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.

Saturday, January 3, 1920 - Alexin

We have received a letter from Nadichka and Voldemar, in which they described in detail what they’ve gone through during their journey from here to Tula. In a freezing snowstorm, loaded with their baggage, they barely made it to the station. Nadya fell through somewhere while crossing the river! They barely had caught the freight train, jumping on it while it was already in motion. They tried to get into the warm compartment that was crowded with railroad employees, swearing, cussing fighting them away. Nadya started to force herself into a narrow opening but failed to make it, and hung between the earth and heaven, while not a single of the men would even give her a hand, instead they all kept up their jeering and cursing!

The train stopped 4 versts before reaching Tula and again they were forced to walk! But in recompense they have it good in Tula now. There is plenty of food and all kinds of it. The can even get milk. Nadya has obtained a job in the Office for a good salary with good rations. They have sugar and other things and they are eager to send us some by post. Well, thank God! And in a few days they are to leave with the Office of their employment for the South, to Novocherkassk, and will be living in the train, in a 1st Class coupe!!! How will all this affect Nadya’s health and what will happen when the time comes for her to give birth to the child (in May)? One consolation: it’s the South, a good climate and enough to eat. May God help them!

Monday, January 5, 1920 - Alexin

Nadichka has sent us a parcel from Tula – Ksenichka’s little trunk (mine of Paris), that had lain with Ksenichka’s things for 20 years in the attic of Dubrachok. There were in the trunk 2 pairs of valenki (felt boots). They were given new ones - government issue. In one of the valenki Mama discovered a small bottle of sunflower oil. We have oil now! The lady from the Children’s Colony brought the deposit for the portrait – about 3 lbs. of sugar and 1 lb. of sweet butter. So we ate our kasha with butter. At the supper I had the happy thought of searching once more the little trunk with valenki – and what a joy – in one of the valenki I found another little box with sugar and a letter. Had it not been my happy thought - the little trunk with its contents of a letter and of sugar would have lain about somewhere again for years...

Today they are traveling from Tula to the South, in the comfort of a private coupe, of an International car. The Office travels in the heated 3rd Class car, but although Nadya is also an Office employee, she was permitted to share the coupe with her husband who is the Secretary. They will have on the way, in the car, a Christmas tree. Rations are being distributed generously, - black and white bread, sugar and soap. Nady is in excellent spirits....

Wednesday, January 7, 1920 - Alexin

For the holyday Mama has set the table with a white tablecloth and we celebrated the occasion with coffee, sugar, cakes made of white flour, and a pastry made of dried rye crust. Is there much more needed to create a holiday atmosphere? Last night, in the evening, we hade fire in the range and in the Studio fire place we heated water and reciprocated by rubbing each other’s back in the wash basin. That was our bath.

Tuesday, January 13, 1920 - Alexin

All these days I did not write a thing, having been submerged in domestic affairs – getting wood, hay, etc...

(Some pages are missing)

Just now I am sitting and am waiting for Ivan Nikolaevich Popov and his Mother. I’ve waited for his visit for many days but he has not honored me by realizing it!! Not once did this President of the Proletarian-Culture look in on the Studio, as a matter of fact, none of the authorities have yet visited it, even though I have called on him (Popov) often in the morning to find him still in his bed, as well as later, trying to catch him in one of the different offices where he usually can be seen. I have been going as a “petitioner” in the interest of different affairs – personal and those regarding the Studio. Not long ago he had asked me to draw a portrait of his Mother who visited him from 200 versts away. Naturally I agreed, and we made arrangements for her to come at 1 o’clock pm. She did not come! .... I am getting angry.

Thursday, January 15, 1920 - Alexin

She did come and we made an agreement. Today was the first sitting. The old lady is rather youthful looking with the serious face of an Old-Believer. I began drawing her and very successfully. In compensation I received through Ivan Nikolaevich 2 loads of clover, about 35 poods, which I carried this morning straight from the market. In all, we are just now in the midst of a spell of abundance! Aunt Milya sent us half of our ox, frozen, very fresh. She also sent us some rye for coffee, and a moujik brought us some millet in exchange for salt. We sent Aunt Milya tobacco, matches, iodine and a little salt. We wanted also to send her a pair of rabbits, as she had asked, but the bunnies have just been born, and can be sent only in 2 months.

The hurry of drawing the old Popov lady’s portrait has forced me to put off the work on the Ryshkov’s portrait.....

Monday, January 19, 1920 - Alexin

Last night we went to the Shchedrin’s. They played some kind of sentimental music on the piano, violin and cello. Constantin played the violin works by Yasniavsky, that from early youth are still ringing in my ears excellently executed...Constantin’s playing delighted his listeners, but to me seemed most pathetic. However, that’s not important, though it did upset me. The important thing was that they set the table and served herring, bread, potatoes, with beets and a large decanter of vodka. Mama drank three wine glasses and became very gay. A young girl – piano teacher and Mama’s voice pupil – Raisa Veniaminovna Bezdetnaya was also present with her admirer - a bourgeois pilot. We returned home at 1 o’clock past midnight and after all the drinking slept well.

Monday, January 26, 1920 - Alexin

The same old humdrum! Few changes, few diversions. By turns, I am busy getting hay (Mashka does not eat clover – it’s too tough for her teeth), getting enameled cast iron pots, linseed oil for priming the canvas, etc. .... Am busy, too, with the classes and my own work – (painting some beauties and drawing Mama). Yesterday was a meeting of teachers regarding the founding of a Conversation and Self-education Club. As a matter of fact, this was my idea. It interests me much. I foresee many of my own appearances as speaker on a variety of subjects.

We are in great need of milk. It’s very hard to get any at all.... Evenings I paint the famous Zoya Gorshkova. Shchedrin’s are in love with her and two of them – curiously inquisitive – have already been here. To paint on a home-made canvas is very hard – it is absorbent and keeps swaying on the frame like a rag.

A letter from Nadya, already from the kingdom of white flour! From Kiev – nothing!

Tuesday, January 27, 1920 - Alexin

I have been seeing rather complicated and often tragic dreams at night. But seldom can I remember them. The other night I saw a man running up the stairs away from the people that pursued him; he was seeking a chance to commit suicide, and finally, from the 5th floor he threw himself down the stairwell. His wife followed and threw herself down after him. I also saw Uncle Dodo as if he had composed an opera, and it was staged in a theater with Alexander Medtner conducting it.

Thursday, January 29, 1920 - Alexin

Yesterday was my birthday. A miserable day. But not because I reached the age of 57, but because everything is so joyless. I read all day Leskov’s “At Daggers.” Fortunately it was a Wednesday and there was no drawing class. Mama was gone to Choir practice, while I felt much upset by my reading. There were described such emotional matters and I began thinking of my children, grandchildren, and of many happenings in my own life. In the evening came Constantin Shchedrin – my only guest. He thought that we would have company. We talked a lot, and we treated him to a good supper – meat soup and kulebiaka with buckwheat kasha, a veal ragout, and bread pudding with milk.

Monday, February 9, 1920 - Alexin

More than a week has passed. Eight days ago the first Teachers’ Assembly for Discussions and Referendums took place. A sort of club is being set up for exchange of spiritual ideas among the teachers. The first speaker was the teacher Bogoroditsky, still a young man. His family name shows that he belongs to the clergy. (Bogoroditsa is Virgin Mary) He is even a graduate of the Spiritual Academy. This means he could be a Bishop.

(One page is missing)

I have already acquired a reputation of a dangerous opponent and generally am looked upon with a respectful fear, but also with interest, since I myself am looking with much interest and ardour at all these appearances and at all problems constituting their themes.

Otherwise nothing new. The portrait of Zoya Gorshkova is progressing slowly. The drawing of Mama succeeded well. It’s a very good likeness and done lightly. I have not been to the Rushkov’s for a long time. Their son arrived from the front with his wife and the wife fell seriously ill. It was feared first to be typhus , but it turned out not to be so. I shall go to see them tomorrow.

My mood is to the highest degree sad and dreary, and everything, except my work, only increases the dreariness. Books – many interesting ones – monographs of great artists – in French, Charles Blanc, the Dresden Gallery in a superb edition and other works of Art – only irritate me, teasing by other horizons ... Portraits, hanging all over on the walls, pictures of Dubrachok, Chernyshev Pereulok, the Moskoretsky Bridge - to look at them is a torment !!!

The thought of fleeing keeps growing in my mind. But where to, how, when? This thought persistently intrudes itself into my mind with greater frequency.

From Kiev still not a word. There is a rumor that the blockade is lifted. What does this mean? Perhaps the frontiers are already open? Perhaps it is permitted now to go abroad? I only know that railroad communication is agonizing and may come to a stop at any time. However there is talk of a gigantic effort to revive the mine and timber industry and means of transportation. All the same, one must wait.... “Quosque tardem abutere patientam nostram?” (How long will one’s patience hold out?”)

Thursday, February 19, 1920 - Alexin

Today and of late, in general, I feel the shortage of money. In order to purchase 11 lbs. of pork, money had to be borrowed and so we paid for that piece of pork 6,000 rubles....And now Mama is busy selling all sorts of odds and ends – and has sold already 8,000 rubles worth. We are getting milk now from the far end of town but must walk there to get it.

