Northwest NEWS

August 3, 1998


I was the Russian hermit's friend

   by Oscar Roloff
   Many decades ago there lived a lonely man in a carpenter's shack along a small stream several miles from Carnation.
   His singular life style was one of peace and contentment.
   When WWII erupted in 1941, officials in Seattle sought to obtain help for the hard pressed farmers in the outer areas of the city.
   They looked at the large numbers of men on Skid Row and decided they should be put to work.
   Lesser officials were given authority and money to build a small house for the Skid men they hoped to get plus houses for the over-seers.
   The job of nabbing the Skid men was difficult. To them, the idea of having to work was awful. They were ill and had other terrible sicknesses.
   They ran out of town, hid under buildings and lay in the street.
   However, enough were nabbed and bussed to their temporary homes. Some worked for the farmers, some cleared streams and roads and such.
   One of those nabbed was a former Russian who had lived in a castle outside of Moscow with wealthy parents.
   As a youth he had gone with them on their trips to European countries and met the leaders of the lands. In addition, his parents would stay at the many castles lived in by their friends.
   Upon growing up, the Russian (I've forgotten his name) became fed up with that life. He got a handful of money and headed for Seattle.
   Wasn't long before his money ran out and he ended up on Skid Row.
   Whereas most Skid-men corked off a bit, not the Russian.
   When war ended, the work project stopped, the Skidmen headed for their old haunts. Happy they were.
   However, the Russian, soon to be called the Russian recluse, asked a farmer if he could build a small shack alongside a small stream and live there.
   The farmer said OK, and his three young daughters offered to take food to him.
   Years passed
   One cold winter the recluse nearly froze to death. The farmer got an old carpenter's shack and hauled it to the man's site and disposed of the old hovel.
   Ultimately I got in touch with the lonely man. All he had was a small table, a chair, a heater, a radio and food.
   I had to stand, no chair, and listened to the fantastic tales of his family. He remembered them all. I could have written a book about them. I checked an aged Moscow book on the rich and his parents were listed therein.
   Soon, the farmer sold his farm but the hermit was allowed to remain there.
   The three daughters, now grown, agreed to come out at intervals and bring food. I used to watch them in the cold winter when the kids brought supplies by wagon.
   One lived on Mercer Island and the other two in Seattle. I praised the three for their acts of kindness toward the old recluse.
   The man liked visitors, but few came only to gawk.
   I went because I felt sorry for him. He was my friend, one of those I like to pen for my readers. I don't think there are any more around.
   When near 100, his heart gave out. I believe I was the only writer to have visited him. Upon the recluse's death, a Seattle writer, called for background material. I refused. He was my find and I kept it that way.