it is light, warm and more cheerful there. But it is impossible for us to do so at one. In the first place, we must find a caretaker for Dubrachok, then shut up the house. Otherwise everything will be carried away. Nadya spent the night with us. Early in the morning, before daylight, I began heating the little stove. At 9:00 am, at sun’s first rays (the sun has been shining daily) I went to the village after milk. We had hardly finished our coffee when Mrs. Ushakova (our neighbor) arrived to take Nadya to the station. We needed provisions, the mail, etc.

Then came Grusha’s sister and Mamulya let Grusha go home with her, to Velegovo (a distant village) giving orders to bring back meat, pork, butter, vegetables and other things. So all are gone now. Mamulya and Grusha will not be back before tomorrow. Nadya will stop in on her way back from the station. Thereafter I will be all alone – through the evening, the night and half day of tomorrow. A little desolate, grim...however that is nothing. I will be busy taking care of the cow, the chickens and the stoves.

Wednesday, February 5, 1919 - Dubrachok

Mailed letter #3 to Kolya.

Friday, February 7, 1919 - Dubrachok

The sun is shining again. It has been much warmer, also humid, for two or three days. But now the temperature is again on zero. We are getting ready for the move to Strahovo, but know not how best to shut the house, how to protect it from burglars and from thieves. Also what to take with us and what to leave. A letter came from Yuri (Sonya’s husband). It contains news of Sonya, in Kiev. Things are in bad shape with her. The relatives there have shown very little interest in her. She suffers want; is cooped up in a small room for which she is unable to pay. She works in some kind of Ministry for almost nothing, sings in the Vladimir Cathedral while suffering from a throat infection. She suffers also because she has no music, nor books or even underwear. Yuri sent her 1,000 rubles from himself (Government money) and 500 rubles he took from Kolya. We have been wondering whether she has been able to locate the Annikova and Delone relatives from the mother’s side.

Bolshevism is gaining strength in Russia, in spite of the general discontent because of hunger. Well, why not Bolshevism? Were it not for all the suffering from hunger, Bolshevism is perhaps the unavoidable stepping stone from capitalism and the bourgeois system to anarchism? As a matter of fact, communal living is already anarchism. So we shall await its coming, profess and preach its religion.

I read Trotsky’s speech in memory of the slain Liebknacht and Rosa Luxembourg, and I was astonished to detect in it soft, tender notes of a cultured person. That means Trotsky is a cultured man?! I have never seen nor heard him, but I have always imagined him as a wild, disheveled individual on the podium, with bloody hands, roaring, uttering horrible curses and blasphemies, instigating ruin and death, beating with his fists everything about him, stamping his feet...and suddenly here – Trotsky is expressing his thoughts in sincere, heartfelt words, exhibiting his culture thereby! Does it mean that Bolshevism is not altogether bloodthirsty?

Sunday, February 9, 1919 - Dubrachok

Tomorrow morning we are moving to Strahovo. High time. It is becoming impossible to stay here any longer. Grusha has left for home. Old Babushka Agrafena, as a caretaker, is a poor help to us. She can hardly take care of things in her own little hut – will she take good care of our cow? So far she has been trying to extort from us one thing after the other. She is away just now. I am alone again. Mamulya has gone to Strahovo. I have cut some wood, walked to the village for milk, heated the samovar and am sitting in these two rooms among dirt and chaos due to the impending move. I should like to read or write.

Tuesday, February 11, 1919 - Strahovo

Such an insignificant move, as that from Dubrachok to Strahovo, but how hard it was! It wore me out completely. Mamulya, on the contrary, though busier than I was, did not break down. In Dubrachok yesterday and today we were busy with the heating up to the last minute. I cut wood from the thickest birch logs found somewhere in the laundry-shed. From the twigs I cut sticks for the little stove, took care of the cow. Then walked to the village through the deepest snow after milk. The temperature is slightly below freezing point and a heavy snow had fallen. Wearing a coat, walking was hard, and I felt even hot going up the hill. It wore me out. The horse and sleigh from Strahovo arrived at noon, but we could not leave because the old woman had not yet come. Finally we sent off the baggage with the sleigh, but ourselves stayed behind waiting for the old woman. The situation became tragic: bread and all food had been sent away. There was nothing to eat, nothing to lay on and nothing to heat with. Mamulya finally scraped together some flour and managed to make pancakes, frying them without butter or fat on that little stove (brought from Petrograd). We heated it with splinters. We ate the mess and drank hot water with milk and saccharine. And we began to wonder whether we should not have to crawl into the basement after some potatoes, staying on in Dubrachok. But at last the woman appeared, though as usual, with her doubts and her refusal to take on the watch. We were obliged to give her more provisions and more things. Finally we locked all doors and shutters and left.

And here at last we are all together in Strahovo, in a large house with thick heavy walls, with well-heated stoves. From all the weariness and my weakness and the feeling of warmth and coziness and having Nadya near – who busied herself about us – I became emotional and, embracing Nadichke, I wept....

Wednesday, February 12, 1919 - Strahovo

The ordeal of moving is not yet over. We thought we could at least relax in this new place and forget all troubles and confusions of Dubrachok. We slept well our first night here and we awoke in a good mood when suddenly Agrafena, the same old woman, appeared from Dubrachok, with a formal refusal to be watchman! Can you imagine!? She talked all kinds of nonsense. She is simply crazy and has no conscience. This puts us in the most difficult situation. It means that Nady must go to Dubrachok the first thing tomorrow morning and find in the village another watchman. And she must immediately bring the cow here, to Strahovo, also hay. Otherwise the cow will be let to die of hunger, will be carried away! Worries and troubles and again such complications!

Friday, February 14, 1919 - Strahovo

Letter #5 mailed to Kolya. We are living in a small room. I hardly go out. It seems to me I have all I need, everything that interests me. I need nothing more. The main thing – there is warmth and coziness. I have been cold ever since fall. I have the feeling as if being in no danger, as if looking out of a little window of a high tower, looking into a boundless distance, watching what’s going on there. More truly, sitting here as if waiting for something to happen.

In an old little book of my mother’s, “Buch der Lieder Heine” (Book of Songs Heine), which I remember from my childhood days and loved much. I find an inscription in my handwriting, made in 1880 (text is in German): “For happiness it is better that man destroy within himself all illusions than allow illusions to destroy him”. Then, in 1910, 30 years later, I added: “Illusions are the happiness of man” and “The deceptions (illusions) that exalt us is more gratifying than ignorance of ignoble truths”. Why such a change in thought after 30 years? What a sober and rationalistic outlook in youth, while such tendency to fantasy, irrationality, to the beyond, and mysticism during maturity and old age? Now, 9 years later, I hold firmly and wholeheartedly to this irrational and fantastic point of view. What cannot be attained by reason becomes accessible by intuition. It’s the genuine and true essence of man’s worth, the value of his life. It’s the link of man, of this infinitesimal small and frail human being, with the spirit of God, the inseparable part of God. How come I did not understand this in my youth? Did I imagine that man is capable of penetrating the divine depth of his being, of explaining the infinity of mysteries, of subjecting them to his rationalizing mind leaving nothing to the illusions? What a naïve youth I was! Or did I have too much faith in man’s intellect, in science and at the same time not feeling at all the vastness of the “mystery”!

Thursday, February 20, 1919 - Strahovo

All this is ridiculous: this “Hearth”, this “club”, these youngsters, the bustle and fuss, as if doing something of importance. There is good will, but little system, small knowledge, skill. There is also real earnestness, but poor results! Mainly because the whole thing is badly organized! My days pass rather strangely. Never in all my life have I spent them thus. We get up....then I walk back and forth in our room, then I read some, write some, eat a snack, read some again, eat again – not too much, but enough and all this to the accompaniment of the noise from the nearby “Hearth”, making any concentration impossible. Just the same, there is a desire to be doing something. Something worthwhile, something big. But what and how? I am beginning though to do something (what, I do not yet know myself), something with the local district of the Board of Education.

Letter #6 sent to Kolya.

Friday, February 21, 1919 - Strahovo

We have moved into another room with a view into the garden. It’s farther away from the “Hearth” and less noisy. A queer room: a small square with windows, between two of which there is a large mirror in a gold frame and a marble table attached to its front. But the floor is uneven. The place has a strong odor, it having been used as a cholera dispensary. The bench by the stove is all creased. Nadya has installed herself in the room next to ours. Its walls and ceiling have been burned by a fire, but she has covered it all with draperies.

I have made a reckless deal: sold myself to do some social work. Instead of living here unnoticed, I drew attention to myself by the Commissars and Instructors and have already received an invitation to teach something. In a “report” to the Department of the District Board of Education, I exploded by expressing my very advanced ultra revolutionary convictions as well as my enlightened projects. It means that I have to prepare myself now to lecture on the native country’s history.

Sunday, March 2, 1919 - Strahovo

Well, it happened!....There was a draught from the windows and from the floor....Lavatory is in the “icy” place...We went after milk, climbing the hill against the wind!....Nadya rode to the station after provisions, then to Tarussa (small town on the other side of the Oka River, about 6 versts from Strahovo. 1 verst equals 2/3 of a mile) – for the rehearsal of “Othello”. She looked like an icicle on return! And now she is in bed with temperature of 104; mine is 101... What’s the matter with us? Have we typhoid fever, smallpox, or the Spanish flu?... Perhaps typhoid since the whole village is down with it.

Monday, March 3, 1919 - Strahovo

Mama wrote Kolya letter #7.

Tuesday, March 4, 1919 - Strahovo

As of now it appears that we have the “Spanish Flu.” Masha, our domestic, is also sick in bed in the kitchen. The door into the kitchen is next to my bed. I hear Mama passing through it every minute – nursing the three of us, preparing dinner, heating the samovar, giving enemas, taking our temperatures. I can hear Masha moaning and retching. My temperature is already normal, but Nadya’s is still high. She looks bad – her eyes are sunken, her cheekbones protrude sharply. Though I am feeling better, I am still very weak and I look like a decrepit old, old man. My eyes, only, show life and strength.

During the last days of our illness I read to Nadya much of the writings of Durnovo and of Berdyaev, their philosophy. We were much captivated by it. We were especially carried away by the description of Christ’s teachings – of overcoming our earthly limitations, by working on ourselves and freeing our mind, in order to realize an understanding by controlling our conscience.

In Berdyaev’s writings we enjoyed especially his metaphors on “sex and love”, of the heavenly, divine Aphrodite, of the individual, free and ideal love in contrast to the tribal, impersonal, lawful love! In other words, Nadya and I had plunged into the sphere of ideals and spirituality. Then, when we grew tired of reading and talking, we laid the book aside and abandoned ourselves to ravishing visions: tables covered with sparkling tablecloths, and on them – coffee, cream and the fanciest pastries – kulichi, krendeli, kaladhi, pirojki, etc. (oven-baked delicacies) and on top of it all – sweet butter, all kinds of cheeses and caviars. Or we visualized tables richly set for breakfast, dinner, supper, describing it all animatedly to ourselves, savoring at the same time every morsel, every swallow!

Yes, it was to come, any hour (but this “hour” has lasted now 3 years already – how much longer is it to last?) These beautifully sparkling tables are now our cherished dreams, “ideals”. Are we to be blamed that owing to the social revolution, while spiritual values have been fulfilled, the material blessings, on the contrary, have taken on another-world abstractness and an all-conquering mystical delight!

What is especially degrading and outrageous is the labor that is beyond one’s strength, the all-absorbing worry, connected with the satisfying of one’s basic needs of nutrition. And the worst thing still is the fact that in spite of it all, this need remains unsatisfied! The normal order, the normal conditions of life have been by the last years’ events, turned upside down!

