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.

Use the "Leave Bookmark" button next to each entry if you would like the site to remember where you stopped reading. The next time you visit the site, just click the "Victor's Diary" link in the top menu and you will be automatically taken to the location of the last bookmark button you clicked. The bookmark will then be deleted so be sure to set a new one the next time you are ready to take a break.
The complete list of Victor Stember’s family mentioned in the diary.

Wednesday, July 2, 1919 - Alexin

Yesterday Nadya and Vladimir Feodorovich were officially married by Commissariate procedure. In honor of it Mama prepared a festive dinner: shchi (sour cabbage soup), meat with mustard, horseradish, potatoes, sweet butter, salted cucumbers, soaked apples, flat cakes, bread, and a holiday pastry cake, made from real white wheat flour with strawberries! On top of it all, also milk.

The Studio still does not take shape. The partitions are finally taken down. Now the walls and ceilings are being whitewashed after a hard fight about it. The furniture is not ready yet and the sending to Moscow for the art materials is stubbornly delayed.

Yesterday was the opening of the Assembly of the Teachers of Public Schools of our district. I am spending there whole days and arrive at interesting conclusions from what I hear there!

Friday, July 4, 1919 - Alexin

At the Assembly I projected to oppose Volkova’s report in which she expounded the ideology of the School of Labor, according to its newest ideas of the notorious “experimental pedagogy.” I pointed out that this ideology is one-sided, is based on materialism, making of the students materialists and egoists, that it overlooks the whole domain of spirituality, intuition and idealism. To the physical beginning of education in their ideology I opposed the spiritual intuitive; to the actual – the passive, which receives impressions from the realm of art, poetry, etc. In other words, I pointed out the fact that man, so unlimitedly rich in his physical, psychical, spiritual and mystical endowment, cannot be forced into the narrow framework of materialism, hence education must extensively widen its framework in spite of the directives and limitations of the newest fashionable pedagogy, which has resulted in a materialistic viewpoint of life. In other words – education is an art, not a business, and the educator, if he is an artist in his work, must listen more to his inner voice.

Today, after four days of uninterrupted sitting in the hot Theater Hall, listening to tempestuous debates, the Assembly came to an end with the singing of the “Internationale.” As a result, I’ve obtained a precise and clear idea of the psychology, ideology and of some of the representatives of the ruling Communist Party on one hand, and of the intelligentsia represented by the teachers – on the other hand. The conclusions from this is helping me to understand my own ideology!

The weather has been beautiful ever since we’ve been here. But my mood has been in general rather strange: my situation of getting a salary of 3500 rubles a month and not doing anything is wildly unaccustomed to me. Although I still have a feeling of being at a job, as all the others are – arguing, trampling, bustling and all of it as of no avail. However it is all important and great. But the impression seems to be as if the “bosses” and actual masters have departed and all of us, the minors, quickly undertook things to do and are hurrying to put all affairs in a right way, but with no success, and yet we are kept busy, while inside the depth of our unconscious there is an awaiting of the return of the bosses! God forbid! And how queer: the mind says God forbid, but the soul longs nevertheless for something from “the other shore”... Perhaps only for bread?... And maybe not bread (man does not live by bread alone), but for some wave of idealism and spirituality and such forms of life which would conform to this idealism and this spirituality?... Yes, no doubt so. But will the bosses, returning from the “other shore” give us all this? - I fear that with the exception of bread they won’t give anything! It may be that the Bolsheviki, in spite of all their materialism, doctrinism and contempt for humanity, are more capable to gradually restore life with all its spiritual rights and demands!

Monday, July 7, 1919 - Alexin

The “concert” of the Shchedrin brothers took place yesterday. My God, what pretentiousness and what wretchedness! I sat there and I suffered. And I thought of Nikolai....But how impossible to even think of such comparison: these are phenomena too different in their very nature!

Yesterday also I visited comrade Volkova (I came upon her unawares; she was in a morning robe, was unkempt and barefoot). I read to her all my notes and unexpectedly found the “instructress” of the Communist School, (based on the religion of materialism) in full sympathy with my idealistic viewpoints, founded on a mystical and aesthetic world outlook!

How unstable is the religion of materialism among the intelligent people, if one succeeds just for a moment to turn their thoughts away from “politics.”

Tuesday, July 8, 1919 - Alexin

At last the easels were delivered to me, as well as the rest of the inventory for the studio. In a few days I shall begin painting the pretty blonde and I shall open the classes.

Thursday, July 10, 1919 - Alexin

Zoya has arrived in order to take away Boris. She is very thin, is worn out from overwork and insufficient nourishment. No bread at all has been issued in Moscow for 20 days already! We feel very sorry for Boris, but in our living conditions and his unyielding, cranky disposition, it has become impossible for him to stay with us any longer! Zoya herself understands this.

Friday, July 11, 1919 - Alexin

Day before yesterday I had an interesting conversation with Muralov, (our principal District Chief). I wrote a report on the subject of that Meeting, emphasizing mainly the Marxist ideology that Muralov himself defended at the Meeting. Instructor Tokarev debated with him at the Meeting. The subject, however, was only alluded to. I would like to continue it. Two world views have come face to face – the idealistic and the materialistic – the hottest and most fundamental issues of the present tine.

As to my report, I felt that it would be advisable before presenting it to any audience, to acquaint Muralov with its content, whether he would not find it counter-revolutionary? Muralov, however (I brought him home and Mama treated him with supper), looked at it broadly and tolerantly and proposed to arrange a debate. But at the same time, in a prolonged conversation he tried to contradict all my statements, though naturally he did not succeed and only revealed his extreme narrow-mindedness and non-radical world outlook. In view of such a contradictory stand and absence of a common ground between us, I began to hesitate whether to accept the challenge of a debate, but after reflecting on it for two days, I changed my mind and after reworking some statements according to new data, I decided to oppose Muralov in the debate. I think I shall thereby infuse into the relationship between the intelligentsia of Marxists and of non-Marxists a new current of thinking, which will be unusual for this hole of provincialism.

Thursday, July 17, 1919 - Alexin

I received a postal card from Sonya: they have there a hard life, have not found any employment and are living by borrowing. Their meals are often scanty. They begin to talk about settling also in Alexin. In answer I sent them immediately 1000 rubles and wrote that I would be happy to arrange for them something here and to help them in whatever will be in my power. That proposition has to be considered. But why do they write only post cards? It is so undetailed and leaves the most important matters obscure. It is strange and not good, such secrecy and alienation, while I am bombarding them with registered letters. Sonya saddened me very much by telling me that my letter to Natasha of March 5, is still unmailed, since there is no communication with New York! How terrible! When will all this end?

I have opened my class in painting with one pupil, the local “teacher of drawing.” And myself began painting the pretty blond. Besides, am very busy with my report for the coming debate with Muralov (the local General-Governor).

