This colossal failure confirmed the Russian Bolshevist element which held that a long period of preparatory propaganda was necessary. So a new organization was effected, with headquarters in Kishineff; it worked out a much more thorough system, embracing in each case a secretariat, an information bureau (espionage) and a propaganda and agitation service. It had its own Red Cross (as the Bulgarians also learned to their sorrow), later called the M.O.P.R. (Mezhdunarodnoye Obshtchestvo Pomoshtchi Revolutzioneram, International Society for the Aid of Revolutionaries). The M.O.P.R. was successful in bribing a Kishineff prison warden to let Communist prisoners escape; failing in a similar attempt at Jassy, it engaged four Roumanian Communists to capture a police justice. and force him to give written or telephonic instructions for the release of the chief local conspirator, recently imprisoned. Special pains were taken with the choice of couriers, whose business was to carry orders, arms and ammunition from Russia into Bessarabia; and all sorts of ingenious devices were carried out to protect them. The Communists of the Jewish Bund of Kishineff, e. g., forged certificates of school membership, which were as good as passports in the hands of young couriers in school uniform, and were actually exchanged abroad for genuine certificates of membership in the student body of a foreign school or university. Some. of the documents found on these couriers are of the highest interest; one long letter, found in January 1922, rolled up in the hollow of a cane used by a Communist student in the University of Czernowitz who acted as courier between the Comsomol (Young Communists' Association) of Czernowitz and that of Ismail, urges the utilization of all efforts, whether in harmony with Communism or not, against the Roumanians ; even nationalistic, irredentist manifestations of the Ukrainians, "though by nature they run counter to our program, yet where they are directed against the Roumanians-e. g., against the gendarmes, the tax-collectors, the secret service-we should foment and take advantage of, for they may be of great assistance."
Special stress was laid on terrorism. A terrorist school was established in Odessa, whose graduates were sent in trios into Bessarabia, the first trio beginning work in May 1921. Each trio operated independently. On arriving at the locality designated, they investigated where most damage could be done, and tried to affiliate themselves with responsible elements in the town, so as to implicate them, or at least involve them in difficulties afterward; then, after suitable, preparation, they blew up the gendarmerie barracks, the town hall, the electric light works, a railroad bridge, according to circumstances, knowing that the Roumanian authorities would make wholesale arrests in their investigations, and counting shrewdly on this also as likely to embitter relations between the Roumanian authorities and the townspeople; the cleverness of this perverted psychology was well shown in the Tatar-Bunar case. Of course they operated primarily in those districts of Bessarabia which were least Roumanian, and where the new Roumanian bureaucracy and police would be least popular.
Study of the documents arid episodes connected with this Communistic campaign in Bessarabia, is most enlightening. Here are a few items, which will show the situation the Roumanians had to deal with. In 1923, on April 17, train no. 337, from Kishineff to Tighina (Bender), was attacked by a Russian band armed with rifles and machineguns, near the station of Bolboca; four persons were killed and 7 wounded. On the 19th, an armed band attacked the post of gendarmes at Saratzica-Noua (a town of 3500, situated about 20 miles from the railroad station of Schinoasa), killing one of the gendarmes on duty and disarming the other; other gendarmes gathered and pursued the Russians, three of whom were killed and two captured, with a loss of one gendarme fatally wounded. On the night of the 25th, an armed and masked band attacked the village of Varticautzi (about 15 miles from Hotin), and after robbing various houses, threw hand-grenades into the gendarme-barracks; they were finally driven off, with the loss of two gendarmes. On July 14th, the gendarmes of Volontirovca, a town of 12,000 about 40 miles from Akkerman, captured two Russian terrorists, C. Boshnok and Emil Popoff, in the house of a local Communist, after a fight resulting in the death of a Roumanian soldier. On Oct. 18, four terrorists armed with rifles and hand grenades, made their way into the Soroca hospital and rescued a notorious terrorist, Isaiah Sudacovce, who was lying there sick before trial for a recent crime. In 1924, on Feb. 9, the village of Vanez witnessed an attack on its station of gendarmes, one of whom was killed. On May 6, a band of 16 Russians, armed with machine-guns and hand-grenades, held up the village of Ciuciulea, 25 miles from Baltz, and in the ensuing fight, five Russians and three gendarmes were killed. On June 23, a similar engagement took place near Cepeleutzi, about 40 miles from Hotin, with the loss of three Russians and two gendarmes. The night of Aug. 4, a frontier post of the 13th Infantry (County of Hotin) was attacked