What has been established now is the complete opposite from what it was supposed to accomplish. It has overthrown our Russian social revolution that was in advance universally! Such unexpected, fatal results can discredit, dethrone, kill any heroic impulse! What kind of change in the name of liberty is this, if this liberty has brought the people from one slavery to a worse slavery?

Concentration of all thoughts, worries and the tremendous labor toward one goal – nutrition – is the most typical slavery. Only the hard labor convicts get their food (and this always scant and poor) for the hard labor they do. A free people, a free citizen should get the nutrition easily, freely, unnoticeably, in order that his intellectual and physical activity can proceed without interruption. Only under such conditions can his work be free and creative. A dinner, any kind of dinner, is it a peasant’s cabbage soup and buckwheat gruel, or a city dweller’s dinner at home, or a luxurious restaurant dinner, or a festive Nameday dinner, should be made available to everyone according to a man’s needs, means and taste. And should not be the result of the labor in the kitchen by himself. The kitchen should not exist for the partaker of the meal, it spoils his appetite, while the worry about preparing it is humiliating to him.

As a matter of fact, the proper way to solve the whole social question would be a complete change of its set-up, change of its labor system and its results into a kind of “magic” service. But this is possible only by introducing into life the principle of division of labor in the perfect form. And this is possible only when the circumstances permit a complete guarantee of full freedom in the development of man’s profession, only then can man’s work become truly creative and socially useful. No labor is too heavy, unpleasant, humiliating or dangerous in professional work that is performed freely and only under such conditions can it attain perfection.

The cook in the kitchen, for instance, if he is a professional, is not a servant to the visitor in a restaurant, but an artist in his job. But he becomes a servant and a labor-camp worker immediately when the normal conditions in his job are interrupted. Such as – lack of water in the faucets, forcing him to go with buckets after water to the river; or if there are no products in the market and in order to get the necessary food he must climb, with bags on his back, to the top of a railroad car for meat, potatoes, flour, etc. not to mention the risk such excursions can become to his life. Into such labor-camp conditions all Russia has now fallen. And the conditions necessary for a normal life and, what’s worse yet, the mutual activity of the different separate professions has been destroyed.

To a professional there is no such thing as heavy labor, because he possesses the technical knowledge and habits of his profession and because he has adjusted himself to his profession and acquired its methods. In his work there is nothing unpleasant. To kill a chicken, for instance, is to me the most forbidding act, causing me the worst suffering, while to a butcher, who kills livestock all day long, such an act is not upsetting to his excellent well-being. I faint when I see an open bleeding wound; a surgeon, on the other hand, experiences the greatest joy, that of an artist, when he operates. To a professional, danger does not exist, or he has learned to overcome it by training. A bee-keeper, for example, is not subject to the sting of a bee, having become careless to its danger; the latter simply does not exist for him. The same is true also in the case of sanitary workers, or fliers, etc. And the work of a professional cannot be humiliating also, because it is performed willingly and is accepted as creative toward its objective, i.e., toward the general good. A bacteriologist does not feel humiliated when he digs into the bowel evacuations for the purpose of analysis. The idea of degradation depends on the general moral concepts and these are subject to change. Lastly, if one or another professional job would definitely be found degrading, dangerous or over powering, it should be radically changed or substituted by means that would make the job a normal and safe one – by a new mechanical invention for accomplishing the job.

Saturday, March 8, 1919 - Strahovo

It’s lively. Interesting and great things are in the air, interesting people! Yes, I feel the return of strength. Still too early to leave the stage and bury oneself in the jungle of retirement like a useless invalid!

There is one thing that interests and puzzles me: how to explain the great difference which exists between me and my children – Nadya, Kolya, and Sonya – in the realm of esthetic perceptions, i.e., the difference being not so much in esthetic tastes as in the capacity – power to perceive esthetic values. What they find charming I too find equally charming. But there are many things that give me great pleasure which leave them indifferent. In other words, the field of esthetic subject mater is much more limited in my children than in me.

I find some reasons and explanations for it: I have many literary traditions, traditions in general. I have lived through much, tied to the past epochs that have found reflection in art. They don’t have these traditions. Some specimens of art (especially in literature) are dear to me, because of personal memories and because they recall the forms, spirit, style of the dear old past.

Besides, the style of the past is simpler, more naïve than the present one, and my education having been based on it, the foundation of my esthetic perception is simple and more naïve, while their esthetic foundation was from the beginning influenced by the refinement of art, that of the “fin de siecle.” I have retained therefore the flair for the simple and have added to it the appreciation for the refined also. They, on the contrary, possess only the latter, not at all the first, or if they do so, they find it only in the genial, eternal examples, unrelated to the epoch. For instance, I, reread the other day a good old book, Pissemski’s “Thousand Souls,” with great pleasure. Nadya showed some interest in it at first, but put it aside soon, picking up instead the translated poems of Baudelaire. Their taste is perhaps even narrower than I have surmised. Of all the genial and greatly talented works, but which are not related to the “contemporary spirit,” they would find uninteresting, I think, and they would not read them at all. Such are for example the works of Heine, Schiller, Goethe, in other words, the whole Western Romantic School. These authors should be read in the middle of the last century and read in their original tongue. What an endless world of beauty has been lost to my poor children.

Monday, March 10, 1919 - Strahovo

Yesterday finally arrived the authority!!! We have waited for her the whole last week. We wanted so badly that this Cecily Ilynishna, would come then and see the “Hearth” in action, how efficiently it has been run, how harmoniously and artistically it has been conducted by Nadya and Mama. But she did not come then, but had to appear yesterday, just when all were sick and the “hearth” was inactive. As a matter of fact why did she come at all? To see how the “hearth” works? Is that what interests her? – She had to establish her standards and had sent the regulations a week ago without consulting Nadya to find out when they would suit her.

She had to come in person to break up the smoothly running work and dismiss Nadejda Dmitrievna (Mama), having decided the latter “a priori,” under the pretense that she is too old, too much on routine, and therefore altogether useless. I could not take it and during her authoritative garrulousness I exploded and gave her my “mind.” For that she naturally began to hate me. Well, the “nut was too hard for her teeth to crack,” (a Russian form of speech). It made her more stubborn: it hurt her ego. She insisted to bring in Panna Yadwigha, saying that her collaboration with Nadya would be ideal, while Nadya’s work with her Mother would be one-sided (narrow). The conversation lasted from 5:00 pm until 2:00 am. She drank our tea, ate our kasha with our milk and bored me to death. She spoiled my mood for the rest of the night and for the whole day today. It hurt me for Mama’s and Nadya’s sake. However, she mellowed some today, permitting Mama to assist as a volunteer, or a non-state worker. I despise her!

Wednesday, March 12, 1919 - Strahovo

The weather is ideal, the temperature outdoors is 47 degrees (F). The snow is thawing fast. I take care of the cow, bringing her water and hay, while the water from the roof runs down my back between the neck and shirt. It is time apparently to put aside the valenki (knee-high felt boots) and put on shoes and rubbers which I did not wear for a month and a half!

Nadenka has been corresponding with her husband. In her melancholy and depressed frame of mind she seems to be nursing the dream of another child, repeating over and over the same old phrase she did in the beginning of her first pregnancy: “a child gives meaning to one’s life, otherwise life is empty and meaningless.” Does this mean to begin all over again?! Life has apparently taught her nothing!!! That she should have the maternal instinct is very natural. But she lacks self-criticism, the ability to evaluate things, events, and circumstances, as well as her own strength – this is very sad. She follows exclusively her instincts, not even her feelings, because......

(here a whole page is torn off in the original)

.....Instead her reasoning should be: “Even if I myself should be earning something, it would not be sufficient in the first place, and secondly, I would have to leave the child to some unknown care and it will be worse than was Kyrilchik with his Babushka. I can see now that Sokolov (her husband) will never be able to do his duty, to provide for his family. Ridiculous his mailing me 100 rubles – it speaks eloquently for him! No, I am wiser now and since I cannot establish conditions necessary for maintaining a family, I shall regard the bringing into the world of children as a sin and a crime.”

This is, I imagined, how Nadya would reason, but alas, not so – she continues only to repeat her phrases that she did before her marriage, as if nothing so terrible has happened since, but what did happen – was very normal!!

Sunday, March 16, 1919 - Strahovo

Not in vain have I felt for the past days a strange uneasiness, a hazy longing for distance, the feeling that I am a stranger here, superfluous, idle, and as if somewhere there is work waiting for me!

Yesterday and today all at once we received a number of letters and telegrams from Sonya in Kiev, and Kolya in Petrograd. We were glad to learn of Sonya’s success in her singing career, that she had at last found her place in life and that her work has restored her spirit and courage.

But Kolya has stunned us with the news of his departure (escaping no doubt from being drafted into the Red Army) to Kiev or Odessa, with Yuri. His saying “the four of us” puzzled us. Who are the others? – it remains unknown. We figured that by today they must have left Petrograd already. This means that I must hurry to Petrograd to look after the apartment and its contents that have been left to the mercy of fate.

A frightful prospect – this moving from here to Petrograd! Mamulya and I have decided to get into this battle together.

By the way, the exhibition season is approaching and I could participate by exhibiting the Zabelin portraits. Besides, Kolya mentioned a purchaser for my other words, it’s necessary to go. But how shall we manage not to perish from hunger there and on the way? And how and when shall we return here. To get back here is also necessary, especially for Mamulya regarding the affairs in Dubrachok. To leave Nadichka alone here is also not desirable!... What is to come?

All those nearest to me have been scattered by the wind! As if all of them have been carried away on the big road by the tide, while we, i.e., Nadya, Mamulya and I have been by-passed, have gotten into a blind alley, an impasse, side-tracked by the great tide, left here unnoticed and relatively secure. Then suddenly Kolya’s letter and his telegram, his departure for the South, and we are, as if by some force pushed out of the alley onto the big road, into the whirlpool...

Here, there is at least some illusion of peace, country stillness and if only partly, we are well-fed! It is quiet, the roosters crow, the cows moo, one can hear the snow thawing and the water rippling in the brook. Nature is shining with its virginal beauty and makes one forget all the Sovdeps, requisitions, queues, and all other signs of contemporary life....And now, in a few days, I and Mamulya shall be leaving it all.

Tuesday, March 18, 1919 - Strahovo

Yesterday came the local teacher from Alexin. He brought us 4 gr. of saccharine (40 rubles), and a strange notice in the name of Panna Yadviga with an order to leave for “over there,” not mentioning whereto, for a new job, a place where a kindergarten is being opened! That is after her determined wish to direct the local “Hearth” here with Nadya. All this is so incomprehensible, that it makes one surmise that there must be a letter coming that has not yet arrived, which will explain it all in detail. Who then will be the second worker in Strahovo?

The teacher brought also interesting news that beginning today all railroad communications will be discontinued for almost a month and that the mail will be brought only once a week, by the military train. All this is done to bring bread from the South, where millions of poods (1 pood equals 36 pounds) of it has accumulated and has begun to rot, while people in the Central and Northern part of Russia have been dying of hunger!

