Harrison falls into the Russian matrix

Harrison was unexpectedly taken to Novonikolaevsk in Siberia.

Despite facing the accusations of espionage, Marguerite Harrison was not treated as an enemy of the state. According to her account, the commandant told her the cells in the prison were crowded and uncomfortable, and so he instead placed her a small room behind his office. A sentry was stationed at the door, but the door was kept open, allowing her to watch what went on in the commandant’s office. The first night, the assistant commandant visited her and noticed the smell of gas coming from a small stove in her room. He ordered the guard to move her bed into his private office and brought her a quilt and pillow.

Marguerite described the assistant commandant as “more like a friend than a jailer.”   While she awaited the train for Moscow that was due in three days, the prison administrators allowed her to buy food and to keep her luggage. When the time came for her to depart, they allowed her to take all of her money and any personal items she wanted.

The express train that departed Chita on Friday was scheduled to arrive in Moscow eight days later. But once Marguerite and her captors boarded the train, the guard announced a change in plans. He told her he had not received the proper travel papers. At the next station on the outskirts of town, he received orders to take her to Novonikolaevsk, the administrative center of Siberia.

Marguerite feared the unexpected detour might be a ploy to lose her within the GPU matrix. American authorities expected her to arrive in Moscow on Saturday, December 2. When she did not show up, the Russians would claim they did not know where she was. The American Relief Administration (ARA), the only connection between the United States and Russia, would not be able to find her. “I would probably face a secret trial and oblivion,” she thought.

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