A carpet of soft green covered the earth. The day was sweet
with odours, and the warm air blew in little gusts and eddies,
A gentle day with no promise of the doom it carried.
The first excitement was a cavalry patrol riding down the
highroad, two miles from the quarry. Probably there were fifty
Whites. As we watched them they disappeared into a deep
gully. Our cavalry and a cart with armed partisans were des-
patched, under Denissov's command, to catch them. The
mounted partisans galloped rapidly away, leaving the cart at
a great distance behind. They had almost reached the highroad
and were heading for a hill which stood at some distance aside,
when a Cossack detachment suddenly rode out from behind
the hill. They took our horsemen for their own, since a number
of our fellows were wearing Cossack caps, coats and long felt
cloaks and rode together with them. It was necessary to warn
the comrades in the cart. So one of the partisans offered the
Cossack who rode beside him. to race him as far as the hill.
He whipped his horse and galloped off out of view of the main
body, the Cossack following behind.
Three of the comrades galloped after them. As soon as they
came near enough, the partisans waved to those who were
in the cart and the latter, understanding the danger, turned
about and drove back at top speed. The Cossack evidently felt
he had been caught, but had no time to look around, for one
of the partisans snatched out his sword and struck him a blow
on the head. The Cossack fell from his horse without a cry.
The three partisans, one by one, rejoined the group of
Meanwhile, a large body of White cavalry, which was evid-
ently moving from the Akmonai positions to engage the parti-
sans in battle, also came on the scene. The situation was od<j
"Follow me!" Denissov commanded. Spurring his horse he
galloped off after the cart.
The Cossacks galloped with us, unaware of anything unusual.
"Slash them down!" shouted Denissov and the partisans'
swords flashed in the air.
The Cossacks lost their heads, unable to understand what
was the matter. Many of them were cut down. Others fled in
a panic to the large detachment of White cavalry, which had
already scattered and was galloping after our partisans.
The horses, necks outstretched, with their riders bending low
in the saddle, appeared on a background of light sky ; now they
vanished in the darkness of the pass.
"Down into the gully! Quick!" shouted the partisans.
"Whip up your horses!" they shouted to the driver of the
As our men reached the Olivensk quarries, the whole par-
tisan detachment was already lying in a line, getting ready to
meet the White cavalry with a good volley.
THE WHITES ADVANCE
The White machine-guns began their vicious spitting, the rifle
fire grew hotter and hotter. These new regiments which had
not hitherto fought against us came savagely to the attack. But
the partisans quenched their spirit. We were so hardened in
battle that nothing could daunt us.
The Whites then drew off and waited for reinforcements
which they knew were coming.
By noon we had many White regiments against us, includ-
ing the Alexeyevsky, Markovsky, 2nd Punitive Cavalry Regiment
and the Machine-Gun School. They had been much battered
on the Akmonai front, but still numbered up to two thousand
all told. They encircled us at a safe distance and awaited the
signal to attack.
A few torpedo-boats moved from the jetty into the middle
of the bay, slowly, giving parting signals, murderous-looking
"They're serious, this time! We're going to get it hot. We'll
have to go underground again."
But we wanted to keep on the surface. It was hard to have
to crawl back into the blind darkness of that sepulchre.
Having dug trenches, the Whites " began to advance at a
run, tripping against stones and firing as they came. We gave
them volley after volley. A grey human wave was rolling up
around us. Their artillery opened fire from the ships.
The earth shook with the rapid explosion of shell which
blew the stonecutters' tiny cottages from the rocks on which
they stood. Great dark columns of smoke rose in the air after
each shell, which left big funnel-shaped holes in the earth.
Shrapnel shrieked overhead and machine-guns of every kind
and size rattled deafeningly. The battle lasted several hours.
Under this continuous destructive hammering we were obliged,
by evening, to retreat into .the quarry.
We retired hurriedly under the enemy's onslaught. In our
haste some of our fellows happened to get into different pas-
sages and were isolated from each other. Forty-two men of
the detachment found themselves in an old gallery. I was
Forty-two men and eleven horses. We were driven under-
ground, surrounded by the enemy and cut off from our com-
rades. We had no food save scraps in the saddle bags. Three
women were with us, wives of the partisans, one of them
Denissov's wife with hfcr baby; the other two women were
The Whites, seeing that we were in a trap, decided to destroy
us by dynamite, using eight barrels of it at time.
