districts, enlisting young men from the villages. Our work in
town is also progressing. We must first enlist new men and
reinforce the detachment and afterwards start military ac-
tivities. We must all occupy a number of quarries and if we
are to do any good, we must act jointly. These are the tasks the
staff has set itself. If we start war without being prepared for
it, without definite plans and joint action, we may be driven
into a hole. Then you'll starve to death here in these cata-
Ursatyev learned all he wanted to know: he was told we
numbered over a hundred and fifty men, was made acquainted
with protocols and resolutions, our connection with the villages
and with the No. 1 Party nucleus in the town.
Ursatyev next asked about our funds. He took a document
from his pocket and handed it to Denissov, saying as he did so :
"Comrades, this is a letter from the revolutionary military
The letter asked us to hand over part of the money we had
taken from the engineer, Glasunov, to be used for the needs
of the staff and detachment.
Denissov was indignant.
"No, no! I'll not give any money to anybody. This money
belongs to the detachment and will be used exclusively for its
reinforcement. Besides, I don't know who these people over
there are who want this money. What's the trouble? Are they
sorry for the landlords? I don't recognize anybody except in
our detachment and don't trust anybody. The sly dogs! It's
money they want, is it?"
"So you don't trust me or the staff?"
"I don't," said Denissov sharply.
"All right," Ursatyev answered calmly. "I'm leaving now.
I'll tell them that Denissov is acting independently, will not
obey anybody, doesn't trust anybody or recognize any author-
ity. . . ."
These words shook Denissov's self-assurance the more so
as the Communists in the detachment spoke against him, sup-
ported by his brother Gregory who delivered himself with great
"Although you are the chief," said Gregory, "you have no
right to act so. You must obey the staff which is above you. We
must help each other. Our strength lies in that. I insist that
the money be handed over to the revolutionary military staff."
Finally, Denissov agreed to let the staff have part of the
money. I do not remember the amount he handed to Ursatyev,
who left that night.
AGONY IN THE CAVES
Meantime, we were surrounded by cavalry outposts and White
scouts, preliminary to another attack.
Early in the morning, soon after sunrise, the enemy began
At dawn we had climbed out to the top of the mound and
entrenched ourselves for battle. One of the platoons was in-
structed, if the Whites pressed us hard, to retreat into the pas-
sages and lie low. Then, at night, they were to come out be-
hind the enemy and create a panic. This would be easy to do
through the secret passages especially as the Whites did not re-
main near the entrances at night, fearing surprise attacks.
So, beforehand, we sen-t two trusted guides into the passages
and a few of our men with food and water for the platoon.
By about eight o'clock, the enemy had surrounded the quarry,
but not in a serried chain as they had done two days before.
The Red Army's approach from the north (occupying Yankov,
Simferopol, and other points), had drawn off the regiments
which had attacked us then. The forces now before us were new,
collected together at random. We defied all their efforts. They
3 Ovcharenko "
could not strike us a serious blow or drive us back into the
quarry, whereas we sent them back helter skelter a number of
The enemy then changed his plan. Concentrating his forces
on one side in the direction of 'the fortress, he entrenched him-
self on the highway. Next day the White staff sent a large re-
inforcement, collecting all they had in Kerch.
After several very obstinate attacks, we retreated into our
caves. The Whites surrounded us and began a siege. Our
position was bad from shortage of food, for we had been un-
able to make provision because of the fighting. We were
without water and suffered terribly from both thirst and hun-
ger. We ate grain, roast and raw. We searched for drops of
water that might be trickling from the damp walls and licked
the grey stones to moisten and cool our burning mouths. We
roamed drearily through the passages in groups, carrying dim-
ly burning lights, hardly visible in the long galleries. Groups
of us stood at the crossings, with bowed heads and drawn,
harassed faces. What next? Were we to die of starvation? Oh,
for a drink of water!
"We're doomed !" many thought. Some said it aloud. "There's
no way out. We can't break through either to the village or
the wells. The end is near. We have no more strength to fight !
