Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Chapter 10 - Oh! Petawawa: Part 1 - Introduction

Korzybski: A Biography (Free Online Edition)
Copyright © 2014 (2011) by Bruce I. Kodish 
All rights reserved. Copyright material may be quoted verbatim without need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder, provided that attribution is clearly given and that the material quoted is reasonably brief in extent.

Korzybski and about 200 Russian technicians left Petrograd in mid-November, 1915. The boat trip to Stockholm took several days. Then after a couple days layover, they continued on to Bergen, Norway. The last week of November they sailed to New York aboard the Norwegian S/S Kristianiafjord. That spring German U-Boats had sunk the Lusitania, a British passenger ship, with a loss of nearly 1200 passengers, about 10% of them Americans. With the resulting hue and cry in America, the Germans had ceased their unrestricted attacks on shipping. They did not want to risk pushing the United States into the war. So there seemed like little danger to Alfred’s journey, especially as his mission was aboard the ship of a neutral country.

Korzybski just felt glad to be out of Petrograd. As a civilian “inspector”, he would be doing quality control work on ammunition manufactured somewhere in North America for the Russian army. Despite his frustrations with the Russians, he still wanted to usefully contribute to the defeat of the Central Powers. To keep his possibilities open, he brought with him a press pass he obtained in Petrograd from the North-South Press Agency, a French language news bureau. Just in case the ammunition inspection job didn’t work out. (1)

Unfortunately, about half of the technicians on the ship seemed to have profiteering as their main motive. Their slogan would have been ‘praise the cash and pass bad ammunition’. Alfred made friends with two other men, Colonel Kolantaiew and Colonel Sachanow, who had been at the front and disdained the petty grafters on board as much as he did. The three men stayed together and talked among themselves about the war, the shortage of shells and other essential items, and the mentality of their fellow passengers. They were not very discreet. Apparently someone listened in on their conversations and the three men came to be considered ‘dangerous’.

The passage to New York took about a week. After docking in the first week of December they reported to the Russian Military Commission in New York. They figured the grafters had transmitted news about them to friends at headquarters because they found themselves sent to what seemed like the least desirable locations in North America—places providing minimal opportunities and/or rewards for profiteering. Alfred and Colonel Kolantaiew were sent to the Remington arms factory in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Colonel Sachanow was sent to Petawawa Camp, a military proving ground located where the Petawawa River, a small tributary, empties into the Ottawa River in southern Ontario. Neither Korzybski nor Kolantiew lasted long at Remington (perhaps because the plant was run efficiently and there wasn't much for them to do there even if they weren’t interested in graft). Kolantiew soon went back to Europe. After only a few days in Bridgeport, Korzybski was sent on to Petawawa “where”, as he put it, “Sachanow was already exiled amongst the skunks…and bears.”(2)

You may download a pdf of all of the book's reference notes (including a note on primary source material and abbreviations used) from the link labeled Notes on the Contents page. The pdf of the Bibliography, linked on the Contents page contains full information on referenced books and articles. 
1. Press pass for representing L’Agence De Presse Nord-Sud in America, issued in Petrograd. AKDA 5.29.

2. Korzybski 1947, p. 155. 

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