IN THE DAYS of ANARCHY
A Canadian’s Experiences in Roumania and Russia
ETHEL GREENING PANTAZZI
THE remoteness of
Roumania is really
not as great as many people seem to think.
Forty-eight hours in the Oriental Express from Paris takes one to Bucharest through some of the most beautiful and interesting scenery in Europe.
It is ten years ago that I went out there as the wife of a Roumanian naval officer. I was the first Canadian that the great majority of Roumanians had ever seen. To me, Roumania is a world in miniature. One finds every variety of scenery that it is possible to imagine, from high, snow-capped mountains to green marshes that stretch for miles on either side of the three mouths of the Danube. In the spring, in every neighborhood, are masses of roses bringing to memory tales of Persian Gardens.
Later, in June, the linden trees are all in blossom; on the plains are immense fields of com and wheat; in the foothills flocks of sheep are seen, and near Bucharest miles of oil derricks meet the view.
My first seven years were spent in Galatz, a port about one hundred miles from the mouth of the Danube. The origin of this city is lost in antiquity. Beyond it is a beautiful lake across from which one can see the borders of Russia. Facing Galatz, on the opposite bank of the Danube, are the distant blue foothills of the Balkans, those mountains of mystery. A short distance to the north rise precipitous cliffs, and the Cerat pours its blue waters into the muddy flood of the Danube. On these cliffs is perched a tiny church where lie the remains of Mazeppa, the hero of Byron’s famous poem. Galatz should be especially interesting to Englishmen because it was the residence for several years of General Gordon of Khartoum. Every time I passed the house where he had lived in the quiet street of thebrave Michael my heart beat faster to think that his
feet had trodden the same path before me.
In 1914, when the war broke out, it was an intense and painful surprise to us all in Roumania. We hoped to the last moment that something would be arranged to avert tne catastrophe. Our King at that time,
Carol the First, a Hoher.zollern of the Catholic branch of the family, had been for Roumania not only a king but an inspired leader, and for fifty years had steered Roumania’s course until she was a prosperous and progressive country. His firm conviction was that Germany would win the war, and he used all his influence as well as that of his wife, Carmen Sylva, to keep Roumania neutral. To go into the war on the German side could not be seriously considered.
The French influence i n Roumania among the educated class is extremely strong and their sons for many generations have been brought up in Paris.
The sympathy of the whole nation was with the Latin races as against the Teutons, for it is the proud boast of the Roumanians that they are Use descendants of Trajan’s legions of 1,800 years
ago—a Latin island in a sea of Slavs. The only object of Roumania going into the war would be to regain the lost provinces of Transylvania and the Banat from the Austrians, and this was a great incentive to action.
The first two years of war seemed to prove that
King Carol’s views were the correct ones, but the faith of the people in the Allies continued to grow. In the spring of 1916 a combination of circumstances destined my home to be in Bucharest and, being very closely in touch with the leading opinions of the day, I felt more and more confident that Roumania would finally enter into the war on the side of the Allies. The arrival of French and Russian Military Missions at the beginning of July 1916 confirmed that opinion. The obstacle in the way of Roumania joining the Allies was chiefly her former unfortunate experience with the Russians. After the war of 1877, when her heroic assistance to Russia had made it possible to
free Bulgaria from the Turks, the rich province of Bessarabia had been torn from her by the Bear. Friends would say to me earnestly: “We love France and we wish to fight on her side, but France is far, England is far. We will be fighting with the Russians and we do not trust them!”
TJOWEVER, on August 27th there -*■ was a council of Ministers which proved decisive. King Carol was now dead, and in April the beloved Carmen Sjdva had followed him to her last resting place. The present King Ferdinand
and his English wife, Queen Marie, were now on the throne. Ferdinand, though a Hohenzollem, had openly declared that, if the Roumanian, people wished to enter the war on the side of the Allies, he was willing to make the sacrifice of renouncing his family. By four o’clock in th® afternoon the ministers were still in council, but by five a Roumanian friend burst excitedly into the house and embracing me warmly* cried:
“It is all decided! We are going in on th® right side.”
Roumania Joins the Allies
A FEW minutes later I heard the newsboys erying in the street the extras announcing the entry of Roumania into the war against Germany and instructions as to measures to be taken in case of aeroplane raids. About nine o’clock w® went out to stroll about the streets to see the demonstrations taking place. In the few hours since four till darkness all the streets’ lamps had been painted dark blue so that one could hardly se® to walk, but in the Calea Victoria there were bands of University students before the Palace singing patriotic songs and the sidewalks were so thronged that carriages could not pass.