Tuesday, July 22, 1919 - Alexin

I reached the limit! The last pair of socks is worn out! I’ve worn them a long time, always hoping for a miracle to happen, for getting new ones. But that miracle never happened and today, having after a long hesitation, decided to give my feet a bath and change their wrappings, - I found myself before an unsolvable problem; the last dirty shreds of socks I’ve thrown away and picked off the hard-grown crust of skin, - with feet now clean and dry, I sat in front of the basin filled with dirty water and wondered – what shall I wrap my feet in now?... Suddenly flashed a brilliant thought – to wrap my feet in handkerchiefs!!! Victory! Eureka! Alive again!

I checked the Household Expense Book and found that the four of us, besides private expenses and dinners at the Diner, - had spent 5268 rubles i.e., 1317 rubles per person.

From July 22 I have begun regular work at the Studio. There were 4 people. Mostly youngsters. Grown-ups 5-6 persons. I’ve been observing them carefully.

Thursday, July 24, 1919 - Alexin

One must stamp out memory!....Think of nothing!....Ignore the past, and what still remains from the past, recall no one to if nothing ever existed!...Live only for the moment....Chew the crust, suffer for no one, regret nothing, not worry about anything!! – If only this were possible!

There are moments when a great anguish overwhelms me. And when I think of all the people, of happenings, of things – all dear to me, - I simply know not how to escape from it...

I received a letter from Uncle Dodo, from Kiev. Two words only about Sonya: she exists by borrowing, is not working. Apparently is also not singing – how sad!! Not a word about Nikolai .... The situation is becoming tragic!

Friday, July 25, 1919 - Alexin

I saw Kolya in my dream. He was ill and I wept over him....Not over his being ill, but over the wrecked meaning of his life.

Saturday, July 26, 1919 - Alexin

There is someone here who is already undermining me. Some “artist” who prepared a report to the Dept. of Education in which he pointed out that I belong to some German School, that as a “portrait painter” I can not satisfy the aesthetic requirements of the people, that all in all, it is necessary to have a School, something like the “Stroganov” one: of Applied Art, of Ceramics, etc....

It’s true, I have just now only very few drawing pupils, 10-14 in all. Reason – hay-harvest!

Monday, July 28, 1919 - Alexin

Our household is again in disorder! The second domestic help turned out to be worse than the first: a thief and lazy. She left day before yesterday, went home to the village and has not shown up since. Nadya has to milk the cow at 5:00 in the morning, but at noon the cow remains not milked. Mama is carrying all the workload in the kitchen. On top of it, this is the Nameday of Vladimir Feodorovich. Mama is trying to bake and to prepare something. I went to town, to the market, but brought home nothing but bread. Raspberries, all mashed, are 15 rubles a pound. Second-hand shoes with new soles cost 1800 r.

I have sent the money to pay for the Apartment and a letter to Ida Gustavovna Voinova. (Mother of Olga and Charles)

The weather is damp and it is drizzling. It’s rather dark in the Studio! No doubt the pretty Smirnova will not come, though I have begun painting her interesting little head .... There were only six students in the class....

The Bolsheviki are brilliantly successful on all fronts. If only they would be victorious soon, so that Life could become in some way normal again.

I was gladdened by receiving a notice of a registered letter from Zabelina.

Thursday, July 31, 1919 - Alexin

It turned out that the registered letter was my own to Zabelina, returned because it was not claimed by the addressee!

Yesterday I received at once two very upsetting letters: Emily writes from Dubrachok a very desperate letter: they are starving, they are unable to cope with the garden work, they are unable to get anyone to cut the grass in the fields. Wolves are getting at the calves, etc.

The other news is even worse: Mme Dimanis writes that the entire building at Chernishov Pereulok is being evacuated. The last day is set for August 1st (tomorrow)! But the letter was written on June 14 and I received it only yesterday! She is urging me to come to Petersburg immediately to defend my right to the Apt., and then they will move into it! I was struck as if by thunder. I had just sent the money, 250 r. for the month of August.

I came home from the Post Office with this news and we decided to send telegrams: to the People’s Commissariate, to the office of the building, to Mme Dimanis, and one more to the People’s Commissariate from the local Branch of Public Education here in Alexin – all with petitions of postponing the evacuation of the Apt. for a month, owing to my work here in organizing a Public Art Studio. We succeeded in all. The attitude in the Dept. of Education was sympathetic. Thus it happened what I had been fearing for a long time. This means a trip a week from now to Petersburg, to defend my right to the Apt., or to break up everything, to sell or move .... We shall go together of course, Mama and I.

Today Voldemar and Nadya have gone to Moscow, for 4-5 days. As soon as they return we shall leave – to torture, to hunger, and to great moral suffering in seeing our nest devastated and looking at things that hold memories and must now be disposed of!

Friday, August 1, 1919 - Alexin

I received today at last a detailed letter from Sonya. But from Kolya still no news!! Sonya’s life is not too bright. Yuri has no job. She herself earns something by singing in a choir of 15, pupils of Zbrueva, who herself makes public appearances. Sony is anemic and has a nervous throat condition. The doctor advises not to pay any attention to it. She gives one lesson daily to a certain Ivanova (pupil of Zbrueva), at whose house Sonya has dinners and who provides Sonya with money. Zbrueva is very kind; she has obtained scholarships of 1500 r. per month for some of her pupils, but not for Sonya!! Sonya feels a certain estrangement on the part of Zbrueva, some jealousy, because of Nina (Zbrueva’s daughter) and of her pupil Ivanova.

Monday, August 4, 1919 - Alexin

A few days ago the Theater here presented a play “The Little Viper,” written by Commissar Ryshkov. The principal part was played by Saphailova, the same blond beauty that I am now painting. She was charming to the extent that her complete lack of acting talent was forgiven her. Ryshkov himself excellently played the old voluptuary.

Besides the blond Saphailova, I am now painting also a brunette, the extremely pretty Smirnova. And at the Theatre I saw right under my nose, in the first row, a striking Jewess – a summer resident. Mama found out where she lives. I want boldly to call on her today yet. Hope she will not drive me away! In all, there are three models now, one better than the other. Alexin has still other subjects for painting, but they are for the future, after our return from Petersburg.

Tuesday, August 5, 1919 - Alexin

Often I recall our Kyrilchik. And when I do so I can’t hold back my tears; when alone, I sob outright! I only need remember that suffering little face, those calls of “Baba,” the closed eyes, the gurgling sound in his throat, that twisting of his little body in its final struggle, the final collapse of his heroic efforts and then the end – when an outcry of indignation rises within me against that devil who destroyed Kyrilchik! Devil! Damned be he a million times!

