The Material Question

‘Yet on leaving Batum, although we had the documents certifying that we had paid all the duties and taxes, the so-called Special Georgian Detachment, quibbling about something or other, confiscated quite illegally, supposedly only temporarily, almost all the carpets I had distributed among the people accompanying me. Later, at Constantinople, when we took steps to recover them, Batum had been occupied by the Bolsheviks, the scoundrelly Detachment with its chiefs had dispersed, and, of course, there was no trace of the rugs. Of the twenty, only two were saved, having come via the diplomatic bag entrusted by the Finnish consul to a Finnish member of the Institute.

‘And so I found myself in Constantinople in almost the same situation as on arriving in Tiflis.

‘I had at my disposal only two small diamonds and the two remaining rugs. From the sale of these, even at a good price, I could not count on enough money to provide for such a crowd of people for more than a very short time, especially since all of us needed clothes. When we were living in Tiflis there were no clothes to be had, and all our things were so ragged that it was impossible to go about in them in this city, where life was more or less normal.

‘But luck was with me; I immediately ran across several fortunate business transactions.

‘Among other things, I collaborated with an old friend and countryman of mine in the resale of large consignments of caviar; in addition, I participated in the sale of a certain ship. And my finances improved once more.

‘While still in Tiflis I had renounced once and for all the idea of making Russia the permanent centre of the activities of my Institute, but I did not then know the conditions of life in Europe well enough to have any definite plan as to where to settle. On thinking it over, however, it seemed to me that Germany, owing to its central geographical position and its cultural level, about which I had heard so much, would be the country most suitable for my purposes.

‘But, having been held up in Constantinople because of the eternal question of money, so painful for all those who have no uncle in America, I had to occupy myself there for several months longer with all sorts of business deals in order to have enough cash to go on further. Meanwhile, so that the people who had accompanied me should, as is said, continue with “the work”, I rented the only large premises I could find in the part of Constantinople called Pera, where almost all the Europeans live. And whenever I was free from my commercial affairs, I directed the class in movements which had been begun in Tiflis, arranging public demonstrations on every Saturday to accustom the pupils not to be embarrassed in the presence of strangers.