Berkman, Alexander (1912) Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist, Mother Earth Press.
THE ROUTE SUB ROSA
MARCH 4, 1893.
Girl and Twin:
I am writing with despair in my heart. I was taken to Pittsburgh as a witness in the trial of Nold and Bauer. I had hoped for an opportunity-you understand, friends. It was a slender thread, but I clung to it desperately, prepared to stake everything on it. It proved a broken straw. Now I am back, and I may never leave this place alive.
I was bitterly disappointed not to find you in the courtroom. I yearned for the sight of your faces. But you were not there, nor any one else of our New York comrades. I knew what it meant: you are having a hard struggle to exist. Otherwise perhaps something could be done to establish friendly relations between Rakhmetov and Mr. Gebop. It would require an outlay beyond the resources of our own circle; others cannot be approached in this matter. Nothing remains but the "inside" developments,-a terribly slow process.
This is all the hope I can hold out to you, dear friends. You will think it quite negligible; yet it is the sole ray that has again and again kindled life in moments of utmost darkness.... I did not realize the physical effects of my stay here (it is five months now) till my return from court. I suppose the excitement of being on the outside galvanized me for the nonce.... My head was awhirl; I could not collect my thoughts. The wild hope possessed me,-pobeg! The click of the steel, as I was handcuffed to the Deputy, struck my death-knell.... The unaccustomed noise of the streets, the people and loud voices in the courtroom, the scenes of the trial, all absorbed me in the moment. It seemed to me as if I were a spectator, interested, but personally unconcerned, in the surroundings; and these, too, were far away, of a strange world in which I had no part. Only when I found myself alone in the cell, the full significance of the lost occasion was borne in upon me with crushing force.
But why sadden you? There is perhaps a cheerier side, now that Nold and Bauer are here. I have not seen them yet, but their very presence, the circumstance that somewhere within these walls there are comrades, men who, like myself, suffer for an ideal the thought holds a deep satisfaction for me. it brings e closer, in a measure, to the environment of political prisoners in Europe. Whatever the misery and torture of their daily existence, the politicals-even in Siberia-breathe the atmosphere of solidarity, of appreciation. What courage and strength there must be for them in the inspiration radiated by a common cause! Conditions here are entirely different. Both inmates and officers are at loss to "class" me. They have never known political prisoners. That one should sacrifice or risk his life with no apparent personal motives, is beyond their comprehension, almost beyond their belief. It is a desert of sordidness that constantly threatens to engulf one. I would gladly exchange places with our comrades in Siberia.
The former podpoilnaya was suspended, because of the great misfortune that befell my friend Wingie, of whom I wrote to you before. This dove will be flown by Mr. Tiuremshchick, an old soldier who really sympathizes with Wingie. I believe they served in the same regiment. He is a kindly man, who hates his despicable work. But there is a family at home, a sick wife-you know the old, weak-kneed tale. I had a hint from him the other day: he is being spied upon; it is dangerous for him to be seen at my cell, and so forth. it is all quite true; but what he means is, that a little money would be welcome. You know how to manage the matter. Leave no traces.
I hear the felt-soled step. It's the soldier. I bid my birdie a hasty good-bye.