Wednesday, August 6, 1919 - Alexin

Yesterday I went to the villa in which the beautiful Jewess lives. I saw her at a distance, her hair loose .... As I was nearing the villa, she approached the railing of the balcony and adjusted her robe. I was already at the point of wanting to pass by, when suddenly I turned abruptly toward her. She looked at me surprised. I said, “As a matter of fact, I have come to see you.” “To see me?” she replied with astonishment, “if so, enter please!” At the same time she opened wide her robe, revealing the whole breast, clear to the navel. Even the robe itself was a most transparent one. I entered and immediately obtained her consent to pose for me. The same evening she came to our house, stayed a long time, drank tea. She is a Moscow actress; has an impending contract, a debut at the Korsh Theatre. She is coming today for her first sitting. In fact, she is not at all a beauty, but she is astonishingly attractive at some angles. She says that when she saw me walking, she knew I was coming to see her! ....

Thursday, August 7, 1919 - Alexin

My literary writings are having a big success here. I read my “Songs Without Words” and “Without the Past” and gave them to read to Ryshkov and Schedrin. They both sincerely were thrown into ecstasy. That stirred up my own enthusiasm and I was seized with a desire to write another two stories: “A Model” and “Till Called For.” - themes on which I was contemplating for quite a while. I also am tempted to work over “Without the Past” .....

The most outstanding of leaders of the English Social-Democracy – Gaindman, does not believe in the creative power of a class represented by a Socialistic Party. “Socialism,” says he, “has been formed everywhere not by the artisans and workmen themselves, but always by the educated people of the class standing above them....”

Tuesday, August 12, 1919 - Alexin

Tonight we had a visit. I was awakened by the domestic whispering to me that a robber is intruding upon the young masters! The door to the cellar is already broken and stands ajar .... Mama got up. I dressed myself and we stepped out into the yard. The robber has actually broken the lock at the cellar and carried away a chunk of spoiled meat – the only thing that was there. He also broke the lock on the door to the chicken-coop, but none of the chickens were stolen. The he climbed through the window to Litvinovs. Voldemar heard the squeak of the floor planks in the adjoining room and called to the “comrade,” who immediately retreated, seizing only a mirror, which next morning was found under the window in the grass. After this we naturally could not sleep .... What impudence to intrude upon inhabitable premises! I went today to the Dept. of Public Education asking to be given some armament and demanding also that the measures should be taken for the protection of the Studio.

Today it is raining all day! How lucky that Mama did not hide in the cellar the leg of lamb bought yesterday for 500 rubles, but left it in the house!

Wednesday, August 13, 1919 - Alexin

I have received another letter from Mrs. Dimanis. My apartment so far has not been disturbed, but she nevertheless advises me to come immediately. There are rumors that the evacuation of Petrograd is imminent! I don’t know whether this will be in my favor, or to my detriment. In any case I must hurry my departure. Inoppurtunely, I had to get a head cold and a cough!

Am reading an interesting book: “Anarchism” by Borovoy. It certainly is a doctrine that appeals to me the most. However, it commits the same error as do all social-political doctrines: it is trifling. It endeavors to solve all problems, but at the same time, there remains something it does not solve, it avoids something, does not introduce it, but ignores it, and therefore, in its essence, everything remains unsolved!

Borovoy states outright: “The eternal, natural antimony of things, between individuality and society – cannot be solved...” And this is certainly correct: This antimony cannot be solved by any of these futile theories, not even by the most ideal one – the theory of anarchism.

But if one were to introduce into this system the religious principle, faith and aspiration toward self-improvement instead of the notorious axiom of “animal egoism” – the insoluble would be resolved and all the antimonies would disappear at once. Self-improvement, as an act of absolute freedom, must be the foundation in the existence of an anarchaic community, it must be the method of life. It is only necessary to acknowledge and to establish this method and it will not be necessary then to solve the question of maintaining life’s forms. Such absolutely infallible forms can most certainly never be found. And this method is the most important substance of Christ’s teaching. All these theories engage in contradictions and do not see that all these antimonies are solved by the wonderful, simple teaching of Christ. I speak, of course, of Christ’s authentic teaching, of its depth, which only now, after 2000 years, is beginning to reveal itself in the mystical philosophy, having vegetated for 2000 years in the fallacies of history.

Friday, August 22, 1919 - Petrograd

Saturday morning the 16th, I, Mama and our domestic, dragged ourselves with my baggage along the Oka River shore to the landing pier. The going was very difficult, baggage heavy, and it was muddy and windy. All the same we made it, not by foot but by a boat hired for 35 rubles. To drag my baggage onto the steamer would be impossible without the help of the accidentally met peasant from our neighboring village. Thus began the trials of my journey. Sunshine alternated with pouring rain. On arrival at the pier of the Serpuhov Bridge, there, sure enough, was no carriage promised me by an acquaintance. I had to take an open cart without a seat and ride in the rain along a terrible pavement, to the Serpuhov Railroad Station, for 200 rubles. Arriving there at about 8:00 pm I found the Station jammed with people waiting for the train to Moscow due in at 5:00 am. I thought I would sit it out inside, in spite of a carbolic acid smell, - a disgusting perspective. But it appeared desirable compared with what really happened. After an hour all the people inside the Station, about 200-300 women, children and their bags were driven out in the cold, wind and rain...and had to stick it out from 9:00 in the evening till 11:00 in the morning, i.e., 14 hours....I tried to get inside the tea-house, but it was so overcrowded, so suffocating that I preferred to stay outside, and I kept walking during these 14 hours along the station building, on the side protected from the wind. Naturally it was also difficult to get inside the train with all the baggage. I did not get a seat and had to stand; but even that was difficult: there were feet, feet everywhere ....

On arrival in Moscow my experiences with the baggage were most distressing: to check it would have cost too much, so I carried it as a “hand parcel,” trying to make it appear not heavy. On foot I made it to the Nikolaevski Railroad Station (to continue my journey to Petrograd) – and finally got a man for 100 rubles who carried my baggage.. At the station it turned out that all 1st and 2nd class tickets for that day had been sold. Then I decided to go to Aunt Sonya and Zoya for the night, in order to get the first thing in the following morning a ticket in the Sleeping Car of the International Train to Petrograd. But my decision was a wrong one: I should not have left the station, but should have shown my mandates and gotten into line for the 3rd class. I did that the following day since no tickets were issued for the Sleeping Car to the transient passengers. I had thus lost 24 hours and traveled to Petrograd on Monday, August 18, in the 3rd class. The train was overcrowded to the point that few could lie down. However, the night passed unnoticeably, thanks to two Latvian Red Army soldiers and a sedate-looking young girl (a history teacher). With them I spent half of the night and all morning in hot dispute and discussion on political subjects.