Sunday, March 23, 1919 - Strahovo

All is clear now: Panna is leaving for Yakovlevo while Nadya is to stay here, nominally alone, the pretext being that the number of children has diminished on account of spring floods. As a matter of fact, Tsitovskaya is counting on Mama’s assistance, as second director. She writes to Nadya that your mother will assist you, though she does not appoint her officially. She offers Mama the job of giving the children singing lessons an hour each day, for 150 rubles a month, but officially she cannot appoint Mama before summer, she writes. We were enraged by this wily trick, this exploitation of another person’s labor. I answered by an explicit, detailed letter. Nadya copied it and mailed it to Alexin. We exposed in it Tsitovskaya’s whole political scheme with emphasis on the fact that if Mama is needed as assistant director, what she actually has been from the time the “Hearth” was founded, she should now be officially appointed as such. Otherwise her status as a non-state worker is oppressing to her. Let Tsitovskaya come out with the truth. Why does she want Mama’s services but is not appointing her properly. If it is a matter of money, let her say so.

I brought today from the village much milk and cottage cheese. The chickens begin little by little to lay and we have been “feasting” though without meat.

Wednesday, March 26, 1919 - Strahovo

March is about over, but the weather is as if we were in the thick of winter. Yesterday there was such a strong wind I thought I would be blown away or would catch the death of a cold, when I went to the village after milk. And what a heavy snowfall! All windows are frozen up. But the sun has been shining brilliantly for days now. I stretched the canvas on the frame and perhaps shall begin painting something!

Saturday, March 29, 1919 - Strahovo

Yesterday I received two letters: one from Uncle Dodo in Kiev, the other from Mme. Dimanis in Petrograd. Uncle Dodo received my letter with the insured letter for Natashanka enclosed. He praises the life in Kiev – it is better than that of Moscow. Sonya is in the class of Eugenia Ivanovna!! (Eugenia Ivanovna Zbrueva is a well-known opera star, wife of Uncle Dodo.) She is well thank God, and well fed, though she has lost her position. It is not known how she manages. Yuri and Kolya had not yet arrived in Kiev. But I have just read in the Moscow paper that with the establishment in Kiev of the Soviet regime, prices soared immediately!...that a pound of bread which had cost 4 rubles, costs now 20 rubles, and that produce and merchandise have immediately disappeared from the market. The Soviet Army is winning battles on the Odessa front!

Mrs. Dimanis’ letter sounds quite tranquil in spirit. She writes that life in Petrograd is not dangerous and it is expected that there will be a change toward still better conditions. Our apartment thus far is all right. She advises me to come and take care of it. Prices are outrageous. I really do not know what to do! Shall try and arrange affairs by letter and go nowhere until after Easter.

Sunday, March 30, 1919 - Strahovo

Today is Natashanka’s birthday, yesterday was Sonya’s birthday. Only God knows how far they are from us and from each other. In their honor Mama baked a pirog from rye flour with kasha. I do not know how she did it without butter, but it turned out to be unusually delicious. I marked this day by beginning to paint the head of a little girl who lives below us. I have not worked since December, i.e., three months, and again I have that familiar sensation of a burning, as if all inner effort is striving toward one point, toward this strike of a brush, this image, with the passionate desire to produce something, which though still hazy, appears at the same time vividly before the inner eyes! It is a wonderfully pleasant sensation...and then the sight and smell of colors, palette, brushes! No, indeed, it is still too soon for me to leave off!!!

Friday, April 4, 1919 - Strahovo

We are in the midst of a real winter, having heavy snowfall every day. Though the thermometer stays close to 32, it is not thawing. Going after milk, I walk across the frozen little river. In a few days, alas, there will be no milk given out. The time is before easter and the milk is being saved for cottage cheese and sour cream. While we are going to be without these products, that means also without a “paska.” Our cow still has no intention of being delivered by a calf! I continue to feel greatly anxious and am in a very depressed mood! There is no news from Kolya, nor from Sonya or Natasha! What is going on in Petrograd is also unknown. The question of the amount of rent for the apartment remains unsettled. Rumors are contradictory again. It is said that the French have declared war on Germany and on the Bolsheviki!... Si non e vero....

Today we sent by mail some biscuits and bread to Moscow, to Zoe (cousin on Mama’s side). She, her mother and children are starving! She wrote us a most terrifying letter... the children are wasting away. We would like to bring one or both of them here, but how can it be done?

Though our room is far away from the “Hearth,” its racket can be heard from 9:00 in the morning till 2:00 in the afternoon. Mama and Nadya are hardly able to manage the 35 little “savages” and are overtired. Nadinka is beginning to feel that this job has become a burden.

Sunday, April 6, 1919 - Strahovo

It is a dull Sunday. My stomach has been aching all night and all day today. It is caused by the bad smoked horse-meat sausage. We were tempted by its low price – 12 rubles a pound. And here I am lying in bed with a warm cover over my stomach. One must be careful – since any treatment is impossible now; no medications can be had, nor can one follow any diet. All that can be gotten is black bread, potatoes, and milk!

It is evening and I feel a little better. Just now I have experienced not an insignificant pleasure, but it left me with a strange feeling of madness and anguish: Polenova (daughter of the artist, Polenov - their estate adjoins Strahovo), brought us some music last night: all of Chopin, Schumann, and of other composers. And Nadinka, though with fingers out of practice, browsed through all this splendor and it seemed as if a gentle breeze had brought in another world, a world of beauty so long unheard of! It seems to me, if life could be lived over again from its beginning, I would have devoted myself to music! I don’t think that all those gentlemen playing different instruments and even having made for themselves a “name,” are made of a different fiber than I am made of. I think I would have been better than the majority of them!

Wednesday, April 9, 1919 - Strahovo

It’s bad! Stomach continues to ache! All this because just recently I thought that it has been a long time since my stomach has been aching. By that I threw a spell on it! That is the way it has always been with me! Am keeping hot bandages on my abdomen, but it gives me only slight and brief relief. And Mamulya has only 5 capsules of Castor Oil left....I have grown weak in general and the heart is troubling me.

On top of it – another disaster: In Dubrachok the door was broken in and the house entered! We have expected this. It would have been strange if this had not happened. The house stands alone in the wood, without a caretaker and all around are people that are thieves! Sure, - they are Communists (“what is yours is also mine!”) – “glory and pride” - “advanced people, bearers of the world’s new ideas!”

Just now Mamulya and Nadichka have left for Dubrachok; I am alone.

Thursday, April 10, 1919 - Strahovo

Well, it was what could be expected. Our home was stripped clean! They carried away several loads: the last of the hay from the barn, linens from the chest of drawers and the trunks, dresses, even hats, dishes, a new dozen of knives and forks, tools, hatchets, dolls, and....over 5 poods of rye flour and oats. All by breaking in.... Yes – also mattresses and one folding iron bed. I am surprised that they did not carry away also the grand piano and the portable stove. But they will yet come for it and then go to work on the roof and the wall beams.

I mostly pity things which belonged to Natasha, Victorik and Kyrilchik....And also the rye flour. My ladies spent their whole day and Mamulya went there again today, bringing back all she could carry of what was yet left by the thieves.

My heart is seriously worrying me. Such frequent irregular and strong heart beats. It frightens me! It was especially bad yesterday, in the absence of Mamulya and Nadya. I must say that the word “fright” is incorrect; it does not express my true feeling. On the contrary, I have no fear and I am ready to meet my end with full resignation and calmly. What worries me only is that it may be accompanied by much physical suffering.

I am spending a bad night. Such terrible pains in my abdomen, forcing Mama to get up, to awaken the servant-girl and heating the samovar and to ake hot compresses on my other words, it is bad! Cold applications on my heart, hot applications on the abdomen! The only treatment I can get! And all the time thoughts of my children go incessantly through my head – of Natahsa and little Victor, of Sonya, of Kolya...I may never see them again...I must at least write them something.

For Sonya.

“Mein schooner Stern!” - “my beautiful star” (a song by Schumann) – You are all to me in these three words! And you have merged yourself entirely, in my imagination, into this song of Schumann’s, into its ecstasy, its words!! Do you remember when you sang this song last summer in Dubrachok – how deeply it affected me? Ever since I call you in my mind “Mein Schoner Sterm.” And whenever you will sing this song, remember me, your old father with his turbulent, exalted soul! “I shall not die thus altogether, but my greater part, freed from its mortal shell will live” – it is you, Sonya, who will live!.... You, who with your singing have reincarnated what is best in me, what has lived in the innermost of my being, but what I myself could not express.... “Mein Schoner Stern!” Live on, sing, be happy! Perhaps as some spirit I shall be close to you, shall hear your singing, observe your living, sharing your joys and lifting up your sorrows so that you may ever shine like a brilliant star! But if there are no spirits, if with my last breath all will end for me, then to bid farewell to life will not be so hard, for I will be conscious that this life has been filled for me with beauty, that “Mein Schoner Stern” did glow in it and I had heard its incomparable familiar sounds!

Friday, April 11, 1919 - Strahovo

Just received an express telegram from Kiev with the following contents:


No signature. We split our heads over this absurd telegram. Then we decided: Sonya gave her concert. After the concert there was a drinking bout and her admirers in their revelry lost their heads and in that state sent this “compliment”... Perhaps this is not so: at least it does mean something very pleasant. But how strange, that Kolya does not mention his arrival at the place?

Saturday, April 12, 1919 - Strahovo

I am still no better! The stomach gives me so much trouble, but more so the heart. It keeps beating wildly in my breast, then stops ominously in its work, as if ready to go on strike! Outdoors, however, it’s spring! Warm, sunny!... in the garden, dark patches are already visible around the trees and also on the sloping hills. While the birds are simply going wild! So much joy, so much young life!

Mama is giving me rice gruel and soft-boiled eggs, and, I believe, intends to bake biscuits from white flour left over from small savings that had been reserved for Kyrilchik.

(Here two pages have been torn from the original.)

Good Friday, April 18, 1919 - Strahovo

Spring!... And in the heart it is spring! And into my sick body it has breathed life and a new strength! Am sitting in front of a wide open window. The sun is shining brightly and it warms. The snow during the last few days has vanished altogether, only in some ravines it can still be seen. Mama and Nadya are washing, ironing, cleaning as before a real holiday. Unexpectedly I received yesterday from the Alexin-Soviet an offer to assume the responsibility of organizing an Art Studio in Alexin and of directing its work!! This was an answer to my proposal made already a month ago in which I offered to organize a Studio in Strahovo. This proposal, written in high revolutionary style, impressed apparently the Alexin-Soviet and inspired respect for my person!!

Well, why not? It is very good. I agree in principle to accept it and after Easter holidays shall make with Mama a visit to Alexin. If the Soviet will not look at this undertaking too narrow-mindedly, I shall set it up along a broad and interesting line. I shall lay the foundation for an Art Museum, for a Library, Reading Room and Studio – in the spirit of a liberal Workshop. I shall expect to be sent to Petrograd and get from the Kuindji Society and other places there, some paintings, good photographs, reproductions, ouvrages, and publications; will take some of my own works, and establish thus a base for an excellent Art Institute which in spirit and principle must become an esthetically-cultured education for its students, whoever they are – bourgeois or proletariat, laborers or non-laborers, young or old...For me the word proletariat does not exist, least of all as a dictatorial power in endeavors of cultural education!

From Kiev, after the famous telegram “Who gave us Sonya,” not a word.

Easter Sunday, April 20, 1919 - Strahovo

Christ is Risen!

The great holy holiday has come. All day long a frenzied bell-ringing. But the weather is damp – and the spirit is not too bright, as it usually is on this day! Just now it is quiet in our room. Mama, reposing in her white dress, is asleep after the Easter dinner, after all the household cares of the past days of the Passion Week and after standing through the night Church Service. Nadya and Masha (our servant-girl) have gone for a walk up the hill where the village young girls in their bright kerchiefs are frolicking and swinging while I am sitting here, writing and wondering how it all happened – that we three of us here in the dullest of places are observing Easter in such unusually squalid surroundings!!!?? It would seem the situation could not be worse – living conditions and all the innumerable misfortunes.