About midnight we heard the church bells ringing. This was the signal of alarm of an attack. I thought it could not be possible that a Zeppelin
should be there so quickly. On rising and pullingback the curtain we immediately heard a whistl® from the street below. It was the warning from a policeman to put out the lights or draw the curtains. Five minutes later a tremendous explosion filled our house with dust and smoke ; the first bomb had carried down a comer of the third house from our own. From then on for three months there were daily and almost nightly raids lasting from half an hour to two hours each time. The anti-aircraft guns being quite inadequate for their work the Germans soon learned they could bomb the town with impunity. In the first daylight raid four hundred people were killed and wounded.
We Suffer From Bombing Raid
ONE morning about eight o’clock I heard the usual alarm, but, being exceedingly tired from watching the night before during a Zeppelin raid, I was desirous of closing my eyes and forgetting that such thing® as aeroplanes existed. Second considerations made me rise, however, and, hastily slipping on a dressing gown, I went to the nursery. While earnest-
ly engaged in persuading the nurse and children that of course there was absolutely no danger and only a great deal of noise, eleven bombs were thrown and burst very near our house; this in the space of a few seconds.
The effect was like a triple earthquake; all the windows fell in; the glass broken in thousands of pieces. A few seconds Later I heard an agonized voice crying:
“My Mistress, where are you?”
On my replying, it continued:.“Do not move from where you are, for glass is coming down like rain in the corridors.” It was the devoted orderly, who, on the first alarm, had descended into the cellar, where ail the household had remained during the raid. On returning to my bedroom I was soon quite convinced that second thoughts were best on seeing that it was a ' confused mass
■of broken glass and splintered wood. My very hasty toilet was made in full view of the excited firstcomers of a crowd of sight-seers who entered the house quite easily, as the doors were sprung and the house had a decided list. In passing, I might explain that the neighborhood in which I lived was the principal objective of the aeroplane, being near the Palace and the British Legation. Near the house where the largest bomb had struck a cobblestone pavement there was a hole big enough to hold the street car which had almost fallen into it. Two people were wounded in my house, and four killed front of my doorway.
The Black Days of Defeat
^THINKING the winter would very likely be a difficult one, we were making provisions of vegetables and preserves such as we had never done before. Then the news from the front became more alarming. In •our household we were always among the optimists, thinking it was impossible for Bucharest to fall and looking with agonized hope in the newspapers every day to see if Serrail was moving from Salónica. As concerted action with his army had been one of the conditions of Roumania entering the war, his failure to help was a great deception.
The defeat of Turtukia had made Roumania realize how little she was prepared to battle against such tremendous odds; the promised munitions and aeroplanes coming through from Russia were found very frequently to be defective. Large quantities of provisions sent by the British were lost en route from Archangel, through carelessness of Russian officials, showing that Roumania’s fears were only too wellfounded in her dealings with that ally. Two years later the effect of energetic action at Salónica under General Franchet d’Esperey was •one of the most important factors in winning the war. If only it could have taken place in 1916 the terrible sacrifice required of Roumania would have been considerably lessened. In all, a ■million lives were lost in the two years.'
On going to the hospital to visit wounded officers of the first engagements, I found them •extremely depressed, and they told me that it was not for their own wounds that they were grieving, but for the fact that when they led their trusting soldiers into action and saw them mowed down like grass before the long-range guns of the enemy, they were in despair because the men would turn to them and say, “Why aren’t our guns like theirs?”
Towards the end of November my husband returned from his office about ten o’clock in the morning and said, “We can no longer delay;
I have secured places for you in one of the Ministerial trains; we have orders to evacuate at the War Office; pack as much as you can until four o’clock this afternoon.”
Calling my household together, I hastily sketched a plan of action, and by four o’clock had several trunks and bundles of pillows and
Though these things were our only comforts during the two long years of exile that were to follow, their possession placed me among the most fortunate of the refugees. I hope that none of my readers may ever feel the sensations I had on leaving my home. In my last glance about the house I saw all the souvenirs of friends in Canada, and of many travels in the East; my English books, my pictures and china, impossible to take, as my first consideration was inevitably articles of utility. It was, indeed, long farewell I was bidding to my treasures, as the Germans, alas, appreciated them only too well.
Our little group consisted of my husband and self, the two children—then tots of three and two—and the nurse. We left in the house a German cook with all the keys, and instructions to offer no resistance to the inevitable occupation.