Monday, February 22, 1920 - Alexin

Yesterday was a day of great joy! Mama received 2 letters – one from Lida Karysheva (daughter of Mama’s sister Vera) from Ekaterinburg; the other she flung to me as if not of much interest, from some Railroad Agency in Nahichevan, as printed on the envelope. It turned out, however, to be a letter from Sodochka (Sonya) !!! My joy reached the utmost degree. Somehow, as I have been grieving of late, my thoughts, for some reason, have been particularly of Sonya! And to think, that during this time her letter was on the way here.

(A few pages are missing)

Tuesday, March 2, 1920 - Alexin

We sent Nadya a telegram with Sonya’s address and a letter, in which we instructed her to get in touch with Sonya and together give some thoughts to decide in what Southern center would it be most expedient to settle ourselves together with Sonya. We wrote the same thing to Sonya, in Nahichevan. But God knows if the letter will reach her. She had sent her letter to Tula by some opportunity, and only from there did it come by the regular mail.

Mama has sold lately all kinds of old things: old slippers, ribbons, pieces of cotton material, etc., to the amount of eight thousand rubles, and we paid off our debts.

The other day an old half-crazy aunt of the two Gorshkov girls, whom I am painting, dropped in. I did not show her my work. She took out from her pocket a pack of dirty cards and started telling our fortune. All she told did come true the following day... She said that I will have an “interesting visitor,” several orders for portraits, and there will be traveling awaiting me.... And sure enough: next day an “interesting lady,” Mrs. Shekmakova, came to tell me of a rich Tula profiteer who wants me to paint three portraits of the members of his family, to be paid by provisions and cash. For that it will be necessary for me to go to Tula. Another visit by Mr. and Mrs. Smirnov with the idea of asking me to paint a portrait of their son. Then I met Ivan Nokolaevich Popov and learned from him that I have been considered for painting 2 portraits of Lenin, one for Alexin, the other for Tula. Isn’t that wonderful?

Beside these affairs and perspectives, I continue to busy myself with reports. There was a great argument last Saturday at the Teachers’ circle, where I had read my review of former debates on the subject of “The Substance and Significance of Poetry.”

Yesterday, I was at another gathering where the “Brandt” drama (by Ibsen) was read and discussed. This circle is a more serious and solid one, though the principle participating orators are the same. I was not prepared, because I have not read the drama and have somewhat forgotten the staging of it at the Moscow Art Theater. But from the debates I recollected its substance and engaged myself in the argument that gave me great pleasure, because the main speaker (Tokarev) exhibited considerable triteness and I kept putting him unmercifully back into his place. Such meetings and speeches, whether prepared or improvised, are beginning to give me much pleasure. Besides, by this I am acquiring Polish and clarification of my own world outlook.

Saturday, March 13, 1920 - Alexin

The other day the fortune teller also laid out the cards for Kolya. It appeared that there will be a wedding – either his, or his friends, but, in any case, there is a “sweetheart.” He also will receive money and undertake a long voyage.

Sunday, March 14, 1920 - Alexin

I saw in a dream Aunt Milya lying in front of me, dead or asleep, her neck long as that of a goose, and I am taking a hatchet and begin to smash her skull. There was seemingly no blood, but the face and skull were smashed. I then took the corpse (light as of cardboard) and handed it to herself, to Aunty Milya who stood nearby, watching the whole procedure.

Sonya is in Nahichevan, but it is not known in whose hands Nahichevan is. No communication, not a word! From Nadya, too, there has been no letter for some time. By hearsay we learned that Litvinov is in Voronezh. That means they did not get to the Caucasus and are unable to meet Sonya nor Kolya.

I am again writing a report – an analysis on Ibsen’t “Brandt.” I shall read it tomorrow. Mama has gone to the Children’s Performance. I am sleepy. Have neglected the diary. There was not much of interest, but even that I did not write down. We eat fairly well. In two days we ate up 2 lbs. of sweet butter, for which we paid 4,000 rules. I am waiting payment from Tula for my next portrait-painting – one pood of salt – 40,000 rubles.

Sunday, March 28, 1920 - Alexin

Well, congratulations! A little bawler has announced himself behind the partition! The neighbor woman from next door has moved in here. The little sucker must be sick and I can hear his whining as if he were in my own room. Some pleasure! I’ve written nothing for two weeks! Was working on reports on the subject of “Brandt,” the meaning of life, also polemics with the other main orators and lecturers. In general it is rather amusing, however I am neglecting my own affairs and the painting and procuring all kinds of trifles for the household. Mama is angry!.....

I received an interesting letter from Soustinova, and answered it by a long letter. Have not been to the Ryshkov’s for over a week!

Thursday, April 8, 1920 - Alexin

Spring! The mud is impassable. But bells are ringing! Mama and I are busy trying to procure something for the holidays. There is no money and we have to sell more things, like cotton and silk remnants, etc. It’s the Eve of Easter, but no one was paid any salary! ... I’ve been splashing through the town, to its outskirts, for milk on credit. Brought back 2 cans, while Mama continued trading things for milk, eggs, and butter. We thought that we would be left without an Easter Kulich and Pashka, even though Nadichka had sent us white flour from Voronezh by an opportunity. But the lady who brought that flour lives beyond the river and is known to be a grabber. In all probability she will not give us the flour, pretending it had been stolen from her on the road. However fate turned out to be merciful: Ryshkov had received a parcel and brought me for his portrait, as a gift, 10 lbs. of white flour.

Saturday, April 10, 1920 - Alexin

Tomorrow is Easter! A year ago we celebrated it in Strahovo. Then, there were still three of us. This year we are only two. No longer do we have any of our family near us! The mood is therefore not a joyful one. The Fourth Dimension is the only saving grace. The “World Harmony,” something that exists above the superficiality of things! It saves one from the final stroke of despair! Otherwise I could howl just the way dogs sometimes do ....

And yet.... Strong is life’s instinct! There is Mama, in the face of everything, she managed to cook and set an “Easter Table.” She baked with flour that was given us – a kulich and a fancy cake. Instead of yeast she used honey – also a gift! And there is paskha as well, made of pot-cheese, eggs and sugar; there are colored eggs and the table is covered with a white tablecloth instead of the usual oilcloth, and even something in a way of ham! ... The weather has been wonderful today. We set out the double windows.

I am reading Uspensky’s “Tertium Organum”. How I wish Kolya would read this remarkable book!

Tuesday, April 13, 1920 - Tula

Last night, already in darkness, I walked down to the River bank, loaded with the canvasses and a bag across my shoulder. I walked gropingly and kept stumbling. There was no one at the boat. Soon another individual appeared, carrying a small suitcase; he too was on the way to Tula. We started looking for the boatman. Then I called across the opposite shore, as we were told, and was heard; a call came back, and soon the boatman paddled up to our shore. We got into the boat and riding over the dark water soon reached the other side. I paid 20 r. and then started walking along the railroad ties. At the station a watchman with a lantern led me to the house of the Govorkov’s. They were asleep already. But my knock was heard and they let me in. The landlady pointed to a little sofa in the room. She brought me a glass of fresh milk and said that her son, who had not returned yet from the theater, would arrange for me a place on a freight train. I fell asleep. I was awakened by a young man at 2 o’clock in the morning. “There is a freight train,” he said. I began getting ready while he ran to the station with my mandates to get the tickets. When he brought them we started off. Thanks to one of his acquaintances, he had arranged for me a place in the heated compartment with a company of conductors. It was very cold outside, but in the compartment it was hot. I sat down on somebody’s little trunk and dozed off. By sunrise we arrived at Protopopov, but the train did not go any further. I had to prod along on foot to Tula – 6 versts! Arrived without any trouble, though I was all in a sweat, and my hands were numb from carrying the subframes. I got to the Kotsov’s at about 8 o’clock in the morning. They are very likable people. The milieu is bourgeois. I have a separate room and a bed with a spring mattress.

Thursday, April 15, 1920 - Tula

(Some pages are missing)

The news about Nikolai has disturbed me. It makes me feel more than ever like getting away from here. Just now our chief concern is Sonya. No news from her! There are rumors of changes in the making, plans of establishing a compromise government of Socialists and of Cadets! That seems incredible!

Sunday, April 25, 1920 - Alexin

After a ten-day stay in Tula, I am back in Alexin. I had missed the passenger train because of wrong instructions as to the hour of the departure (there are no timetables). I walked to Protopopov free of any baggage. With difficulty I forced myself into the heated compartment of the Military train crowded with soldiers. Arrived home well, free of any cost. My nourishment on the way consisted of a piece of black bread that I had taken with me, a glass of milk that I had bought for 60 r., a hard-boiled egg for 110 r., and a suspicious-looking chop cutlet for 70 r. The salt with the other provisions were left in Tula in wait of an occasion.

I found Mama in a good mood and well fed. A letter was awaiting me from Zabelin, from the Luga district!! It turned out that my letters had not reached them because during all this time they’ve been under fire, being at the front!....

Saturday, May 8, 1920 - Alexin

Since my return I have been ill, and have gotten well again. The illness was of a stomach-heart-hemorrhoidal nature. I spent about a week in bed. My back still pains me, it’s hard to straighten it out!

