Daily Standard Wednesday April 29, 1914
This article is titled: ESCAPE FROM SIBERIA. GIRL'S THRILLING STORY. ELEVEN YEARS OF HORROR.
So many refugees from Russian prisons have gone to America In the last few years that most of the stories of thrilling escapes from Siberia and from the gaols in the kingdom proper have lost much of their novelty, but the narrative of Marie Sucloff is not of the usual brand. Miss Sucloff has two escapes to her credit, and her tale, as told in an interview with Izzola Forrester, of the New York" World Magazine," makes the creations of most of the scenario writers for the "movies" look tame by comparison. Miss Forrester says the girl exile, "bears on her slender shoulders the most pitiful and tragic load of adventures of any of the strange waifs of fate and circumstance cast up by life's high tide on the shores of Manhattan; To quote:—
Behind her lies a trail leading back over America to Chicago, Canada, England, Europe, through the Red Sea around to Shanghai, China, overland through China, to Manchuria in the north, and from there to the land of living dead—Siberia.
Eleven years she has lost out of her young life, lost forever back in those tombs of souls which the Russians call their military prison. She was 17 the first time she made the long overland march in the manacled line to a little colony up near the Arctic circle, 2000 miles away from her home in Karka a village of Vilna, Lithuania.
"And there is no sight in the world like that," she says, her dark eyes still somber with the horror of that trip.
"Do you know what It means to see hundreds of human beings chained to each other, marching, marching day after day away from, home and kindred, perhaps for life because they have lifted up their feeble strength against the atrocities that crush the heart out of native Russia. I marched with other girls, some younger than myself, and with us were feeble old women and grey-haired men. If we stumbled or fell the Cossacks used their whips. Some died—we almost envied them."
She sat on the foot of the bed, leaning her arms on its lower rail, hands clasped tightly, looking ahead of her, but not at the narrow Vista of New York-streets beyond the window, English she speaks brokenly, but understands well. A young Russian comrade, Gregory Yarros, interprets for her when she suddenly forgets and pours out a flood of frantic, indignant Russian. Then, for the instant, her slim figure grows rigid, her eyes darken, the brows draw down, and her full, beautifully-modeled lips seem to speak words of fire. Then it passes and she is quiet again, her shoulders drooping, her hands lying In her lap.
"Most of the girl comrades are from the student or noble class," she resumed. "I was not. My people are peasants. I have not seen them—my mother and father, and seven brothers and sisters—since 1905, after my first escape. Seeing how hard they worked to get a bare living out of their land and how they were forever in fear of their rulers, was it any wonder that I grew to hate the Government that so oppressed its children?
"I wrote to some friends, telling what I thought of conditions. When a search was made of their home, my letters were found. I remember the day when they come for me to take me to prison. I did not mind so very much, only for my mother and father. I was glad to be one more voice uplifted against tyranny and crime.
" Eighteen months I awaited trial in prison, and then when my turn came I was sentenced for life to exile in Siberia. Why?" She smiled and shrugged her slender shoulders. "I was a dangerous revolutionary person. It was different that first time though. As an exile, I was allowed a certain amount of liberty in the village, although the soldiers are all around you even there. Then after several years of patience and good behavior, they did not watch me so closely. Besides I was not strong. Perhaps they did not think I would dare to attempt the journey alone.
"I told some of the comrades that I was going. Oh, you don't know the hope that, springs up when one escapes! It means that if one succeeds, the world will know the truth that is buried in those living graves. They all gave me messages to carry back to the dear ones left behind, and one couple begged me to take their little child with me, so that it might be saved from that life. I was glad to. It was company to me and helped me in my disguise, for I said I was its mother.
"We got away, hidden in a farmer's waggon. It was 300 miles to the nearest place where, I could find shelter with comrades who knew of my coming, but I found refuge at night in the huts of the poor along the way. Miserable and hopeless as their life is, they rejoice to help and protect others. I thought often, that we would freeze to death, the little one and myself, but we lived; and I gave the child to its grandparents in Russia.
"Perhaps I should not have gone to see my own people, but I did. They were afraid of the secret police finding me, so I went on to Paris to meet some of the comrades to give them messages from Siberia and to get instructions.
Then, in 1906, came a terrible outbreak in the south. The general at Sebastopol, In the Crimea, ordered hundreds of sailors shot down without trial for mutiny in the Black Sea fleet. His name was Chukhim. My girl comrade, Katia Ismalovitch, the daughter of a Russian general herself, killed the Governor-General. She was shot without trial within 24 hours. I was arrested with others and sentenced to life imprisonment at hard labor in Siberia.
"Several of us girls went. One was Marie Spiridonoff, a writer. She was very beautiful. The Cossacks mistreated her, and then beat her with knouts on her bare shoulders. She is 27 now and is still in Akal. We were allowed 20 minutes a day exercise. The rest of the time was spent in solitary confinement. Some kill themselves or go mad, but most of us always hope to escape.
"There were only six women In that prison, and over 300 men. One of the men, Gregory Gershuni, escaped in a barrel of sauerkraut, and regulations were stricter afterward. That occurred in 1910, then a St. Petersburg, official named Vysotzky came to us specially appointed to put down any rebellion. The day he arrived he ordered everyone in the prison lashed by the Cossacks. Ten of the men attempted suicide. One died. He was Sazonoff, who killed Plehve. "We women were ordered away to another prison, nine miles from there. It was the dead of winter, and we had to march—Two—another girl and myself—were down sick with inflammation of the lungs, and even the prison doctor said we had better not be moved.
But at night they came to us, Marie Spiridonoff and myself, and took us away. Oh, I cannot tell you the suffering and misery of that march through the night. You long, to die that is all.
"After five years I made up my mind I would escape or die. I had been very ill, and they sent me to the prison hospital at Irkutsk, for an operation. It was filthy there. After two-weeks. I escaped. No, I cannot tell you who helped me, but I put on a suit of boy's clothes and slipped out by night.
"For a month I lay hidden in the town when they thought I had gone on. As soon as I was strong enough to travel. I was disguised and sent away into Manchuria. From Shanghai, I was sent to Italy by steamer and so reached, Paris.
"From there I went to London, bearing messages and telling what we had all gone through. Everywhere we know we are hunted by the Russian spies, but what of it? When I think of those still back there in those black prison holes of death. I would gladly give my life to save them."