In these desperate circumstances, we called a meeting of
company commanders, the most experienced partisans and Party
workers, to discuss ways out of our plight. It was decided to
make a sally and break through to the Bagyerovo quarries,
four or five miles from us. To divert the attention of the
Whites, a raid must be made from there. That would give the
impression that there were partisan detachments in all the
quarries surrounding the town. We sent scouts at once to the
Bagyerovo quarries to discover their position .We also decided,
in case we abandoned the Stary-Karantin quarry, to leave a
few men to meet recruits who came to join the detachment and
guard the local inhabitants who had taken refuge there.
Two days later, Our scouts brought news that the Bagyerovo
quarry was not under attack. A detachment was acting there
under Kutepov and Daniel Abazaly. The scouts had also stopped
a cart train with the property of some landlords which they
had taken into the quarry, where a place had been prepared
for us. The goods consisted of food, plenty of odd things and
even some barrels of wine.
The news was whispered that we were to make a sally next
day. None could tell what the outcome of the enterprise would
Picture the scene in our caves at that moment! Groups ot
people in dark passages, dimly lit here and there by flickering
lamps, surrounded by pillows, mattresses, baby cradles. Snores
and heavy breathing filled the place with sound. Babies whim-
pered, mothers crooned and swore over them, by turns.
"You'll be the death of me, you damned brat! I've no
strength left, and there's your father wants war."
"When your father's killed what shall I do with you? Some
people are lucky their children die, but these brats of mine
have nine lives, like cats. I wish somebody would take one
Then the woman would start kissing her baby, playing with
it, nursing it and saying:
"Suck your milk, so you'll grow fast."
A sturdy old woman of about sixty woke up and began
to scratch herself. She raked her scalp under its covering of thin
hair, and searched her clothes for lice, complaining to herself:
"They won't let you rest a minute. I haven't slept a wink.
My whole body's sore. Oh, God! Why should I be made to
suffer such pain in my old age? I've lived for nearly sixty
years with my old man and never harmed anybody, and here's
the reward. My sons have been killed in the German war. Who
will care for us old people now? We had a cottage at least,
but even that's gone!"
The old woman went on muttering for a long time, making
the sign of the cross; then she drew her damp clothes around
her and tried to go to sleep.
Hard by there was a roomy cave which stank of manure.
One could hear the movement of cattle, pigs and horses,
the crowing of cocks, the cackle of geese. These animals were
the property of the new cave-dwellers stonecutters who had
cut these tunnels, little knowing that one day they would have
to hide in terror under the damp, dark vaults.
"All partisans to come to a meeting!" the partisans called
to one another. "Wake those who are sleeping and come out,
The partisans collected at a crossing where a stone had been
set in the middle to serve as a platform for speakers.
"Bring some more lamps, so we can see!"
Presently Denissov climbed on the stone.
"Comrades!" he began. "You must get ready at once. We're
going to leave this quarry immediately. We'll be back in a few
days. We're doing it for the good of the cause. We'll go in
two hours' time and will leave behind some fellows we can
trust. If any new recruits come, they'll meet them and find out
what sort of people they are. Do you agree?"
Voices from the crowd answered :
Others demanded to know where we were going.
Denissov avoided giving a direct answer.
"When we get to some place, we'll stop there," he said
evasively. "We're leaving Kirianov here he knows all the
rocks and crannies of these caves in the dark. We also leave
Stepan Nesterenko, who knows the quarries well. He's a local
inhabitant and understands all he must do in respect of re-
cruits. And here's Ivan Ponomarev, who is an old corporal;
he'll stay here to attend to military matters. He'll guard the
quarry. We'll leave a few comrades to help him. Do you agree?"
he asked the partisans.
"We do!" shouted many voices.
"Now each squad will go back to its quarters. Some cakes
have been baked for you. Each man will receive a piece to give
him strength. After that, you will get ready to march out in full
In a minute, all the inhabitants of the caves had heard the
news, including the partisans' wives who took their children
and went to say farewell to their husbands.
"What shall we do, all alone!" they cried.
"You've started all this and now you're going, leaving us
to perish. As soon as the Whites find out they'll come in and
kill everybody. We'll not stay here, we'll go with you."
"And we'll get back to Stary-Karantin village."
Others again said :
"No, we'll not let our men go. They shall stay here with us.
If we're to die, we'll at least die together."
