Threats to Use Dynamite Against Russian Spies.


A Traveler Followed Across the Continent by Mysterious Enemies.


The Czar’s Colony in This City Greatly Excited—Police Courts Visited by Frightened Russians.

The Russian colony in this city is uptorn by a tremendous sensation. Nothing like it has been known since awful charges were openly made against the once beloved Bishop Vladamir. The discovery has been made that a secret circle of anarchists is now, and has been for some time, organized in this city. Within the past week these men have grown so bold as to threaten the lives of several persons suspected by them to be spies and secret agents of the Czar. In one case the plotters entered into a fiendish compact to use dynamite to accomplish the destruction of one of their supposed enemies.


It has been a prevalent belief that anarchism in America was dead. Socialists and other like radicals have maintained that to be the truth ever since the bomb was thrown in the Haymarket in Chicago and the conspirators were hanged in the execution room at the County Jail.

Russian anarchism, however, is of the sort not easily strangled. Years and years of oppression are not forgotten. To men who have felt the sting of the Russian lash and perhaps labored in chains in the dark mines of Siberia anarchism is patriotism, and not to be put aside. Many of the men who originally plotted against the ruler of all the Russians on Russian soil on being unearthed by the police managed to flee to other lands. Some sought refuge in the wilds, others in the densely populated European capitals and still others crossed the sea and sought to hide their identity among men of their race in America.


That the Czar’s secret service never forgets these men and never ceases in the search for them is made apparent every year. The sad story of the lonely refugee who killed himself in Texas only three months ago will be remembered by every one. The story of his wanderings and his hopeless efforts to elude the human bloodhounds that tracked him through a dozen lands and to his very death appeals intensely to every man with the spirit of liberty in his breast. The developments of the past week here at home, however, prove that the life of that poor exile is only one of many. It is then scarcely to be wondered at that the unfortunates who traveled thousands of miles to seek homes in San Francisco should combine among themselves upon discovering that even here they have not escaped from the Czar’s despotic sway.


Yesterday a man with a decidedly foreign accent, but to all appearance a person of refinement, hurried into the police courts. When the employees of the courts found they could not speak the visitor’s language they sent him to Joseph A. Becsey, the interpreter. In the most excited manner the stranger began addressing the interpreter in the Russian language.

"Speak French," said Becsey in that language.

The foreigner dropped into the language of the Parisian readily. He spoke it fluently—as easily as he had used the Russian.

As the stranger rapidly told his story and its sensational nature was understood by the interpreter the latter was dumfounded.


The man said that he was a Russian traveler. He came to this country some six months ago, and had been in New York but a short time when one evening a man with full dark whiskers was shown to his room in the hotel. The caller merely stepped within the door and handed to its occupant a small, square card. He then turned and went rapidly away. The Russian said he glanced at the card and was astounded upon seeing that across its face was written, apparently in blood, the one word, "Beware!"


This one word was in the Russian language.

The next day the traveler—he told Becsey his name was Stephant Strapinski—left for Chicago. He had been in a hotel in that city not three hours when a bell boy brought to his room a card precisely similar to the one he had been given in New York, with the single exception that the word "Beware!" was written twice upon it.

Now thoroughly frightened Strapinski took the utmost pains that his departure should not be observed and fled to Omaha, where he went to a hotel of the unassuming sort and registered under a name other than his own.


He had been in the city but two days when the card was again brought to his room. This time it bore the legend:

Leave the country at once!
One month’s stay in this country
means death!

Strapinski did leave. He went South and traveled for a month through the South. During the trip he heard no more of his followers and received no mysterious messages.

Arriving in San Francisco he was astonished to receive another intimation that spies were on his track. The second day after he came here a letter reached him. It warned him to leave. Strapinski disregarded it. Last week he got another letter. There was no mistaking its terms. It was written in Russian and informed him that his death had been ordered by the circle and that a bomb would be exploded under him within a week. As soon as he got the epistle the Russian traveler went to the Russian Imperial Consulate and asked for protection. The Consul sent him to the police.


Becsey could not read the letter, but the stranger described its contents to him.

The interpreter asked if the men were known. The answer was that all that was known was that the men were in San Francisco. Under the circumstances, Becsey told the foreigner that the police courts could do nothing and that the anarchists while unknown could not be dealt with.


A visit to the Russian Consul this afternoon added but little light to the mystery. The Consul said that the stranger Strapinski had apparently fled the city. That the authors of the dynamite letter lived here he did not doubt. As further evidence of the fact he related that one Dr. Grigzovich, who had been but a few months in the city, was also suspected of being a Russian spy. Last week a letter precisely similar to the one sent to Strapinski was received by Grigzovich.

The physician went at once to the Consul, but was sent to the police, being informed that there was nothing the Imperial Russian Consulate could do.


Grigzovich promised to return to the Consulate. What has become of him is a mystery to the Consul. The police are, of course, as much at a loss as the Consul. The letters have disappeared; so has at least one of the men who received them. It is known that there are anarchists here—who they are is another thing. It is one of those dark mysteries that baffle even the most skillful officers.

The Evening Post, April 1, 1892.

Reprinted in the Holy Trinity Cathedral LIFE, Vol. 1, No. 8, April 1994