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Title: Anastasia: The autobiography of H.I.H. the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nicholaevna of Russia

Author: Eugenia Smith

Dubious author: Emperor of Russia daughter of Nicholas II Grand Duchess Anastasiia Nikolaevna

Release date: July 28, 2022 [eBook #68616]

Language: English

Original publication: United States: Robert Speller & Sons, 1963

Credits: Thomas Frost, Tim Lindell and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This book was produced from images made available by the HathiTrust Digital Library.)



This is the only authentic autobiography of the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nicholaevna, fourth daughter of the late Emperor Nicholas II and the late Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia.

The Grand Duchess Anastasia furnishes authentic information and many previously unpublished details concerning the life of the Imperial Family and suite from the days of her childhood to the date of the murder of her parents and other members of her Family in Ekaterinburg on the night of July 16-17, 1918.

Her story is divided into six major parts: the youthful years, the period of the First World War, arrest and exile, life in Tobolsk, life in Ekaterinburg, and the period after the tragedy which includes her rescue and escape to Bukovina.

The life of a Grand Duchess of Russia was no downy bed of roses. Discipline was imposed by the Tsar and Tsarina, particularly the latter. Study was an essential duty which took many hours. During the war years there were responsibilities connected with the operation of hospitals for the wounded. Always over the Family hung the fear of the possible demise of the heir to the throne, the young Tsesarevich and Grand Duke Alexei Nicholaevich, who had inherited haemophilia through his Mother.

The Grand Duchess Anastasia rejects vigorously various accusations directed against each of her parents. She explains in her preface the reasons for her long submergence and for her present re-emergence forty-five years after her reported death.

Her style is brisk and invigorating. Her sense of humor repeatedly delights with accounts of lighter events and anecdotes.

This is an invaluable historical record.

33 West 42nd Street
New York, N.Y. 10036

[Pg ii]


Photograph by Stephen Gaillard

Portrait by Richard Banks


[Pg iii]


The Autobiography of H.I.H. The Grand Duchess
Anastasia Nicholaevna of Russia

Volume I


New York

[Pg iv]

© 1963 by Robert Speller & Sons, Publishers, Inc.

33 West 42nd Street

New York, New York 10036

Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 63-22672

First edition
All rights reserved

Printed in the United States of America

[Pg v]


I dedicate this book

To My Family:

To My Father, His Imperial Majesty, the Emperor Nicholas II,

To My Mother, Her Imperial Majesty, the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna,

To My Brother, His Imperial Highness, the Tsesarevich Alexei Nicholaevich,

To My Sisters, Their Imperial Highnesses, the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, and Marie;

To those dear and understanding friends who perished with My Family in Ekaterinburg;

Dr. Eugene Botkin, Mlle. Anna Demidova, Ivan Kharitonov, and Trup;

To those faithful friends and companions who, because of their loyalty to us, perished before or after the tragedy which befell My Family:

Countess Anastasia Hendrikova, Mlle. Ekaterina Schneider, Prince Vasily Dolgorukov, Count Ilia Tatishchev, Nagorny, Chemodurov, and Ivan Sidniev;

To My Brother’s youthful companion and helper, whose fate I never learned:

Leonid Sidniev;

To My Uncle, His Imperial Highness, the Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich, and his secretary and friend, Nicholas Johnson, both of whom disappeared, apparently murdered by the Bolsheviks;

To My Aunt, Her Imperial Highness, the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, and her faithful nun, Varvara, who were brutally murdered by the Bolsheviks;

To other members of the Imperial Family who were murdered by the Bolsheviks;

To all members of the Imperial Family who died during the First World War and the Civil War in Russia;

To all members of the Imperial Family, living and dead, who survived the Bolshevik revolution;

[Pg vi]

To those dear and helpful friends:

Count Apraxin and Captain Nilov;

To the two officers who came to pay their respects and salute My Father for the last time at the station at Tsarskoe Selo just before our departure for Siberia:

Kushelev and Artasalev (?);

To friends who voluntarily accompanied My Family into exile;

To my rescuer, Alexander;

To Nikolai; to the Serbian, the Croatian, and the former Austrian soldier; and to all others who befriended and aided me during the long journey from the vicinity of Ekaterinburg to a refuge in Bukovina;

To those millions of heroes of the Russian Empire, sung and unsung, who gave their lives in defense of their country against the Central Powers and against the Bolsheviks;

To all members of the Imperial Armed Forces who served their Emperor and their country faithfully and loyally at all times;

To the millions who died in Russia from execution, starvation and other causes deriving from Bolshevik cruelty, tyranny and misrule;

To the members of the Imperial Armed Forces who are now living outside their homeland and especially those among them who are maimed and destitute;

To all who have helped me in any way since I left Russia;

To all these—departed and living, known and unknown, relatives and friends—I am eternally grateful.

[Pg vii]


The present book could never have been completed without the encouragement, inspiration and help of friends who were interested in having the story of my family, as known to me, the youngest of the four daughters of the late Emperor Nicholas II and the Empress Alexandra, and my own story made known to the world.

My indebtedness to these friends is deep and lasting. First of all must be mentioned the late Mrs. Helen Kohlsaat Wells, a close friend and confidante for many, many years. She worked with me closely during the years 1930 to 1934 during which we completed the first complete draft of the manuscript. Many years later we worked intermittently on revising the manuscript until Mrs. Wells’ untimely death. Also in a separate category is the late Mr. John Adams Chapman, whose friendship and counsel were so valuable at all times. Deserving of special gratitude are Mrs. Marjorie Wilder Emery, Miss Edith Kohlsaat, Mr. and Mrs. Norman Hanson, Mrs. John Adams Chapman, Mr. and Mrs. Louis Ellsworth Laflin, Jr., and Mr. and Mrs. Francis Beidler II.

[Pg ix]

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations xi
Author’s Preface xiii
      Chapter I Earliest Memories 3
      Chapter II School Days 15
      Chapter III Cruises 25
      Chapter IV The Crimea 40
      Chapter V Spala: 1912 53
      Chapter VI Jubilee: 1913 66
      Chapter VII Eve of the War: 1914 75
      Chapter VIII No Choice But War 83
      Chapter IX Family Heartaches 95
      Chapter X Mogilev 113
      Chapter XI Our Last Autumn in Tsarskoe Selo 126
      Chapter XII Revolution 140
      Chapter XIII Abdication 152
      Chapter XIV Arrest 173
      Chapter XV Subjugation 182
      Chapter XVI Departure 193
      Chapter XVII Journey 203
      Chapter XVIII Orientation 211
      Chapter XIX Winter 226
      Chapter XX Danger 236
      Chapter XXI Separation 248[Pg x]
      Chapter XXII Reunion 265
      Chapter XXIII Deprivation and Courage 278
      Chapter XXIV The Nights Are Long 286
      Chapter XXV Accusation 291
      Chapter XXVI Fear and Dread 297
      Chapter XXVII Our Final Decision 303
      Chapter XXVIII Dawn Turns to Dusk 314
      Chapter XXIX Dugout 323
      Chapter XXX Recovery 338
      Chapter XXXI Westward Trek 348
      Chapter XXXII Alexander 358
      Chapter XXXIII Escape 373
      Chapter XXXIV Refuge 378
Index 383

[Pg xi]

List of Illustrations


The Grand Duchess Anastasia (portrait)


The Grand Duchess Anastasia

Announcement of Birth of the Grand Duchess Anastasia

The Empress Alexandra

The Grand Duchess Anastasia, the Tsesarevich Alexei and the Emperor Nicholas II

The Tsesarevich Alexei, the Empress Alexandra and the Emperor Nicholas II

The Russian Imperial Family on visit to the British Royal Family

The Grand Duke Alexander and the Grand Duchess Xenia and Their Children

Alexander Palace, Tsarskoe Selo

The New Palace, Livadia

Nicholas II

The Empress Alexandra

The Tsesarevich Alexei

Nicholas II and the Empress Alexandra

The Grand Duchess Anastasia

The Grand Duchesses Marie, Tatiana, Anastasia and Olga

The Empress Alexandra with Her Daughters

Nicholas II and the Empress Alexandra and Their Children

The Grand Duchesses Olga and Tatiana

The Grand Duchesses Marie and Anastasia

The Grand Duchesses Anastasia, Olga, Tatiana and Marie

Nicholas II

The Grand Duchess Anastasia, the Empress Alexandra and President Raymond Poincaré

[Pg xii]


The Dowager Empress Marie

The Emperor Nicholas II

The Empress Alexandra

The Tsesarevich Alexei

The Grand Duke Michael

The Grand Duchess Elizabeth

The Grand Duchesses Anastasia, Marie and Tatiana

Nicholas II and His Children

The Tsesarevich Alexei and the Grand Duchesses Olga, Anastasia and Tatiana

The Grand Duchesses Marie, Olga, Anastasia and Tatiana

Views of Tobolsk

Ipatiev House, Ekaterinburg

The Death Chamber, Ipatiev House, Ekaterinburg

The Handkerchief

The Piece of Glass

Map of Ekaterinburg and Vicinity

The Grand Duchesses Marie and Anastasia

The Grand Duchess Anastasia

Nicholas II with His Children and His Nephew, Prince Vasili

The Grand Duchess Anastasia

The Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Anastasia and Marie

The Grand Duchess Anastasia

The Grand Duchess Anastasia and Marjorie Hanson

The Grand Duchess Anastasia


Cameos of the Grand Duchess Anastasia Through the Years

[Pg xiii]

Author’s Preface

A few weeks after my arrival in Bukovina—after I had had time to recover from the emotional and nervous shock and body wounds which I had suffered at the time of the tragedy on the night of July 16-17, 1918—I decided to write about my home life with my beloved family, about our arrest, about our exile in Tobolsk and Ekaterinburg, about the assassination of the family in Ekaterinburg, and about my rescue and subsequent escape across the frontier.

I made many, many notes, totaling over three hundred pages. I spent hours and hours in the writing, days and nights of introspective experiences, of grief and horror. I wrote in a peasant cottage in a lonely village dotted with thatched-roof houses. I wrote at night in the candlelight, agonizing over my story. At times the only relief I had from my misery was the howling or barking of a dog. I remembered my beloved Father’s words, “Dearest children, are you awake?” Tear after tear dropped as I labored.

I remembered also my Father’s desire that a history of Russia should be written by a member of our family. My Father had had in mind that such a history might be written by my two oldest sisters and, to that end, he gave them much valuable information. As it has turned out, it is the youngest sister, the one least prepared to do so, upon whom devolves the task of writing such a book, if it is to be written. That is something for the future.

In 1918, after my escape, I thought that the book I had decided to write about my family and myself might include historical data and interpretation which would be of interest[Pg xiv] to the world and would be of benefit to the Russian people and to their, and my, native land. I particularly wanted to let the world know the facts about the arrest, exile and murder of my parents, sisters and brother, and about the nature of the Bolshevik regime in my country. It was the notes for this book that I produced so painfully and painstakingly.