Leaving the Capital
QN arriving at the station, we found it almost in w complete darkness, a few tiny, vacillating flames which could be seen from candles were the only lights,
The crowd was alarming. Thousands of the poorer inhabitants of Bucharest had tied in a sheet their few little household belongings and had carried them on their back to the station, where they sometimes waited for several days before being able to fight their way onto a train. A convent of French nuns were in the waiting room, their resigned faces and quiet demeanor a striking contrast to the excitement all around them. I had taken with me, among numerous other small comforts, a large bottle of boiled water for the children to drink. In the darkness and hurry the bottle had been broken. My little son, who had attached a great importance to this special bottle, began to cry when he saw it was gone. One of the Sisters, on seeing his distress, came over to speak to him and effectually distracted his attention by offering him a large piece of chocolate, thus depriving herself, no doubt,
of a ration of food which would have to last her until safety was reached. 4
My husband disappeared in the darkness and thé nurse and T, each with a child on our knee, waited with what patience we might until his return. He was gone over an hqur. Naturally, I asked him what was going on outside. He said there was a most indescribable confusion; children were being crushed to death by the folly of their family trying to force themselves on the train. Nevertheless, we felt that it would be too dangerous to return home; we must go on. Fortunately, he had met several naval officers in the station. These friends came to our assistance, and, surrounded by them, we, in our turn, entered the frightful melee and were successful, after heart-breaking struggles, in getting a place in one of the trains. These were corridor trains with compartments. We put the children and nurse in one of the compartments, while I remained on the back platform and seized the valises belonging to myself and friends over the back rail. Such a pile were hastily thrown in that I was absolutely
anchored to the spot and could only rejoin my family after the valises had been removed by my companions in misfortune. Even then it was difficult to
enter the compartment, as the corridor was packed with people who had to remain standing during the seventeen hours of the journey. Our anxiety was great on account of the danger of bombs being dropped on the train from enemy aeroplanes, in spite of two Roumanian machines which accompanied us.
When my husband put us safely in the train he unexpectedly bade me farewell, saying that in view of the disorganization at the station, he felt it was his duty to stay and do all he could to help to carry out the evacuation under better conditions. He promised to join me in Jassy, whither we were bound.
We Arrive in Jassy
IltHEN we arrived there it was almost mid' ' night. Previous trains had discharged their hundreds of poor civilians upon the platforms, unfortunates with little money and no friends in that part of the world. We could scarcely find a place to put our valises, and throwing our cloaks over them, we proceeded to - camp until taken by a Red Cross ambulance, which we had great good fortune to secure, to the house of a friend who agreed to take us in.
Jassy, before the war, was a quiet town of seventy thousand inhabitants. The evacuation of Bucharest and neighboring towns brought her population to several hundred thousand. You will easily understand the confusion, the epidemics, the scarcity of food and fuel which ensued. For the first five nights I shared a small single bed with my nurse and the two children, two with our heads at the top and two with our heads at the bottom—with three additional women. The little refinements and niceties of life were things of the past; baths impossible; rare luxuries gone; Igundrying a vexed problem to solve. During the day I tramped in the rain through muddy streets, in my ’hand
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a list of houses with rooms to rent. Every place I went had either just been given or the price was so prohibitive that I could not consider it. On my husband rejoining me, which he was able to do with quiet conscience, just four days before the arrival of the Ger-mans in Bucharest, he procured for us two rooms in a Jewish quarter of the town, and there we remained until February, 1917.
Fuel From Seed Cakes
THE course of the war was going most disastrously against unfortunate Roumania. Things had come to such a pass that it was feared the Court and Government would be obliged to retire to Russia. My husband was named on a commission to visit the principal towns of Southern Russia and to inquire into what arrangements could be made with that object in view in case of last necessity. During his absence I found myself without fuel, a load of wood which had been promised me had failed to arrive1; the last armful of green wood, cut to the size of matches, was smoking in the stove. Friends, however kind, could not be importuned, as all were suffering from the cold of the most terrible winter that Roumania had known for over twenty years. In my despair, I bethought myself that on the outskirts of Jassy there was a factory where they pressed oil from sunflower seeds. The residue was made into round, thin cakes which burned splendidly and gave out considerable heat. Through the kindness of the Naval Department, I obtained the services of two sailors and a cart and proceeded to the factory. On requesting the manager to sell me a quantity of the cakes, he replied that the Government had just requisitioned the factory and that it would be impossible for him to sell to private individuals. However, I so persisted that finally, in order to get rid of me, he said: “Well, I’ll give you 500 if you have anything to take them away in,” thinking such a thing would be impossible. What was his amazement when I quickly called in the sailors, and, pointing to the nearest pile, told them that they could begin to load the cart. His only satisfaction, in the face of this unexpected situation, was to charge me good and plenty, which he proceeded to do. The cakes weighed about a kilo a piece and the price of the quantity I took would amount in Canadian money to about $100. This was sufficient to heat three rooms for about a week.
