32,000 & Mrs. Rubens

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In the first years of the Soviet Union, to escape from Russia was difficult and dangerous. Today it has become almost impossible, an attempt tantamount to suicide. Barbed and electrically charged wire, searchlight-equipped watch towers. 24-hour frontier patrols aided by bloodhounds and police dogs guard every mile of border. Therefore, excitement was great in Latvia last week when Victor Konarski, onetime Soviet port chief at Leningrad, made good his escape to Riga.

Comrade Konarski, although he had served four years and eight months of a five-year sentence at Wytschera Soviet

Prison Camp, preferred to take the desperate chance of escape rather than hope for release. Weak from scurvy and dysentery, Konarski told correspondents:

"The camp contains about 32,000 prisoners. They are kept there until death results from hard work, bad food and consequent sickness. I met two American citizens in the camp, Arthur Hanley, a chemical engineer from California, and Edward Rose, a machinist from Boston, Mass. They said they came to Russia in 1921 as volunteer workers. Rose said he was arrested in Leningrad in 1923. Hanley was caught trying to escape from Russia to Latvia in 1925. Each was sentenced to ten years' imprisonment, but, although they have served out their sentences, they are still being held. They told me they know of three other native-born Americans who are held prisoner in other Soviet camps."

Meanwhile, last week the U. S. State Department continued to busy itself with the case of famed Mrs. Ruth Marie Rubens (alias Robinson), one U. S. citizen officially known to be in jail in Moscow (TIME, Dec. 27). In Moscow on December 9 able, active U. S. Charge d'Affaires Loy W. Henderson learned that Mrs. Rubens had "disappeared"' from the big Hotel National next door to the U. S. Embassy. On January 18 the Soviet Foreign Office finally admitted that Mrs. Rubens was under arrest, failed to say on what charge.

"Mr. Henderson," the U. S. State Department announced, "was also instructed to say that the Government of the United States is unable to accept any interpretation . . . which would operate to restrict in any way whatsoever the granting without delay of requests made by its representatives to visit American nationals under arrest. . . ."

Although Germany has the same kind of agreement with Russia, not one or two but hundreds of Germans are today in Soviet jails and for years German diplomatic & consular officials have not been allowed to see them. The U. S. State Department, fully aware of all this, forehandedly reminded Moscow that, although Mrs. Rubens entered Russia on a fraudulent U. S. passport, it was stamped with an authentic visa of the U. S. S. R.

Not yet established, despite U. S. State Department investigation, is the citizenship of "Mr. Robinson" or "Mr. Rubens," who is also under arrest. Of him nothing is known except that he arrived in Russia with Mrs. Rubens and registered at the hotel as her husband.

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