We have received two interesting letters: one from Nadya in Voronezh and one from Sonya in Nahichevan. Both are asking us to join them. Sonya has established herself as soloist, not badly, with the Symphony Choir. She is very much pleased with the conductor Kedrov and is studying with him opera parts, and is earning almost 10 thousand rubles a month. Evidently she is not starving and is in a cheerful mood. That’s most important. She and Nadya did finally get in touch by letters, and from us they had learned about Kolya. So it’s decided, - we shall go this summer to Nadya in Voronezh, and from there to Sonya. But it will be necessary first to arrange matters in Dubrachok and in Petrograd. Whether I shall have to go to Moscow, to paint that “person” (Lenin) is uncertain. Popov, who has returned from Moscow where this question was to be decided, has as yet not seen me. Apparently, it did not materialize. I have just been to Streltsi (a suburb) after our ill-fated salt, which at last one of the drivers in Tula picked up at the Koltzovs. One pack (30 lbs.) I was hardly able to drag home, the other (1 pood) I left behind. We are eating extremely well: eggs, sweet butter, veal...milk!!! Our own two-week old steer turned out to be as white as writing paper, and fat, weighing almost 2 poods. We are frying, boiling, salting and curing it.

From Emily – again an alarming message: there is a threat that the house will be pulled down and carried off to the village Skripovo, where several izbas have perished in fire. We countered with a petition asserting our right. Whether we shall win is hard to tell. If not, the new portion of the house will be torn down. In any case, Emily apparently will not stay there any longer. That means – the end of Dubrachok ... for then the rest of it will be stolen away. - God be with it! “Once the need is lost, there is no use crying for the loss of hair.”

Contradictory rumors keep circling: Victories in the East and in the South, and – the Poles have taken from us Kiev!!!...

Where is Uncle Dodo? He no doubt has fled from Kiev long ago!

At last I have begun painting the portrait of Maria Alexaevna, who has already made the whole payment for it in products. The portrait is interesting, and I began it well.... on cardboard.

Just now I received several letters: one from the Building Office of Chernyshev Pereulok – a demand to clear the Apartment by May 15th! The other from Aunt Sonya (Mama’s sister) who has learned in Moscow of Karl Medtner’s (brother of composer) death at the front from typhus! The 3rd from Klavdia Ivanovha Vronskaya who writes the Zbruevs are in Paris. All this has disturbed me very much! What is to be done with the Apartment?!

Friday, May 14, 1920 - Alexin

I received today the mandates for mine and Mama’s round trip to Petrograd. We were given bread, salt, sugar, tobacco and matches for 10 days....We sent a telegram to the People’s Commissariat in Petrograd – a petition for postponement of the eviction from the Apartment, in view of my imminent trip to Petrograd. And so – we are leaving on May 18th. This trip somewhat frightens me: we both are not too strong any more. There continues to be something wrong with my stomach and my heart. I drink now much milk and we are forced to eat much veal (had to butcher our own calf). It’s bad for the stomach. But nevertheless we have to go. On top of it, “events” are taking on a rather threatening character. The Poles are pressing on. According to rumors they’ve occupied Smolensk. In Moscow yesterday occurred a great explosion at the Ammunition storehouse. Windows were broken along all neighboring streets. What, if we were to get into any such trouble! And here, at parting, Mama quarreled with the cook, an impudent, stupid and brazen woman. She went to complain to the Worker’s Department and we were summoned for an interrogation and, as a result, we were forced to pay her, besides all that she already got from us - (wages from October 250 r. plus board) also 3,500 rubles in cash! To get rid of this wench we had to pay it.

During our absence our neighbor will milk the cow and take care of her, also of the chickens and the vegetable garden – on certain agreement.

At present – money (Leninki) is such “nothingness,” so the paying 3,500 rubles did not cause any regret. But wages, we ourselves, are unable to get. The Treasury is empty of “printed money!” For instance, the Dept. of Education is in debt to the teachers of the District and of the Town of several millions, while it has received from Moscow in the last few days only 100 thousand! Why is this so? Have they no paper? There is a general feeling that a grandiose crash is on the way!

We would have left for Petrograd earlier, but Mama has two concerts to conduct in the School of Music. A few days ago Mama directed a Children’s Performance of “Snow White,” with singing and dancing, at the People’s Theater. Some scenes and numbers were very good. Especially good was the Snow White herself – a charming little girl, in a dress executed after a painting by Vasnetsov.

Saturday, May 15, 1920 - Alexin

I mailed today a registered letter to Nadichka, congratulating her on the birth of a daughter. Somehow, I have felt that she would have a daughter. And today we did receive the news, from Nadya and Volodya that they have decided to name the child Ksenichka. She was born on May 1st, by the new Calendar, in half an hour’s time, so that the midwife did not get there in time and it was a neighbor-seamstress who came to assistance! Well done, Nadya! I am glad for a granddaughter.

(5 pages missing)

Saturday, May 29, 1920 - Petrograd

We have been now in Petrograd since Thursday, May 27, after having left Alexin Friday evening, the 21st. That shows that we dragged ourselves along for 6 days. Mama was very weak, and could hardly walk. Two peasant women and I carried the baggage. We crossed by the bridge of the Oka and stopped at the Kuptzov’s, who welcomed us warmly. They treated us to tea and helped us to get to the station. At midnight we settled down with great difficulty in the corridor of a passenger train car.... In Tula we spent three nights at the Koltsov’s because the train to Moscow does not run every day. On Tuesday, at 4 o’clock in the morning, a fellow with a small cart took our things to the station for 300 r., and there we stood on the platform, suffering, waiting for the train, worrying at the thought of traveling to Moscow on a more than overcrowded train. We of course did not succeed to get into a special car, and I foresaw that we would not get a seat. The train arrived only at 1 o’clock day time. People were sitting on the roofs, hanging on the brakes and on the engine. But there were several First Class cars that were almost empty, but into which no one was allowed to enter, because they were occupied by some kind of “engineers.” But Mama did not get confused by this; she forced herself into one of these cars and begged the wife of one of the engineers to let us in if only into the corridor. After long discussions and after checking our mandates, we were at last let in and were glad to settle down on the sliding benches of the corridor. It ended, however, with our being allowed to settle in the Chief conductor’s coupe, where we were able to stretch ourselves out each on its separate berth, and drink tea and have a bite.

We arrived in Moscow at 10 o’clock in the evening. To go to the Nikolaevsky Station at this hour, not knowing where to spend the night, was rather awkward, but thanks to the kind invitation of engineers, we stayed for the night in the car! These engineers were living in the car and were to return in it, from Moscow to Kharkov.

After an excellent night we drove in the morning by cab, for 500 r. to the Nikolaevsky Station. Mama could hardly walk. On our way from Tula to Moscow we ate, drank, bought milk for 200 r. a bottle, and nowhere were our things checked nor nothing was taken from us.

In Moscow Mama stayed in the Station’s Ladies Waiting Room while I went down town to get train reservations, but was not successful. I stopped in at Alexander Medtner’s, at Gonezdnikovsky Pereulok, then returned to Station. The perspective of waiting until the 10 o’clock train, without the reservations was facing us. All places were taken on the 6 o’clock train. But I went to the Station Master and told him that my wife is ill, lying in the Ladies Waiting Room, and that it would be impossible for her to travel without a reservation. The Station Master turned out to be very understanding and immediately issued a permit for us to travel on the 6 o’clock train, in the delegates’ car. Thus, we had again the possibility of sleeping stretched out in full length.

In Petrograd some young woman carried our baggage for a pound of bread! And so, we have arrived here. The porter asked 1,000 rubles for bringing the two small baskets from the train to the street, but then took only 75 r.

Yesterday I cleared the question of evicting me from the Apartment. There will be no eviction! I learned of the death a week ago of Bergholtz (an artist) of consumption brought on by starvation and worry!

Sunday, May 30, 1920 - Petrograd

I’ve been at the market where I’ve bought 3 lbs of millet for 1,600 r., 3 lbs of potatoes for 450 r., and exchanged 5 lbs of Soviet stale bread for 1 ½ lb of buckwheat groats.

We are firing the range and the small stove and are making soup from veal bones, pork, sorrel, and barley. The veal in the hot car of the train and packed in the basket was found covered thick with white, fat worms. They had eaten up half of the veal, but the rest of it we shall eat ourselves!!

Yesterday I went to the Kuindji Club, saw Kuznetsov. The artists in Petrograd are very busy and some earn up to 200,000 a month, spending it all on food. This does not seem tempting to me, considering the absence of fuel for the winter and water in faucets. Just now I carry up to the 6th floor, buckets of water 2-3 times a day a get VERY tired.

Saturday, June 5, 1920 - Petrograd

We attended the concert of Zoya Lodii; we walked to the conservatory along almost desolate streets.

Wednesday, June 9, 1920 - Petrograd

Richard Alexandrovich Bergholtz has died of a galloping consumption. He did not endure, did not know how to adapt himself, was too hostile toward all that is going on in Russia. I did not find him among the living; he died a week before our arrival.

Sunday, June 13, 1920 - Petrograd

I’ve just returned from Plussy, from the Zabelins. I spent with them 3 days. Painted a small head of Ninochka, their oldest child. Brought from there bread, eggs, barley, potatoes. Traveled in comfort in a Staff’s car.