I walked proudly home beside this most soul-satisfying equipage, but my troubles were not over, for, on arrival at the house, my landlady, her heart bursting with jealousy at my brilliant success, refused absolutely to allow the recious cakes to be taken into the ouse. To leave them outside would have meant their complete disappearance before the morning in a town where whole fences were known to have
walked away between dark and dawn. A battle royal ensued. I do not say that I took the lady by the hair, but my advantage in inches and Canadian determination won the day; and the sailors proceeded up the staircase with my treasure-trove.
The Sad Plight of Canadian Nurses
JUST at Christmas time I heard through the American Legation that a Medical Mission had arrived from France, in which there were some Canadian and American nurses. Naturally, I hastened to the hospital where they were working. How to describe to you the state in which I found these girls! They had arrived in Bucharest just a week before the evacuation. Their special cars, with every elaborate appliance to lighten the sufferings of the wounded, had been lost en route. In the hasty departure from Bucharest many of their personal belongings had disappeared. They were now living, all of them, in one small room, sleeping in beds of which the sheets had not keen washed for six weeks. Their own uniforms, though quite clean, had a decided gray tint, the result of being washed with toilet soap in their handbasins. On my inquiring what they had to eat, they showed me an unappetizing galvanized iron pot which contained a thin bean soup. This, with pieces of decidedly black bread, had been their almost daily nourishment since their arrival in Jassy. Two or three sticks of green wood were sputtering and smoking in a decrepit stove. Needless to say, they were far from the spirit of a Merry Christmas! My own resources being extremely limited, I was unable to help them personally, but was fortunate enough to obtain the interest of Queen Marie in their condition. A few days later, on making my daily visit, I perceived one of them dancing up and down the hall with a ham in her arms, gaily calling out when she saw me, “We’ve got a ham.” I inquired into the sources of such riches, and, still warmly embracing her treasure, she led me into their room, where I found that her Majesty hadl sent them a goodly supply of biscuits and canned vegetables, meats and other delicacies. So they began the New Year with plenty of good cheer.
If these were the sufferings of people in good health and well provided with money, I am sure I need not picture to you the condition of those who were ill or poor—or even the wounded in that very hospital. When the soldiers had their bfbod-stained uniforms removed there was absolutely nothing to cover them sometimes but the cloak of some kind-hearted nurse. Many times I have seen a poor unfortunate sink down upon the snow in the broad daylight on the main street, never to rise again. Old men, dragging their feet wrapped in sacking and padded with straw over the icy pavements, searched, very often in vain, for crusts and bones thrown away by Bomeone more fortunate than
they. It is the most despu ring sensation in the world to be surrounded with such suffering and be unable to stretch out a helping hand.
The First News of Revolution
AT thebeginning of March my husband returned from Russia. During all his absence I had absolute.y no news, so it was an agreeable surprise to see him arriving hale and hearty with a large supply of delicacies, and to hear his glowing accounts ot the comfort of living in Southern Russia. During the journey he had observed all along the route great piles of munitions and provisions which were apparently neglected entirely by the Russians, and a closer examination revealed that their destination was Roumania. After reading his report on the subject, the Prime Minister requested my husband to go to Odessa and organize these vitally important transportations. When I heard of our unexpected good fortune my joyful anticipations of comfort and plenty were temporarily clouded by deep misgivings about the details of our journey—fears, alas, only too well founded!
After unbelievable difficulties and delays, a three-day journey brought us to Odessa about midnight of the Sunday preceding the great Revolution. The city was so crowded at that moment that we were obliged to remain the whole night in the station and for three weeks lived in the port on a Roumanian steamer, which had been transferred there to escape the Germans, before we could find room in the town.
The first news of the Revolution was received with incredulity. For several days we were in uncertainty as to how the troops stationed in Odessa would act. General Marx, who was in command, decided to throw his lot in with the Revolutionists, and I witnessed the first procession of soldiers in favor of the Revolution, several thousand strong. It was like a parade to welcome the Czar, except for the little red flags carried by each soldier. All along the route there were crowds of cheering citizens, young boys and girls joined hands and danced on either side of the marching troops, singing national anthems.
The first few months of the new regime were decidedly favorable to the Allies and the progress of the war. The joy and gayety of the crowds was touching to witness; every day was a holiday. The leading military men in Odessa were still in their pre-revolutionary posts, and co-operated with the Roumanians and French missions. Gradually, however, the moderate spirit which influenced the first revolutionists such as Lvov, Miliukov, gave way to more violent partisans of complete change. The ignorant mass of Russian soldiers were convinced that if they were not at home when the wonderful scheme of land division took place, they would not get their fair share; therefore, they began to leave the trenches by thousands, attempting, either by foot or by rail, to regain their native villages. Then, too, the German spies did their work well, and in fraternizing with the Russians, persuaded them that it was useless to fight any longer.