Saturday, August 23, 1919 - Petrograd

I succeeded in defending the Apartment and the Studio. However they are still counting on one or two rooms. It will be necessary therefore to move all furniture and belongings from the 2 rooms and also from the dining room (passage) and kitchen and lock it all in the Studio and bedroom. What perplexes me is the “Bechstein,” Kolya’s concert piano.

I saw Varvara Nikolaevna (formerly very well to do). She is full of energy and optimism and is astonished that we are not living in Petrograd, exchanging for food all kinds of our odds and ends.

Sunday, August 24, 1919 - Petrograd

Yesterday I was at Varvara Nikolaevna’s and from the conversation with her and some friend of hers, I became convinced once more how strongly the deep-rooted bourgeois mentality is embedded in the mind of a certain class of the population! The ideas of Communism, Socialism and even of the generally liberal Equality of Rights, has not touched their minds in the least degree! The whole change has resolved itself in them only as a personal misfortune .... It seems to me that this middle bourgeois layer of society is the most savage and uncultured one!

Saturday, August 30, 1919 - Petrograd

I visited the Kuindji Society; - same people, same conversations; I was welcomed warmly.

Visited the Dimanis on the Island. They drink, they eat and are eagerly awaiting the change, clinging to every, often foolish, rumor. Toosya is entering the Conservatory, is writing verses, composing music to them, is planning to take lessons in elocution and in plastics! ... Incorrigible! I stayed too long there yesterday, was carried away by political and philosophical discussions and by endeavoring to instill in Toosya common sense ideas. I advised her to drop all versifying and composition and to plunge into contemplation and study of the great works of art, adding that otherwise she will remain what she now is: a ridiculous and pitiful blank spot.... Because of all these conversations I missed all buses and steamers – and had to walk home, together with Toosya’s friend, a rather pretty young girl, more modest than Toosya, but also more shallow.

We covered these 9-10 versts in almost absolute darkness and in a drizzling rain. I arrived home at 1:00 am, not too tired with the feet dry.

I am now bustling about, visiting an endless number of offices, to obtain the right of getting into line to purchase a ticket for departure. Besides, I am busy selling old books. So far I have sold 4200 rubles worth. This is not much if one only thinks that if one enters a coffee shop, drinks a cup of coffee with two tarts, it costs 150 r !!!

Monday, September 1, 1919 - Petrograd

September is here already! After yesterday’s August heat and sultriness, today suddenly September weather has come: it is gloomy and cool.

Yesterday on Sunday, I visited once more the Dimanis, on the Island. They’re truly very kind people. I arrived at their house at 5:00 after waiting at the Summer Gardens, in the heat, for 2 ½ hours. (One steamer only goes to the Islands per day.) At tea Anna Andreevna served me a huge plate of buckwheat porridge!!! At 7:00 we had dinner. It was good! We had veal!

But the best thing – were the Dimanis themselves, especially he – direct, frank! We talked again about the evils of the day, and about the Christian idea. They had begun reading Durnovo’s “Thus Spoke Christ.” Little by little they are assimilating the book. In exchange for the Durnovo book he presented me the Andrey Bely’s brochure “At the Pass,” and with a malicious smile made me read a page. “What rubbish” said he! However, I like this “rubbish” and began almost to analyze it, to explain its meaning to him ....

I returned by steamer and admired those lovely Nevki (small affluents of the Great Neva River) – the like of which cannot be found in any European city – as well as the hundreds of immersed barges, a picture of the horrible destruction – the like of which also cannot be found in any European city.

Tuesday, September 8, 1919 - Alexin

Day before yesterday I returned from my trip to Petersburg. I’ve been away exactly 3 weeks. What diversity of impressions! Those nightmarish travels, there and back, those contacts with people, such different types, that I met in Moscow and in Petersburg, as well as on the way. With Dimanis the pleasant relations have been strengthened. Toosya read to me her poetry and I read to them my literary writings: “Songs Without Words,” and “Without the Past.” We talked a great deal about what we read, as well as about the contemporary political and philosophical ideas. They value apparently my intellectual and moral influence on Toosya. She herself is evidently submitting to this influence willingly. We plan to correspond – a perspective I look forward to with much interest. While walking to the pier, at the last moment, I defended Toosya against her father who, while worshipping and spoiling her, does not restrain her wisely and forces some pedantic regime on her. She wanted to go with her friend to Petersburg, to an evening of a music-dance party; it was with much difficulty that I persuaded her stubborn father to let her go. Toosya was very grateful to me and while standing for a long time on the pier, she waved her kerchief, as she watched apparently with regret the steamer glide away toward Petersburg with me and her friend. God knows when I shall see these people again....If ever, it will be no doubt in entirely different circumstances. The correspondence with Toosya will be of interest to me. She is not stupid and she is talented, but in many respects she has taken the wrong path – already; it will be an interesting task to lead her away from it.

I reached Moscow luckily in the International Car. Although the place I first had was in the corridor, but for 100 r. the conductor gave me an entire upper berth in the coupe where I had a good sleep. The trials began at the Kurski Station. To get inside the train with the baggage, to sit, stand, hang on, jammed in with other people, so that even breathing was almost impossible, and to be in this position for 6 hours – was a nightmare! I moaned aloud, and when I began a feeling of losing consciousness I sank down to the floor on top of people’s feet, knees and backs! In Serpuhov I sat on the platform with my baggage in the dark for about 3 hours. Then, by chance, I was driven by some “private” horse and buggy for 240 r. through the dark and sleeping town to the Oka. At the bridge with a crowd of about 300 people we had to wait until daylight, since no crossing of the bridge was permitted during the night. The steamer was already at the landing on the other side. But all these people and myself had hardly crossed there when we saw the steamer taking off (!), paddling away almost empty! ....However it turned out not to be the steamer which makes its regular run between Serpuhov and Kaluga, but the Kashirski steamer going to the rescue of the steamer from Kaluga that got mired in shallow water at Draki, 12 miles away. The whole crowd of people started running to Draki – trying to overtake the big steamer. But I and 5-6 other people all loaded with heavy baggage, stayed behind, by the bridge. We watched the early sunrise, followed by a heavy fog, and soon thereafter by bright sunlight....A number of people carrying bags were walking in all directions in search of potatoes, cabbage, apples. Among them were peasants, laborers, domestics, railroad men, some of the intelligentsia, all types of young girls, ladies, old people, - all coming from Moscow, anxious to fill their bags. They were buying here also milk, apples, cucumbers, and having their snacks. I stayed at this landing from 3:00 in the morning of Friday till 5:00 in the morning of Saturday! For two successive nights I did not sleep at all. During the day the people began to gather gradually. Among them I saw an old man walking with a young girl. With difficulty did I recognize in him Anton Antonovich Grabye, from whom I used to order frames for my paintings. He has greatly changed since I saw him last 5-6 years ago, has become decrepit. His 14 year old daughter, Ludmilla, I found very charming. With them I killed the time. We went to the village, entered the tea-house, then walked from hut to hut, asking for milk, but did not get any. Common hardships in traveling draws people together. Both of them were also exhausted, especially Ludmilla. We bundled her up and put her to sleep. I gave her my inflated cushion and treated her to apples. At 3:00 in the morning (after an unending crushing in line), we were at last permitted to get on board and everybody started struggling for a soft seat. The First Class was immediately filled to overflowing. The Grabye’s arrived late, but I had managed to fight off a place for Ludmilla next to mine and carried her over above the passengers’ heads. All this went on by lighting matches. When all were finally packed in, it became pitch dark. At first little Ludmilla leaned her head against my shoulder, but when I placed the cushion on my knees, she dropped her head on it and immediately fell asleep. I stroked her cheek and it seemed to me that she was feverish, but this was only owing to the stuffy air and her exhaustion. We started off at day-break. At Draki all passengers were left out at the most inconvenient, steepest spot of the shore, and we were rushed on foot 4 versts to the mired Kaluga steamer at the other end of the shallow bank. With my heavy baggage I too began to climb – nobody was willing to help me! Grabye and his daughter, because they were traveling light, were almost the first to run away.... But vainly was I scrambling up: a sailor agreed to take my baggage and take me, and some 10-15 invalids back to the same steamer on which we just arrived. We reached the big Kaluga steamer at the same time as those who came on foot. The two steamers exchanged passengers. Ludmilla ran to meet me, to help me with the baggage. We climbed to the upper deck. The weather was beautiful, the view of the shore land picturesque. Grabye plunged into reading my book “Anarchy” while I took Ludmilla downstairs to have tea and treated her to plums and candy. We brought tea for the old man in a bottle.