Last week Zabelin had come to Tchernyshov on my invitation, since I was then not permitted to go to Plussy. He brought us provisions, spent two nights with us, brought money for his own portrait – 3,000 kerenki, and decided to acquire one of my paintings for 50,000 r. He also brought me the permit to go to Plussy which I used to go there. It was very cozy at the Zabelins: nightingales were singing, the weather wonderful, the people charming.

The newspapers of the 11th and 12th of June contained sensational news: 1) Letters for abroad are accepted; 2) Resumption of trade relations with England, France and Norway have been announced; 3) Victory on the Polish front. Soviet Russia is triumphing! The Soviet regime is growing stronger and is becoming the normal government. And – oh joy! – I shall be able to communicate with Natashenka! That’s the most important. Tomorrow yet I shall mail to her a letter!

On June 15, 1920 I mailed from Petrograd two registered letters to Natasha: one, #1, which was written in January, 1919, and stayed at Dimanises, owing to lack of opportunity of mailing it to America; the other, #2, that we have just written.

Saturday, June 26, 1920 - Petrograd

We are still in Petrograd!! From all the work, and from carrying water up to the 6th floor I became ill. The heart is giving me trouble and by its enlargement causing strong lasting pain in the region of my stomach! We are still selling all kinds of “trash” and already sold more than 400,000 worth. Much of it we are using up on food - several thousand a day.

From Sonya came a letter, not a very cheerful one; she suffers from lack of food, is ill and overworked. For some reason she does not even mention Yuri. By the way, I’ve been to the lecture of Boris Nikolaevich Demchinksi in the City Hall. Topic: “Christ in the World of Mind.” A great number of people were present. A countless number of lectures on religious subjects are given now; among the multitudes there is a great hunger and intellectual fermentation in the field of religion.

After the lecture I met Demchinski. When home I jotted down my oppositions and yesterday visited him at his home. We talked a great deal. By my oppositions I led him to the true way of God-seeking, in the spirit of the “neo-Christian” mystics: Solovyev, Merejkovsky, Berdyaev. Though he himself is intelligent, there is still much of the realist in him. My conversation has interested him very much and he wants to continue our talks during the coming days. My enthusiasm for spiritual questions and lecturers are irritating Mama. She would prefer to see that I devote myself, the way she is, to the “trifles,” to be able to get away from here as soon as possible.

We sold the property at Turisevo (Finland) – to Klochkov for 12,000 Duma rubles = 72,000 Soviet money.

Wednesday, June 30, 1920 - Petrograd

Our departure from Petrograd is near. We are bored here, and no matter how much we spend on food, we are not getting any stronger, but are growing weaker. From all the bad food here, my pains keep on, not only in the heart, but in the stomach and intestines. I spent 2 days in bed with some fever and great weakness. I had to give up the carrying of water. It is now carried by a fellow, a sort of a reminiscence of a “dvornik” (janitor) for 100 r. for the daily 2 buckets. This weakness of mine and of Mama’s, as well as other considerations, has convinced us that we should not go to Rostov, or even to Voronezh, but calmly stay in Tula and have Sonya come there and, if possible, also Nadya with Voldemar – to settle there, in the center of things and not in some outlying districts; it’s near Moscow and 24 hours to Petrograd, where we must hold on to the Apartment, Studio, and our property.

Sunday, July 11, 1920 - Alexin

Today at 6 o’clock in the morning we arrived here after being on the way since Wednesday. The trip from Petrograd to Moscow was tolerable: we had reservations, so we were able to sleep and forget to a certain degree the phenomenally trying experience in Petrograd, of going from Office to Office, in order to get the final permit for boarding the train. The endless red tape in the Offices with all the absurdity, complication of the manipulations and confusion – is amazing! Our mandates were rejected ten tines by different employees and for different reasons: ... “Why was the word ‘copy’ written at the top of the mandate, give us the original, send for it in a letter to Alexin and wait for the original for two months!” – This is a mandate not a mission order, even though there is written – ‘The terms of this mission’ ...One girl employee issued a certificate for the right of leaving Petrograd, using for shortening, one sheet of paper for both of us, while at the station ticket window, because of it, the ticket and reservation is issued to me only, not to my wife: “Why is her name written on the same sheet of paper with your name; she must therefore travel separately and without a reservation!” But she has her own mandate, equivalent to mine! But this is ignored, because her name appears with that of her husband... After all the shouting, quarreling and insults, and in the face of possibly missing the train, we are finally given two reservations! And more such endless anecdotical incidents!

Nevertheless, we arrived in Moscow quite well. There were six bourgeois individuals in the coupe; we ate much, drank milk, tea.... In Moscow we stayed from 7:00 am till 10:00 pm. By a dry-cart with our baggage we drove to the Kursky Station. At the market we bought milk and berries. We ate at the station, checked our baggage, except for 4 rather heavy things that we carried ourselves, and went to town to see the Medtner’s. We saw Sasha, Sonya, and Andryusha. Sonya is just a shadow. They are living in 1-2 rooms, in much disorder, and not eating enough. Andryusha had dragged from Odintsovo some chips to heat the “bourgeouika” (a small Soviet stove) that stood in the bedroom. Uncle Karl is in a Sanatorium. Three fourths of the Apartment is rented out to lodgers. The book “Preptice Millford” for which I really came and stopped in, I did not get: Sasha said that only by this book Uncle Karl is still alive! Then we went to see Aunt Sonya. She was not at home. Zoya comes home late. The children are in welfare schools. At last Aunt Sonya returned. She has grown very old, but is energetic, and somehow with the rations, manages to live. We left for the Station dead tired and soon hired a cab for 1,000 rubles.

Into the train we forced ourselves, with our baggage, with great difficulty. A conductor would not let us in, saying that according to our thoroughfare tickets from Petrograd, we have no right for the Tula train, but must travel to Alexin via Vyazma! Again we had to shout, quarrel and prove to the idiot that to Alexin there is only one way – and that’s through Tula, and that this is written on the ticket: “via Tula!” We did not sleep that night at all!

In Tula we went by cab with part of our baggage directly to Koltsov’s where we immediately dropped off to sleep. The next day, in the evening, we left for Alexin, and waited at the Station from midnight till 4 o’clock in the morning. With much trouble, loaded with 11 pieces of luggage, we squeezed ourselves into the train, in complete darkness. Again we did not sleep at all. And here we are at home, that is, in one of our three “homes.”

Wednesday, July 14, 1920 - Alexin

Yesterday one of the most lovable men, our good friend, teacher of drawing, Michael Petrovich Radicnov, drowned in the Oka River. That very same day I had talked with him a great deal and for a long time. He was enthusiastically devoted to the Teacher’s Society, was in charge of distribution of provisions, expected me at his house that evening, to hear about my impressions in Petrograd, and now....

He was swimming across the Oka in view of his wife and children when suddenly he gave out a faint cry and went to the bottom. Up to this time his body had not been found, had not come up yet.

Twenty four hours later his body surfaced and he was buried. His widow and two small children presented a very sad sight. A wake was held, a table set with pirogs, herring, bread, fried potatoes, tea and sugar.

Saturday, July 17, 1920 - Alexin

The entire cost of our trip to Petrograd and back, from May 21 to July 11, i.e., for seven weeks, amounted to 140,000 rubles, about 3,000 per day.

Tuesday, July 20, 1920 - Alexin

A company of 10-15 people are going from here to Rostov in a special train. We would like to join them. However, they are preparing to leave rather soon, while we have not even begun any liquidation! We fear that we shall not be ready by the time they are leaving. I must still go to Tula and finish here several of my works. And after that there is the question of liquidating Dubrachok!!

I have already resigned from my job.

Sunday, July 25, 1920 - Alexin

I arrived here this morning without having slept at all. The train was so crowded that I was forced to get down at the feet of some sleeping lady and was pressed against her by the tovarischi (comrades), so that there was nothing left for me but to recline on top of this lady, in complete darkness. At first she pressed her stockinged feet against my face and then I was pressed still closer against her and had to lay on her hip, which served me for a pillow. The heat was intolerable. My head was hot and her hip was hot; the lady removed one knitted slipper and put it under my head – in this position we rode clear to Tula.

In Tula I spent 3 days, finishing Madame’s portrait, obtained a pass to Rostov, though to get it, it will be necessary to go once more to Tula with a “certification” from the Alexin District’s People’s Education Department.

Friday, July 30, 1920 - Alexin

During the trip from Tula to Alexin I again did not sleep all night. But this time the night passed without any special fatigue, because throughout the night I talked with an interesting young Jewish girl, who after noticing me through the compartment window, recognized in me a gentleman and decided to join me. She did not make a mistake, for all around, on all bunks, “fellow-tovarischi” remained stretched out full length, while I stood up and gave her my bunk, and sat down on a basket next to her and entertained her with my conversation. In the beginning our conversation ran in complete darkness and its character became somewhat fantastic, but as it gradually grew lighter, it took on a more realistic quality. On arrival in Alexin, in full light, I noticed that the young Jewish girl was very attractive looking. At the station buffet we had tea and together we walked to the town. Her way led past my house, to her Mother’s dacha in the Pine Grove.. She reminded me much of Sonya (my daughter): short hair, masculine face, suntanned, shapely, elegant, and a singer....

