Translated from the French by Leonard Mayhew
     Hart-Davis, MacGibbon London
     Copiright 1973 by Editions Robert Laffont, S.A.
     To the memory of my brother, Ivan, who was killed at eighteen years  of
age in  Russia  during  the Civil War while serving in the  ranks of General
Wrangel's army.

     This unusual story of  high adventure was discovered by Robert Laffont,
the well-known  French publisher, who responded  to a mysterious note which
read as follows:  "I have an extraordinary tale to tell. But I cannot reveal
my  identity unless you are  interested in its publication. I am, in effect,
the keeper of  a number of secrets. Place an ad in France-Soir. Indicate the
hour when I can telephone you and meet you personally. The ad should read as
follows:  Robert  Laffont asks Nicholas  to  telephone him  on -------  day,
------ hour."  The  result  is  Nicholas Svidine's dramatic  account  of the
legendary White Army treasure, which has been acclaimed by the French press.

     The story  of my odyssey  with the "treasure  of  the White Army"  will
bring down criticism on me from every side. My Russian fellow exiles will be
incredulous. Many others will say that I had no  right to keep the existence
of this fortune a secret.  They will tell me that others had a right to know
about  it. But the truth is that I didn't know whom to tell. And I sincerely
believed that no one had a better right to the "treasure" than I.
     Actually,  however, in the end the "treasure"  and  my many attempts to
recover it ruined  my  life and brought me  nothing  but  terrible moral and
physical anguish. I risked my life for it. Others died for it. If it had not
been for the treasure I could have led a normal life --  done normal work and
earned normal satisfactions.
     It's too late for  regrets,  but  enough is enough, and I am forgetting
about the treasure. It  will never be found, because I  could never possibly
describe where it  is  and how  to  find  it. After so many  years  even the
landscape must have changed considerably. No, I am the only one who might be
able to identify the place, but I shall never go back to Bulgaria to try.
     I  will  be condemned as well for  having  sold secret  information  to
several  governments.  But  the  fact  is  that these countries struck  good
bargains -- whatever they may  say now. And it kept them on their  toes. Even
the  Soviets have no complaint; most  of  my  "information"  came from their
weekly, the New Times, which at that time had a small foreign circulation. I
shall explain why  and how I became an "informer" for the  United States and
for Nationalist China.
     I know  only too  well  the  risks  involved in publishing  this story,
because I have already suffered the most cruel punishment -- exile.

     NOVEMBER 1920.  The steamship Vladimir  was docked at Theodosia, on the
Black  Sea, the  decks,  cabins and  hold  all filled with Cossack soldiers.
There was no room to budge. From the city came the constant sound of gunfire
and bombs. To prevent  the Reds from getting our  stores  we had set fire to
warehouses that were  filled with all the  things we had lacked so sorely at
the front: uniforms  sent by  the English,  canned food,  everything  we had
needed. Thousands of riderless horses  galloped in  confusion  all  over the
beach while their Cossack masters wept  at having to  abandon these comrades
who had saved their lives so  often.  Those of us on board were anguished at
the sight of the English cannons that had arrived just too late to  help us.
The soldier-workers and the Greens -- Bolshevik partisans who operated in the
forests  and  mountains  --  wanted  to  block our escape  but were afraid to
advance  on  us even  now.  Defeated  by superior  numbers, ironically,  our
departure  was  a  kind  of victory:  our enemy's bitterest defeat  was  its
powerlessness to keep us  from getting away. The last Cossacks  mounted  the
gangplank, their rough faces twisted with  confusion and despair. None of us
had ever been outside Russia. Now we were leaving forever.
     Eventually,  I found a warm place to sit, propped myself up against the
smokestack,  and looked  back over my  short life.  I was  twenty-two. I had
grown  up on a small estate in the Cossack territory of Kuban. My family had
lived for generations in the Caucasus,  a land with rich resources, pleasant
climate  and  natural  beauty.  But  when  Russia conquered the Caucasus  my
grandfather had decided to settle on the Kuban.
     All the  men in my family had been soldiers.  No other way of life  had
ever occurred to them.  My great-grandfather had fought the fierce Cherkess,
a people  of ancient Islamic  culture who  were  unbelievably fanatical  and
fiercely courageous -- and armed by the Turks. And  the men in my family were
giants -- my relatives considered it tragic that I had stopped growing at six
feet. Only half jokingly, my  father and grandfather had dubbed me  a freak.
My  father  was  a  strict  but  scrupulously  fair man  whose  rewards  and
punishments were always deserved. He was six feet six inches tall. My mother
adored me  but she interfered between us only when she thought my father had
gone  too far in finding fault  with me. Since family custom dictated that I
be "toughened  up," I was sent at eight years  of age to a boarding school a
hundred and twenty miles away. I hated it at first,  and would cry myself to
sleep  each night.  But  I  got  used  to being  away  from home  except for
     When world war broke out in 1914, I was a teenager, the kind of student
who did just  enough to  get by. My father  had  died two years  before from
wounds he  had received  in the Russo-Japanese War. When war came, my  whole
upbringing  had led me quite naturally to dream of  gallant exploits. I  was
disgusted with  myself that I was too young to join, but the  war  ground on
and by the end  of 1915 I was seventeen, old  enough to volunteer. I had set
my heart on becoming an officer.
     The army had lost so many that an  accelerated  officer training course
had been established -- four months instead of the usual  two or three years;
you could complete your course work after the  war if you lived that long. I
was still  technically  a  year  too young to be eligible for  the  military
academy, but it was now possible, because of the circumstances, to take  the
examination whenever one felt ready. I didn't tell my mother, but I began to
try to  cram a year's work  into  the  shortest  possible  time, and I often
studied until the early hours of the morning. After three months, I notified
the  director  of  the  school  that  I  was prepared  to  take the entrance
examination  for the military academy. Because of my mediocre school record,
he thought I was just mouthing off. But I persisted, and he finally gave in,
warning me that no special  allowances would be made and that he was all but
certain I  would fail. But I passed  the  difficult examination with  flying
colors, much to his surprise.
     "All  those years you've been pulling the wool over our eyes," he said,
"pretending to be a second-rate student."
     "1 want to go to war so much, it has worked a miracle," I told him.
     I had  not  given my mother even a hint  of what I  was up to because I
knew  she would object. And of course when I  showed her my  report card and
told her I wanted to  enter the military academy, she was vehemently opposed
and refused  her consent. Since I  was a minor, I could not join without it.
But a month of arguments, pleading and tears finally won her permission, and
on a day  that was glorious for me and sad for her, I  donned my uniform and
set off for the reserve battalion stationed at  Ekaterinodar, the capital of
the Cossack Kuban territory. I had  requested assignment and been given to a
military academy that had just been established at Tashkent in central Asia,
a  region I  had  read much  about  in school, so, carrying my free  railway
ticket and all my documents, I said good-bye to my mother and family and set
out on the long trip.
     Anyone who has not experienced the immensity of Russia firsthand cannot
grasp what a voyage  lay ahead. It was  freezing  cold and the train was  so
packed that I  counted  myself lucky  to find a tiny  space in  the  baggage
compartment. Even the corridors were crowded with  soldiers on their  way to
and  from  the front. Near Tzarizin  (later Stalingrad) a  snowstorm  nearly
buried the train, and it took two  days of going hungry and nearly  freezing
to dig ourselves out. The returning soldiers were frantic at the thought  of
losing  precious  time  from  their  short leaves.  All  the  way to  Samara
(Kubichev) on the Volga the train inched slowly forward between mountains of
     On the other side of  the frozen Volga, I changed trains for  Tashkent.
Now, even  the third-class cabins were  almost  empty. The countryside was a
constant  surprise to me. The Russian forests had given way to desert plains
where only  small bushes,  called saksaule, could grow.  Whenever  the train
stopped, the nomadic Kirghiz rode up on  their  ponies to stare at the demon
locomotive;  the  railroad  was  new in central Asia,  and the people of the
steppes would ride hundreds of miles to see it.
     At  last we  reached Tashkent.  We discovered we were  only  part  of a
steady  stream  of  Cossacks  arriving   from  the   Don,  Kuban  and  Terek
territories. The director of the military academy was overwhelmed by us all,
and put us on a railroad car and off we went to Irkutsk in central Siberia.
     I found Siberia even more dramatic than central Asia. Even though it is
intensely cold in  western and central Siberia,  there are seldom any strong
winds, and so it is not unpleasant. The air was so still that the smoke from
the engine rose straight  up  into the  air;  there  was not  the  slightest
breeze. The most extraordinary thing, though, was the overwhelming, absolute
silence that fell whenever the train stopped. It was  haunting. Occasionally
the quiet  was broken by a piercing sound like the crack  of a gunshot, as a
tree would explode in the thirty-below-zero cold.
     The military  school at Irkutsk consisted of a long, one-story building
with  a huge courtyard  in  front and  riding grounds  behind.  It had  been
established  in 1872 to train officers for the crack  Siberian divisions. We
were welcomed by  the director, who declared us officially student-officers,
     We  had  four months  to be transformed into  officers. Into those four
months,  we  had  to cram what would take two years  in peacetime -- classes,
drills, riding. We  were up at 6 A.M. and  retired at 10 P.M., with only two
hours in between to ourselves. Each  night I  threw myself exhausted onto my
bed,  wondering  whether   I  could  stand  the  intellectual  and  physical
punishment. But in a  month's time my young body had become so hardened that
I no longer felt the least fatigue.
     Spring  in Siberia  is  the  most  beautiful I have  seen  anywhere. It
happens suddenly as the bright sun melts the last traces of snow. We used to
take map training on the  other  side of the majestic Angera River, and from
there we could see a breathtaking  woods, all white birch surrounded  by the
freshest,  greenest grass  in the world. Once I gave in to the temptation to
stretch out on the grass --  but I leaped  to  my  feet the second  I touched
ground:  underneath the green grass, the earth is eternally frozen. On a day
in  May,  a  few days before the  end of our course, we took a train to Lake
Baikal, about thirty-eight miles from Irkutsk. It is the deepest lake in the
world; the  water is  like crystal and the banks are  a scene out of a fairy
tale. It was warm so I put on my bathing suit and dived in. To my shock, the
water was so cold I felt as if I were being boiled.
     And then we  were commissioned as  sublieutenants. Foreigners could not
possibly understand what  that meant to us. In czarist Russia an officer was
received everywhere, and admired and respected  by everyone.  He had to wear
his uniform  at  all times in  public,  and  no one, especially women, could
resist him. And there were many courtesies.  For instance,  at the  theater,
officers  never  remained in their seats during intermission. Even the  Czar
observed the formality.
     By  custom, the entire school was turned over to  the new  graduates on
the eve of graduation. The officers all stayed away and the school orchestra
played only for us.  Legend has  it  that the famous poet Lermontov, who had
been a junker, had designed the ceremony we observed. We danced and sang the
whole  night long and in the morning we took our time getting dressed  since
there  were no  officers  to make  us  hurry. We  put  on our new  officers'
uniforms,  still with our cadet insignia on the epaulets. By 9 A.M., we were
assembled   in   the   courtyard.   The   authorities   arrived   with   the
governor-general of eastern  Siberia at  their head.  For the  last time  we
listened  to  the  command  "Come  to  attention!" as the director read  the
telegram  from St.  Petersburg that said that  we were commissioned. Then we
broke ranks and  dashed to the dormitories to  take off  our cadet insignia.
Back in the ranks, we  were greeted as "my fellow officers," and then we all
filed  past the  officers, who  shook  our  hands and  congratulated us.  We
thought it  unbearably moving that the customs  were observed even though we
were "twelve-day wonders."
     After the ceremony, we were each issued  twenty-five rubles. Many of my
older comrades went to one of the numerous geisha houses, but  I had decided
to have dinner  in a  good restaurant, and I had  a date with a pretty young
Siberian girl I had met on leave. Then I took her to a concert by the famous
singer  Plevitskaya,  who had sung before  the Czar.  Two  days  later,  our
arrangements  were  made, and we started on the long trip back. I was sad to
leave my girl, and the marvels of Siberia,  but I had a month's furlough and
I longed to see my family and home.

     i WAS APPOINTED  to the renowned  22nd Plastonais  battalion  --  of the
Cossack infantry.  We were deep in the mountains on  the Caucasus front, and
life was very hard. There were almost no paved roads, which was particularly
hard on  the injured who had to  be moved to hospitals, since everything had
to be moved by mule.  We were always short of provisions,  and when food did
arrive, it stank so much  we  had to force ourselves to eat it. There was no
firewood in  those cold, barren hills. And at night,  hungry jackals prowled
close  to our  tents. War  wasn't the game I had  dreamed  about as  a  boy;
suffering attacked before the enemy.
     When our battalion moved to  the front lines I heard for the first time
the sounds of bullets whistling by me.  Like us, the Turkish  artillery  had
only  small  mountain cannons but the  cannonballs  made a terrible noise as
they echoed over the cliffs and through the gorges. I soon learned, however,
that there was more  danger from rifle  bullets, either hitting directly  or
ricocheting off the rocks. The first day on the front lines three of our men
were killed and several wounded.
     Our commanding officers  planned a major offensive.  Because one of our
lieutenants had  been  seriously  wounded,  I was  assigned  to  direct  the
reconnaissance  operation. October  4, 1916 -- I  remember the day clearly. I
set out at  nightfall with twenty Cossacks. My  orders were  to push forward
about two miles to a demolished Turkish village. The night was very dark and
windy. I divided the men  in two, one group under my command and  the  other
led by a sergeant who was infinitely more experienced than I.
     If the  first detachment were ambushed,  the other was to counterattack
from the rear.  We wrapped our boots in cloth to dull the noise of our heels
on the  roads. As we got near the village, we came upon a man sitting on the
ground. One of our soldiers jumped him and pinned him to the ground, holding
his  Cossack dagger  to  his  throat.  I  heard him  say  the  word  kardash
("friend"); he was unarmed. One of the soldiers who spoke Turkish soon found
out  that he was an Armenian, and that his family had been killed by Turkish
soldiers.  Only  he had  escaped. He had been  hiding  in a cave for several
days, was without food,  and was  now  trying to find the Russian troops. He
told us there were more than fifty soldiers and  two officers in the village
and  that  they had at least two  machine  guns. I decided  to  dare  it.  I
signaled  the other group that they were to  attack from the left as we came
in from the right. The Turkish position was directly in front of us.
     Our battalion was called the  plastounis (from plast, theword  for bed)
because they were  famous for surprising their foes at night by crawling  up
on them on their  bellies. This is the way we moved now. It took  us an hour
to advance  another half mile, but  we surprised the Turks  and took them in
twenty minutes. We captured one  officer and  nineteen troops, and lost four
killed and seven wounded.  From a distance of two and a half miles  the main
Turkish  force  opened  an  artillery  barrage,  but  the Russian  artillery
returned  their fire  to protect our retreat and we got safely back with the
Armenian,  our  prisoners,  the two machine guns, and documents  that  would
prove  useful. For my first feat  of arms  I was  promoted to lieutenant and
received  the order  of St. Anne,  which is worn on the saber  and bears the
inscription "for courage."
     That Christmas  on  the front was  the saddest  of our lives.  Cold and
hungry,  all  we  could  think  about  was the  gaiety  and  beauty  of  the
traditional  Russian Christmas celebration. (We  had no way of  knowing that
this would be the  last Christmas of the Russian Empire.) During January and
February the cold was so intense we could not undertake  any serious action.
But  we knew  that  spring would  bring a major campaign designed  to  knock
Turkey out of the war.
     News  from Russia  arrived a week late, and  we were stupefied when  we
learned  that a revolution  had broken  out in St. Petersburg, and  that the
Czar had abdicated in March 1917. I had been raised with a deep devotion for
the  monarchy,   and   these  events  seemed  to   me   unbelievable,   even
.catastrophic. The ordinary Cossacks were as broken up as we  officers. None
of us could imagine living without the Czar.  The Cossacks  had  always been
the main protectors of the throne, and they wondered what then-fate would be
in a republic and feared that the  revolutionaries would never forgive their
support of the Czar.
     The  Russian  infantrymen  on  our right  had  received  the news  with
boisterous joy; we could hear them cheering in  their  camp. Ten  days later
they sent  a delegation  to  find out  how the Cossacks,  whom they disliked
anyhow, would  react  to  revolution.  They  were astonished and angered  to
discover that strict discipline still prevailed among our troops  -- none  of
us would wear the  red ribbons that decorated their coats. We begged them to
go away  and leave us alone,  but  that  infuriated them further and  led to
threats against us. After that our general ordered the Cossacks on a  double
alert -- against the Turks and against our fellow troops.
     A few  days later, the famous order  N1  of the new government arrived,
abolishing  all  discipline in the army. All  military formations,  large or
small, were  to  be governed by committees  elected  by  the  soldiers.  The
committees were to be in charge of everything, even military operations. The
rejoicing of the ordinary soldiers  can be easily imagined; they hated their
officers. Many of the  officers  of the regular army were severely harassed,
and  some  were even  arrested  for their  harsh treatment of  the men.  The
Russian soldiers  were furious when they  found that the Cossack  committees
were  ninety percent officers (as  opposed  to only  three  percent -- mostly
young revolutionary officers -- among the regulars).
     When the soldiers learned that the new government was promising to give
them  confiscated  land, they  had only  one idea -- to get  home before  the
distribution  was  completed. They deserted the front en  masse. The Cossack
formations,  however,   maintained   discipline,  closing  their   ears   to
propaganda. But by November 1917 our  presence on the front was no longer of
any  use. The Cossacks started to  return to their  stanitzas  (villages, or
administrative districts).
     At  every  railroad  station  along the  route,  soldiers  ordered  the
Cossacks to  turn over  their officers, and the  Cossacks, with machine guns
mounted  on the  trains,  would  reply,  "Come  and  get them." Thousands of
officers  were assassinated  during  these  days,  but  not a single Cossack
officer was touched.
     During  a  stopover at Prochladnaya, I put over  my uniform an overcoat
that had been lent me by  a friend who was the battalion physician. I didn't
think my officer's gold braid  could be seen, or that the tiny gold crown on
my fur hat would betray me.
     "Look, comrades," a  soldier called  out, "There's an officer disguised
as a soldier."
     A crowd  gathered around me and I  was forced to  remove my coat. On my
uniform were my lieutenant's epaulets. The soldiers seized me  and began  to
carry me to their camp behind the station. I was sure I was going to be torn
to bits.
     Two  Cossacks  who did  not even belong to  my  battalion saw what  was
happening to me and dashed to their trains yelling, "Quick! The soldiers are
going to kill a Cossack officer."
     About a  hundred Cossacks  grabbed  their rifles  and  chased away  the
soldiers, who were beating me as they dragged me along. The Cossacks charged
after them  with bayonets. My would-be executioners left behind one dead man
and ten seriously  wounded.  Some  from  my  battalion  carried  me  to  the
officers' car, where my doctor friend gave me  a big glass of vodka.  "Those
bastards did a job on  you but there is nothing serious." I was covered with
bruises and both my eyes were so blackened I could barely see.
     Our train started  up again. A division  famous  for  its revolutionary
ardor was waiting at the Goulkevitchi station. Whenever a train arrived they
would  ask  if  there  were  any  officers aboard.  They  would  drag  their
unfortunate victims  out  of the  cars  and murder  them  with  unbelievable
cruelty. As we pulled in, we saw some soldiers but they simply  stared at us
with  hatred. The  station-master  told  us that they had  got  wind of  the
incident at Prochladnaya and had decided to let us be.
     Our  regiment  arrived finally  at  Tichoretzkaya,  a  maJoir  railroad
junction where everybody was given  leave buit me. Our commander, Lieutenant
Colonel Postovsky (who was to play  an important role in  my life),  did not
want  my  mother to see me in the condition I was in. It  was  hard to be so
close to home and not to be able to see my family after such a long absence.
Even more,  the thought of  being seen  in such a state by one  very special
person with blond curls and wonderful blue eyes was worse.
     Ten days later  my face  was almost back  to normal, and the  cuts  and
bruises could be passed off as signs of valiant  deeds. But as I was packing
my few belongings to go home, the colonel summoned me.
     "You  cannot  go  on  leave.  The  commander-in-chief  of  the  Cossack
divisions has ordered me to send an officer to Baku  on  the  Caspian with a
confidential  dispatch.  You are  the only officer I have  that I trust. I'm
sending you."
     "But Colonel, I shall  never return. You  saw what the soldiers  did to
     "I  know it's dangerous, but  it would be  for  any officer. I have had
word that most of the  soldiers  have left the  railroad stations. It's less
risky now.  You will take the Rostov-Baku  express, which has an armed guard
under an officer."
     I was given no choice. I was handed a large sum of money  and documents
asking the authorities (but  what authorities?) to assure my safe passage. I
went to Tichoretzkaya, where I caught  the train for Baku. It took two days.
In Baku I  bought my  mother and  brother Christmas presents -- a case of the
local mandarin oranges.  I also came down  with a  fierce  sore throat and a
     Just before I was to  leave for home, our train was overrun by soldiers
who were fleeing  the front. Compartments that were intended for four people
had to  accommodate eight,  and  even  the corridors  were packed. I wore an
enlisted man's coat over my officer's uniform.  I was prostrate on an  upper
berth and  obviously sick as a dog. Thinking I was one of them, the soldiers
kept asking me what was the matter. I pointed to my throat  and  whispered a
few  words in  an indistinct,  hoarse voice,  conscious that my accent might
give me away.
     My fever rose and,  off and  on,  I lost consciousness  and  sank  into
delirium. I was blinded by my  own sweat, and  from the overheated,  crowded
     One  of the soldiers  said to  me,  "Comrade, you should  take off your
overcoat. It's hot in here and you are burning up. We will just  lay it over
you." Some of the others rose to help him. I was too sick to care. When they
took  my coat off and saw my insignia, there was a disquieting silence. Then
someone said, "There must be a medic on the train. Someone should ask in the
other  cars."  A very young  soldier replied,  "You're right,  comrade. I'll
     Soon  he  was back  with  a  medic,  who  swabbed  my throat  with some
awful-tasting  medicine. It  worked like a miracle and, by morning,  I was a
lot better. He came  back  later and  gave  me some  more medicine,  and  by
evening I was almost myself again.
     I  was astounded and  very moved by the  way these soldiers treated me.
They were always  solicitous, asking me how  I  was,  and  whether  I needed
anything.  At  each  stop they would fetch boiling water  to make  tea.  All
during the  three-day trip these  companions looked  after me,  and  when  I
arrived at Tichoretzkaya the whole car came out to shake my hand and wish me
a safe trip home. A little while  before soldiers had tried to kill me.  Now
other soldiers were doing all they could for me, with great kindness.
     When I reached the stanitza, I delivered my report  to the  colonel  as
well as the receipt for the package. He complimented me for a job well done,
had the treasurer advance me  three months'  pay and gave me a  paper for an
unlimited leave. I would never return to my battalion. It no longer existed.
     Leave  papers  in hand, I  set out  for  home and  my  mother,  who was
overjoyed to see me all in one piece. It was two days before Christmas 1917.
I forgot  about the dire political  situation, the Bolsheviks, the threat of
civil war, and the soldiers on the trains looking for officers to kill and I
thought only about my joy in being home at last.
     The next day my mother told me that my close friend, Lieutenant Joukov,
had been killed just a few days before. He had survived the war, his own men
worshiped  him,  and  he had  been  assassinated  by soldiers  from his  own
country. I  was  beside  myself. I  dreamed  of rallying the Cossacks  of my
stanitza to revenge the Cossacks.
     In fact, the czarist government  had always had  an incredibly  foolish
relationship with the Cossacks. They were the protectors of the  throne, the
bodyguards of the Czar and his family, and yet  they had always  been looked
on  with distrust.  It  was  a  policy that  was based on the  memory of the
revolts of the Zaporov Cossacks-now  only  about half of those who  lived in
Kuban -- under  Stenka  Rajin  and  Emilian  Pougatchev, both  Don  Cossacks.
Pougatchev had threatened the reign of Catherine II. The government had then
adopted the policy of  colonizing  the Kuban Cossack  territory with Russian
peasants,  who  were  encouraged  to buy land  on low-interest  loans from a
specially constituted bank.
     The intricate social  organization  of the  Kuban  Cossacks  endured in
spite of all  this. To rid herself of the trouble some Zaporov Cossacks, who
lived in the southern Ukraine, Catherine II had moved them to the rich lands
of  Kuban, which had been  conquered from the Turks, along the banks of  the
Kuban River, one of the swiftest  and most dangerous in the world. With this
act,   the  government   both   neutralized   the  Cossacks  militarily  and
consolidated its new frontiers.
     When a Cossack reached sixteen, he received from the government a piece
of land called a  nadel. The parcel  varied  in size depending  on how  much
reserve the stanitza held, but it was generally thirty or forty acres. Every
four years the land was redistributed, a system that impoverished the famous
black soil.  As the Cossack population increased,  the nadels became smaller
and smaller and the Cossacks, especially those who lived along  the Caucasus
frontier,  grew steadily poorer. They,  the masters, became poorer than  the
Russian peasants who had been thrust into their midst.
     The government was  not  really giving the Cossacks much of a gift when
it ceded land to them.  As soon as  he receive  his  nadel, at  sixteen, the
Cossack began his military service, though he remained in his stanitza until
he was  twenty-one,  and  only then  left to join  his regiment.  A  special
instructor oversaw his military education. By nineteen, he had  to have  all
his own equipment -- uniform, boots, linens, saber and dagger, and a horse if
he  served in  the  cavalry.  Each  year his  equipment  was  inspected. The
government supplied only a  carbine  to  the  cavalrymen and  a rifle to the
infantrymen. Equipment was an enormous outlay for these men, who had then to
serve actively for five  years,  and then remain  at the  disposition of the
State as reservists.
     While  he remained in  the stanitza, the young  Cossack did not  merely
undergo intense military  training; he also continued his  regular schooling
with  a tutor. By the  time he joined  his  regiment,  he  was a first-class
soldier.  Since  the officers  were usually Cossacks, the discipline in  the
regiments  was  a family  affair.  Courts-martial were very  rare, and  only
convoked for the most serious offenses.
     Life in  the stanitza was based on a strict code of honor.  In my own I
never heard of a divorce, a theft or of any dishonesty. Money was loaned and
borrowed on a man's word.
     The Cossacks very rarely intermarried with the Russians in their midst.
They were very pious, and their own marriage ceremony was extraordinary. The
Orthodox rite  is  very  solemn and  beautiful, but  among the  Cossacks  it
achieved a  singular romanticism.  The groom, in  his full dress chercheska,
would gallop through the village with his closest friends,  all firing their
pistols into the air, to I meet his bride. She came out to meet him with her
attendants and was  escorted to the church  by the groom and his companions.
After the religious ceremony the  feast i would begin  at  the  bridegroom's
house. The dowry -- I furniture, linens, maybe even oxen harnessed to a wagon
'! -- was exhibited  for  all to see. Late in the evening  the newlyweds were
led  to  their room  by  the  svacha,  the matchmaker. The next  morning she
triumphantly exhibited the sheets as proof that the bride had been a virgin.
The  feasting lasted  three days.  The czarist government  did not trust the
Cossacks. The ataman, their administrative chief, was always a Russian, just
as the Czar's bodyguard was always commanded by Russians or German-Russians.
     The Civil War  proved how fatal this policy had  been for the Czar, and
how unfounded  the mistrust  had been. When the Bolsheviks took  power,  the
transplanted Russians joined  them and  fought the  Cossacks who joined  the
White Army. (Later Stalin declared the Russian peasants kulaks and they lost