In Tarussa I bid farewell to them. They walked along the shore toward the ferry. The father walked, limping badly, his daughter was skipping happily. They were on their way to the Polenova for 2 days, in order to go through all the nightmares again on their return to Moscow, where little Ludmilla will exhaust herself by standing in lines, and doing her household chores. Poor little one, such a sweet girl! How lovely she was in the midst of nature, in the rays of the morning sun, and how pitiful she will be in hungry Moscow!

In Tarussa “Comrade Alexander” (a student, son of the priest) seated himself next to me and up to Alexin replaced the company of the pretty little Ludmilla, with those two heavy braids, bushy eyebrows, and her innocent chatter – such strange contrast to her serious, dreamy eyes! Comrade Alexander as before, looked ridiculous in his frayed clothes...somewhat like a criminal or an ascetic. Just the same, he is interesting. And also in his conversation – in which there is a mixture of cynicism and high idealism. On the way to Alexin we struck shallow water three times more and were forced to get out on the shore.

At home I found the household in confusion: the domestic help had quarreled with Mama, or Mama with her, and she left. Now we are milking the cow ourselves, i.e., Mama is doing it with her aching hands, since Nadya has categorically refused to do it, though not from drinking the milk. And thus I am immersed now in household affairs: heating the samovars, going to the market, helping with the cow.... The Studio is neglected, but I hope it will be possible to regenerate it.

While in Petersburg I learned from Nic. Richter that Kolya has left Odessa and with his friends has gone not to Serbia, but to Novorossisk!

Tuesday, September 30, 1919 - Alexin - Day of Name's Days

Today is Mama’s Name’s Day, as well as Nady’s, Sonya’s, and that of many relatives and friends, of all Veras, Lubas and Nadyas.

Change in the weather! Throughout September the days were beautiful, fair, and warm. Today it’s raining. Fall has come! We are in the Pine Grove still, while the Music School has been moved to town already. The Studio is in some decline. Yesterday the Ryshkov’s moved into their winter apartment. Their dacha (summer house), next to ours is boarded up! We are the only ones left here, plunged in household bustle. From 5:00 on in the morning Mama and I are busy tramping through the woods and meadows after “Mashka” the cow, milking her, cutting wood, carrying water, heating the samovar. At 9:00 Vladimir Feodorovich makes his appearance, sits down to a ready breakfast – tea and boiled eggs. At 11:00 Nadya emerges. Mama is more than busy all day, wearing herself out between the kitchen work and in dragging herself to the Music School, which now is in town. I keep busy with household chores from early morning on – I go after bread to town, and while there I keep looking for a winter apartment. We’re very late in this respect. There is available a little house that’s offered us; it’s mostly uninhabited. It needs rebuilding stoves and getting one more room from the neighbors, - then four of us can live there. But when can it all be done? Just now (9:00) I am hurrying off to town on this very business. We have just had our coffee!!!! A gift from the Ryshkov’s, the kindest people (from a parcel sent them by their son from the front): two brewings of coffee, two brewings of tea and some kind of grits! The coffee we just enjoyed we had saved especially for this day. Yesterday there were some preparations in the kitchen and today Mama is getting ready to bake and cook something. A chicken was butchered! In spite of all such grim circumstances of existence, I am abandoning myself to my inner life: am carried away by sketching Galya Ryshkova, a fair, purest type of a blond – a charming personality too, with inner depth. She poses willingly and I sketch willingly. I have done her head with charcoal twice already. Am sketching also Konstantin Schedrin, to her great delight. I have finished painting the pretty Smirnova and dream of painting the beautiful Zoya. She sits in a bakery shop shearing cards. They all belonged once to the former Alexin Bourgeoisie, now they are Soviet employees. Am also concerned about the coming exhibit, October 13 (rural-cultural), at which I was asked to exhibit the works of my Studio pupils. And I am preparing for the same time a report on the subject of art, it does not matter what, just so it’s a public report. All right, I shall have a report – I shall describe to them the true big moment regarding the aims of culture!!! – the way I understand it. I wonder whether they will like it! At the same time I am engaged in thought with my “novel” which has been partly written during the last weeks. Extremely interesting thoughts.

Am interested also in my correspondence with Toosya Dimanis and with A.N. Sustinova. Galichka Ryshkova has proved to be a good graphologist. After studying my handwriting, she wrote a long analysis of my character, in many points amazingly correct. Still more remarkably correct she analyzed also Voldemar’s character, it being less complicated, she said. In return I analyzed her character on the basis of physiognomistics, and I foretold her a rather sad destiny.

Thursday, October 2, 1919 - Alexin

Am repainting Nadya’s last year’s portrait – very successfully. There are rumors that Crol has been taken, that General Shkuro is approaching Tula. Our Pine Grove is overfilled with soldiers. All day and night there are campfires, burning fences and window frames, and boiling on them potatoes that have been stolen from the town’s vegetable gardens, to the amount of 500 poods! (1 pood = 40 lbs.) We have been advised to keep the cow in her stall at night, otherwise the soldiers will eat her! These soldiers (looking like tramps) are the remnants of the army defeated by Denikin! ... Rumors, rumors !!