The comrades tried to convince them that we would not be
away long and would come back with food and water. There
were farewells and weeping, kisses, groans, cries. Little children
tugged at their fathers' coats, asking tearfully:
"Where are you going, dad?"
The weeping and cries were broken by a command shouted
down the passage:
"First, second and third squad, form ranks!"
All the squads formed ranks. The chief walked along the
ranks and told some of the men to step out.
The men chosen were old stonecutters who, because of their
large families, were being left to guard the quarry The re-
maining men were counted a hundred and seventy. Comrade
Khovrin and another comrade I think it was Dmitry Kos-
senko, the chief of our scout work made a speech. They
said that those who were caught lagging behind must be shot
down without hesitation, lest the Whites catch them and they
give us all away. . . some might even betray us of their own
accord. For who could read men's thoughts?
On the night of March 25 (orthodox style), equipped with
lamps and lanterns, the partisans moved stealthily, in single
file, to the entrance, silent as death, for the roof was not so
thick near the entrance and any noise might be heard by the
Whites above us.
We trod carefully, in complete silence, stifling an occasional
cough, feeling like conspirators, intense, ready. I glanced back
upon the line of shadows who moved in zigzags from behind
the corner of the passage, trying not to trip or collide with
each other. The commanders and guides walked like phantoms
at their side, carrying little smoky lamps and lanterns. It
might have been a secret funeral procession in some ancient
catacomb. The dirty grey, mildewy walls had never witnessed
anything like it and the bats, pressing close to the roof of the
passage, must have watched us with astonishment in their little
The sally began at about eleven. Scouts, sent out first, re-
ported that the enemy's main forces were centred on the
surrounding mounds. We went out one by one, silently, like
animals out of their lairs, and moved towards the field which
lay behind the quarry. As we started to form ranks, the Whites
caught sight of us and opened fire, single rifle shots at first,
then with machine-guns. The firing became hot and uninter-
rupted ; but the shots sang above our heads, without a casualty.
Then the firing suddenly stopped the Whites had decided
that we had come out of a secret passage and were flanking
them, to attack them in the rear. As we discovered later, they
abandoned their positions to avoid our supposed manoeuvre,
retreating rapidly towards the fortress and the town. Maybe,
they intended to deceive us, but their trick was not successful.
After a time, a searchlight from the fortress scanned the coun-
try vainly in search of us. We moved to the left of Jar Java
village through the farm of Petrenko Morchenko, hurriedly
eased our thirst, took some provisions, carts, and a large bar-
rel of water and marched rapidly in the direction of the Bag-
These quarries are situated an a flat stretch of ground, at a
distance from the hills. There was not a single mound on that
plain; the quarry openings went down into the ground like
wells. A mounted whiteguard patrol, evidently posted to watch
the quarries, saw us and fired a few volleys. Under their fire,
we descended into this mysterious underground city.
It consisted of enormous galleries with capacious openings,
thirty feet wide in places. There was a lot of sheep's dung in
the passages, especially near the entrance, where neighouring
landlords used previously to drive their sheep on hot days. We
sat down in squads on the straw with which the floor was
thickly strewn, leaning our rifles against the wall. A good
supper awaited us butter, goats' cheese, bread, fresh mutton
and a mug of wine apiece from the landlords' train. After our
days of starvation, the food and wine had a quick effect on
us. Exhausted by the dreadful siege and the march, we slept
like logs. . . .
WE ATTACK A TRAIN
Early morning. Deep silence everywhere. The fields lay green
under the warm Crimean sun. Here and there odd peasants
sowed grain on freshly ploughed plots.
On that calm morning a freight train could be seen moving
slowly from the north. Our scouts reported the fact to the
chief of our detachment. I went above ground with Denissov
and some other comrades to look at it. The locomotive was
puffing and blowing as the train rolled nearer.
"That .train is ours. . . we're going to take it," said Denis-
sov, screwing up his eyes as he tried to see through his field
glasses. It is quite possible that he didn't see it, because he
happened to be drunk. However, tie shouted angrily to the
commanders of the guards:
"To arms! Prepare for an attack!"
The order was repeated down the galleries.