These early notes unfortunately vanished in 1919 when I was on my way by train from Rumania to Serbia—second homeland to us Russians—while in the vicinity of Turnu-Severin. I had accepted from another traveller—I thought he was an Italian—his kind offer of a slice of bread and a piece of ham. Three or four hours later I became ill and had to leave the compartment. When I returned some time later, the heartless traveller, who had no pity for a young woman travelling alone, had disappeared along with my suitcase and a blanket. The suitcase contained not only my precious notes, so laboriously produced, but also some personal belongings, some letters, and a list of about one hundred names of the men who had done most of the harm to Russia, and to my family. These names I had written down from memory, based upon information furnished by my rescuer, Alexander. Most of these names were already familiar to me.

In Yugoslavia, I resumed work on my book. I continued the task later in Rumania and, once more, in Yugoslavia. I again wrote many pages of notes, using a pencil stub and scraps of paper. Such of these notes as remained legible were used subsequently in the preparation of the first draft of the present book.

Later, in the early thirties, some years after my arrival in the United States, I began to revise my materials which were in a disorganized but generally readable condition, assisted by my good friends, the late Mrs. Helen Kohlsaat Wells, and her sister, Miss Edith Kohlsaat. During this phase of the undertaking I was determined to complete the book as soon as possible and to make provision for its publication only after my own demise.

For about twenty years, I was unable to work on the[Pg xv] manuscript, due to the necessity of making my own living. During this period I gave no attention whatever to the manuscript which I had confided for safekeeping to my lawyer, a friend who was aware of my real identity and who wished to help me ultimately to find a publisher.

Five or six years ago I decided to resume work on the book. A complete revision and reorganization of my materials were again required. Once more I had the benefit of Helen Wells’ assistance and counsel.

I had also the great and valued encouragement of my good friends the late John Adams Chapman and Mrs. Marjorie Wilder Emery.

Early in 1963 I mentioned to a friend in New York, who was unaware of my identity, that I had in my possession a manuscript on the Russian Revolution. He suggested I get in touch with a close friend, Dr. Jon P. Speller of Robert Speller & Sons, Publishers, Inc. This I did. The first member of the firm with whom I talked was Mr. Robert E. B. Speller, Jr., who surprised me with the depth of his knowledge of my family. I informed him that the Grand Duchess Anastasia had left the manuscript with me, a close friend, shortly before her death in 1919. I hoped—naively—to achieve early publication of the manuscript while keeping secret my true identity. Dr. Jon Speller then joined the conversation. He asked if I would be willing to take a polygraph examination to back up my statements. Upon my consenting to do so, they agreed to read the manuscript.

They, and their father, Mr. Robert E. B. Speller, Sr., President of the firm, after reading the manuscript became convinced for various reasons that the manuscript could have been written only by a member of the Imperial family. They questioned me at length and finally I confided to Dr. Jon Speller and then to Mr. Robert Speller, Jr. that their suspicions were correct, that I was Anastasia, but that, if possible, I would like to retain my anonymity.

Therefore the polygraph examination, given by the noted polygraph expert Mr. Cleve Backster, was begun by testing me[Pg xvi] on my statements that I was a friend of Anastasia. Mr. Backster quickly recognized that I was withholding pertinent information, even to the extent that I could be Anastasia; I finally admitted my real identity to him. In a series lasting more than thirty hours in all, Mr. Backster became convinced that I am really Anastasia. I signed a contract with Robert Speller & Sons and began editing my book with Mr. Earl L. Packer, senior editor of the firm, and Mr. Robert Speller, Jr.

My reasons for bringing the book before the world at the present time will, I hope, be readily understood. They are not complicated. First, I wished to come to the defense of my deceased parents, against whom many unfounded accusations and slanders were made. Second, I felt that various distortions of history which have been given wide circulation needed to be corrected. Third, I wished to expose the falsity of the claims of other persons to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia. Fourth, I desired to establish a foundation which would set up a museum, with a small chapel therein, to honor my family who loved Russia so faithfully; and also to assure, in so far as I might be able to do so, funds for its maintenance, hoping proceeds from the sale of the book might in large measure provide such funds. Fifth, I wished to establish a fund for the provision of financial assistance to destitute former Russian soldiers and officers; again I hoped that the proceeds of the sale of the book might help in this undertaking. Sixth, I planned that, in the event the proceeds of the sale of my book should provide sufficient funds to enable me to do so, I would assist financially a very small number of charitable and philanthropic organizations which, for the most part, I have already definitively selected.

Sometime earlier I had come to doubt that, if publication of the book were postponed until after my death, as I had earlier resolved, my projects would ever materialize. Also, I thought unlikely the possibility that anyone but myself could or would make knowledgeable and effective defense against whatever[Pg xvii] unfavorable criticism might be made of the book and myself upon its publication.

I have had the opportunity for a relatively quiet life in the United States, where I have had comparative freedom from all the attentions that might have surrounded an earlier reappearance in the world in my true identity. But my purposes, as enumerated above, could not be accomplished by remaining longer submerged. So I have resolved to balance the opportunities for good against the possible personal inconveniences, hoping still to be able, after publication of my book, to continue to live undisturbed a simple, private life devoted in large part to further writing.

A.N.R. 1963

[Pg 3]

The Youthful Years


It was June 5th, 1901, by the Russian calendar, June 18th by the new. Suspense and excitement abounded at Peterhof. The accouchement of the Tsarina was momentarily expected. The fourth child, surely this time it would be a boy. Russia bowed to the little Grand Duchess Olga, then to the baby Tatiana. But Marie, a third daughter in succession, had been entirely too many. However, all would be righted if this fourth child were the long-awaited Tsarevich.

At last, the guns: the baby had arrived; a three hundred gun salute would announce an Imperial Grand Duke and heir to the Russian throne. One hundred and one guns would announce a Grand Duchess. The guns saluted a second time. The people paused to count—three, four, five, on and on, came the rhythmical booms. The populace stood breathless. Twenty-three, on and on, one hundred, one hundred and one, the guns stopped. No, it could not be. It was not possible. Alas, yes. The fourth child of the Tsar and Tsarina of Russia was another daughter. Caught in an anticlimax, the man in the street went his way, but diplomatic Russia said “Bah” and resented the Tsarina who could not fulfill her function. The Tsar and the Tsarina accepted the inevitable and said, “It is God’s will.”

All the while I, the unconscious cause of this frustration, had lain peacefully in the same little crib which had cradled the three sisters before me. It was not long however before the unwelcomed wee one won the hearts of its parents and I[Pg 4] was christened Anastasia, but to the world outside I was number four, almost forgotten beyond the family circle.

As a child, my tomboy spirit predominated and I was permitted to indulge this urge until I became something of a novelty in a court reeking with formality. Nothing pleased me more than an audience, especially when they nodded and whispered “cute.”

My next older sister Marie and I were inseparable. At an early age my greatest delight was to arouse her curiosity. Often when we were at the height of some make-believe, I would suddenly dart away. Marie was as slow to action as I was quick, so I would slip out of sight into one of my hiding places. Then began the hunt I revelled in. The searchers went around, as I listened from my vantage point, purring with satisfaction when I heard the call, “Anastasia, where are you? Be a good girl and give us a hint.” These games began good-naturedly, but often when the hunt dragged on, I lost patience and felt compelled to reveal my whereabouts.

Secret hiding places became an obsession with me, especially tiny ones so snug I had to squeeze into them. There I often stayed gloating over the bewilderment and eventual rage of searchers. Once when I was quite young I slipped out of the nursery onto the balcony. It was late in the afternoon and the long shadows fascinated me, so that I must have remained there quietly for a long time. Suddenly I heard excited voices and I decided to keep perfectly quiet. At dusk, in the uncertain light, I flattened myself against the shadowed wall. The sentries were spreading over the park; the worry was growing. I was thrilled when I knew they were searching for me, but I was a little frightened of the gathering darkness. I ran quickly down the stairs and to the main floor. Mother was talking to one of the officers when her eyes suddenly fell on me.

“Anastasia,” she cried, “where have you been?”

“Right on the balcony and no one could find me,” I answered with all the glee in my voice I could muster.

[Pg 5]

Almost before I could finish, Father was beside me. He took me by the hand. One look at his face warned me that something was very wrong. Without a word he signaled to the distressed nurse. Her face was flushed. She marched me to my room and I never ventured one look of triumph as she undressed me. She did not say a word until I was in bed. Then she said, “You were a very naughty girl to worry your Mother so. She was very hurt.”

Mother always came to kiss me goodnight. I didn’t stir in my bed lest I should miss her footsteps. Finally I heard her approaching with my sisters; their voices sounded happy. She stopped at the door for only a moment, and Marie entered the room alone. When the nurse turned out the lights, I realized that Mother was not going to kiss me that night.

The next morning a penitent little girl asked herself: “Will Mother come to me now?” And: “Will she be cross with me?” I was full of contrition, but how could I express it if Mother were not in a receptive mood? My eyes fastened on the door, hoping to see Mother’s face. Suddenly she appeared. I ran to her and wrapped myself around her neck. I promised never to worry her again.

Mother’s daily round took her to the nursery the first thing every morning before breakfast to say a prayer with us children and to read one chapter to us from the Bible. She was usually attired in a beautiful dressing gown of white—occasionally in other soft colors—her hair braided and tied with silk ribbon to match the trimming of her gown, a habit acquired from her grandmother, Queen Victoria of England. These were precious moments to us children. She was a fairytale empress—stately and beautiful.

On July 30th, 1904, Russian calendar, August 12th by the new, my little brother was born on a Friday noon. Three hundred guns announced the birth of the heir from the Fortress of Sts. Peter and Paul, in St. Petersburg.

On the same day, it was learned that the Russian fleet at Port Arthur had been sunk on August 10th by the Japanese[Pg 6] navy. My Mother often said it was a day of sunshine and a day of darkness at the same time. It would have been customary to hold a large banquet to celebrate the birth of an heir to the throne but my Father would not hear of it. Instead, prayers were offered in the churches for the lost ones at sea and for the baby Tsarevich. All day long the bells rang out from all the churches of Russia. Thirteen years later Mother spoke of this day as being as gloomy as the day we arrived in Ekaterinburg. It was on Alexei’s thirteenth birthday, and about the same hour in 1917, that the family was informed they must leave their beloved home in Tsarskoe Selo.

I do not remember Alexei’s christening since I was so small, but I have been told about it and have often seen his christening mantle and the cross which he wore on a chain around his neck. These were displayed in a glass case along with the christening dresses of us sisters. Olga’s was an exact copy of that of Marie Antoinette’s older daughter. It had been made in Lyons. Olga and Tatiana held a corner of the long mantle which was attached to the cushion because of its weight. Alexei’s godmothers were his grandmother, the Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna; his sister, Olga Nicholaevna; his aunts, Mother’s sisters, the Princesses Irene of Prussia and Victoria of Battenberg (subsequently Marchioness of Milford Haven). The godfathers were his grand uncles, the Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich and King Edward VII of Great Britain; his cousin, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany; his great-grandfather, King Christian IX of Denmark; his uncle, the Grand Duke Ernest Louis of Hesse, the Empress’ only brother; and his Aunt Irene’s husband, Prince Henry of Prussia. To commemorate his birth the cornerstone for the Feodorovsky Sobor (Church) was laid in Tsarskoe Selo.

