Wife Wins Freedom for Deserter


Love Breaks Bars of Alcatraz



Alexander Nemirovsky and his Russian bride, who are finding happiness at the end of a tangled drama of love and war.


Soldier Leaves Siberia Post to See Russian Bride; She Flies to His Aid Here.


Even the stern and relentless verdict of a courtmartial, with a five-year term at Alcatraz as a penalty for desertion from the army, dissolved under the warmth of the devotion and courage of Alexander Nemirovsky’s young Russian wife.

Her love has melted cold military discipline and prison walls and the Nemirovskys are living happily in a little Union st. cottage.

Their story demonstrates the reality of "poetic justice." Nemirovsky, a private with the American expeditionary forces in Siberia, technically deserted because he was unable to get a furlough when be heard that his wife was dying at Manila. She, with the gentle courage of a woman surmounted all obstacles, followed him to his prison cell and figuratively, broke down the bars.


The Roman bride’s vow – "Whither thou art, Caius, there am I, Caia" – was also hers. Great was the surprise of Nemirovsky, when the transport Sherman on which he was returning a prisoner touched at Manila, to find his wire coming on board as a passenger.

She not only secured her passage on the transport to be near him, but she laid siege to Alcatraz Island when he was confined there and secured employment as a nurse.

Then with the assistance of Colonel Joseph Garrard, commanding officer of the island, she successfully carried her plea for clemency to the military authorities in Washington.

Her plea had an irresistible force – a woman’s love and her deeds for the man she loved. Nemirovsky was released.


Mrs. Nemirovsky, who speaks French and English as fluently as she does Russian, yesterday related their romance as follows:

It all started when my father, a colonel in the Russian army, sent my sister, my brother and myself from Poltawa to Harbin, as he feared we would not be safe from the Bolsheviki.

My sister and I were disguised in boy’s clothes, and our hair was cut short. Thus we passed through the lines.

In the meantime Alexander Nemirovsky, who is now my husband, was stationed with the American army at Manila.

He had come to America to study medicine, but had enlisted in the army.


He and I had been childhood sweethearts in Russia. Learning that I was a refugee at Harbin, he wrote me, claiming the stress of the times as an excuse for the unconventionality of his proposal, and asked me to come to Manila to marry him.

I accepted, and we were married.

Then my husband was chosen to accompany Col. Barrows of San Francisco to Siberia as Russian interpreter. I remained at Manila and joined the Red Cross.

Then our baby was born. Our child died and I became very ill.


My friends thought I was dying and cabled to my husband in Siberia. Frantic with grief, he asked permission to come to Manila to be with me.

He had been transferred from Col. Barrows’ command to hospital service at Vladivostok, and could obtain no furlough.

Then, despairing, he made up his mind to come without permission. Retaining his uniform, he went to Harbin, but could find no transportation, and had to return to Vladivostok, where he reported himself absent ten days without leave.


He was courtmartialed and sentenced to ten years at Alcatraz. This sentence was afterward reduced by General Graves to five years.

When the transport Sherman arrived at Manila with my husband aboard as a prisoner I obtained permission from the army authorities to accompany him to America.

My husband was overjoyed to find that I was still alive. On the Sherman I was treated with consideration and was often allowed to be with my husband.


Then we arrived at San Francisco. Fellow passengers had depicted "The Rock" in the darkest colors, and, and I was nearly crazy with grief.

My husband was taken to "The Rock" and I spent two very unhappy days in the city. Then I went to see Colonel Joseph Garrard, commandant of Alcatraz island.

He was kind and sympathetic and obtained a position for me as nurse to the children of Major John McD. Thompson on the island, so that I could be near by husband, and see him frequently.

My husband also was treated kindly and humanly by Captain A, A. Ballard of the disciplinary company.


Then Colonel Garrard brought our case before the authorities at Washington and clemency was granted and my husband was restored to duty, a free man.

He is now awaiting his honorable discharge from the army, whilst doing guard duty on "The Rock."

The San Francisco Examiner, August 18, 1919