Despite their great weariness the whole detachment ran out,
stumbling over stones as they came, and formed into line above
the wall of the quarry, which was seven feet high. The parti-
sans rubbed their eyes, still heavy with sleep, yawned, shud-
dered nervously. Some of us began to argue with Denissov, say-
ing that we must not attempt to attack when the men were
tired out. We must be allowed to rest. . . .
Denissov would not listen.
"I'm the chief. I know what I'm doing. We'll take that
train. Then we'll take a rest."
Khovrin and Kossenko told him he must consult with the
local detachment, which was in another gallery of the same
quarry, and act jointly with it.
"They have their own chiefs," answered Denissov sharply,
"they've got heads on their shoulders and so have I."
His brother Gregory laid his hand on the butt of his re-
"You're drunk and don't know what you're doing. Don't
insist or I'll call you to order."
The comrades held Gregory back. One of his lungs was in-
jured, having been shot through. A just man, he liked to come
to peaceful understandings. He was quite different in manner
from his brother Vassily. A carpenter by profession, he had
finished at a handicraft school and served through the im-
perialist war in the old army. He had returned from the front
in 1917 and fought as a Red Guard in the Kuban. A tall,
handsome, blue-eyed fellow, with brown hair and a slightly
long nose, his cheeks were always flushed, because of his lung.
In spite of a strong temper when he was roused, he was a calm
man. He could sit for hours thinking or talking in slow, sen-
sible tones, without bursting out irritably as some people do
from habit. The whole detachment respected him. His influence
over his brother was good. Vassily had great respect for him,
calling him a wise head and being ready as a rule to listen to
But this time Vassily Denissov would not listen to reason.
He turned to the detachment, shouting:
"Comrades! I am your chief. We've always been together
and seen the same dangers. We've been successful in war. No,
I tell you, we'll take that train!"
"We'll take it!" shouted the men.
He had known beforehand that the detachment would sup-
"Attack the train!"
We formed into a chain and moved towards the railroad
and the approaching train. We had to cover about half a mile.
As the train drew near, we saw the anxious faces of the Whites
look out from the windows. Later, we learned that these were
White forces drawn from the front to suppress the partisan
The partisans went to the attack in high spirits, as usual.
As soon as we left the quarry, Kutepov, the chief of the other
detachment, placed a wooden gun in front of the quarry to
frighten the Whites. As the train came abreast of us, the com-
mand was given :
"Hurrah! Hurrah!" shouted the men.
The train stopped and the enemy landed over a score of
machine-guns behind the railway line. Then the train backed
out and we were facing enemy machine-guns, posted on the em-
bankment, which opened fire at once.
"Lie down!" Denissov shouted.
But none of us had spades. We lay flat on the ground and
fired at long intervals. The enemy's shots flew all around us;
we could hear the groans of the wounded, one of them, Com-
rade Khovrin. Then, several score of mounted men came to the
enemy's assistance. They galloped at us from the left flank
with raised sabres, shouting oaths as they came. Our hearts
sank. It looked very bad for us. But suddenly, the riders began
to fall over their horses' heads and hang limply from their
saddles. The horses galloped off in different directions.
The detachment commanded by Kutepov and Abazaly had
struck the enemy's cavalry, pouring a heavy fire into them.
Under Kutepov's cross fire, the enemy's machine-guns were
also forced to retreat behind the railroad and could not, in
that situation, take good aim.
We used the advantage to -retreat.
A few hours later, powerfully reinforced, the enemy be-
sieged us in the quarry, locking us as in a stone grave.
SIEGE AND PROPAGANDA
The White attack on the Bagyerovo quarries was determined
and vicious. They pressed us closely, making desperate at-
tempts to get into the quarry. But every time we drove them
back, carrying their killed and wounded. It was rarely that a
whiteguard, entering the passage, got out again alive.
Sitting in a gallery we watched them, through unnoticeable
crevices, throw bombs into other openings.
"Look at the machine-guns these swine are bringing!"
It was the machine-gun company of the Alexeyevsky regi-
ment of officers; the regiment itself was climbing over the
railway embankment. Another line of Whites, less numerous,
was approaching from the hill on the other side of the quarry.