     MY MOTHER WAS VERY WORRIED about  me, and urged me to go for a while to
Ekaterinodar, where she  thought I would be safer from the Russians. She was
not afraid for herself or my younger brother, because she was on  good terms
with the Russian peasants. To please her, I went, but  I  found the city  in
turmoil.  The garrisons of Ekaterinodar were filled with soldiers  who  had,
for a  number of reasons, stayed behind instead  of returning  home.  It was
almost as if they had received  some mysterious order  to  await events. The
famous  General  Kornilov had arrived in the  Don Cossack territory and  was
fighting the Bolsheviks.  He  was a remarkable  man. During the  war he  had
commanded the famous Iron Division. Wounded and captured by the Austrians in
the Carpathians, he had escaped, crossed Austria, and reached Russia. He was
commanding a  corps on the front when the Revolution broke out. At first, he
was  on good terms  with  Kerensky, who  named him  commander-in-chief,  but
relations  between them  quickly  cooled.  Kornilov  schemed  to  be  rid of
Kerensky, and  thereby  had him arrested and imprisoned in the small city of
Bichorv. With the help of his personal guard he escaped and reached the Don.
     On my arrival in Ekaterinodar I saw a notice in the  regional newspaper
from a  Colonel Galaev inviting officers to Join a  detachment he had formed
to  keep order in the city. His small  troop  was temporarily lodged  in the
empty junior seminary near the  railroad station. I presented myself to  the
colonel, who made  a strong impression  on me. He received me graciously and
informed  me that I would serve as a simple soldier like  all the others  in
the detachment.  I would have to remove my officer's epaulets but he made me
head  of the machine gun  section, which was my specialty. I  had two  heavy
Maxim machine guns and two  light  Colts.  Besides sidearms we also received
regulation Russian army  rifles. The date of mv enlistment, January 9, 1918,
was the day that determined the rest of my life.
     Another detachment similar to our  own was under the command of Captain
Pokrovsky, who held the  Cross  of St.  George, awarded only for the highest
acts  of heroism. Pokrovsky  impressed me  even  more than Galaev.  He was a
medium-sized  man  with  an  unforgettable  face.  His  hawklike  eyes  both
attracted and disturbed me. They were cold and ice-gray, and seemed to reach
into one's soul. His movements were violent and brusque; his voice imperious
even with his  superiors.  An unusual man, he had so impressed the ataman of
the Kuban Cossacks that  he had made him commander-in-chief of the troops in
Ekaterinodar, and then colonel and general in  quick succession,  though  he
was not a Cossack.
     Our two detachments were to disarm the soldiers who spent their time at
Bolshevik  propaganda  meetings. We put their arms, including their cannons,
into  trains. As a reinforcement for my section, I received two young female
first lieutenants.  They had been students at the time of the Revolution and
had  taken  advantage  of  the  rights  granted  women  by  the  provisional
government  to  take accelerated officer training in Moscow. They were named
Barkache  and Zubakina,  both very pretty girls. They demanded that they  be
treated as any other officers, and once we had all got used to this, we  got
on very well. And they were very brave, as I was to learn a few days later.
     Toward the end of January,  my  section was ordered  to  accompany some
officers from  another  section  to  Ekaterinodar to  inspect  trainloads of
merchandise. We had received a report that  the  Bolsheviks  at Novorossisk,
the great Black  Sea port  that they  held,  had sent arms and ammunition to
fight against General Kornilov at Rostov-on-the-Don.
     I left the women officers in the barracks and ordered them to clean and
grease the  machine guns.  At the station we searched  the trains  and found
nothing. As we waited on  the platform for the rest of the detachment, which
was working on the other side of the tracks,  a very long train, loaded with
merchandise  from  Novorossisk, pulled  in.  It was  crowded  with  soldiers
returning from the Turkish front. They recognized us as officers.
     "Look, comrades! They are not satisfied with having drunk our blood for
centuries. Now they aim their guns at us and our brothers."
     The heckling led to more serious insults and threats. The situation was
becoming dangerous.  We couldn't abandon the comrades  we were  waiting for.
The senior lieutenant, Roschin, ordered  me to go for the machine guns,  and
the  others  to  take cover in a  small  brick building at  the  end of  the
     I ran out of  the station and jumped into  a carriage. I had to pull my
gun to persuade the driver but a few minutes later I was at the seminary.
     Barkache  and Zubakina helped me load  the two heavy machine guns  onto
the  wagon. As  we approached the  station I  heard bullets  whistling.  The
soldiers were  firing on the small brick building.  Russian  stations do not
have gates, so we would have  to try to  drive  the  wagon  right  up to the
platforms where the  long train was stopped.  I ordered Zubakina to shoot at
the cars. With the other machine gun I  opened fire on the soldiers who were
shooting at our comrades from the platforms. The soldiers began to jump onto
the train, or tried to take cover under the cars. The engineer,  a Red,  saw
that things were going badly and pulled the train out.
     Another five minutes and we would have been lost.  They would have torn
us apart.  There were many wounded and dead on the tracks, and we telephoned
the  hospitals to  send people  to care  for them. The  episode had  serious
consequences; it unleashed civil war along the Kuban. As it turned out,  the
Reds  had been  getting ready to attack; we found an attack plan on the body
of a Red officer.
     Within a  few hours our intelligence informed  us that  the Novorossisk
Bolsheviks were  organizing a punitive  expedition. Trains loaded with armed
soldiers were  on  their  way to Ekaterinodar and would arrive  at night. We
were in great danger, since we were  at  most two thousand fighting men, all
officers.  Ataman Filimonov held a council  of  war. Colonel  Galaev  was to
defend  the  city along the railroad  track. Pokrovsky was to  set out under
cover of dark and attack the Reds from the rear. I would put my machine guns
near  the railroad bridge and defend the track and the paved  road, the only
access to the city, which was surrounded on all other sides by an impassable
river marsh.
     I  placed a heavy  machine gun  on each side of the bridge.  The  women
sublieutenants,  protected by  steel shields mounted on their guns, fired in
bursts as the Reds opened fire on our position, which was only about fifteen
yards wide. I fired from the bridge with the light Colt, also protected by a
     I had never heard  so many bullets whistling around my  head. Thousands
of soldiers were aiming their fire at our small position.  The  women showed
extraordinary courage and coolness. I  was afraid they were taking  too many
risks  by  standing up  over their  shields and I yelled to Barkache to  get
down. But she stood up for a fraction of a second to turn the gun around and
add water to  cool  it,  and  in that instant was shot in the heart. A short
time later Colonel Galaev was killed in the same way.
     Finally, when  Pokrovsky arrived and attacked  from the rear,  the Reds
fled  with heavy losses, abandoning their  weapons  and the trains.  But our
victory  was  saddened  by the death of  Barkache and our commander. In  the
evening we  brought their bodies to the seminary to prepare them for burial.
As  the  funeral procession  passed  through  the city  on the  way  to  the
cemetery, the whole population lined the route.
     Captain Pokrovsky was made colonel and commander-in-chief of the entire
garrison.  The fighting  continued to  rage.  The Reds were furious at their
rout and  were determined  to  take  revenge. Replacements  joined them from
every direction and  we  were  sorely  pressed,  particularly  since  eighty
percent of the population were partisans of the Reds.
     Civil  war  is the ultimate horror.  I  was in  a  battalion  that  was
directed  against my  own  stanitza. When  I heard the cannons,  I knew they
might be killing my loved ones or destroying my home. And there was terrible
savagery and  ferocity on both  sides.  When  at last I saw my family again,
they told me that the grocer's two sons, with whom  I had played as a child,
had enlisted  in the Red Army and had sworn to cut me to ribbons  if I  fell
into their hands.
     That war was full of ironies. There was a rich mujik, a man who owned a
hundred  and  twenty-five acres, had  more  than twenty horses,  and  thirty
cattle and much other livestock, in our town. Yet his three sons immediately
joined the Reds.  One of his  neighbors, also a  mujik, who lived  by making
Russian ovens, had a wife and seven children, and was as poor as Job. Yet he
joined  our detachment and fought  the  entire  war  in the famous  Kornilov
     Several times during this period my life was spared against all odds. I
left  my  machine gunner's section to join the  cavalry. My  grandfather had
served Czars Alexander II,  Alexander III and Nicholas II and had retired in
1907 as a general. After his retirement, he had raised horses and had taught
me from the age of two all the skills of a horseman. So, when it was decided
to create a sotnia  (mounted section), I was named first officer. I bought a
horse from a former  Cossack  commander, a  beautiful animal  but  with  two
faults: he was unwilling  to follow other  I horses, being used  to the lead
position, and he was shot from under me.
     After the capture of my  stanitza,  my commander told  me to go back to
Ekaterinodar for a few days and not to stay where everyone  knew me. "If the
Reds retake the stanitza," he said, "your relatives may pay dearly for you."
     With  my orderly, I started  back to  Ekaterinodar,  about  fifty miles
away. That  evening  I arrived at a  convent of nuns located halfway between
the  stations of  Platnirov-skaya and PIatunovskaya. I knew  the place  very
well. The mother superior, a  venerable old lady, had been a great friend of
my  grandfather.  She  told  me  that the  Reds  were burning down  all  the
convents. There  was a small Cossack detachment there,  about  forty men, on
their way to Ekaterinodar to join the  fight, commanded by the sublieutenant
Kedrovsky, whom I knew so well.
     Like many Russian convents, this one was by a high wall and resembled a
fortress. My horse had lost a shoe and I sent my orderly  to take him to the
stanitza  about three miles  away to  be reshod.  When  he left, the massive
single gate to the convent was barred and sentinels  were placed at the gate
and in the bell tower. The front lines were shifting constantly, so that one
could expect  a  Red band  at  any time. After dinner,  the mother  superior
escorted me to the guest room,  while the sublieutenant and his men remained
     I was sound asleep when firing broke out. A nun woke me at  i A.M.  The
Reds had surrounded the convent and Kedrovsky was seriously wounded.
     The Cossacks were firing back from the bell towers but we were short of
ammunition.  Kedrovsky had been carried into the chapel and I could see that
he did not have much time left.
     "We are done for," he whispered. "There are too many of them. They have
two  cannons and  we  only  have  twenty-five cartridges  apiece.  Hide. The
Cossack troops may be able to save themselves somehow, but for you and me it
is certain death. You know  how these pigs torture officers. Don't fall into
their hands alive."
     A  Cossack  dagger  and  the  nine-millimeter  Colt I  had  received in
military school were the only weapons I had. The Red cannons were bombarding
the convent and shrapnel  was falling everywhere.  I left Kedrovsky and went
back to the courtyard.
     "We can't hold  out much longer," a noncommissioned officer told me. "I
am going to talk to  them. They have promised not to kill us if we open  the
gate. They don't know you're here. Hide somewhere and no Cossack will betray
     But where? Surely the Reds would ransack the convent from top to bottom
and I would be discovered. I was nineteen, not ready to die. To be killed in
battle  was  one  thing,  but  to  kill  myself  or  die  under  torture was
     I shook hands with the sergeant. Kedrovsky had died. The terrified nuns
were hiding in the  cellars. "I have a place  that  nobody knows about," the
mother superior told me. "My  poor  daughters are  so  frightened they might
betray you out of fear. You will be safe if the Reds don't stay too long."
     She took me  to  a dark  corner of the main church, where there  were a
number of icons. One icon  was very large  and so old that  nobody knew what
saint it represented. The mother superior pressed something at its base, and
then drew the icon aside. There was a small cubbyhole
     where I  could  just squeeze in. "They won't  find you here," she said.
"I'll come back when the danger is over. Don't move, and don't smoke."
     She  moved the icon back in place and  I was left in the  darkness with
only the air that filtered through a small crack in the wall. For a  while I
listened to the  artillery and  rifles. It was silent  for a  brief  moment.
Then,  shots  and wild  screaming.  Afterward, I learned that  the Reds  had
massacred all the Cossacks. Only one, a fellow my own age, had been  rescued
by the sister-cook, who had hidden him in a dish closet.
     The Reds were  searching  for  convent treasure. I  heard them approach
with the mother superior. They were warning her that thev  would kill her if
she didn't  tell them where  it was.  They  were so close that I  could hear
their swearwords  and their heavy, drunken breathing. They looted the church
for about a half hour. In  spite of the cold and my cramped quarters, I fell
     I  was  wakened by  someone shaking me and  I thought the end had come.
When I opened my  eyes,  I  saw some officers  and Cossacks, with the mother
superior. "Come out of  your hole, friend," said a  captain I did not  know.
"And thank  the mother  superior for  saving your life. Everybody  else  was
     I was so stiff  I could hardly  walk.  By  the time  they got me to the
courtyard I saw one  of the Cossack detachments from Ekaterinodar. About two
hundred Red  soldiers  had captured the  convent as  they had been returning
from a village where they had looted a State vodka factory. Dead drunk, they
had been on their way to  the railroad station, where another Red detachment
was quartered, when they had come upon the convent and heard that there were
Cossacks inside.
     While  I  had slept, the  situation had  reversed.  Exhausted from  the
fighting and  drunk on the mass wine  they  had  looted  at the convent, the
soldiers,  even the sentinels, had fallen asleep.  The  Cossacks in a nearby
stanitza had managed to alert  a  detachment  on its way to  the  front. The
battle was short and the Reds were wiped out. Only twenty were left alive to
bury  the dead, and then  they  were shot. That was  what  the Civil War was
     My  orderly   returned  with  my  horse,   and  I  set  out  again  for
     Despite some victories,  our  resistance was  doomed. There were just a
few of us, and  masses  of  Reds  were arriving from all  sides.  We had  no
reserve ammunition, while the Reds had the  leftover reserves of the Russian
army at the front.
     The noose was  tightening  around Ekaterinodar. Our superiors  -- Ataman
Filimonov,  Colonel Pokrovsky and some generals from the front -- decided the
only way to escape being annihilated was to retreat to the mountains  to the
south on the Black Sea. I don't  think  they had  anv idea  of how we  would
survive in the mountains  or where we would  find food for thousands of men.
How would we defend  ourselves? It was  a desperate decision but it was  our
only choice. The situation became more critical  as hordes of  civilians and
retired officers who  were afraid  of  falling  into the hands of  the  Reds
followed us.
     In February 1918 we left our beloved city only to run  immediately into
a  line of Bolshevik troops. After  a few days of fighting, we were sure the
end had  come  for us.  Everyone was put  into  the  front lines,  even  the
civilians and the  old men. But toward  the evening of the third day somehow
we broke through. My mounted detachment had the responsibility of protecting
headquarters from a surprise attack.
     A  horseman galloped out  of  the woods, leaped from his  horse  before
Ataman Filimonov, and threw  his arms around him shouting, "Kornil, Kornil."
He was one of our Cherkess  allies and had brought us unexpected  good news.
General Kornilov and  his tiny army were just eighteen  miles  away. We  had
thought he was still in Rostov-on-the-Don,  but he  too had  evacuated under
pressure. He had hoped to join us and wait for better times -- for the moment
when the Cossacks,  who were observing strict neutrality  (ninety percent of
our men  were ex-officers), would understand what real threat the Bolsheviks
were to their whole way of life.
     Pokrovsky was  scheduled to  meet  Kornilov the next day  but Pokrovsky
himself had only been named  major-general the  evening before by Filimonov.
This was bound to offend Kornilov and the other generals. Filimonov did not,
in their view, have  the right to make appointments. Now he had acted as the
head of an independent state, and this could only add to the tension between
the Cossacks and the  Russians. Pokrovsky, because he was not a Cossack, was
denied a role in the joined armies.
     The  meeting of  our two small troops  under Kornilov's command was  to
take place in the stanitza  of  Novy-Dmitrievskaya. We hoped to persuade the
Cossacks to  rise,  so  we thought it  essential  to retake  their  capital,
Ekaterinodar.  So, at the beginning of March, our army was once again before
the city. Ekaterinodar was defended by ten times our strength, and fortified
by heavy artillery against our measly  ten cannons and two thousand  shells.
Even  so, we might have taken it  if General Kornilov had not been  hit by a
shell.  His death was a terrible blow. It overturned all our plans. He was a
Cossack general  and immensely  popular. If  we  had taken Ekaterinodar,  he
could  have  rallied all the  Cossacks  of  Kuban,  the Don  and Terek.  His
successor, General  Denikine,  did  not have  the same relationship with the
men. In  any  case, he decided  to  raise  the siege and  to move us to  the
territory of the Don Cossacks where, it was rumored, the Cossack contingents
had begun to converge.
     We went  through a village  called, in  Russian, "The Colonies." It was
where the Germans  who  had  been  transplanted to Russia under Catherine II
lived. With elaborate security, we buried Kornilov. (The next day  the  Reds
discovered  his  grave   and  dragged  his  body  through   the  streets  of
Ekaterinodar.) had  hoped to join us and wait  for better  times --  for  the
moment  when  the  Cossacks,  who  were  observing strict neutrality (ninety
percent of  our men were ex-officers), would understand what real threat the
Bolsheviks were to their whole way of life.
     Pokrovsky was scheduled  to meet Kornilov  the  next  day but Pokrovsky
himself had only been named  major-general the evening before by  Filimonov.
This was bound to offend Kornilov and the other generals. Filimonov did not,
in their view, have the  right to make appointments. Now he had acted as the
head of an independent state, and this could only add to the tension between
the Cossacks and the Russians. Pokrovsky,  because he was not a Cossack, was
denied a role in the joined armies.
     The  meeting of  our two small troops under Kornilov's  command was  to
take  place in the stanitza of Novy-Dmitrievskaya.  We hoped to persuade the
Cossacks to  rise, so  we  thought  it  essential to retake  their  capital,
Ekaterinodar. So, at the beginning  of March, our army was once again before
the city. Ekaterinodar was defended by ten times our strength, and fortified
by  heavy  artillery against our measly ten cannons and two thousand shells.
Even so,  we might have taken it if General  Kornilov had not  been hit by a
shell. His death was a terrible blow. It overturned all  our plans. He was a
Cossack  general  and immensely popular.  If  we had  taken Ekaterinodar, he
could have rallied  all  the Cossacks  of  Kuban,  the  Don  and Terek.  His
successor,  General Denikine, did  not have the  same  relationship with the
men.  In any  case, he  decided to raise the siege  and  to  move  us to the
territory of the Don Cossacks where, it was rumored, the Cossack contingents
had begun to converge.
     We went through a village called,  in Russian,  "The Colonies." It  was
where the Germans  who had  been transplanted  to Russia under  Catherine II
lived. With elaborate  security,  we buried Kornilov. (The next day the Reds
discovered  his  grave  and   dragged  his  body  through   the  streets  of

     BY  NIGHT,  across  the  violent  winds of the  steppes of the northern
Caucasus, we marched toward the Don. Each evening as we would start out only
the general  staff  knew what  our route was to  be. Nevertheless,  the Reds
succeeded regularly  in  discovering  the  stanitzas  where we  halted,  and
bombarded us with artillery fire. We were so short  of guns and shells  that
we could not fire back  except in grave emergency. Our supply corps was  the
closest  Red  detachment; when our shells or cartridges ran dangerously low,
we raided them.
     I  took part in these expeditions  often. On the steppes of Kuban,  one
night, we were only a few miles from my village, where my mother and younger
brother still lived. I hadn't seen them for months,  and was frantic to know
if  they  were  all  right, but I  could  not  leave the column. I had  been
assigned to  be  General Markov's  liaison  with General  Denikine  for that
     It was pitch dark, the clouds blotted out any trace of moonlight, and a
cutting wind blew  in our faces. We were wearing Cossack burkas, long, black
felt water- and wind-proof capes which served at night as  sleeping bags. We
marched eight miles north, then turned south to throw the Bolsheviks off our
trail.  We  had to cross the railroad  tracks, a movement which took several
hours and  was very dangerous since  the  Reds might  easily  telephone  our
position  to the  armored trains, who  could bombard us. To keep the  trains
from  getting  too close  to the column as  it crossed the  tracks, teams of
sappers would  blow up the tracks  a few  miles away on  both  sides of  our
     That  night  I was  following  General  Denikine's personal bodyguards.
Wrapped in my burka, I had laid the bridle  on the horse's neck and begun to
doze off. I was roused when my horse stopped. The column, two or three miles
long,  had halted  and everybody had  dismounted. We stretched our stiffened
limbs and  lay down,  covering our  heads  with our burkas. Next to me was a
kurgan,  one of the mounds on  which the Cossacks a century  before had  lit
their signal  fires to warn of  Cherkess attacks. I climbed one side of  the
kurmn to get out of the wind, attached the bridle to my leg to keep my horse
from wandering, and  fell asleep. After  a  while, the cold woke me. When  I
opened my eyes,  I leaped up. The column had disappeared. My horse,  grazing
on the fresh grass, had dragged me gradually down the kurgan.
     The wind  had died and the sky was cloudless. Overhead the  moon  shone
brilliantly; it was absolutely silent. I put my ear  to the ground to see if
I could pick up any  sound of the column and wagons. I could hear nothing. I
was quite alone in this vast, dangerous steppe.
     I was frozen with such  intense fear that I was  physically ill. I gave
my  horse his head in the  hopes he  would find his own way to our column. I
knew  the Red  cavalry would be  close  behind. He  didn't run, he flew. The
noise of his hooves resounded like thunder on the dry ground.
     After  about an  hour,  I saw a dark line against the gray  horizon. To
make less noise,  I rode along the side  of the road,  where  the earth  was
softer. After  a while,  I realized that the  dark line was a row  of  trees
planted along the railway tracks to protect them from snowdrifts. I knew the
road would lead to a crossing, but I  didn't know what might await me there,
so I turned to the right.
     When I  was five hundred  yards from the crossing, I thanked God that I
had  made a detour. Through the unbearable  silence  I  heard the sound of a
train slowly approaching. The armored train, I thought. I dismounted and led
my horse into the shadows of the trees. Apparently the Reds had repaired the
section of track  we  had blown up and were searching for the place where we
had crossed.
     The train had stopped at the crossing house, and I heard what I assumed
was  the Reds  interrogating the railroad guard. I could not distinguish the
words. The talking stopped but still the train did not move.
     It might stay there until dawn. It was already 3 A.M., so I didn't have
much time and the only safety lay  on the other  side of the tracks.  But to
cross I would have to  go through woods, down  along a  road that sank three
yards below  the surrounding ground. The other side was easier.  It was only
about a yard high,  no trouble for my horse. But I would  have to do  all of
this without the men on the train hearing me, and there was no wind to drown
out the noise.
     I pulled  off farther to the right, leading the horse by the bridle. He
was  used to  the front, so we  accomplished this easily.  Then he  saw  the
tracks glinting in the pale moonlight. I pulled  at him with all my strength
to get him to cross them. He was afraid of the slippery rails and  would not
budge. All this effort made a considerable amount of noise.
     I could  hear my heart beating,  and despite the cold I  was bathed  in
sweat. The only solution was to mount the horse, which might lessen his fear
and encourage his instinct  to obey his rider. I made the sign  of the cross
and leaped into the saddle and, for the first time ever, struck him with  my
crop. Surprised and  offended,  he made  such  a leap  that  he almost  fell
between  the tracks, and  I  had  difficulty keeping  my  mount.  Everything
happened  quickly. I found myself  half stunned,  lying against  a tree. The
horse was  standing  next to me trembling. I could hear the drops  of  sweat
falling from his body onto the ground. My face and hands were scratched from
the branches and I had an enormous bump on my head. My whole body hurt but I
didn't  have time to think.  The Reds must  certainly have  heard. I  forced
myself to my feet and led the horse through the woods.
     A few minutes later, I was on the steppe once again and relieved. I was
on the right side. I heard voices from the crossing and then the train began
to move. They were  searching  for the source of  the  noise.  I whipped the
horse with my crop and he leaped forward. Immediately, I heard the sound  of
machine gun fire aimed  in the wrong direction. But now  the Reds heard  the
hoof  beats on the dry  ground. They couldn't  get me with  a machine gun so
they  fired  a dozen cannon shells.  All  fell short, except one that landed
about two yards to my left.
     I galloped God knows where for  about twenty minutes. But the horse was
about  to fall from exhaustion and so I stopped  for  twenty  minutes. I was
certain now that the Reds were not  going to get me that night. The moon had
disappeared behind  clouds  and  a  morning fog  indicated that I was near a
river. My body was aching and the bump on my head was swelling.  I stretched
out on the ground and heard ahead of me the sound of wagon wheels. "Come on,
old friend," I said to my horse, "one more effort and we are home free." The
horse,  Kochevoi, sensed our friends  were near. He let  out  a whinny  that
could  be heard  for  miles.  A half hour  later, I  was with  my column. By
morning we  had reached the stanitza of IIinskaya, our next stop  on the Don
road. I was worried, as I presented myself to the headquarters staff, that I
might  have  been needed during the night to transmit an  order  to  General
Markov. There had been nothing. I had not been missed.
     Our march  was difficult, slowed  down by the  necessity of pulling the
supply  wagons,  by the civilians  who  accompanied  us, and by the wounded.
Since  we were always on the move,  the wounded  could not be properly cared
for, and even  slight wounds, easily cured in normal circumstances, could be
     In view of the desperate situation, our command decided  to  leave  the
wounded  behind in Diadkovskaya. At  the  same time they freed  a communist,
Polouian,  with  great ceremony and asked him to watch out  for them. I said
farewell to the wounded sorrowfully.
     Finally, we reached the  large stanitza of Ourpenskaya, which was  near
the government seat of Stavropol. This was  not  a Cossack  city and many of
its men had  joined the Red  Army. General Denikine  received the news  that
many Cossacks had risen  against the Reds and were  ready to  join  us.  Two
regiments of Kuban Cossacks arrived. Our situation now seemed a bit hopeful.
Denikine decided to march  to the Don and soon our  army  was settled in the
two Don Cossack stanitzas, Olguiskaya and Metchetins-kaya.
     The Cossacks of these towns had fought hard against the Reds. They  had
removed  all  the  tracks  that  connected  the  Rostov-on-the-Don  to   the
Ekaterinodar-Tzarizino line.  We  arrived on the eve  of  Easter and for the
first time in a very long while we had time to celebrate in style.
     During the  next  month  we received reinforcements. The situation  was
looking more favorable. All over  the immense empire, groups  like ours were
forming. Denikine decided  to  leave the Don and set out on  the conquest of
the Kuban. It was May, a beautiful month in southern Russia. Our army of ten
thousand  fighting men started out on the return trip to Kuban. We were glad
to get  away from  the Bolsheviks,  at least those in the northern Caucasus.
Soon we lost our legendary general, Sergei Leoniko-vich Markov, a tragedy to
us. It happened after we had captured the railroad station of Chablievskaya,
on the Novorossisk-Tzarizino line. The  battle was virtually over when I saw
the general  walking between two warehouses. He returned  my salute, visibly
delighted at this first victory that cut off the Reds from the east. At that
moment, a  Red shell, fired  by the armored train as it retreated,  exploded
over his head. He died almost immediately. The deaths first of Kornilov then
of Markov changed the course of our destiny. Even so, I think that there was
never  such  a small army, almost without resources,  that accomplished such
exploits  against  an  enemy  infinitely  superior   in  numbers,  arms  and
     A  few  days  after the  death of General  Markov, I  was almost killed
during  the  attack  on  the  Red  infantry  at  the  railroad  junction  of
Tichoretskaya. But we captured Tichoretskaya and that opened up the roads to
Rostov-on-the-Don  and  Ekaterinodar  and  to  the  southern  Caucasus.  The
Bolsheviks  had  to  abandon  an  enormous  amount  of  materiel,  which  we
recovered: two armored trains with their battleship guns, hundreds of wagons
loaded  with ammunition,  and  many  other  supplies. The  victory  also had
political significance. It demonstrated our strength to  the population, and
encouraged  those who, even though they hated  the  Reds, had feared to join
us. The arrival of our  army in Cossack territory and our victories  against
the Reds  had  an  immediate result. Everywhere the Cossack  stanitzas  rose
against  the Communists  and  our  army mushroomed.  Day and  night, Cossack
detachments arrived to join us.
     General Pokrovsky was  still in  disgrace for having accepted promotion
by  the  Ataman Filimonov. He  was  biding  his time.  As great  numbers  of
Cossacks  began to  join us, there was  a need  for a  man like Pokrovsky to
command. When he was named commander of  the Cossacks, he asked me to be his
aide-de-camp,  but I chose to  join a Cossack  detachment serving under  him
that was commanded by one of my uncles.
     Pokrovsky was pitiless with both the Red soldiers and civilians.  After
we  captured Timochevskaya,  the people  as  usual  denounced  the Bolshevik
sympathizers, who were  mostly peasants from the  interior.  He  had  twenty
gallows built  and placed in a circle in the main plaza. One stood apart. It
was for an officer who had been conscripted by the Reds but who had declared
his intention to rejoin our side. When the  Reds retreated,  he had remained
behind and hidden  himself. Pokrovsky had him hanged anyhow. Practically all
captured officers  were hanged. To escape,  it  was not enough to plead that
one had been forced into service. One had to prove that he had acted against
the Reds.
     On August  2, 1918,  a memorable date for me,  we entered  Ekaterinodar
once again  after  six months' absence. Most  of the people gave  us  a wild
welcome. As we marched down the streets they shook our hands and invited the
officers to dinner. After this, I  received three days'  leave  to go see my
family. I had had no news of them for several months, and I was apprehensive
as  I approached home. I was overjoyed to find my mother and younger brother
well. They  had heard from a Cossack who had seen me in  Ekaterinodar that I
was safe and sound. During the three days we spent  together, my mother told
me about  life  under the Bolsheviks. Many  of our belongings  and household
goods had been requisitioned. The Reds had taken all my father's small arms,
and even a pair of binoculars he had won in a pistol competition. As he took
them, the  soldier told my  mother that they would be  useful in helping aim
the cannons against us as we attacked. The essence of civil war is irony: my
father's binoculars might have helped kill me.
     My  mother had not  been badly harassed, though  my  seventeen-year-old
brother had been arrested. But he had soon been released after some peasants
my mother had once helped intervened.  Leaving them was terribly painful. If
I  had realized that I  would end up fighting in  a civil war, I would never
have Joined the army.  Now it  was  too late. "Long farewells  bring useless
tears," says  the  Russian proverb. I got on  my horse and  galloped away to
hide my tears.
     My regiment was already far away and it took me three days  to catch up
with it. The rout of the Reds  was complete in the northern Caucasus. Cities
and  stanitzas fell to us one after another.  Kuban Cossacks,  officers, and
even soldiers whom  the  Bolsheviks had not  succeeded in converting, flowed
into our ranks. We were now one hundred  thousand strong.  Young as I was, I
knew the czarist regime was dead and that Russia needed serious reform -- but
why must neighbors kill  each other, destroy their  farms and livestock, and
raze their homes?

