The Material Question

‘In order to reach uninhabited territory, we had to pass through populated districts and to cross the Bolshevik and White Army lines no fewer than five times.

‘Whenever I recall all those almost indescribable difficulties, even now that it is all over and only a memory of the past, there arises in me a feeling of real satisfaction that I succeeded in surmounting them. It was indeed as if, during that whole period, miracles were being performed for us.

‘The epidemic of fanaticism and mutual hatred, which had seized all the people around us, did not touch us at all: one might have said that I and my companions moved under supernatural protection.
‘Just as our attitude towards each side was impartial, as if we were not of this world, so their attitude towards us was the same—they considered us completely neutral, as in truth we were.

‘Surrounded by infuriated beasts of people, ready to tear one another apart for the slightest booty, I moved amid this chaos quite openly and fearlessly, without concealing anything or resorting to any subterfuge. And in spite of the fact that “requisitionary” pillaging was in full swing, nothing was taken from us, not even the two casks of alcohol which, on account of great scarcity, were the envy of all.
‘In telling you about this now, a feeling of justice, that very justice which comes from my understanding of the psyche of people subjected to such events, obliges me to pay a tribute to those of the Bolsheviks and White Army volunteers—most of them perhaps no longer alive— whose attitude of goodwill towards my activities, even though adopted unconsciously and purely instinctively, assisted the fortunate outcome of this dangerous enterprise of mine.

‘Indeed, if I did manage to get safely out of that hell, in the full sense of the word, it was not due entirely to my well-developed ability to discern and play upon the slightest changes in the weaknesses of the psyche of people in a psychosis of this kind. In the conditions in which these events were taking place I would not have been able, even by maintaining the most active vigilance day and night, to foresee all the unexpected things that happened and to take corresponding measures.

‘In my opinion, we got out safely because in the common presences of these people—although in the grip of a psychic state in which the last grain of reasonableness vanishes—the instinct inherent in all human beings for distinguishing good from evil in the objective sense was not completely lacking. And therefore, instinctively sensing in my activities the living germ of that sacred impulse which alone is capable of bringing genuine happiness to humanity, they furthered in whatever way they could the process of accomplishment of that which I had undertaken long before this war.