Now that this handsome brother had arrived, the handicap of my life, that of being a girl, seemed somewhat lifted. Alexei was a beautiful little boy with a very light complexion and curly auburn hair which my Mother brushed lovingly into a curl in the middle, big blue eyes, long eyelashes and a[Pg 7] most alluring smile. He was the most fascinating thing in my existence, so whenever an opportunity presented itself, I ran into his nursery bringing various toys to him. Mother had many pet names for him, among them: “My precious Agoo” and “Kroshka” which means crumb. Olga and Tatiana were permitted to hold the baby; Marie and I could only hold his feet.

One of my most vivid childhood experiences, when I was nearly four years old, happened on a Sunday when we sisters as usual were dressed in white, ready to go to church. We heard excited voices and saw Mother running upstairs. This frightened us and we all ran after her to the nursery. There I saw a spot of blood on little Alexei’s shirt. While nurse was bathing him he sneezed, thereby causing a discharge of blood from his navel. Though I was very young, I could easily tell from the faces about me that something was wrong. At the time just what it was I could not understand. A few years later, when I was about seven, we three younger children were playing in the garden when our brother fell over his cart. Soon a large blue swelling developed around his ankle. When Mother came she fainted at the sight, knowing it was the dreaded haemophilia that might kill her son. As a result, the lives of Father and Mother were noticeably saddened. Father searched in every country for a specialist, but without success.

We were continually reminded that we must be careful of Alexei. He was so easily hurt. The toys I was in the habit of bringing to him were removed before they reached his hands. Once he fell on his head and his face swelled so terribly that his eyes were almost closed and his whole face became a purplish yellow, a dreadful sight. At one moment he would be perfectly well; an hour later, he would lie in bed seriously ill. We were instructed not to speak to anybody about it, but we innocently gave away the secret of his illness to some members of our staff who had led us into believing that they already knew all about it.

[Pg 8]

Mother was constantly at his side, never trusting any one else to care for him. Each time, when he recovered, Mother was entirely exhausted, so much so that she was unable to leave her room for days at a time.

When Alexei was well and his normal chubby self, it was hard to remember that we had to be careful when we played with him. I often felt belligerent when he teased me saying, “Go away, you’re playing just like a little girl; you don’t know this game.” I maintained my composure pretty well and occasionally retaliated by refusing to play with him, but he bitterly complained of such treatment. Suddenly he would be well again at which time it was difficult to restrain him from getting too bold or playing games that might end in disaster.

Alexei had several guards, Cossacks who were trustworthy and on duty day and night. Every morning they searched the palace grounds before any member of the family could walk about in them. Alexei also had two special attendants. One was Derevenko, nicknamed Dina, a huge strong sailor, a member of the crew of Father’s yacht, the “Standard.” He was no relation of Dr. Derevenko, Alexei’s physician. Dina applied hot compresses and light massages to Alexei, when they were needed. Dina also gave foam treatments, and always carried him around when he was not able to walk. Unfortunately Dina turned against his master during the revolution and was later arrested by the Soviets when they found some of Alexei’s belongings in his luggage.

The other attendant was Nagorny. He was the last to give Alexei his usual care. Nagorny took charge of him during the revolution, and was killed in Ekaterinburg because he defended the little boy’s property. These two, Dina and Nagorny, were constantly at Alexei’s side to see that he did not harm himself. They helped my brother to grow to normal boyhood by using the exercises prescribed by Dr. Derevenko and the suggestions of M. Pierre Gilliard, our French tutor. They helped to carry on in such a way that the little fellow never suspected that he was being shielded. For he was not told of[Pg 9] the serious nature of his illness but was to realize it for himself when he grew older.

At his birth Alexei received many titles: “Hetman of all the Cossacks,” “Knight of St. Andrew,” “Knight of the Seraphim of Sweden,” “Head of the Battalion of the Horse Infantry,” “Head of the Siberian Infantry,” “Head of the Cadet Corps” and others. Alexei loved everything military. I think he had a uniform for almost every military order in Russia. He was so proud to wear each one, and carried himself with true military bearing. From childhood he had worn a white sailor suit with ribbons around his collar. When we cruised in the Baltic, he wore a white sailor cap with the name “Standard” in white on a blue band. When cruising on the Black Sea he had a black band with yellow lettering.

One day in a snow storm I pulled Alexei on his sled. Then he insisted that it was his turn to pull me. Soon his hands became swollen but fortunately this did not result in one of his serious attacks. He was not permitted to take part freely in sports, though he was allowed to ride a tricycle and later a bicycle, when he was carefully followed by Dina. Finally he was allowed to drive a small motor car with his cousins or a friend.

Alexei had playmates other than myself. I remember a youngster who was driven up the driveway accompanied by a guard and well supplied with many toys. He had among other things a box of powdered chalk. Considering the boy an intruder and unable to hide my jealousy, while he was escorted by the runner, I snatched the box from his hand and scattered the contents all over the floor. It all happened so quickly that no one was able to stop me. Soon I was escorted to Mother. By the time I reached her I was all smiles—a bit strained to be sure. She sat silently and held my little hands, studying them and wondering how they could do such a thing. I peeked at her face, putting on my most winsome smile. Mother assured me that “Smiles will not help.” Just then Father came in and sent me to my room for the rest of the[Pg 10] day. Later he came to see me and said, “You must not fight with your younger friends. Always be a little lady.” “I don’t want to be a lady,” I said defiantly. Father answered, “Then you cannot live in this place.” “Where will I live then?” “In one of the guard houses,” said Father. My dear Father often apologized for Alexei and myself.

Gentle as Father was, I took those remarks seriously, because I knew he always meant what he said. So I applied myself to the idea of “being a lady.” It soon paid off. Some time later when I was roaming through the park I chanced upon two workmen who were fighting in the ravine. It looked serious and desperate. With all the ladyship I could muster I ordered them to stop. To my astonishment they did. The contrast between little me and those two, so huge and menacing, convinced me that there must be something in this ladylike business after all.

By nature I enjoyed the rough and tumble, while being a lady meant being dignified, sewing, practicing on the piano, in general following in the footsteps of Olga and Tatiana. I would much rather have played the kind of games that Alexei enjoyed. Marie did not like these games at all. She preferred dolls, which I thought were not half as much fun as shooting off pop guns. I often held the gun while Alexei slid down the toboggan slide held on the lap of his attendant Derevenko or his assistant Nagorny.

The park surrounding our home at Tsarskoe Selo lent itself to my eager desire for exploring the world around me, although even this could not satisfy my curiosity about that part of the world which lay beyond the fence. One afternoon I found an owl opposite the balcony in the garden. I had seen something flying which fell to the ground. When I ran to it I found an owl which did not move. I wanted to pick it up, but was told it was bad luck to do so. In spite of this advice, I picked up the bird and stroked and fed it. In a short time it became a real pet so it could even recognize my step. It always stayed nearby, hopping about in a small area, though[Pg 11] it didn’t seem to be hurt. Whenever it heard me, it would fly up and sit on the rail of the balcony. While the owl was perched there, it seemed to stare at me and I could not resist walking around, fascinated by its twisting neck and staring eyes which apparently followed my movements.

Most of the time I was content to wander through our fairyland park with my sisters and brother. Its beauty was overwhelming with fine vistas embracing gardens, ravines, lakes and even islands. We often sailed our toy boats on the lake or rowed Alexei in a boat Sometimes we sat on shore watching the varied reflections on the surface of the lake. These might be reflections of the Feodorovsky Sobor with its golden cupola, or again a glimpse of the luxuriant tree tops, or the rapidly changing cloud formations. On the lake the swans glided back and forth in graceful splendor, but, when they came near our shores, with one stroke they erased all the pictures before our eyes.

These swans were my special pets. I usually carried bread to throw to them. One day in a mischievous mood, I made them think I had come to feed them. When they swam toward me expectantly, I ran away. I was suddenly thrown to the ground, and the largest of the swans with his wings spread wide stood over me. He began to beat me with his wings. My screams brought help from one of the guards, who drove off the swan. When I stopped sobbing I had not lost my love for the swans, but I had learned I could not tease them.

Father found time to visit us at play every day, often only for a few minutes, but he made us happy with these visits. Sometimes he watched us as we went down the slide which had been installed in a large room on the ground floor. He whistled as each child took her turn and the rest of us jumped up and down expressing delight.

Several times, as a great treat, we children were permitted to take our bath in Father’s big, sunken tile tub, large enough for one to swim several strokes. After the bath we romped[Pg 12] over the huge couch in Father’s dressing room, watching the flames dance in the fireplace.

Mother called Father’s study “the forbidden land.” We children were not allowed to enter it, which made me rather curious about it. I often ran down the hall, hoping that I would find a way to get into the study, but there was always someone who would send me back. If I could have found out what Father did there, I would have been satisfied. One day I managed to slip through the narrow passage of his dressing room and opened the door leading into his study. I was breathless with excitement, but kept quiet. I was about to open the door for a tiny peek, to see if Father were there, when I heard footsteps. I decided to retreat quietly as if I had gotten there by mistake. But as I backed out I had moved too quickly and gone too far. I rolled down several steps right into the middle of Father’s sunken tub. Fortunately I was not hurt, but my feelings were. I extricated myself and retreated down the hall in the midst of laughter. I never did know my discoverer.

My curiosity was still not satisfied, and I was determined to keep trying. I used all sorts of excuses for going to his study with pressing messages or gifts. But Mother spoke with finality: “Father cannot be disturbed in his work.” In spite of Mother’s words, the opportunity finally presented itself. One day I stood quivering on the threshold. There was Father at his desk looking quite serious. I leaned forward on my toes to take in all that I could see, so far forward that I lost my balance and fell on my face into the room. I was terribly frightened, but Father rushed to me and with a smile picked me up saying: “What are you doing here, baby?” Then he sat me down at his desk and held me on his knees. I was speechless to think I was in the forbidden place. I glanced at piles of papers, then at Father’s face. With a hug and a kiss he deposited me in the hallway. “Now run along, my little Curiosity.” I skipped away elated and I could hardly wait to tell Marie I had actually been in “the forbidden land.”

[Pg 13]

I was often instrumental in getting my sister and my brother in trouble. When we drove to Pavlovsk, a short distance from Tsarskoe Selo, I watched for the moment when the nurse was occupied with my cousin’s attendant. I snapped my fingers—a signal to dash to the brook for the mud fight. Within seconds our faces and white clothes were beyond recognition. These mud fights made the nurse furious. Once when she rebuked me, she said it was a pity I had not been born a boy. This worried me so, I went to Mother with the question, “Do you love me, Mother?” “You know I do, little Shvibzchik,” was her reply, using her pet name for me. “But if I were a boy, would you love me more?” I questioned her tearfully. Mother understood; she shook her head a decided “No” and I was satisfied.

