Krupskaya's “Reminiscences of Lenin”

The Years of The War

Cracow 1914

Although war had been in the air for a long time it came as a shock to all of us. We had to get out of Poronino, but had no idea where to go. Lilina was seriously ill at the time, and Zinoviev could not leave in any case. They lived in Zakopane at the time, and there were doctors there. He decided to stay on in Poronino for the time being. Ilyich wrote to Kobetsky in Copenhagen, asking to be kept informed, to establish contacts with Stockholm, etc. The local hill people were utterly depressed when mobilization started. No one had the faintest idea what the war was all about and against whom it was being fought. There was no enthusiasm whatever; men went like dumb animals to the slaughter. Our landlady, a peasant woman who owned the summer house, was numb with grief when her husband was called up. The Catholic priest tried to fan a patriotic spark front the pulpit. Rumours were rife, and the six-year-old boy of the poor family next door, who was always hanging around our house, told me confidentially that the Russians were putting poison in the wells – so the priest had said.

The local gendarme officer came to our house on August 7 with a witness – a local peasant armed with a rifle – to make a search. What exactly he was to search for, the officer did not know himself. He rummaged about in the book-case, found an unloaded pistol, took several notebooks with figures on the agrarian question, and asked a few irrelevant questions. The embarrassed witness sat on the edge of a chair, staring around with a puzzled air, while the officer poked fun at him. He pointed to a jar of paste and assured him it was a bomb. Then he told Vladimir Ilyich that they had received information against him, and that he really ought to arrest him, but as he would have to take him down to Nowy Targ (the nearest place where there were military authorities) the next morning in any case, Vladimir Ilyich might just as well come down himself tomorrow in time to catch the six o'clock morning train. One thing was clear – he was going to be arrested, and in war-time, especially during the early days of the war, it did not want much to have a man put out of the way. Vladimir Ilyich went to see Ganiecki, who lived in Poronino at the time, and told him what had happened. Ganiecki wired immediately to the Social-Democratic Deputy Marek, and Vladimir Ilyich wired to the Cracow police, who knew him as a political emigrant. The thought of Mother and me remaining alone in Poronino in a big house worried Ilyich, and he arranged with Tikhomirnov for the latter to move into an upstairs room for the time being. Tikhomirnov had recently returned from exile in Olonets, and the Pravda editors had sent him to Poronino to take a holiday and rest his shattered nerves, and, incidentally, to help Ilyich to draw up reports in connection with the current campaigns for a workers' press, etc, based on data published in Pravda.

Ilyich and I sat up all night. We were very upset. I saw him off in the morning and returned to an empty room. The same day Ganiecki hired a farm cart which took him to Nowy Targ. He managed to see the district officer in charge – the Royal Imperial starosta – kicked up a row, told him that Ilyich was a member of the International Socialist Bureau, a man who was in the public eye and for whose life he, the officer, would have to answer. Then he saw the inspector who was handling the case, told him who Ilyich was, and got a permit for me to see Ilyich the next day. When Ganiecki got back from Nowy Targ we both drew up a letter to the Austrian Social-Democrat M.P. and member of the International Bureau Victor Adler. At Nowy Targ I was permitted to see Ilyich. I was left alone with him, but he spoke very little – the situation was still extremely confused. The Cracow police wired that there were no grounds for suspecting Ulyanov of espionage. A similar telegram was received from Marek in Zakopane, and a well-known Polish writer went to Nowy Targ to intercede on Ilyich's behalf. On learning of Ilyich's arrest, Zinoviev, who lived in Zakopane, cycled down in a pouring rain to see Doctor Dlusski, the old Polish Narodovolets who lived ten versts away. Dlusski immediately hired a phaeton and drove to Zakopane, where he began sending telegrams, writing letters, and seeing people. I was allowed to see Ilyich every day. I took the six o'clock train to Nowy Targ every morning – it was an hour's ride – then hung about the station, the post office and the market-place until eleven, then I would have an hour's meeting with Vladimir Ilyich. Ilyich told me about his prison mates. There were a lot of local peasants in jail – some for having allowed their passports to expire without renewal, some for not having paid their taxes, others for wrangling with the local authorities, etc. One of the prisoners was a Frenchman, another was a Polish government clerk who had used someone's travelling pass to get a cheap ride, a third was a Gypsy who carried on a shouted conversation with his wife across the prison wall, where she would take up her stand at set hours. Ilyich recalled his legal practice in Shushenskoye among the peasants, whom he had helped out of all kinds of predicaments, and he set up an improvised legal advice office in prison, wrote petitions, etc. His prison mates called Ilyich byczy chtop which means a "corker." The "corker" gradually got used to prison life in Nowy Targ, and was more composed and animated at our meetings. In this prison, at night, when the inmates were asleep, he lay pondering and planning what the Party had to do now, what steps had to be taken ill order to convert the world war into a world struggle with the bourgeoisie on the part of the proletariat. I gave Ilyich all the news about the war I was able to obtain.