The Roumanian troops, especially those from former Bulgarian provinces, that were in closest connection with the Russians, began, in their turn, to be infected with Bolshevik doctrines. Hundreds of Roumanian deserters began to flock into Odessa. They were received with open arms by their Russian brethren. Well supplied with money, they began a crusade among their wounded compatriots in the hospitals and finally formed themselves into a legion called “The Roumanian Legion of Death.” This legion paraded the streets in all the Bolshevik processions, which were frequent. They were conspicuous by their red and yellow banner on which was embroidered a black skull and cross-bones, and different sanguinary mottoes, such as “Death to King Ferdinand”; “Down with the Oligarchy.” For that matter, there were dozens of banners used in these demonstrations, all with blood, lightning and thunder devices on them.
It was at this time that Kerensky
visited Odessa. He addressed a monster meeting in the beautiful opera house.
I saw him as he left, surrounded by a mob of shouting soldiers. He was a , nin, sallow man, dressed in uniform. The impression which remained with me was of his shining eyes, which seemed to have absolutely a hypnotic effect on all who came in contact with him. His speech had been received with great enthusiasm because in it, among other advanced Socialistic pronouncements, he declared that in view of all being equal, the soldiers would no longer be obliged to salute their officers or address them in any more respectful wav than they would talk aniong themse>es—everyone was to be “lovaris” oi "Uonrade.”
War in the Strei ts of Odessa
THE Province of Southern Russia, of which Kiev and Odessa are the principal cities, was anciently known by the name of Ukraine. The moderate revolutionists formed themselves into a party to reassert the nationality of the Little Russians under the name of Ukrainians, and opposed themselves to the extreme party, which were now known as Bolshevik, a name derived from the Russian word “bolsch,” which means great or big. The Bolsheviks thus were the Maximalists or Reds— the extreme party—while the Ukrainians represented the views of the moderates. They chose as their color green, and one could distinguish in the street the soldiers who were the Bolsheviks or Ukrainians by the color of the band worn on the left arm. Sympathy with either side could easily be induced by a few hundred roubles.
In February, 1917, these two parties came to blows. During three days and nights they fought each other desperately for the possession of Odessa. We noticed great excitement one Sunday morning. From our windows we could see small detachments of cavalry riding by. Autos crammed with guns—trucks with mitrailleuses—several large cannons dragged by sailors from the port. Desultory firing during the night had become so frequent that we paid no attention to it, but next morning a barricade of park benches across the wide street in front of our houses and two small cannons planted on the base of the statue of Pouskine before the door convinced us that a serious affair was afoot. Cautious reconnoitring showed us that the Reds were in possession of our neighborhood. Soon firing began and lasted uninterruptedly for several hours. Our house was scored with hundreds of shots, the basement window wells were convenient trenches. The second day a businesslike tank rushed up and down firing in every direction. We could see the Red Cross nurses from a nearby hospital come out with a stretcher and a white flag to pick up the fallen. The Ukrainians seemed to be getting the best of it when the Reds had a brilliant inspiration. Their party had the almost unanimous support of the sailors in the harbor. These manoeuvred their ships to the quays and began to fire the heavy cannons straight up the principal street. The sailors were from distant ports and looked upon Odessa as a splendid place to loot; they had no care for the preservation of its buildings or monuments.
The vibration from the first shot of the big guns shivered our front windows to pieces. It was as though a tiny ball had passed through the centre of each where the resistance was the strongest and broken the panes in even triangles all around. To vary the monotony, we received visits from bands of sailors, who, excusing their entry on the score of hunting for firearms, presented themselves with numerous souvenirs from our sparselyfurnished home. Fortunately, we had plenty of provisions in the house; many friends were almost starved before they could venture out in search of food. The Reds finally won the day, and from then on it was a reign of terror. It was estimated at the time that at least 15,000 Russian officers were in hiding in the town, while 5,000 extremists worked their will on the abject population. The first act of the new rule
was to tie up the statue of Catherine the Great in sacking, and to requisition the wine cellars of all the hotels.
I would like to mention here the “Women’s Battalion of Death,” which fought so well for the Allies at this oeriod of the war. They rank beside the Scottish Women’s Motor Corps as the women military heroines of the Great War. None were taken prisoner—as a last resource, they carried on their persons a dose of cyanide of potassium, which they pledged themselves to use by a solemn vow on entering the battalion. I saw the funeral of some who died in the Odessa fight. We never learned the exact casualties, but a number of collective interments took place. The Bolsheviks buried their dead in bright red coffins.