Sometimes after tea, I slipped into the servants’ quarters to partake of tea again, because I thought they had more interesting things to eat. I was quite wrapped up in my small world without realizing that there was any other. And yet being born into a royal family I still kept wondering whether I should have been someone else. I wondered if my grandmother, the Dowager Empress Marie, ever forgave me for not being a boy. That might explain her critical attitude toward me. I thought I sensed an unsympathetic bearing in her and I often retaliated by being irritable which in turn justified her criticism of me. On second thought this same Grandmother understood me perhaps better than anyone else. When all despaired of me, she would say, “Don’t worry, she’ll tame down after a while.” This may have been a comforting thought to my family, but not to me. I did not want to be like my Granny, not at all. She was small, dark-eyed, deep-voiced, always beautifully groomed. I wanted to be like Tatiana, tall, beautiful and graceful. Often after I was tucked in bed, I whispered a prayer that God might transform me overnight into a girl like Tatiana. Grandmother was Alexei’s favorite. He loved her more than we sisters did. She was Father’s mother and there was a strong bond between them.

[Pg 14]

I remember the satisfaction I felt when some Danish relatives were visiting us and my Grandmother said to one, “Anastasia is certainly small,” and the relative replied, “You are not very tall yourself.” This kind person must have sensed that I was touchy about my height and she attempted to defend me before Grandmother.

When Father’s work was done for the day, he would enter Mother’s apartment and whistle melodiously. This was the signal for a family get-together or for an exercise outdoors. Sometimes Father took me on a walk alone. He listened seriously to my talk and pretended to be concerned about my petty problems. I swelled with pride that he considered my little world was as important as his. He was a lover of nature, and this knowledge made our walks even more interesting.

Father had the reputation of being graceful and a good tennis player. He played with the best professionals in the Crimea and won most of the time. Olga and Tatiana often played with him and I looked forward to the day when I would be able to match him in a real game. But that day never came. Before the war I was too young, and during the war there was no opportunity. I did return the balls occasionally when Father was practicing.

[Pg 15]


With excitement I looked forward to my first day of school. I was anxious to make a good impression on my teachers. Dressed in a blue or white pinafore and with ribbon bows on my hair, holding my Mother’s hand, I felt quite grown up as I joined Marie in the school room on the second floor of the palace. I was proud to hear Mother say that I was good, quiet, and thoughtful as I sat at a fair-sized table opposite my tutor, answering the questions. But to Mother’s disappointment my good behavior did not last long. As the days passed, confinement began to irk me and I longed for the outdoors. School became a difficult chore for me, and no doubt I was difficult for my teachers. My mind turned to the other side of the classroom door. Only the threat of punishment could bring me to a school desk at all, and once there, instead of concentrating on my lessons, I planned my activities for the hours after school.

My mind dreamed about Vanka, the donkey, when she came as a present to Alexei. She was very bright and extremely stubborn. She was named for a character in a humorous Russian song of the time. Vanka was cunning. When Alexei hurt himself, she laid her head on his shoulder as if she were crying. She could shake hands, wobble as if dancing, and rolled her eyes flirtatiously. She understood every word we said, often shook her ears in joy. But when things were not in her favor, she stared straight at us. Her ears stood up into a half-cone. She had been a circus donkey, but she would only perform when she felt like it. Derevenko, the sailor, could make[Pg 16] her walk while I rode her, but she wanted a lump of sugar in payment for every step she took.

“Anastasia, put your mind on your work,” jarred my consciousness away from Vanka and back into the classroom. I did like arithmetic and drawing. I would often doodle until my pencil was taken away and the lessons resumed. In the spring it was more difficult to concentrate. The warm, sweet air and the chirping birds would not let me sit still.

Often after school, Mother would take me to my favorite farm where I felt complete freedom. Here were many soft creatures to cuddle: tiny pink piglets, toylike lambs, calves and colts, the cutest I ever saw. There were human babies, too, belonging to the farm workers, but Olga had a way of monopolizing them. Every place we went the children followed us and were anxious to show anything new that happened. They all spoke at once, excitedly. We pretended to be surprised, which encouraged them to tell each story over again.

One day one of the workers gave me a tiny chick, born late in the season. We put it in a basket with some straw in it. I covered it with my handkerchief and went ahead of Mother to hide it in the carriage, and waited there impatiently. I was afraid that the little thing would die before we reached home. Soon after Mother heard the chick cry, she said, “You have taken a baby from its mother. You must keep it well and happy.” This chick taught me my first lesson in responsibility. You never saw so much affection lavished on such a small thing. I fed it most tenderly and presented it with my precious pillow which until then had belonged to my doll. In spite of my devoted care the chick’s cries grew fainter and fainter and one morning I found it lying on its back. It was a shock.

I decided to give my chick a funeral. I dressed it regally with veil and gown and, as a great concession, I allowed Marie and Alexei to help lay the little form on a mattress of rose petals in a pretty box. A bouquet of white flowers was[Pg 17] placed on its breast. Then we invited everyone to the funeral. Besides, I wanted no one to miss seeing how beautifully I had prepared my pet. Alexei was the priest, Marie and I chanted mournfully. Derevenko, the sailor, prepared the grave. The box was opened for all to see. At last the box was closed and placed on top of a stretcher, which was hoisted up on the pallbearers’ shoulders. I, the chief mourner, led the procession with a black band on my arm. We buried the box amidst quantities of flowers, then marked the grave with the prettiest stones.

For a week I mourned at the grave every day, wondering how the chick looked after its journey to heaven. Finally, I dug up the box. I opened the cover expecting that the little angel had flown away, but instead I ran to Mother to tell her the worms were eating my pet. Mother explained that the box contained the shell of the chick, the soul was already flown away, now nature was destroying only the shell.

I was quite socially inclined, and made calls on anyone staying in the palace. I chatted with all on various subjects. “If Olga and Tatiana ever marry, will they leave us? Olga squeezed an orange peel yesterday and it squirted right into my eye. Do you know that Mashka (Marie) put on her underwear wrong side out and refused to change it, it is very bad luck. Did you hear that “baby” (Alexei) painted a droopy mustache on his face with a crayon? Olga says, he looks like the Cossack in Riepin’s painting. Do you know that painting? Why do you think Marie did not take her cold bath this morning? Olga says that mother kangaroos hide their babies in a sack on their bodies and the babies poke their heads out to see where they are going. Why doesn’t papa get cribs for the kangarooshkas?” These ideas or others like them were expressed to all in five to ten minutes of social visits. Sometimes I asked them to tell me stories like the Golden Apple and the Princess. I clapped my hands and thanked them for the most delicious story. If anyone was not well, I was ready[Pg 18] to play nurse. My one cure for the indisposed was always a wet towel on the forehead.

Some of my most pleasant early memories about Mother were the times when she told us stories. There was one favorite she was asked to repeat over and over. One day she changed the words slightly and I burst into tears, saying: “But, Mommy, I like the old story better.”

When I was older, Mother read to me an American book called Ramona. As much as I could understand, it was a fascinating story about an Indian girl. It made a big impression on me, and left me with the most tender feeling of affection for the Indian girl. Several years later, when I heard that an American gentleman was coming to see Mother, I begged to be allowed to meet him. I remember that I wore my best new dress, of white silk, a recent gift from Queen Alexandra of England. This frock had smocking at the waist. I was told it came from Liberty’s of London. I kept this dress until the war, at which time I gave it to an orphanage.

At the time of this American’s visit, the nurse was supposed to bring me downstairs when Mother rang the bell. But, when I heard the signal, I ran ahead, and flew down the spiral stairway as fast as my feet could carry me, and burst breathlessly into the room. A tall handsome gentleman arose and politely kissed my hand as we were introduced. Distressed, and almost in tears, I looked sideways up to him as I cried out in surprise: “Mother, this gentleman is not an American because he does not have his feather hat or his blanket.” The poor man, whoever he was, tried his best to explain, but to me, he still was not an American.

Mashka (Marie) had the most wonderful disposition, but I often got her into trouble. We used to practice on the piano in a room above Mother’s boudoir where she could hear us. When the instructor, Mr. Konrad, happened to step out for a minute, we began to roughhouse. Soon the telephone rang and we knew it was Mother to remind us to attend to our practice and not to fool around.

[Pg 19]

Mother realized that we missed having friends of our age, and she made up for it by forming a closer knit family of our own. Occasionally we saw the Tolstoy girls or the children of General Hesse, once Father’s aide-de-camp. We took some lessons, danced and played with them: two boys and a girl about the age of my sister Olga. But no intimacy whatever was allowed. We also enjoyed our cousins, Aunt Xenia’s children, when they were at home.

When Alexei was about seven years old, he had a nurse named Maria Vishniakova. She disturbed Olga and made her cry. Vishniakova told Mother that the muzhik Rasputin had been upstairs in our apartments and conducted himself improperly. According to the tradition of the Russian court, no men were allowed in the girls’ rooms except the two Negro doormen, Apty and Jim. Father became so upset by the report that he personally questioned Vishniakova. She was evasive, and gave one date, then another. When Father told her that Rasputin according to the report was nowhere near St. Petersburg during those dates, she admitted her whole story was a fabrication and that it was a malicious relative of the Imperial family who had had her say what she did. She then burst out crying and of course she was discharged. It was then that the attack on Rasputin began.

Another incident which caused a great deal of confusion some years before the war involved our governess, Mlle. Tutcheva, a native of Moscow. She spoke various languages, but no English. Aunt Ella (the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna), Mother’s sister, had recommended her for this important position. Tutcheva was a cultured woman and came from a fine family, but at the same time was unpleasantly outspoken and domineering. She hated the English so that she would not allow the English language to be spoken in her presence, and often criticized the English, especially when we went through our albums of our trips. She even complained to us about our own Mother, that she was English and not a Russian, and constantly exchanged sharp words with Mlle.[Pg 20] Butsova, Mother’s favorite lady-in-waiting, addressing her in an abusive manner, but Mlle. Butsova spared no words for her either. All this made us children excited and nervous. Mlle. Tutcheva was also in continual conflict with others in the palace. To our dismay she also spoke unkindly of Princess Maria Bariatinsky. Later she told Aunt Ella that Rasputin visited our apartments although at no time had any of us sisters seen the man in the upper quarters.

Aunt Ella made a special trip to Tsarskoe Selo from Moscow to inform Mother of this gossip. This incident also came to Father’s notice and he came to our rooms to ask about it. We all said we had not seen the peasant in our apartments at any time. Then the police records showed that he was away on those days. Tutcheva finally admitted that the story was untrue and that she had never in her life seen Rasputin. She was dismissed.

Father loved everything about Russia: her people, her customs, her music and her national food, particularly he was fond of the dark bread. It was baked only in the military kitchens and was most delicious. He also enjoyed a glass of slivovitsa, a plum cordial. During the war he preferred non-alcoholic drinks and omitted strong drinks when prohibition was established, making no exception for himself. However, some wine and other drinks were served to high foreign military officers in Mogilev. Father disliked and often neglected taking medicine even though it was necessary for his weak stomach. He believed, as did his Romanov ancestors, that nature is the best medicine.