I received a letter from N. Sustinova and I answered her. Perhaps this correspondence will give me material for my novel!

I go about thinking of the subject and plan for my “report” ordered by the Dept. of Education. Everybody says to touch on the subject only in general and not necessarily be frank. But I maintain that this is nonsense! Who has nothing to say, has no business to get on the platform! At this time of revolution every address and report should be revolutionary. Yesterday, while talking with Schedrin and others, a thought came to me, as to what and how to say and report. – I shall debate and rebel, and still I shall not be taken for a counter-revolutionary, because I shall stand up for the people, for the young brotherhood, for liberating it from the power of darkness.

Friday, October 3, 1919 - Alexin

At last we have domestic help again! God be praised! Now it’s possible to devote myself to personal matters. I shall begin writing the report.

I have begun painting Galya’s portrait in color. As a matter of fact she is not beautiful, but she is devilishly interesting to paint. Am making the third portrait of her and I shall make more as many as one likes!

Sunday, October 5, 1919 - Alexin

Yesterday Vladimir Feodorovich left for Tula, for the front.

Friday, October 10, 1919 - Alexin

Voldemar returned from Tula after having obtained the fantastic post of a “sapper” in Alexin !!!

Our winter apartment, consisting of two cold rooms is being altered for us. The large room is being divided into two parts. The cooking stove has been built in the smaller part; the fireplace also has been rebuilt. Left is the white-washing of the walls (over the dirty wallpaper) and of the ceiling. Then we can move in!

I was concerned about the cow. Where to get hay? Fima, the domestic, is turning out to be very good! Mama feeds her well and pampers her.

Have almost finished Galya’s head. The general opinion is that I have painted her more beautiful than she really is. But if they could only see her in that pose, that light, with that expression of her deep, dreamy and intelligent eyes, the lovely nape of her neck, her lips, chin and her marvelous shoulders, the delectable little folds on the neck, that pure coloring of a true blonde, and if at the same time they could enter into my skin, my psychology, they would say that I have portrayed her very badly and that I have imparted almost nothing of what constitutes her charm. Nadya and I have decided – jokingly - to have Kolya marry Galya.

Saturday, October 11, 1919 - Alexin

It’s raining. It began raining during the night. The first gloomy day. It’s nasty!

Tuesday, October 14, 1919 - Alexin

Today is the Feast of Intercession of the Holy Virgin – according to the Old Calendar. A holiday atmosphere pervades also the communistic Alexin. And a feeling of serenity is felt in our home.

But beginning on October 11, for 4 days, something extraordinary took place in our household. Mama got into a quarrel with Vladimir Feodorovich, or Vlad. Feod with her. And what a quarrel! It almost brought about a complete break. It was decided not to live together anymore. But it turned out that V.F. was not deeply discerning nor determined, and on the fourth day he exhibited suddenly good behavior and there was not even a hint anymore of a “break!”

Wednesday, October 15, 1919 - Alexin

I went to the Exhibition. Stopped for Ryshkova, but only Galya joined me. From the Exhibition, i.e., its dirty courtyard, we took the long way home through the field along the Oka River. It was a charming walk with the charming Galya.

Thursday, October 23, 1919 - Alexin

I am being teased regarding Galya, especially by Mama, who is apparently even angry and accuses me of being in love with Galya! I reciprocate by saying that indeed I am fascinated by her. The last days I have been lucky – I keep meeting Galya! I sketched three portraits of her and am planning to have Kolya marry her. Mama became alarmed as if the wedding has been set for tomorrow already. She finds that Galya is no good for anything, that there is a hole in her neck, that she is painted and smeared all over with cosmetics, that her eyes are sheepish, her teeth black, that she waddles when she walks, that she is sickly, hardly keeping body and soul together. Even Nadya defended her, especially as to her teeth and health.

All these days I have been busy preparing my lecture that I am to deliver next Sunday. At the same time, I am rushing about seeing all sorts of people from whom the moving into our winter apartment depends. We continue to freeze in our summer dacha No. 5, in the Pine Grove, without heating or kerosene, getting light only from the small icon-lamps. I go to bed at 8 and get up with the first rays of sunshine.

Just had dinner. Mama and Nadya have left for their meeting and I am going to Ryshkova, will see Galya. I’ll take to her the portraits of her that I drew for her.

Saturday, October 25, 1919 - Alexin

We are still living in the Grove and are freezing. But the weather is fair and there has been no frost yet. Mama is keeping warm on the Russian stove and I keep fire in the fireplace. We still have trouble with the apartment. The part of the wing that had been set apart for us is being accommodated accordingly. A cooking range has been built into the kitchen, and while a partition was being constructed, we had the idea to ask the authorities to arrange so that the Studio would be located in the same wing with our living quarters, provided we would be given possession of the entire wing. This idea was approved and the order issued to evict the neighbor and give me the right to occupy the entire wing. However actually it turned out that not only were we not given the entire wing, but the part of it which at first was assigned to us as our living quarters, has to serve now also as the Studio!!!

I kept cursing and rushing about. At last it seems, we shall succeed in having the Litvinov’s move into the main building (with the front on the street) where the Hearth is located. This was made possible because Nadya had the idea of offering to teach in the mornings the children of the Hearth.

Tomorrow is my lecture. We have posted large and small announcements.

Monday, October 27, 1919 - Alexin

And so, yesterday my lecture took place. It was a nightmare! I began late owing to the absence of any audience. After an hour only a considerable number of the public began arriving. I telephoned Muralov. He promised to come, and I kept waiting. Finally I began in his absence. Soon after however, he arrived with his wife. The public consisted almost exclusively of the intelligentsia. All listened very attentively and apparently the lecture made a very good impression. Though 9/10 of it they, of course, did not understand. The nightmare began at its conclusion. Following an energetic applause, Muralov stepped forward to raise some questions and objections. I tried to tell him to do it in writing, that I would then answer him at another session. But Muralov insisted on doing it right then. And he DID !! He ignored 99% of my lecture’s real content, i.e., its substance, and commented only on the 1/100 part of it, and this abstractly as a Marxist theoretician. Like an orthodox Marxist, he began by amplifying and defending that part of my lecture that especially had touched him, while I had thought and expected that Muralov, as the Chief of the local government, and its first citizen, guarding the population’s interests, would touch upon its main problem, i.e., the question of cultural-artistic education and the immediate plans for the local cultural organizations .... But not me: that part did not interest him at all. Instead he talked for a whole hour about the abstract Marxist theory, the relationship of matter and “spirit!” ... This reply produced a passionate response on my part, also on the part of Tokarev, who too was aroused by Muralov’s “parallelism.” Then several more brawling orators of the meeting stepped forward who have understood absolutely nothing of my lecture. They all shouted and I outshouted them all.