But regardless of it all, Mama managed to set up an “Easter table” with colored eggs, God knows how she colored them – with onions, paper, and even with potassium permanganate, and with ink... And she had baked three kulichi (Easter holiday bread), one of which from the real white flour! This flour, some butter and sugar Mama had saved for this holiday almost a whole year. And there were flowers on the table, skillfully made of paper... And a pashka (Easter delicacy made of cottage cheese, eggs, butter, sugar, and vanilla). And the dinner was for us an unusual one: soup of pork (this little piece of pork was saved by Mama like a relic). For the second course we had boeuf stroganov and for the third course a jello made of dried fruit and dried strawberries, drinking it all down with milk. With our soup we had curd cakes made of black flour from the village that Masha had sacrificed for us!...

In the morning came the priest with the Icons. We “received” the Icons in our crowded room, as Icons are “not permitted” in the “Hearth.” It all seemed so degrading and humiliating. From the back I could see how frayed the priest’s vestment was, how dirty, with the cross on it half off and hanging loose. He could not fix it even for the holiday!... This half-loose cross symbolizes all the darkness, barbarism, all savagery of our people! It is so obvious that all this indifferently religious service is performed only to get money... and this in separate donations: for the priest, for the Icons, for the plate... Well, how in the world is it possible for them not to hanker after money, when the cost of living is so high, and the Church is now separated from the Government – donations are the only source that is left to them.

Beside the priests, of course, no one else looked in on us this day. There is no one who could visit us. Just the same we attired ourselves and dressed up for each other. Mama even pinned on her regalia – the St. George Medal for courage and the Gold Medal for zeal, but then took them off and put them on the table with the face that has the image of the unfortunate Nicholas (the late Tsar) – down. Afterwards we visited Kyrilchik’s grave. With great grief did the nearest to him visit it!... On a slope of a hill, between two pine trees of a poor country churchyard, in a clay depression lies our dear little child!

In grief, with bitter resentment we then dragged ourselves home to our dark room. “Everything in this world, the good and the evil is given to a man according to what he deserves, but according to some yet unknown but logical laws, which I shall not even try to point out, though at times it seems to me I dimly sense them.”....(Turgenev, in “King Lear” of the Steppe”)

Sunday, April 27, 1919 - Strahovo, Krassnaya Gorka

The Strahovo theatrical troupe gave a performance yesterday. The stupid play and a complete lack of acting! Considering even that there was no leader (it is the first time that I saw a peasant-theater), I find that it is too soon for the proletariat to perform on the stage. On the other hand the dance of two teenagers, to the accompaniment of a harmonica, astounded me. It was almost an artistic performance, and showed what our proletariat is able to do.....

Before the entertainment a peasant-Bolshevik made a political speech on the present political situation. He too exhibited what the proletariat can do! My God! What a speech it was! But all sat still and listened to him a full hour! Evidently the speech was made according to orders from above and also according to a laid-out program. Its meaning was as follows: - the regime of the Bolsheviki is at the peak of perfection. The power of the Bolsheviki is indestructible and is growing ever stronger. There is trouble only on the Eastern front because of Kolchak. He did succeed to break through. But the danger is past, since he has been forced back 100 versts. A Kolchak victory is unthinkable, however should he succeed, - beware of it – no one will be spared. He will destroy everybody, even the children!

The Menshiviki workmen are in revolt, the intelligentsia is working poorly for the peasant-workers Republik. Let them know, all of them, that we shall have no mercy with them! We, Bolsheviki, are strong and we shall not relinquish our power, thereby guaranteeing our freedom! Such was the content of the speech. Its form was rather classical. Tonight there will be another performance, but it will be by the Koshkinsky troupe. I wonder if there will be another speech?

At the same time it is rumored that the Red Army is in full retreat !?

Well, the second performance took place: it was a much better one, as a matter of fact, not at all bad. First a comedy, then a farce. And it was acted fairly well...Indeed, the proletariat is very, very capable; one thing only is undoubtedly lacking – a cultural training and a good director. But there is much that can be done with these people. Just the same, it must be repeated for the hundredth time, in spite of all Lunacharskis, in nothing can I see a “pure proletarian” idea. This “purely-proletarian” ideology is a “purely-intelligentsia’s“ invention.

Tuesday, April 29, 1919 - Strahovo

This morning the cow finally obliged and gave birth to a calf. The “infant” is called “Dochka” (little daughter). She was brought into the house and placed in the room next to ours. I can hear her stamping. Though not yet dry, she stands on her feet, although not too firmly. We expect another addition to our family: Zoya is planning to bring to us her oldest boy. How only is she going to make it from the station to our house? The road is still swampy, the peasants are still not using it and there are no coachmen at the station. Zoya cannot walk with the child!

From Kiev still no news after that silly telegram!

On Sunday, May 4th I shall go to Alexin and make the following statement there:

“The tasks and organizations of the Alexin Art Studio. From the moment Russia was freed from the oppression of the old, pre-revolutionary regime, she gained the far-reaching right toward a liberal cultural development. This right and the possibility of cultural development that is now open, is the essence and value of the victory won. And the whole merit of the revolution is in the opportunity of realizing this right, this duty – now and in the time to come. Therefore, all public institutions, and especially the educational ones, must have one goal in mind – the cultural education of the people. It is not necessary to talk about the quality or the program of this culture: the very meaning of the word “culture” expresses the growth of the most progressive ideas. Progressive ideas are the natural, the hereditary property of the true culture, and are not dependent on changes of conditions because of the different political parties. Culture is above parties. Culture in itself is the source of ideas and opinions that must unite all parties. Therefore all cultural-educational institutions must be above parties and must stand on an independent foundation. However, such an independent stand can be realized by these institutions only under conditions that are truly free of all prejudices and conditions of the old, worn-out pre-revolutionary time. And such liberation from the old traditions and old routine can naturally not be achieved at once. A great effort is necessary for it by the representatives themselves – of the educational endeavor – and on the other hand, by a patient and well-disposed attitude on the part of the top leaders. It will be necessary to review the entire construction of the educational system, of all educational relationships, and then find the means of agreement as to the present needs."

“The whole cultural problem of the moment is in reestablishing the balance between the material and the spiritual worlds that had been upset. The revolutionary struggle has naturally pushed into the first rank the material and utilitarian aspects as the first necessities. With the beginning now of more normal living conditions it is important to revert to the spiritual culture, which alone can bring into the material world a noble and spiritualized foundation. Without spiritual culture the whole material world loses its real meaning, and its most brilliant victories become the source of mutual hostility and moral savagery. Without cultivating the spirit, the most advanced liberal slogans become only outer signboards that cover up the same old sins."

“In order to achieve the best social relationships in line with the present needs of the social and personal life, cultural education must move in three directions: the scientific-technical, the esthetic, and the ethical. However these goals are not three different specialties, they must complement each other. Therefore, an Art Studio must not only teach how to draw, but must in a broader sense also develop an esthetic ability and esthetic world-wide outlook. The system of the Studio must be based on two principles: discipline and freedom. Though seemingly opposite, they are in reality narrowly connected: - on one side a strict discipline of scientific method and of formal order. On the other side – limitless freedom of individual creativity, based at the same time on a free and voluntary self-restraint, which is in the end true discipline."

“As an organization the Studio must represent a working commune. Into its composition must go: a Workshop for artistic work, an Art Library, a Reading Room and an Art Museum, i.e., a collection of works of art and of reproductions of characteristic works of art. The detailed plan of the organization can be worked out according to local conditions and in agreement with the local members of the Public Education.”

Sunday, May 4, 1919 - Strahovo

With the advent of the month of May, this wonderful spring month that possesses the magical force to regenerate everything and all, we too feel as if aroused to new activity. I began painting a large canvas in the still-bare linden tree park. Nadya, apparently overtired from her work at the Hearth, has grown irritable, has gotten into a discord with Mama and announced that the Hearth bores her, that she is ready to quit her work and go to Dubrachok, where she will live by herself and do the plowing! Only with difficulty did I succeed in convincing her that no matter how insupportable the Hearth has become to her, it nevertheless represents a firm ground; while in Dubrachok she will not have anything even to eat, and as to her work there, that is virtually an impossible thing. Regarding her disagreement with Mama, it is a thing where both are wrong; they must change their attitude toward each other, as in their personal life, and especially in the field of their work. Thank God, they both have come to their senses and now, with the coming of May, are exhibiting new and fresh energy.

We celebrated the First of May at the Hearth in the midst of a crowd of children. The weather was beautiful. Nadinka took advantage of the three-day holiday “the Workers’ Holiday,” and with the teachers left for Alexin to make merry. She returned yesterday in excellent spirits. Everybody in Alexin, even the Sovdeps, gave her a warm welcome, fulfilled all her wishes and pretensions, paid her salary (close to four thousand) which the Soviet owed her and which, regardless of all her writings, she could not collect. I am apparently expected there, so Mama and I shall go there today after dinner.

There were also the following happenings: we went to Koshkino, visited the Ushakovs (the former owners of the Koshkino estate), living now in a small house. We found at home only Natashenka and Misha, as well as the Olga’s baby – a walking picture! Natasha too is beautiful and devilishly appetizing – especially interesting in her is the combination of naïve modesty and the somewhat sensual expression of face, especially of the mouth!... But of special interest was the visit to the Koshkino Enlightenment Circle. One of its members was found at home, at tea, among a large family – rich (made a six thousand contribution). Instead of sugar they ate deliciously smoked apples! We found the rest of the member actors at work – daubing the wall of the shed with clay mixed with straw – two sons and the old father. Their sister, Sonichka, a magnificent “match-maker,” bare-footed, robust, and carrying on her shoulders a huge basket full of sand. We invited all members to come to the theater room in the Ushakov mansion. They tidied themselves up and all came.

And here took place my connection with the Circle and the beginning of that influence on these people (all very friendly and earnest). I have longed for some time. I would like to raise them culturally, place them on the road toward true culture, which is above politics, goes beyond Marxism, has for its goal a spiritual depth. In other words I would like for them to understand, to sense what true culture is. I was given a “standard” copy of a code of rules that had been sent from Alexin, one that had been sent to all similar circles. I reworked it considerably and with my corrections will take it to Alexin. The code is a formal, general plan. Its best point is that there shall be no interference in anything. Much more important educationally are the inner rules or precepts which I am reworking for the Koshkin Circle.

Another happening: a telegram, an answer from Sonya in Kiev. “Kolya has left for Odessa. Sonya.” Thank God! This means that all is well. But the sad thing is that there is not a single letter from Kiev and that my last registered one was returned to me today. Zbrueva has not been found, neither at her private address, nor at the Music School address. Where are they?