Father had the best possible education and training. One of his favorite teachers was the famous Konstantin Pobedonostsev. This man was an outstanding theologian and lawyer. He taught Father both law and religion, so that his faith remained strong to the very end. Another favorite was General Danilov who taught military tactics. He was carefully selected for this most important assignment. Father had a Swiss tutor who taught him the French language and literature,[Pg 21] and an English tutor, named Charles Heath, who acquainted him with the English language and literature.

Father had the most extraordinary memory. He was able to recite many Russian, French and English poems, including passages from Shakespeare. He was a fast reader and writer, his sentences being short and concise and always written in ink. He enjoyed the classics. His reading also included the works of Gogol; Gorbunov’s stories of Russia; and Feodor Dostoevsky, many of whose autographed novels were on the shelves of our library; likewise the works of Longfellow, Dickens, Wordsworth and many others. He was familiar with international law and often remarked that many diplomats complicated matters to such an extent that it took a great deal of time to unravel a simple problem.

On the “Standard,” the Imperial yacht, he had in his cabin the complete works of Shakespeare and other English contemporary authors, and books carefully selected by our tutors for us to read during our cruise.

The strict training demanded of my Father, the future Tsar, was due to the discipline of his austere father, Alexander III. Had Father not felt restrained by his oath of office, I feel sure he would have lifted some of the restrictions he had inherited from his predecessor. His love for his people and his gentle nature were often shown when he lessened the punishment of soldiers by their officers. He believed in a close family relationship and on one occasion, after receiving a request, he granted permission to a Jewish woman to see her sick son in their prison hospital as often as she pleased.

Father was very loyal to his friends, many of whom he had known from his childhood. He disliked the waste of time on petty talk.

Many requests were withheld from him, and occasionally actions were taken without his knowledge or approval.

In spite of previous attempts on his life, he had resumed the ancient custom of the “Blessing of the Waters” on the river Neva in St. Petersburg. When a little girl, I was told[Pg 22] that at one of these ceremonies an explosion occurred on the river, injuring several persons including my Father’s physician. Part of the canopy and the windows of the Winter Palace were shattered. Father, therefore, ordered the discontinuance of this tradition. When an epidemic broke out soon after, the peasants attributed it to the decree. So the order was rescinded and the Epiphany ceremony was resumed. Once I was present at this picturesque ceremony which was one of the great national and religious traditions of Russia.

At this ceremony the dignitaries of the Church and State gathered at the Winter Palace. The procession formed there and proceeded to the river, followed by the church dignitaries. Father took his position in front of a crimson and gold canopy. A hole had already been cut in the ice. At the end of the ceremony the priest handed Father the cross which he dipped in the water and then raised high and made the sign of the cross in the air. This was repeated three times. It was so cold that the drops of water froze as they fell on the ice. After the ceremony the procession returned to the Palace, where luncheon was served to hundreds of guests, who formed a brilliant array in their court regalia.

I remember how beautiful the ladies looked at the luncheon in the Palace following the ceremony. They wore long court dresses of various pastel colors and jeweled filets (kokoshniki) from which soft veils hung down. There were glittering diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires and alexandrites, the latter a rare stone found in the Urals in 1833 and named after the future Alexander II, my great-grandfather.

Many officers wore the dress uniform of their regiment: the Horse Guards were in white and gold; the Cossacks in deep blue or crimson; and the Hussars in white and gold with scarlet dolmans over their shoulders. The “Blessing of the Waters” ceremony was conducted the last time in January 1916. It did not stir the same feelings as before. This time there were many dignitaries present and the foreign High Command, including[Pg 23] our friend, Sir John Hanbury-Williams, and, of course, Sir George Buchanan, the British Ambassador.

Grandeur surrounded us in the Winter Palace where I spent the first years of my life. But during the Russo-Japanese war in 1905 we moved to Tsarskoe Selo, when my childhood recollections began to take root.

The Alexander Palace at Tsarskoe Selo was our permanent home. Many members of the Imperial family had their residences in this suburb and nearby; it was only fourteen miles south of St. Petersburg. Our Palace stood in the middle of a vast park of about six hundred acres, in which were located stables, barracks, greenhouses and several churches, including the Feodorovsky Sobor (Church) and Our Lady of Znamenie which was my Mother’s favorite. There were islands nearby. On the “Children’s Island”, Alexei had a small house; the four rooms were left as they had been at the time of Alexander II. In a book case were some books by the poet Zhukovsky and there were also books by Byron, Schiller and other poets which he had translated into Russian. Zhukovsky who was the tutor to Alexander II spent a great deal of time with him before he came to the throne.

There were some tiny ports for landing, bridges, dog kennels and an elephant house, a concert hall and a Chinese village, a theatre and so on. In the palace grounds was also a white tower, a photographic building and an arsenal. The barracks for the regiments were located in the vicinity.

Before the war the cabinet ministers came to Tsarskoe Selo with their reports in the morning and were ushered into Father’s study by an aide-de-camp. Occasionally however, Father met various officials in St. Petersburg. In order to save time and money the private audiences once a week were held in the Winter Palace in the General Chamber. Because of several hundred audiences that were held during the day, Father could give only a few minutes to each of these audiences and they were held standing. The reports of the high officials were received from 10:00-10:30 after his walk.

[Pg 24]

Several hundred attendants took care of the grounds and buildings; many of them lived outside. The personnel included the Grand Marshals of the Court, Masters of the Hunt, Masters of Ceremonies, Equerries, Chamberlains, coachmen, valets, butlers, chauffeurs, gardeners, cooks, maids, etc.

In Tsarskoe Selo the Palace of Catherine the Great was surrounded by a tall fence featuring a finely wrought iron gate. This building was like a museum, with its matchless rooms of amber and malachite and its mosaic and gold decorations. Two rooms I especially recall: one an anteroom in which Catherine kept her famous collections of snuffboxes, and the other a drawing room with a ceiling of ivory silk satin, in the center of which a tremendous double eagle was embroidered. In a third room, the walls were of satin, with exquisitely embroidered golden wheat and pastel blue cornflowers. There was another room with a double eagle inlaid in its mosaic wooden floor.

The private chapel had a large balcony for the choir. This awesome Palace was in great contrast to Alexander Palace, which we thought had a homelike atmosphere.

While I was a little girl, during our absence the public had permission to go through the Palace, but it was reported that the men conducting the tours allowed their relatives to enter our private chambers. Mother resented this abuse and the tours were forbidden. Later even the park could not be visited and everyone had to have a special permit from the Household Minister to enter even the Tsarskoe Selo grounds; this rule applied also to those employed in our service.

[Pg 25]


During the summer we vacationed on the yacht, but, since Tsarskoe Selo was inland, we went beforehand to Peterhof on the Gulf of Finland. There was a splendid feeling of anticipation of a trip ahead. The great palace of Peterhof was too formal with its many groups of fountains and Peter the Great grandeur. We preferred to stay in the little Alexandria Cottage, while we waited for Father to get away. It was exciting for us children. I remember how often I packed and unpacked my little suitcase, with scraps of papers, which I called my secret records. Among my prized possessions was an old bedroom slipper on which our dogs loved to chew. These things in the little suitcase were my precious childish treasures.

Alexandria Cottage stood to the east of Peterhof Palace; it consisted of two simple buildings joined to each other by an enclosed passageway. We had a glassed-in winter garden where palms and other tropical plants abounded and flowers flourished. Also, there were garden chairs and a doll house for us children to play in during the rainy days. Occasionally we had our luncheon here.

This estate had originally been purchased by my great-great-grandfather, Nicholas I, and he was the first to occupy it. There was a saying that Peterhof started with Nicholas and would end with Nicholas. The park was beautifully landscaped, with winding paths, ravines, and magnificent white birches against the green spruce trees. Its natural rustic beauty had been preserved since the time of Nicholas I.

[Pg 26]

The entrance to the grounds of Peterhof presented a breathtaking view. Tall, graceful trees on both sides arched the roadway, while between them were fountains, bronze statues representing various historical events and enormous urns filled with flowers. A short distance away was a pavilion, a tall tower which we often climbed to get a view of the activities on the Island of Kronstadt. We walked to worship at the nearby Alexander Nevsky Church, named after a national hero who defeated the enemies of Russia in the thirteenth century. From Peterhof we took a tender to Kronstadt, the naval base on the island bearing the same name. There we boarded the yacht, the “Standard”, which was too large to come in to the wharf of Peterhof. We youngsters were each assigned a sailor to watch over us. My poor sailor had his hands full since disappearing was almost an obsession with me. Once he caught me just in time as I climbed the ship’s rail and nearly fell overboard.

Our cabins were large and airy; they were upholstered in light chintzes and each had a washstand, cold and hot water, dresser and desk. Olga and Tatiana occupied one cabin; Marie and I, another. Dinners were held in the big dining salon on the upper deck. There was a chapel where services were held regularly by the ship’s chaplain. Mother as at home stood behind the screen. The “Standard” was painted black with gold decorations at the bow and the stern. It was a two-decker and had two smoke stacks.

I was often frightened on the “Standard” when at sunset a gun salute was fired from the deck. It hurt my ears. When it was time for the firing of guns I would run through the corridor down to the other side of the boat and hold my hands over my ears. The hoisting of the flag took place at 9:00 A.M. and the lowering at sunset.

Charles Dehn, captain of the “Standard,” was a person whose companionship Father enjoyed, and my brother was Captain Dehn’s shadow. Alexei never questioned anything “Pekin Dehn” said. Dehn’s wife, Lili, was a dear friend of[Pg 27] my Mother’s, as well as of us children. Mother was the godmother of their infant son, Titi, who occasionally came to visit us. When he was about seven years old, he could already speak several languages. We loved to see this handsome boy. At tea time he sat next to Mother. When she poured tea, he asked, “Sugar, Madame, and how many?”

Another officer of the yacht, Drenteln, was one of Father’s aides-de-camp and a devoted friend; he accompanied us on our trips. He knew Father from his young years and went with him to the Preobrazhensky regiment. Father found him interesting and they often talked all evening and well into the morning.

Father enjoyed all kinds of sports: tennis, boxing, swimming, diving; and he could stay under water some minutes. He was an expert rider and an excellent dancer, but was not especially fond of hunting. He was devoted to the Navy and when we were on our cruises he spent a great deal of time studying navigation. He was particularly proud of the “Standard” which was built at the Bay of Odense in Denmark at the time of his marriage. During one of our cruises we visited the yard where the boat was built. Each cruise brought fond memories to my parents of their honeymoon. Mother once said that the happiest years in her life were on board the “Standard”.

For us a cruise meant spending a part of each day on shore, tramping in the Finnish forests. On the yacht our attendants turned a rope for us girls to jump. Then there was the tug of war with an admiral or a captain and other officers joining in. Sometimes we roller-skated on the deck. Everyone participated in the fun, except Mother and Alexei. They could not enjoy activities, but they joined in the laughter.