They moved rapidly, intending to close round the quarry
quickly, all together.
We gazed intently at the officers' approaching figures and
waited for the order to fire.
But no order was given.
The platoon commander ran in, saying:
"Not a single shot ! We'll let them in. They're new, so they'll
come in. Then we'll shoot them."
We watched a group of officers approaching one of the
openings. Among them was a handsome woman wearing the
red cross. A great-dane ran beside her. The officers carried
bombs in their hands and walked stealthily. We had a good
view of the wide opening. Two officers stepped forward and,
looking into the black depths, threw their bombs. Bluish
fights flashed and there was the sound of an explosion. We
waited to open fire from our hidden post, but Gregory Denis-
sov, who was with us, did not allow it.
"This will be our secret observation point," he said.
He left the three of us there saying, as he ran to the opening :
"Maybe some of our men have been killed. I'll go to see."
The officers jumped into the opening after their bombs. We
heard a faint sound of firing. Then a woman's voice crying
out wildly from above.
"Oh, my God! He is killed, he is killed! They have killed
Then we saw the woman with the red cross rush into the
We heard another faint volley from inside.
"What's happened?" asked an anxious voice directly above
"Two officers killed, colonel, and a red cross nurse. She ran
in after them."
The colonel, a big man with a fat stomach, yelled at the top
of his voice:
"Fetch them out all costs. Go on, fetch them out, you
rascals!" he shouted at the orderlies who were forcibly mobilized
An officer jumped in without waiting for the orderlies. We
heard the crack of another volley inside, The colonel ran up
to the orderlies, struck one of them and pushed them towards
the opening, shouting:
"Get them out immediately, you dogs!"
The orderlies moved into the opening, the colonel following.
But they had not gone far before the partisans shouted, "Hands
up!" The orderlies were taken prisoners without being shot
at. Unable to stand inactive we fired at the colonel, who fell
like a shot partridge.
Whereupon the dog rushed into the gallery and, taking the
colonel's coat between its teeth, began to pull the body out.
Gregory Denissov came back to us after a while.
"Well, boys ! There's a whole heap of them lying over there,
officers and a woman. Our chaps have already taken off the
officers' clothes and dressed up in military uniform. Two pris-
oners have been taken."
"Yes, we heard it all. And we lost patience and shot a
colon-el," we told him.
"Did anybody notice you?" he asked anxiously.
"No, No! Nobody could see it," we assured him.
The partisans did not fire at random. They spared the
mobilized soldiers and shot mostly at officers and volunteers.
That made the officers furious.
They swore at their soldiers and, pointing to the cave,
"You are curs, like those who are hiding there."
It was easy for us to make our choice of a target. Sitting,
as we were, in the dark, we could see the enemy's every move-
ment on the surface, while the enemy, from the light into our
darkness, could not see us, could not even see from where the
shots came. In some of the highest passages we could even see
the Whites standing over our heads, on the top of the quarry.
When the orange sky darkened and the stars came out with
the falling night, the Whites' fusillades and bomb throwing
became intense. They seemed to be trying to fill the openings
with bombs, as if bent on keeping us below.
On the second day the shooting slackened. There was rare
firing, but the quarries were completely encircled.
"They are going to starve us out," the partisans said to each
"But they shall not take us," our leaders declared.
It was everybody's opinion that we should get in touch with
the soldiers. They had been forcibly mobilized by the Whites
and were ragged and looked depressed; we ought to be able
to get them on our side. So we looked for convenient open-
ings, where there were no officers near, and spoke to them,
"Comrade soldiers! Who is it you've come to kill? Who are
the men you are hunting down? What good will it do you if
you kill any of our comrades, who are fighting against capi-
talists and officers, who are striving for the liberation of work-
ers and peasants like yourselves? Do you really care to defend
the landslords' estates and the private owners' factories? Aren't
you tired of the officer's whip, the landlord's treatment, poverty,
prison and hard labour? Turn your arms against your officers.
Join us, help the Red front to finish with the bourgeoisie and
to restore the Soviet regime and workers' government."
We asked the orderlies we had taken prisoners to make
propaganda. They sppke to the White soldiers :
"Come and join us," they said. "We are quite happy and will