Thursday, May 8, 1919 - Strahovo

Well, we have been to Alexin! We left on Sunday the 4th, and we returned yesterday, Wednesday the 7th. The first night we spent in Tarussa, at the Vinogradov’s, who did not show any special pleasure at our spending the night with them. In the evening we visited Lydia Alexandrovna Zolotuhina, whom we had met on the street with the Molchanov’s, but when we called on them (they are living together) only Lydia Alexandrovna appeared, while the Molchanov’s were eating and drinking in the adjoining room and during our hour-long visit never did they come out. Only when we were leaving did they come into the entrance hall, apparently pleased that our visit had caused them no trouble. Then we went to see the Miller family – three sisters, the husband and child of one of them. All were crowded in two small rooms. They had been turned out not only from their estate, but were also deprived of their apartment house in Tarussa, in which only the two small rooms were left to them. The Millers showed much more friendliness toward us. The following morning we went to the wharf, leaving the Vinogradov’s early (while they were still asleep). It was very cold and windy. The steamer was overcrowded. Mama squeezed herself into the general ladies’ cabin where, as she usually does, she entered into conversation with the passengers. From one of them she learned that in the adjoining cabin was traveling the Sovdep from Alexin who was the man in charge of the business for which I was going there. She managed to bring us together. He turned out to be a very young man, intelligent, a great enthusiast, somewhat of a braggart, but a big shot in Alexin. We spent the rest of the journey in his cabin, drinking “coffee,” i.e., a pale liquid, eating our own lunch, talking about the future Studio and the present political situation. He, Ivan Nikolaevich Popov (son of a landowner) had been a liberal, like the rest, a Social-Democrat, but since, has embraced Bolshevism and Communism. But regardless of the party, he is not narrow-minded and is even flirting some with the intelligentsia. On the subject of my having been invited to come to Alexin, he straightforwardly said: “Don’t be bashful in monetary resources, - organize your undertaking on a big scale.” As a beginning, all this sounded certainly well.

Once in Alexin, we did what Popov had advised us to do. We rented a room in a Soviet Hotel, and we acquired cards which gave us the right to eat in a Soviet Diner. Thereafter we experienced endless roaming on the terrible pavements and sidewalks, chasing from one end of town to the other because no one could tell us the exact location of the Town Hall, of shops, bakery, the Department of Public Education, and where is the Diner. But good luck was with us in the Department of Public Education. I was welcomed there as one who had been expected for a long time. There also happened to be Litvinov. He too is an artist and the husband of Vera Alexeevna (who has been to our house in Strahovo). She had asked Nadichka to tell us that we should go from the wharf directly to their house, to lodge there and have our meals with them. Litvinov was indignant when he learned that we had taken a hotel room where one can catch typhoid fever or any kind of nasty germ, he said. He insisted on our cancelling the reservation and moving over to them. We were more than glad to leave the filthy place with its signboard “Soviet Hotel.” With Litvinov and one of the Department’s Assistants, we then went to the “Pine Grove,” for me to choose the building that I would consider suitable for the Studio. The site in the Pine Forest on the banks of the Oka-River was ideal. Large dachas (summer houses) all boarded up were scattered all about. I liked one that had attached to it a smaller building, that would be used for my personal needs. We put off the decision until the next day, after inspecting it once more after the boards would have been removed. From there we crossed the Oka-River and rode to the Litvinov’s, where we were warmly welcomed and where night accommodations and a supper awaited us. But here, following all the conversations and impressions, I decided to drop the whole matter and stay for the summer in Strahovo. Litvinov, however, persuaded me the following day not to do it. So, I made up my mind to make rather high demands, regarding the material conditions, with a salary of 4-3 thousand a month. We agreed that Litvinov would write to me after a consultation with the Department’s officials as to what could be expected of them. The thing that disturbed me is that I would be living in Alexin alone. But then I had the idea of establishing myself with the Litvinov’s, at their Dacha. He goes home only on Saturdays (owing to a rather mountainous road). The Litvinov’s are exceptionally likable people. Now I am awaiting his letter. During our return I suffered great abdominal pains caused by that terrible Alexin bread. With difficulty did I drag myself home, the six versts, from the Oka to Strahovo! But after a good night’s rest, thank God, the pains disappeared.

Our success in Alexin I attribute in great measure to the impression Nadichka had made on everybody there. They were all “crazy” about her, the Litviov’s and all the Sovdep officials. They dream to have her move there with Mama, in the capacity of musicians at the local “Conservatory,” where only some poor amateurs are teaching now.

Alexin is a pretty miserable little town – were it not for its natural, wonderful picturesque setting, it would be worth nothing. And it seems to me, that regardless of all the endeavors of its “authorities” and all the expenditures, nothing that would be appropriate can be established in Alexin, i.e., a true cultural center for the District! For instance for my “Academy” they offered me for the winter –two rooms at the Public House which in itself is nothing but a wretched dark hole. Some Academy it would be!

There are rumors again that the Kolchak armies are advancing from the East. Popov definitely acknowledged that the Soviet Regime will not withstand the pressure on the fronts more than two or three months, which means that by the month of August the tune will somewhat clear up: either – we them, or - they us!

Not a line from Kiev!
Also, no letters from Petrograd!

Sunday, May 11, 1919 - Strahovo

Early this morning, at 4:00 am, we saw Nadinka off for Alexin with my letter to the Department of Public Education, in which I stated the necessary conditions for a “Studio” and my personal conditions, i.e., how much salary I wish to receive. Since mail service is so unreliable it is better to dispatch an important letter by an express messenger, the most primitive way! Another reason for her going is to have her buy two pounds of sweet butter at the market, at 100 rubles a pound. For this trip Nadichka attired herself in some kind of skirt, but on her feet she put on cord-slippers of her own manufacture.

I am going today to Koshkino, to the meeting of the Circle. I shall present to them the Code’s projects. I would like to work out for them a “decree” in which I would sum all the problems, not the formal ones, but those of one’s inner state that are the real ones – a program of spiritual culture, to which, as a matter of fact, little thought has been given.

Last night a great anguish came over me: I saw my present life in all its ugliness as in a bag and all misfortunes at once flooded my memory. The loss of Kyrilchik, as well as Ksenichka, the wanderings in unknown spaces of all whom I love, and I began to feel indignant against the higher power that disposes of the fate of men in this miserable world. How poorly it is managed! The most average man would have made, in accordance with his ideals, a better world. So after this how is it possible to regard this directing “higher power” as the “supreme ideal?” Even my ideal is much higher.

Wednesday, May 14, 1919 - Strahovo

“While property is in the hands of capitalists, any democracy will be only a hypocritical, concealed bourgeois dictatorship. Then all speeches on universal voting, on the people’s will and universal equality of voters, will be nothing but a fraud because there cannot be equality between exploiters and the exploited ones, between the owners of property and capital, and the contemporary hired slaves!” - Lenin

At the meeting of the Koshkino Circle I became convinced how remote these people still are from an earnest and penetrating approach to their cultural problems. Except for 5-10 individuals, they are still quite uncivilized and are not even showing an interest for participating in the undertaking. All their exterior and inner life and all their demands and ideals can be summarized by the old familiar formula: “bread and circuses.” However this small group does give hope for the possibility of inoculating them with the beginnings of true culture. This group belongs to the more or less well-to-do. They are living well. After the unsuccessful meeting, I, Olga Vasilyevna Polenova and two or three more persons were invited to the home of the Nikitins. A large clean room, straight chairs, armchairs, a buffet, flowers, etc. We were served coffee with milk, three glassfuls each, flat cakes, eggs, and home-made lenten sugar. I shall try to broaden and deepen the cultural work of this Circle. It seems to me that the Polenov’s look at this work only from the standpoint of the theater!

Nadichka returned from Alexin without butter, thought there was butter in the market. The rest of my affairs are progressing: she had delivered my message to the Department of Education, after having decided with Litvinov to insert the amount of 4000 rubles as my monthly salary.

One of these days Tsitovskaya may be expected here. It will be fun to observe her after she learned that Mama had reported in Alexin her “intrigues” at the Hearth.

Yesterday was a day of a great event: I churned almost a pound of butter from sour cream. There is so much more milk now that we are drinking it without any shame, and we are eating cottage cheese and are in general subsisting quite well! The calf moos and stinks in the adjoining room. The mornings continue to be cold.

Thursday, May 15, 1919 - Strahovo

Just received a postcard from Yura, in Kiev. At last!....Thank God, all are well there. That silly telegram about “given us Sonya,” was sent by Yura, Nina and someone else, on Sonya’s birthday and, as we had rightly surmised, while under the influence of a merry-making mood! Zbruyeva is in Kiev apparently; why my registered letter was returned, as if “not found at the given address”, is unknown. There was another letter from Mrs. Dimanis. She urges me to come to Petrograd, otherwise I shall be ousted from the apartment! It will be necessary to install some one in the apartment without acquaintances and free of charge! Well, it will depend on Alexin. If an agreement is reached, I shall arrange to be sent to Petrograd on a mission.

Sonya’s Kiev address is: Bolshaya Podvalnaya 13, apt. 2. They are thinking of moving soon to Vinnitsy! I wonder why?

Monday, May 19, 1919 - Strahovo

Day before yesterday the mother of the local school teacher, Zolotuhina, died of typhoid fever. The epidemic is not over.

Yesterday my sister Emilie and Alexei Petrovich arrived in Dubrachok and sent us a note asking for the keys to the house. They are occupying in the meantime the keeper’s house. They had traveled for five days from Ryasan province, were terribly tired, but they looked well. I went to see them, saw the room where Kyrilchik died – first visit there since that catastrophe! Such terrible chaos, destruction and dirt! We established some order and they moved into our house, God be thanked for their coming! We shall no longer tremble for the well-being of Dubrachok. Since everything is being carried away now and windows being broken by rock throwings. But how will they manage without help, with all the field and garden work?

From Alexin no answer yet regarding my “conditions”....

I wrote yesterday and today 35 pages in answer to Loeve, on the subject of Christ!

Tuesday, May 20, 1919 - Strahovo

Signs of Progress in the New Russia:

Complete absence of solidarity among the peasants. – A peasant died today of typhus; he lay there dressed with his boots on... with no one to help, to undress him. His wife had died earlier. Two sons are in the hospital – only a small boy was left. In times past, everybody would have come to help him, also in the house, in the field and garden, but not now – oh, no!

The Koshkino Cultural Educational Circle had arranged in its theater (in a confiscated dacha) benches made from boards that had been broken off from somebody’s fence!!! I am a member of this Circle and want to suggest renaming it – instead of “Cultural-Educational” call it “The Burglary-Merry-making.”

What is going on in all the Commissariates, in all the Soviet institutions, beginning with the Kremlin and Smolny and ending with the District – and Village Soviets! What is going on in the Soviet Food Stores and other shops, what is going on in all Russia, from one end to the other, - it is one horror! It’s a continuous, solid open swindling organization, - a veritable nightmare!

Commissar Ushakov of the Kremlin gives his nephew, a pupil of a Public School, an order, written according to all rules, for a carload of soap. The nephew sells the soap to a speculator, making thereby 10 thousand rubles; he then squanders it in company of some girls (co-education), driving a Soviet automobile, drinking cognac, and vodka. The same Commissar puts a stamp of approval on a falsified order for 10 poods of chocolates and bonbons from “Einen” (an exclusive brand) for the same nephew, who takes the merchandise to a friend, also a pupil of the Public School, after he too had falsified the order. However, the second friend deceives the first one and gives him nothing of the booty. The Commissar’s nephew who lost the gain in this deal of 75 thousand rubles, arrests his disloyal friend with the help of his uncle, after spying on him with the militiamen at the home of an acquaintance. The result: “probably a shoot-out.” To the nephew’s question – why do not the Soviet authorities stop by force this profiteering at the “Suhareva” (tramp’s market), the uncle replies: “You fool, can’t you understand that the “Suhareva” is the Soviet trade! The merchandise from Serpuhov and other factories go to Moscow, but only a very small part of it gets to the Cooperatives, the rest is sold to the speculators – wholesale dealers, and gets to the Suharevka. But even here the speculators are treated according to the new rules of Soviet honesty: - from time to time, the merchandise is snatched from them by Suharevsky’s raids and sold either to the same or other profiteers! When the speculators who have been cheated complain to those who sold them the merchandise, they get for an answer: “We have nothing to do with it. It is another organization that has taken merchandise from you!