Our personal sufferings from Bolshevism were the result of complicated conditions of affairs in Bessarabia. This rich Province has nine-tenths of its population Roumanian, and the route from Odessa to Jassy lies entirely within its borders. Military depots of munitions, clothing and food were scattered along the whole length of the railway line between these two cities. Every night bands of thieves rode up to the depots and, ignoring the Roumanian guards, stole large quantities of guns, boots, overcoats, or whatever pleased their fancy. On hearing of this, General Bertbelot, the French General-in-Chief, who reorganized so splendidly the Russian army, became alarmed. He advised the Roumanians to send over the Bessarabia border a sufficient force ,of armed men to effectually protect these vital supplies. The Bolsheviks, angered by the interruption of their raids, would brook no interference. Desperate fighting began at many points. The effect of this was to raise a very unfavorable feeling against the large and wealthy Roumanian colony in Odessa. Several arrests were made among the most prominent in the colony in order to terrorize the Roumanian Government into withdrawing the troops and leaving their millions of roubles’ worth of material in the hands of the Bolsheviks. Finally, the Odessa colony was completely isolated from the mother country, and during more than two months no communication was possible. As I have said before, bribery played a big part in all the Bolshevik activities. The Roumanians who were arrested at first were glad to pay big ransoms for their liberty; only to be re-arrested, frequently within the next twenty-four hours.
/"“VDESSA being now entirely in the hands of the Reds, Lenine and Trotzky sent Rackovski, to-day one of their most prominent leaders, to take charge of the situation. This man, a doctor of brilliant attainments, was of Bulgarian origin. As a young man he had received a great part of his education in Roumanian schools. Early active in Socialistic agitations, he bad been forced to quit the country, and during the years immediately preceding the war had been lost sight of by the Roumanians. He was now a so-called Russian subject, and one of the most extreme Reds, a member of Lenine’s Supreme Soviet. On learning of bis appointment, we were extremely discouraged, feeling that he would stop at nothing.
In the very early morning, after bis arrival, a soldier came to tell us that a number of our most intimate friends, among whom was the Vice-President of the Roumanian Senate, bad been arrested during the night by the “Battalion of Death,” beaded by a Russian woman Nihilist, who seemed to have been the most cruel and excited of them all. These Roumanians, many of them elderly and in feeble health, were dragged from their beds and forced from their houses, in some cases not having had the time necessary to make anything more than a very summary toilet. Out into the cold winter night they were hurried, down into the port, and on board a ship of sinister reputation, the “Almas,” whither so many Russian officers had been led to torture and to death during the preced' ing months.
My husband had already been arrested twice, for short periods, in consequence of his activity in aiding his fellow-countrymen. He was at this time just recovering from the effects of a slight operation and was obliged to receive hospital treatment each day. On hearing this news I earnestly insisted that he should go to the house of a neutral friend until we should be able to ascertain to what end the activities of Rackovski were tending.
For three days our house was unmolested, though I was hourly expecting the inevitable visit of the searchers. One day, while at lunch, I received a visit from a young man who was known to me by sight. Asking him to sit down at the table, I inquired the object of his visit. He told me that some Roumanian friends had succeeded in disguising themselves and were hiding. They had sent him to ask my advice as to whether they should give themselves up to Rackovski, who had published and placarded all over the town a notice saying that if the Roumanian men would offer themselves to him voluntarily, they would be well treated, and darkly hinting that if they did not do so the worst might be expected on their discovery. While engaged in earnest conversation in French with this young man I heard the sinister rapping on the door with the butt of a gun, which was the signal of the arrival of a Bolshevik band. Resistance, of course, was useless. I told the servant to open the door.
Immediately a hand of about a dozen rough fellows entered the room. Their leader, approaching the table where I was sitting, addressed me in Russian.
I replied, in French, that my Russian was not sufficiently good to sustain a conversation. Then a voice from the background called out: “She can
speak Roumanian all right!—this coming from an ex-Roumanian soldier who had known me in Galatz. However, an interpreter came forward and the conversation was continued in French. The first question asked was:
“Where is your husband?” I replied that I did not know.
“When did you last see him?” I said that three days before he had left the house to go to the hospital for treatment, and since then I had not seen him.
Turning to the young man who was sitting at the table, they inquired: “Who is this?”
My heart sank when, to my amazement, I heard him reply: “Do not dare to touch me; I’m a British subject.’