     IT is NOT MY  INTENTION to record the history of the Russian Civil War;
that has already been done many  times. I  have recorded these reminiscences
of  my youth  so that my later  adventures  will be  understandable. For two
years I fought in  numerous battles, was  wounded, had four horses shot from
under me, and was lucky enough to survive.
     Without pretending  to be a historian,  I would like to suggest why the
Army of Volunteers, as we were called, fell short of  total victory over the
Bolsheviks,  even  though our  victories brought us very close to Moscow. We
were  so  few. We  had  subdued  an immense territory,  populated by tens of
millions,  but our rear  was  always  exposed  and could  furnish us with no
reserves. The orders  for general mobilization  were ignored. Those who were
drafted hid in the forests.
     Because we had  no real  supply system to speak of, we had  to live off
the population and we made enemies of the people everywhere. If my horse was
killed, I had to replace it by requisitioning one from someone who had until
then sympathized with us.
     The situation with clothing was even worse. For two years I  was issued
absolutely  nothing,  and  to avoid  being  eaten  alive by lice,  I had  to
requisition whatever I needed from the populace.
     The  government of  the  volunteer  army issued its  own  money, called
kolokoltchiki,  but  it  wasn't  worth the  paper  it  was  printed  on. The
population of the conquered areas accepted  it only when they had no choice.
It  is clear why our presence  was not always welcome,  especially since our
victims were  usually  from  among the  less  well  off. The  privileged had
connections  and they  could make things hard for  us  if  we bothered them.
People who owed their lives to us would complain to  the high  command about
the smallest requisitions.
     Lenin, among others, recognized  the  real reason  why we  and  all the
White armies -- those  of Kolchak, Deni-kine, loudenitch, and later Wrangel --
were defeated. So long as  our  armies were made  up of volunteers  who were
enemies of  Bolshevism,  everything  was  all  right.  But  when we  had  to
conscript  the  peasants  and   our  Red  prisoners,  our  situation  became
     After coming so close to  victory, the volunteer army  gave way  before
the avalanche of the Red forces and their partisans behind our lines. We had
few  munitions  and  weapons,  and  the  Allied powers  gave us  practically
nothing. After  the French sailors at  Odessa mutinied, the Allies were only
confirmed in their desire to get out  of  Russia, where their soldiers might
be contaminated by the new ideology.
     We  could see that the end of Denikine's army was near. I wanted to say
what I thought might be a last good-bye to my mother. When I arrived home, I
was  upset to  learn that my  brother  had enlisted in  the  guard  regiment
commanded by my uncle. I had hoped he would stay home to care for my mother.
The previous year he had enlisted in another regiment,  but  I had asked the
commander to  send him home,  since he was a  minor and had enlisted without
our mother's consent. He had returned, but, as with me, his whole background
pressed him into the fight.
     Our  house was full of refugees, mostly Don Cossacks who  had abandoned
all  their  possessions so  as not to fall into the hands of the Reds. On my
last  night  home, I  invited a few  friends and a  good accordionist and we
spent  the  evening dancing.  About l A.M. some Cossacks from  our  stanitza
knocked on  the door. "Lieutenant," one  of  them  said, "the  Reds are only
twelve  miles away. They'll be here  by  morning. You must leave right away.
They'll kill you if they find you here."
     One of them saddled my horse. Six cavalrymen  from my regiment had come
for me.  They had been  with me for  more  than a year, since my  last visit
home.  As I led the horse to the courtyard  gate, my  mother walked with me.
She  looked at  me for  a long time  and  then blessed me. I kissed  her and
leaped on my horse  so as not to prolong the scene, and galloped off with my
Cossacks. Nobody said a word. We had all been through the same drama.
     We rode all  night in the  direction of Ekaterinodar. The next day, all
the roads leading to the city were  clogged with refugees and  soldiers. The
city  was unrecognizable. It had been very clean, even  pretty.  Now it  was
filthy, crowded with men and horses, and  there were drunks everywhere.  Our
soldiers had pillaged the State-owned vodka factory and everyone, it seemed,
had a  bottle. I had  no idea where  to find our regiment,  so I decided  to
press on toward  the Black Sea, because  I knew that in case of  retreat our
division would go to  Touapse.  I said good-bye  to my friends.  No one knew
what the future would be.
     We practically had to fight our way  across the railroad bridge,  which
was the only way  out of Ekaterinodar  in the  direction of  the  mountains.
Toward evening we arrived at a large tobacco plant that belonged to a Greek.
Some girls who worked  in the  tobacco curing houses  lived in  one  of  the
buildings. We asked if  we  could spend the night with them. I fell madly in
love with one of them, a marvelously beautiful young woman. Our idyll lasted
only the night and we parted the next morning with breaking hearts.
     When I got to Touapse, I learned  that my  regiment had already  passed
through,  moving  toward  the  Georgia  border.  Georgia  had  declared  its
independence from Russia. I caught up with it at Adier, a  tiny and charming
village beyond Sotchi.
     General Rasstegaev, who commanded my regiment,  told me that it was now
part  of a cavalry  brigade of which he  was to take command. He made me his
adjutant  because  I  was  good at  writing  reports  and  orders.  But  the
appointment  was  meaningless; a  few days later the  brigade  had ceased to
     The mountain forests surrounding us were filled with Red partisans, the
"Greens," who attacked continuously,  while the Qth Red Army pressed us from
the coast. Our Cossacks were increasingly demoralized.
     Now,  we were ordered to Georgia, where we  would certainly be disarmed
and  interned  according to international law. The brigade was assembled and
the  order given to move  toward the border, a  few miles away.  The general
turned  his head only to discover that  half the brigade had not budged.  He
galloped back, with me following.
     "What  are you doing here? Didn't you hear  my  orders?" he  shouted at
them.  The  general  began  to  curse  them,   castigating  them  for  their
disobedience. It was  a dangerous game to provoke three hundred Cossacks who
were afraid of nothing or nobody.
     The only officer with them was a young  lieutenant, a  good  friend  of
mine. At last he came forward  and saluted  his commander. "General, we have
decided not to  go to  Georgia. We prefer to wait here and  surrender to the
Red Army."
     The  general's face turned  crimson.  Without a word, he wheeled on his
horse, rode over to those who had followed him,  and ordered them to  return
to their  lodgings.  I knew that he was deeply  humiliated. Not only had the
Cossacks refused to obey him, but the  lieutenant and at least fifty of them
were from his own stanitza.
     An hour later, a cargo ship dropped anchor a good way from shore; Adier
had  no harbor. The  sea was very  rough,  and a small boat lowered from the
ship had a terrible time getting to shore.
     I went out to meet the landing party and asked what they  had come for.
The ship's second officer replied that they had been sent to pick up as many
men as possible and take  them  to the Crimea.  "But,"  he added, "we cannot
take any  horses. We  have  no  way of  loading them,  and besides,  we  are
anchored practically in the open sea."
     The general  asked his Cossacks whether they  would agree to embark for
the Crimea without their  horses. Their answer  was immediate and unanimous;
they  would rather go to  Georgia. At that point, the general made a mistake
that cost him his command and his commission.
     Overwhelmed  by  betrayal, he  wanted  only  to  get  away as  soon  as
     "Pity, I shall leave alone, and you will accompany me," he said to  me,
"but I absolutely  demand that they take our  horses." He  explained  to the
second  officer  that they  were thoroughbreds that could not be left to the
Bolsheviks. The officer agreed but only at our  own risk. It took five hours
to get the horses on board, and they were  so  frightened and exhausted that
they took a week to recover.
     When we arrived at Theodosia, an ancient city founded by the Greeks, we
presented ourselves  to General Babiev, commander  of the  Cossack division.
Shortly  afterward,  Rasstegaev  was  dismissed  for  having  abandoned  his
Cossacks.  (I saw him years later in Paris, singing for tips in a cabaret. I
was  too embarrassed  to  speak  to  him.) I  was sent to  the  famous  Wolf
regiment,  which  had  been  established  during  the  Civil  War by General
Schkouro.  I was  not held in blame,  since it was assumed that I had had to
follow the general's orders. A few days later, most of the Cossacks still at
Adier were evacuated to  Theodosia  without their horses. Those who did  not
follow the general were conscripted into the Red Army.
     Without their horses, the Cossacks had lost  their  souls. Fortunately,
new mounts were found for them two months later. General Denikine was forced
to resign his command. The head  of the new "Russian Army" was General Piotr
Nikolaevitch, Baron  Wrangel. A  very  cultivated man, he  had been a mining
engineer  before becoming a  soldier, and had studied  at the famous Nicolas
Cavalry School  at St. Petersburg and later at the War College, where he had
finished first in his class. During World War I he had won  the Cross of St.
George  for  having  captured a German battery at  the head of his squadron.
During  the  Civil War  he commanded  the  Cossack  divisions and  was  very
popular. He was the most liberal  of all our generals and the  most hated by
the Bolsheviks, who called him the "Black Baron." They judged correctly that
his  very  liberalism made  him the most  dangerous of their enemies.  Alone
among the White generals, he  had a program for the future of Russia, if his
troops  should be victorious. He  abolished reprisals against Red  prisoners
and forbade requisitions  from the civilian population. But he had  come  to
command too late, and he knew it.
     Immediately  after  he  took  command,  he began  to work out plans  to
evacuate  the troops abroad in case of defeat. He made arrangements with the
French government, the only foreign power that recognized his authority.
     Although he took  the precaution of planning for a possible evacuation,
Wrangel was not a man to give up without a fight. His  plan was to break out
of the  peninsula and  try  to incite  an  insurrection while the Reds  were
having  trouble  on  the Polish front.  But  his  calculations  left out one
essential consideration: the Russian people  could  not forgive  Wrangel for
his foreign family alliances.
     During  this new brief war, I  had another  proof  of  my extraordinary
luck. Early in May of 1920, a week before  our army broke out of the Crimea,
I had been in the  trenches with  my  regiment, facing  the  Red  lines. One
morning, the commander  had ordered me to take a few Cossacks that night and
try to capture prisoners.
     Between our lines and  the  Reds there  was a wide  no-man's-land where
there were nightly  skirmishes between reconnaisance parties.  I chose a few
Cossacks whom I knew to be adept at this kind of operation and we worked out
a plan. To kill  time  during the afternoon,  as we waited, I  played  a few
hands of cards and won quite a lot of money.  By evening, however, I was ill
with  chills and a high fever. When it was time  to set out, I was running a
temperature of 104.  I  could  not  possibly go  on  such a mission. Another
officer went in my place. In the morning we learned  that  the reconnaisance
party had fallen into an ambush and no one had returned.
     My illness was diagnosed  as typhus.  It left me  completely exhausted;
nonetheless, it had saved my life. I was
     sent away for a month's convalescence, and then repined my regiment.
     When General Wrangel realized that his offensive against  the  superior
Red  forces  was doomed, he  took a long shot. That  was when he decided  to
invade part of  the Kuban Cossack territory, hoping to  stir the  population
against the Bolsheviks, of whom they had, by this time, some experience. His
hopes were illusory. This was the  last offensive of the White Army -- and it
was the battle that claimed the life of my younger brother.
     Only  the Cossack regiments  were to invade Kuban from the coast of the
Azov Sea,  but our preparations were apparently known to the  Reds  well  in
advance.   The   landing  was   to   take  place   near   the  stanitza   of
Primorsko-Akchtars-kaya on the  eastern  shore of  the Azov Sea. The landing
was easy, following a short bombardment of the shore. This was the last time
I saw my brother. His regiment, formerly the personal guard of the Czar, was
the  first  to set out  on a landing barge. My regiment was  to follow close
behind. My  last  sight of him  was as he  stood  in the prow of the landing
barge, smiling and waving to me.
     As we should  have expected, the  landing  was a  fiasco.  The  Cossack
population did not budge. Those whom the Bolsheviks considered bad risks had
been removed before we landed. In any  case, the Cossacks  had not forgotten
their grievances against the White Army. There  is  a Russian  proverb  that
says, "Never spit in a well; you may need to drink from it someday."
     For the first time, we were facing a new Red Army, better outfitted and
equipped  than  we  were.  It  was  clear  from  the start  that  they  were
unbeatable. On the  evening of August 22, the day my brother was killed, the
First Cossack division, commanded by General Babiev, arrived at the stanitza
of OIguinskaya, with a great number of Red prisoners. Almost immediately, he
had to order us  out,  without a  chance  to rest  either ourselves  or  our
exhausted horses. He had been informed that  the Red cavalry was  attempting
to cut us off from our base. With us were two companies from  the Konstantin
Military School  of Kiev and  two  cannons. He left only two sections of  mv
regiment, my own included, in the stanitza, along  with  the cadets  and the
two cannons.
     We were glad of a chance to catch some sleep. But we had also been left
in  charge of a few hundred prisoners, and we  didn't know  what  to do with
them. They were mostly boys of eighteen to twenty who did not understand the
war at  all.  We couldn't  let  them go  nor could we  kill them. Soon,  our
dilemma was solved  for us. A patrol, coming in from the opposite  direction
General Babiev  had gone in, notified us  that a large  force of Red cavalry
was advancing toward the stanitza. Since cavalry cannot fight in a town, the
director  of the military  school,  the highest-, ranking officer  among us,
ordered us to withdraw  immediately to the north, in  the direction  of  our
landing base. We had to abandon the prisoners.
     Our  cavalry  detachment  left the stanitza last. A little over a  mile
from  the village, we spotted a full Red cavalry regiment facing the village
from the east. When they saw us, they advanced in attack formation.
     We were only  about a hundred  and fifty  and would be  overrun  easily
without even the chance to resist with honor. All we  could  do was retreat,
and  even  then our chances  of getting away were  almost nil. We knew  what
would happen to us: the officers would be slaughtered and the Cossacks taken
     When the Reds were about five hundred yards from us, ;: they
broke  into  a full  gallop. We drove our horses to  the  ;  utmost of their
endurance but  the  Reds' horses were  in  much  better condition,  and they
gained on us. They were now only a hundred yards away. Behind me, I saw that
the front rider  had seen my epaulets  and had  picked me out. His saber was
     My  horse was slowing  down.  I  put my sword away  and  ^ took  out my
pistol.  I would take a  few  Reds, and  use the last bullet on  myself.  My
orderly's horse fell just in front of  me. There was nothing I could do  for
him.  The Red horseman was still behind me. Though he  wore  no insignia, he
was clearly  the  leader of the regiment. I fired twice and missed.  But the
third time, I saw him fall less than fifty yards behind me.
     We  were all  resigned to die --  and then we were miraculously rescued.
The two companies  of  cadets, who had  been  hidden by  a  tall  growth  of
sunflowers,  were suddenly  visible,  and  getting ready to fire on  the Red
cavalry. One company formed the first line, kneeling on one knee, and behind
it stood the second. On their flanks were two heavy Maxim machine guns. They
waited for  us  to get  close. As  soon  as  we  had spotted  them,  our two
detachments split in two, going off to the right and the left.
     The Reds were  practically on top of us, charging with such screams and
curses  that  even  seasoned  soldiers would  have been terrified,  but  the
students did not move a muscle. Then came a curt order, and all  hell  broke
loose. The  Red horsemen, cut down by the rifle and machine-gun fire, turned
back. Our two  cannons had been brought up  in the rear and they opened fire
on them as they fled.
     The field was filled  with dead and wounded men  and horses.  It was an
incredible  experience  in  every  way: the  courage  and  coolness  of  the
students;  the  savagery of  the Red attack, its  courage and fanaticism. We
learned later that there had been three regiments against our two companies.
But such defeats were  of no use now. It had been over for us ever since the
failure of our ill-advised landing.
     We were ordered to the coast, where boats  were waiting to take us back
to the Crimea.  I asked  about my brother's regiment and was told it was due
in an  hour.  I  went under a tree to wait. The heat was  unbearable. I  was
terribly  anxious and went  out to the road  to  watch, hiding myself behind
shrubs. At last, in  the  distance was the glorious standard of His Imperial
Majesty that had been awarded to the regiment for its valor in the battle of
Leipzig in 1813. My grandfather,  father, uncles,  cousins, my brother and I
myself had all served under it.
     The regiment  had almost passed  by and there was still  no sign of  my
brother. Then I saw  Berejnoi,  his  friend, a boy of the  same age who  had
volunteered at  the same time. I called to him and he  came toward  me.  His
manner  was enough to tell me what  I feared to hear. "Where is Ivan?" For a
long moment  he did not answer. "He was  killed the day before yesterday." I
had been waiting for these  words, but they struck  me  like a blow  in  the
face. Berejnoi told me  how Ivan had died, and  that he had been buried with
another  officer and two Cossacks in  the stanitza of Grivenskaya with  full
military honors. Some of his belongings had been kept for me.
     My brother's death affected  me so that I could  not  bear  the idea of
going back to war. When I got back to the Crimea, I told my commander that I
had to have some time off. He consented, and I returned to Theodosia with  a
small detachment of veterans of  the Civil War.  I was then twenty-two years
     The news from the front was  very pessimistic. Under  pressure from the
Reds, the army had been forced to retreat to the Crimea, which was protected
by  fortifications, some  built  by  the  Tartars and  some by  us. Our army
thought they had foreseen everything, but the fierce  cold was  a surprise --
and a costly one.  The  only  unfortified part of the  Crimea  was along the
stormy  Sivach  Bay, which was on  the  army's  right  flank and was to have
formed  an  invulnerable  barrier  against  the  Reds.  But  the  supposedly
unpassable Sivach froze overnight so thick that  the Red  cavalry crossed it
easily and attacked from the rear. That was the end of the White Army.

     SO, NOW I  WAS ON BOARD the steamboat Vladimir as it  got under  way to
leave Theodosia. The Black Sea  is often  stormy  in  the  winter,  but that
November day it was extraordinarily calm. It seemed  to me that even the sea
understood the tragedy of men about to leave their homeland forever.
     The good weather lasted all the way to  Constantinople, which was lucky
because many of  the boats were old  and all were overloaded.  Even a slight
storm could have  caused a catastrophe. That night there was a cold wind and
I pushed my way below deck, but the air was so stale I couldn't stand it for
more than five minutes. I found a small space on deck amid all the heads and
legs, wrapped myself in my  burka, and for the  first time  in my life, fell
asleep outside my homeland.
     In  the  morning the cold was intense.  The waves were higher,  and the
boat began  to pitch. On the horizon we could see a large two-stack ship and
near it a smaller ship.
     Small boats were passing between them.  The smaller ship, the Caucasus,
terribly  overloaded  with  men, was slowly sinking. Fortunately, it  stayed
afloat until all on board had been evacuated.
     The  sun rose higher  and  warmed us  somewhat. I was  terribly hungry.
Before we had left  shore  I  had been  able to find a  large can of English
corned beef,  but  no one had been willing to  sell us any bread, since they
knew that our money would be worthless  after we departed. I opened the  can
with  my Cossack dagger  and began to eat with  my  fingers. When  I saw the
haggard  faces of  the others,  and  how  they gazed at my every mouthful, I
offered to  share the meat with the  men around  me. One  of them had  a few
pieces of bread and we ate that with the  canned meat. It was very spicy and
made us frightfully thirsty.  One man  volunteered to go for water. It  took
him an hour  to fight his way through the crowd  and return with a bucket of
foul-smelling water that we drank with pleasure.
     To pass the time, I decided to  search the ship for friends. I received
nothing but  hostile looks since I had to trample on people's  feet in order
to move. The men were used to the worst after two years of civil war, but it
was particularly difficult for the few women on board.
     At  last I found some officers from my former  regiment near  the prow.
Because we were facing into the wind it was colder there than on the  decks,
but also less crowded. We made a sort of tent  around ourselves to block the
wind and stayed there together. The next day we saw some low mountains split
by a deep crevasse, the  entrance to  the Bosporous  straits.  On both sides
stood the ruins of forts that no longer threatened anybody. Turkey  had lost
the  war  and  Constantinople was  occupied  by  French, English and Italian
     In front of us and behind us, ships of our armada waited for permission
to enter the  straits. Mixed in with great ships like the Don, the Rion, and
the Kherson  there  were smaller boats of every description, about a hundred
altogether. Anything that could float had been used in the evacuation.
     As our  ship entered the Bosporus,  I forgot my troubles and the hunger
and cold. There was Asia on one side, and Europe on the other. At the Golden
Horn, I could scarcely contain myself. On the left  was Scutari, in front of
Istanbul  with its dome of Sancta Sophia  and  the minarets  of hundreds  of
mosques. Our  whole  armada  was assembled in  the  strait,  accompanied  by
warships  of the occupying powers. Not far off was  the magnificent cruiser,
the  General Kornilov, and  the  elegant yacht,  the Loucoul, which  carried
General  Wrangel,  his family  and staff. The General Kornilov, pride of the
Russian navy, which had been launched in 1915, was to be taken by the French
to Bi-zerte, where it rotted away because the French refused to return it to
the Soviet Union. The Loucoul later sank in the Bosporus.
     The noonday sun made us forget the  freezing cold of Russia. As soon as
we  cast  anchor  we were surrounded by small  boats filled  with  Greek and
Turkish  merchants  selling all kinds  of  supplies.  Almost  nobody had any
foreign money, of course. For a loaf of bread or a kilo of figs, the vendors
would take  a wedding ring.  One could buy some bread and some halvah  for a
pistol. The goods and payments were raised and lowered in nets over the side
of  the  ship. To persuade us to  deal with them rather than the Turks,  the
Greeks would make the sign of the cross  in the Orthodox fashion. Most of us
on the  boats had eaten nothing for three  days  and many gave away anything
they  had for some bread. I had two automatic pistols, a gold  watch, a gold
cigarette case, my dagger with its silver handle, and a gold cross and chain
that  my mother  had given me. It was all I owned in the world, and in spite
of my hunger, I could not part with my possessions.
     Shortly afterward, I was glad I had made that decision. A  motor launch
was headed for us loaded with  bread.  Because there was  not enough  to  go
around, the crew began throwing the bread up onto the deck; but the railings
were high and a good  deal fell into  the water. It made me feel sick to see
this food  being lost,  so I gazed instead at the city's panorama. Suddenly,
out of nowhere, a magnificent loaf of bread, which  must have weighed almost
a pound, landed in my arms. I finished it  off in short order  and began  to
feel more optimistic. It is amazing what a loaf of bread can do for a hungry
     Alongside  the small boats  of  the merchants,  there were  other small
craft pulling  up. These held families of officers who had  been evacuated a
month or  two  earlier, searching for husbands, fathers and brothers. It was
an  almost impossible  task, and even if  they  did find  them, it was still
useless. We were forbidden by the Allies to disembark.
     In the evening the sailors told us that our ship was lifting anchor and
that we  would be  put off  on some Greek island. Eventually we learned that
the  island was Lemnos  in  the Aegean  Sea, populated  by  a  few very poor
people. It did not seem a  very  cheerful prospect. As we  got into the open
sea, the boat began to pitch wildly and many were seasick.
     As we  passed through the Dardanelles the next day, we saw the wreck of
the French heavy cruiser, the Bove, which had been sunk by a mine during the
world war. Toward evening we made out the outline of our "promised land," as
one  compatriot  called it. The  land  looked  gray and sterile.  It made me
     They put  us  off  in groups on a  peninsula that was connected  to the
island by a narrow  isthmus. The peninsula  had  been an  Allied naval  base
during  the world war. There was a large building that desalinated seawater,
and  next  to it some  wooden barracks. Farther  on stood an immense  wooden
warehouse,  its walls painted  with pitch, and beyond that some houses  that
must have been occupied by the headquarters staff during the war. Far off on
the  right we could see the Greek city of Moudros, and on the other  side of
the isthmus was the village of Portianos.
     We were each given bread and a can of pate, and were issued tents large
enough to hold ten men. Soon a city of tents arose and the place looked less
forbidding. It  was terribly cold and we shivered inside  the  tents, though
they were secure and quite waterproof.
     Exhausted, we soon fell asleep, but around midnight we were awakened by
an uproar -- shouting and the sound of wood being ripped apart. The Cossacks,
frozen inside their tents, were dismantling the  warehouse, the only wood on
the island. We took our share. By morning, the warehouse had disappeared. We
forgot one  detail, however. The planks were coated with pitch and let off a
suffocating black smoke when burned.
     As the days  went by, the  camp took on the appearance of a real  city,
but it was only appearance. There was nothing inside -- no source of heat, no
beds or covers, no water to wash ourselves or our clothes. Crowded together,
we were soon infested by an enormous army of lice,  which we could not fight
off. It was a horrible existence.
     Our  legal situation was also precarious. When General Wrangel realized
that his  army could no longer resist  the  Red  Army, he  had  appealed  to
foreign  governments to aid the refugees  when they left the  Crimea. Poland
had  just concluded an agreement with the Reds, and that  had freed the  Red
Army to  fight  Wrangel. But,  during  a  dangerous  time  for  Poland, when
Boudienny's Red cavalry was advancing  on  Warsaw,  Wrangel  had  helped the
Poles by breaking out of the Crimea and marching toward the Ukraine. To show
its  gratitude on behalf of its Polish ally, the French government had given
de jure  recognition to the  Crimean  government. Therefore,  it  was normal
enough for Wrangel to appeal  to France to save the  lives of his followers.
The French agreed to assist the  refugees until  they could migrate  to  new
     The French commissary supplied us with daily  food: a loaf of bread for
every five persons (shipped  all the way from  Constantinople, it was almost
inedible by the  time  it  arrived), a  can of  corned beef  for  every four
people,  a  spoonful  of margarine each, and a little sugar and  tea. We put
everything except the sugar and tea into a large pot and this "soup" was our
daily nourishment. It left us chronically hungry.
     But the French did  not neglect  their own interests.  They confiscated
all the Russian ships as  well  as  all their supplies. This caused terrible
privation. They  ordered  the  Cossacks shipped to Lemnos  and  the  regular
detachments to near Gallipoli.  The situation of the regulars was even worse
than ours; the land there was an absolute desert. To  keep us from escaping,
the French treated us not as allies but as prisoners of war.
     There were  some English soldiers and  one  officer  on Lemnos, charged
with dismantling their base, but their barracks were some distance  away and
we saw little  of them. Our sources told us  that one could get all sorts of
supplies in the Greek village,  from which we  were  cut  off. I wracked  my
brain to find  a way of getting there. There came a day when I was so hungry
that  I decided  to give it a  try, come what might.  I would have to  cross
through  the English zone and  then pass the posts of the Cherkess, who were
guarding us for the  French. Since I didn't have a  penny to my name, I took
along an Austrian pistol that I  had captured. In Western Europe, if someone
offered a gun  to a grocer,  he would call the police.  But,  in the East, a
pistol is the easiest thing in the world to sell.
     I  knew that  the  only safe  way  out  was right  through the  English
encampment and I thought  if I could get  through  there, I wouldn't have to
worry about  the  Cherkess  guards. I passed the  barracks  without seeing a
soul, and  I was sure that  I was  safely  on  the  open road  when I  heard
footsteps  gaining  on me. I decided to head  for  an  outdoor  privy I  saw
nearby, but as  soon as I was inside  realized that I  had made  a  mistake.
Through a crack in the door I could see  an English officer heading straight
for the privy, and for me.
     He approached and I  heard him swear when he saw that it  was occupied.
First come, first served, I said  to myself.  I waited for him  to  go away.
Unfortunately, that was  not his attitude. He kept pounding  on the door and
swearing. After  a  few  minutes, I realized I had no choice and opened  the
door. When he saw me, he got so angry I thought he was  going to hit me. The
only thing I could think to do was draw my pistol and say "Russian officer."
He got the message and backed off. I also backed away until I had passed the
barracks and  the way  was open. Later, I  learned  that the privy was  "for
officers  only,"  and  that,  although  he  was  the  only  officer  in  the
detachment, British military discipline allowed no exceptions.
     In the village I  was astonished to see  the  main  street  lined  with
shops. I went into what  looked like the best of the lot and was overwhelmed
by the variety of the merchandise. I wondered who in this poor village could
afford all these  preserves,  canned meats,  honey,  and  chocolate.  Soon I
realized that all these  goods were a burden to the proprietor. Only a short
time before, there had been a sizable English garrison nearby with plenty of
money to spend. When they  departed,  the merchants  were left high and dry.
So, my entrance was greeted with warm smiles and handshakes.
     Before offering my pistol  for sale, I asked  the prices of some of the
goods. After I had figured out how  much  I wanted would cost, I decided  on
three hundred  drachmas for my  Austrian  pistol.  The  merchant,  as  I had
foreseen,  was anxious  to bargain and made  a counteroffer of two  hundred.
After some haggling, we agreed on two hundred  and fifty, and I chose what I
wanted. I was so hungry that I couldn't wait until I got back to camp. I ate
two cans of  sardines,  some salmon, ham,  and chocolates so  fast  that the
Greek merchant could barely believe his eyes.
     In  the evening I made my way back to camp without incident, and shared
some  of  my food with my companions,  who had not expected me to come  back
with such treasure. From then  on I was the  go-between  between the village
and camp. My comrades awaited my arrival with impatience.  One day they told
me about a  Russian soldier who lived in a nearby  village. I asked  to meet
him and two days later they introduced us.  He  was a sailor, not a soldier,
and had been wounded during  the war and  cared for in the English hospital.
By the time he was well, the Revolution had broken out, and he had married a
Greek woman and settled down on the island.
     Since he  spoke Greek  quite well,  he  was a great  help to  me  as an
interpreter. He advised me  that pistols were very much in demand and that I
had been selling mine much  too cheaply. A few days later, I arrived in town
with three pistols and  asked  a  thousand  drachmas  apiece.  The merchants
pointed to their foreheads to indicate that I must  be mad. I walked out  of
the  store. At the edge of  the village they  caught up with me and the real
bargaining  began. Two hours later, we  had agreed on eight hundred drachmas
per pistol.
     At this point the  English soldiers  left the island, and  the Cherkess
guards  took over  the  part of the line they had been  covering. This  made
getting  through  much more  difficult, but  for a while  I was able to slip
through  between  two outposts.  By  now  I was obsessed  with  the idea  of
escaping. My sailor  friend told me  that  there were several bands of Greek
smugglers.  If  I paid  them  well enough,  they could  get  me to Greece or
Turkey.  I had  no  money,  but  I still  had my gold cigarette  case, which
weighed two grams. I asked my friend to introduce me to them.
     The smugglers  were enough to strike fear into the heart of  the timid.
They  were big, rough  men, windburned from the open sea. They invited us to
share their meal and we accepted. After eating and prodigious drinking, they
fell to  singing. When that was over,  the serious conversation  between the
"captain" and me began. To my great surprise, he  spoke Russian. He had been
born in Odessa and had lived there until he  was  twenty-five. He had had to
leave the city  in a hurry to escape arrest for killing  a customs official.
When I heard his story, I decided not to trust myself to his mercies, but  I
continued the negotiations. I  told him I had no  money  but that I  owned a
gold cigarette case. He was pleased,  until I told him that I had left it in
the camp  and  would show it to  him when we  met  next. He didn't much like
that, but agreed  to  take me  to Salonika in two weeks, since  he was going
there on business.
     When we left, I  told my sailor friend that I would never dare to go to
sea with those ruffians. He insisted that I was wrong to judge them on their
appearances, that they were honest men in spite of their trade. I decided to
postpone  my  decision  until the  next  meeting. I had a little  reserve of
provisions, so I delayed a few days before returning to the village.
     Three days later, an  old colonel whom I had known for a long time came
to  me.  He  was  dying of  hunger,  he said, because he couldn't digest the
rations issued to us. He offered me his  Mauser and asked me  to trade it in
the  village  for something he could eat.  I could not refuse this old, sick
man the opportunity to  eat some  decent food before  he died. I promised to
     I  got there without any  problem and sold his  pistol easily, since he
had also  supplied some cartridges,  a very scarce item.  I bought some food
for  him I was sure he would like, and  on the way home I was thinking about
how pleased he would be. But when  I  arrived at my usual  crossing point, I
found an  outpost manned by three  Cherkess soldiers. Whichever  direction I
went, I found more guards. It was getting later and later, and I knew things
would be even worse in the morning.
     One side of  the small peninsula where our  camp  was located faced the
open  sea,  but the  other  side was  bounded  by a bay where the water  was
relatively shallow and calm when the wind blew from the land. That night the
wind was  blowing  from the center of the island. I crept to  the shore  and
found the water was  very cold but shallow  enough to walk  in. I still  had
about a mile to go to reach the camp. I packed the colonel's supplies and my
clothes around my shoulders  and waded  in.  I walked out to about ten yards
from  the shore; nobody  could see  me from shore.  The water  was  up to my
chest. I was frozen.
     About halfway across,  the wind suddenly changed. It began to blow into
my face. The waves were over my head. The undertow grew stronger and I began
to lose my footing. At this point, the shore was rocky and forbidding, and I
couldn't  climb  out of  the  water. I  thought  of  ditching  the colonel's
foodstuffs and my clothes. But  where could I find new clothing --  I decided
to fight it out. Once more, Lady Luck came to  my rescue.  The wind suddenly
shifted. I slowly  made my way  to a safe  part of the shoreline  and  later
reached camp, frozen and exhausted but alive.
     Our situation was more desperate with each passing day. With the hunger
and cold, the increasing filth  of our clothing and living quarters, many of
the Cossacks and officers began  to think they would die on  that  miserable
island.  We  were  told  that  General Wrangel  had  gone  to  Bulgaria  and
Yugoslavia  to ask  asylum  for  his  soldiers.  Meanwhile,  the French  had
announced their intention to cut off their aid to the refugees. Shortly they
showed  their  hand:  "Enlist in  the Foreign Legion and your future will be
secure."  France  had a Moroccan war  on its  hands  and needed  experienced
soldiers.  Many Cossacks enlisted, and some returned to Russia to take their
chances there rather than die on Lemnos or in North Africa.