Today I made a point to see Muralov. I expressed my regret that 99/100 of my lecture was lost while the 1/100 part brought about the heated disputes. He answered that in his comments he mentioned he was in perfect accord with the business part of my lecture. I told him that this “accord” was not enough for me, that I had expected from him, as from the chief of the government, a more energetic support of my report’s realistic proposals.

I suggested that he publish my lecture as a small brochure with an addition of his reply and my conclusion. Naturally Muralov refused such an arrangement that would be to his disadvantage and suggested that I should publish in the local paper, in the feuilleton section only, the business part of my lecture. But that does not suit me at all. I now want to make a report of my lecture to the Dept. of Education, also of the debates it caused, and propose them to materialize my realistic project by establishing in Alexin a Committee of Cultural-Artistic Education.

Wednesday, October 29, 1919 - Alexin

Hurrah! At last I obtained a decision from Muralov himself that I am to be given a third room. I had made a plan, a draft of the wing and presented it to him, showing clearly how impossible it would be to arrange in two rooms the Studio and living quarters for myself with my wife and a domestic! The neighbor Ananiev’s complaint regarding my solicitation was denied. However he is not being evicted from his two small rooms, therefore Nadya and Voldemar must find lodging for themselves somewhere else and come for their meals to us. We stopped at the trade-school, where in its office is an interesting girl-accountant, Anna Nikolaevna. Voldemar tried to draw me away, to go to the Dept. of Education, but I did not follow him, but asked An. Nik’s permission to stay with her. When we were left alone I asked her to pose for me. After some mannerisms on her part I obtained her full consent. She is very good looking, is stately, graceful, in the style of Brullov’s portraits in the thirties! It’s good luck!

Friday, October 31, 1919 - Alexin

After all, frost did catch us still in the dacha! And on this first day of frost we had to move into our winter apartment. It was dreadful! We did complete the moving only toward the evening. I began immediately to make fire in the stove, but did not succeed to get much warmth. In a terrible chaos and in darkness we had to arrange our beds and get supper. Nadya and her husband went to their place, three doors away where they had acquired a room in a very respectable house. Fima (the domestic) slept next to the Studio, near the stove. Without Mama, who left several days ago for Dubrachok, the whole move went off badly! Many milk pots were broken, salt – the invaluable treasure, was spilled all over the ground. The chickens and the cow are not at all pleased with their new home!

We ate dinner in the new apartment. Fima has gone back to the dacha after the rest of the things. Nadya made a fire in the Russian stove and prepared a meat dinner. Mama’s room, next to the kitchen, is the warmest and cleanest room. There stands also the dinner table. In the Studio and in my room the temperature is 5 degrees. It’s true; the extra windows have not yet been installed, the stoves are not dried out yet, the wood is still damp. Nevertheless I am glad that we are at last settled, that I have my own room, and that there is as yet hope to be working in the Studio! The windows will be puttied up tomorrow. It’s hellish frost and wind. I fear for Mama; she will catch cold and will be over-tired! It’s a week already since she has been gone.

Saturday, November 1, 1919 - Alexin

The windows are being puttied up. The Studio is full of frozen cabbage and unpacked things. Yesterday I went after the cabbage and carried it in a huge basket on my back!! The first snow is falling today! The cow remains in the stall and is starving. She was given some cabbage leaves. I shall go to the neighbors and borrow hay. The rooster disappeared! The oil for the icon-lamp was spilled during the move!! The water-closet is cold and befouled to the last degree!! “The condition of the water-closet is the standard of people’s culture.” Well, the Ananyev’s – owners of the house – are rich people and are supposed to have some education!!

Friday, November 14, 1919 - Alexin

Fourteen days have passed...And so much unpleasantness has been experienced! Mama has returned from Dubrachok, and except for the most necessary things, she has brought nothing! Aunt Milya’s household turned out to be in such a sad condition that there was nothing to bring. No hay, no potatoes, no rye ... Mama was worn out, her return trip took 2 days and she came back in a bad mood. First of all, she blamed everybody regarding her room in which the dinner table had been placed. That angered her most. She refused to occupy the “best room “ just because there stood that fatale dinner table. Then Nadya and Voldemar offered to exchange rooms with them: they would give Mama their mezzanine room, 3 doors away, and they would take her room with the dinner table, and that Nadya would take over the household work. To me this combination seemed wild and full of possible trouble. But Mama took hold of the thought, so I kept silent. However, after the first night in the mezzanine, Mama discovered that it was cold there, the thermometer only registering 7 degrees, and she announced that she would come back to her own room (with the dinner table). In the meantime, Nadya and Voldemar had decided that they liked Mama’s room and they began assuring her that the room in the mezzanine is not at all cold, that Mama had probably not closed the chimney properly. Voldemar promised to carry the wood there himself and to bring up the temperature to 12 degrees. But on the following day the thermometer pointed only to 6 ½ degrees.

After this, Voldemar began feeling ill and the wood had to be carried to mezzanine by the pregnant Nadya, who tried to heat the stove and prove to Mama how warm it could be, in order to hold on to Mama’s room (with the dinner table). However, all her efforts were in vain, the thermometer continued to stand at 7 degrees. The atmosphere grew tense and threatened to break into a quarrel...

Then I decided on a heroic action: I proposed placing the table in my room, a room much smaller than that of Mama’s....But just then, quite unexpectedly, opened a comforting perspective to settle this difficult situation: Voldemar, who had gone to Tula yesterday, on returning announced that he is being transferred to the Staff in Tula and that Nadya had decided to go with him.

Thus the disputable Mama’s room is being vacated and is now at her full disposal. – Hurrah!!!

But just the same I feel very, very sad to see Nadya leave for Tula! All are now scattered, all have flown away, to diverse places. Nadya alone remained with us, and now she too is leaving, and we are left alone, - I and my wife, like 30 years ago, and it seems as if all and everybody we had created during the 30 years, had not been existing at all. But then we were young, we were full of hope, of creative strength......while now...

Friday, November 21, 1919 - Alexin

I had proposed in my lecture the friendly cooperation among the cultural workers in the Dept. of Public Education. The authorities approved this thought, and since then two meetings have taken place under my chairmanship. But some cultural workers are very much displeased. The Schedrins are furious and raging. They crave only one thing – to be left alone, - and they will continue to “pull the wool over people’s eyes.” Yesterday another stormy meeting took place and again under my chairmanship. Matters begin to take a good turn.

(5 sheets of the original Diary are missing here.)

...Schedrin kept repeating my own words, kept forcing himself in an open door and revealed himself to be exactly the kind of “dissenter” I mentioned in my lecture, that with such – one should not argue. The public was on my side, with the exception of 3-4 individuals of his own party. In all, I got the impression that scientific lectures have no place here. That one must speak altogether differently: - take a better consideration of the position and the method of debating of the Communists themselves. There also must be brought more originality into the lecture.