I was convinced that the poor young man had gone out of his mind, as I had not heard him say one word of English, but, on demand, he produced a paper from his pocket proving he was a British subject, born in Malta, although he was unable to speak English. Seeing irrefutable proof of his British citizenship, the Bolsheviks relinquished their hold on him. Though loath to leave me, he felt that discretion was the better part of valor, and quickly disappeared from the house. Later on, his unwavering friendship was of great value to our colony.
The band were all armed with guns and at least two revolvers each. Their uniforms—most of them stolen from the British depots—were fastened with buttons stamped with George Rex and the lion and the unicorn, and they were decorated by bandoliers containing several hundred cartridges. They, carried at least two revolvers each and guns with fixed bayonets. Altogether they presented an ensemble reminiscent of the “Pirates of Penzance.” At this moment, however, the humorous side of the situation did not appeal to me. They proceeded to search in every corner of the house, seizing all the papers they could lay their hands on, and finally departing, taking with them our orderly. This man had been with us for many years, and I had no doubt of the affection he bore us, but I greatly feared that he would be bribed or terrorized into revealing the place of refuge of my husband, which he, beside myself, was the only person in the house to know of. A few hours later he returned, white to the lips. They had not offered him money, but
had held a revolver to his head, saying that he would be shot if he did not reveal the secret. Pie had not done so, and had so earnestly professed his entire ignorance that they let him go on his promising that if he learned anything he would immediately tell them. He also had expressed the most hearty adherence to revolutionary
ideas. While he was before the Soviet a comrade of his was led out and shot in the courtyard.
Sentries were posted about the house so that I could no longer leave it for fear of being followed.
My Husband Gives Himself Up
jV/TY husband, with the help of friendly Consuls, had been making, as before, every effort to free his fellow-citizens and get news of our plight to Jassy. Failing in his endeavors, and anxious for the safety of his family, he decided to offer himself voluntarily as a hostage to Rackovski. This action won him the consideration of his enemies even, and had momentarily a beneficial effect on the general situation.
Several warnen, whose husbands were absent from Odessa, were arrested and kept prisoners in their homes for days. Friends coming to bring them food were caught in the trap and taken to prison. Efforts to hide money and jewellery taxed their ingenuity to the utmost. One friend while arrested never combed her hair during five days, as her jewels were concealed in its luxuriant coils. Others sewedi money into the trimmings of their hats or the hems and sleeves of their frocks; some buried their rings in flower pots. One woman hid her diamonds in a ball of wool which rolled on the floor—a plaything for the kitten—while she knitted—like Penelope— unravelling her work at night. She saved them, but four thousand dollars she had concealed in a wood-pile disappeared. In searching the houses the Bolsheviks got very cunning and ran their bayonets through sofa cushions and mattresses, even stripping the paper from the walls, and obliging the inmates of the house to remove their shoes and stockings in their presence.
About this time Rackovski instituted a determined organized requisition of all money belonging to the Roumanian Government at Odessa. A sum equal to about three and a half million dollars, deposited in one of the Consulates, was his most successful find.
I Meet Rackovski
SHORTLY after my husband’s imprisonment I went to see this Consul to ask him to obtain permission for me to visit my husband in prison and to take him extra clothing and food. My friend informed me that at that very moment Rackovski was in his private office and advised me to ask him for this favor myself.
“He is in a good humor, I fancy,” he added, “counting his millions.” Curiosity overmastered my reluctance to interview this extraordinary personage. I entered the little private office of the Consul. Sitting before the desk I s-'w a small, thin, bearded man, whose bright and piercing eyes were bent frowningly upon • me. On addressing him in English, however, his face relaxed. He replied in the same language, speaking with a pure accent and fluently, and, after a few moments’ conversation, actually bade me take a seat. My fascinated eyes were riveted on the desk, which was piled a foot deep with bank notes of every color and description. He graciously granted my request and even shook hands with me at my departure. Nevertheless, I carried away with me the impression of a man fear-haunted and over-wrought.
As so often, even in normal life, the contrasts between the sublime and the ridiculous were striking. The Bolsheviks requisitioned everything that took their fancy, from the boots, furs or earrings on a woman passing in the street, to automobiles, and even entire houses and all therein. On one occasion, when they requisitioned a car, the lady to whom it belonged protested that she was not a Russian.
“What does that matter?’ was ready reply. “In the French Revolution wasn’t Marie Antoinette’s automobile requisitioned?”
One citizen, with more backbone than his fellows, decided to resist. told his wife that should anyone attempt to steal from him he would be ready, and put his revolver in pocket on going out for his daily stroll about dusk. A man brushed past him in the street. He felt instinctively his watch ; finding it gone, he seized passerby by the arm, and, significantly waving his weapon, demanded: “Give me the watch!” The man gave it stantly. With a smile of triumph, our hero returned to recount his advenrure. His wife met him at the door.