     I WOULD NOT ENLIST in the legion, but neither could I return to Russia.
I would certainly  be hanged on the spot. I kept trying to think of some way
to escape, and I would certainly have ended up going  with the smugglers  if
some good  news had not reached us at last. General Wrangel had obtained the
agreement  of the Yugoslav government to accept the  women,  children, sick,
wounded and elderly refugees on Lemnos. A ship was to come for them in a few
days.  Of  course,  I didn't belong  to any of the  groups that were  to  be
     When  the day of departure  dawned,  a huge  Russian ship, the Kherson,
appeared  on the horizon. It was too large to get  close to the island and a
small Greek boat was brought out to ferry the  passengers. A  crowd began to
gather very early in the morning and boarding was set for 9 A.M. Since I had
nothing better to do,  I went down  to watch.  The  arrangements were  being
supervised by the Russian commander who, when he saw me, whispered:
     "Nicholas, do you want to get out of this place?"
     "Do I? But how?"
     "Take a piece of paper out of your pocket and pretend to show it to me.
I'll pass you onto  the ferry. When you get  aboard, hide until it's time to
board the Kherson. From there on, you're on your own."
     I looked for  a hiding place  on the ferry.  The decks  and cabins were
full; I would have to go down into the hold. The first hold was too close to
the deck to be safe, but, as  I  searched,  I  found  a  small  opening in a
corner.  This led to a lower hold which would, I thought, make a safe hiding
place. So I climbed down the iron ladder into the darkness. I couldn't see a
thing. I felt around me and came on some empty crates. I sat down  on one of
     Suddenly,  I heard something  move  nearby and  then something  brushed
against  me. Rats. I  tried  to  build a  barricade around  myself  with the
crates, and then  I sat down with  my  back against the hull. I had  thought
they would  leave me alone,  but I  was wrong. The rats attacked me from all
sides. Picking up a  plank, I  began to swing left and right, but this  only
served to madden them. Several  jumped on  my legs and bit me before I could
knock them off.
     I  was so desperate I  almost called  out. At that  moment,  the ship's
engines started  up and  I would  not have been heard, in any case.  I found
another plank  and with the two  of them I battled the rats for a quarter of
an hour that seemed like an eternity. I could feel the plank hitting against
what seemed like  a carpet of  rats but they kept jumping  onto my  legs and
biting me.
     Then  the  boat  slowed  down,  and  a  few  minutes later  it  stopped
altogether.  I made my way  toward the ladder, literally walking on rats and
kicking them out of the way;
     as I climbed up the ladder two of them still clung to my legs.  At last
I  reached  the  upper  hold  and then got  onto the deck. I  was  safe  but
everybody was staring at me;
     there was blood all over my hands and legs.
     The Greek captain saw immediately  what had happened to me. I explained
my dire  situation to him in French, and he  took me to his  cabin, where he
washed and disinfected my wounds. After he had bandaged them, he urged me to
seek medical  help on board  the Kherson.  What he  had been able to  do was
inadequate, and my wounds were likely to become infected. And rats can carry
the plague.
     As soon as I reached the deck of the  Kherson, I was taken charge of by
a nurse, who led me to the infirmary. The ship's doctor examined me all over
as I told him what had happened.  He  had my clothes burned  and told  me to
wash thoroughly. What a pleasure it was to put on clean clothes again. Under
the attentive care of the nurses, I began to revive.
     I tried not  to  think of the future;  how  would  I survive in foreign
countries where I knew nobody? I had no  job skills and  not  a  penny in my
     On the morning of December 31,  1920, the Kherson pulled into an  inlet
between  some mountains. Passing  through the Gulf of Kotor we steamed  into
the great harbor of Katarro. In front of us was Mount Lovtchen, on which was
perched  the kingdom of Montenegro; to our right, in the distance, we  could
see Albania. We gradually approached  the little port of Zeienika,  where we
were to disembark.
     The cafes and restaurants reminded  me that I was hungry. I didn't want
to sell any of my "treasures" but I had been given some slippers on the ship
and I was carrying my new  English leather  boots in a  sack. I  put them on
sale in a  cafe.  After  a little  haggling,  I  had  a hundred crowns in my
pocket. As  I left the cafe, I ran  into  a captain whom  I had  known quite
well. He had fifty dinars. Pooling our resources, we had enough to celebrate
the New Year in style.  We  went to  a  cafe  that was frequented by Russian
refugees, most  of them wounded  officers like  my friend  the captain. They
invited  us to join  them, and  then the drinking began.  We  drank  to  our
country and  to a quick return; we drank really to forget  our exile and the
uncertain future. I drank so much that I do not remember how I ended up in a
barracks  with  my friend. But I had nothing to fear. No one  asked  me  any
questions and I was put  on  the list to receive  free food and four hundred
dinars a month. The king of Yugoslavia welcomed us like brothers. Later, all
the Cossacks on Lemnos were evacuated to Yugoslavia, where many of them were
assigned  to border patrols.  Many Russian officers and physicians were able
to find positions in Yugoslavia that resembled what they had had in Russia.
     My leg  wounds were a  source of concern. They were healing very slowly
and the treatments  I  received  from a Russian doctor did not  seem to help
much. I was also  worried about  proper  clothing. After my clothes had been
burned on the Kherson, I  had been given  some  that had been disinfected so
often that they smelled to high heaven. They were also too small for me.  My
captain friend told me  that there  was a  warehouse  of civilian clothes in
Zei-enika sent by the American Red Cross.
     I  went  to see Mr.  Rodzianko, the head  of the Russian Red  Cross  in
Zeienika, but to my surprise I  was refused any help. I was so angry  that I
began to plan my revenge on  him and, at  the same time,  get what I needed.
Each week we  went in  groups to baths, which were next to a deep  and rapid
creek that ran down  from the mountains. We entered the baths from  the side
away from the creek,  there we left our shoes  and hats. Then we went into a
large  room on the creek side, where we took off our clothes, made a package
out of them, and put them inside a steam  cylinder  to be disinfected. After
we bathed, we emerged on the  other side, where we found  our shoes and hats
and retrieved our clothing from the opposite end of the steam cylinder.
     After  I undressed, I waited for everyone else to  go into the baths. I
made a pack of my clothes and put two heavy stones inside it. Stark naked, I
walked  back out and  threw the bundle into the  creek. Then I went into the
bath, washed  thoroughly,  and came out  with all  the others to wait for my
clothes to be taken out  of the disinfectant.  When  they  didn't turn up, I
began to protest loudly  and  to complain of the cold. I was given a blanket
while everyone searched high and low for my  clothes. It soon  became  clear
that they would not be found. An attendant  was dispatched to Rodzianko, who
finally relented.  I was issued clean underclothing and a splendid suit. The
label in one of the pockets read, "Wood & Saxe, Tailors, New York."
     That was one thing solved. There remained the problem of my legs, which
were giving me more and more  trouble.  The camp  physician  sent me to  the
hospital  in  Ragusa  (today Dubrovnik),  which  was  located in an enormous
former convent with endless corridors and rooms of every size and shape. The
physician in  charge  was the former  chief medical officer  of the Austrian
army and there was also a Russian doctor. Soldiers of the new Kingdom of the
Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes  served as nurses. I spent a month there and was
very well taken care of. Toward the end of my stay, I learned that my uncle,
the colonel of the former Escort  of the Czar, now called  the Kuban  guard,
was also in Yugoslavia.
     I  was just getting ready  to leave the  hospital when I became deathly
ill. Two days before I was to leave, I  had gone to the toilet at night with
almost no clothes on. The hospital had no electric light after 10 P.M. There
were small alcohol lamps in the rooms but  no light at all in the corridors.
The toilets  were  quite  far  from  my  room and  I got lost  in the  unlit
corridors. I was terribly cold and  I  called out to the nurse but the place
was so huge that I wandered for almost an hour before anyone heard me. I was
trembling like  a  leaf. In the  morning I had  a  high  fever and developed
pneumonia. For two weeks I was between life and death. Even  after the fever
had passed, it took me  two weeks to  recover my strength.  I had to stay in
the hospital another month.
     Finally I was discharged from the  hospital. The administration gave me
a new civilian suit,  a  little money, and a ticket to the city of Novi Sad,
where my uncle was living. His wife had left Russia to join him three months
earlier  with  their  son and  two daughters. Novi  Sad  had belonged  until
recently to  Hungary and  had three names -- Novi Sad in Serbian,  Neusatz in
German,  and  Ujvidek  in Hungarian -- and its population was as mixed as its
names. The children  playing  in  the streets spoke not  only three national
languages but also Yiddish,  for there was also a sizable Jewish population.
It was a wonderfully charming city on the Danube.
     My aunt was an enterprising woman. She had managed to save her valuable
jewels and with the money had bought a hotel  with a superb cafe. (Two years
later, she and one of her partners lost control of  the establishment to the
third  partner. But in the meanwhile, I lived the high life.) I had the best
room in the hotel; I  ate  in the cafe and my aunt gave me pocket money. She
bought me two new suits in the latest fashion. It was a soft life, but I was
uneasy living off  my relatives. So  one day I decided to go to  Belgrade in
search of any  former comrades  who might  be there.  Belgrade had  suffered
terribly during the war from bombardment by the Austrians across the Danube.
Rebuilding was going on everywhere.
     After  several days in Belgrade I was involved  in a dramatic  incident
and  my good luck  saved  me once again. The  parliament building  had  been
renovated and  was to  be dedicated by the prince  regent,  the  future King
Alexander. He was to be accompanied by President Pasic. I found a spot along
the parade route near a large building where construction work was going on.
In order to see over the mounted guards along the street, I stood on a small
pile  of bricks. I could hear  the cheering  in the  distance and  then  the
church bells began to ring. There was a foreigner standing next to me, a man
of medium height who could not  see over the guards. Since I was tall enough
to see the parade from ground  level,  I gave him my  place on  the  pile of
bricks. The parade came along and I could  see  the regent and Pasic, seated
in an open carriage.
     After that, things happened so  quickly  I couldn't tell what was going
on. The horses fell under their traces;
     there were  people  covered with blood. The police  were running in all
directions. There had been an  assassination attempt against the regent. The
foreigner next to me was stretched out on the ground, his face covered  with
blood.  As  I tried to reach him, the police arrived and carried  him to  an
ambulance. Next day I read in the newspapers that he was Swiss  and had been
hit by  a bomb  fragment. He had been blinded. Given my height, the shrapnel
would have hit me in the chest if I had stayed standing on the bricks.

     AT THE RUSSIAN EMBASSY in Belgrade I  ran into a fellow officer who had
been attached to  the same brigade as I at the outbreak of the  Civil War. I
had not laid eyes on him since those days.
     "My dear  friend," he said, "you  are just the man I  have been looking
for. Of course, I had no idea  I  would find you here though I knew you were
in  Yugoslavia. I  have  just returned from Bulgaria, and I had a  talk with
General Pokrovsky in Sofia. He asked  me to try to find  you and to set up a
meeting  with  him there.  Here  is  a ticket. His  address is marked on the
     I was startled. I had not  even seen the general for ages and had never
felt  sympathetic toward him. I disapproved of his cruelty to the enemy and,
as well, his behavior toward the Cossacks. Why on earth would he wish to see
me? Out of curiosity, and because  I was  bored and  wanted to  do something
new, I decided to go anyhow.
     I went back to Novi Sad to tell my aunt and uncle.
     They tried  to dissuade me  from going without being quite sure why. My
uncle  knew Pokrovsky and  didn't think highly of him. But I had made up  my
mind,  and two days later,  I  took the train for  Sofia.  I didn't  have  a
passport,  but  I managed to get through  both the Serbian and the Bulgarian
customs with a sort of identification that my uncle had written out  on some
of his leftover regimental letterhead.
     When I arrived at Pokrovsky's house, his orderly  informed me that  the
general  was  in Tirnovo, the  former  capital of the Bulgarian kingdom. The
next day I found him in a house on the outskirts of the city. It belonged to
a  Bulgarian  colonel  who was  an  adversary  of the government.  Pokrovsky
greeted me warmly:  'T am delighted  to see  you, molodoi [young man].  I'll
tell you  later  why  I  sent for you. First, let's go eat.  But  forget the
General Pokrovsky. I am incognito here. I am Captain Ivanov."
     The political situation  in Bulgaria was complicated. Czar Ferdinand of
Bulgaria  had  sided with the Germans during the war, against the sentiments
of most of his people. After  the war, he had been exiled, and his son Boris
had succeeded to the throne. A general  election had given a majority to the
Austrian Party, which  was leftist, though  not communist, and the president
of that party, Stam-bolisky, headed the government. To add to  its troubles,
the country was regarded by the Allies as a former enemy.
     With help  from the Allies, General  Wrangel had persuaded Stambolisky,
heading the new government, to allow refuge to some of the  exiled survivors
of  his  White  Army.  But it was not sitting  well with Stambolisky.  These
foreign  soldiers, with rightist  political attitudes,  could well side with
his opposition and assist in a coup d'etat. And the Soviet Union was unhappy
with  him  for granting asylum to  its mortal enemies. But the White Russian
Army and its leaders were scrupulously neutral regarding Bulgaria's internal
affairs. Their  dreams  of  returning to  Russia had  been encouraged by the
mutiny of the sailors at Kronstadt  against the Bolsheviks, and incidents of
fierce partisan resistance in the Caucasus.
     I was  still bewildered by Pokrovsky's summons.  I  was very  young and
much too junior to be any help to him. But after a splendid dinner he handed
me  a hundred dollars and told me to  go to a certain address  in Burgas and
wait for him there. "I will tell you there what I want you to do."
     I told him good-bye, and by the next evening I was in Burgas, the large
Bulgarian port on the Black Sea. The  address the general had given me was a
large building on the  outskirts, surrounded  by a high stone wall.  It  had
been rented by a  Russian  colonel  who  was living there  and  posing  as a
businessman organizing a  small commercial fishing  company.  A large vessel
from Constantinople was sitting in the harbor.
     The  ship  was commanded  by a Greek  captain who  was originally  from
Kertch in  the Crimea. The  crew of  six were all from Odessa  and had  been
longtime volunteers in the White Army. The ship was to land supplies for the
partisans  on the shore  of the Black  Sea. At first, I thought this was the
mission the colonel had in mind for me. I knew that part of the world and my
name was well known  to the Cossacks who were  resisting  the  Reds there. I
would have accepted such  an assignment in spite of the dangers; besides any
patriotic motives, it would have given me a chance to look for my mother and
maybe  to  bring her back  to Bulgaria. This was not what the general had in
mind.  General  Pokrovsky, now  Captain  Ivanov,  arrived  one  night  soon,
accompanied  by  his  orderly, a  Cossack noncommissioned  officer  who  was
utterly devoted to him. There was a lieutenant colonel in the house who also
lived  under a false name. General Pokrovsky said,  "Now,  gentlemen, let us
talk  about  serious  matters." And, turning to me,  "I  have  summoned you,
molodoi, for  two reasons.  First of all, you come from an excellent family,
renowned  for  its  honor   and  its  sense  of  loyalty.  I  remember  your
grandfather,  who served three emperors without the slightest fault, and who
was a hero  of the war  of 1877. I also  knew your uncle, the colonel of the
Imperial Guard, and I have had the honor of being his commanding officer.  I
know also that several members of your family have been killed  by the Reds.
Not long ago  you lost your younger brother. You yourself have  served under
me, and even  if your inexperience has caused you to make a few  mistakes, I
know you to  be courageous and trustworthy. The  second reason has precisely
to do with your youth and physical strength. You will need both."
     The general then  told me the rest.  When Denikine had finally realized
that  victory was hopeless,  he had named Pokrovsky director of the military
affairs  behind  the  lines.  In  this  position he  had  been charged  with
gathering all the deposits  of both State and private  banks, as well as the
contents of private estates whose owners were assumed dead or in flight. The
money was intended to support sabotage and intrigue against the Reds. He had
hidden everything he had got hold  of in a secret place known only to two or
three people. We sat at the table  listening as  the general paced  the room
and spoke in nervous bursts.
     "According  to  what  I  have  learned   from  our  Bulgarian  friends,
Stambolisky's police are planning an action against me.  There is a  traitor
among  us  who has denounced us  as an organization that intends to continue
the resistance against the Reds. The Bulgarian government is friendly to the
Soviet Union and is under severe pressure from them for having even admitted
us. It is urgent that we hide our treasure in an absolutely secure place. It
is well hidden now, but not safe enough. A really  good search might uncover
it, and that would mean the end  of our cause.  We must decide where and how
to hide it better.
     He turned to the two colonels and the lieutenant colonel. "I have asked
you, gentlemen, to give me  your suggestions on  how to  find another hiding
place. What have you to say?"
     The lieutenant  colonel answered. "Excellency, the colonel  and  I have
given it a great deal  of  thought. I have personally explored the territory
around the city for about fifty miles. I believe the only really safe hiding
place  must be away from the city,  in a heavily wooded area, and I think  I
have found the spot. It will  take a tremendous amount of work. Fortunately,
we have our young comrade with us now, but I wonder if even he can manage."
     "I can  assure you," I responded  grandly,  "that  nothing will  be too
     "Very well, molodoi," said the general. "I am counting on you."
     All  night we discussed the project. The lieutenant colonel and I would
look over the location the next day. Then the general led us downstairs into
the cellar.  The lieutenant colonel removed about twenty bricks from one  of
the walls.  They were so well matched to the rest of the wall that it  would
have been  impossible  to find  the hiding place without tearing  the  whole
cellar  apart.  I  could see only  part of the treasure  but  what I did see
amazed me: foreign currency, bushel baskets of diamonds and emeralds, silver
plate and gold. A fabulous treasure.
     Then it dawned on me  why the general had had  the bricks taken off and
was removing some  of  the treasure.  He was going to take some of the money
for his own needs and give each of us enough to support ourselves before the
treasure was  buried.  Early  the  next morning, he  bade  us  farewell  and
promised to return. We felt somehow that we would never see him again.
     We  had decided that we  would  divide the  treasure four ways and bury
each portion a half mile away from the other.  We got right down to the task
of exploring the forest for hiding places where we could work  without being
noticed. We roamed all day without seeing a soul  within  a radius of six or
seven miles. Still, we planned to  work  only at  night and  search  for our
hiding spots during the day.
     The lieutenant colonel  went off  in search of some  cases  the Russian
army had used to store rifle cartridges. And I was sent  to  find some waxed
paper we could wrap the currency and stock certificates in to keep them dry.
I  had  to  go to Sofia.  I thought from there I might  get  a letter  to my
mother. I was worried sick about her; most of my relatives were  either dead
or in  prison. It was very  complicated to  get a letter from Bulgaria  into
Russia. Germany was the only country that had  postal relations with Russia,
so  one  had  to  send a  letter to Germany with  a  request  to the  postal
authorities  there  to forward it  to Russia. Along with my letter I sent  a
return envelope marked to myself, "General Delivery, Sofia."
     When I got back, the lieutenant colonel and I got to work. The treasure
had been brought out of Russia in six or seven large zinc cases. It was only
when I was  helping the  lieutenant  colonel divide  it  up to  put  it into
smaller cases that I got  any real idea  of how large it was. In spite of my
youth and inexperience, even I could see that it was worth a fabulous sum. I
have forgotten  what figure the colonel cited, but I know that it turned  my
head. I still remember, fifty years later, how awed I was.
     One case  contained thousands of  gold rubles  and presented us  with a
terrible  problem,  since  we  had only about twenty  smaller cases  and the
original  containers  were  too  large  to  hide.  Finally,  we  bought  two
medium-sized iron water tanks  for the gold  pieces, but we had to  lug them
into  the  forest empty,  then  bring the  gold pieces out in sacks and fill
them. We later buried these in the third and fourth hiding places. We had  a
terrible time, as well, with about four hundred and fifty pounds of platinum
--   the purest  in the world, the  colonel  assured me -- but at  least it was
molded in flat bars and  didn't take up as much room as the  gold pieces. We
wrapped the platinum bars in heavy rags and put them  inside burlap bags and
then wrapped the whole thing in big leather pouches.  These  were to go into
the first and second hiding  places. Another large part  of the treasure was
made  up of  about forty-five pounds  of  jewelry set  with precious stones,
diamonds, emeralds, and rubies.  Some of the stones were  huge and must have
represented large fortunes just  by themselves. There were some smaller bags
with pounds  of  loose, uncut precious  stones of various sizes. Then  there
were  a  number  of wooden  boxes literally stuffed with foreign  notes  and
currency, most of them English pounds. The stock and bond  certificates were
interesting because  they represented some of  the greatest companies in the
world.  I remember  there were some  from  de Beers  diamonds, and from  the
Canadian  Pacific  railroad.  Besides  the  valuables,  one  case  contained
documents which,  General  Pokrovsky told me, would be  enormously important
for future historians. The  band the documents  were tied with was inscribed
in red, in Russian: "Top secret. Of the greatest importance to the State." I
can still see the inscription as if it were before my very eyes. How would I
evaluate the treasure as  a  whole? It's hard to give even an approximation.
But I would estimate that it was worth over a hundred million dollars.
     Our first expedition took place a few days after I got back. We set out
early  in  the evening, since  the  first spot we had picked was a very long
way. We had hidden our tools there. I had bought three powerful  flashlights
in Sofia. It was exhausting work.  The lieutenant colonel was an old man and
had a heart condition. The ground  was frozen and we  had to dig a deep hole
at least three  and a half feet. It was summer and so daybreak came just  as
we had gotten the cases in  place. We filled the hole in, camouflaged it and
hid our tools, and  then walked a half  mile.  At  that point we fell on the
ground and slept all through  the afternoon.  Afterward, we waited for  dusk
before we dared return to the house.
     The following night, on our second expedition,  we  had a bad scare. We
had just begun to dig when the lieutenant colonel suggested that we stop and
eat  something.  We  were  leaning against  a tree, relaxing,  when we heard
footsteps  about a hundred yards away, then  voices  that were  not speaking
Bulgarian.  I recognized it  as  Turkish because  it resembled Tartar, which
some of our servants had spoken.
     We drew our pistols-we had been ordered to kill anyone who came upon us
and to conceal their bodies.
     Whoever they were,  they  halted and remained  there,  in  silence, for
almost an hour.  We thought  there  were five or  six of them. Finally, they
moved away, in the same direction from which they had come, toward the sea.
     When  we had finished our work we went to  examine the spot where  they
had remained  for so long.  It was light, and after searching for a  bit, we
found a natural excavation hidden under  a thicket. Inside it  was all kinds
of  foreign merchandise. Our visitors had apparently  been Turkish smugglers
who were delivering their goods to their Bulgarian connections.
     Our discovery could  have had serious consequences. We had chosen their
hiding  place as a site to bury part of our treasure. If  the  smugglers had
come upon us, we would have had no choice but to fire. Given the numbers
     involved, there would have been some doubt as to the outcome.
     But the rest of our work  proceeded smoothly, and we were relieved when
it was over.  Our main concern was the colonel, who  was having a great deal
of trouble with his heart. After our work was finished, he  admitted that he
had had several attacks. There was no way to get any medicine for him.
     It was now a full month since I had mailed the letter to  my mother and
I  was  impatient  to get  to the  post  office in Sofia even though I could
hardly expect a response so soon. Nonetheless, as soon as I arrived in Sofia
I went there and, with great apprehension, inquired at the general  delivery
window. I almost fainted with  emotion when the clerk handed me the envelope
I had addressed to  myself a month before.  I walked out of the post office,
feeling almost  drunk,  and sat  down  on a  bench  before  the  magnificent
cathedral of Alexander Nevsky.
     I saw a tiny bit of paper and unfamiliar writing and knew that my fears
had  been  justified. "Dear Nicholas,"  the letter read, "I am a Cossack who
used to work in your home. When your letter  arrived, they  tacked it  up on
the bulletin board in the meeting room of our soviet. I am terribly sorry to
have to  tell you that  your mother died on April 21  last year of typhus. I
hope  you are  well."  My mother  was  forty years old. I  walked around for
several hours and then returned to Burgas. The two colonels tried their best
to console me. To  pass the time,  the lieutenant  colonel and  I had gotten
into the  habit of going  to a cafe frequented by  Russians, where we played
chess. We met a young Bulgarian who was employed in the  police headquarters
and who,  like the majority of  Bulgarians, was a Russophil and disliked the
present government.
     One evening, quite late, we had just finished our chess game. He walked
in and stood facing me and with a movement of his head suggested that we two
step outside. I followed casually. He was waiting for me behind a tree. "You
must leave immediately," he said in Russian. "A few minutes ago I received a
telegram for  the prefect  from Sofia.  It  contains three names: yours, the
colonel's and the lieutenant colonel's. The prefect is ordered to arrest you
immediately and  send you to Sofia  under heavy guard until the  authorities
arrive from  the capital.  You must  hurry. I  have to  deliver  the message
     "Thank  you,  my friend," I  said. 'Tell  me how much time  we  have to
collect the colonel and a few things."
     "At most a  half hour," he replied. "And don't  forget that the prefect
has a car."
     We shook hands, and I went in to  get  my friend. I asked him to follow
me without wasting a moment and on the way to the house I explained what was
happening. He was worried about the colonel. "He is old and sick;  we cannot
leave him alone here. What are we going to do?"
     When we got  there, we told the colonel what was going on and asked him
to get ready  as fast as  possible and to gather any compromising papers. As
he was getting the papers together, he clasped his hand to his heart and lay
down on his bed. "It is  nothing," he said. "It will pass." And with that he
closed his  eyes and died.  "He is better  off," my  friend said.  "He could
never have stood what is ahead of us."
     We kissed him, and recited a prayer for the repose of his soul. Then we
took our  handguns  and the money and papers and left. The closest border we
could head for was the Turkish. To avoid the police, we circled the city. In
the distance, we could hear the siren of the prefect's auto.
     It was a dark, warm night  and we made good time. As we walked along we
tore up the papers we  had  taken with  us. The  area between Burgas and the
border was sparsely populated and heavily wooded. It  was a simple matter to
avoid the few villages.
     When  day broke, we  found a well-covered  hiding  spot in  a grove and
slept there for several hours. When  we awoke, we were dying  of  hunger and
thirst.  A little way along we came to a large  farm. The lieutenant colonel
guarded  our arsenal while I went to get something to eat and drink. I had a
heavy walking  stick with me,  luckilv,  because no sooner had I entered the
yard than I was attacked by a half-dozen savage dogs. They had  me backed up
against a wall when an old  woman appeared from the  house.  She chased  the
dogs away, yelling at them and throwing stones.
     She lived alone in the  house  with her young grandson. I  explained to
her that I was Russian and that my friend and I were looking for work in the
forests. I showed  her my money and  asked her  if I could  buy something to
eat.  She sold me some bread, two dozen eggs, a wheel of  cheese and a large
jug of milk. That was fine, but  how was  I to  get out by the dogs? The old
woman worked out a stratagem, coaxing them into the stable with some cheese.
While they were fighting over it, she closed the door and I got away.
     As day broke on the third day, we saw a barrack with the Bulgarian flag
in the distance. This was the border. We moved off the road and waited until
dark to try to pass over. It was very hot, but we found a small stream where
we  could  drink  and  wash  ourselves.  The  day  dragged  on  and  we  got
increasingly  nervous. Greek troops were guarding the  border,  since all of
what  had been European Turkey  was occupied  by the Allies.  At last, night
came and we moved out slowly. We  clambered into a stream, but  there was no
way of knowing in the dark when we had crossed over to the "other side."
     The night was completely still. We would have prayed to heaven for some
wind  or rain, even  a storm, rather than that quiet in which our every step
resounded. We held our pistols ready and agreed that we would not fall alive
into  the hands of the border patrols. We  walked for  about  another twenty
minutes, about ten yards away from each other. I was just about to say to my
companion that we  had probably crossed the border  when  we  heard  a shout
fifty yards behind us,  "Stoi!" --  "Halt" -- in Bulgarian. We were still  not
     A hundred yards  ahead lay the  shadowy  outline  of  the  forest,  and
bullets whistled around  us. One passed so close to  my right ear that I was
briefly  deafened. One  more burst of  energy and we reached  cover. Bullets
struck the  tree trunks. We were so out of breath and tired that we couldn't
run any more. Our only recourse  was to resist, to return fire until we  had
recovered  enough strength  to move  on. The lieutenant  colonel took  cover
behind a thick tree trunk, and I lay down behind a felled tree.
     Immediately another foe appeared -- a Greek patrol drawn by the sound of
the Bulgarian firing. They could not see what was going on and  began firing
back at the Bulgarians. They soon saw  their mistake and began firing in our
direction.  They could not see us, but from the echo of the bullets  as they
hit the tree trunks, we  knew they were both in front and behind us. We were
in  a cross fire. Without a word between us, my companion turned his fire on
the Greeks, who were  nearer to him, while I aimed at the Bulgarians. We had
semiautomatic  weapons  and  we  fired  in  short  bursts  to  conserve  our
ammunition. Off and on we would hear cries of wounded men. We were in a much
better position:  invisible in the shade of the forest,  while we could spot
their patrols against the horizon as the sky grew lighter.
     I held off their advance by hitting three of the five men  who remained
able to  fight. Nonetheless, our situation was worsening.  The patrols would
certainly be  reinforced, and our ammunition was running out. I had only two
charges left. I was dashing to my companion when I  heard his firing stop. I
reached him crawling on my hands and knees, but he was dead, a bullet in his
     I  could still hear  firing behind  me but  the bullets were no  longer
whistling by. I then took my  friend's ammunition,  money  and papers, fired
another round, and took off through the  underbrush. The forest was not very
dense, and soon I was able to stand up and run at full speed.