What I did not tell him was this. Returning from the station one day, I heard some peasant women coming out of the church talking in loud voices – apparently for my benefit – about what they would do to a spy if they got hold of one. If the authorities by any chance let a spy go, they would see to it themselves that he had his eyes put out, his tongue cut off, and so forth. Clearly, we could not remain in Poronino after Ilyich was released. I began packing up, sorting out what we needed to take with us and what we could leave behind. Our household went to pieces. We had a servant, whom we had hired for the summer because of Mother's illness. She had been telling the neighbours all kinds of stories about us and our connections with Russia, and I got rid of her as fast as I could by paying her fare to Cracow, where she had been eager to go, and her wages in advance. Our neighbour's girl helped us to heat the stove and do the shopping. My mother – she was already 72 years old – was feeling very poorly. She could see that something was wrong, but could not make out exactly what it was. Although I had told her that Vladimir Ilyich had been arrested, she would talk at times about his having been called up. She worried whenever I left the house – she had an idea that I would disappear the way Vladimir Ilyich had done. Our lodger Tikhomirnov smoked with a pensive air, while he helped with packing up the books. Once had to get some kind of certificate from the peasant witness whom the gendarme officer had made fun of during the search of our rooms. I went to see him at the other end of the village, and we had a long talk together in his hut – the typical hut of a poor peasant – about what the war was all about, why people were fighting it, and who was interested in having it. We parted afterwards in a very friendly way.

At last, the pressure brought to bear by the Vienna M.P. Victor Adler and the Lvov M.P. Diamand, who both vouched for Vladimir Ilyich, had its effect. On August 19 Vladimir Ilyich was released from prison. I was at Nowy Targ as usual since early in the morning, and this time they even let me go into the prison to help take Ilyich's things. We hired a cart and went to Poronino. There we were obliged to stay for about a week until we received permission to move to Cracow. In Cracow we went to the landlady with whom Kamenev and Inessa had lodged. Most of the rooms were being used as a medical station, but she found a place for us. She had other things to worry about, though. The first battle had just been fought at Krasnik, in which two of her sons were engaged. They had signed up as volunteers, and she did not know what had become of them.

The next day we witnessed a harrowing scene from the window of the hotel to which we had moved. A train had arrived from Krasnik with the dead and wounded. Relatives of the men who had fought in the battle ran after the stretchers peering into the faces of the dead and dying, trying yet dreading to identify their kin. Those who were less seriously wounded walked slowly from the station with bandaged heads and arms. The people who had come to meet the train helped them to carry their things, offered them food and mugs of beer obtained from nearby restaurants. "So this is war!" one could not help thinking. And it was only the first battle.

In Cracow it did not take us long to get permission to go abroad to a neutral country – Switzerland. Certain matters had to be attended to first. A little while before that my mother had become a "capitalist." Her sister, a school-mistress, had died in Novocherkassk and left all her property to her – silver spoons, icons, articles of dress, and four thousand rubles saved up during thirty years of teaching. The money was deposited in a Cracow bank, and to get it from there we had to resort to a broker in Vienna, who got the money for us and took exactly half of it for his fee. We lived mainly on this money during the war, husbanding it so carefully that we still had some of it left on our return to Russia in 1917. And it was this money, a certificate for which was issued during a police search of our rooms in St. Petersburg during the July days of 1917, that served as evidence alleging Vladimir Ilyich to have received money from the German Government in payment for espionage.

We were a whole week travelling from Cracow to the Swiss frontier. Our train made long stops along the line to let military trains pass. We observed the chauvinistic agitation which the nuns and their active women associates carried on. At We railway stations they distributed sacred images, prayer books and so on to the soldiers. Dandyish military men sauntered about the stations. The coaches had mottoes pasted ail over them telling men what to do with the French, the English and the Russians: "Jedem Russ ein Schuss!" (A Shot for Every Russian.) Several carloads of insect powder stood on one of the sidings, waiting to be shipped to the front.

We stopped for a day in Vienna to get the necessary papers, arrange our money affairs, and send a wire to Switzerland to get someone to go surety for us to enable us to enter the country. Greulich – a veteran member of the Swiss Social-Democratic Party – went surety for us. In Vienna Ryazanov took Vladimir Ilyich to see Victor Adler, who had helped to secure Ilyich's release. Adler related his conversation with the Minister. "Are you sure that Ulyanov is an enemy of the tsarist government?" the Minister had asked. "Oh, yes," Adler had answered. "He is a more implacable enemy than Your Excellency." From Vienna we travelled to the Swiss frontier fairly quickly.