"This is bad rock," said the partisans to each other. "If
they start to blow it up, it will be the end of us."
"Yes, comrades," said a stonecutter. "That old rock has been
abandoned long ago, because the stone is bad. It crumbles
under the touch."
"You know every corner, you old mole, so find us some
blind alley where we shall be safe from the explosions."
"The blind alleys here are short and narrow, and full of
It was very cold and damp in the galleries. Drops of water
hung in places from the ceiling. We were in a way glad of this ;
we could at least appease our thirst.
After half an hour underground we were unbearably cold.
We ran up and down the gallery to get warm, for we were
all lightly clad on account of the sun being so hot outside. We
had been in a sweat when we came in which made us feel
still colder; and we had not even any straw.
We wandered about in the pitch darkness full of the gloom-
All did duty as sentinels. We had not enough men for three
shifts, as we had to guard a number of openings. I was on
duty for the second time early next morning.
It was a fine morning. I could see the blue sky and hear
birds singing. How I longed to get out into the warm sun for
a breath of fresh spring air !
But the birdsong mingled with the thud of picks and spades
striking the rock over our heads, the shouts and oaths of the
Apparently they were digging everywhere and unloading
great quantities of dynamite which was brought up in carts.
We were acutely depressed. There was little chance for us
in the decrepit old galleries. It was a question if our precari-
ous shelter would stand an explosion.
The hope that our main forces (still over two hundred men)
would make a sally at night kept up our spirits. When, at
times, the firing grew hotter, our hope of release grew; we
expected our men to come at any moment to set us free.
The first explosions occured at about ten in the morning,
shaking the earth and raising a whirlwind of dust. The sentries
near the openings were struck with strong air currents and
covered from head to foot with limestone. It shrouded all of
us in grey; our faces were like grey masks, with deeper layers
of dust on our beards and in the hollows of our wrinkles.
We looked like a crowd of old millers.
The results of the explosions were dreadful. The open-
ings over which the explosions had taken place were unrecog-
nizable; great boulders blocked them and a faint light fell
through the hole blown in the roof.
And we heard the sound of more digging over our heads,
more barrels of dynamite being rolled, preparations for new
explosions. . . .
The damp chilled us to the bone and rusted our rifles.
"We're in for it!" we said to one another.
"I told you these quarries were rotten," said the stone.-
cutter in a hollow voice after our inspection. "The main de-
tachment is in good ground, in a big quarry where the ex-
plosions can't get through. The rocks are thirty or more yards
thick there ; tunnels a mile and a half long. White rock is such
that nothing will ever break it. Some of the tunnels in that
quarry pass under the cemetery and Stary-Karantin village,
even under the sea, and the rock is nearly a hundred yards
thick. They'll not even hear the explosions down there.
"If only we could get out of this. . . ."
Other explosions in various places followed almost without
interruption and gave the sentries no breathing space. The
ground shook, enormous slabs of rock became detached from
the passage walls. The situation was terrible. The women with
us were silent. Denissov's baby kept up a continuous whimper,
while his mother rocked him in her arms, crooning songs
In those dreadful moments, the baby's crying and the
mother's crooning were a relief from the thought of death.
At night, when the explosions stopped, a party of us made
a round of all the galleries and tunnels and visited the blind
alley where our cavalry was. The horses stood huddled so closely
together that we could not get through and had great trouble to
drag them apart. They breathed heavily and were a pitiful
sight. As we left them they lifted their heads and gazed after
us, as if longing to speak. Dumb animals have no way of ex-
pressing their feelings; but we were able to understand from
their looks and sighs that they had a premonition of disaster.
We had never parted from them so sadly as then.
Next afternoon we were in the blind alley, discussing the
prospects of a sortie which we proposed to make that night
from the gallery where the horses were.
It was about four in the afternoon. A dreadful uproar and
rumble suddenly filled the air; the very walls seemed to move
and dance about us.