Sunday, August 1, 1920 - Alexin

We are busy in trying to get a private train compartment. It’s not going very smoothly. It’s assumed here, that by allotting us a freight car to Rostov, the interests of Russia will thereby suffer fatally! Tomorrow I am going to Tula. Am hurriedly finishing the portrait of Marie Alexaevna Smirnova, and little by little am sorting and packing my belongings. Here, in Alexin, the apple harvest is at its height. This morning, each of us ate two soft boiled eggs. I drank 2 large cups of coffee (made with real chicory) with milk, black bread with sweet butter and one more large cup of fresh milk. After the “coffee,” till dinner, we ate greedily sweet apples from our own garden. Dinner: vegetarian soup, vegetables, greens, potatoes, mushrooms, sweet butter! Second course: black thin kasha, with sweet butter and milk! The third course: fritters, made of wheaten flour, with apples in large quantity, and milk. As a result, I am full to my capacity. I forgot to mention that the fritters were heavily sprinkled with sugar!

I received a letter (an answer) from Uncle Karl. The book that I had asked for, “Milford’s Preptice,” he is refusing to send me, being afraid that it will get lost in the mail, but is promising to send me his translation of it into Russian. He complains of being tired from work, from which he should retire for good, since he is already 74 years old, but the necessity compels him to toil hard for a livelihood.

Monday, August 2, 1920 - Tula

Yesterday in Alexin, “The Marriage” (comedy by Gogol) was staged. After the performance I had to hurry to the Station to catch the train (3-4 versts). I was rushing down toward the river, when I heard the Kaluga train approaching the station. I started running as fast as I could, becoming out of breath, but caught the train after all, and forced myself into the overfilled compartment. I again happened to travel on a Sunday with a crowd of laborers. There was absolutely no space left on any bench and I had to sit down on the floor, leaning against the knees of some white figure that in the darkness could be taken for a woman or a priest. It turned out to be a lady – the wife of the physician. In Tula I shared with her the hire of a cab, one thousand rubles each. Affairs here are progressing excellently. I received a pass to Rostov and the right to a separate car. Am finishing up the work at Koltsov’s, and am returning tomorrow to Alexin.

Thursday, August 5, 1920 - Alexin

Here, on the contrary, affairs are very bad: - all authorizations from the People’s Educational Department and the Government Executive Committee, regarding the getting of a separate car, have come to nothing. The local freight station made the inquiry in Kaluga and received a refusal. They are leaving it to us to solicit the People’s Commissariate in Moscow !! ... - We will have to travel by the Moscow-Rostov Express, or by a regular passenger train. Now I am sending an inquiry to Tula for information regarding the Express.

Tuesday, August 6, 1920 - Alexin

Letter # 3 mailed to Natasha.

It will be necessary to order a wooden trunk to be able to check our baggage. I applied to the Municipal Communal Soviet, but was refused. Instead I should have acted through Popov; I am hurrying to finish his portrait as he is leaving soon on his mission. So I will ask him to use his “magic powers” to obtain for me permission to order the trunk and to get in Tula reservations for the Moscow-Rostov Express train.

The portrait is succeeding very well!

We had a surprise visit by Egorushka! (He is the son of Agrafena, from the village of Dubrachok. I placed him at the age of 12, as an apprentice in a Photo Studio, and he became a photographer.) He spent two nights with us; carried the water for us, chopped wood, heated the samovars. Went to Dubrachok with our message to Aunt Milya about our departure on Thursday. She sent an answer with him, saying that Alexei Petrovich will come on Wednesday for Mashka!

Monday, August 9, 1920 - Alexin

Yesterday we received a telegram from Nadya and Sonya, from Nahichevan; they are expecting us and already have prepared for us an apartment. I finished yesterday Ivan Nikolaevich Popov’s portrait, also other works. Koltsov has been here from Tula. I’ve asked him to make some efforts in Tula, to see that we would be put into the Express train on the 15th.

Last night we went to the theater for the last time. We saw Andraev’s “The Days of our Life.” It’s to the highest degree a brutal and frank drama.

Wednesday, August 11, 1920 - Alexin

We have just sent off a truck harnessed to our Kopchik, our old, gaunt Kopchik. On the truck – all the things and chattel that we could not take with us to Rostov – kitchen ware, china, rugs, books, oven tongs, milk pots. Attached to the truck was Mashka, our “nurse.” We shed tears parting from her! Alexei Petrovich and Michael Grudnov arrived last night, spent the night with us and now they drove back.

I feel inexpressive sadness and pity for Mashka and Alexei Petrovich and for the starved, emaciated, almost unrecognizable sister Emily whom very possibly we shall never see again!

Alexei Petrovich has brought us gifts from Dubrachok – a whole bushel of marvelous pears and magnificent apples. And now, after having sent off the truck and being worn out from all the packing, kitchen work (treating the guests and preparing food for our own trip), Mama lay down to rest amidst the chaos of the still unfinished packing, while I look sadly at those magnificent Dubrachok pears, slightly crushed by the jolting on their way, and I see before me our Dubrachok and the long life lived there amid our children, small at first, then growing, finally grown up, and our grandchildren, and all the joys and sorrows and my work and finally the present ruin of Dubrachok, and the starved Aunt Emily.....

The world in which we live is conditioned by our experiences and leaves its imprint on all manifestations of our thoughts and feelings. One does not dare be frank, not even with oneself in one’s own diary!

Sunday, August 15, 1920 - Ryajsk

We are sitting in the Ryasjsk station already for 14 hours and will have to sit here for 2 days more! We left Alexin on Friday, the 13th, after endless proceedings with the documents and baggage. At first a million identification papers were demanded, but at the decisive moment, after they had been obtained and were to be shown, nobody asked for them. The tickets for Rostov were issued and the baggage was accepted! We traveled by the most ordinary train with two changes. We got into the 4th Class, and though we had to ourselves whole bunks, we did not get to sleep much. A terrible crowd of people had been crammed into the space and huddled up together, side by side! We arrived in Ryajsk Saturday evening, the 14th, when the train for Kozlov (our next destination) had already left, and the next one was not due before Tuesday!! – So we are sitting in the station’s First Class Waiting Room, each of us occupying a hard bench. We slept in spite of all the racket and noise, though not too well. In the morning everybody was chased away into the Third Class Waiting Room, for the floors of the First Class Waiting Room were to be washed. We pretended to be sick and were left alone. Our food supply is diminishing in weight as we have been eating much. There is a bazaar near the station where milk, bread, and vegetables can be had.

While still in Alexin, we saw a chauffeur of some major-chief, with 3 of his comrades, waiting on the station platform for the arrival from Moscow of a special First Class Car. We wanted to join them, but the train never arrived. It may get here, in Ryajsk, today or tomorrow, then we shall surely get in and travel in comfort.

Tuesday, August 24, 1920 - Nahichevan

Here we are in Nahichevan (6 versts from Rostov). Since August 13, we finally arrived, after experiencing unbelievable difficulties. We’ve seen Sonya, Nadya, little Ksenichka and Voldemar, and we’ve been living her six days already and still I cannot get used to the thought that no longer are we in dear Alexin, but somewhere in the Far South!

We did not sit in Ryajsk until Tuesday, but joined a couple who were traveling to Kozlov in the private car. We spent the night in their heated compartment. At daybreak approaching Kozlov, we were made to get off, 8 versts from it, at a small intermediate station. We sat there in a helpless situation. We tried to get into a Sanitary train that went directly to Rostov, but were not allowed to get in. We then rode to Kozlov on an open platform of a worker’s train. In Kozlov we spent a whole day and part of the night among a terrible crowd and crush. We went to the bazaar, ate well. From Kozlov a train was set up to go to Rostov. Our getting on that train was a nightmare: 3 porters were hired for 7,000 rubles to get us in – no matter how! We did get to the platform before the crowd. Mama, I, and a young woman who had traveled with us from Ryajsk and was going also to Rostov, helped each other and shared together all our misfortunes. The landing into the car proceeded through the window – heads down, feet up! We lay down on the upper shelves, where we stayed for 2 days and 2 nights; at first rather comfortably, but the farther we traveled the more crowded the compartment became, and by the end we found ourselves bent like a tree from the weight of tens and hundreds of comrades piled upon us with their bags! We did not get to sleep, nor were we able to relieve nature till Nahichevan!

We arrived at Sonya’s. It was a joyful reunion! Vera Vladimirovna (Sonya’s friend) ran to get Nadya, who came running with little Ksenichka, asleep in her arms.

And so 6 days we are sheltered – Mama at Nadya’s and I at Sonya’s. There was no apartment for us. Our baggage we brought from the Station and heaped it up on the stairs of Kedrov’s Apartment.

We are suffering greatly from the heat and from not having a home of our own! How and where we will settle can not be seen yet.

Thursday, September 2, 1920 - Nahichevan

At last we are settled, after having knocked for 2 weeks in strange corridors, right here, in a court, near Sonya. We were allotted a half-lighted room with a separate entrance and a separate kitchen. This small room serves as a bedroom, dining room and studio, all in a heap! It took great ingenuity to make furniture out of the trunks and baskets. With difficulty did we obtain, by begging, 3 rickety chairs!