Occasionally we received word that the Dowager Empress Marie, my Father’s mother, was cruising on the “Polar Star” in the neighborhood and would pay us a visit. On board was Admiral Prince Viazemsky. Immediately the holiday atmosphere changed to serious work. We children had to stay on[Pg 28] board, practicing our music, because Grandmother always liked to see our musical progress and a concert was invariably planned. Grandmother was a gifted musician herself and was brought up in a musical atmosphere with her whole family constituting an orchestra. I was told that on one occasion the public was invited to a concert in which her whole family took part, including her father (Apapa), who later became King Christian IX of Denmark, and her mother (Amama), subsequently Queen Louise.

When Grandmother Minnie arrived everyone became tense. I especially felt rebellious at the endless warnings to be on my good behavior. We three younger children had our own early supper, because we could not sit quietly through the dinner in her honor. Try as I might, I was bound to do the wrong thing and disappoint everyone when Grandmother was around. Fortunately her visits were not long and the minute she left we resumed our former manners.

When our yacht anchored in a sheltered cove, we went mushroom hunting. Mother and Alexei seldom joined us in this. But when Alexei came, together we darted this way and that way, dodging the tall trees, and trying to catch the scent of mushrooms. The ground was all springy with pine needles and moss so that we fairly hopped along. It was fun to hear the twigs crunch beneath our feet.

Father was a fast walker; to keep up with him, I had to run. On one of these walks we came to a little stream, partly covered with twigs and moss. Father jumped over it and stretched out his hand to me. “Jump,” he said. The ground was slippery and uneven and I failed to get a firm enough grip on Father’s hand so I fell into the middle of the brook, with its bed of yellow mud and clay. My face, hair and dress were plastered with mud and so were my canvas shoes. The long, wet walk sent me to bed for a while.

Before the war we used to take a trip every other year to Fredensborg Palace near Copenhagen. It was great fun for us children to visit the white villa at Hvidore, which stood[Pg 29] majestically amidst the flowering trees and bushes, with its terraces offering a magnificent view of the sea, each level rising smaller and smaller to the top.

From the terraces the sight of sailboats and yachts in the bay gave us a feeling of tranquility and relaxation. Beyond the marshes were the Danish farms with their charming thatched-roof houses, tall poplar trees, golden wheat fields and millions of scarlet poppies which added grandeur to this natural landscape. It was this that impressed my young mind during our first visit. This villa belonged to my little Grandmother and her sisters, Queen Alexandra of England and Thyra, Duchess of Cumberland. It was at this quiet place at Fredensborg where the happy family reunion took place during the summer months.

We were especially excited on one occasion when Queen Alexandra and Uncle Bertie (King Edward VII of England) joined us at Reval on their yacht, the “Victoria and Albert”. I recollect that King Edward came dressed in Scottish kilts. Grandmother Marie and Aunt Olga arrived on their yacht, the “Polar Star”. Later we were joined by Uncle George, who subsequently became King George V of England, with his wife May (Queen Mary) and their children, including the eldest son David, later Edward, Prince of Wales. In addition, there were many other boys and girls belonging to other relatives. We had a great family reunion and a full schedule of activities. Fishing, bathing, rowing, wading in the shallow waters in the bay and various games were the order of the day. We youngsters enjoyed the high swings which were put up especially for us. Alexei, though only four or five years of age, had been well versed in geography and could name all the various ports in the Baltic. The Russian Ambassador to London, Count Alexander Benckendorff, regarded Alexei as being an unusually bright child. Soon we were off again in the fiords for a glimpse of Norway. When we were in sight of Christiania (Oslo), so many yachts and other vessels surrounded[Pg 30] the “Standard” that we were forced to turn back. Apparently the news of our visit had preceded us.

On our return we brought with us a number of Royal Copenhagen pieces which were adorned with capricious scenes of winter or summer meadows, all interpreted so realistically, and also numerous figurines of animals and fowl, all executed in those soft blue and white colors, some with a touch of brown. Only the hands of Danish artisans could create those heavenly colors.

Once I remember Kaiser Wilhelm II was cruising on his yacht in our vicinity and our ship fired a salute to him. The salute was returned and when the Kaiser came on board our ship, he greeted Father with a kiss and exclaimed, “My most valued friend.” The German band played the Russian national anthem; then the Russian band played the German anthem. During the ensuing visits, the Kaiser took quite a liking to me, calling me “The Little Joker”. I also remember how he danced in a way that Mother thought was undignified and unbecoming to an Emperor. He was one cousin who drove us to despair.

Grandmother Marie joined us in Reval. She brought with her her sister-in-law, Queen Olga of Greece. Queen Olga was the consort of King George I, Grandmother’s brother who was later assassinated. This deed made a fearful impression on us. I remember when Granny cried, “Why do they want to kill an innocent man?” I remember King George as being quite bald, so much so that the Kaiser remarked one time that King George had his own exclusive moon. Extreme baldness seemed to be a feature of the Danish royal family. Kaiser Wilhelm referred to the Danish branch as the “deaf, bald-headed Danes”. King Gustavus V and Queen Victoria of Sweden also paid us a visit. They came on their yacht. We later returned their visit by going to Stockholm.

Quite often our trips were marred by unpleasant incidents, such as the time when, while cruising in Finnish waters, an English freighter persisted in coming too close to our yacht.[Pg 31] When our repeated warnings were ignored, we were forced to fire a shot which unfortunately wounded a member of the English freighter’s crew. On this trip we were invited to visit Prince Henry of Prussia (Mother’s brother-in-law) at a beautiful villa on the shore overlooking the sea at Jagernsfeld, so that the Kaiser could show us his fleet at Kiel. Unfortunately the weather prevented us from doing this and after a brief stop we proceeded to England.

A twenty-one gun salute greeted the “Standard” as we entered the English harbor of Cowes on the Isle of Wight. This was returned by the Russian warships and we passed through a cortege of yachts lined up on each side as we sailed down the middle. Soon the “Victoria and Albert” and the “Standard” were alongside each other. Cheers filled the air and salutes were exchanged. Not until the next morning did the real entertainment begin, when King Edward VII appeared on the bridge dressed in the uniform of a Russian admiral. Father stood next to him in the uniform of a British admiral. The Russian and the British flags were flying, as bands played both national anthems. Amidst the greetings and cheers we proceeded aboard the “Victoria and Albert” to the royal pier. We exchanged pleasant visits and many pictures were taken for our albums.

At luncheon on the yacht, we sat at a long table. King Edward sat in the middle, Mother, dressed in white, looking beautiful and radiant sitting beside him. Queen Alexandra was opposite the King with Father next to her. Alexei kept trying to get King Edward’s attention; until finally the King said: “All right, Alexei, what do you want?” Alexei replied gloomily, “It’s too late now, Uncle Bertie; you ate a caterpillar with your salad.” We were served from gold plates and the table decorations were in pink roses.

The other guests at dinner were the Crown Prince of Sweden, the Prince of Wales (later George V), Princess Beatrice, and Princess Irene, wife of Prince Henry of Prussia. Mother gave a dinner on the “Standard” for the ladies in[Pg 32] honor of Queen Alexandra. At the many dinners on our yacht, I remember there were many elegant and beautiful ladies, several hundred of them: friends, relatives, English, Swedish, German and Russian. On one occasion King Edward gave a talk thanking us for the visit and turning to my Mother called her his “dear niece”.

There were several excursions, and in the afternoon tea was served on the lawn of the Royal Yacht Club. Several hundred guests were present, mostly relatives and friends. Mother knew them all.

Alexei was accompanied by a playmate. One day we were all whisked to Osborne House, where Princess Henry, Mother’s sister, and Princess Beatrice played with us on the lawn. This included Marie, Alexei, his companion and myself. Alexei was all slicked up from head to toe in a white sailor suit. Both boys behaved disgracefully. In the afternoon before tea, this brother of mine crawled over a new car belonging to one of our relatives and by teatime his white sailor suit was completely wrinkled and disreputable. He refused to leave the car and added, “You girls can go to the tea; I am happy at what I am doing.” All of us were disgusted with our brother. Finally his sailor servant, Derevenko, took him off the car. At tea we frowned at him and motioned with our hands to keep at a distance from us, pretending that he did not belong to our family. Tearfully he added to our embarrassment by saying aloud; “What is the matter with you girls? I do not like your attitude. If I were not ashamed, I would cry.”

At another time Olga and Tatiana had quite an experience. Dressed in their gray suits they walked about the town of Cowes, unattended. They paused in their sightseeing before a window display and entered the shop to purchase postcards and photographs for our albums. As they came out of the shop a carriage bearing Count Benckendorff and a friend stopped on the other side of the street. The girls ran across to surprise them, and surprised they were—to find my sisters unescorted. My sisters became frightened when a large crowd,[Pg 33] having heard about our visit, recognized my sisters and gathered around them. Finally the girls made their escape through a store as a constable blocked the door against the pressing crowd. Two carriages were summoned, one for the constable, the other for the girls. At the suggestion of the constable, they finally avoided the crowd by taking refuge in a church. This was their first experience of an unescorted adventure, and their last. When they returned to us, we youngsters kept asking them about it a dozen times, especially when we saw the pictures of the incident in our albums. What a great and priceless triumph it was: that young girls of our position were allowed to show themselves unescorted in public.

Prince David, who was to become King Edward VIII, came by torpedo boat to Osborne House from Dartmouth where he was attending the Royal Naval College. And before we left, he took Father through his college. Father was so impressed with Dartmouth, he talked of sending Alexei there. This was the end of our visit. King Edward, Queen Alexandra, Prince George, then Prince of Wales, and Princess Mary with all their children came to bid us good-bye as we sailed away from Cowes after a most memorable visit.

As usual our party included Princess Obolensky, Mlle. Butsova, a lady-in-waiting, of whom Mother was very fond, as were we all; also Mlle. Tutcheva, our governess, with whom I was continually at swords’ points, because she could not hide her jealousy of Mlle. Butsova, and also because of her derogatory remarks about our English relatives. Present too, were Count Fredericks, Father’s chamberlain, Ambassador Izvolsky, Prince Beloselsky-Belozersky, Dr. Botkin, Dr. Derevenko, Captain Drenteln and many other Russians from our escort ships.

The “Standard” then sailed to Cherbourg, where President Fallières was to meet us in his yacht, the “Marseilles”. During this cruise, as on others, we ran into a great deal of fog and storm and our speed was greatly reduced. We arrived late in Cherbourg. Father reviewed the French fleet with the[Pg 34] French President, and we children were allowed to take pictures of submarines which were important exhibits in our albums. These albums and Olga’s description in her diary were a source of great pleasure to us later during the war when we could relive each moment of this pleasurable trip. During our arrest in 1917, these pictures were confiscated.

President Fallières gave a dinner on the deck of a battleship, in honor of my family. It was a beautiful affair. The table was in the shape of a horseshoe. In the center of the table, roses were arranged to form the Russian coat of arms. During the dinner bands played popular compositions of French and Russian composers. Afterwards there were floats on the water, lighting up scenes from the opera Lohengrin and others. Someone must have informed them that Mother loved this opera by Richard Wagner. Launches were made to look like dolphins, sea serpents, Lohengrin’s swan, a huge egg (on top of which was a rooster pulling a gondola with a man inside playing a mandolin), a huge grasshopper and many other fantastic shapes. A float carrying a band of musicians drawn by many make-believe swans ended the procession. There were also beautiful fireworks lasting late into the night. Later a complete movie of the entire display was sent to us; when Alexei was ill, he amused himself by operating the projector with interest.