An aunt of this nephew who, after having left her husband and taken up with a Commissar, opened at the Suharevka a large pavilion where they do business in perfumes and soap, clearing daily three thousand rubles. She has already saved a million, by selling a bottle of perfume at 200 rubles, a cake of soap at 50 rubles, bought, as a rule, by Red Army men and by certain females who insist on particular scents and well-known brands!

The lucky nephew, who has such distinguished relatives, is seriously considering to go into this business, having set for himself the goal of bringing up his gain to twenty million. This would mean a capital of one million rubles, counting each kerenki (Soviet paper money) worth one ruble. “For,” he says to himself, “taking everything into account, there is in me honor and nobleness, after all, and when a change in the regime will come, I shall return to a legal work and honest earnings. I imagine, however, that with a million in my pocket I shall not want to enter the Engineer’s School as I had thought of doing before the October Revolution. However now I would be a fool not to take advantage, as others do, of the opportunities of snatching off for myself some part of that “public pie” that everybody has fallen upon and torn into pieces.”

This nephew has told that his School has been combined with a Female Public School, made co-educational, i.e., half of the boys have been moved into the Female School and half of the girls into the Boys School. The result: end of all study and a complete debauchery. In the 6th grade there is one boy who sits surrounded on all sides by girls. In this particular class it somehow turned out to have five boys to forty girls, and through the study session the boys are pelted from all sides by notes from the girls. In the basement of this building has been organized a sort of club, where the boys and girls can spend their time together instead of being in the classroom. It is always crowded and there is always drunkenness and corruption. One mother complained to the director that her 15 year old daughter had been raped in the presence of witnesses. The case was brought before the Pupils’ Court. The plaintiff, the accused and the witnesses were called. During the testimony of the witnesses the accused began to abuse and revile the plaintiff, the latter broke into hysterics....The accused was dismissed from the School. After a few months, however, he was readmitted. The same court presided over another case, a similar one. But in this case both, accused – he and she, protested. They did not deny the misdemeanor, but claimed mutual love, freedom, and abused the court. The case was dismissed.

One pupil-speculator has regular drinking bouts with girls at his home. He escorted one of the girls home one night and since he had a long way to return home and the hour was late – almost morning, - the girl asked him to spend the night in her apartment. “I have an extra couch in my room,” she said.

In the face of it all, the teachers keep repeating to the boys: “Girls must be looked upon not as sex-creatures, but as comrades (tovarishchi)!”

Friday, May 23, 1919 - Strahovo

Early this morning Mama and Nadya left for Alexin, to attend a business meeting regarding the Hearth. They had to go on foot as far as the river Oka, and carry quite a heavy suitcase (provisions for 3 days and bed linen). Nadya had made for herself a sarafan for this trip. They had hardly left and I had hardly dressed myself and eaten breakfast, when suddenly – here was Zoya and Boris! I was very glad to see them, though sorry they came when the hostesses were absent! The boy is sweet (4 years old) and not too skinny. Zoya, as usual, very nice, young and also not too poorly looking. Just now they are taking a rest after having eaten. They had a sleepless night. I wonder how Nadya will manage, having assumed this new obligation!

The weather is beautiful.

Saturday, May 24, 1919 - Strahovo

I took a walk with Zoya and Boris. She told me of having learned to know her father. After living without him for 25 years, she has become acquainted with him only now. She confessed that this was due because of my letter. I had written her that in times of distress and tribulations, drawing near one’s father must be a necessity and Zoya’s duty for the sake of her children, that she had no right to deprive them of their grandfather since fate had deprived them of their father.

Toward evening one of the “Sovdeps” of Alexin arrived unexpectedly, with the authority of concluding with me the terms of our negotiations. We came to a final conclusion. They agreed to all my conditions, only instead of 4000 rubles a month they offered 3000. We compromised on 3500. Now I shall have to go to Moscow and, if possible, also to Petrograd, in order to get the material for the Studio.

I fed the Sovdep with kasha, eggs, bread and coffee. We talked a good deal about the present conditions in Soviet Russia. He appeared to be a very intelligent and bright individual, not at all a Bolshevik. He slept at the Hearth on a couch. I gave him Mama’s pillow and cover. Early in the morning, after drinking some milk, he left to the Oka. In Alexin he will pass on to Mama and Nadya the news of Zoya’s arrival and, I hope, at least one of them will return soon. And so, I have entered service! Never before have I ever served! Was always a free bird, all my life, for 56 years! Now I have sold myself!

Monday, May 26, 1919 - Strahovo

I went yesterday with Zoya and Boris to Koshkino, to the Ushakov’s. We happened to arrive at the Koshkino Theater at the time of rehearsal. The acting was poor, though some showed talent. But they have no guidance, not the least of it. They read as they chance to feel. Natasha Ushakova is charming in her directness and looks picturesque with her water-nymph eyes, sensuous mouth, and for her fifteen years – she has a great store of temperament!

News has trickled through that Petrograd is on the brink of collapse; the allies are in Gatchina already. This means I shall not get there! What will happen my apartment and my property there??!

I subsist on bread, milk, eggs and butter.

Tuesday, May 27, 1919 - Strahovo

I devised a special dinner today. By chance, I had bought from a moujik in Behovo six pounds of fish for 60 rubles. With Mama’s help I made a fish soup (uha) and as a second course we had the boiled perch with sauce made of butter and eggs. We left enough of either for Mama and Nadya. In the evening, Zoya, Boris and I went to meet them. We sat for a long time at the edge of the Strahovo forest but in the end did not get to meet them! I wonder why? Was there no steamer going? Or did something detain them in Alexin? What news will they bring regarding Petrograd?

Wednesday, May 28, 1919 - Strahovo

I went yesterday to Dubrachok. Emily and Alexey Petrovich are starving. But they are themselves to be blamed for it. It is all because of their lack of action. They have some kind of manufactured goods that could be exchanged for food.

I wanted to acquaint my sister with my memoirs and check on some events that, as the eldest, she should remember better. But to my surprise she showed no interest at all in her childhood. And then, when I read to her the first lines of my memoirs where it says that the Stember’s were descendants of Jews from Libau, she asked me to stop, as this fact is an unpleasant subject to her! (Alexey Petrovich sat in the same room)!! So pettily prejudiced has my sister Emilie become!

Another thing surprised me when she mentioned incidentally that our mother had left a diary that covered quite a long period of time. How little she valued this fact if she never had mentioned it to me, nor had she taken the trouble of reading it herself! For some unknown reason this document came into the hands of Karl Petrovich Medtner. And he too did not deem it his moral duty to let us children know of the existence of their mother’s diary!

I shall be going to Moscow in the next few days and I shall claim this diary! Last night Mama and Nady finally returned from Alexin. The found Zoya still here. The meeting in Alexin had lasted four days from morning till night.

Thursday, May 29, 1919 - Strahovo

Well, I want to write my diary, at the same time I want to drink tea, while Mama asks me to heat the samovar! Our domestic help has gone home to Koshkino, to someone’s funeral (they are dying daily). Mama has been cooking, Nadya is knitting cord-slippers. There arose a disagreement as to what color pompoms to use on them. Boris sits and keeps digging his finger in something. Zoya left in the morning! I cleaned the balcony in anticipation of Emily’s visit. But she does not come. Must be afraid of the thunderstorm. They have been living in Dubrachok for nearly two weeks now and not once did they come to see us, while we have been in Dubrachok five times. At the same time they are badly in need of many things; somehow they just can’t get going. Such people! But at last they did come. We drank tea on the balcony, with flat cakes with butter, and ate cottage cheese with milk. Mama scolded Aunt Milya for their inaction and lack of energy...Aunt Milya cried and said they could leave Dubrachok any time...Mama later regretted her words.

Friday, May 30, 1919 - Strahovo - Ascension Day

Today is Hearth-day again. There are not many children, but Boris was frightened even by the few. He is sitting on the floor behind the door, from where he is bashfully, though with curiosity, peering out at them. These are the last days of our trouble with the Strahovo Hearth. The fact is that Nadichka has conquered the hearts of all the ”Sovdeps” in Alexin and they want without fail to get there both Nadya and Mama for a good salary – to teach singing and piano at the Alexin Conservatory. The contracts are due here in the next few days already! And so there will be another change in our fate! Their place here will be taken by two young fellows from the village who went through a two-month course in Moscow. I can imagine how they will manage things at the Hearth!

The linden tree Park is in leaf and has taken on a friendlier, summer look. The weather is wonderful. But the stubborn absence of rain is threatening the harvest. The ground in the vegetable garden is as hard as a rock. Now we all are interested in “soil!” In the villages they are lifting up the icons. (During the drought the icons are carried to the fields where the prayers are offered, beseeching God to send the rain and save the crop.)

Sunday, June 1, 1919 - Strahovo

From the two teachers who arrived in Alexin today, we learned that Petrograd is occupied by allies! This, as it seems, is official. They added that the allies have advanced already 30 versts toward Moscow! Somehow I cannot believe them! Still, it can be. Nothing can surprise us! I intend to go to Moscow day after tomorrow, but just now I am resting and am jotting down all kinds of “ideas:” a report on the subject of Tsitovskaya’s dismissal, another on the subject of the struggle against the thievery that is going on among the children at the Hearth, in the vegetable and other gardens....Nadya has been to Dubrachok; she took Aunt Milya three measures of potatoes that she had exchanged in the village for 10 arshin of cotton goods.

Monday, June 2, 1919 - Strahovo

My second registered letter to Zbruyeva in Kiev was returned to me yesterday. From Yuri came a postcard and again containing such incomprehensive news that informs us of nothing and only aggravates us. The Stembers and the Zbruyevs appear to have mistreated Sonya, and especially Kolya, very badly. Sonya has suffered “humiliations”.... What does this mean? Were there any misunderstandings, or does Yuri exaggerate? Not a word about Kolya, and not a word also from Kolya himself! Sonya is stubbornly silent. Yuri sends only postcards. The only good news in his correspondence is in the postscript: “We eat plenty.”

Yesterday there was also a big letter from Uncle Medtner – an answer to my letter of long ago, concerning the death of Aunt Sasha (Medtner’s wife). They all had read my letter and had been moved by it. Even Kolya (composer) Medtner added to his father’s letter a few lines. I shall without fail go now directly to my uncle in Gnezdnikovski Pereulok. It will be very pleasant. I shall see them all.

Interesting that this letter had arrived in Ivanovo Post Office on April 25, but was delivered in Strahovo only on May 30!

I just boiled two dozen eggs for my trip to Moscow, for which I had paid 120 rubles, instead of 40 kopeks, the former price.

Wednesday, June 4, 1919 - Moscow

Early yesterday morning I went with Mama on our horse Kopchik to the station. On the way we stopped in Dubrachok to see Emily and bring her some things from Strahovo. I was struck by the picture of beauty, coziness and luxury of verdure of our surprisingly appealing Dubrachok! And what an aroma! At the gate a flowering wild apple tree, the lilies, pear and cherry trees – all blooming and so fragrant! I felt like staying there and not going on to the filthy Moscow! At the station we got into an abusive argument with the “Soviet” regarding the confiscated saddle and all their incorrigible hooliganism.