Both Sonya and Nadya make a dismal impression. Nadya came down with jaundice. It appears that she has caught some typhus-like microbe. She has been ill for a whole week already, while Voldemar has not found time to show her to a doctor. Yesterday Mama dragged her forcibly to the doctor. Nadya should stay in bed, be on a milk diet, but she keeps eating everything, drinks unboiled water, carries slop buckets, runs to the market. Voldemar does not help her much, instead demands to be himself cared for, after having just recently left the hospital, following an attack of typhoid fever.

One pities Ksenichka. Nadya wants to place her in a Nursery. Just now Mama is taking care of Nadya. Sonya too, is not well – her vocal chords are out of order; she has overstrained them by singing in choruses, and in the Synagogue. She needs a complete rest, but in the meantime it is necessary to earn enough, since living with Vera is very costly. She is preoccupied completely with Vera. They have common interests, but because Vera is consumptive and has been rather spoiled by life, Sonya is putting Vera’s interests above all else. Just now, Vera has been ordered to the South and she plans to go to the Armenian Monastery-Sanatorium. Sonya is anxious to go there too. Friendship is, of course, a beautiful thing, but in this case Sonya should devote herself more to her art.

I and Mama have registered ourselves in the Professional Association and other Institutions. Thanks to the written recommendations from the Alexin School of Music, Mama is being well received.

Friday, September 10, 1920 - Nahichevan

So far Mama and I are not experiencing any special improvement from our change of location. I speak, naturally, only what concerns the material side of our existence. – SO poorly, so cramped and in such want we have never lived before! No oil-stove, - only a stove that smokes. No kitchen ware, no kitchen table....We are crammed, there are roaches and bed-bugs....It is impossible to cook at home, even to boil milk is hard! We bought 20 lbs. of kerosene for 9,000 rubles, but there is little sense. We go to the Diner that has been opened especially for artists. It’s cheap and poor, but they’re giving each a slice of bread and that’s good. Nadya goes there too, with the sleeping baby on her shoulders, and so does Sonya and Vera.

Mama has started to go to the Children’s Commune to sing with the children. I myself have not established anywhere yet though I’ve gotten an order to paint a Jewish beauty whose fiance is in a position to pay well. How much I shall ask for it, in cash or provisions, has not yet been decided. I shall see her today and decide where and how to paint her.

By an unusual chance we met my deceased brother Kostya’s fiancée, Anna Nikolaevna. We visited her last night. She told us much of her romance with him, of his experiences, his illness and death. It is a dismal story!

We read in books and see in the theater different tragical horrors, but what surrounds us in life is a much greater tragedy! When I think of what poor Uncle Kostya had to live through on the eve of his wedding, when he was choking by the tumor in his throat, suffocating, gasping for breath, when blood was gushing from the wound in his side and death was parting him from her - what horror!

How sweet poor Anna Nikolaevna is and how unhappy ... How she cried while telling us the details of Uncle Kostya’s dying!

Lisa Brueva (Kostya’s first wife) came to Rostov on the day of the funeral, but she was interested only in Kostya’s property, claiming her right to it. She did not even accompany the body to the cemetery, and Kostya had been a good husband and a loving father to her daughter.....

Saturday, September 25, 1920 - Nahichevan

Mailed a postcard #4 to Natasha on September 17, 1920.

We are beginning to become acclimated. Yesterday and today I have begun painting the portrait of a girl – a neighbor - for some provisions – (kerosene), for not much: 40,000, according to the market price. That is all the niggard is paying. But my hands have begun to itch without work. Also we are spending our last thousands and I begin to feel a vacancy instead of ground underneath my feet. In this squalid little room with only one half dark window, I succeeded to find magnificent light, something radiant, sunny! As always, this gave me new courage.

Though I was busy all day, I do not feel fatigued. From early morning I’ve been heating water on the kerosene stove for coffee. Mama had not slept well, suffering from neuralgia; this duty fell therefore on me. After the coffee I went to the Jewess for milk, for us and for Sonya and Vera. I got one quart, then went to another one and got one quart more. Then we decided to try preparing dinner at home. For that we borrowed from neighbors one of the many small portable coal stoves (the courtyard is full of such) and we began to heat it. The air is filled with smoke; everybody cooks, fries, and it smells of burnt oil! I too am now transformed into a cook, have besmeared myself with soot and swallowed smoke. We kindled that little stove three times without success, but finally it did catch fire and my little stove began burning and kept on burning all day long and even all night long. We have boiled water ten times already; we drank tea and coffee endlessly, boiled milk (we got two more quarts in the evening), prepared soup for four days, fried cutlets, steamed maize. Even the neighbors availed themselves of my little stove, so lustily did it burn! And it is still in full blaze. And all this has been going on outdoors, by moonlight, in warm weather, so I don’t have to wear a coat.

Sonya is not well. Stomach pains, nausea. She is in bed. Could it be typhoid fever? The day before she sang in the Synagogue for 2 days continually, on the occasion of the Jewish New Year. We want to hear her, but her solo number we missed.

Synagogue service is very monotonous and boring, only occasionally the singing is beautiful. There were among the Jewish public many interesting faces. Especially so a 13-year old boy and one lady, but to my regret they were beyond my reach.

Sunday, September 26, 1920 - Nahichevan

Wonderful weather – autumn sunshine! I agree with Plato – essential in life is ideas! While Dosekin tried to persuade me, that ideas are only talk! Well, he has a peculiar outlook, not compatible with anything since he is a Jesuit! i.e., a petty “great inquisitor.”

Wednesday, September 29, 1920 - Nahichevan

A letter arrived from Ninochka Zbrueva (daughter of Aunt Zhenya and Uncle Dodo) – in Sonya’s name, from Kislovodsk. Uncle Dodo is in Vladikavkaz, is in charge of the Musical Section of the Educational Department. Thus he has become a civil servant! Well, why not? He can do it not worse than any Director of a Department of the old regime. But why are he and his daughter living in different cities??

But our Sonya is down with jaundice and suffers from constant nausea. Vera is diligently taking care of her, may God bless her. Mama has been cooking today on a neighbor’s stove, using our coal to a mutual benefit and advantage.

Rumours, rumours, rumours!!....There is fighting in progress somewhere, on some fronts, strong offensives by the Whites! They’re almost 40 versts from Taganrog! Well, we’ve heard these tales before!

Tomorrow is the Nameday of all our ladies: Vera, Nadejda and Sophia. September 17 by the old calendar. In honor of it Mama has ordered from some woman-cook “krendeli” (holyday cake in the form of a large pretzel). She herself is planning to prepare a Nameday dinner. It will be a big feast. Poor Sonya....

Thursday, October 7, 1920 - Nahichevan

All kinds of contradictory and diverse rumours are afoot about the situations on the Polish front and even in regard to nearby Mariupol and Ekaterinoslav. This makes us very nervous!! Sonya is strongly dreaming of fleeing from here to Rislovodsk or Vladikavkaz. It happened that just today Irinochka Kedrova came with the information that some gentleman is going there and is willing to take along two ladies (Sonya and Vera). Without any special patronage and without any such chance, it is impossible to travel south from here. We must write Uncle Dodo – perhaps he can think up some means to get all of us moved south. It’s very bad here: the climate is wretched and living is expensive. During the coming cold months we shall freeze. Coal costs 2,000 r. for a pood, and that’s only for one day! We have begun to heat the stove in our small room. The neighbor-woman has taught us how to kindle it. As a result, it is warm and Mama has prepared a good dinner, after having spent at the market 6,000 r. for chicken. Sonya with Vera dined with us. Sonya is very weak, can hardly move, and her stomach causes her to suffer. The stove however smoked badly and produced charcoal fumes. Our heads were ready to burst! The water began dripping from the windows, the room is damp.

Another significant event of the day: a visit by the young lady Lolya, on my invitation to pose (she is one of the admirers of Sonya and Vera). She came with her friend Irochka Kedrova who has helped me much: when I asked her – how she thinks I should best paint Lolya, she answered: “in the nude.” And surely enough, Lolya turned out to be of rare beauty, and regardless of her 16 years and great modesty, she was not at all embarrassed. The hour spent in studying the beauty of this model took me back to other times and other conditions of life!

Mama has just returned from her employment. Nadya too was at the Commune for the first time, where she taught something. Ksenichka stayed home with her papa. It is sad that Nadya and her husband are in great disagreement regarding how to handle the child at night. She is crying and complaining, i.e., not Ksenichka, but Nadya.

Friday, October 8, 1920 - Nahichevan

Victory on all fronts! With Poland we, i.e., the Soviet Communist Republic, have concluded an armistice. The ally of Wrangel – Maho – has gone over to the side of the Red Army. The Reds are forcing Wrangel’s right wing and have again occupied Mariupol!

In Moscow Lenin and Lunocharsky have addressed the Young People’s Union, telling them it’s their duty to build a communist regime.

In such a situation, if Communist Russia is victorious everywhere and is really building something, I would like to be a Communist!... But the fact is that I don’t see and understand a thing about our Russian Communism! And I don’t see anything that would explain it to me. It is being said that it is a new world revelation, a crossing over to something great, wonderful, that will give complete happiness and satisfaction the best demands of human nature!