The next day we all went to the yacht’s chapel for a divine service, and to give thanks for the wonderful trip and our new friends. Later the President brought us gifts. To Alexei he presented miniature rifles, guns and drums, as well as a military tent completely equipped with a miniature cot, table and folding chairs. Alexei was overwhelmed. Afterwards he derived many happy hours in the park playing with his field equipment. It was this little gun that the Bolsheviks seized while he was playing with it in the garden during our arrest in Tsarskoe Selo. Olga received a writing desk set of dark blue enamel, beautifully initialed. Tatiana received a travel clock which she took with her later to Tobolsk. Marie received[Pg 35] a dollhouse, two stories high, completely furnished, including a bath tub and electric lighting. I received a beautiful doll with a complete trousseau, even a veil for a bride. A twenty-one-gun salute was fired at our departure from Cherbourg, as at Cowes.

This cruise made me appreciate Olga and Tatiana; they impressed me highly with their graceful manners. I did so wish I could be like them when I grew up. They were so tall and each looked to be every inch a Princess, while it did not seem that I had grown at all during these years. Even Alexei was an inch or more taller than I. Marie too was tall. People said I would be short like my Grandmother. I was tall enough when I sat down, but my limbs were not long enough to suit me. Our Captain had a suggestion, that I hop on one foot, then on the other, three times a day, saying that would produce the desired results. I followed his instructions, even doubled and tripled his recipe, but without success. On a cruise, when I confided to him that his suggestions bore no fruit, he nearly died laughing. I never forgave the Captain for making me feel so ridiculous.

In spite of these several cruises during that summer of 1909, Mother’s health did not improve sufficiently to satisfy the doctors. She suffered from neuralgia. Karlsruhe was recommended, so the family went to Mannheim, to Uncle Ernest’s castle at Friedberg. Princess Louis of Battenberg and her two sons were there too. Then we went to Wolfsgarten near Darmstadt. Darmstadt was Mother’s old home, where as a young lady she lived with her brother Ernest when he became the reigning Grand Duke on the death of his father. Mother was fond of him because he replaced her late parents, and so we were irresistibly drawn to him. Uncle Ernest was handsome, kind, musical and artistic. Mother had the same talents as her brother. His second wife Eleonor (Onor) was a delightful person. She had known Mother since childhood, and their friendship grew stronger each year. This trip therefore was meaningful to our family.

[Pg 36]

I recall little of our stay. There was a constant flow of Mother’s relatives and hordes of royal children. We four sisters had only one bedroom to ourselves and Father had one small room where he could receive people. I remember Mother’s sister Irene (Amity) and her husband Prince Henry, the Kaiser’s brother. She completely won us over with her tender affection, and referred to us as “the dear children.” She was closer to Mother than were any of Mother’s other sisters. It seemed that we were always being summoned to meet a new cousin, aunt, uncle or a friend. One of the relatives had a homely nose, but fortunately I do not remember who she was.

Father went to Potsdam as guest of the Kaiser and Kaiserin. It gave me a queer feeling when I first realized the Kaiser’s deformity. I remember seeing him ride his horse in his Hussar uniform. He stuck his reins into his belt; with fingers resting partly on his hip he cleverly manipulated the reins. He seemed to lean his weight heavily to one side. Aunt Irene explained to us about his left arm. She said: “When Prince Wilhelm was born, the doctors and his father rejoiced because the child was a boy. But the little infant had not yet shown signs of life. They did everything to get him to breathe. They slapped him, tossed him into the air, swung him by his feet,—there was a full hour of working over him. At last he gave a feeble cry. His mother, ill at the time, did not know of the overly rough treatment of her baby. Later when she found out, she was in despair, she blamed the doctors and the nurses for the injury her child had received. For his left arm, which had been pulled out of the socket, became paralyzed and later shrivelled.”

Many of our relatives were in deep mourning for King Edward VII of England (Uncle Bertie), who had passed away in the spring of 1910. Kaiser Wilhelm had been hunting with Father in the Oranienburg forest near Berlin, and upon their return, in the presence of the widow, Queen Alexandra, and of the new King George V and Queen Mary, he looked at all the ladies in black dresses and white collars and remarked:[Pg 37] “Everyone is dressed in black because the old rooster has died.” He knew Queen Alexandra was partly deaf and could not hear his remark; but there were many others who did, including the beautiful Princess Alice and her husband, Prince Andrew of Greece, who had come with Cousin George from England. We all bore disapproving expressions at his remark, and one relative whispered, “Wilhelm must be mad.”

All of the family knew that the Kaiser was tactless. During the time when he was only heir apparent, he never hesitated to express his impatience at having to wait so long to inherit the throne. Long before his grandfather and father died, he wrote the Proclamation, so as to be ready when the occasion should present itself. Aunt Irene and Mother cried when they heard that the young Emperor, Wilhelm II, the day he ascended the throne, ordered everyone in the palace placed under surveillance, including his own mother, the Empress Victoria; this in spite of his having sworn to his father that he would always uphold the honor of the royal house. He despised his courtiers, calling them parasites—the same men who during the war wrested his power and then held him practically under arrest. He hated the sight of his Mother’s friends and ladies-in-waiting and without hesitation he once said that the only joy in his life was being at the Yacht Club. Now he was obviously pleased that Uncle Bertie was no longer in his way. His dislike had begun when Uncle Bertie had called him “the boss of Cowes” and, whenever possible, had avoided holding the regatta when Wilhelm was present. One would not have believed that he had the use of only one arm and with it skillfully steered the sailboat.

Kaiserin Augusta Victoria always looked beautiful with a clear, almost transparent complexion, and was most friendly but quiet. I was intrigued by the black ribbon which she wore around her throat. She and the Kaiser showed us pictures of the palace at Potsdam. It was beautiful except for one room which I thought was in bad taste. This room had ornate pillars encrusted with all kinds of precious and semiprecious[Pg 38] stones and odd-shaped shells. I understand that Father had contributed a large uncut diamond to this conglomeration, which also included geological specimens, together with petrified snakes wrapped around the pillars, turtles and crocodiles in creeping or crawling positions.

One day Father went with the Kaiser to the mausoleum and placed a wreath on the tomb of the Emperor Frederick III, the Kaiser’s father. Photographs were taken on this occasion; later, in the bitterness of war, while looking at these pictures, Mother said; “Papa would rather lay a wreath on Wilhelm’s tomb.” We children cut the pictures of the Kaiser out of all our photographs. Alexei tore up his pictures of Germany completely, remarking that he (the Kaiser) did not deserve to be called a godfather, and indignantly tramped the old photographs with his feet. I did the same. After our arrest and imprisonment in Tsarskoe Selo, I purposely broke several gifts from the Kaiser pretending that it was an accident in every case.

Before we departed for home, Father gave the Kaiserin a pendant of pearls and sapphires, which we had previously proudly displayed to our friends for their approval. We liked the Empress and often felt sorry for her because she had to put up with such an intemperate husband. The Kaiserin gave each of us girls a sewing basket complete with all necessary equipment. We used these until 1914, when we gave them away not wanting to see them again. Some of the Kaiser’s sons, resplendent in immaculate uniforms and eagle-crested helmets, escorted us to the station, frequently clicked their heels as they saluted us, making our departure a gala affair. The Kaiserin was forbidden to accompany us to the station. At the time Mother considered this an insult, but a letter from Aunt Eleonor revealed that the Kaiser in a fit of anger had slapped her face that morning before our departure, and each of his five fingers had left an impression on her face.

As we boarded the train, Father was dressed in his civilian overcoat and Alexei wore his customary dark-blue sailor suit,[Pg 39] while we sisters wore our traveling suits as it was already cold. On the train, Alexei said: “I was scared of those cousins.” Upon the occasion of that visit to Germany, Father, out of courtesy, appointed the Kaiserin Augusta Victoria honorary colonel-in-chief of the Grodno Hussars. This aroused terrible consternation, especially on the part of Grandmother who was so furious that she cried and carried on bitterly, saying that she hoped she would never see the Kaiserin wearing that uniform. I am sure she never did. En route home Father received word from Aunt Ella that two Russian millionaires whom he knew had committed suicide. This made a sad impression on us children. Later, after we arrived home, Mother received a Christmas gift from the Kaiser, two enormous red enamelled vases. I presume they were made by the royal manufacturers. These vases were placed in a room in our home, one on each side of a console table.

Each member of our family settled into his usual routine of activities. The problem of finding playmates for my brother loomed large again. Derevenko, the sailor, had two sons, both younger than Alexei; they became my brother’s playmates, for which my Mother was bitterly criticized.

[Pg 40]


Lessons were always an ordeal for me, especially when it was time for a visit to the Crimea, for our hearts had always been set on the sea. Lessons, however, were never neglected, for Mother was always strict about their regularity. Livadia was the favorite estate of my Father, as it had been that of his father and grandfather before him. It is located at Yalta on the Crimean peninsula, and its sunshine and warmth were a welcome change after the gloomy, cold days spent in our more northerly home at Tsarskoe Selo.

At this time Dr. Botkin, Mother’s physician, who was ill, requested permission to have his children come aboard our yacht. Mother replied that they could come as often as they wished during their father’s convalescence. I heard that the sick should not be forsaken. I, as a good Samaritan, did my part by visiting the doctor every day, sitting at the edge of his couch with my folded hands, like those of an old lady, wishing to entertain him. We were all very fond of him. He had a wonderful gift of story telling, and after taking in every word I flew like a bullet to tell Marie and Alexei every detail of our conversation, often embellishing it to add more zest to the story. At home I used to wait for him in the room next to Mother’s bedroom. I knew he had to pass this room after he finished her examination. I stopped him and opened my heart to him with my childish problems. He asked me all kinds of questions, and in turn I received from him first hand information about his family. I always carried scraps of paper in[Pg 41] my hand. Asking him for his pencil, I scribbled down some kind of curly-cues for my record.

We were so excited when we heard that his two children, Tatiana and Gleb, were coming to visit their father. Dr. Botkin had told us so much about his children that we felt we knew them. At first Gleb was shy and Tatiana excited, but soon we all got acquainted and had a hilarious time. My older sisters left the newcomers to us younger ones. I remember hiding from Tatiana behind a drapery. Dr. Botkin was resting on a couch and kept saying: “I see you, Anastasia,” since my shoes were clearly visible protruding underneath the drapery. I did not answer him. Finally Tatiana pushed aside the curtain expecting to find me there, but all she found were my shoes. I had left them there and moved to another hiding place.