We were thrown about with terrible force and fell head over
heels. Denissov's baby was torn from its mother's arms, thrown
aside and covered with rubble. The mother screamed like a
madwoman and the other poor women cried and groaned,
clutching at their enlarged abdomens.
Then all was quiet again.
We jumped up and ran, feeling anxious for the comrades
who had been standing guard near the entrances. As we reached
one of the openings we saw the bodies of the sentinels; their
clothes were torn to shreds and blood flowed from the mouth
of one of them. A vast boulder sixteen yards thick had fallen
near them. One was alive. We carried him away into the
passage, as far as possible from the opening of the gallery.
On the way to the other opening, at the first turning, a voice
shouted at us from out of the darkness:
We hid behind a rock and put out our lantern. One of us
"Give the password!"
The voice answered "shoot."
They were our own sentries. We lighted our lantern and
walked towards them.
"Are you all safe? Nobody killed?" we questioned anxiously.
"All safe. We had time to run, but we can't go back now,
there's no passage. It's a good thing we were able to get far
enough away, else we should have been cut off."
"So there's no way of getting back?" we asked.
"None whatever. We're entirely cut off now. Cut off from the
horses and from the oats. What shall we do, comrades?"
This news startled us ; a nervous shiver ran down our spines ;
our faces looked dreadfully strained and distorted under their
growth of beards and coverings of dirt.
The siege went on. We were downcast. We were buried alive
in that damp, evil-smelling grave. Covered with wounds, ex-
hausted with hunger and want of sleep, 'bearded and dirty, we
looked like walking corpses as we wandered about in silence
among the fallen rocks, aching with desperate anguish to get
out of it.
A bit of blue sky could just be glimpsed through the opening.
At the side of it we could see young grass and a clump of field
flowers bright and brave in the sun. They made our hearts
heavier. We were in a dreadful state and almost cried as we
yearned towards the warm daylight. Some of us, risking the
explosions and firing crawled stealthily to the opening to get
a sight of the day.
Meanwhile, the Whites were not idle. They came nearer and
nearer, blowing up the rocks. The galleries crumbled under
the force of their work; the blind alley where we had taken
refuge was no longer safe. The women were a misfortune. Den-
issov's wife was so exausted with starvation that she had no
milk and the child refused to suck her breast; it continually
cried, shrilly, giving our presence away.
We had been ten days without food, water or warmth, suf-
fering from the damp, seized with a continual shivering.
Death faced us ; some of us seemed to have lost our wits ; but
none wanted to give himself into the hands of the White
The women knelt on the stones, making the sign of the cross,
murmuring prayers, begging god for mercy.
Once, after a big explosion, they stood in a row, making
rapid signs of the cross and chanting in unison, while the loud
cries of the child mingled with their voices.
The Whites were full of vindictive sadism and shouted
through the opening:
"We'll get you now! We'll take you alive!"
Denissov in a fit of madness lifted his gun to shoot his
wife and his crying child, but, happily, a Don Cossack, who
had come over to us from the enemy, prevented him; he
snatched the weapon from Denissov and threw it far away.
By the evening of the tenth day the explosions stopped. The
enemy retreated to the burial mounds, took up their position
on a height, about seventy feet from the Openings, and opened
a terrible point-blank fire on the quarries where our main forces
As we learned later, our comrades had made every attempt to
sally out and set us free. The staff and the partisans knew we
were cut off. From their secret passages they saw the Whites
blowing us up. They saw the volcanic eruptions; they under-
stood everything and knew what we were going through; but
their many attempts at a sally were vain. They could not get
out because the Whites had posted their men in lines, had dug
trenches to protect them and placed several machine-guns over
every opening of the quarry. Not a man would have emerged
alive. Giving up the idea of a sally, our comrades began to cut a
hole through to connect them with our galleries. On the tenth
day their fire seemed to signal to us that they were trying to
break through the enemy's lines.
Once assured that there was nobody over our heads we de-
cided to make a sally that night at all costs. We were doomed
to perish anyway if we remained where we were.
On this terrible day, when we were gathered in the last
and deepest blind alley, the vault of the quarry suddenly fell in.