On the platform we met Karasov with Maria Nikolevna Kramer (a 16 year old pretty young girl with beautiful teeth) and the Baronova with her sister. They all were also going to Moscow. As the train was approaching and I caught sight of it, I gave up hope that I would be able to get on: the roofs, the brakes and the locomotive – all were swarming with people! At the last moment we nevertheless managed to climb up on a roof. And so we all settled down together. Riding this way was very exciting (for the first time in my life) and fun, but the wind was so strong on top that it was impossible to sit. I was forced to lie down, propped up closely against the backs of the ladies! Nevertheless I caught a cold. But we did arrive safely after all.

In Moscow I took a trolley car from the station, but it was so jammed and I was so crushed that I got out at Chotny and took izvoschik (cabdriver) to Gnezdnikovski Pereulok, for 40 rubles.

But what a disappointment! On Medtner’s door was a notice requesting that all letters and telegrams be left with the dvornik (yard-man)! It meant that there was no one in and that I must now drag myself to Zoya in the Malaya Nikitskaya! Before leaving though, I luckily decided to see the dvornik to find out since when my Uncle has been gone. It turned out that he was at home, but that the only way one could get to him was from the back courtyard. And so, I found him together with the old Maria Karlovna (his late wife’s sister) but with no domestic help!

Sunday, June 8, 1919 - Moscow - The Trinity Day

I stayed with my Uncle 4 days. He and Maria Karlovna made a sad inpression on me. He himself appeared to be sprightly and interested in lofty ideas, but in his daily life he has become childish. It seems that not only hunger and the general outward collapse, but mostly the loss of his wife, who had kept the house and had nursed him, have thrown him off the track. His household is in a state of ruin. In his eating habits he has become ridiculously gluttonous. He is eating constantly and much, buying whatever he happens to see, spending 6,000 rubles a month. At the same time he eats it all himself with a childish egotism, giving nothing to the hungry Maria Karlovna except 10 rubles for her meals at the Diner. But all the housework he piles up on her shoulders, carelessly throwing about everything, dirtying endlessly the dishes, offering her no help in anything, such as making the bed, emptying the chamber pot, and bucket under the washstand, - leaving it all to her! And he is always displeased and always in a bad humor! With me he was very agreeable. We talked a great deal, reminisced, read....But he tyrannized me with his constant and detailed accounts of worries about the food and about all other petty daily squabbles, repeating it over and over every day and using forever the same words and expressions!

During the first days he consumed ¾ of my provisions – bread, eggs, milk and cottage cheese. Then he ate his own food, under my nose, and after eating it all up, he would say, “Perhaps you too wanted some?”

The same attitude he had toward his daughter Sonya, who after the death of her Mother, had taken on all the hard housework and the care of her Father. The food he bought he ate himself. What they were getting for the three food-cards he divided in half: to himself one half, and to Sonya and her son also a half! Sonya wore herself out trying to please him, doing alone all the housework, while he kept shouting, demanding, sticking his nose into everything. Trying to control everything. When Sonya would cry after such “scenes,” he would beg her forgiveness in the evening, but the next day it would start all over again.

I slept on the sofa, on a hard lumpy pad, without a pillow. My air cushion was no help, and sleeping was uncomfortable. My Uncle had sold all pillows and everything else.

Besides these reasons, I slept badly because I generally was not feeling well at all. Ever since my arrival in Moscow the old pains in the region of the stomach had started again. They became so severe during the day and night that I could stand it no longer and went to see the doctor (one Zoya knew). After a careful examination Dr. Pechersky announced his irrevocable diagnosis: stones in the liver, or maybe ulcers in the stomach! Stones – for sure. He prescribed some medicines, which I got from the pharmacy only today – after 3 days! The next day I went to another doctor – Mme Razumova (who has treated all the Medtner’s). After her careful examination, her unalterable diagnosis was: all caused by the heart. No stones, no ulcers. She prescribed a number of different medicines. I did not mention Pecharsky to her, but today, when I will go to her again, I will tell her about the Pecharsky’s “stones!”

Monday, June 9, 1919 - Moscow - White Monday

Yesterday I did not feel well at all, especially after a long walk with all my things that I carried from my Uncle to Zoya, where I decided to move. I felt a great weakness.

Zoya and Aunt Sonya (Mama’s sister) welcomed me very warmly and immediately fed me. That was fortunate since all the Diners were closed and I risked going hungry at my Uncle’s. The second blessed thing was Zoya’s going to Tverskaya after my medicine, I myself simply was unable to go. From the very first dose of medicine by Razumova I felt much better. And I slept (in Zoya’s bed) excellently. It proves what (aside from medicine) an atmosphere of sympathy and sincere well-wishing that I found here can do.

However I can observe also here in the mutual relationship of Aunt Sonya and Zoya the eternal and common transgression that banefully ruins life: severing and tarnishing the important with unimportant; the great with the small and petty; the blindness of man toward his own faults and merciless attitude toward the faults of his fellow-man. Such manifestations are very oppressive to an outsider - they lower his spirits, affect also his physical well-being, which otherwise would be heightened if surrounded by an atmosphere of harmony and peace among the people living together.

My affairs are not progressing well. During the 6 days I practically did not succeed in accomplishing anything! Causes: 1) ill health; 2) difficulty of transportation; 3) almost complete absence on the market of materials; 4) the dreadful red tape and absurd organization in all institutions.

Today I shall dine at Kolya Medtner’s. It gladdens, but also frightens me in view of the imminent strain, because of my weakness.

Tuesday, June 10, 1919 - Moscow

Yesterday I went first to Dr. Razumova – it being nearby. I told her about the “stones and ulcers.” But she remained unshaken in her own diagnosis. She permitted me to eat everything, except things that would cause swelling of the stomach, also no saccharine. Feeling relieved I then walked from Kudrino to Devichye (to Kolya Medtner). I arrived feeling well and felt also well when I returned in the evening home.

With Kolya Medtner I spent the entire time in the most interesting conversation – he is the most fascinating and charming individual. Just now he experiences a great drama being unable to devote himself entirely to creative work on a big scale (a symphony)! But at the same time what evenness of temper, what philosophical wisdom, what complacency and flexibility in his attitude toward the prosaic duties laid on him by the household, by the absence of domestic help, and generally by all the privations of life under Communism!

I conversed with him without interruption from 2:00 in the afternoon until 10:00 in the evening! Talking appeared to be to him some sort of necessity!

Verochka (his niece), regardless of her married status – is a downright little “porkling.” Her husband is a modest, mediocre young man. On the same morning Elena (Verochka’s Mother – wife of Medtner’s brother) had returned from Rostov, after having been on the road for 2 ½ months. She has not changed – is as she always has been – a well fed “piggie.” She had much of interest to tell; the Denikin armies are pressing heavily from the South. As they gain ground, these “Whites” are robbing and beating the Jews. The Reds are running in panic. While on the streets of Moscow, bulletins are announcing victories by the Reds! That’s how history is written!

Apparently because of these “victories,” today no bread nor potatoes can be had neither on the market, nor in any food store! The day passes under the sign of hunger! The situation is becoming tragic; for many days now no bread has been issued on food-cards! Somehow I did manage to wind up my affairs. But in getting a permit to leave the City – there occurred some kind of a delay. At the Commissariat a big crowd of delegates has been hanging around and waiting for almost three weeks! The order refusing train travel to private citizens has so disorganized all business that the issuing of any permit even to delegates is apparently beyond all possibility! I shall go there tomorrow morning; it would be good to leave tomorrow – it’s becoming frightening here!

It is touching to see how Aunt Sonya and Zoya are sharing the last they have with me! Though I have been buying some things myself, like milk and vegetables, but bread and other things they have been dividing with me out of their own quite meager supply!

In the conversation with Kolya Medtner we differed in some of our points of view: Kolya thinks that “form” is an essential condition of life and a daily necessity to the spirit. In this I certainly agree with him. But suffering at this moment from the destruction of the forms of our life, he regrets the old order that had preserved the forms of life. In this he falls into a great error: because not every form of life will and can satisfy our spiritual need!

Taking one fact of a form of life (as well as of a form of art) it does not yet mean that it has any merit and has therefore the right to existence. The destruction of any unworthy form is a great good and responds more to the need of the spirit, than its unfailing preservation! Yes, I think that only an unworthy form is destructible. And the more perfect the form, the more durable and indestructible it is!

The genuine, organic and high qualities of a form are capable of change only in their organic life – by evolution, by development.... And this process (more inner than exterior) cannot be violated or interrupted by force. After reaching the highest point of their development, the forms proceed to their natural decline and can be subjected to an exterior shock, which to some degree hastens the process of decay, but to overthrow a sound form (even if only materially) no exterior human force can do and least of all a barbarian force.

On the other hand the forms of life and of art by the process of their decline and degeneration do reach the state of full decay and become a wrecking corps. And if there is still some invisible force within the wrecking corps guarding it, - to break this criminal force by means of a revolution – is a great good!

Thursday, June 12, 1919 - Moscow

After endless waiting at the Lyceum (Committee of Public Education) I finally received the permit for departure, and this morning (there was a moderate crowd of people) I received a ticket in the International Sleeping car, 2nd Class, - as far as Tula, for 70 rubles. Am leaving at 11:00 pm tonight. It’s time, or I’ll be eating up the rest of my money. Expenses for food continue to climb. On the first day I spent about 20 rubles, then more, at last 60 and 100 rubles, and today already 200!

At “Ohotny” (Central Market in Moscow) everything can be had, and the merchandise is excellent, but in order to buy enough products for a decent family dinner, one would have to spend more than 1000 rubles.

I bought books of the modern German mystic Rudolph Steiner, discounted (critically) by Emil Medtner (philosopher, brother of Composer Medtner) in his book “Meditation on Goethe,” for which in turn, he was “slapped” by Andrey Bely, who wrote a whole book on the subject.

Monday, June 16, 1919 - Strahovo

I arrived here from Moscow quite uneventfully. About 9:00 in the evening I bravely walked from Nikitskaya Str. To Kursky Station, carrying my heavy suitcase. On the Tvarskaya, however, I felt it was too much for me and I hired an izvoschik for 160 rubles. In the International Sleeping Car two persons had to occupy one berth. One gentleman above had to share his berth with a girl – delegate!!!

All night long I philosophized with my vis-à-vis, a very smart but desperate materialist – modern style. Of course, I mercilessly gave him my mind. At day-break we arrived at Tarusskaya Station. It was cold. I bought from some slut a bottle of milk for 10 rubles. Wanted to take shelter in the Tea-house, but all its windows had been broken, it was draughty and no tea could be had that early. I did not wait for any “occasion,” but decided to walk to Dubrachok (5 versts from the station). It was cold, windy, and soon it began to rain. I carried my baggage either on the shoulder or on the head. I was drenched, chilled, worn out, but in spite of it, I reached Dubrachok feeling hale and hearty.

At Aunt Milly’s I rested, drank tea, and then with Alexei Petrovich drove Kopchik to Strahovo. At home a surprise was awaiting me: we had as guest Vladimir Feodorovich Litvinov, member of the Alexin Soviet. I made my report of my mission to him. He did not hurry back to Alexin, but stayed two more days, leaving only this morning.

It became obvious during these days that he was divorcing his wife and was going to marry Nadichka! This happened in June, 1919 during the 13th, 14th and 15th! Nadichka wanted to go with him, in order to make a final choice on a dacha for us, since we are to move to Alexin day after tomorrow. But at the last moment we learned that Litvinov couples only one room in his dacha and that the downstairs and the upstairs are entirely free. This is the dacha, then, that we shall occupy. One can assume almost that Nadichka is already married, though Litvinov has not yet divorced his Vera Alexeevna!