by a band in Russian uniforms, with hand grenades and machine-guns; but the Russians were beaten off without any Roumanian fatalities. On Aug. 9th, another border patrol, opposite Vadul-lui-Voda, was attacked by a dozen Russians, and two frontier-guards were killed. Three evenings later, another band crossed the Dniester near the same spot, looted a country-place, killing the owner's wife and two other women, and went back into Russia with their plunder. The next night (Aug. 13) a band of 150 armed cavalry crossed the Dniester some 25 miles from Hotin and plundered the village of Ianoutzi; as they went back, a Roumanian cavalry patrol overtook them, and in the fighting, two Roumanians were injured. On the evening of the 16th, along the forest of Zelena., 15 miles from Hotin, a couple of Roumanian gendarmes who were taking two terrorists just arrested, to Lipcani, were attacked by a Russian squad, who killed one gendarme and went off with the terrorists. Similar incidents take place even yet, and give a sporting interest to army service in Bessarabia near the border. Gen. Rudeanu told me, in the spring of 1925, that he still received reports from along the Dniester three times every night; and in speeding to the border after a night alarm shortly before, his car had been ditched, and his chauffeur and he injured. One alarm, however, proved less serious. Word came in that Soviet troops were assembling on a wrecked bridge over the Dniester; then the astounding fact was telephoned that part of the soldiers wore Roumanian uniforms. But soon the mystery was solved. Cameras and a "movie" director appeared, and a lively "Roumanian attack" was staged and repulsed, to flicker at once on the screen all over Soviet Russia, as testimony to the patriotic vigilance of the Soviet Frontier Guard!
While the military arm was engaged in preventing and repulsing raids, the secret service was busy running down the machinations of Bolshevist conspirators. These kept establishing nuclei in Bessarabian towns and villages; the Communist emissaries from Russia founded groups of propagandists and of terrorists, with stocks of weapons and explosives as well as of documents-all carefully organized, and directed by "orders from across the Dniester"-the uniform reply given to the police by those captured by the detectives, when asked the reasons for their actions. In Husarescu's "Mishcarea Subversiva," one has an imposing summary of the chief discoveries, with photographs of conspirators, documents and weapons. One of the most interesting episodes is that of October 1925, worth following in detail. Word had come to Capt. Buznea, of the 14th Infantry, in Baltz, and to the special secret service officer on duty there, that Theodore Gherman, head of a notorious Communist band, was in hiding in a hovel in the village of Lencautzi, 20 miles from Hotin. They were given ten gendarmes, under the command of Lieut. Parvulescu, distinguished in the capture of the famous bandits Tomescu and Munteanu, whose exploits filled the Roumanian papers during the summer of 1925. They succeeded in arresting Gherman, who finally directed them to an empty bee-hive, in which they found his documents, manifestoes, etc., and to a chicken-coop, which sheltered a Russian rifle and revolver and two hand-grenades. He implicated a fellow-townsman named Ivan Hulca, on whose premises were found a light Lewis machine-gun with abundant ammunition, hand-grenades and other explosives. The trail now leading to the village of Chirilovca, they arrested there a terrorist named Basil Vlasoff; Gherman convincing him that the game was up, he directed the Roumanians to a corner of his barn, where they found twenty Russian army rifles, another light machine-gun, fifteen French hand grenades, quantities of ammunition both for rifles and machine-guns, and a barbed-wire cutter. From Vlasoff they learned that the guiding spirit of the local terrorists was a certain Alexis Shandranovitch, former lieutenant in the Russian Army. Capt. Buznea dressed himself as a Russian refugee, and sought out Shandranovitch in the village of Polmedicautzi; he introduced himself as a Soviet inspector, giving the password he had learned from Vlasoff. Shandranovitch reported that all was going well, and that he had succeeded in hiding 100 rifles in Vascautzi, at the house of a certain Glovaski. Hereupon Lieut. Parvulescu and his squad of gendarmes came upon them and arrested them both, carrying off the supposed Soviet inspector to a separate room for his examination. On learning the news from Capt. Buznea, Lieut. Parvulescu, with his chief, Maj. Hertza, proceeded at once to Glovaski's home, but found that word had already reached him and that he had fled across the Dniester. His father maintained that the charge was false, and after a fruitless four-hour search of the house, the officers were inclined to agree with him; but in investigating an old-fashioned brick bake-oven, they discovered that the flooring sounded hollow. Removing some of the brick, they found an underground store-room beneath the oven, from which they took out thirty Russian army rifles, sixty hand-grenades, four large bombs, ten small bombs, four boxes of dynamite and abundance of other explosives and ammunition.