So speak the Communists – in idea, and I want to believe them: it should be so, since the attempt of reaching this ideal, the struggle for it has been going on for 4 years already with the shedding of so much blood. It means that the goal is a great one! And this new goal is winning in all fronts! Well, victory to the strong! Let’s all be Communists! But why is this brilliant victory so bashfully hiding its face? Why then can’t I see this Communism but must ask someone to explain it to me and tell me where is it? Why don’t I see around me everybody’s craving to become Communists? But, on the contrary, I hear only all kinds of blame in regard to this new world’s happiness? What then, is the matter? I don’t understand a thing! But I do want to be not only a resident, but a citizen, and if my fate is to be a citizen of a victorious Communist regime, then I want to be a Communist. But it’s queer that in this very normal longing, I stand before an unsolved puzzle, while being a citizen of one’s regime should be the easiest, one’s most normal state! But to me this is a problem that’s hard, unreal, and illogical. Why, for instance, do I (a citizen of my Motherland) have a feeling like being arrested and being under inquest, why do I fear and am always as if in wait that someone will come and drive me away somewhere, something will be confiscated from me, in something I will be suspected, something will be forbidden to me, somewhere I would not be allowed to go??? – Is this Communism? As a matter of fact, in Communistic Russia absolutely no one lives according to the decrees of the Communistic Government. The norms of Communist structure is apparently not alluring to any one. Is it possible that I must admit to myself that Communism in Russia is not the goal in itself, but only a means toward some other goal? For only in the latter case can be found an explanation, a justification for our formal, purely exterior, nominal Communism. If our Communism were in itself the goal and would be evident and practiced, not only externally, - the citizens would understand it better and would be enthusiastically in favor of Communism. However why then is there so little talk about Communism, that slogan of all the stubborn, blood-shedding struggle? Communism is not the subject of an enthusiastic worship and imitation, not a faith, not a desirable heroic exploit, not an experiment for daily living, but it’s only a state label, which gives one certain preferential rights and impress certain obligations! If my judgment is not correct, let it be explained to me, as to where I am in error and why do I see with my own eyes not what is actually going on? Let it be explained to me why out of 1,000 people, 999 are subjected to this optical illusion? And so I want to be a Communist!

Wednesday, October 13, 1920 - Nahichevan

It is the second night that I see Kolya in my dreams. He is playing in public and is playing badly, and I want to sink through the ground. It is strange that I keep seeing such nonsense, because in reality, I think of Kolya and see him always only as triumphing, since I have such faith in his great talent.

I am sending Uncle Karl Medtner Natashenka’s address, to have him write her as soon as he will have crossed the border of the Federal Republic and find himself abroad!

Here in Nihichevan, the situation is becoming from day to day more and more intolerable, living is becoming more costly and there is no money coming in. I have no employment, and though Mama is employed, she has received no salary yet. The same is true of Sonya and Vera. We are living by selling all kinds of scraps, and odds and ends in the bazaar. But to all this reserve of chattel there will be an end. For painting the little girl’s portrait I received soap, rice, tobacco, and some other paltry stuff. The Jewess, whose portrait I was to paint for 100 thousand, has apparently changed her mind, though she insists it is not so. As to painting Lolya, a work that had begun so successfully, a whole affair resulted from it: she and Ira Kedrova had told at home of being painted denuded, and so they got such a scolding and were prohibited to come to our house to pose. That enraged me, it made me so sad, so disappointed that I became sick and am feeling now much depressed. And this scandal, this posing of these young girls – is only beginning to break out!

I remember – for the information of my children – that in Petrograd, at the Kuindji Society, on Gogol Street, is my portrait, one of the most successful ones, painted during the last years of my residence in Petrograd, in 1918. It has been on exhibit in the Winter Palace and was left there with other paintings. The manager of paintings of the Kuindji Society, Venedict Pavlovich Kuznetsov, was charged to move the portrait from the Palace and to place it in the Society’s storage. The portrait is in an oak frame.

A letter to Natasha, # 5, sent through K. Medtner on Oct. 15, 1920.

Wednesday, October 27, 1920 - Nahichevan

My letter to Comrade Gerus: “I am very sorry that because of illness (am in bed) I cannot appear as opponent at your lecture today. I regret it especially, since it was on my proposal that you agreed to speak on the subject: “Religious Sentiment as a psychological problem.” I trust that you will permit me to appear on my own (when I get well), and to express my point of view, since the elucidation of this important question from only one point of view is, in any case, not desirable. I only would like to acquaint myself first with the principal statements of your lecture. At your service, - V. Stember.”

Saturday, October 30, 1920 - Nahichevan

I have been lying in bed with this disgusting jaundice for a week now. The illness in itself is trifling, but it is exhausting, takes away all appetite, all one dares eat is milk. One is constantly thirsty. My temperature is now normal, but I am very weak. All around and near me is in a chaotic commotion: my syringes, chamber pots, also buckets; and here also is the kitchen, the dirt, the litter, confusion, the endless bustling in trying to heat the kitchen stove with hard coal. Dishes washed and unwashed on the table and on two shaky shelves, also kitchen pots and frying pans, and smoke of burned oil...dough is being kneaded, salt crushed, something chopped, and that hissing of the primus stove.... And in the evening that pitiless smell from the smoking lamp. Sometimes Sonya drops in, helps bringing water, cuts up the pumpkin, goes after milk, washes dishes. For dinner comes also Vera. They eat, talk about their early departure, about money, about what to sell in order to have means for the trip....

Regardless of all, Mama keeps going to the Children’s Commune, gives singing lessons, comes home tired, scolds, fusses about all the disorder, the children’s irresponsibility, but she brings home bread, her own dinner and some provisions. Thanks for that, since no one has been paid any wages for three months already, and no bread at all has been issued, not even for ration cards!

Sunday, October 31, 1920 - Nahichevan

The adjoining room has been vacated for us and it will be joined to our single one. Thus we shall have two rooms, but will this mean an improvement? No, it will be worse: it will be colder, not as cozy, lonelier. In general I feel so lonely, so very lo-o-o-nely, I want to howl....

The other day I received a parcel that cost 3,000 r. I felt sure that it was a book from Galya Ryshkova. Sonya brought it from the Post Office today. It turned out to contain my old pair of rubber boots from Petrograd, sent by my neighbor in Chernishev Pereulok. Well, in the end, rubber boots will be perhaps more useful than a book: at least my feet will not get so terribly wet during the damp fall weather.

From nothing to do I have been lolling in bed all day, reading Kuprin. A talented writer. I feel a phenomenal boredom and tediousness. There is not a single living human soul around here! Indifferent mannequins only. Shallow, narrow-minded, petty human beings – thinking only of their stomachs! There were more real people in Alexin. I attempted to approach some people here, but did not succeed. Dosekin, Ilyin, Marieta luck. Either I do not know how to contact a person, or there is something repulsive in me?....

Friday, November 5, 1920 - Nahichevan

We are enduring real “labor-camp” trials. We are stuck in the mire of kitchen jobs! The kitchen stove is giving us trouble: to kindle it with coal – is a half day long process. We quarrel, we swear, we’re in bad temper, while sitting in 7 degree temperature and are inhaling coal dust!! That’s our life. As usual Nadichka just came for her bread, biscuits and Lenten oil. She is selling her last sheets at the market. There is no money. Volodya’s salary has not been paid for the third month already. As a fact, no one is being paid. An answer came finally from Uncle Dodo to my letter of exactly a month ago. He is calling us to come to Vladikavkaz, where living is less expensive and the climate better. I wrote him that we are in agreement and asked him to send us a mission certificate....Perhaps it really will be better there, for to continue living as we do now here – is impossible!

Friday, November 26, 1920 - Nahichevan

Regardless of everything, we have lived here another 20 days! And to a certain extent have come to tolerate the situation. Though I had written Uncle Dodo asking him to send all of us, and as soon as possible, certificates for travel to Vladikavkaz, but apparently we shall stay here till spring. The fact is we have learned to heat the kitchen stove with coal and I have gotten used to doing certain work from 8 o’clock in the morning until 1 o’clock, - such as chopping, splitting, carrying water, going after milk, etc. Besides, I found something of a rather intellectual nature to interest me, after dropping in the other day on a lecture held in a Club of some Organization where lectures are given regularly. The speaker was Garus (member of the 2nd Government Duma of the Old Regime). The subject was “Science and Religion,” naturally in the spirit of Marxist-Communism. I refuted. He turned out to be rather likable and tolerant toward me, his opponent. This tempted me to appear independently, by a reply motivated in detail. So within a week I wrote a whole essay which I presented the other day. This occupation provided a certain interest to my existence.

Mama, too, has become much interested in her choir work in the Children’s Communes. It’s “Child’s Week” just now and she is preparing her choirs for a joint performance in three large Children’s Concerts, to be given in Nahichevan and in Rostov, in their large theaters. Intensive rehearsals are in progress (even in our two small rooms). Besides the singing, Mama is staging also Russian dances, while Vera is putting on a comical two-girl’s dance. All this promises to be a big success. Mama with her children outdid all other numbers of the program and the manager of these matters – Pressman – is delighted with Mama’s work.

Regarding provisions and fuel, we also have managed to arrange matters in spite of the ever growing prices. We have bought 20 pood of coal, thanks to the sale of our reserves of manufactory – for several hundred thousand rubles. Yesterday I made a sketch of a poster, an order that was given to Volodya Litvinov. He could not do it, so he came to me. Perhaps I shall start painting posters myself. Artists are earning hundreds of thousands a month with this work! There is an Organization of artists here that have taken all such work into their hands. One of them, Dosekin, is an old acquaintance of mine from Moscow. But so far he has been very indifferent toward me and is boycotting me. It will be necessary for me to force this obstacle.