Four partisans were crushed under it, two being entirely covered
up, while the other two were pinned down by the edge. Silence
followed the crash. Clouds of grey dust filled the gallery. The
women gave heartrending shrieks which mingled with the
dreadful groans from under the rock, where the Don Cossack,
who had that day saved the mother and her child, now lay
dying. Such was the recompense chance held for him.
"Farewell, comrades! I'm dying!" he groaned in his agony
under the rock. "Farewell, my children ! Your father has met his
death in this cave!"
We dragged two of the men out from under the rock, but
were not able to get the other two out.
Half an hour later and before we had time to recover, a sec-
ond fall occurred which caught everybody, with the exception
of four sentries who stood on duty at the entrance. All the lights
went out. The cries were terrible. I was caught under a rock and
lost consciousness. Denissov and Podorozhny dragged me out.
They had both suffered slightly. The two pregnant women
were crushed to death and Denissov's wife had her leg broken,
while the child, by some wonderful chance, remained entirely
unharmed and is alive to this day.
Yusef, a handsome sailor who had been telephone operator on
board ship, and Slessarenko, a member of our staff, were both
badly injured, while most of our men were buried and we were
not even able to drag them out.
It is difficult now to tell everything as it happened then. I
remember that the hair on my head felt like wire.
Out of forty-two people only ten remained; ten shivering,
ragged, desperate spectres of humanity.
After the horrors we had gone through and this last horror,
we could not endure our underground cemetery . . . where our
good comrades lay smashed. . . .
THE SORTIE OF TEN SPECTRES
We gathered our strength for the seemingly hopeless effort.
The night was warm with a fine drizzle. But it was so dark
we could hardly see the high mounds which rose in front of the
It was two o'clock in the morning as the ten of us crawled
out of the quarry and wriggled our way through the wet grass,
crawling on our stomachs, to reach the ditch which ran over the
mouth of the main quarry.
We crawled for about fifty yards from the opening and lay
down for a minute to take our bearings.
Suddenly a rocket shot up and burst. Its reddish cascade of
sparks fell slowly downwards, throwing fantastic rays on the
tops of the mounds, and on groups of White soldiers posted
there with machine-guns. A second rocket followed with a hiss,
then a third and machine-guns began to rattle from all direc-
tions, followed by rifle fire.
The Whites had discovered us. Ignorant of our numbers, they
held us ten gaunt, desperate spectres of men under continual
We huddled together in a cavity in the ground, keeping as
low as possible, while the shots whizzed above us. We were
soon as hot as in a turkish bath. One of the comrades lost his
head and began to shout curses. So we all rushed headlong into
the darkness, jumped into the ditch and ran in a file, crouching
and firing as we went, towards our friends. The Whites had two
machine-guns posted at the very mouth of the quarry, on top of
the wall of rock. There was no way to avoid them. It seemed
that we were running into certain death.
The ditch and the darkness of the night prevented the Whites
from taking proper aim. That saved us. When their gunners
saw us coming for them they lost their heads. The amount of
firing and shouting confused them. Fearing we were in great
numbers, they abandoned their guns and ran away.
The way to the quarry was free.
We rushed directly into the openings, running up against the
sentries of our main detachment who, taking us for whiteguards,
opened fire and wounded one of us.
There was a smell of burnt bread in the galleries, which were
filled with the acrid smoke of wood fires by which the men
were baking wheat cakes and grain. Oil lamps and lanterns were
burning in rows.
The alarm horn, at the signal from the sentries, was being
PANIC AMONG THE WHITES
The whiteguards' abandonment of their machine-guns over
the entrances gave our main detachment the chance to get out
and turn the guns upon the enemy, who fell into a panic.
Evidently, he supposed that we had come out of some secret
holes and were at his rear. His trumpets sounded the alarm in
the village and the village bell jangled in accompaniment.
We advanced against his chief positions, shouting "Hurrah!"
at the top of our lungs and maintaining a steady fire to keep
him panicky and uncontrolled.
He abandoned all his positions.
