PROJECT: After Dimitri
I know it’s been a while — again — since my last post but things have been quite hectic around here (in a good way).
Anyway, if you are reading this, you are probably wondering who the heck Dimitri is…!
Allow me to tell you the story of Dimitri.
Dimitri was born in pre-revolutionary Russia at the end of the 19th century. Following the russian tradition stating that the second son should serve in the army, — the first getting the land and the third becoming a clergyman — Dimitri joined a cavalry school and soon joined the Tsar’s cavalry. He later joined the Imperial protection aviation company.
On March 15, 1917, the Tsar abdicated as the Bolsheviks came to power in Russia. Unfortunately for Dimitri, this meant that he — as a white Russian — had to flee his country. He did have a dream: the USA.
Dimitri got on the Transsiberian on route to Vladivostok. He was very fortunate as the conductor invited him to his Kupe (cabin) which saved him from many Bolshevik controls. When he arrived in Irkutsk, the situation was quite critical but once again, Dimitri had good luck on his side. A Belgian soldier, Théophile Bovene gave him his passport. Dimitri then bought some civilian clothes, changed the picture in the passport and went on with his journey. Everything was well until another control of documents. What a surprise for Dimitri to see that this control was lead by none other that a sergeant who happened to be his right in the regimental platoon and to whom he awarded two medals. Dimitri was obviously paralyzed with fear as this man would certainly recognize him and know he is not a Belgian citizen. To his surprise, the sergeant said: «Your passport is in order, Comrade.» This man just saved Dimitri’s life.
A Life of Opportunities.
Once Dimitri arrived in the USA, first in San Francisco for two months, he held many small jobs. He then left for Washington to visit the Russian embassy where he lived for three weeks before heading north to Boston. There, he broke his leg and while in the hospital met Mrs. Converse who took him to her mansion near Boston. After a fight with Mrs. Converse he packed his belongings and went to New York City. Once again, luck was on Dimitri’s side as while walking down Broadway he met an old pilot friend of his who offered him a job as a tea taster in Shanghai where he remained for nearly six years. In 1922, due to the economic depression, Dimitri was forced to return to New York City and then Boston once more. He once again held many small jobs but during one of them he met someone who suggested he should apply to the Harvard School of Economics where he was accepted. After Graduating, Dimitri was hired by the Gillette Company. Working for Gillette, he was transferred to London — where he got married a first time—, Vienna and Warsaw. While in Poland, he was offered a better position at General Motors. He worked there until 1931 when an economic depression arrived again and he was ready to go back to NYC. That’s when he met Irene and married for the second time. They both left for NYC but Irene was unhappy there. Their marriage did not hold and expecting a baby she went back to Poland where George — Anka’s father — was born. Once again, Dimitri held many small jobs which took him to New Orleans and Los Angeles where he met his third and last wife..
Dimitri’s third wife was an artist and she had an exhibition in a town called Ojai (pronounced “Oh-Hi”) where he noticed a sign promoting a piece of land. He and his wife bought the land, built a house and lived there until he passed away in 1971.
If you’ve made to here, you are probably wondering why I’m telling you the story of Dimitri. Well, as you might have guessed, Dimitri was Anka’s (my wife) grandfather.
Today, nearly 100 years after Dimitri, we are about to embark on an incredible journey and follow his footsteps. This adventure will last 3 months, be 30’000km long and takes us through 3 continents and 5 countries.
Our first stop will be St.-Petersburg. Then we’ll take the train to Moscow where we’ll hop onto the Transsiberian to Irkutsk making stops in Kazan and Tomsk. From Irkutsk we will go to Ulan Bator (not on Dimitri’s journey) and visit Mongolia for 10 days or so. Our next stop will be Beijing and China for one month. From China, we will fly to Vancouver and drive down the West Coast to Ojai then drive across the USA and back up the East Coast to Boston which will be the end of our adventure.
I will obviously be taking pictures and Anka will be writing. Our idea is to cover a few subjects that are linked, in some way or another to Dimitri. We’ll let you know more about those later.
Although we will be traveling as light as possible, we should have a computer and I plan on keeping you updated. We should also have a live GPS tracker but that’s still being tested.
There you have it.
I hope you enjoyed a brief glimpse into Dimitri’s life.
Feel free to comment of ask questions in the comments below.
Have a wonderful weekend!