[ The Bolshevik Revolution and the American Engineering Corps with the Russian Railway Service (American Expeditionary Force Siberia). ] Eleven Autograph Letters Signed from George Fainstone in Russia to his wife Helené [ in England ].
As part of American involvement in the Russian Civil War, the Russian Railway Service Corps was formed by President Wilson to operate the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Details regarding the author are sketchy. In 1929 the London Gazette reported the naturalisation of 'Fainstein, Yosel (known as George Fainstone); Russia; Upholsterer and Furniture Manufacturer; 16, Ravenscroft Avenue, Golders Green, Middlesex. 20 August, 1929.' Fainstone died in England in 1956 and his wife Helene six years later. Ten more of his RRS letters, all dating from 1918, are in the Imperial War Museum. The present collection of eleven letters totals 50pp. In fair condition, on aged and worn paper. All letters complete except for one lacking a leaf carrying two of its nine pages. The R.R.S. letterhead is to a letter dated from 'Karbin The 12/8/18', and is printed in blue and red, with an American flag (with Chinese lettering beneath it) to one side, and the device of the YMCA to the other. Written in faltering English, the letters indicate that Fainstone is of Russian Jewish extraction (he refers to 'Kosher' and 'Kipoor', and has family at Odessa), and that at the time of writing he has been parted from his wife and baby for two years. The correspondence is filled with affectionate sentiments, and Fainstone gives news of his family in Russia, but he does not go into much detail regarding his activities, and none regarding the political situation. The first eight letters show him doing work of an unspecified nature that takes him across Russia. With letters Nine and Ten he is employed with the R.R.S., and by the time of the last letter he has become an officer with the American Red Cross. In the first (from 'Thomcks', i.e. Tomsk, 20 March 1917) Fainstone explains that he is 'at the present in Siberie and will leave this place in 6 day's time for Mandshurie [i.e. Manchuria] that is Karbin Wladivostok et. et. Why I do go so fare I realy Deare can not tell you [...] I am fare from Russia about 2 1/2 Weeks travelling'. By the time of the second letter (11 September 1917) he has travelled away from Russia, and can report that he is 'leaving England for Russia, I feel quite well and the officers on the Boat are very nice Gentlemen I have proved to theym that I am an old Sailor [...] I am one of the man who must keep order on the boat by Special permission I have been selected'. In another letter of the same date he writes: 'We are 4 men to look after all of theym [...] we have a different class of people as the others was most of theym are Belgian Refuges'. Two weeks later, on 24 September 1917: 'We have arrived at Liverpool the next morning and Straite on the Ship we left Liverpool the next day and it took us to travele just 2 weeks to Archangel […] I have been selected as Delegat and food controler and after all this jerney the day befor we arrived the Captain send for me and offered me 1 lb. Tobako as a present 4 pakets', On 27 September 1917 he is 'staying in Ympol that is in the country having new position will allow me to be able to go wher ever I wish but it must take an other 2 weeks probably […] I will leave from here to Kieve and from Kieve to Orill and Elisabetograd and Odessa ther I will stop as my peuple wish me to […] As to my new position I think I will get what I want but with hard stragle they have offered me 1000 Roub. and I only could accept 1250 Roub.' On 18 November 1917 he reports: 'I have been in Mouskwo for seven day's and than I left for Odessa I have seen all my peuple and have arranged my biseness and went to Kieve that was all for biseness from there I went to Koorsk and Orele where my Brother leaves from Wilma there I have again arranged with him some more transaktion's and have lefte for Samara […] I am quite an experience man in Geographie'. A letter of 10 September 1918 begins: 'I would not write before as it was Rosh-ashono, I am steel in Vladivostok I can not tell where I shall move next as all depends on our Contingent and our comanders'. Later in the same letter he explains: 'the reason we will leave for Russia or for Japan is that I am expecting also a Governement Situation with more money'. In the last letter, from Vladivostok on 14 September 1918, he writes that he is coming 'back home through Berlin […] I am no more with the R.R.S. Corps I am with the American Red Cross full dresed in Uniform as an oficier'.