Frederick Strom

How Lefebvre, Lepitet and Vergeat were Drowned

(The Representative of the Commissariat for Foreign Affairs of the Federal Soviet Republic, Stockholm.)

Source: The Communist Review, May 1921, Vol. 1, No. 1.
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/HTML Markup: Brian Reid
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2006). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

Dear Comrade,—The party sent by me to Russia to enquire into the cause of the death of Lefebvre, Lepitet, and Vergeathave sent me the following report: “The reasons for which the three comrades did not take the route through Esthonia on their return were, the lack of French passports, the blockade maintained by the Entente against Russia, and the espionage practised at Reval. In view of this they took the longer route through the Arctic, hoping by this means to travel more securely. They arrived at Murmansk almost without baggage on September 18th.

“The next day, they left for Vaida Guba, to continue by sea as far as Honningsvaag in Norway, fearing to be arrested if they travelled direct to Vardo, where the Allied spies incite the Police against all passengers coming from Russia. At Vaida Guba they found the Czech delegates who had arrived before them and who were also awaiting a ship to return via Norway.

“The ship sent by our comrades at Vardo to meet and bring back the delegates to the Congress could only take the three Czech delegates who had been waiting a week longer than the French. With them the French comrades sent several letters and two or three parcels of books. The French comrades were asked to await the return of the boat and not to set forth at their own risk on their own account.

“But the French comrades were very anxious to leave, in order to be able to be present at the Congress of the C.G.T., and of the French party. Because of this, they returned to Murmansk on September 23rd to try and borrow some money there and hire a steam-boat for Vardo, but they did not wait for the telegraphic reply, and returned to Vaida Guba on September 27th, hoping that the illegal boat which had carried the Czechs would have returned from Honningsvaag. On account of economic difficulties and disquieting warnings, the sailors of the illegal boat had not been able to return to Vaido Guba immediately, and the French comrades were informed through the fishermen that they would have to wait another three or four days.

“After this time the boat would come back for them.

—They were warned of the danger and advised not to leave in a boat, as a warning had been received that a storm was likely to take place in the immediate future. Nevertheless, on September 28th they came to an agreement with a fisherman of Vaida Guba named Storjusso, whom the official pilot of Vaida Guba, Andersson, described as a safe and experienced sailor, with a boat that was very good and strong, but unfortunately not equipped with a motor. The boat was hired by the French comrades. The owner of the boat accompanied them as captain, together with his own son and two other fishermen.

“All these persons have disappeared, and great despair exists in the little fishing huts. They left the Varanger Fiord on September 28th in the evening, or very early in the morning of the 29th. Immediately after their departure there broke forth a storm which lasted four days, and which was the most violent in human memory.

“Since that time nothing has been heard, no trace has been found of the three Frenchmen and the four Finnish fishermen who were piloting the boat. All the pilots along the coast who have been questioned firmly believe that the sails were torn or the mast broken through the violent storm, and consequently the boat could not manœuvre and was bound to be shattered by the waves very quickly.

“Investigations have been made all along the Russian, Finnish, and Norwegian coasts, and no inhabited spot has been omitted. Nowhere, however, has the least trace been found either of the boat, of the French comrades, or of the fishermen. The pilots and fishermen explain this phenomena by the fact that the waves and the current were driving towards the open sea, and consequently everything was bound to move before the wind towards the Arctic Ocean or the icy inhabited, region of Novaya Zemlia.

“The three French comrades had no objects of art or of value as the bourgeois Press affirms, and, on the contrary, left without any baggage in order to be more easily able to cross the frontiers and return as soon as possible. With the poor fishermen who owned the boat, they fell victims to the violent storm. But above all, they were victims of the criminal blockade inflicted on Russia by the Entente imperialism, and of the Entente’s refusal to grant passports to their workers in order to visit their Russian comrades.

“They gave their lives for the cause of the proletariat, and their names are inscribed in the golden book of the heroes and martyrs of humanity.

“For the Soviet Consulate General, fraternally,

“ (Signed) FREDK. STROM.”

“Stockholm, January 21st.”