On Sunday, the third of Tammuz, after 19 days’ imprisonment in Spalerka, the Rebbe was exiled for a three-year sentence to the remote inland city of Kostrama. Summoned to the prison office at midday, he was informed that he was allowed to visit his home until evening, but if he did not report to the railway station in time to catch the 8:00 PM train to Kostrama, he would be returned to Spalerka.

His home was soon packed with chassidim, and at 7:00, when it was time to set out for the station, he took leave of his family privately.

Thousands flocked to the station to farewell him. As soon as he arrived there he was tightly surrounded by guards – three Chekists, a number of Georgian policemen and soldiers, and two senior personnel from the department of criminal investigation. Many chassidim wanted to accompany him at least for a few stations, but the GPU prohibited the sale of any tickets for that train. So it was that on his journey, the Rebbe was accompanied by one of his daughters,1 a close friend,2 and his son-in-law, R. Shmaryahu Gourary.

Late the following night they arrived in Kostrama, where one of his chassidim3 had prepared an apartment. The Rebbe was subordinate there to the orders of the police and the Cheka, and had been told that on his arrival he was to report to the local police station. Nevertheless, he decided not to do so that night.

When he did appear there and filled in all the forms as required of an exiled prisoner, he was warned by the local police chief: “You are an exiled prisoner; you are a criminal; you are here as a prisoner who is serving his sentence for his offenses against the Soviet regime. You must remain in this town and not cross the city limits without permission. If you want to move to a different address, you must previously notify the GPU. You know of course that the police force will be aware of all your activities and will know everything that takes place in your home.”

True to their word, the police and the Cheka did not take their eyes off the Rebbe for a single moment. Nevertheless, they treated him reasonably.

Kostrama was a big city with only about a hundred Jewish families – simple folk who were far removed from Torah scholarship. They had only one shul, and whenever the Rebbe came there to daven, it was filled with Jews who had not set foot inside it for years. The Jews of Kostrama, a major city hallowed in the eyes of the local Pravoslav population,4 suddenly had a Rebbe in their midst!

Meanwhile, the Leningrad committee decided to continue seeking ways and means to secure the Rebbe’s complete liberation. Accordingly, they planned to appeal to the Chief Prosecutor of the USSR, Krilinko, for an amnesty, in the hope that they would be helped by the efforts of Mrs. Fishkova and by the pressure being applied from abroad. Their delegate, R. Shmaryahu Gourary, duly set out for Moscow, where the local committee decided that before pursuing the above plan, they should first try to calculate its prospects at this time.

They therefore proposed that they should relax their endeavors for at least six months, because the GPU would fiercely fight any proposal to grant the Rebbe complete liberty. They argued that the GPU would not even allow such a request to be read by the appropriate authorities. They would regard it as an insolent initiative on the part of the observant Jews who, a mere week after the Rebbe’s exile, sought to make a mockery of the Cheka.

They decided instead to make use of the good offices of Mrs. Fishkova. She duly dispatched one of her aides, a Jew, to try to persuade Messing, the head of the Leningrad GPU who had arrested the Rebbe, not to obstruct efforts to free him.

His response was short and sharp: “There is no chance whatever for a reprieve.”

The aide pleaded that the Rebbe was the innocent victim of a vicious libel, but Messing insisted: “A reprieve is out of the question!”

This reply did not paralyze the efforts of the Moscow committee, though they realized that the Rebbe would not be able to return to Leningrad, where Messing reigned supreme.

At this point Mrs. Fishkova stepped in and personally lobbied the heads of the Soviet regime. The result: after ten days in Kostrama, the Rebbe was granted a complete reprieve. And when he next made his weekly visit to report to the local police station, the GPU official greeted him with a friendly smile: “You no longer have to report here; you are completely free. And by the way, I am happy to be the first to give you this news.”5

Thus it was that at 10:00 AM on Thursday, 14 Tammuz, escorted by two representatives of the local Jewish community, the Rebbe left Kostrama for Leningrad as a free citizen.6