There is before me a letter from Emily that only now I can answer. She writes about all kinds of horrors in their life in Dubrachok and claims as if it were our fault that they lack hay, wood, sleighs, rubbers, valenki, and kerosene...

It is Voldemar’s second week in Tula, yet he has not written a single word to Nadya. We learned indirectly that the Staff is being moved from Tula, almost as far as Tashkent or Saratov. Voldemar’s silence is suspicious. It means he is petitioning to remain in Alexin, and until this question is solved he is refraining from giving any details. Our hearts, mine and Mama’s, feel that this “amiable man” will return here to continue living with us, under the same roof! But such a prospect is so not-alluring or, to speak frankly, inadmissible, that we shall have to impress on Nadya and on himself the thought to make arrangements to live apart from us.

I have begun a painting, a complicated portrait of Galya with her father in a very interesting combined pose. For that it was necessary to sew together two pieces of canvas, the last ones I had left... Tomorrow they are coming at 11 o’clock for their first sitting.

The electricity has finally been turned on, and it’s been light for the fourth day, from 5 o’clock in the afternoon until 10 in the evening. This, as a matter of fact, is because of the Studio. The rest of the citizens are still without electricity. I shall begin my evening classes within a few days, from 5 to 7 in the evening.

We continue to be cut off from all our family. Kiev is still in the hands of the Whites, but it seems that before long it will pass over again, for the 8th time, to the Reds. Perhaps then we shall get news from Sonya and maybe also from Kolya. It is rumored (it seems for the 100th time) that negotiations with the Allies are in progress, regarding talks of peace and the lifting of the blockade. If so, then we shall immediately send a telegram to New York!

Tuesday, December 9, 1919 - Alexin

For several days it has been humid and warm weather. But glory be to Allah: I received rubbers! 25 pairs have been distributed among the teachers in town. But the rubbers are a spoilage, the pairs are split and they will hardly last long enough. The price (fixed) is 53 rubles...and yesterday at the bazaar I bought 2 boxes of matches for 100 rubles!!! We had for supper last night a very fatty meat stew (100 rubles per pound). It caused pains in my stomach and I slept badly. Also because I read Hamsun in the evening that upset my nerves – so when I put out the light I began feeling such anguish that I started to sob, thinking of Kolya, Natasha, and Sonya, recalling also Kyrillchick! I awakened even Mama! Somehow it is mostly Kolya who stands before my eyes, and it seems to me that he is in a very poor state!

I have just finished my first night class by electric light. It was grand!

At last there came a letter from Voldemar, from Tula. He has been freed from service in the Far East and will apparently continue his service in Tula. That’s good. Just so it will not be necessary to continue the intolerable existence side by side with us.

Friday, December 12, 1919 - Alexin

Yesterday at 5 pm my colleague – instructor in painting, Michael Petrovich Rodionov, dragged me along to the Teacher’s Meeting which has been in session since early morning. I had to do some speaking, but I did not stay unti the end, but went instead to the Ryshkovs. Chatted with Galya. Her mother was so kind to leave us talking, and took on herself Galya’s duty of heating the samovar. I left for home at 11 o’clock and what a wonder - the electricity was on!

Wednesday, December 17, 1919 - Alexin

Voldemar has just arrived from Tula, on horseback. Some days ago Nadya made the decision to join her husband in Tula and from there to go with him to his new service post in Novocherkask!

The Red Army’s engagements are progressing brilliantly. Denikin and Kolchak are defeated. We are at the point of making peace with Europe! This means that perhaps by summer there will be a definite change in the situation!

Friday, December 19, 1919 - Alexin

This is Kolya’s Nameday. It is sad, sorrowful, depressing!!! Where is he, what is happening to him? Is he alive? Is he well? This sadness is redoubled by the sudden departure of Nadya and her husband! They were to leave within 2-3 days, but an opportunity came up for an earlier departure – with a moujik with a horse and cart, who was leaving for Tula within 2 hours! That started the commotion: everything was cramped together – things, clothes, provisions. In a hurry Mama started to iron something, Nadya began to stuff her meager belongings into a little basket. I kept pacing the floor with tear-filled eyes.

Same Evening

They left a half an hour ago. Frost, wind, darkness! Loaded with their possessions, bundled up, they crossed the Oka for the railroad station. From there they were to travel by train in some kind of warm compartment, or in a car with a load of “wood!” We cried much bidding farewell to Nadichka. The heart was breaking! The last one has flown away from us! The dear, good Nadichka ... our little “philharmonist.”

From Nietzche:
“Why live? All is – vanity! To live is to thrash the straw, to live – is to burn itself, but still not getting warm.”

This old small talk still passes for “wisdom,” and because it’s old and emanates the odor of decay, it’s revered still more! And so, decay is ennobling too. Children can talk this way: they fear the fire because it burns. There is childishness in old books on wisdom. And he who keeps on “thrashing straw,” how dare he blame the thrashing! Such fools should keep their mouths shut! Some come to the table, bringing nothing with them, not even a good humor: and then they revile, saying – “all is vanity.” But to eat, to drink well, my dear brothers, in fact, is not a vain art! Destroy, destroy the tables of those who never rejoice!”

Tuesday, December 23, 1919 - Alexin

The last days, free of classes, I painted the Ryshkovs. Had a good sitting today. I succeeded in giving, if only by a hint, the striking expression in Galya’s eyes. There is something mournful in them.

Wednesday, December 24, 1919 - Alexin

Today is the equinox: the sun is shining only for the duration of 6 hours: from 9 am till 3 pm. It’s a noteworthy day.

Mama has gone to the market. It’s the third week that she keeps on going there to buy a goose, but cannot bring herself to the “heroic deed” of paying 2,000 rubles for it. She hesitated even when they cost 750-1,000 and 1,500 r. But we should pamper ourselves with a good meal, if only on this Holiday. We are somehow losing weight because of lack of meat and fats. Mama wanted me to come along, but I expect the Ryshkovs for a sitting at 11 o’clock.

Saturday, December 27, 1919 - Alexin

Tomorrow a lady from the Children’s Colony (6 versts away) is due to come. I shall paint her portrait for the following fee: 1 pood (40 lbs.) flour = 5,000 rubles; 1 pood grits = 5,000 rubles; 10 lbs. of salt = 1,000 rubles; 5 lbs. of butter = 6,000 rubles; and 5 lbs. of sugar = 7,000 rubles. In all 34,000 rubles worth, according to the market price, or 22 rubles according to the old regime’s rate. I have never before painted a portrait for such a “high” and at the same time, such a low price!

(In the original 10 pages are missing)

Continue on to 1920 >>>

©2014 -