As day broke, we could see White soldiers and baggage
wagons scattering in all directions. We occupied the whole sur-
rounding territory in the course of a few hours and cleared the
village. The inhabitants came out of their hiding places and con-
gratulated us on our victory, slapping our backs in jubilant
The orderlies were immediately instructed to get the dead and
wounded out from under the rocks and carry them to where our
main forces were.
After that we examined the fortified positions of the Whites,
where everything was arranged with the idea of holding us in
siege. They had planned to take us by hunger. There were even
rows of trenches with connecting galleries to the very openings
of the quarry. In the trenches we found a quantity of food
which they had abandoned in their hasty retreat: baskets of
eggs, butter, cream, milk, and so on. There was also a quantity
of rifles, cartridges, bombs and articles looted from the vil-
lages, especially from Stary-Karantin. The trenches and passages
were heaped with feather beds, pillows, bedsteads, churns,
mirrors, jackets, trousers, petticoats, shirts and other garments.
But our triumph was short lived.
In the morning we observed that the English and French war-
ships were standing at the entrance to Kerch port, while a barge
equipped with artillery and the torpedo-boat Zhivoy came out of
the bay into the strait, moving in the direction of the Black Sea
and stopping opposite Stary-Karantin.
Meanwhile, we lay in the trenches at the top of the mound
and along the highroad, watching the enemy's infantry and
cavalry, which were advancing from all directions again and
closing us in a ring.
A gun was fired from the fortress. Then shell began to ex-
plode and shrapnel to whizz through the air. Every explosion
was accompanied by a cloud of yellowish smoke and a shower
The Whites were firing from all sides, from the fortress, the
bay and the strait.
Infantry and cavalry began to advance on the quarry but fell
under our machine-gun fire. Then the ships and fortress trained
their guns on top of the mound where we had our main
Shells began to fall near us; we were afraid to put out our
heads; yet, many of us could not restrain a laugh when a shell
fell into the middle of a feather bed, which the Whites had left
on a neighbouring mound, and smothered us all in a cloud of
flying feathers. But shells then fell into our trenches and we
lost all desire to laugh as fragments of bodies were blown into
the air and we were spattered with blood and covered with
sand. The enemy's infantry surrounded us under cover of the
heavy fire from the English and French ships. To the shouts of
the whiteguards, to the noise of blows from rifle butts, inhuman
yells, screams of the wounded, we were beaten back into out
caves, with fifteen men killed and twelve wounded whom we
picked up as we retreated.
So we were back again in the dead silence, the black darkness,
the cold, damp and mildew. We had not even time to bury
our dead whom we had dragged from under the rocks and
lifted from the battle field. We put them all in a separate gal-
lery, where they lay on a bed of stone, awaiting burial.
FATHERS AND SONS
Early next morning a partisan rushed into the gallery, shouting :
"Get ready, boys! The Whites have brought a whole crowd
"What sort of people?"
We jumped up and ran to the openings. The whole surface
of the quarry was crowded with people. They were a motly as-
sembly of peasants, gardeners, old barge-haulers from the near-
est fisheries, old and young women, even boys and young girls.
They stood leaning on spades, shovels and pickaxes, gazing
silently at the openings in the rock.
They did not see us, but many of us caught sight of wife,
father or mother in the crowd.
A ring of armed whiteguards surrounded the crowd. Officers
ran to and fro, brandishing whips. We were aghast, not being
able to understand what it all meant. A moment later, when we
had already recognized our relations, the officers began to
shout savagely at the people, who started working.
Stones were carted to the spot and the villagers began filling
in the openings.
We heard them crying, complaining, swearing. One of the
old men threw his spade away with a firm gesture and shouted :
"I can't bury my Peter in this way, for I know he's alive."
A number of the others showed an inclination to follow his
example. We heard the sound of blows, struck with rifle butts
We were helpless an'd could but look on through the open-
ings and grind our teeth in fury. We were being buried alive,
but we uttered no word and fired no shot, lest we endanger
the workers and peasants.
So the whole day passed. At night the Whites retired some
distance from the quarry. Then we gathered our whole strength
and cleared the openings of all that had been thrown in during
the day. Next morning we enjoyed their savage comment on our
night's work. But they tried again. They drove the villagers