     SINCE i HAD had some rest  during the shooting match,  I set out  on an
all-day,  all-night marathon.  Though  I stopped  from  time to time, I  was
utterly exhausted by the end, too tired even to feel hungry. My mouth was so
dry I could hardly swallow. As I stood at the edge of a small wood at dawn I
could hear dogs barking in the distance and headed in that direction.
     I was moving along cautiously when I saw a  man watching me from behind
a bush. I took out my Mauser. He called out "kardache," the Turkish word for
friend. I  had come on  a  "pomak,"  one of  those  Bulgarians  who had been
converted  to  Islam by  the Turks. We spoke to each other  in Bulgarian.  I
explained to him that I trying  to get to Constantinople  to look for  work,
because  there  was none to be  found in  Bulgaria, and that some Greeks had
fired on me as I was crossing the frontier and I had returned their fire. He
replied that he  hated the Greek dogs and would help me as much as he could.
He offered  me food,  though all I wanted was something  to  drink and  some
     He  led  me  to a  small thatched log cabin. He took care of  about two
hundred  sheep that  belonged  to him  and his family  and hated  the  Greek
soldiers, who were constantly stealing them. There  was a huge jug of  cool,
clear spring water. He smiled at me as  I gulped it down. Then he piled some
sheepskins in the corner and I threw myself on them. The shepherd covered me
with  skins until I was completely hidden.  I had  my arms ready  to  defend
myself in the event of danger.  I might  be  discovered  at any  moment by a
Greek search party, or the shepherd might betray me. He had an honest face --
and guests are sacred in his country -- but I couldn't know what was going on
inside his head.
     I fell  asleep immediately and when  I awoke, it was night. I had slept
away the entire day.  The shepherd  was sitting on a stool near the  doorway
and when he saw me  emerge from the sheepskins,  he smiled and wished  me  a
good evening.
     "The Greeks were here looking for you. You and your friend killed a lot
of  them,  and  some  Bulgarians, too. They  looked in here but  didn't  see
anything.  They  told me I would get a reward if I saw you and reported your
whereabouts  to the  police. I gave  them a lamb to get rid  of them." I was
ashamed that I had doubted his goodwill. I shook his hand warmly and thanked
     I  felt strong again and hungry enough  to eat a sheep. My host gave me
an  enormous  piece of cold mutton and some homemade cheese, which  I washed
down with spring water, since wine is forbidden to Moslems. As I ate, my new
friend  counseled  me  on  how  to  avoid  all  the  traps  on  the  way  to
Constantinople. The most dangerous  places,  he said, were on the outskirts.
They  were occupied by French, English  and Italian soldiers,  who patrolled
all the roads leading into the city. I might be  arrested  and  thrown  into
prison  for  entering Turkey illegally.  Not to mention the gunfight at  the
border  --  the Greeks had better  not learn that I  had taken  part in  that
battle.  (There  had been  two Greeks  killed  and  three wounded,  and  the
Bulgarians had one dead and five wounded, as I later learned.)
     I had to get  moving. The Greeks might come back at  any time. One last
time I thanked my Bulgarian friend and  gave him my  automatic pistol. Tears
came to his eyes. I couldn't have kept it  anyhow. It was too heavy and hard
to  hide, not  to speak of incriminating.  I cautioned him that it could get
him into serious trouble and warned him to keep it hidden.
     I  practically had to lose my  temper in order to  get  him  to  accept
twenty English pounds,  a small  fortune to him. Furnished with  a supply of
meat, bread and cheese, I set out at about 10 P.M.
     I moved  along a narrow path,  my Mauser in  my hand, a  bullet in  the
chamber. It was a clear night. The clouds had disappeared  and the landscape
was brightly  lit by a half moon. Suddenly, two uniformed figures loomed  in
front of me, Greek policemen. But they  had made  a bad mistake.  Instead of
carrying  their  carbines  at  the ready, they  had  them slung  over  their
shoulders. I didn't want to  kill them but I had to do something. I fired at
their legs and they crumpled with screams of pain.
     I ran most of the night, then slept for a couple of hours in a thicket,
ate something, and started out again, avoiding the villages. From the top of
a hill I saw a Greek patrol in the distance.
     At  dusk I came on a small stream and decided to spend the night there.
My feet  were killing me. I  bathed them in the stream for a long  time  and
rubbed  them with grease from the mutton. I found a sheltered spot and spent
a peaceful  night,  and  in the morning  I felt refreshed and  ready for the
road. That  day passed without  incident. But my shoes  were  falling apart,
which was a serious problem.  The ground  was rocky and in  a day  or  two I
would be barefoot.
     I  spent the  next night near a stream and in the morning I  decided to
risk everything. I  had to find a hamlet where  I wouldn't be discovered  by
the  police but where I could  buy  a pair  of the woven shoes  the peasants
wear, which are comfortable for walking in the mountains and forests. In the
afternoon, I spotted a tiny hamlet, just a few houses around a small mosque.
I had no choice but to dare it since I also needed more provisions.
     As I entered  the village a pack of dogs  set up a terrible  racket and
some Turks came  out of  their houses. I greeted them with "Shalom  alechem"
the common greeting in all Moslem countries. They began  to  speak to me  in
Turkish but I indicated by sign language that I didn't understand. They were
neither hostile nor  friendly  --  merely  suspicious. They exchanged anxious
glances and asked if I were Greek, English  or French.  I told the truth: "I
am ourousse [Russian]."
     To my great surprise, their attitude immediately  changed.  They  began
shaking my hands and slapping me on the back. One of them led me by the hand
into his  house. Then I  grasped  the reason for their change  of  heart. My
Turkish host kept repeating over and  over "Kemal  Pasha  [Ataturk],  ourous
kardache" Kemal Pasha was  battling the Greek army  in  Asia Minor with arms
supplied by the Soviet Union. The Turks did not make any distinction between
Red and White Russians. All Russians were "kardaches" to them.
     A crowd gathered around me  while I  ate. I explained that I was trying
to get to Istanbul (the Turks disliked the name Constantinople), showed them
my  tattered  shoes and a five-dollar bill. (The rest of the  money was tied
around my  waist in a  cloth belt.) No one would take my  money but in a few
minutes they had set before  me several pairs of  boots of the kind worn  by
Balkan peasants, made  of strips of sheepskin. They are  so light you hardly
know you  have them  on. One wears them with long woolen stockings the women
weave, and a pair  of  these were brought to me. Then I  was escorted to the
fountain in the courtyard of the mosque, where I  washed my feet, put on the
stockings and my size 44 shoes, and felt like a new man.
     I spent the  night in this hospitable village. All evening long I heard
patriotic songs in which I could distinguish only one word: Kemal Pasha. The
Turks were  incredibly proud of his victories  over the Greeks. On the other
hand, they detested the Allies, who occupied their capital, and explained to
me in  sign language that  it would  not  take their hero long to throw them
     The next day the entire village accompanied me to the Istanbul road. On
my back  was another gift from  these Turkish peasants, a  large embroidered
cloth bag  full  of  provisions. Once  again,  they  adamantly  refused  any
payment. As I walked along I thought of the wonderful people I had met since
crossing the  Bulgarian border  and  of the age-old traditions that  make  a
stranger a cherished friend to them.
     Of course, the Turks knew nothing of my adventures with the patrols and
I had no way of explaining, as they pointed out the road to Istanbul, that I
had to avoid the direct routes. So after a few kilometers I struck off  on a
path  that  ran  parallel  to   the  road  and  two  days  later  I  sighted
Constantinople. Night  was  falling  as  I  arrived  at  Galata, an outlying
district  of  the city  on  the Bosporus. I was glad it was  dark,  as I was
filthy and my clothes were torn and unkempt. While I walked through more and
more  densely populated neighborhoods, people stared at my strange getup and
I  grew more  and  more  dismayed. As I turned a corner, I saw two men whose
clothes  identified them as Russian soldiers. I asked if they could tell  me
where I could spend the night.
     We were standing  under a streetlight. One of them looked at my costume
and said, "Where have you come from in that condition?"
     "I  walked all  the way from  Bulgaria. Tomorrow I  will go to see  our
military attache."
     "Are you an officer?"
     "Yes. "Then maybe you're part of this Bulgarian business that veryone's
talking about."
     "I don't know what you're talking about. I Hed from Bulgaria to  escape
being arrested."
     "Very interesting. We are a Russian naval and a merchant marine officer
and we live in  a rented house  a few steps away. Come and tell us your tale
and let's see what we can do for you."
     My  appearance caused  a  sensation among my clean, well-dressed hosts.
"Where did you find that ragamuffin?" one of them asked the officer  who led
me in.
     They all laughed. But they stopped laughing when they heard where I had
come from and why.  Everyone  crowded around to listen. Someone showed me to
the shower they had built for themselves, and each one brought me a piece of
clothing  from  his  modest wardrobe  -- one, trousers, another  underwear, a
shirt, and so on.  When I had shaved and looked human  again, I sat down  at
the table and told them the whole story, except the part about the treasure.
     They,  in turn, filled me in on what  had  happened after the defeat at
Burgas. The newspapers  had been full  of it. Stambolisky had turned against
our organization in Bulgaria, which had wanted to continue the fight against
the Bolsheviks by any and all means. Colonel Samokhvalov, our chief of staff
in  Sofia,  had been arrested  and  imprisoned. The  membership roll of  the
secret organization  was  found in  his desk. Except  for  the  colonel  and
myself, who  had been alerted in time, everyone had  been arrested.  General
Pokrovsky had been killed by the police during arrest and General Koutiepov,
commander-in-chief of the Russian troops in Bulgaria, had been expelled.
     So, General Pokrovsky, the colonel, and the lieutenant colonel were the
treasure's  first  victims. There would  be others.  I was  so upset  that I
couldn't sleep in  spite of my exhaustion.  I  was  the sole survivor  among
those who knew about  the treasure. What  made it  all  the more strange was
that I  had learned of its  existence only  recently, and that those who had
gathered it were all dead. I was overwhelmed by the responsibility.
     Should I speak to the highest ranking Russian military authorities? The
three of us had  solemnly sworn to General Pokrovsky  not to reveal anything
without his explicit permission. But now the general was dead and my promise
had no more force. Whom should I tell? Considering the moral standard of our
high-ranking  officers  --  with  the exception of  Denikine and  Wrangel-the
treasure would  certainly  be  misappropriated in short order.  By  the next
morning I had made a decision  to speak of  the treasure  to no one  for the
time being. It was securely hidden, though I had no way  of  recovering  it.
Later I would confide in someone I trusted absolutely.
     I had breakfast with the officers, borrowed a little Turkish money, and
promised to return in the evening. I set off downtown. The first thing I had
to do was  change some money to buy some  clothes. At Galata I found a Greek
money changer and changed fifty  English  pounds, quite a large  sum for the
     All  the  foreign   diplomatic  missions  were   still  functioning  in
Constantinople.  The Russian military  attache was quite  helpful  when he'd
heard my story. On the spot, he provided me with identity papers, in Russian
and French, under  the name of Sergei  Orel, as he thought it would be safer
not to use my real name until public interest in the Sofia affair died down.
He asked me whether I had any money.  I was faced with  a dilemma. If I said
yes, it would  seem  strange,  given  the  general  poverty  of the  Russian
refugees.  On the  other hand, I knew  he couldn't be  very  well off and it
embarrassed me  to take  money I  didn't  need. I replied that two or  three
Turkish  pounds would do me for  the  moment. He seemed  relieved and added,
since I had told him I had borrowed the clothes  I was  wearing, "I'll  give
you a letter  to Mme. IIovaiskaia, the general's  daughter, who is secretary
to Miss  Mitchell, the head of the American  Red Cross. She will outfit  you
from head to toe."
     I thanked the general sincerely and promised to let him know my address
as  soon  as  I  had found somewhere to  live.  At  the headquarters of  the
American Red Cross, Mme. IIovaiskaia provided me with  a fine blue pinstripe
suit (with a label from a Philadelphia tailor), shirts and underwear, shoes,
and even a hat.
     A month later, I received  a visit at  my small hotel in Galata from an
officer who served  the military attache.  His superior wanted  to see me as
soon as possible. The next  morning, when I went to the embassy, the general
received me promptly.  He led me into a  private office and closed  the door
carefully. His first question took me off guard.
     "What do you know of the treasure General Pokrovsky was guarding?"
     "What treasure, Excellency?"
     "You know nothing of it?"
     "I only  met  General Pokrovsky, under whom I had served in Russia, two
months  before  I  fled Bulgaria.  The  general  never  spoke to  me  of any
treasure. I have no idea whether such a thing exists."
     "In that case, essaoul, let me ask you where you got the money you have
been  spending. You  told me you had  no money  and I lent  you five Turkish
pounds. Now you are living in a hotel that, modest as it is, costs a pound a
day. You eat in a  restaurant every day that must  cost another  pound.  You
bought a suit  from an Armenian tailor. Over and above this, I know that you
have given over one hundred Turkish pounds to various refugees.  Allow me to
ask you where this money -- a small fortune for a refugee -- comes from."
     They've been watching me ever since I got to Constantinople, I  said to
myself. If only I had told him that General Pokrovsky  had given each of his
aides a  small  amount. Too late now. "It is true, Excellency, that I had no
money when  I arrived. What I  did not say -- and I don't  know why  I should
have-is that I brought a few valuables from Russia, including  a  heavy gold
cigarette box signed by Faberge. It was a family heirloom  and I didn't want
to sell it but as you know, there is no  work here and I was forced to." (In
fact, I had sold it in Yugoslavia.)
     "In that case, you can tell me to whom you sold it."
     "To an American tourist on the Mauritania. I  didn't want to sell it in
a jewelry shop. They're all run  by Greeks and  Armenians.  You know  what a
ridiculous price they would have given me."
     He was looking me in the eye and I stared back. Then he asked me to let
him know  where  I could be reached if I left the hotel, but I never saw him
     I stayed at the hotel two more months, until my money ran out, and then
I moved  into  a boardinghouse  for refugees where it was only five piasters
for  a bed for the  night. It was a  wooden building and, like many  Turkish
houses,  harbored a  fantastic colony of bedbugs that were impossible to get
rid  of. The only solution  would have been  to burn the  whole  thing down,
bedbugs and all. The beds were made of iron and we burned out every possible
hiding place on them  with gasoline.  Then  we set  the  legs in tin cans of
gasoline but  the damned bugs crawled up to the ceiling and  dropped down on
us  while we slept. Sometimes, when I was half crazy with them, I would take
my bedclothes and sleep on the  lawn of  one of  the abandoned cemeteries in
the city.
     Then the day arrived when I didn't even have  the five piasters. It was
winter,  an  unpleasant  season  in Constantinople, with  icy winds and rain
almost every day.  I was facing disaster and had nowhere to turn. Once more,
good luck intervened. On the main street of  Pera I saw  someone who  looked
familiar. We gazed at each other and then we fell into each other's arms. It
was  like  a miracle.  At  the  military  school  at Irkutsk,  my  bunk  and
Teliatnikov's had been next to each other. He was from Tashkent, had been an
assistant  manager of  a  bank, and was  forty years  old; I was  then  just
eighteen.  Now  he  told  me  of  how  he  had escaped from  Russia  through
Vladivostok, had roamed over half the world and ended up  in Constantinople.
For two years now he had been the chief accountant at the Nobel Company, the
principal owner of the Baku oil fields.  The Bolsheviks were  selling  Nobel
his own oil.  My  friend  thought it  couldn't last because  the  communists
needed the  oil badly  themselves  and  were  only selling  it  for  foreign
credits. He loaned me a little money and promised to try  to help. Two  days
later he arranged for me to come to work for Nobel as a gasoline salesman.
     So there I was, with a Crimean  Tartar driver who  spoke Turkish. Every
day  we went to a different neighborhood in a specially equipped wagon drawn
by  two  mules carrying  twenty-  and fifty-liter  cans. Most often I had to
carry  them on my shoulders because the streets were too narrow or too steep
for the wagon. The driver helped me but it was still very hard work. I stank
so of gas that people turned away as I  passed. I had to sleep in the stable
with the mules but I got  pretty  good pay, ate three  meals  a  day, and my
compatriots envied me my job. Twice a week it brought me to the rear of  the
famous Pera Palace  Hotel, where I gazed  at the lovely women on the arms of
the  Allied  officers. The Italian officers, with the comic  opera uniforms,
were the most elegant.
     I still did not  know what to  do about the  treasure- whether I should
abandon it forever or tell the right person. Who was the right person?
     I worked at Nobel for four months and got to know Constantinople as few
foreigners do. I  also learned to speak Turkish in order to bargain with the
grocers. But when Nobel stopped buying oil, I was out of work again.
     After a few days of near  panic,  I  heard that  the  English army  was
hiring Russian refugees to work on their bases in  the Dardanelles. I had no
idea what kind of work it was but I had no choice so I signed on for a year.
A boat  took  us to an English  base on the right bank of the straits facing
Chanak,  where we were lodged in unheated Turkish army barracks. We slept on
the bare wooden floor and shivered with  cold day and night.  It rained  all
the  time and the  wind was freezing.  We could  never get our clothing dry.
Canned  meat  and  soup  were  the  only hot food we  had  and  so  we  were
perpetually hungry. We  used to steal a few cartons  of food once in a while
but eventually  we  stopped as a point of honor. We worked  hard and long in
the rain and mud.  The English noncoms treated us like prisoners even though
we were free workers. A lot of the time, we worked  unloading heavy cases of
shells.  I  wondered  why  the  British  were  stockpiling  so much militarv
material when their war was  over. Kemal Pasha was continuing his successful
campaign  against  the  Greeks but  the English had remained neutral in that
     About a month after I arrived, we were ordered to unload cases of heavy
artillery  shells.  Four  men  could hardly  lift  the cases. Since I  spoke
English, my comrades designated me to inform the sergeant  that we could not
and would not. The cases were unwieldy and if one fell, we would be blown to
bits.  The  sergeant  was  well  aware  of this  and kept  his  distance.  I
approached  him, but  instead of  listening  to our complaint, he started to
curse  at me as only an English  sergeant  can. "You have no right to insult
me," I said. "I am not a prisoner or a slave."
     He went wild,  and dragged me by the arm to the major in charge. I took
off  my  cap. The  major put  his  on.  He  sentenced  me to  a hundred  and
sixty-eight hours (why a hundred  and sixty-eight  hours instead of a week?)
in  prison for disobedience.  I  was not permitted  to utter  one word. They
locked  me in  a barbed wire enclosure with two tents where there were three
other  Russians, who  were  being punished for  refusing  to eat corned beef
every day.
     It was the first time I had  ever been  locked up. At the crack of dawn
we were rousted out with yelling  and swearing.  All day, with only  a short
break for lunch, we  were made  to run on  the double to  the  beach, fill a
fifty-kilo bag  with sand, run back to the prison with it, and empty it onto
a pile.  When the pile was large enough, we took the sand back bag by bag to
where we'd gotten it. When we slowed down, the English  soldiers  threatened
us with long clubs.
     One  night after it  had  rained for twenty-four  hours the  tents were
flooded  up  to our  knees. We complained to the guards but  all they  would
allow  us to do was  fill some sacks with sand and pile them up so we  could
squat on them. We were trembling with the cold, our teeth chattering so that
we could barely talk.
     The next  day I told my companion, a  sublieutenant, that I had decided
to  break  out and  that he was welcome  to come  with me. He agreed. I  had
noticed that by lifting the barbed wire where we gathered the sand you could
dig a ditch deep enough to slip under. The  next night  the rain stopped but
there came a very strong  wind,  almost of hurricane force.  Our  tents were
almost blown away but fortunately it was  a dark,  starless night. We waited
until very late and then slipped  out of the tent. We filled some sacks with
damp  sand  and slipped them  one  by one  under the wire. This opened up  a
narrow passageway. It took a long time and we were very nervous. The guards,
who slept in a small wooden barracks at the far  end of the  compound, could
emerge  at any moment and they  would almost  certainly shoot us. Our  hands
were  bleeding  from the barbed  wire. My companion was  smaller than  I and
slipped  out easily. I  had  some  trouble but I finally managed  to squeeze
     We  took the  road that ran  along the strait to Gallipoli. Late in the
morning, when  were  some  distance from the  camp,  my  companion  suddenly
shouted, "Watch out. They're  after us." Sure enough, there were two British
soldiers on bicycles with dogs about a kilometer away and moving toward us.
     There was nowhere to retreat to. On the right was the water, and on the
left a steep rise  covered with thick underbrush. Ahead about  three hundred
yards away there was a small bay, where four men were unloading stone blocks
onto the bank. Without stopping to think, we 'dashed toward them.  They were
Turks. I explained  that the English were after us because we didn't want to
work for them and  as soon as  they heard the magic word ourousse they said,
"Jump into the felucca."
     When the  English soldiers got  there five minutes  later,  we were one
hundred yards from the shore. The  dogs  were barking angrily at having lost
their trail  and the English soldiers concluded that we must  be underwater.
They  waited  around  for an hour or  two before  returning to base.  In the
evening, the  Turks  reentered the cove.  It was too  late  to work  so they
dropped  anchor about  fifty meters from shore  and invited us to  spend the
night. We accepted gratefully. They gave us tincture of iodine for our hands
and a meal of grilled fish and sour milk. Our hosts began to sing and again,
over  and over, we heard the name Kemal Pasha. The night passed uneventfully
and early  the  next morning,  we  thanked  our rescuers and  pressed  on to
     The  appearance  of the  city,  which  was  empty  and  abandoned,  was
sinister. It was bizarre to see a good-sized  city  inhabited by nothing but
wild cats,  who would run when we approached,  and by pigs darting in  every
direction. Finally we found a few French soldiers who were
     guarding  the  lighthouse, and  four Russians  -- the sole  survivors of
General  Koutiepov's  army,  which  had  been  evacuated  into  Bulgaria and
Yugoslavia. A  single  trace  of their encampment remained  -- a  pyramid  of
stones. Every soldier and officer  had brought  one  stone to  build it, the
inscription read. This moving monument was all that testified to the fate of
an "army of chevaliers," as one French writer called it.
     The Russians told us that  the Greek population had abandoned the city,
when Kemal Pasha's army reached the opposite shore of the Sea of Marmara. It
was better to be a refugee in Greece than face the Turkish soldiers, who did
not treat Greeks gently.
     When I got back to Constantinople, I faced the same problems as before:
I was  a  penniless refugee  in a city where there was  no work to be found.
There was a three-or four-month waiting list to emigrate to America and even
then I would have had  to have at least twenty-five  Turkish pounds, which I
had no way of getting.
     Once  again,  a  solution presented itself --  to enlist  in the Foreign
Legion.  My  companion  and  I  went  to  the  recruitment office  and  were
interviewed by a French officer. "Formal swearing in," he informed  us "will
take place at Fort Saint-Jean  in  Marseilles. In the meantime, you  will be
lodged and fed at the post here."
     He gave us a note for the commanding officer. The post was a formidable
building surrounded by high walls that  looked  more  like a  prison than an
army camp. We arrived  at mealtime, and for the first time in three days ate
all we wanted. It wasn't very good, but as the saying goes, we didn't look a
gift  horse in the  mouth.  However, we  realized immediately that  we  were
trapped. Once inside there was  no  getting out. The next  day, a  transport
ship arrived from Marseilles.  Some legionnaires who were being  demobilized
for illness or wounds stopped at the post on their way back home. There were
Serbs, Bulgarians, and Rumanians. Needless to say, we asked them  about life
in the legion.
     Their  response was unanimous: "The legion is living  hell. You work on
the roads twelve hours a day in the broiling sun. At night, as often as not,
you have to fight , since Morocco is in open revolt. The discipline is cruel
and  punishment is brutal.  The only relief, when you get your lousy pay, is
to get drunk enough to forget."
     All  we could think of was to  escape.  In two days the transport would
leave  for Marseilles and formal enlistment, which would mean five  years of
hell. But we didn't know how  escape  would be possible. We had noticed that
certain trusties went out  in the evening, and there were also some civilian
employees,  mostly Greeks, who left for the night.  They had to  show  their
exit permits to a noncommissioned officer. On alternate days, the officer in
charge was a Sengalese who did not even read the  papers, just waved the men
on. My comrade  and I did  have Russian  military identity papers. We waited
for  the Sengalese noncom to come  on duty  and got in line. We flashed  our
papers at him and he let us pass. Once outside, we ran as fast as we could.
     The next  day  I remembered that the owner of the  Russian newspaper in
Constantinople, a man named Maxi-mov, had known my father. I went to ask him
for  work. By chance,  the man who had distributed the papers to  the retail
dealers  had just left for America, so I  inherited his  menial job. It paid
just enough to feed me and allow me to  feed  my blood  to  the bedbugs that
infested the quarters reserved  for Russian refugees.  I couldn't go on like
this. I had to find a way to get out.
     One  day I read  in one  of the newspapers I  distributed  that a  ship
headed  for  Marseilles with  a French  regiment  would  also  take  Russian
refugees  who  had French visas.  I was off that day, so  I  went up  to the
Galata port. Maybe I  would have a chance to say good-bye to someone I knew.
And I did  meet a lieutenant I had known. He had studied at the conservatory
and now led  a  Russian orchestra  and had a  three-month  engagement  in  a
nightclub in* Nice. Out of the blue, he said: "Do you want to go to France?"
     "Of course. What a question! But how? I have no money and no visa."
     "But it's very simple, my friend. Get your bags, get on board, and I'll
tell the boarding officer that your name is on the group passport."
     I  ran home,  grabbed my two  bags, ran back and up  the long gangplank
right into the arms of the boarding officer "Passport?" he asked. From below
the orchestra leader yelled up, "He's with us. His name is on the group pass
     After a bit he came on board and  hid me  with their baggage. I  waited
there  for  six or seven  hours, scared  to death. Then  I  heard  the  most
beautiful  sound  imaginable,   the  ship's  whistle;  we  were  under  way.
Eventually, my friend came to rescue me. "You can come out now. Even if they
find  you  out,  there's  nothing  they  can  do.  You're  on  your  way  to
     The crossing  took  five days.  The French soldiers fed  me from  their

