In the early 20th century South East London was quite a centre for Russian expatriates. One notable person was the anarchist, Count Peter Kropotkin, who lived just outside Bromley, indeed there is a house at 6 Crescent Road Bromley that has a blue plaque indicating it was Kropotkin’s residence.
Esper was living just a few miles away at Forest Hill. Emma Goldman, a Russian Anarchist, who had emigrated to America, was visiting England and she describes in her book, “Living My Life” visiting Kropotkin for New Year’s Eve celebrations;
Accompanied by Hippolyte, I attended the Russian New Year vetcherinka, which proved a great event for me. There I met some of the outstanding personalities of the Russian colony, among them I. Goldenberg, with whom I had worked in New York in the campaign against the Russian-American Extradition Treaty; E. Serebriakov, well known for his revolutionary activities; V. Tcherkesoff, a prominent theoretician of anarchism, as well as Tchaikovsky and Kropotkin. Almost everyone present had a record of heroic effort, of years of prison and exile. Among those present was also Michael Hambourg, with his sons Mark, Boris, and Jan, already promising musicians?
At the time Esper was editing revolutionary papers, such as “On the Eve” as examples in the previous chapter.
In 1902 Lenin visited London spending a lot of time at the British library and associating with the many Russian exiles in London. Esper’s grandson Victor told a story that Lenin visited Esper’s house in South East London. When he arrived all the children were shooed upstairs to be out of the way, but Vladimir, Esper’s son told how he looked over the banisters to see the great man.
It is not possible to verify that story now, it may not have much to substantiate it, and something to be said against it. Esper was a nihilist anarchist, associated with Peter Kropotkin and Lenin was a communist, the only thing they would have in common was the hope for the downfall of the tsarist regime. However Esper was successful in getting books and papers published, and Lenin had left Germany after police action had interrupted his attempts to publish Iskra, the newspaper of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party. So he may have been looking for help and advice.
There may be more to uncover, but much of the information is in libraries and archives and awaits discovery by academics interested in the period.
During this time Esper’s oldest son, Vladimir was attending St Dunstans College near Forest Hill, this information was provided by Vladimir’s son, Victor.