Sunday, November 28, 1920 - Nahichevan

The sketch of the poster created quite a sensation. Volodya brought home a large piece of plywood for its enlargement and coloring. Nadya undertook to do it and succeeded, in general, not badly. I went to her house out of curiosity, but decided to take the brush myself. We agreed not to water-color it, or dirty our hands with sticky colors, but to use oil paints. That’s more convenient for me. Nadya went to my house for the paints and left Mama a note, saying that I shall not be coming home, that she should warm up dinner only for herself. So I worked at Nadya’s the whole day. She fed me with macaroni and cottage cheese. By twilight 2 parts of the triptych were finished, but the 3rd part remained not done. However the whole thing had to be delivered by the evening of that day. We had to delay it by half a day. The following day I went again to Nadya’s. She had begun already to paint the third part, but I finished it by noon, and, as it seems, rather successfully. The result was not a poster, but three full paintings, on which could be seen not the usual, trite poster figures only, but there was a color-effect, there was air, movement, etc. At 12 o’clock Volodya delivered it, carrying the poster, as big as the top of a large table, in such a way that the bitter cold wind moved hin along llie a sail boat! The result was excellent, though I’ve had no detailed report on it yet.

We have been distressed by what has happened to our trader-woman agent; there was a raid at the market and she was robbed of our things: a bashlik (hood), a waistcoat, laces, in all to the amount of about 20 thousand.

Monday, November 29, 1920 - Nahichevan

Well, we’ve been here nearly 4 months and during this time not once have we been to the theater or to a movie! Just now we took it in our heads to go and see the operetta “Hadgi Moorat.” But what’s the use! Tickets have all been sold 3 days ago already. Prices in the first row were 1,500 rubles. And a few days ago I walked to Rostov – in darkness and along a frost-covered road – to hear Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, conducted by Bichter. But what happened!? I bought a ticket in the 6th row for 315 r., sat down in my place, and suddenly the electricity went off!... The audience sat for a whole hour in pitch darkness and then got up and left, knocking their foreheads against all door-posts, crushing, pressing each other....There was not a single little kerosene lamp in the theatre and not an individual among the administration to come out and give the public some explanation. What an animal attitude toward the “free citizens” of the most advanced government in the world, which has brought PARADISE to the earth!

To demonstrate the justice of his viewpoint, as a materialist, Comrade Gerus (during a discussion) advanced the following deliberation: “We are” he said, “materialists; we do not consider the mind as something absolute and eternal, as something separate from the body. My mind, that is, myself, the entire I – and not only the brain, where the process of thinking takes place, but the whole I, from foot to the crown of the head. Cut off my head – and the brain of itself will stop working, i.e., thinking. With the destruction of my body, my mind too will be destroyed, just as it had begun to develop in my body according to known processes of growth. Mind and body are inseparable.”

Though I tried to inculcate into him how absurd such reasonings are, I naturally did not succeed. I explained to him the following: in the first place, the notion that the idealists think the mind to be something separate and alien to the body, is wrong. On the contrary, the idealists see the mind and body as a unity, and believe that all life’s evil is in the artificial separation of mind and body. That means that the idealist will agree with Comrade Gerus, that the mind is the entire I, from head to heel. But in this the Comrade falls into the pure materialistic limitation, since he understands in the idea “all I” only one’s own skeleton, muscles, and nerves. But this is not enough. How can he be a worshipper of the “historical method” when he looks upon himself with such narrow mindedness? – What is an individual - an individual body and an individual mind? - -The individual body contains particles of millions of bodies that existed beforehand. The point of his development is the moment in the development of millions of individuals beginning from father and mother and going back to the first man, even still farther, to other more primitive forms of organic life on earth, and farther still to those material beginnings from which were created in the cosmic space the earth, further infinity, in other words, my mind and I are one, as an organism, and both undivided go back to infinity, meaning that mind (Spirit) is infinity, not any matter, but an ideal, because eternity can be understood only as an idea. All these ready phrases and arguments of our household materialists are in themselves of little interest. But it would be interesting to bring to the surface and reveal the reason why they are so stubbornly repeating over and over and with such religious zeal their materialistic doctrine, that has been presented to them by someone, as the beginning of wisdom, from which they are to start their own “dance,” like starting over “from the corner of the stove” (Russian saying).

The Jews count the beginning of their era, from the imaginary beginning of the world, something like four thousand years ago, I believe. The Christians – from the establishment of Christ’s New Testament. The Communists – from the time of the Communist Manifesto, in 1848, and all wisdom on which their faith is built was given by Marx and begins with Marx. They look upon all else with contempt and disbelief. Because it is said (mistakenly said) that Marx and his assistants, as well as his nearest forerunners (Feierbach) have, so to say, established a new world outlook – a materialistic one. That is their philosophic justification for the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalistic order and installation of Communism. But Marx is only the creator of the theory. While they – our comrades, are the first to embody this theory into life, to continue and complete this idea of Marx. How is one, then, to avoid materialism?

Friday, December 3, 1920 - Nahichevan

A letter came from Uncle Dodo, from Vladikavkaz. He writes of the arrival here of some bass (singer) with the mission to arrange transportation from Rostov to Vladikavkaz of a Stage Manager, a Conductor, an Actor, and the Artist Stember, - all with their wives and baggage. He also brought an official certificate for myself and Mama. As soon as I received this news, I went to see this singer. It turned out that he had arrived already 5 days ago, without letting me know about it, and that he is leaving with those named within 3-4 days. This term is too short for me. Then it turned out that the people picked for the trip could not be gathered, and that the means for the privileged railroad transportation he was unable to get. That means that we ourselves must travel the ordinary passenger way. We approached M-me Gladky, Sonya’s voice teacher, who has many influential connections, with our request for making the trip to Vladikavkaz by a more or less respectable way...! As it seems I have been enlisted already in a job. What kind of a job – I do not know. And so, again to the road! We are glad to get away from Nahichevan, its climate and people, and from the impossible conditions of living here. However, we are sorry to leave Nadichka and Ksenichka, who will suffer without us here, as well as Sonya. We are getting Sonya with Vera placed in the Communes, as teachers of voice and of dance. At least they will be getting dinners and provisions and will not have to drag themselves about Rostov.

Thursday, December 9, 1920 - Nahichevan

I talked yesterday with the President of the Soviet Peoples’ Economy, Muralov, a confirmed Communist. Mama and I visited him last night. He is living in comfort, in a very well-managed house. A woman-porter, central heating, elegant furniture, wall-to-wall carpeting, samovar, china – all of superior quality. I had intended in Aleixn already to paint his rather pretty wife, and now, because of his favor to me (of having recommended me to the Commandor of the Caucasus Front and obtaining tickets to Vladikavkaz), I decided to paint his wife after all. However, in the end it was put off, owing to the lack of time.

So we had an interesting talk. Of the number of all the well-known, trivial thoughts expressed by him on the subject of Communism, Marxism, there were some not lacking interest: 1) The idea of Communism, as a foundation of the State regime in Russia, did not come down from the moon, so to say, it is not the fancy of some select individuals, but is a necessity developed by history, on a concrete and logical foundation. (???) 2) In Germany (which is closer than other countries to the movement that’s going on in Russia), the masses are convinced already and have come to the conclusion that the economic growth of the land is hindered by the institution of “private property.” Other countries are still far away from the realization of this truth. In Italy they taught that if the workers would gain possession of the factories, they would arrive at a Socialist turnover, but had come to the conclusion that without gaining executive power, nothing would come out of it. France, and especially America, are still farther away from realizing the truth of Communism. 3) The idea of Communism is in itself undergoing some changes, under the influence of some concrete factors. The idea that was ours 3 years ago is not the same now. There are among us Communists who are not capable of changing their idea under any influence; Lenin calls them “Communist infants:” these are the least enlightened people. 4) This elasticity of an idea is based on the unalterable law founded by Marx and even earlier – by Feierbach, - that man’s consciousness is the product of the economic cause and not the other way around. If it seems at times that consciousness precedes the action of man, -- as a matter of fact it is not so, because consciousness had been formed by earlier economic circumstances and then develops psychically, pursuing the goals which appear under historical necessity of the given moment. 5) The feeling of duty comes from the consciousness of economic and historical necessity and it precedes the birth of the sense of right and the formation of lawful norms. 6) The contradictions that appear between right and duty, are the consequences of man’s innate nature. They will level off and man’s nature itself changes under the influence of man’s technical victory over nature and the influence of the perfection in social institutions. 7) The thought that right and duty are as if irreconcilable – belongs to anarchaic teaching that transfers (mistakenly) the center of gravity to the individual where moral impulses appear and develop, so to say, independently.

Wednesday, December 15, 1920 - Nahichevan

We are leaving! A whole week has passed in bustling about and in trying experiences of standing in line to get permits, all kinds of registrations and other endless manipulations of red tape character. The daily walks to Rostov have finished to turn me into a beast of burden: I carried on my back for 6 versts loads of provisions issued for our trip.

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