     so, FOR THE FOURTH TIME,  I  was fleeing,  leaving behind what little I
possessed. What would become of me in Marseilles? The  thought tormented me.
But  when  we  arrived, it  turned out that  there  were about twenty of  my
compatriots on  board  in the same fix I was in,  with no passport or visas.
"These  damned  Russians," the  commissioner of the port police  said with a
tolerant  smile,  "they keep  arriving from all sides." They  let  us in and
ordered  us to go to the Russian consulate to get proper papers  and then to
report to the local employment office.
     It was September 24, 1923. Everything was odd in this land of my dreams
that I now saw for the first time .  . . both strange  and enchanting. After
four years of nightmare, the  French were living life to the hilt. There was
a lot of construction and  workers were needed everywhere. Things were cheap
and  one  could actually  live on  one's  salary. In  their effort to forget
hardship and  bereavement,  the  French  were  living as  if  there  were no
     All of us were offered  work in the Departement of the Aisne in a metal
factory near  Soissons, not far from  Laon. We were  issued  tickets for the
train and set out, hungry and somewhat bewildered. None of us had a penny in
his pocket and we were happy Just to get where we were going. Our good humor
was short-lived. We disembarked,  not even at a station,  but at a makeshift
wooden  barrack.  The  surroundings  looked  like a  picture  of the moon  --
completely  barren, not a  tree, nothing  but trenches  and excavations.  We
asked a railroad clerk where the metal factory was. He gazed back at us with
an ironic expression. "The factory? Well, you see the road that  goes up the
hill  over there? When  you reach the  top, you  will see  your factory." He
smiled.  In spite of our hunger, we formed a  small military  detachment and
marched off, singing. We  got to the top of the hill. There was  no factory.
There  were  about twenty barracks  and long rows of  something we could not
make out. (They turned out to be piles of  shells and shrapnel.) A youngster
came along on  a bicycle and  I asked where the factory was. "What factory?"
he asked. I showed  him the paper that had been  given us in Marseilles with
the name of the factory. "There is no factory here. Look at your papers. You
see, it's in Alsace. All we do here is to gather the shells from the fields,
defuse them, and send them to the factory."
     We had been tricked once again. Now we  were  under contract for a year
and we had been lied to about the nature of  the work, and not told anything
of  the dangers involved. We agreed  that we could not accept it and that we
would announce  our  decision as soon  as we arrived at the barracks. As  we
drew closer, we could  see  that one  of the barracks flew the banner of the
Red  Cross. I asked to speak to whoever was in  charge,  and  a man came out
immediately  to greet  us. When we told him  our decision, he blew up.  "How
dare you? Do you think I'm an idiot? You signed for a year's work, your trip
was paid for, and now  you refuse to work. You are asking to be put in jail.
I'll telephone the police to come and arrest you."
     "You are the one who  should be  under  arrest, monsieur,"  I  replied.
"Look at my papers. It says in black and white that we are supposed  to work
in a  metal factory. Where is the factory?  We've been lied to and we're not
such idiots that we're going to get killed  for a few francs. There is a Red
Cross  barrack  full  of  injured  men.  We're  the ones who  are  going  to
     He changed his  tune. "Listen, the work really isn't dangerous and I'll
raise your salary if that's the problem." We laughed at him and went  off to
find the mayor.
     "This is not the  first  time,"  he told us,  "that  these  people have
deceived  their workers. You are absolutely correct to refuse.  My advice to
you is to go to Laon and apply for work at the labor office."
     We had eaten nothing  for two days and I felt  as if my legs were about
to cave in.  I had  made friends  with a lieutenant about my age and we  had
decided  to hang in together. The others had left before us, so by  the time
we  arrived at  the  employment  office,  they had  already been hired by  a
threshing factory.  The only  jobs left were  on a  farm in the  village  of
Chalandry -- it was called the  Chateau-Chalandry and  was about  seven miles
away. We  must have looked pretty sour at  the prospect of such a  long walk
because  the office manager finally asked us when we had last eaten. When he
heard, he gave us some bread and butter.
     We walked to the farm by fields of sugar beets. We  ate one of them and
felt a little better.  I remember that we arrived at the farm at suppertime.
We had expected  something  grand because it was called a  "chateau," but it
was only a mediocre farm with a silly-looking tower, from which it must have
gotten its name.
     The  farmhouse was  in the  middle of a  large courtyard surrounded  by
barns.  We saw an old man, one of  the  owners.  He ran  the  farm  with his
brother-in-law. "Do you  know  how to  do farm work?" he asked. My companion
did not speak  French so I answered  for both: "Yes, sir. We know  all about
farms. We used  to be farm workers." He looked at us skeptically.  "I  don't
really believe you were farmers, but  we'll see about  that." He looked over
our papers  and then invited us into  the kitchen for something to eat.  "If
you work as well as you eat," he said, "I have made a good bargain."
     After supper, he  took us  over to a ladder. "Climb up there," he  told
us. "There are blankets and someone will wake you in the morning."
     I was so exhausted that when someone waked me  up  I felt  as if I  had
slept for only an hour. After a measly breakfast, we went out to pick beets.
We  had  arrived at  the hardest work season  of  the  year.  We  used  huge
pitchforks to load the beets onto horse-drawn wagons. The beets were deep in
the earth and it took tremendous effort to pry them loose. We were weak from
malnutrition,  and by noon of the  first  day our  hands  were bleeding.  My
friend was in better shape than  I was,  and not  nearly so done in. "You do
what you like," I told him as we  walked  back to  the  farmhouse for lunch,
"but I can't manage. Look at my hands."
     "I'm still okay," he said, "but if you have to quit, I'm going too."
     Just then the other owner came  over  to me. "From now on you'll be  in
charge of  the  cows.  You'll  be told  what to  do." I  accepted  this  new
assignment gladly,  and slept contentedly in the barn  with my  cows for the
next eight months.
     I took care of the cows and the whole  dairy as well. Usually, I had to
get the hay ready and load it. I was badly exploited, working twelve hours a
day for a few dollars a month and lousy food. The older brother was at least
agreeable, but the younger one was  plain mean, stu-. pid and brutal. I used
to fantasize  about punching him in the nose, but  I never did it. I  had to
earn enough money to get away and find something better.
     I don't  really  regret  those  eight  months.  Working on  the land is
healthy and  satisfying and I had  never  worked with my hands before. I got
back some measure of physical strength and even acquired a bit of patience.
     When  I had saved  about  two  hundred and  fifty  dollars I  left.  My
companion had already quit.  I went to  the  Employment Office  in  Laon and
found  a better-paying  and safer job in Resigny as a wagon driver at one of
the processing plants of a huge dairy company. Each morning I drove  a wagon
all around the  neighborhood, collecting about two thousand gallons of milk.
I  got back  to the  plant  about noon. The milk  was processed,  and in the
afternoon it was loaded onto trucks in cans and early the next morning  sold
in  Paris. It  was  pleasant  work,  especially in the summer. The  Ardennes
forest  reminded me a little of my native Caucasus.  I  planned to stay long
enough to save five hundred dollars and then try my luck in Paris.
     I used to subscribe to a Paris newspaper to keep up with what was going
on in the rest  of the world. And since I was absorbed by the affairs of the
Russian emigres, I also  took the two most important Russian-language papers
that were published in Paris. Rut all this time I was thinking more and more
seriously about "my" treasure . . . the treasure of the White Army.
     It  was crucial  for me  to understand the interconnections between the
various  groups  of emigres to figure out whom I could eventually  go to for
help to  recover at least part of  the treasure. I had already made one firm
     I would  not  offer the treasure,  or any  part of  it,  to  the exiled
Russian  military   organizations.  These   organizations  had   sprung   up
everywhere,  under the leadership of General Wrangel. Later, after his death
in 1928, General Koutiepov assumed the role of leader. Rut the Civil War was
over.  We were defeated  and in exile. All we  could do now was to adjust to
our  new circumstances  and understand that  there  was  no  possibility  of
overthrowing the Soviet regime from  abroad. General  Koutiepov and all  the
exiled class of  officers dreamed of nothing  else; I shared their passions,
needless  to say,  but  I  had come to terms with  reality.  Many  Russians,
blinded by their hatred of Rolshevism, could not understand  that aggressive
action against the communist government from abroad would only reinforce the
regime.  The  White organizations were riddled with provocateurs  and double
agents; even General Skoblin, who had commanded one of the most brilliant of
the  White regiments,  had betrayed us. General Koutiepov and his successor,
General Miller,  were  both kidnapped, to  the consternation  of the  French
press.  What  kind  of  organizations  were these,  whose leaders  could  be
kidnapped in broad daylight in the middle of Paris? I was not going to share
a single kopek with any of them. I would go after a part of the treasure and
try to recover enough to finance a full-scale expedition. Then I would share
it with the Russian schools, our disabled veterans and the Russian churches.
     In the  meantime, there I was at Resigny and the  drudgery at the dairy
plant.  The manager was a bastard. He paid us eighty dollars a month, though
we  got enough to eat  and a decent place  to sleep.  Rut I noticed  that he
preferred non-French-speaking employees  and I soon  discovered  why. He was
cheating us. Each month as we received our pay, we signed for it on a  list.
I noticed that he kept his finger over the place next to each name. Finally,
one day,  I had had enough,  and I pushed  his hand out of my  way.  He  was
cheating each of us' out of one  hundred francs. Eleven of us at one hundred
francs apiece each month . . . not bad! I went to  the manager and told him,
"Monsieur, either you pay us  what you owe us, or I'm going to write to your
superiors in Paris."
     The next day, he called me into his office. "Okay, I'll pay you but not
the Polaks."
     "No, either you pay everybody or I'm going to report you."
     I realized,  of course, that  after this I could not stay  on under any
circumstances. Finally, he gave me my missing back pay for seven months. The
Polish workers were afraid of losing their jobs so they  settled for the one
hundred  francs that  had  been  "omitted"  from their  last  wages. I  said
good-bye and went on my way.
     I knew that a former Russian soldier was the  manager of a plant  about
twelve miles from Laon that rented farm  equipment out to the local farmers.
I  got a  job as a tractor driver  and  worked at harvesting the wheat  near
Vervins. It was summer and  the  life  was so pleasant that I  didn't give a
thought  to  the  treasure. When the harvesting  was  finished, I worked  at
plowing with the same machine.
     By now I had saved what I had planned on, but I decided to accumulate a
bit more. I didn't know Paris, and I was both attracted and intimidated. How
would I manage in that vast city  with  no friends or acquaintances? So when
the  plowing was finished, I took a job  in a nearby sugar-processing plant.
Toward the end of November, as I was going about  my work one day, I saw two
foremen and two policemen approaching.
     "Are you Sergei  Orel? Do  you  have  an  identity card?" I gave him my
card. "Okay, get your belongings and come along."
     "But why?"
     "We have  a  warrant from  Laon for your  arrest.  You are  accused  of
stealing." I was terrified.
     "But there must be some mistake. I've stolen nothing."
     "You  can  tell  that  to  the  judge.  We are only  carrying  out  our
     The gendarmes  were riding bicycles,  so  I  had to  trot along between
them. They didn't handcuff me; they were quite decent to me, in fact.
     It was a  Saturday, so  I had  to spend two days in the  police station
before I could be transferred to the  Laon jail. The jail was  in an ancient
monastery, with thick walls and long corridors. I was outraged at being held
as a suspect without trial, much less a sentence. According to the law, work
in  prison is optional, but  I  was  put to work  as soon as I arrived.  The
building  was freezing cold-it  hadn't been  heated in  centuries  -- and was
almost unbearable once the sun had gone down. We were made to  get  into our
nightclothes  and  march double  time  over  the cold  stone floors  to  our
dormitory. Once we were inside, the doors were locked and nothing could move
the guards to open them. After several days, I was at last called before the
judge  for a preliminary  hearing. Before he said a word, I demanded to know
why I was being held.
     He  replied, "I have issued a  warrant  against you on a complaint that
you robbed a worker at the Maggi Dairy at Resigny."
     The theft had supposedly occurred on a Sunday, over  a month  before; a
suitcase belonging to one of the workers had disappeared. I asked how I came
to be accused and the Judge informed me that  the manager had suggested that
I was the guilty party.
     I explained to the judge  why  the manager might wish  to get even with
me,  and that at the time of the theft I had been forty  miles away from the
scene. To be absolutely sure of my alibi,  I asked for a day so that I could
figure  out exactly where I had been that Sunday. I sat up all  night doping
it  out,  and by morning  I  had it all fitted together.  At the time of the
alleged crime, I had  been playing billiards with Cassart, a former military
policeman. I reported  back to  the judge and he  promised to call  Cassart.
Cassart backed me up, and  twenty days after I had  been arrested, the judge
let me go.
     I was released just before Christmas. After  that experience, with more
than twenty-five hundred francs  in my pocket, life looked rosy. I took  the
train  for Paris  and settled into  a  hotel  near the  Gare du Nord.  I was
fascinated  by Paris. For the  first three  days I hardly slept. I wanted to
see everything.
     Then it was  time to think about finding work  and lodgings. I  had the
address of a Russian who had worked at the Resigny dairy and was now working
at Joinville-le-Pont and lived on the Quai de la Marne. I moved into a small
hotel near him. I still had twenty-two hundred francs left after my Parisian
"extravagances." Instead of looking for a job right away, I decided to get a
driver's license. That way I would have a skill to sell instead of having to
apply as an unskilled worker.
     In a month I had obtained my license both for pleasure driving  and for
trucks and I found a job  as  a  truck driver at a mill near Troyes. The pay
was good, although the work was hard. I had to load and unload hundred-pound
sacks of flour. I intended to keep the  job for only a few  months, as all I
needed was enough money to work out a scheme to get at the treasure. I would
spend  everything I had, my money and my  strength, to get my  hands on that
treasure. I had had enough deprivation.
     When  I got  back  to Paris,  I had almost five thousand francs, a good
suit   and  overcoat.   I   was  quite  presentable.  Again  I   settled  in
Joinville-le-Pont, which was then a charming little  town. Since automobiles
were rare  in those  days, most Parisians spent Sundays and  holidays in the
towns around Paris, especially  Nogent-sur-Marne and ! Joinville,
where there were  plenty of nice  restaurants and  [ taverns. I moved into a
little hotel and the man who a owned it became a  good friend. He
only charged  me sixteen  francs a  day for a very nice room and full board,
including wine.
     I  began to look up people I had known in Russia who were now living in
Paris,  preferably civilians  or acquaintances of my family. That  took some
time, as there  were an enormous number of Russians spread all over Paris. I
finally met the former district  attorney  of  St. Petersburg, who had known
both my father and grandfather. He was almost  fifty years older  than I but
he  seemed  to enjoy my  company.  We  met  regularly to have dinner and  to
     I  began to realize that my  friend  knew many  important  Parisians. I
decided  to tell him about  the treasure  after swearing him to reveal not a
word about it to anyone, even if he decided not to help me.
     "I  believe  I  can  help  you,  though,"  he  told  me.  "But,  before
introducing you to the person I have in mind, I want you to understand  that
he is a  very  important man  and won't get mixed up  in anything that could
hurt his  reputation. But I have  known him for a long time  and  he is very
pro-Russian, and I think he will help."
     After I had given it some  thought, I told  him:  "I  don't think it is
necessary  to  tell him where the treasure  came from. It would  be wiser to
tell him that it had belonged to my family."
     I  saw  him  a few  days later. "Everything is okay," he  told me. "The
person I  was telling you about is the  Marquis  de Navailles, chief  of the
European department of the French Foreign Ministry. He will receive you in a
few days. If he agrees to help, under no circumstances offer him any reward.
He would kick you out."
     A few days later I was  ushered into the  office of M. de Navailles. He
was  a  big  man,  with  a  ruddy  complexion   and  exquisite  manners,  an
eighteenth-century aristocrat. I told him my tale. He agreed to  help me "on
condition  that your story is true."  I  assured  him that no  embarrassment
would come to him. He gave me a personal letter to the French ambassador  at
Sofia, asking him to accept a package  from me and to forward  it to him. He
also gave me a letter  to  the police requesting a French  passport for  me.
That  very day I  received my  passport  and  a visa for Bulgaria.  The only
problem that remained  was money, and  somehow the  former  prosecutor found
another five thousand francs for me. I was on my way to the treasure.

     i TOOK THE ORIENT EXPRESS for  Bulgaria in January 1927. The winter had
been severe in  France, and  I was hoping  it  would  be warmer  in southern
Europe. But it was even colder there.
     Hoping the weather would warm up, I delayed a few days in Sofia. But it
did not change  and I had to keep moving to avoid arousing the suspicions of
the  Bulgarian  police,  who  took  careful note  of  the  arrival  of every
foreigner.  I couldn't stay in my  hotel just  doing nothing. So  I told the
desk clerk, who was undoubtedly a police agent, that I had to go to Plovdiv,
the second  most  important city  in the country,  to look  into the tobacco
market there.  Plovdiv  is  on  the railroad line to Burgas. I  spent  a day
purchasing  my digging  tools  and  work clothes and  then  continued  on to
Burgas. I could definitely  not spend more than twenty-four hours in  Burgas
without arousing suspicion. Why would a foreigner come to such a small city,
where there was nothing to do, in the dead of winter?
     I  arrived  in  Burgas  in the morning  and spent  almost the whole day
looking for a place to change  my clothes. That night  I went to  the public
park near  the  beach,  which was deserted at that hour. In  an icy wind,  I
changed into my work  clothes, hopping up and down to keep from  freezing. I
checked my street clothes  at the  railroad station, drank some hot  coffee,
then set off to the first hiding place. It was growing colder and colder. In
spite of my warm clothing, I was trembling like a leaf. A strong wind bit my
face  and slowed me down. I didn't reach even the nearest cache until nearly
midnight, and  then it  took me a half hour  to locate it with a flashlight.
Everything  was  in  order;  no one had discovered our  secret. I tested the
ground. It was  frozen hard as  a rock. I  tried to  dig, not at the  actual
site, so as not to betray it, but a little distance  away. Useless. It would
take dynamite to break the ground. I was furious that all my effort, my long
trip, had been in vain. I would return to Paris empty-handed.
     In the morning, half-frozen, I returned to Burgas and took the train to
Sofia. Before returning to my hotel, I went to the public baths to change my
clothes. The frigid weather continued; there was no way of  knowing  when it
would end and I couldn't stay where I was. I returned to Paris.
     My friend, the former prosecutor, was disappointed with me. I  gave him
my  passport  and  M.  de Navailles' letter and  asked  him  to  explain  to
Navailles why I had failed. I was worried about the money  he had loaned me.
I did not know whether he had borrowed it from someone else. One night, as I
tossed and turned in bed trying to find a  solution,  I decided to go see my
former commander, General Postovsky, who was a great gambler. The next day I
went  around and asked him to take  me to his gambling club that evening.  I
needed to make some profit on my last thousand francs.
     "You've come at a bad time," he  said. "I've had a losing streak  for a
week and I've lost more than fifty thousand francs. All I have left is three
thousand. But if you wish, come along. I'll try, but I make no promises."
     I gave  him my wallet and  he played baccarat for both of us. By 2 A.M.
he had won seventy thousand francs for himself and more than twenty thousand
for me. I practically had to drag him away from the table.
     I returned the  money I had borrowed and went to Join-ville to  rest. I
regretted that I had been so precipitate. I should have waited for spring to
go to Bulgaria. The next expedition time I would plan more carefully. And  I
would need a companion.
     After  a  few  days  of  relaxation, I  decided  to get  started  doing
something.  I  knew  that Lieutenant  General Rafalo-vitch, who was a former
commander of the Cossack cavalry and  a good friend of my family, was living
in  Brussels, He was a man of absolute integrity  and loyalty. I went to see
him. He was very glad to see me  but I did not  tell  him about the treasure
right away. I waited for about  a month and then I told him the whole story.
He listened to me carefully.
     "I have  been  expecting you to speak  to me about this  business. I've
heard  some  rumors  about  a  war treasure taken out of  Russia by  General
Pokrovsky. They say that  you know where it is. Some people even  claim that
it has been in your  possession since Pokrovsky's death. I am glad that  you
have  told me  the  true  story.  You must realize  that you  are  in a very
delicate and dangerous  position. If either  the Reds  or Whites ever become
convinced that you know  where the treasure is, your life will be in danger.
They will kidnap  you, torture you to obtain  the secret, and then they will
kill you."
     "I've thought  of  all that," I replied. "But that  still wouldn't give
them  any chance at all  of finding the treasure. Even if I gave  someone  a
detailed description of the general location, they still  couldn't find  the
exact spot without digging up the  entire area,  about twelve  square miles.
Once I was dead, no one could find it."
     "All right," he said, "I'm convinced. But what are you going  to do?" I
explained in detail my plan to recover the  treasure and what I intended  to
do with it afterward. He asked for a few days to think it over.
     When I returned, he said, "I have concluded that you are right. I agree
that it would  not be wise  to  talk to the Russian authorities in Paris. In
the first place, they couldn't do  anything without your help. And once they
got  their  hands on it,  it would disappear. Like you,  I  am  against  any
attempt  to  attack  the Bolsheviks from abroad.  Furthermore, I believe you
have  demonstrated  a right to the treasure. Keep me advised. I will try  to
help.  But  you must  be  careful; you  will be in bad  trouble if word gets
     It was the  spring of  1927  and it was to be two years before I  found
just  the  right   man.  During  those  two  years  in  Brussels  I   became
administrative director of the famous Russian chorus, the Cossacks of Kuban.
One day in Brussels I  saw a man on the street dressed in the costume of the
Kuban Cossacks.  I could not  believe  my eyes  --  for  as he came closer, I
recognized George Vinnikov, a great  old pal who had been in my regiment. We
went  into  a cafe  and he told me  his story. Because  he  had  had musical
training, in Yugoslavia the ataman of the Kuban Cossacks, General Naoumenko,
had commissioned him to form a  Cossack choir.  For several years the  choir
had remained in Yugoslavia but eventually it began to receive invitations to
perform  abroad. They were in Brussels to give  three concerts. Naturally, I
attended the  opening night. The next day  at lunch, Vinnikov  remarked: "It
would  be so much more convenient if  we had  someone who knew this  part of
Europe and  could  speak the languages. I  know only a bit of French and the
rest speak nothing but Russian. We  always have to find a translator."  Then
out of the blue, he said: "We need someone exactly like you. How about being
our director?"  I was  taken  by surprise  and told him that  I didn't  know
anything about that sort of business. "And," I said, "right now I don't have
the  kind of money  to do a  lot  of traveling, and that would be necessary,
wouldn't it?"
     "Yes," he replied, "you would have to be  our advance man, make all the
arrangements, sign contracts,  and so forth.  But,  naturally, you  would be
paid  the  same salary  as  I, and your expenses would be taken  care of." I
explained my difficulties  with the  police. "Listen, Nicholas," he replied,
"I have  known  you  for a long  time and  I  know that you are incapable of
dishonesty. We  would be  honored to have you."  I agreed on condition  that
General  Naoumenko  give  his  approval,  and  I  wrote  him  explaining  my
situation. Two weeks later  I received a letter  from the general confirming
my appointment. I contacted all the great impresarios of Europe and arranged
manv appearances. The choir was a great success everywhere.
     In 1929, a construction engineer of Russian descent, a man named Arian,
introduced me  to a  Belgian diplomat, Baron K., a counselor  at the Belgian
embassy in a neighboring country. He had been stationed in St. Petersburg as
a young man and  had  married a  Russian woman. He agreed to help me get the
treasure out of Bulgaria.
     Arian knew only the bare outlines of the plan and I assured his silence
by promising  him  a generous commission.  Unfortunately,  I did not realize
that his business  was in  trouble  and that he was deeply in debt. Our plan
was for the  baron to go to Bulgaria  after  me, receive  a suitcase from me
containing  part  of  the  treasure, and take it out of the  country  in the
diplomatic  pouch. In a few days he had obtained a  passport and a Bulgarian
visa for  me  under the name  of  Nansen. I was  to  leave  first.  We would
register at  different hotels in Sofia. I would proceed to Burgas, return to
Sofia, meet the baron at the Belgian legation, and give him my suitcase.
     I arrived in Sofia  and waited  four days, but there was no sign of the
baron. I  was frantic. At  the legation I  finally found  a message.  He had
fallen ill en route and was in Belgrade. He asked me to wait in Sofia, as he
hoped the doctor would allow  him  to move in two  or three days. Four  days
later, another message arrived: he was worse and had  to return to Brussels.
He promised to continue our business when he had recovered.
     This was  a  terrible  blow.  I went  back  immediately and visited the
baron's bedside. He was very upset that  he had been unable to  complete his
voyage.  He  promised again that  we  would resume our  mission  as  soon as
possible. I went  to  see  Arian,  who  was  very cool  to  me.  I could not
understand until he finally blurted out: "You know I don't believe a word of
this story of the baron's sickness. I think this was a diplomatic illness. I
think you  carried off the affair  and  are keeping  it from me  so that you
won't have to pay me my share."
     "You are out of your mind,"  I told him. "Even if you don't believe me,
do you really think the baron would risk his reputation and career for a few
pennies? Go ask him yourself."
     I learned later that he had indeed gone to  the  baron, who had  thrown
him out of the house.
     A week  later I  was  arrested on  a charge of suspicion of  swindling.
Arian had brought an accusation against  me to the Belgian police. The story
was all over the papers.
     I protested,  of course, but  I was held  for  thirty days. Six  months
later,  the case was dismissed for  lack  of evidence, but my reputation was
ruined. No end  of false stories had appeared  in  the Belgian press and the
police had sent inquiries about me to a number of other countries. There was
nothing on the books against  me anywhere, but I was labeled undesirable and
effectively  barred from  several  countries  forever.  This  was  a ghastly
situation for a stateless person.
     I had not a cent, no means  of leaving  the country  much less reaching
Bulgaria. I was near the end  of my rope  when  I  found a jeweler  who  was
willing to  lend me  the  twenty  thousand  francs  I  needed  for  my  next
expedition. I put it in a bank while I  made my  preparations and waited for
my chance to go back to Bulgaria.
     Then  one morning I received a  summons to appear  before the police. I
was accused once again of swindling. The jeweler had decided that I might be
going to skip out with his money,  and instead of asking for it back, he had
gone  straight  to  the police.  When  I  heard what  the accusation was,  I
immediately wrote him out a check, but I was  condemned to a month in prison
anyhow.  I  appealed  the  sentence, but  the  appeals  court  sustained the
sentence w absentia since I was out of the country at the time. When
     I returned, I  found that I  was to be deported. I had either to  leave
immediately or face an indeterminate sentence.
     I was desperate to get hold of some money and a passport that would get
me into Bulgaria. I wrote a friend of mine, a former Russian officer who was
living  in Switzerland, and asked him if there was any  way I  could  borrow
fifty  thousand Belgian  francs.  I promised to  pay  him  back  double that
amount.  He was an old friend and I  knew he would trust  me. He  wrote back
that he didn't  have such  a sum but knew someone who would lend it to me if
he guaranteed the  loan. He  would  arrange  for me to meet  this  person in
     I  entered France via Luxembourg and had a meeting with this man. A few
days later the money came; I was obliged to return it in three months. Now I
had to obtain a real passport, not a forged one. I had heard that this could
be arranged at some of the consulates in Berlin. I went there with a Belgian
woman friend. She suggested that she go around to the consulates. They might
be nicer to her than to me.
     I  waited for her all  one day while she inquired around. Finally,  she
returned. "Done,"  she said. "You have  your passport." She  had been  to  a
half-dozen consulates. When she had told them that she wanted a passport for
a friend, some of  the  officials  had  simply laughed at  her, others  were
angered. She was ready  to come back empty-handed when she had passed a sign
that  said "Consulate of  Panama." She had decided to give it one  more try.
The consul had received her courteously and listened to her. He finally told
her  to  have me come in person. I was leery of a trap but there was nothing
else I could think of to do.
     He was very hospitable. As character witnesses, I  was able to give him
the names of two persons  living  in Berlin whom he knew. A few days later I
received my passport, for which I paid thirty thousand Belgian francs.
     There  was  no question  of  entering Bulgaria  officially,  since  the
passport carried my  real  name. I  went  to  the  Yugoslav  border  town of
Zajecar, hoping to find someone to get me across the border. I finally found
two men who agreed  for three thousand dinars. Meanwhile,  I  stayed with my
uncle, who was a  supervisor at the copper mines about eighteen miles  away.
One  day  the  men who were to smuggle  me across saw my wallet bulging with
money. They exchanged glances, and I decided I had to be more cautious.
     At  last,  we  set  out  one midnight, walking for a  couple of  hours.
Finally, my guides told me we were three  miles inside  Bulgaria and  it was
time for me to pay up. I handed over the money, and while they were counting
it,  put my hand on the pistol  in my coat pocket.  As I had  half expected,
they both  pulled knives  and  demanded  my  money, watch and ring. I made a
motion as if I  were reaching for my wallet, but  instead pulled my gun  and
put a bullet in each of their heads, then I ran like hell. About a half mile
farther on I threw my pistol into a stream. As I was walking  along the road
to Vidin, following the course of the Danube,  I  ran  into a patrol of five
policemen who demanded to know why I had fired my gun. I answered that I did
not even have a gun. They  searched me but  decided to take me  to Vidin for
questioning anyhow. This arrest put an end to my elaborate plans.
     Of course, I denied that I had anything to do with killing the two men,
whose bodies had since been discovered, and the police admitted  freely that
they  were not really concerned about that. They were just  as happy to have
two fewer smugglers to worry about. After two days, I was transferred to the
prison in  Sofia. The police there  were most anxious to know whether I  had
entered Bulgaria  illegally. I made up an elaborate story which they did not
believe.  The  fact  was  I  had  mailed my Panamanian  passport  to General
Delivery  in  Burgas  and  by  this  time  it had already  been  returned to
     It  was a disaster. The  man who had loaned me  his money,  not  having
heard from me for so long, had naturally concluded that I  had  run off with
it and he denounced me to the police. A short time later he died.
     When I finally  got  back to Switzerland by  way  of Yugoslavia,  I was
arrested and extradited to France. Later, I was cleared of the charge he had
     I was getting desperate. I would do anything  to reach the treasure.  I
decided  that the  first  thing  I needed  was  a  good  lawyer.  Through an
acquaintance  I was recommended to one in  The Hague. I sold a camera and my
gold  watch  to get the money to visit him. I will call him simply  Leon. We
struck  up a friendship right  off the  bat. After I had told him  the whole
story, including my problems with the law, he  said he would help me. He was
quite rich and did not  need any money. I believe  the romantic, adventurous
side of  the undertaking appealed  to  him.  He agreed  to finance  my first
expedition; after that, I would have enough money to pay for a hundred.
     19 Leon
     IT WAS  THE MIDDLE OF SUMMER and we decided to get  started right away.
We had  a  simple and workable plan. We would go  by  train to Constanza  in
Rumania and sail from there to Constantinople.  I had not been in Turkey for
a  long  time and, we  hoped,  would  not be recognized. I  was to  stay  in
Constantinople for a few days, and then take the boat alone to Burgas, do my
job,  and  telegraph  Leon in Constantinople.  He would  get on  the  Orient
Express, which goes through Bulgaria on its way to Paris, having wired me in
care of General Delivery at Plovdiv. I would be  waiting at that station and
would  pass the package  to him.  In  those  days the Orient Express was all
first class and the border guards treated the passengers with deference; his
bags would not be opened until he reached Paris, and he would get off before
that. I would take a boat up the Danube and meet him in Lausanne. The day of
my departure  arrived.  The  boat, the  Bulgaria,  was  in the middle of the
Bosporus,  and I  was the  only  passenger. I was rowed out  by some Turkish
sailors. The  sea --was so  rough that I almost lost my passport as I climbed
the ladder to get on board. Since I was supposed to be a Panamanian, I could
not  speak  Russian  or  show that  I understood  Bulgarian.  I  managed  to
communicate with the crew in German and English.
     When I arrived in Burgas, I checked into  a hotel  and let  it be known
that I was waiting three days  for the departure of my boat from Routschouk.
I spent my first day there on  the beach  and that night went fishing. (This
would explain my  overnight  absence  from the hotel the following night.) I
decided to go after the treasure on the second day.
     That night was  warm  and  there  was a full moon. I got to the  hiding
place nearest the  city about  i A.M. After  digging for about an hour and a
half, I found the cases.  We had  marked them to indicate the  contents. The
first contained jewels. The next contained securities and English currency.
     I took the jewels and  papers and replaced  the cases, and covered over
the  trenches so that  no one  could tell that there had been any digging. I
returned to Burgas without  incident .and  buried my tools  on the  beach. I
knew it  would  be difficult to get  back  into  the hotel  without arousing
suspicion  about  my  package,  since  I had  departed  empty-handed  to "go
fishing." So I left the package  at the door, and as  I entered I asked  the
desk clerk to fetch  me a bottle of wine. Then  I ran  back for the package,
carried it to my room, and hid it under the bed.
     Next I wired Leon as agreed, and by evening I had his answer.  He would
pass through  Plovdiv  in two days. Now was  my first opportunity to examine
what I had. There  were beautiful jewels, about one hundred grams of cut but
unset diamonds, about one hundred  foreign bonds,  and  twenty-five thousand
pounds sterling in currency.
     The next day  I  took the  train to Plovdiv. I went  to the station the
next day and saw Leon debark from the train. This  was the moment of danger:
I had to pass  the bags to  him  inconspicuously.  He  took  them and  said,
"Everything is all right. I sent the steward for a bottle of mineral water."
This was our entire conversation. It was ten days before I saw him again, in
Lausanne. When he arrived there he had deposited the treasure in a bank. The
operation had been a marvelous success -- but  it was not over yet. We had to
exchange the money and sell the bonds  and the jewels. Leon was a tremendous
help because he had so many  contacts. All this took two months, but brought
us a handsome sum.
     When  the expedition had finally worked out so  well,  I went  back  to
Brussels illegally and renewed contact  with some  old and faithful friends.
Naturally I shared some of my wealth with the Cossacks of Kuban. But nothing
lasts  forever. Several years later my friend  Lieutenant Vin-nikov, founder
and guiding spirit of the choir, fell  ill and died in Brussels, and without
him  the choir split  up  into  several  groups. A  quintet managed  by  the
talented Svet-lanov brothers from the chorus  enjoyed some success in Europe
for a number of years, but that was the end of the Cossacks of Kuban.
     After our successful expedition in Bulgaria Leon and  I traveled a good
deal, particularly  to Vienna, our favorite city, but also to Berlin, Prague
and Budapest. While we were enjoying ourselves, however, we never lost sight
of the  fact that we were going to  recover the rest of the treasure. We had
long  since decided that the  only effective way to get at it was  to  go to
Bulgaria as tourists on  a yacht and that  we would have to  buy one, rather
than rent it, so that we wouldn't be saddled with a crew we couldn't trust.
     We searched for the right vessel for over a month and grew discouraged.
One was too large, another too small. One  day Leon received a letter from a
friend in Rotterdam telling him that the kind of boat he was looking for was
anchored  at Cannes. We  went  there  immediately  and fell in love with the
yacht  at first  sight.  Leon went to England  and  bought it, retaining its
registration, which was Panamanian.  Many yachts had this  registration, but
it was a  lucky detail because of my passport. It was perfect for us. It had
two powerful engines, six cabins and quarters for a crew of five.
     It took  us two months  to get ready.  The most complicated task was to
find a reliable  crew. We  put together  an international  team: three Dutch
sailors, a German mechanic and his wife, who would  serve as maid, a Russian
cook and an  English  captain.  Leon deliberately chose a  crew  who did not
understand French  so that we could  talk freely.  We took on board  a great
supply of all sorts of provisions and invited two beautiful women we knew to
add the proper touch of posing as rich tourists on a cruise.
     We departed in midsummer,  sailing  at  a  leisurely pace. We stayed at
Naples  for three days  and  visited the famous Blue  Grotto on the  isle of
Capri  to please our companions, and a few days later we  stopped for  a few
hours at Lem-nos, where I had had so many adventures, to  buy some fruit and
fresh bread. After a two-day stopover at Constantinople we headed toward the
Bulgarian coast. First,  we anchored  at Varna, a  larger and  more pleasant
city than Burgas, as it might have looked suspicious if we had gone directly
to Burgas, bypassing a tourist attraction like Varna. We spent a week there,
lolling on the beach.
     Finally, we headed for Burgas. The customs officials did not bother us;
they were  concerned only with those who actually arrived in port. We  moved
back and forth  from the boat with sacks  and  bags to get them used to  our
moving  about.  I found  my tools where  I  had  buried  them  on  the first
expedition. To explain our overnight  absence to the ladies and the captain,
we  said that we were  going  to  visit  Russian  friends  of mine who lived
     We set  out early the  first evening.  I carried my Mauser, though Leon
was  unarmed. Even  though  the first  hiding place was still half  full,  I
decided to go straight to the second, and we got there about 11 P.M. An hour
later, we had  finished. But  I was  only  able to take  out about  half the
valuables because  Leon was  scared and kept urging  me to hurry. I realized
that for the next expedition I would need a different kind of man; you can't
ask a bourgeois  lawyer to  be  an adventurer, specially when the affair had
little or no heroism to it. We were back at the seashore at about 2 A.M. and
had located  the place where I was planning to hide the tools. We buried the
tools and rested a while. Then we started out at a leisurely pace. We didn't
want to get to town too early.
     After walking for about ten  minutes, we  heard "stoi" ("halt"). That's
it, I said to myself, the customs police. I  had  forgotten that the customs
would patrol that part of the beach at night since it was an ideal spot  for
smugglers to land. The voice came from the brush at the edge of the beach. I
sized up the situation immediately: if we remained on the beach we were done
for. I told Leon to follow me and ran  for the  cover of the brush. We heard
the  order  to halt again but  by  this time  we were hidden.  We  were each
carrying a bag full of  valuables. "Run toward the town and wait for me near
the  station,"  I said to Leon.  I  decided  to fire on  the police  if they
pursued  us. A  few  seconds later, the customs man (who, as I had surmised,
was  alone)  fired in the air;  I fired two  shots  in his direction  and he
apparently decided to leave us alone.
     I reached Burgas without any trouble  and  found Leon at a  bistro near
the station. He  was gray. "I'm not  a Cossack, you  know,"  he told  me. We
bought  a  few pieces  of  fruit  and some vegetables and put them into  our
sacks. When we  passed the customs officials at the port, they greeted us as
casually as usual, and we reached the boat without any difficulty. I put the
sacks into  a storage space near my cabin  that I always kept closed. No one
noticed them.
     We spent the next day on the beach and the following day we left Burgas
for Constantinople. We decided that we had to be  alone to take inventory of
what we had, so we  put the women off the boat in Trieste, in spite of their
tears and protests, and gave them money to go back  to Brussels.  We cruised
around the boot of Italy and left the boat at San Remo, then made our way to
Switzerland by train.  Once again, thanks to his connections, Leon  was able
to sell  everything.  After our business"was done, Leon had to return to The
Hague to take care of some business.
     Even after I had given away about three-quarters of  the  money from my
last  expedition, I  still had quite a  bit. However, I  knew  that war  was
imminent and I was determined to get back to Bulgaria as soon  as  possible.
Leon  tried to dissuade  me, listing all the  difficulties  that  the  tense
political situation would create. I knew he was right, but I couldn't accept
a quiet life. He offered to lend me  whatever I needed to get established in
Brussels, but I could not undertake any legitimate  business, since I had no
legal  documents with my real  name. I decided to go  to Bulgaria  one  more
time. Alone.

