Season of Greetings in 2002 started for me on December 24, 2002, after breakfast time. I was in jail in Saratov, during my trial. Warden have opened first door to my jail cell and have said, "Savenko [Limonov's real name -- Ed.], be ready for going out, with your belongings!" And he closed the door. Me and my cellmate Pavel Rybkin started to pack my belongings. I was thinking on wide range of questions, such as, "Why? Where are they going to transfer me?" "For what reason they are decided to transfer me after only two weeks' confinement in cell 29, Prison Number 2 of Saratov Region?" I didn't have answers to these questions.
Prison No. 2 was located inside of Camp No. 2 near a town called Engels, of Saratov Region. (Once upon a time Engels was a capital of Autonomous Republic of Germans-On-The-Volga.) Regime of Camp No. 2 was "severe," Prison No. 2 was also prison of "strict regime," so it was against the law to transfer me there in the first place. As I was undergoing judicial process, was on trial, not yet sentenced, so I was supposed to be held in a regular jail. As to Prison No. 2 it was created in order to break high ranking criminals. Cell Number 39 was previously occupied by known "Godfather" named Petrukha; also by the former head of the administration of Balakovo (town in the south of the Saratov region); and other criminal celebrities. However celebrated, cell was about six square meters, of which 1 square meter was occupied by public style stinking toilet. Small slot of window was covered by scraps of metal. Table and two benches were made of steel. Very unpleasant place, even by Russian prison standards.
Only after it was dark, they let me out of my cell. I shaked hands with Rybkin: monkey-like, smiling, good-humored creature, and walked out, carrying all my belongings plus mattress. Wardens never will help a prisoner, so they just followed me on first floor, smiling. Most of wardens of Prison No. 2 were Kazakhs from Kazakhstan, Mongol yellow faces. On first floor they ordered me to undress. They also searched all my things, one by one. Those brutes, however, were almost friendly with me, they did their job in half-strength. All search done, they have closed me in one of a cells. It proved to be absolutely empty! But corridor, where wardens have searched me, was full of prisoners. All of them were squatting along the wall, faces to wall, hands on backs of the head. Now, sitting alone in empty cell, I finally understood that I was privileged prisoner. Instead of sitting in tortuous position in corridor, I was having some rest!
Meanwhile, through tiny hole of a window, I could hear the noises of a camp. Camp's radio have announced the names of best prisoners, those who have worked hard, and those who were exemplary, exceptionally disciplined. Then I hared the noise of many pairs of boots and sort of fascist aggressive music. Then camp became silent. I was thinking, "What happened? Why prisoners were squatted in corridor, their sacks along the wall?"
I have found only one explanation: prisoners all will be transferred to other prisons and camps. Prison No. 2 will be closed. Some weak rumors were circulated among us already for a few days, but so many rumors are circulated inside of prisons! Most of them never came through.
After few hours of solitary confinement inside an empty cell I started to worry. I could hear nothing from corridor, because the door was so thick! What if they all, the prisoners and wardens, have left prison and have forgotten me here! Idea was very stupid, nevertheless I started to knock on the door. Nothing happened. I have repeated my knocking. Big water-blue eye, have appeared in peep-hole: "What do you need?"
"Don't forget me here!" I said.
"No, we will not," said water-blue eye. He didn't mock me, he was serious. They will not abandon me here.