“/ou are late to-day!” she claimed. “And I am not surprised, it is the first time I have ever known you to forget your watch!”
The Great Canadian Arrives
HOW to describe to you the agony that long month! Every day the power of the leaders, such as they were, grew less—anarchy more threatening. The members of the Soviets were changed—sometimes every forty-eight hours. Merchants opened the doors their shops as little as they possibly could. Banks were raided. Difficulties and anxieties of every kind pressed upon us. One feared spies on every side—blackmailing was the order of the day. We had absolutely no news from Roumania. We felt abandoned. In the evenings all the families assembled one room of the house, wrapped in overcoats, with overshoes on their feet, and lighted by a solitary candle, in order to economize.
One morning I was surprised by visit from an American friend.
“Do you know,” he said, “there is Canadian in town?”
The Canadian proved to be Colonel Boyle. The readers of MACLEAN’S MAGAZINE are familiar with the exploits of this remarkable man. His arrival in Odessa at this crucial moment was most providential for me and the whole Roumanian colony. By his courage and devotion he saved the lives seventy hostages, of whom my husband was one. During his negotiations with the Bolsheviks I acted as his interpreter, as he speaks no other language but English. I shall always remember his admonition before giving me this responsibility. “Now, I never worked with a woman before, but one thing want you to be careful about. You say exactly what I say—don’t add anything nor say what you think!”
It was on the morning of the day when the prisoners were to be exchanged that a friendly Russian came to my home and told me that the Bolshevik leader was not going to keep his contract—that already the prisoners were being taken to the dock. drove to Col. Boyle’s residence and he lost no time in coming with us, leaving his baggage, without a thought. We found the leader, and by sheer force of personality, Col. Boyle made him promise that the prisoners would be released that afternoon.
Driving hack through the town, another little incident occurred which further showed Colonel Boyle’s resourcefulness. The windshield of our car was shattered by another vehicle and some of the broken glass struck me on the head. “You’re not hurt,” he assured me, “and, anyway, I’m a doctor.” And indeed, his first aid was so good that even a Polish physician who came later was surprised at his skill.
In the afternoon we went to the boat to finally arrange the exchange of the prisoners. Wives and mothers and children were crowding the dock waiting and it seemed that the worst would soon be over. I went with Col. Boyle onto the boat to again act as interpreter. The leader came forward, and when Col. Boyle demanded that he sign the contract at once, he explained that his signature alone would be of no use; he would go downstairs and bring some of his colleagues. Immediately after he left us a head was thrust through a sliding panel at our backs and a terrified voice whispered:
“Is that you, Mme. Pantazzi?”
“Yes,” I said, “but who are you?”
“Don’t you remember me? I used to be a machinist on board the ‘Cataigin’,” mentioning a warship commanded some years previously by my husband. “I was taken prisoner and forced to run the engine. Get off the boat at once with that Englishman. We’re putting off already.”
We rushed for the gangplank which was crowded with the panic-stricken mob, some of the prisoners had already gotten off the boat, and again we faced the leader. Col. Boyle thrust the paper in his face and said: “Sign that!”
“Yes, I’ll sign,” he replied energetically, and at the same time gave a signal that brought down a volley of rifle fire from above. People fell all around us.
My only thought then was for my husband. We rushed to each other and found shelter for a time beside a brick wall. Finally, however, he with others was forced at the point of the bayonet back to the boat. I looked around for Col. Boyle. He was still standing at the foot of the gangplank, by sheer weight of numbers, pushed a few feet from where we had left him.
“What are you going to do now?” I asked. At that moment we noticed two soldiers beating an aged prisoner with their rifles.
“I can’t stand this,” Col. Boyle said, “I’m going with them.” The last I saw of him he was taking the two Bolsheviks by the collars, and the boat with my husband and the other men belonging to the families on the dock was ••fling out for we knew not where. The story of the voyage and of how they were finally brought back to us is another story.
Under German Rule
IT was for the slight services I was able to render in these critical moments that I received the Star of Roumania. , „ , .
In Aprii 1918 I returned to Galatz and afterwards to Jassy, there to chafe under German rule until the Armistice was signed. We were then permitted to go to Bucharest where we found our home in rack and ruin after a series of Austrian, Turkish and German occu-
** it -was a great relief when on the nomination of my husband to one of the numerous commissions in connection with the Peace Conference we were able to go to Paris last Februapr. If Paris seemed an earthly Paradise after our trials and struggles, how much more does Canada seem a haven of rest. I can say in very truth in this smiling prosperous land—“East, West, Home’s Best.”