     AT THE END OF FEBRUARY of  1939 I set out by train for Naples, and went
from there to Constantinople by ship. Then I  had to  figure out some way of
getting into  Bulgaria.  I  met  an old  acquaintance there  by chance,  the
ex-police chief of  my hometown. He imported  hams from Bulgaria and he went
back  and forth to  Burgas all  the  time. The hams  were shipped on Turkish
feluccas,  which sailed to Sozopol, a city south of Burgas, to collect wood.
Of course, he knew the captains of all these  boats, so I had him  introduce
me to a  couple and I made arrangements to go to Burgas on one boat and come
back on another.
     The morning I  arrived in Burgas I found the  fourth hiding place,  the
closest one to where we had landed. Everything came  off without a hitch. As
before, I took only  part of  what was buried. This time I managed  three of
the six cases,  as  well as three unopened cases in each of the other  three
hiding  places -- twelve cases in all, still a sizable fortune. The felucca I
was to return on was not ready to leave,  so for the next five days I helped
load  it.  We got  back  to Constantinople without incident and I managed to
slip by customs. I still had my room in the Pera Palace Hotel.
     I  had so many valuables with me that I thought  it would be prudent to
deposit  some of them, mainly the stocks and some of the diamonds, in a bank
vault and plan to come back for them later, and so I did this. I was worried
that  I would be thoroughly searched at customs in Naples. That did not turn
out  to be the case,  surprisingly,  and I made my way  peacefully to Leon's
home in The Hague. He was  grateful to  see me safe and sound, and confessed
that he  had  been  very  concerned. However,  he  refused  to  go  back  to
Constantinople to recover what I had put in the bank, which put me in a very
difficult position. Convinced that war was imminent, I wrote to the bank and
asked  them to  advise me how  I  could authorize  a person to  open my safe
deposit box. They wrote back with instructions on how to proceed. Leon still
refused to go, so I had to go to Constantinople by myself. He advised me  to
find a  buyer,  at least for the  diamonds; I could leave the  stocks in the
Constantinople branch office of any of the major European banks.
     At Anvers I located a diamond merchant who agreed to make the trip, and
who  was  ready  to  buy the  diamonds from me on the  spot. I  drove across
Germany,  Austria, and Hungary and  as  far as Belgrade with  my new Belgian
girl friend.  The merchant, who was Jewish, didn't  want to  travel  through
these  countries, so he took the Orient Express and met  us in  Belgrade. We
all spent  a  very pleasant  evening the first night we were there  and then
agreed to meet  early the next morning. My girl friend and I arrived on time
for our appointment. But the  diamond merchant was late, and when he arrived
he  acted  very  disturbed  and  announced  that  he   had  to  return  home
immediately.  I  protested vigorously,  but  then,  because  I knew that his
concern had to do with the persecution of the Jews by the Germans, I did not
insist further.
     I phoned Leon to tell  him that I would  have to  return  to  The Hague
because the merchant could not continue on with me. He told me instead to go
to Budapest and that he would join me there. So my girl and I went there and
settled into a hotel in the heart of the city, on the charming island in the
Danube. The manager knew me, since I had stayed there  several times before.
One  day, I saw him wearing an army officer's  uniform and  when I asked him
about it, he explained that the political situation was very grave and  that
the government had mobilized some of the reservists. That evening he came to
our room  and advised me to  leave  the country  immediately. "If war breaks
out,"  he said, "you will  be stuck here, and  if America comes in,  you are
bound  to be interned."  We decided  that this was good advice and  that  we
should leave immediately. If war did break out and I was caught with a phony
passport, I could be arrested as a spy. We left Budapest on August 25, 1939,
one week  before  the war  began.  It  took  us  a  long time  to reach  the
Luxembourg border. All the roads  in Austria and Germany were  clogged  with
military  convoys.  When  we finally reached the Moselle and the bridge that
connects Luxembourg and Germany, a nasty surprise was waiting for us. No one
was being permitted  across. We  had  to sit there all day  before  we  were
finally allowed  to go over. The next day we reached Brussels. Immediately I
went  to the beautiful apartment  I  had there, furnished with  rare Russian
books, icons, and other objets d'art. An old girl friend was living there as
housekeeper, since  she was out of  work. I decided  I'd better stay off the
streets, as  there were  all sorts of rumors about  German  parachutists and
spies and I  did not want to take the chance of being taken for one. Then  I
had a piece of bad luck (or was it good fortune in disguise?). The woman who
had traveled with me to Budapest phoned to say that her stepfather, who  was
a French citizen,  had just been  mobilized and was  to return right away to
France.  She very much wanted me to meet him before he left and, against  my
better  judgment,  I agreed.  I  walked  the half  mile  that  separated  my
apartment  from  hers and when I was  almost there, three men approached and
showed me their badges. One said: "Police. Let me have your papers, please."
     When I reached into my pocket, my heart almost stopped. My passport was
not there. I had not taken the time  to transfer it from another coat. But I
couldn't tell the police that, because  I was renting the apartment  under a
different name from the one on the passport. The only thing I could think of
to  do  was to say I had left it at my hotel. The police said  I had  better
come along to  the station  house and  explain everything to  the officer in
charge. They would send someone to my hotel to find the passport. But when I
got  to the magistrate,  I decided  I had better  tell the truth, especially
since  he  knew me. "This  is going to cost you  a month in jail,"  he said,
"since  you have already been formally expelled from the country once." So I
found myself in jail again, cursing my carelessness.
     The  next day I appeared before  the judge to be arraigned.  Much to my
surprise, he greeted me cheerfully. When I asked him why he was so cheerful,
he replied that  he had just signed a warrant  for my arrest on a charge  of
swindling.  "Do you  know Mr.  ----?" It  was the  diamond  merchant. Now it
dawned on me why he had  left so precipitately  in Belgrade. An associate of
his had gone to the police looking  for  information  about me. Needless  to
say, he had found  out that I  had been accused  of swindling  twice and had
been expelled from Belgium. He  had warned his friend to get away from me as
soon  as possible. Since the diamond merchant had not suffered any losses at
my hands, he was willing to drop the whole matter. But  the law followed its
inexorable course. The judge had presented an indictment on the grounds that
I had  wished to  swindle the man and  I was sentenced to eighteen months in
prison. I  appealed, and that  charge was finally dismissed; but I was still
charged and convicted  of using  a  false  name when  I  had written to  the
     To add to my woes, I received another sentence of four months in prison
for something  I had not  done. It had all begun a year before  when I met a
pretty  girl  one evening  at the movies. I had walked  her home  and we had
agreed to meet again. A few days later, we went to see another film that was
restricted to adults. When she was asked for her identity card, she said she
had forgotten it and so I guaranteed the ticket taker that she was nineteen,
which is what she had told me. Later, as we were having a drink in a cafe, I
caught  a glimpse of her card when she opened  her pocketbook. I was shocked
to see that she was only sixteen, and decided not to see her again. (Belgian
law is very strict on the corruption of minors.) I told her  I was going off
on a long trip.  Then one day  while  I was serving my sentence in prison in
Brussels, I was called  to court and there she was. She had testified that I
had  seduced her. I learned only  later  that she had bragged to her friends
about having had an affair with a rich foreigner and that one of her friends
had  told her parents,  and that they had gone to the police. Having started
the whole mess with lies, she couldn't stop lying now. I was found guilty.
     As  the  war  began to  rage in earnest, food grew scarce  and life  in
prison was  a  nightmare.  We were  given  only  a  little bread  with  some
margarine melted into  it and warm water. I became so undernourished that my
legs and feet swelled up horribly and I had to be transferred to  the prison
hospital. The food was better there and after a month I was all right. I was
told by the police that I was to be detained even after my sentence ran out,
because I was considered a menace to the public order.
     Each day we  strolled  in  the prison  courtyard,  I saw members of the
Gestapo. They  had taken over part of the  jail for  their own  prisoners. I
knew that if I told them my real name and that I had been  an officer of the
White Army, I could get free. And after a while a German officer did come to
the library, where I was in charge, to inspect the books. I told him I was a
Russian  and how it was that  I  had ended up in  prison. He found my  story
incredible. "You're out of  your mind  to stay here," he  told  me,  and  he
offered  to let  me  go right away  if I would take a  job  with  the German
authorities; my knowledge  of  languages  would make me very useful.  It was
July 1941, a few days after the German invasion of Russia. I refused. I knew
what the Germans were doing to my country.
     But just  about  this  time, I had  the  luck  to be transferred  to  a
minimum-security prison that had been built for emotionally disturbed people
along with all the other foreign prisoners.
     I was  treated quite  differently from the  other  prisoners.  The camp
director  had decided that my  sentence was unjust, and although  he did not
have the  authority to  do anything about it, he made me librarian there and
gave me  complete freedom to come and go as I pleased. I  could have escaped
at any time  and I  often thought of  doing so,  but  I decided  against  it
because I did not  want to betray the  director's trust. One horrifying  day
the Germans  discovered  that there were some Jews  among us;  they  quickly
transferred them to German camps. My hatred for the Belgian authorities made
me reluctant to do anything  for that  country, but  I did help  the Belgian
resistance in one small way. Near the prison there were some mines where the
Germans forced Russian prisoners of war to work. Many of them used to escape
and join the partisans. I  used to write notes in Russian which the  Belgian
underground would give them, urging them to tell the Germans nothing if they
were captured.
     Soon, I had terrible  news. The woman  whom I had left  in charge of my
apartment  had never communicated with me in  any  way, in spite of  my many
letters. Finally I appealed to the authorities to get in touch with her. The
news came back that she had sold all my beautiful possessions and that I had
nothing left.
     But soon  after that, at  last something  good happened.  I received  a
postcard in Russian, mailed from Brussels, from a woman I didn't  know.  She
had  heard  of  my plight and wanted  to  help. Even  before  I had finished
writing her a letter, I was summoned to the director's office. A magnificent
package of  bread, chocolate, tea, sugar, brandy and  cigarettes had arrived
from her. We corresponded all through my internment,  and I learned that she
was the wife of the proprietor of the most elegant Russian cafe in Brussels.
I did not know what she looked like, whether she was old or young, pretty or
not. I asked her for a picture and discovered that in fact she was young and
lovely. She used to complain about  her husband in her letters. So I decided
to  go on the offensive. I  wrote her a  love  letter.  For a week I was  in
agony, not knowing how she would respond. Then one day to my great surprise,
I  was summoned to the  visiting room, and  there she was. We fell into each
other's arms and that began a love that was to last for eight years.

     ON  SEPTEMBER 14, 1944, after  a  short  battle,  the English  occupied
Rekam,  near the  prison.  All  night German and Allied  shells crisscrossed
overhead. The fighting was so close that we could hear a burst  of artillery
fire  from one side and an explosion on the other almost  simultaneously. We
were near the Siegfried Line, which the Americans were bombing constantly. A
few months later, on January  l, 1945, the Germans launched a last desperate
air offensive.  The furniture and buildings trembled  and danced but we were
not hit.
     The clock had struck the hour of freedom but for me it was canceled out
by an  arbitrary  and cruel decision. My conduct in camp had been exemplary;
it  was  attested  to  by  both the  director  and Father  Stefan Gervais, a
Franciscan  friar to  whom I  had  given Russian lessons.  Nonetheless,  the
police gave  me  one  month  to  leave the country  under  threat  of  being
reinterned.  I was refused the status of  political refugee to which I had a
legal right, and was a stateless person.
     Back  in  Brussels  I  found my  benefactress.  She  had taken  a small
apartment for the two of  us.  At last I felt sure I had someone by  my side
who loved me for myself, not because I was rich or handsome or exotic. After
she had left her  husband, she had bought a laundry and she had worked there
day  and  night to  keep  us going. My  beloved  Maroussia told me also that
somebody  else,  a  man  I did  not  know, had  intervened  with the Belgian
authorities to get me  released. Victor Breslav  was a Russian  engineer who
had lived in Belgium since  before World  War I and was a top executive in a
large plant. After the Liberation he had applied for Soviet citizenship, and
was subsequently  elected secretary-general of the Union  of Soviet Patriots
in  Belgium.  When he  had heard  about me through  Father  Gervais,  he had
informed the  authorities  that he would  guarantee  me a job at  the union.
Needless to say, I was hesitant to go to work for  those who had for so long
been my mortal  enemies. But things  change, and patriotism perhaps does not
depend  entirely on who  happens  to  rule  one's  country.  Anyhow,  I  was
     Working for the Soviets brought down  on  me the hatred and contempt of
my fellow White Russian emigres,  even  though my  work was humanitarian and
not political. My first Job was to fill out forms for the  Soviet Red Cross,
which was trying to locate persons who had been forcibly transported  by the
Nazis and who might now be in territory occupied  by the  Russians. Most  of
the inquiries were for Jews. Sadly, I never found any of them,  although  we
did locate some other  Belgians.  Later, I  was put in  charge  of  a  small
Russian language revue. As a result, I was identified in the Belgian, French
and English press as a Soviet spy. I found this so ridiculous that I did not
even  try to refute the charge. How could anyone think the Soviets would use
me as a spy -- a former White officer, now so conspicuously in their employ?
     A year  went by  after my liberation  from prison camp  and my life was
poisoned by the police. Each month I had  to go through the ordeal of having
my Belgian visa extended for another month. Sometimes, it took days  or even
weeks. If my papers were to lapse before I got a renewal, I was in  constant
danger of being picked up as an illegal alien. Often I had to stay away from
my  own apartment for fear of being arrested. One day, when  Maroussia and I
were  alone  in the apartment, two plainclothes police  came looking for me,
and  I had to hide behind a  cabinet in  the kitchen.  They came  so close I
thought they might  hear  my breathing. Finally, after long  efforts by some
well-placed persons who had  taken an interest in my case, I was granted the
right to remain in Belgium. The Soviet commercial mission put Breslav and me
in  charge of  an export-import  operation  for  agricultural  machines  and
produce. My material situation was immeasurably improved and we were able to
move to a larger apartment and even buy a car.
     I had no time to think about my treasure, and I had really given up all
hopes of recovering  it. Bulgaria was now communist  and it would be all the
more  dangerous  for  me to take  risks there.  And  now  that I  had  found
contentment with  Maroussia, I had no desire to  take up  my  former life of
     Nevertheless, my love for my poor  and hard-put country got me involved
once again.  In  spite of the  terrible sacrifices  the  Russian  people had
endured during  the war, the  USSR was the target of hate-filled propaganda.
Some people were  seriously proposing that  Bolshevism could be exterminated
because  of Russia's weakness. I  cared  only for my people,  who could  not
endure another bloodlet-ting. I was obsessed by the thought that I  could do
something to  help, and  finally I believed  I had found a way. Since it was
chiefly  Americans who were preaching a crusade against Russia,  it was they
whom I had to influence.
     I composed a stenographic record of  an imaginary top-secret meeting in
the Kremlin attended by all  the Russian military  leaders and presided over
by  Stalin.  I managed to give  it  a certain authenticity because I had had
military training and because I had read every Soviet publication  that came
into  Belgium.  The supposed occasion for the  meeting was  a threat to  the
Soviet Union by its former allies, England and the United States. Stalin had
called  his  military advisers together  to determine the  capabilities  and
preparedness of  all units of the Soviet armed  forces. The military men had
made  their  reports with  absolute frankness, and  they  all exhibited  the
greatest optimism. One of them had declared that the Soviet Union would have
its own atomic bomb within a  year. (I  was  absolutely astonished when this
turned out to be true.) I thought the report sounded realistic and detailed,
and  that any  potential  enemy, having seen  it,  would think twice  before
attacking Russia. Now, I had to get it to the Americans.
     My first thought was simply give  it to  them  without  asking for  any
money, but  I concluded  that I would  not  be credible. They had to believe
that I  was acting for a  member of  the Soviet consulate or  embassy.  So I
approached an inspector of the Belgian security police whom I had previously
met and told him that a Soviet diplomat who wished to defect had asked me to
be his intermediary. I explained that he had authorized me to make the offer
for  him,  because  he knew there were Soviet agents in the American service
and he wanted to remain in Europe.  I  asked  for a million Belgian  francs,
half  on  delivery of the document and half a month later. This appeared  to
convince the inspector,  who returned  a few days later with an  affirmative
response  from  the  Americans.  He  furnished me with  a  Russian  alphabet
typewriter,   and  while  Maroussia  worked   each  day  in  the  Office  of
Repatriation,  I  typed  out  the "minutes." Finally I told the inspector to
inform the Americans that the document was ready for delivery. The  next day
he  informed me that someone would wait for me in  a room  in the Hotel  des
Boulevards and give me the first five hundred thousand francs. I was then to
go to the Soviet consulate, pass the money on to the diplomat, and return to
the hotel with the document.
     As I entered the  hotel  room,  I  could see a large bundle  under  the
bedspread. I  had no way of carrying it except in my  pockets,  and I didn't
know how  I was going to manage that since I  already had the document in my
pocket and I was not going anywhere to pass the money on to anyone.
     If I came back from  the consulate  with the money still on me, I would
be found out. And  I would surely be followed when I  left the  hotel. I did
the  only thing I  could think  of. I stuffed the money into my pockets and,
just as I  got to  the  door, I pulled the document out,  handed  it to  the
startled agent, and said, "I am going to  pass the  money on." He started to
say something, but I was already halfway down the stairs.
     Outside the  hotel, I  took  a  taxi  to the consulate, followed by two
     When I arrived,  I had the bad luck to run into  the  consul, Skobelov.
"There you are," he said. "I want to talk to you for a few minutes. Take off
your  coat and come into my office." I couldn't refuse but I couldn't go  in
there with my pockets bulging with all those bills. "Excuse  me a moment," I
replied, "I have to have a  few words with the secretary first. I'll be with
you in a couple of minutes."
     As Skobelov started upstairs to his office, I went out  the front  door
onto the street.  Pretending  not to see  the two cars  that followed  me, I
crossed  the  avenue  and took a streetcar  that stopped a few steps from my
home. I wrapped the money in oilcloth and buried it in the coal  bin in  the
     Then I took the tram back to the hotel. The American agent was furious,
and demanded to  know why I had rushed out  of the hotel. I  said the reason
was obvious. Clearly,  he was not alone in the  hotel and I  was well  aware
that they could easily have taken the money back once they had the paper. He
wanted to know why I had gone home after  I left the  consulate and  I don't
remember exactly how I got around that. It was clear that he did not believe
me, but I felt it  didn't make much difference. The only thing that mattered
was that they couldn't prove the document was counterfeit.
     Though they had promised not  to try to find out the name of the Soviet
diplomat who had  sold the information, I  was soon  summoned by the Belgian
inspector, who  had been  the original intermediary, to  meet  some American
agents at the Hotel Metropole. They bombarded me with questions. I just kept
saying  that I  knew nothing more  than I had already told them, and  I kept
repeating that they had promised not to ask for the defector's name.
     As we were talking, I heard a funny noise in the next room. I jumped up
and  threw all my weight against the door that  opened  into  the  adjoining
room.  This  sent three inspectors of  the Belgian security  police, who had
been listening at  the door, sprawling to  the  floor  and made the American
agents furious.  One called in two more colleagues. By  this time, I had had
quite enough. I had my pistol in my pocket and was ready  to use it if I had
to. I told them the affair was over and I did  not wish  to see  any of them
again. Thank God, they let me go. If they had tried to stop me, I would have
shot them dead before they could have made a move  and then I would have had
to take refuge with the Soviets and been sent back to Russia.
     I did  not know then that the Soviets knew all  about my history in the
affair of the treasure.
     Now I  had quite, a  bit of money, though the Americans, as I expected,
never paid  me the second  half.  For  some time my  life went along without
incident. I put the money in a bank vault so as not to arouse the suspicions
of  the  Belgian  police. After  a  few  months  I  thought  my income  plus
Maroussia's  salary would be  enough  to  explain  an improved  standard  of
living, so I bought a new car.
     This peaceful situation was not to  last, however. One  evening we were
at  a meeting  at the Union of Soviet  Patriots  hall in Brussels. As it was
breaking  up,  Consul Skobelov  rose to speak.  "Comrades,  I have some good
news. The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union has authorized
the return of one of our  members --  Nicholas Svidine." I  thought I must be
dreaming.   Ma-roussia  almost  fainted.   This  was  very  mysterious   and
frightening. I was  not even a Soviet citizen and  it was  common  knowledge
that I had been an officer in Wran-gel's army. I certainly had not requested
a passport. The  audience  applauded and everyone  shook my hand. I accepted
their congratulations and said nothing.
     After the  meeting, Maroussia and I went to  see  Breslav, who was  the
secretary-general of the union. He thought the  whole thing was bizarre  and
agreed to go see the consul the next day. When he came back, the told me the
consul demanded to see me personally. I asked him to accompany me.
     When I arrived,  the  consul delivered the following speech:  "We  know
with absolute certainty that you were in Bulgaria with General Pokrovsky  at
the time that he was killed by  the Bulgarian police.  We  also know that he
was  in  possession of a fortune which, of  course, he  had  stolen from the
Russian people.  You are the only one who remains  of his  entourage  and we
also know that you have;on  occasion, sold large quantities of valuables and
diamonds.  We  regard  this  as  proof  that you  have  knowledge  about the
treasure, and  what remains of  it.  Besides this, we  have the records of a
counterrevolutionary group in Germany that pursued you for two years, though
they failed to find you."
     He was silent for a moment. I said nothing.
     "Now you  belong  to the Union of Soviet Patriots. Since you have lived
abroad, you have committed no hostile act against your country, and you have
not been  active  in any  of the White organizations. During  the  war  your
behavior was absolutely correct. We are aware  that you were harassed by the
Belgian  police  at the  instigation  of  the  White  Russian emigres.  Now,
however, it is your duty to give  back to the Russian people what rightfully
belongs to them. It is for that reason that the Soviet  Union invites you to
return. You will be paid back generously, and decorated. A few days from now
a Soviet ship will stop at Anvers and take you on board."
     As I listened to all this, my first inclination was simply to refuse. I
hesitated. I  thanked the consul  for the goodwill  of the Soviet government
and asked for a few days to think things over.  Breslav, whose situation was
delicate, warned me to be very careful.  Maroussia begged me to refuse. This
suggested a new tack.
     The next  day  I  went  back to see the consul. I  explained that I was
living with a  Russian woman who  was  also a member  of the Union of Soviet
Patriots. "You know, when I think of how she saved my life during the war, I
realize I could never leave her here by herself."
     The consul made it plain that this put him in a difficult position with
his  superiors. But after  thinking it over for a few  moments, he  promised
that she would  be permitted  to  follow  me shortly. "I will not go without
her," I insisted.
     For two months they  left us  alone. Finally,  the consul  summoned me.
Maroussia  had  been  granted permission to return  to  the Soviet  Union. I
thanked  him  and went straight to Breslav's. "Now,"  he  admitted, "you are
really  in  a spot.  If  you  refuse to  go, you lose your  job and  will be
expelled from the union." I didn't care, I told him, and I reminded him that
even though  he had  left Russia before  World  War I, he didn't  want to go
back.  How much more so in my case. I had  fought the Soviets for two years,
my  whole family had served in  the  White Army, and everybody was  dead. No
matter  how you  sliced it, the whole deal was  unacceptable.  I  was not  a
Soviet citizen, I  had not requested citizenship. How dare they simply order
me to return? "You will have to so inform the consul," I concluded.
     When  Breslav returned, he told me that  the consulate was in an uproar
and the consul himself wanted to see  me. I agreed  on the condition that we
meet  in Breslav's home. That night, over dinner, Breslav asked me why I was
in such a state about going back to Russia. "But it's  obvious," I told him.
"I'm afraid." He seemed unwilling to just accept that. He asked me why I was
afraid and told me I would be given a hero's reception. Even he did not seem
to understand why, after having lived all  these years on my own, I would be
so  resentful  at  being handed a fait  accompli  by a government I  had  no
relation to, and every reason to resent and distrust. Furthermore, I assured
him,  after  all these years, I was not sure I  could find the  treasure; it
might have been discovered and taken away  (I was pretty sure this could not
be true,  but I spoke with conviction). "How would the authorities  react to
that?  I would be a traitor, an  officer  of Wrangel's army, an enemv of the
people. It would mean Siberia."
     The next day even Breslav advised me to refuse. If  it had not been for
the  money I  had gotten from  the Americans,  I would have been  desperate,
because I couldn't get a Belgian work permit. And now I had lost my job.