Another surprise: A postcard from Sonya in Kiev, at last! They’re staying in Kiev, and so it was in vain that I had mailed my registered letter to Vinnitsa. Kolya had left by way of Odessa for Serbia, where he intends to live in some monastery, on the coast of the Adriatic Sea. The Father Superior had invited him and had offered him all the comforts for work! Sonya mentions only in a few words. All this puzzles us. Kolya himself so far does not write. We learned indirectly, from Uncle Dodo and Aunt Varya, that Sonya is pregnant! All this reaches us in hints and riddles, without a detailed letter explaining their real affairs! Aunt Varya (Mamulya’s friend) is in Petrograd. She is doing well and is surprised that we keep staying in the country; she is calling us to Petrograd. She is selling her old dresses and other odds and ends for thousands of rubles – to buy food!

Thursday, June 19, 1919 - Alexin

Here we are, in Alexin! It was a terrible beating for the 3-4 days that we had to take! It would seem a trifling matter to move from one camp to another, but it turned out to be one great connection and confusion; we had to carry almost everything on our own shoulders! Many things we sent to Dubrachok: the calf, the sitting hen with her eggs, a month-old steer bought for 1300 rubles, etc. – Many things we took from Dubrachok: utensils, mattresses, etc. Everything that was to go to Alexin we loaded on two wagons! To all this bustle were added annoyances and complications: - nobody would agree, even for money, to lend us wagons! At first they would consent, then, at the last moment, take back their word. Finally we succeeded to persuade someone to lend us one wagon for 250 rubles. The other wagon is ours. Masha (our domestic) too kept quibbling, would agree to go with us, then refuse; she finally feigned “cholera,” that settled her refusal. We had to beg the Baba Agrafena to drive to Alexin, at least the wagon with the cow. At last everything was settled. We started loading the wagons at 4:00 in the morning. The wagon that had been promised for ourselves was also refused us, just when the time came to leave!... Nadichka ran all about the village with no success – while the time was passing and the steamer on the Oka was not going to wait for us! At last we thought of hiring the watchman of the Hearth, with his pair of horses. For a good sum of money (40 rubles up to the Oka) he exerted himself and got us to Tarussa in 20 minutes. It was a mad drive; it surprised me that we arrived whole, ourselves and the baggage. For instance the butter-churn which I held in my arms!

Thank God all ended well. The steamer itself was 1 ½ hours late, owing to fog. Because of shallow water we approached the shore before reaching the Alexin pier, and exactly opposite the villa in the Pine Grove that had been chosen for the “Studio!” We climbed on the steep shore with our baggage. Crawled through the only opening of the locked villa - a broken window. We settled down, arranged some things, laid out the food.....Late in the evening arrived the wagons with their load, all wet because of the rain. The cow, the chickens, horses and the men – all exhausted and hungry. With our arrival the weather changed and became beautiful. Everyone was feeling wonderful. The villa is large! What a pleasure to have one’s own room! A whole wing of three rooms was allotted to Nadichka and Vladimir Feodorovich Litvinov. Divorce from Sokolov (Nadya’s first husband and father of Kyrilchik) was formalized in ½ hour. It took the same time to formalize Litvinov’s divorce from his wife, since agreement was mutual. And so, Nadya is now married and has her “own nest,” what her soul had longed for and what Sokolov had not given her.

Friday, June 20, 1919 - Alexin

Affairs are moving slowly, as a matter of fact, they’re not moving at all. At the Department of Public Education everybody is very friendly but there is so little sense in everything. According to the announcement the Studio is to open July 1, also the “Conservatory” as to printed notices; however, essentially , nothing has yet been done. For the third day since our arrival I have not been able to get the keys to the doors. No furniture, no easels have yet been ordered, though I had given my sketches for them two months ago already. No order for materials has yet been sent to Moscow. There is no water bucket. The water-carrier did bring a barrel full of water, but left, taking it with him!.... There is no firewood, no help. And such trouble with the cow! I myself watched her all last night. Today Nadya drove her to the herd at 4:00 in the morning, but by noon they came to tell us that our cow had strayed away from the herd walking toward town; others said into the woods. In other words there is no cow!... I looked for her, others have now gone to look for her – what fun indeed!

Yesterday was held the first Consultation Meeting at the “Conservatory.” Without much ado, the question of new courses was taken up, such as “Listening to Music.” Mme Stember announced that in Moscow this project had fallen through; to that her husband, the Artist Stember, can bear witness. I was immediately asked to appear before the Meeting. I told them of the Moscow Musicians’ struggle against this absurd project, which had been introduced by a certain Mrs. Brusov. That started a debate which disclosed a hopeless diletantism of all these heads, the superficiality, the noise and clamor of all these undertakings!

Nadya has been chosen to the “presidium.” How loud all this is, and how... empty!

The cow has not yet been found! It’s already 10:00 pm. I am going out to look for her.

Saturday, June 21, 1919 - Alexin

The cow was brought home by someone late last night, after Mama had walked all over town and its surroundings, causing her to become ill. And today the same story was repeated all over! We began paying the shepherds big money. As a result, a shepherd’s helper has just driven the cow home from town!

I have made the acquaintance of the professors of the local “Conservatory” – four young brothers, very sympathetic, but zealous Scriabinists. They’re living in the dacha next to ours. I was there till 5:00 in the morning – talking and arguing.

Our domestic life is still not in working order. No help, no firewood, no furniture, no water bucket. We’re eating at the Soviet Diner (here in the Pine Grove), besides drinking milk and eating bread.

Sunday, June 22, 1919 - Alexin

I am beginning to get used to Vladimir Feodorovich, as to a member of our family. He is socially a likable young man, modest, accommodating, is moderately cooperative in the work of our small community. All would be well, but for one thing that worries me – his health. His thin face, deep sunken eyes, impart a vague feeling of fear, as to the durability of his living force....

We still have no help and the domestic bustle tires us!

Tuesday, June 24, 1919 - Alexin

I have received my first salary, 3500 rubles, for the term of May 16 to June 16, though it seems to me I have done nothing yet! However, this is not my business, but that of the Administration, the attitude of which toward everything is a most indifferent one. It seems as if all these undertakings are for making a show only, while the real interests are centered on obtaining food and on one’s personal well-being – just as of old. I met Vera Alexeevna on the town-square. We both were glad to see each other. She asked me to come over and see her today – wants to have a long talk with me. There is indeed much to talk about.... If only there were a boat to cross the Oka... her dacha is right opposite ours, only it is hidden from sight by trees. Otherwise I must take a long walk through town and across the bridge. I shall await the return of our neighbors, the Shchedrins; they have a boat.

In the meantime Vladimir Feodorovich is instilling in me and in Mama more and more of a fear by his terrible looks. He seems to be wasting away in our very sight. The honeymoon is apparently having a devastating effect on him. But Nadya has only stupid answers to my and Mama’s words; she does not realize, or does not want to realize the danger of consumption in her husband! She astonishes me! In her nature, in her spiritual and mental make-up there is something deeply fatalistic!

Wednesday, June 25, 1919 - Alexin

I crossed the Oka by boat. I talked with Vera Alexeevna. She is happy. She spoke of Vladimir Feodorovich with warm feeling, feels sorry for him because of his consumption. Is sorry also for Nadya, for whom she has a great liking. She wants to enter my Studio – to study drawing and painting. I returned home late, walking across the bridge and through the town. It was dark, fantastic, not a soul to be seen. In the Pine Grove I suddenly came upon our cow! I drove her home, but at home she would not enter the stall. I kept endlessly chasing her around the house. Finally she ran away into the meadow, to the Oka. I looked for her in vain, and so did the family. The cow never did come home.

At 4:00 in the morning I went out again in search of her. Sunrise, fog along the river...not a soul around... and I, with a milk pail, in wet shoes, chilled... walked in all directions, along the meadow, in the woods, but nowhere could find the cow. At about 5:00 Nadya finally found her in someone’s courtyard and milked her... And just now she suddenly appeared and, as if nothing had been amiss, she walked into the stall all by herself!!

Friday, June 27, 1919 - Alexin

Perhaps because I have never “served” before, I am astonished at the great indifference of my “colleagues” in the Department of Public Education. This seems to be an eternal weakness of people in “Government Service,” aside from the kind of regime, whether a Government of the Tsars or that of Bolshevists – it’s all the same!... Until I myself found carpenters, etc. absolutely nothing had been done. Because of some pine trees in front of the Studio windows that darkened the Studio, a whole war broke out between two Departments. However in the forest the cutting of the trees is going on with the condescending attitude of the “Authorities,” and here they are causing obstacles, because they are not at all interested and concerned with the needs of the Studio.

Yesterday I talked again to the Director of the Alexin Conservatory – Konstantin Mihailovich Shchedrin, who had finished last year the Moscow Conservatory in composition and who is an ardent Scriabinist. Here is a type of contemporary musician, mentally and spiritually undeveloped, not artistic, whose whole baggage consists of “aptitudes,” inclinations of obtaining skill and modernistic narrow-mindedness. His “enthusiasms” for Scriabinism agree with the narrow-minded rationality in world outlook. In vain did I waste time and words, thinking to arouse in him or implant in him a broader comprehension of music, its deeper, more mystical aspect, - hopeless!... Otherwise he is very likable, though a considerably vulgar individual. A leader of the Public Music School!... A composer !! I made one more final attempt: I gave him Berdyaev’s book – The New Religious Consciousness and Sociality, – a book on mysticism.

Sunday, June 29, 1919 - Alexin

My chat with Vera Alexeevna, who was so sincere, well-wishing, who appeared in my eyes so honorable – had as a consequence a heap of ugliness! The subject of talk was concern for Vladimir Feodorovich’s health. I had mentioned it to Mamulya, who spoke of it to Nadya, while Nadya in her don-quixotic bluntness blurted it out to Vladimir Feodorovich! As a result, Vladimir Feodorovich, with a kind of irritableness, began to brush aside the least symptom of his ailment, as if an ailment has something disgraceful, offensive in it. To my remark to Nadya that she should not pass on to Vladimir Feodorovich the doctor’s words, she reacted with a flood of the worst, the most foolish, impertinences, such as, that I am always spoiling her happiness, and why am I talking to her about her new husband’s ailment, that all this is nonsense, etc.

It is a repetition of what was the case regarding Sokolov, i.e., I am an enemy, I am looking for something to spoil her happiness!! Such hopeless stupidity cannot be found, I suppose, anywhere else in the world! To think that all the experience of life has not given Nadya, if only a drop more wisdom. No doubt, she does not see even now how right I was in every word and attitude regarding Sokolov, though by now she herself, must have found out his real worth!

Monday, June 30, 1919 - Alexin

Yesterday I attended with Mama the first amateur performance (a play by Ostrovsky). 24 rubles wasted! The public – the most “provincial,” even worse. However, among all kinds of ugliness, there was one beauty, Russian type, and one beauty Cavalieri’s type. (Cavalieri – a famous Italian belle) Another little beauty came to me yesterday, to be “looked over,” something like Olga Goedike (Medtner’s cousin, also a beauty). She is the daughter of a former police captain. I shall paint her.

I mailed today a letter to Sonya, in Kiev. Another letter to Zoya, in Moscow, with the offer to take back Boris, since it is impossible to keep him here any longer. There is no one here to look after him and he protests against even the smallest independency. He refuses to go to the Hearth and demands to be constantly waited on, as if we were his nurses, maids. Nadya, who as a matter of fact, herself invited him, ignores him altogether!

Continue on to the second half of 1919 >>>

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