At the same time, interesting discoveries were being made in Kishineff itself. On August 31, 1925, the town was plastered with Russian posters, urging a revolution and the rescue of the innocent victims of Roumanian persecution at Tatar-Bunar. It took the authorities nearly a month to run down the instigator. On Sept. 20, they arrested a young Jewish painter named Abraham Finchel (Finkel), who, though only 20, was President of the local Comsomol, and had been sentenced in 1924 to serve five years for distributing inflammatory May-Day circulars, but had escaped. A search of his rooms yielded nothing suspicious until investigation of a commode disclosed a false bottom, with most important papers. By ingenious use of the information gleaned from these, the authorities succeeded in getting a list of the members of the Comsomol from young Finchel, and the information that he was responsible to the former Communist Regional Director, Ignatoff, who was now established at Balta as a Commissioner of the Moldavian Soviet Republic, and guided the work in Bessarabia from there. Elach Bessarabian county (judetz) was divided into four districts, and each of them into four sections, each with its chief. Ignatoff (who was later captured and condemned on Nov. 12, 1926, to five years' imprisonment) had left as his successor a young law student named Iurie Ganeff, from Ismail; his chief aides were Eleonora Vilderman, daughter of a wealthy Jewish family, and a certain Reinerman, in whose home were found two trunks full of revolutionary manifestoes. None of the 23 members of the Comsomol arrested was over 25 years of age, and some were only 19. The Communist headquarters for Roumania, according to Finchel, was at Targ-Muresh, in Transylvania, and the leader one "Vericash," a Hungarian formerly associated with Bela Kun. The authorities at once searched the latter 's home and were successful in finding the complete lists of the Communist organization, as a result of which arrests were made all over Bessarabia early in October 1925. Especially interesting was the proof of the part taken by the M.O.P.R. (see p. 249) in providing funds for the defense of the Bessarabian Communists, partly by the sale of stamps showing a bloody hand stretched out between prison bars. Undeterred, the Communists established another headquarters in Targ-Muresh, discovered and raided in March 1926.
In April 1926, a certain Ilie Samsonoff was captured entering Bender from the Ukraine, after a revolver fight, with documents proving his connection with a Communist organization in Bender. In the same month, after a session of ten weeks, the military court of the Third Army Corps handed in its verdict in the case of the 63 Communists, mainly from Kishineff-the Finkel case, described above. Five Communists-Abraham Finkel, Bernard Zuckermann, Willy Gesler, Giuseppe Sbratz and Michael Iosif-were condemned to five years' imprisonment, and others to lesser terms; 22 were acquitted. In August 1926, some Kishineff students at the University of Prague were discovered to be delegates of the Soviet Center of Espionage in Vienna, and in process of forming a new Soviet organization in Bessarabia. In mid-December 1926, a clash occurred near Bender; a boatload of arms and ammunition was captured by the Roumanians from the Bolsheviks who were' attempting to smuggle it in, and defended themselves with machine-guns, when surprised. Thus the Communist effort continues.
The reader must not be misled, however, into thinking that anything approaching a state of war exists along the Dniester. I was impressed, in traveling scorns of miles along the border hi the spring of 1925, with the perfect tranquility which reigned, not only there but all through the country; and in general relations seemed not only correct but cordial between the opposing pickets. The Soviet cavalry and infantry border patrol waved us friendly greetings across the stream, whenever we saw them. I note exactly the same thing in the report, in the Bucharest Universul of April 23,1926, of the trip of Mr. R. B. Hinckley, of our Legation, along the river: " The American diplomat, before undertaking his trip through Bessarabia, had the impression that the frontier with the Soviets constituted a battle-front, on which incidents were continually arising; and he was greatly surprised, and even affected, to see our sentinels, as well as those of the Soviets, promenading most peacefully opposite each other, and even exchanging friendly salutations." And Minister Culbertson, in the Paris Temps, bears witness to the same peace and quiet in July 1926.Next Chapter Previous Chapter
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