     SO I BEGAN TO THINK about the treasure again. I had to have a good deal
of money to go after it again, and now I would have to obtain a new passport
under  a different name, since the  Soviets knew all about me. I also needed
at least two people to help me, and that too would cost money. I couldn't go
to anyone  for backing.  They would  want to know who  I was,  and  if  they
breathed one  word to the  Belgian  police, I  would be  arrested again as a
     I  had  to make some  money. Every  morning Maroussia applied  a yellow
liquid  to her hair.  When I  asked her what it  was,  she told  me that her
father, who was a doctor,  had invented a way of restoring  color to graying
hair. After a number  of experiments,  I  was finally persuaded  that it did
work.  We planned to merchandise it, and I christened it Serebrine, from the
Russian word for silver. At first, we were refused permission to manufacture
and sell it in Belgium but  after  it was tested in government laboratories,
we got a license. We set about the task of introducing it to the market with
our extremely limited resources.
     Our business  went only moderately well. A bottle of Serebrine sold for
a hundred and thirty  Belgian francs, and though sales were  good, we didn't
gross enough to cover our costs. Advertising was very  dear, and even though
we  sold only for  cash, our expenses  ate up seventy-two percent of what we
took  in. I  had tried to raise  capital from  a number of sources, but some
were skeptical  about  the  product  and  others  had  imposed  unacceptable
conditions.  It would be a pity to throw in the towel so soon. We had put up
a lot  of money and effort into it, and we had never had a single  complaint
from  a  customer.  In  fact, we  had  letters  from  all  over the  country
testifying to the  product's effectiveness. We had no outstanding  debts  on
Serebrine, and if I had had a job, I could have liquidated the business, but
I could not get a work permit,  and if  the Belgian police were to  discover
that  I was unemployed, they  would  expel  me from  the country  without  a
     I was so worried I could not sleep nights. This was the time of the war
between the People's Republic of China under Mao and Nationalist China under
Chiang  Kai-shek. My sympathies were with Mao,  who seemed to be the weaker.
The  Americans were completely on Chiang's side and were pouring an enormous
amount of  aid into his campaign. He was  using their money  for luxuries. I
decided to get hold of some of that money.
     First of all, I studied everything I could find on what was going on in
China. I received some Soviet journals that were not  very widely circulated
in the West. When I felt I knew enough to discuss the Chinese situation with
anyone, I  called up the Chinese  ambassador in  Brussels. I told him  I had
something important to communicate to his government and asked to see him as
soon as possible. The next day I went to the embassy and was received by the
ambassador, a man of infinite charm and refinement.
     The plan I  had devised to assist Mao -- like the document on the Soviet
meeting that I had furnished to the  Americans -- has never been found out as
phony. I  told  him  there was  a  Soviet headquarters  organized  to  offer
assistance to Mao, located in Kharbin, a Russian city in Manchuria. From the
Soviet  publications, I knew the names of the generals stationed in  Siberia
and who among them had contacts with Mao. Because I was able to include many
of  the real facts about the situation  and  the personnel in Manchuria,  my
story rang  true.  My connection with the Union  of Soviet Patriots was also
well known  (only Breslav  knew that I had  been expelled) and  I still went
regularly to the restaurant run by the union. It was generally believed that
I had been relieved of my duties in order to prepare for my departure to the
Soviet Union, or because I had received a new assignment.
     The Chinese  ambassador was  enthusiastic about my  offer  to pass  him
information about Russian aid to Mao. He cabled Marshal  Chiang immediately,
and a  few days  later he  informed me that my offer had  been accepted.  He
would pay me  for any information  I gave him on a scale running between two
hundred  thousand and five hundred thousand Belgian francs. I accepted.  For
the next three years I passed on all kinds of false information and was well
paid for it.
     But eventually the arrangement came to an end. One night the ambassador
summoned me  urgently. I was afraid I had been found out, but I could hardly
refuse to go. We met in  a supper club in  the city  and  the ambassador was
very nervous. Chiang had told him to  obtain exact  intelligence  on the Red
strategy for the inevitable  battle at the Yellow River.  I had never before
been  asked for  such  precise information; ordinarily,  I  furnished rather
general information about Soviet assistance and various projects. I told him
information would be hard to come by, that it would take at least two weeks,
and that I could not guarantee anything. For the next two weeks I pored over
all the news sources I could lay my hands on, and I stared at a map of China
that I kept  in my  apartment. Then  I prepared a report and presented it to
the ambassador, pretending, as I always did, that I had got it from a Soviet
diplomat in Brussels who had connections in Moscow. Once again, my so-called
information turned out to be correct. Chiang's army was defeated  and had to
withdraw to Formosa. A  week  later,  the ambassador called me again, but  I
decided to call this particular arrangement to a halt.
     I  furnished  other  such "interesting"  information  to  a  number  of
embassies, including the  Mexicans. One day as  I was leaving their embassy,
carrying the cash I had  just been paid for a "document," I was picked up by
two  policemen and taken  to  a  nearby station  house. They confiscated the
money (though  they gave me a receipt).  The ambassador had  his information
now, and evidently he wanted his money back. However, since we both posted a
claim  on  the  money, neither of  us  could  get it. Some  time  later, the
Mexicans threatened to denounce  me  to the Soviets  unless  I withdrew  and
allowed  them  to  recover  their money. I  did  what they  asked  but  they
denounced me anyhow.
     I was  obliged  to tell the whole story to the  counselor of the Soviet
embassy  in  Brussels. He  scolded me for  giving their  counterintelligence
service such a bad name. I explained that after the Union of Soviet Patriots
had thrown me out I had no other way  to make a living. He was understanding
but had  no  advice to offer. He was very  flattering about the "document" I
had sold the Americans, although he said that any  Soviet expert  would have
known  it  was false right off  the bat from some of  the language. "Anyhow,
congratulations," he said. "It was a great job."
     I don't want to name all the embassies to whom I  sold information, but
there  were many. My career in this line  of work came to  an end,  however,
some time later in Switzerland. I had fallen ill  in Vevay and couldn't  pay
my hotel bill and, as  a  result, I was  not thinking clearly.  I  wrote the
United States embassy in Berne  offering them important information from the
Soviet Union.  But I neglected to keep my fingerprints  off the  letter  and
they  checked them as a  matter  of course. When I telephoned the embassy to
follow  up, I was told  to go to  a cafe near the federal  capitol. There, I
would  get  a  telephone call and  be  told the  exact time and place  for a
conference. I was suspicious, but I had no choice. When I arrived, the  cafe
was  empty except for two very engrossed couples  and a  lone  man reading a
newspaper. It looked  too well-staged, but I sat down at a table and ordered
a coffee. A few minutes later the telephone rang and the owner announced, "A
call for Monsieur  Nicholas." I waited a moment  before  I got up  and said,
"That's  me." I hadn't taken  three steps  before  all  five of  them had me
     The man who had  been reading the  newspaper was a Swiss federal police
inspector named Muller. Very politely, he asked me to come along with him. I
told the  police that the Americans had cheated me of some money a few years
back and  that I  was  simply trying to get it back. They  held me for about
three weeks and  then  Muller,  again very politely,  invited  me  to  leave
     So I returned  to  Brussels,  where  the  sales  of my  homemade secret
documents had  been  providing me with the capital to finance the  Serebrine
enterprise.  Business  was  better  and  I  was  looking forward  to  future
prosperity. Unfortunately, just then I got  myself into another tight  spot.
While I was still on good terms with the Soviets, I had undertaken a project
for them in order to raise money for another expedition to Bulgaria. I had a
franchise  to import typewriters from East Germany -- then the Soviet zone of
occupation -- and  to sell them in Western Europe. I had to  pay for shipping
and insurance and  had  to borrow over a million  Belgian  francs  from four
different individuals; the  business and  financial arrangements  were  very
complicated. I was late in repaying my creditors.
     Two of  them,  to  whom I owed altogether six hundred thousand  francs,
were getting impatient. To get them off my back, I paid them off,  but I was
still  in debt to  the tune of another  six hundred  thousand  francs. I was
looking for a way to raise the additional money.
     To add  to my  troubles,  the  chief inspector of the Belgian  security
police  had it in for me.  Somehow  he  learned that I owed  P.  two hundred
thousand francs, his investment in the German typewriter deal plus interest.
Once he found out, he persuaded P.  that I had to be deported as  a security
     P. visited me. "Listen," he said, "this typewriter business is dragging
on too long. The money  I  loaned you isn't mine. It belongs to my uncle and
he is getting very nervous.
     "What can I do? Why not bring him here and I'll explain things to him."
     "That's okay but he won't believe you unless  you show him something in
writing. You must have something official in writing."
     "Nothing but the original letter from Berlin that you read."
     "So what?  Make something  up. We'll show it  to  him  and  tear  it up
     "Okay, bring  him  around to your house  tomorrow. But I must have your
word of honor that I can tear up the paper as soon as he leaves."
     I  went to the consulate and typed some  notes about shipping and other
details  on Soviet letterhead. The next day P. introduced me to his "uncle."
We had  a drink and chatted about this and that. Then I brought up business.
I  assured  him  that  everything  was going well  but that if  he wanted to
withdraw his  investment, I  would repay him the following week. As  I  said
this, I took out the letter  and handed it to him. He  read it carefully and
then folded it and calmly put  it in  his pocket.  "What  are you doing?"  I
said. "Why are you taking my letter?"
     "Because it is a forgery and I am  placing you under arrest,"  he said,
pulling out his police badge. I was convicted and put in prison.
     Needless to say, the  Serebrine company foundered. Maroussia could  not
keep it going alone, and when I was released, I  was issued a travel  permit
and  ordered to leave  Belgium. It was clear that I  would never  obtain the
legal right to settle anywhere with such a document. My only choices were to
get a passport of some  kind or give up, and I was  not ready to  give up. I
bought myself  a  good passport and  with it I operated in several  European
countries as a clandestine export-import liaison between Western and Eastern
Europe. Naturally, this was entirely extralegal, and I was often assumed  to
be a Russian spy. At one point, an official  of the Ministry of the Interior
refused to issue me a  permit to settle in France because I had not paid any
taxes. But how could I pay taxes when my official identity was false?
     For four months I did  manage  to live legally  in Paris  but it  meant
going to the  police headquarters constantly  to  get my permit renewed, and
the official from  the  Ministry  of  the  Interior hounded me  incessantly.
Finally, I was assigned to live in Rennes, in Brittany. Rennes is a charming
city, but I looked everywhere for  a job, and after two months I had to face
up to  the  fact  that there  was nothing there  I could  do.  I had to  get
someplace else. To lead the kind of clandestine life I did, you have to have
at least three passports. It's very tricky. I was arrested  once in Nice for
using a false  name and not having  a residence permit and sent to prison in
Aix-en-Provence.  Because  I was a middle-aged man, I was  assigned  to  the
infirmary  and  there  I  made a  new  and  extraordinary acquaintance.  For
whatever reason,  a  man  presented  himself at the prison one fine  day and
simply  said,  "I  am  Paul  Leca. I  want to  give  myself up." I had  been
immediately  impressed  with  the  deference  with  which  both  guards  and
prisoners treated him.  It turned out that Paul Leca was a  famous gangster,
who had been involved  in a theft of some of Begum Aga Khan's jewels. He had
subsequently  disappeared in  South  America for  a  while.  His return  was
signaled  by  a series of gangland murders in  Corsica  and southern France.
Various  inconvenient witnesses were being eliminated  one by  one. He was a
fascinating person and we spent a lot of time chatting about his adventures.
Unfortunately, I  did not have the chance to get  to  know him  better.  The
court  of appeals  upheld my sentence and I was transferred to Les Baumettes
to finish out my term.
     I brought a case of sausages from  Leca to some of his  friends  there,
and because I  was known  as a friend of his, I  was  once  again put in the
infirmary, a relatively comfortable spot.
     Two years  after that, I received  a letter  from Leca. He  was out  of
prison and wanted to get  together. He invited me  to  come to  Nice, in the
south of France,  where he owned a restaurant.  I was vacationing in Alassio
in Italy and I  wrote him that I preferred to meet there, since I was trying
to  steer clear of places where the police were likely to be on the lookout.
He  arrived  after a few days and we  had a  splendid reunion.  Leca made me
several propositions, any of  which would have  bought me all  the residence
and work permits I could use, if I had simply accepted and then gone  to the
police. But  I  assured him I would do  no such  thing, thanked him for  his
friendship, and declined.
     About this  time  I got interested  in the tierce,  which  is a form of
racetrack gambling very popular in France. I had come to the conclusion that
it  is  possible  to win  quite a  bit of money  if one  played  the  tierce
systematically.  Of course,  it is necessary to  place substantial  bets.  I
figured  out a  system that has worked out quite well over  the years, and I
managed to win between sixty and one hundred thousand francs  a year. But it
is  hard work.  So that's the way I lived, betting and moving around.  But I
also met the last woman in my  life. We have been together for almost eleven
years and, even in the hardest times, she has never let me down.

     I  DIDN'T THINK MUCH about the treasure then for a long time. But every
so often  the thought  would come to me that  if  I  died  it would  be gone
forever.  I finally  decided that I had to  do something about it, even if I
couldn't find anybody to help. I  finally wrote to  the Bulgarian ambassador
in  Paris, telling him what was involved and offering to share what was left
with the Bulgarian Government. He wrote back to say that he had forwarded my
letter to Sofia. When I telephoned the ambassador a month later, he asked me
to come to the embassy. I  preferred to meet at  a cafe nearby. He indicated
that  his  government  was  inclined  to  accept,  but  wanted  to  know  my
conditions. I told him I would offer a proposal shortly.
     My plan  involved a  friend in Paris  who was a  former  member  of the
National  Assembly.  I approached him  with  it.  The two  of us would go to
Bulgaria together, posing as simple tourists, during which time I would show
him the first hiding  place. At  our ages, it would be physically impossible
for us to actually dig it up. When we were back in Paris, I would inform the
Bulgarians that  my friend could conduct them to the first hiding place, but
that he did not know  any of  the others. Whatever they recovered was to  be
transported  to  the  French consulate,  where it  would be  appraised  by a
Parisian expert whom I would send. My half of the treasure would be given to
my friend to give to me.
     The Frenchman and I agreed, but when I laid it out to the Bulgarians, I
saw at a glance that it was  unworkable. It was clear to  me that they would
immediately  alert  the  Russians, who  would  claim the  treasure as  their
rightful  property.  The plan had been  impractical, but at least I was sure
that  the treasure was not in  any  immediate danger. Before I  did anything
more about it,  however,  I  decided  that I ought to go to Bulgaria to make
sure that the hiding places were still intact. But it was a long time before
I  was able to make the voyage, only  a few years ago. And  that  trip was a
series of adventures.
     I thought I  might try to  enter Bulgaria  from Greece,  where I  had a
friend who had been a fellow officer during the Civil  War. Somehow,  I  had
never been able to accept his invitations to  visit him and his Greek  wife.
Now I went there to see them to tell him my plan.  He said I had come to the
right man. He could help. All I needed was a small solid boat and a reliable
crew. He knew a captain who  smuggled,  but who was a man of  his word and a
good sailor. He arranged for  us to meet. We went down  into the old section
of  the  city near  the  port and  were admitted  into a  whitewashed  stone
building by  an old woman.  The captain was  there, a giant of a man  with a
magnificent  black  beard  and incredibly large hands and  arms.  My  friend
explained:  I had to land in Bulgaria, stay there  for about three days, and
then go to  an  Italian  port.  The captain agreed  to  take me, and  set  a
reasonable price. I was to take a regular ferry to the island  where he kept
his boat.
     I had no trouble finding his boat in the little port. It looked like an
ordinary fishing boat, with a sail and a motor, about twenty yards long. The
captain was in the interior of  the  island on business. While I  waited for
him, I stayed at  his  house, which was luxurious and  exquisitely furnished
with Oriental  rugs. He threw a  party for me the evening  he returned, with
members of his  crew and a small orchestra.  Greek wine and the local cognac
flowed like water and a whole lamb was cooked on a grill.
     Two  days later we set out. I had  paid for  my trip in dollars and the
captain had said that he was  going to purchase Bulgarian  tobacco while  we
were there. He  promised me that  he would not sell it illegally until after
he had landed me at an Italian port. We left the island  about 4 P.M. As  we
came close to the entrance to  the  Dardanelles toward evening,  the captain
told me that a storm was brewing and that he would have to put in at a small
port  on one of the islands. We didn't make it, however. The waves grew huge
and the wind howled. The boat pitched so deeply that I thought it would turn
over. I was certain we would sink. I  lav on my bed, since I could not stand
without  cracking my head  against  the  walls of  my cabin. The storm raged
until  3  A.M.  and then  began  to calm  down. About  5  A.M., as dawn  was
breaking, I looked outside the  cabin. I could hear the captain's voice just
outside  my door. When I opened it, there he was, and  I have  never been so
happy to see  anyone in  my  life.  He smiled  at me through his magnificent
beard. "So, you are still alive."
     He  had not been  able to reach any of the islands, of course. And,  in
fact, for the  moment we had had to stay as far from land as possible  so as
not to be driven  onto  the  beach. There  was  some damage  to the boat but
nothing  serious. It  could  be  repaired  in a  few days and  then we would
continue on our way. Eventually, we stopped at a small village on one of the
islands,  where  I  spent  a  very  pleasant  two  days.  Then  we  went  to
Constantinople,  where we purchased  fuel and provisions.  The  next day  we
pushed on and soon we had entered the Black Sea, which I have always been in
love with.
     But before we got to  Bulgaria, the captain came  to my cabin. "I don't
know why  you are going to Bulgaria," he said, "and I don't  care. All I ask
is that you do nothing to cause trouble between me and these  people. As far
as  I'm  concerned,  you  are  a tourist on  a pleasure cruise. And you know
nothing  about  my  business. Right?" I assured  him that he had nothing  to
worry about. "I have come  to check  on  some  personal  business,"  I said.
"That's all." It was the truth.
     Before I even thought seriously about trying to recover the treasure, I
had  to  make sure it was  still there. I had no doubts that  it  was, but I
wanted to find  out whether the terrain had altered. Perhaps  the woods  had
been  cut  down, or somebody might have built  on the site.  We landed,  and
after the usual formalities,  the captain headed  for Plovdiv, the center of
the tobacco  market. He gave me three days' leave before I had to be back at
the boat.
     Disembarking  was easy. The  customs officials were very  friendly. The
city  had changed  tremendously  since I had been there  last  and I did not
recognize many of the  streets. I strolled around all that day, and  set out
on my  expedition toward evening.  I was wearing old clothes  so as  to melt
easily into the general population.
     By daybreak I  had reached the  first hiding place. It was undisturbed.
By late  afternoon I  had  found  the  other  three  spots.  They  too  were
untouched. All this had taken longer than I had planned and I was physically
exhausted as well. Since  I couldn't leave until  it  was completely dark, I
stretched out to catch  a nap. I must have been asleep for about three hours
when  I  was  awakened  bv voices  nearby.  Two  men  were talking and  were
evidently awaiting a third person. They may  have been bandits. In any case,
I was afraid to move even an inch  because the noise of the dry leaves would
have given me away.
     I  drew my pistol slowly. My back and legs were aching. I  didn't  know
whether  they were armed. This went on for about two hours, and then I heard
a dog  barking. The  Bulgarians called  out. It must have been their  friend
with his dog.  The damn dog would certainly  discover me. In a  few minutes,
the dog had picked up my scent. He began to bark and growl. At first the men
must have thought  he had found some animal. He was right on top of me and I
was sure he  was about to  go for  my throat, when I  shot him in the snout,
leaped up with my gun drawn, and ordered them to  hold their hands up. I had
taken them completely  by surprise. To my relief  I could  see they were not
armed, though each  carried  a  big  club. I told  them to throw their clubs
down. They realized immediately from my  accent  that I  was Russian. All to
the  good. It made  them all  the more careful. I asked them what  they were
doing there. They told me some  cock-and-bull story about looking for a lost
dog. I said that was nonsense and  that they  could be shot as thieves. "Get
out of here, fast," I said, and they set out running.
     By about 5 A.M. I was  almost back at the port.  I lay down in  a small
woods nearby for about an  hour and then went back on board. Once back in my
cabin, I slept  for fourteen  hours, almost till midnight. I had some supper
and spent the rest of the night reading. Early the next morning, I heard the
captain  come  back  aboard  and went  out  to  greet  him. "We  will  leave
tomorrow," he said. "I  haven't been able to do any business but I hope your
affairs went well."
     As we  entered  the Aegean  the captain  asked whether it was all right
with me if we  changed course.  "It will add two or three days to the trip,"
he said, "but you will see islands  most tourists  have  never  seen." I had
nothing bet ter to do and it seemed like a delightful prospect. That night I
went to sleep peacefully.
     About i  A.M. I was awakened by shouting and  screaming on the  deck. I
could hear people running around and falling down. I ran up to see  what was
going on. I couldn't believe my eyes. There were about  twenty men attacking
our crew. The captain was fighting like a  madman, with his  back up against
the  mast.  I saw him pick a man up and heave him into the sea. Then someone
hit me over the head.
     When  I  came to, I had  a fierce  pain in the  back of  my  neck and I
couldn't move. My hands were tied behind my back and there were irons on  my
ankles. And I was thirsty as the very devil, my mouth so dry I couldn't even
call  out.  I had a fantasy that I had fallen into the hands of men who knew
about the treasure and were going to torture me to find out the secret.
     I  was in a dark room and on land. I couldn't hear a sound, and I could
barely  make out  my surroundings. Then  I lost  consciousness again. When I
awoke the next time I  was astonished to find myself in a well-lighted room,
lying on  a clean bed. Just as I was getting ready to call  for help and ask
for something to  drink,  a young man came into  the room with two pitchers,
one of  cold  water  and the other of white wine.  He spoke to  me in Greek,
which I could not understand. Nor could he comprehend any of the languages I
tried  out on him. Then he began to count with his fingers. When he saw that
I still did not understand, he lowered the lamp and raised it again, holding
up seven fingers.  I understood that he  was telling me that I would have to
wait until seven o'clock. He was not wearing a watch but when I  pointed  to
his  wrist, he held up his fingers to indicate that it was 11 A.M. I pointed
to  the  wound on my  head  and groaned. He left  and came back  after a few
minutes with an old, toothless crone dressed all  in black.  When she saw my
wound, she began to scold the young man. Then  they  both left. I thought  I
wouldn't see them again.
     After a half hour they returned. She was carrying a bowl  of hot  water
and a big  wad of absorbent cotton.  He had some cold meat, goat cheese, and
bread and fruit. The woman gestured for me to turn over.  Then she washed my
wound with water and  bathed  it with an  evil-smelling liquid  which, to my
surprise, eased the pain. Then she set a plate full of food in front of  me.
They both wished me kalispera, "good night," and left.
     My  appetite had come back and  I ate heartily. I was  still  trying to
understand  what  in the world  was going on. At last, even  in  my state, I
dismissed  the idea that it had anything to do with  the treasure.  The only
person in Greece who knew  anything about it was  my Russian friend,  whom I
trusted absolutely. I decided to  put it out of my mind and try to  get some
     When I woke up the next morning, two men were standing over me, staring
at me with curiosity but with no  apparent hostility. "Good morning," one of
them said in fairlv good French. "How did you sleep?"
     "How  could I sleep well when here  I  am  kidnapped  and  tied without
knowing why? What's going on?"
     The one who spoke French  translated for his companion, who was clearly
his  superior.  They were  both well  dressed  in  European  style. The more
important man wore an expensive suit and a gold watch. He wanted to know who
I was,  what I had been doing on the boat, and how long and  how well I knew
the captain. I asked if they were from the police and they answered, "We are
as far from the police as the moon is from the earth."
     They  were  gangsters. The  captain and I  had agreed on what  my story
should be if anyone wanted to know what I was doing on board  his boat. So I
told them that  I was a former  officer of the  Russian White Army  and that
therefore I couldn't safely enter any communist countries. But I had had  my
heart  set  on going to Bulgaria to see my only sister,  who  had  married a
Bulgarian. This seemed to satisfy them. I hoped the captain had stuck to our
     They wanted  to know if I knew why the captain  went back and  forth to
Bulgaria. I said I didn't and that if they knew  the captain, they also knew
that he was  not the kind of man one questioned too closely. Without another
word they turned to leave, and the interpreter said, "Monsieur is  satisfied
with your answers. You will learn his decision this evening."
     I looked out  through the  barred window. The  building  was about  two
hundred  yards from the sea and in the distance I could see a tiny island. I
was  almost certainly  on one of those  tiny  islands  in the  Sporades  and
therefore far from any  of the  main  routes.  The time  passed slowly  as I
waited  to learn what  "Monsieur" had decided. It was  quite  late  when the
interpreter finally returned. He handed me an envelope.
     "Monsieur regrets," he said, "that you have been so badly treated. Here
is a thousand  dollars. He wants you to accept it  to make up for the unjust
treatment you have received.  Tomorrow, a doctor will  come to take  care of
you.  In the meanwhile, the old  woman who took care of  you last night will
look after you. In  a  couple of days you  can leave here  with the captain,
provided he  agrees to make retribution for the harm he  has done us.  If he
refuses, we will  take you to  any port that you  choose. There is only  one
condition:  you must swear  to tell no one what has happened.  It is to your
advantage  to accept this condition, because the police  are after both  the
captain and us and I  promise you  they will give you nothing but trouble if
they find out about all this."
     I swore I would speak  to no one. Immediately after-ward, the old woman
and the young man came with fresh bandages and food. They  also had a  large
jug of  cool white wine. The old lady was so  gentle with me that  after she
had  cleaned  my wound, I kissed her on both  cheeks.  She  placed  her hand
softly on my  head  and said something that  I would have given  anything to
understand.  When they left,  I ate, then  drank  the  whole jug of wine and
threw myself on  the bed quite drunk. The next morning the young man woke me
and escorted me to another  building. It had the same plain exterior but was
very luxurious inside. He took  me to  a bathroom, where I was  overjoyed to
find my baggage, my papers  and  my books.  I shaved, bathed, and changed my
     When I came out, he  was waiting for me. "In a few days," he said, "you
will be far from here, and I believe your friend the captain will be the one
to  take you. He is being  quite  reasonable and there is  peace  between us
now." I was delighted. He led me  into a drawing room, beautifully furnished
in the Middle Eastern style, and offered me some strong Turkish coffee. Just
then a small man, also  dressed in  the  European  style,  appeared  in  the
doorway and announced in perfect German that he was a doctor. He examined my
wound and pronounced it not serious. The swelling was already going down. He
reban-daged it, and advised me  to keep  it covered for three days and after
that to let nature take its course.
     These gangsters were treating me so  graciously that I was beginning to
feel  at  home. I  was almost  ready to forgive  them for  my injury and the
brutal  way they had treated me. It  must  be  a  matter of two rival  gangs
involved in the same illicit  traffic. All I hoped was that my part in their
adventures would soon be over.
     I saw the captain again about  noon. The door opened suddenly and there
he was -- covered with bruises  and  almost his  entire head in bandages.  He
threw his arms around me and kissed me on both cheeks. "My friend," he said,
"I am so glad to see you. I hope you are feeling better. Forgive me for this
frightful experience. I had no idea. One day they will pay for it. Someone --
it had to be  someone in my crew -- betrayed me. I'll find out who it was and
then he had better watch out."
     The young man came to  lead us to another room, where we were served an
excellent lunch. The captain told me that he had lost two men. The  cook had
been  killed  and a sailor had been  fatally wounded. The attackers had also
had two  killed, both  by the  captain  himself. The boat  had suffered some
damage  but would be  able to embark in a couple of  days. I thought it best
not to ask what had been the cause of the trouble. Once before,  I had asked
him  what  I  had imagined was a harmless question and he had changed from a
friendly companion into a cold, terrifying stranger.
     That evening,  the  chief, who was leaving the next day, gave a banquet
to  celebrate  his reconciliation with the captain.  We  ate bounteously and
drank  gallons of wine until  four  o'clock  in the  morning. Everybody  got
drunk,  including me. The men drew their pistols and started firing into the
ceiling. At the end the chief brought two pretty dancers who had entertained
during the evening to the captain and me. Unfortunately, I was so drunk that
I fell asleep as soon as I hit the bed.
     That  afternoon the captain and I walked around the island. I tried  to
find  out where we  might  be by referring to  Lemnos.  He pretended  not to
understand. Honor among thieves. He would not betray his own enemies.
     The next day, the captain was as anxious as I to leave. Since there was
no wind, he started up the engine, and soon we were far from the island. The
two missing crew members had somehow been replaced. The captain was in a bad
mood. and I understood he  was brooding about the traitor who had given away
his course and  the enormous sum  he must have had to pay to ransom himself,
his crew and his boat.
     He  got  his revenge  on the  traitor  that night. After dinner we were
playing  checkers when he announced suddenly that  he was going to retire. I
was  exhausted and only  too  willing. I fell  asleep  immediately,  and was
awakened by such terrible and bloodcurdling screams  that I covered my ears.
I was sure the captain was extracting a confession from the suspect.
     The  next morning  he asked me  if I  had  slept well. answered, "Never
better."  But  about noon I noticed that the old  helmsman  was missing. The
captain himself was at  the rudder. Three days later he  let me  off  at the
same port| from which I had embarked, and before I left he  gave me back the
money  I  had paid him. "You were almost killed and it was all my fault," he
said. "Take this money and don't give me any argument. Just keep all this to
     When I saw my old Russian friend again,  I had to tell him all about my
trip. He was terribly upset that he had put me in such danger. "Not at all,"
I told him. "I had to see if it was still there."
     I spent a week with him and his wife, and though they wanted me to stay
longer  I  decided I had to get  away from Greece. I wanted to go  home. All
that  was left for me now was  to dream about the treasure of the White Army
buried in an obscure Bulgarian forest.
     Only I know where.

Популярность: 34, Last-modified: Sat, 09 Mar 2002 08:34:21 GMT