Chapter Twenty Three - Return to Ekaterinburg
I did not know who to see at the station about getting a ticket. I saw two young men, and asked them who issued the permission to go to Ekaterinburg. They told me that I had to request it from the director, who had just passed by going to his office. I went into the office and asked for a ticket.
"What ticket? Go away! Come back later," the Czech shouted.
I left and told the young men that the official did not give me a ticket. I asked them what they themselves had done. The told me that they had been waiting for three days already. They would not let them leave. They would not accuse them of anything at all, but still kept them there just the same. I could only wait. Two hours passed. I went again into the office to ask for a ticket.
This time the Czech was calmer and asked me where I wanted to go. I told him and he gave me permission to go to Ekaterinburg, without asking for anything else. He only warned me that the train was leaving in half an hour. So I went to wait for the train. After half an hour, it had not yet arrived, but I saw just then that there was a refugee train on a parking track. I got on board, they would not let me go inside the car, so I had to stay the night on the platform, which happily was covered since that night was cold.
At one of the stations I went into the second class buffet. I counted what money I had left from my ten rubles, and saw that I had just enough to buy some soup, which I ordered. They served it to me on a plate, not in a bowl, like the others, with only a very small slice of bread. Seeing my appetite, my neighbor at the table gave me some of his bread. Everyone else had metal spoons, but they gave me a wooden spoon, probably because of the way I looked.
We arrived in Ekaterinburg between six and seven in the morning. I went straight from the station to the prison, where they would know me and I knew I would be recognized. I was not wrong.
I crossed the entire city, about three versts, to reach the prison, and I knocked on the doors. The watchman looked at me through the peephole.
"Mr. Volkov! Is that you? Is it possible!"
"Yes, yes, it is me."
"You came to us?"
"I want to see the director of the prison."
"He has not come in yet, but he won't be long. Come in to the office..."
I stayed and waited for the director. I saw another watchman pass by who had been on duty near our cell. He went past, but suddenly came back, shouting:
"Is that you Mr. Volkov?"
"Where did you come from? My God, my God! They told us that you had been shot!"
"As you can see, I am still among the living."
The watchman asked me to take tea with him at his home, adding that his wife was coming back from the market and would prepare the samovar. I declined his kind invitation, since I saw the director of the prison off in the distance. When the director, who was in uniform, came up to me, I called him by name. He looked at me: "What do you want?" he said.
"You don't recognize me?"
He shouted: "Mr. Volkov!" and hugged me. "Just yesterday we held a funeral service in your honor!" he added.
We went into the prison office where all those who knew me gave me a kind and joyful welcome. The director had a carriage harnessed and we went in to the city for clothes that were more suitable and proper. Not able to find an overcoat we bought a raincoat, a shirt, shoes, boots and a cap. Nowhere were there any pants, so they gave me some from the prison stores. Without changing clothes, I went with the director of the prison to present myself to the authorities in the city. We were not able to find the commander in chief of the troops at home, but we did find the governor.
He was till a young man, formerly a lawyer, who had been in prison at the same time I was. He had been lead with other prisoners to be shot. When they were lining them up against the wall opposite the firing squad, he stooped down and because he was a small man he was able to get behind those who were lined up and was able to escape being shot because it was very foggy. He had to cross a river. He undressed, tied up his clothes in a ball and went to cross the river. The packet of clothes fell into the river and was swept away. After crossing the river, he went, nude, into a friend's house where they gave him fresh clothes and hid him for some time. After the fall of the Reds, he returned to Ekaterinburg, where he lived since.
The Governor invited me to dinner, but I had already promised the director of the prison to have dinner with him. After dinner I went to the barber and then the baths, where I left my old clothes, all dirty and shabby.
During dinner, the governor made me promise to also come and dine at his house.
"I don't want to be separated from you," he said, "as we have been brought together by the extraordinary similarity of being saved from certain death!"
That evening at the governor's house there were many people. The supper was excellent. We talked. I told a brief version of my "delivery". We did not break up until quite late at night.
It had been a very long time since I slept as well and comfortably as I did that night in the Governor's house.
The next day, I went very early to visit the commander in chief, who I had missed the day before. The same office workers from the day before could not recognize me at all in my new clothes. General Galitzine gave me an excellent welcome and asked me about everything that had happened. He gave me some money and orderded that I be given all travel documents for free all the way to Tobolsk. With the commander in chief was also the Chief Prosecuter of the Tribunal, Sergeiev, who was just then charged with the investigation into the murder of the Imperial Family. The General asked me to talk to him. I agreed and so we dined with Sergeiev at the Commander's house. After dinner, I gave him my deposition well into the late hours of the night. In fact, I completely missed my promised visit for after dinner to the Director of the Prison. Judge Sergeiev asked me to return the next day to continue my deposition, but I declined, as I wanted to leave as soon as possible for Tobolsk to find my family. He promised me somewhere to live and a salary.
"In that case," he said, "since you will not stay here, I will come to see you and we can meet, isn't that right? You can make your deposition in full detail, just like Tchemodorov, who lives here himself, who appeared to give his deposition rather ungratefully," Sergeiev added.
After the deposition, I went to the Director's house. He received me quite happily and asked me to spend the night there. However, I thanked him and explained that I did not have any time, and that I was making my goodbyes. I then made a quick visit to Dr. Derevenko, and from there straight to the train station.
The railroad schedules were not yet very reliable and travel was more or less better for trains that carried both freight and passengers. Even with a ticket for a passenger car I had to settle for a filthy freightcar with crap on the floor boards. It was cold and I only had my raincoat instead of an overcoat. It was only after the third stop that they attached passenger cars to the train, where I could go in and warm up. The next morning I had a good breakfast at a station. The buffet was plentiful with food and this time they served me with much more respect than the time I went to Ekaterinburg as a fugitive.
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