Krupskaya's “Reminiscences of Lenin”

Again Abroad

End of 1907

In Finland Ilyich was obliged to move still farther inland. The Bogdanovs, Innokenty (Dubrovinsky) and I stayed on at the Vaasa house in Kuokkala. There had already been police raids at Terijoki, and we were expecting them at Kuokkala. Natalia Bogdanova and I started cleaning up. We went through all the files, picking out everything of value and giving it to Finnish comrades to hide, while the rest we burned. We applied ourselves to the task with such zeal that we were surprised one day to find that the snow all round Vaasa was strewn with ashes. If the gendarmes had put in an appearance, though, they would still have found enough for their purpose. Stacks of papers had accumulated in the house. Special precautions had to be taken. One morning our landlady came running in to say that the gendarmes had turned up at Kuokkala. She took away as much illegal stuff as she could carry to hide in her own house. We sent Alexander Bogdanov and Innokenty for a walk in the woods, and sat waiting for the police to come with a search warrant. On that occasion, however, no search was made. They were looking for the fighting-squad comrades.

The comrades had sent Ilyich to the hinterland. He lived at Aggelby, a little station near Helsingfors, with two Finnish sisters. He felt an utter stranger in that spotlessly clean cold room, cosy in its Finnish way with lace curtains and everything standing in its proper place, and with the incessant sound of laughter, a piano and loud chatter in Finnish coming from the next room. Ilyich spent all day writing his paper on the agrarian question, during which he carefully weighed the experience of the recent revolution. He walked up and down the room for hours on tiptoes, so as not to disturb the landladies. I went to see him there once.

The police were looking for Ilyich all over Finland. He had to leave the country. Plainly, the reaction was going to last for years. We would have to move back to Switzerland. We had little heart for it, but there was no other way. Besides, it was necessary to arrange for the publication of Proletary abroad, since this was no longer possible in Finland. Ilyich was to leave for Stockholm at the first opportunity and wait for me there. I had to fix up my sick old mother in St. Petersburg, settle a number of other affairs and arrange future contacts before following Ilyich out.

While I was running about in St. Petersburg, Ilyich very nearly lost his life on his way to Stockholm. He was being sO closely shadowed that to go the usual way, that is, by embarking at Abo, would have meant being arrested for certain. There had already been cases of our people being arrested when boarding the steamer. A Finnish comrade advised boarding the steamer at one of the nearby islands. This was safe as far as avoiding arrest was concerned, but it involved a three-mile walk across the ice to the island, and although it was December the ice was not very strong in some places. No guides were available, as no one cared to risk his life. At last two tipsy peasants in a pot-valiant mood undertook to escort Ilyich. Crossing the ice at night, all three nearly drowned when the ice in one place suddenly started to give way under them. They barely managed to jump for safety.

I learned afterwards from Borgo, a Finnish comrade (he was eventually shot by the White Guards), with whose help I crossed to Stockholm, how dangerous had been the path Ilyich had chosen and what a narrow escape he had had. Ilyich afterwards told me that when the ice began to give way, his first thought had been: "Ah, what a stupid way to die."

An exodus of Russians started again – Bolsheviks, Mensheviks, S.-R.'s left the country. On the boat going out I met Dan, Lydia Zederbaum, and a couple of S.-R.'s.

After a few days in Stockholm, Ilyich and I proceeded to Geneva via Berlin. Searches and arrests had been made among the Russians in Berlin on the eve of our arrival. We were met by Avramov, a member of the Berlin group, who therefore advised us not to go to the homes of any of our comrades. He led us about from cafe to cafe all day long. We spent the evening with Rosa Luxemburg. The Stuttgart Congress, at which Vladimir Ilyich and Rosa Luxemburg had been at one on the question of war, had brought them very close together. At that congress, as far back as 1907, they had said that the struggle against war should aim not only at peace but at the replacement of capitalism by socialism. The crisis created by war should be utilized for the speedy overthrow of the bourgeoisie. "The Stuttgart Congress," Ilyich wrote, "sharply set off the opportunist and the revolutionary wings of international Social-Democracy on a number of momentous issues and gave its decision on these issues in a spirit of revolutionary Marxism." At the Stuttgart Congress Rosa Luxemburg and Ilyich were at one. Their talk together that evening was therefore more than usually friendly.

We returned to our hotel in the evening feeling ill. Both of us had a white froth on our lips and felt extremely weak. As it transpired afterwards, we had got fish-poisoning somewhere during our round of the restaurants. A doctor had to be sent for during the night. Vladimir Ilyich was registered as a Finnish chef and I as an American citizen, and so the hotel attendant fetched an American doctor. He examined Ilyich and said it was very serious, then he examined me and said, "You will pull through all right!" He prescribed a heap of medicines, and, smelling a rat, charged us a terrific fee for the visit. We lay in bed for a couple of days, then dragged ourselves off, half-ill, to Geneva, where we arrived on January 7, 1908. Ilvich afterwards wrote to Gorky that we had "caught a cold" during the journey.

Geneva looked bleak. There was not a speck of snow about, and a cold cutting wind was blowing – the bise. Post cards with a view of the freezing water near the railings of the Geneva Lake embankment were being sold. The town looked dead and empty. Among the comrades living there at the time were Mikha Tskhakaya, V. Karpinsky and Olga Ravich. Mikha Tskhakaya lived in a small room and got out of bed with difficulty when we arrived. The conversation flagged. The Karpinskys were then living in the Russian library (formerly Kuklin's) where Karpinsky was manager. He had a very bad headache when we arrived and kept wincing all the time. All the shutters were closed, since the light hurt him. As we were going back from the Karpinskys through the desolate streets of Geneva, which had turned so unfriendly, Ilyich let fall: "I have a feeling as if I've come here to be buried."

We were beginning our second period of emigration, a much harder one than the first.