Dr. Botkin was so understanding in the way he got into the spirit of our games. In my eagerness for his children to have a good time, I asked him confidentially what I could do to make his family happy. He replied, “Just being with you is the greatest pleasure you can give.” His children called him “Papula,” and I too appropriated that as my pet name for him. In Ekaterinburg, when times were sad, I often said: “Cheer up, Papula; all will be right.” In Tsarskoe Selo, we girls had little opportunity to play with anyone from outside except occasionally with our cousins.

One of the unforgettable sights at Livadia was the Hill of the Cross (Krestovaya Gora) which greeted our eyes each time we reached the Bay of Yalta, and we gazed upon it in thanksgiving for our safe arrival. It was this towering mountain with a monumental cross at its peak that fascinated me. I refused to believe that the world was round but I imagined that the peak was one of the props which supported the sky like an umbrella. To explore the mountain, I devised a plan. I ran to Marie about it, since she always was interested in my adventures. As a result, one sunny afternoon, when I was overcome by curiosity and our nurse was absorbed with the others, Marie and I slipped through the bushes and were actually on our way.[Pg 42] We dashed from bush to bush until we thought we were safe from possible pursuers. Unfortunately the mountain which we had set out to climb proved to be farther than we had anticipated. On and on we went. Finally we could move only slowly. The mountain was still far away. Bewildered and discouraged we turned homeward. We were worn out. Suddenly we noticed guards coming toward us. We rushed toward them, weariness forgotten. “Here they are,” a voice sang out, and we two explorers were hurried back to the palace.

I recall an incident involving Alexei. He suddenly seemed to have disappeared. At the first report everyone thought in terms of drowning, kidnapping, or some other tragedy. Every guard and the household help ran in different directions. Father, by instinct, went straight toward the sea, and there he found Alexei happily playing on the beach with a pile of shells he had gathered.

At Livadia we had beautiful orchards, bearing every kind of fruit. We loved to spend our leisure time in these orchards. The gardeners displayed apples, peaches, apricots and cherries, all according to the season. We were especially proud of our vineyards nearby at Massandra. We had every kind of grape—white, purple, red—each one a perfect specimen and unusually large. Whenever we visited the wine cellar we found large bunches of grapes artistically arranged on platters in the reception room. They looked so tempting with sprays of leaves accentuating the soft colors of the fruit. After tea, cakes and grapes were passed.

After our tour of the vineyards we usually took the lift down and walked through seven huge store rooms. These contained many shelves of bottled wines lying on their sides, dated, labelled and crested with the Russian double eagle. These bottles were in deep red, white or blue marked with their age, which went back several generations. Father commented on the age and quality of the wines stored there on platforms, in large barrels, holding several hundred gallons of wine to age. It was here that the coronation wine was made and bottled;[Pg 43] a lot of it still remained in these rooms at the time of the revolution. There were varieties of wines here which were used in the palace at Tsarskoe Selo. Father drank only occasionally. He disliked champagne, but enjoyed a glass of sherry. Mother and we children used some only for medicinal purposes.

Many of our activities were centered around the waters of the Black Sea. We often went bathing but none of us children could be called good swimmers. As a matter of fact we were afraid of the deep water, especially since that frightful incident when I was swept under by a huge wave and was saved by Father from drowning. After this a platform or breakwater was built for our protection.

Nineteen eleven was a turbulent year for us. On our way to the Crimea we stopped for several days in Kiev. Father and my older sisters accompanied by the ladies of honor and by Crown Prince Boris, the heir to the Bulgarian throne, went to the opera. After the first act, when the curtain fell and the orchestra played, voices were heard from the audience and confusion began. Prime Minister Stolypin who sat in a white coat in the front row had been shot. The bullet pierced the cross and his chest. The foul deed was done by a man who used a pass given him by a friend of the Okhrana who had been made to believe that he was anxious to be present at the performance. The family returned earlier than expected. Father was as white as a ghost and both sisters shook when they reached the train where Mother was in a state of collapse. She had already heard about the murder. It was said that the Minister, Count Witte, who wanted to regain his former position, which he had lost to Stolypin, exchanged sharp words with Stolypin shortly before the killing took place. Father ordered no reprisal, stating that court action should settle the matter. For this he was deeply criticized.

Madame Narishkina told us then the experience the Stolypin family had had during the Japanese war. Their home in St. Petersburg was bombed and about two dozen people were[Pg 44] injured; one remained a cripple. She said that arms, fingers and limbs were scattered all over the garden.

Amongst Mother’s closest friends was Mme. Anna Vyrubova (née Taneeva) who sometimes quarrelled with members of the staff. Anna Vyrubova even declared war on Mlle. Butsova. Mother said: “Never again will I have her in Livadia,” but she broke her promise again and again. Anna’s mother before her marriage was a Tolstoy and her husband was related to General Voyeykov, the commandant of the palaces in Tsarskoe Selo. He, too, was disliked by many.

Mother invited Anna to come to the Crimea despite the feeling against her. She had been our friend for a long while and we accepted her as though she were a member of the family. Her house in Tsarskoe Selo was conveniently located a short distance from the palace gate and we children loved to go to Anna where we did not spare her cookie jar which was always full and accessible. There was no formality at her house and we were free from surveillance. Anna knew how to make us feel at ease with her friendliness and understanding, and our ties with her grew stronger. Sometimes even Father joined Mother at Anna’s, and that was a unique experience for my parents. It was at her house that Mother and sometimes Father saw the Starets (Rasputin). Hence all the messages from the Starets to Mother came through Anna.

We had heard of the malicious stories about Anna’s relationship with Rasputin. However, a thorough investigation disclosed that these terrible rumors were totally unfounded and that Rasputin had never visited her house when she was alone. Mother had a special interest in her because she had encouraged Anna to marry an officer who had been shell-shocked during the Russo-Japanese war. The marriage eventually ended in divorce. After the death of Rasputin, Anna moved to our house because Mother feared she, too, might be killed. Her father, Alexander Sergeevich Taneev, held a position at court and Father esteemed him highly. He was also a fine musician and from him Anna had inherited much talent.[Pg 45] A love for music bound Mother and Anna into this close friendship. These musical hours served to release Mother’s suppressed ambitions. In her younger days she had taken voice lessons, learning many arias from operas. Had she been born into another family, she could have made music her profession.

Miss Baumgarten or Miss Clements usually accompanied Mother during her vocal practice. Mother played many complicated compositions on the piano; the harder they were the better she liked them. She possessed great patience and would never stop until her undertaking was accomplished. When she played she always laid her rings on a tray. She had an idea that the rings interfered with the clearness and softness of the melody.

Anna was a constant visitor in our house and occasionally Father dropped in to listen and enjoy the simple pleasures Mother and Anna had together. Whenever possible, in the evening, we children were allowed to slip into the room to hear them play and sing classical numbers. At these Mother was radiantly beautiful and she carried the melody with much expression and feeling; we were often deeply touched. There was an expression of sadness in those melodies and the plaintive ones were those she sang the best. Father enjoyed Mother’s informal concerts but never encouraged the presence of strangers during these intimate musical evenings. He also was musical and while young often played the piano with Madame Narishkina.

Mother often played and sang with Countess Emma Fredericks, the daughter of our chamberlain. She, too, had a beautiful voice; unfortunately she was a cripple. I often wondered what became of her when misfortune swept the country. Another musically gifted friend was the lady-in-waiting, Baroness Iza Buxhoeveden. All these people contributed considerably to Mother’s happiness. Alexei’s illness in 1912 aggravated Mother’s heart condition and forced her to withdraw considerably from her hitherto enjoyed pleasures. When the war came, she stopped singing altogether, though she did take[Pg 46] part in chants during church services, especially when we were under arrest.

Father encouraged all sorts of artistic endeavors. He wished to give an opportunity to all the poor to hear the best of concerts and see the plays and cinemas. The year of my birth he sponsored Narodny Dom, a cultural center in St. Petersburg, not far from the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul. This included large concert halls, a theatre and a cinema. The same artists who performed at the Imperial Theater were heard and seen in this cultural center, at the cost of only a few kopecks.

Never did Livadia seem more magical than at the time we arrived to find a beautiful new palace replacing the old wooden structure which had stood for generations. The new palace construction began in 1910 and was finished in 1911. It had forty or fifty rooms. It rose naturally from its surroundings as if it had grown out of the fertile soil itself. The old palace had been torn down because it developed some kind of malodorous mushroom which was hazardous to our health; so now only a memory existed in our minds. This was in contrast to the new building, so full of light and air, which was constructed of steel and of native, white Crimean Inkerman stone. It was quite as dazzling, in the sunshine, as the sea itself, and, indeed, cheerfully different from anything we had ever lived in. It did not seem like a palace, least of all ours. Mother was charmed, especially with the harmonizing colors; her pleasure made a home of it immediately. She was everywhere, supervising the putting up of different pictures or icons, or the placing of vases (designed by her) of exquisite blossoms on various tables. Father had made plans with the gardeners to make sure there would be plenty of Mother’s choice, favorite flowers. Her greatest favorite was lobelia. She loved its purplish-blue hue so much she requested that the same shade of velvet be set into the stair rail, next to the Byzantine-style chapel leading upstairs to the second floor apartments.

This time the old porcelain stoves were omitted and the palace was heated by hot water. All the rooms had direct bells[Pg 47] connected with the room of the officers on duty who could enter the rooms if needed. Father later had telephone booths installed throughout the park, so he could be found wherever he might be. Also we had some trained dogs to watch the palace grounds. The colonnades and balconies were in white marble, and some of the lower rooms were in lemonwood, mahogany and redwood. Mother with the help of her architect, Krasnov, selected all the needed articles. She herself had painted a picture of wisteria vines which hung in one of her rooms in the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoe Selo (proof of her artistic talents). In our chapel there she had a glass screen of that same color, behind which she prayed undisturbed.

Father, too, was delighted with the new palace but his delight centered more on the outdoors, with its rare specimens of trees, shrubs and plants. The climate of the Crimea lent itself to all sorts of agricultural experiments, and he gave a great deal of time to naturalizing importations from the famous Nikitsky Botanical Garden near by. Whenever Father had a free moment to himself he enjoyed working in the gardens under the bright sun. In the spring there were varieties of hyacinths in bloom, white, purple and pink. Many flowering trees and shrubs embellished the beauty and elegance. Mother loved the combination of wisteria and smoke tree. A year before the war a storm destroyed many of these rare trees, which were soon replaced by new importations.

In front of the palace, facing the sea, was a lovely, life-sized, reclining female figure in pure white marble. Alexei and I discovered a hole on the side of the figure. It was large enough to squeeze a kopeck into, which we promptly did. On the following morning we rushed out to see if it was still there.

I have many vivid memories of the place and the happy times which we all enjoyed while there. To me the Crimean peninsula was a concentration of nature’s best: snow-capped mountains with little Tartar villages nestling on their slopes, high plains under cultivation, and valleys full of wild flowers and berries. The estate itself was especially beautiful, with its[Pg 48] wide lanes, lovely gardens, and many orchards bearing every kind of fruit. But, perhaps, most beautiful of all, and certainly the accent for all the other natural beauties surrounding Livadia, was the sea itself. Even today, as I think of my childhood visits to the Crimea, happy memories come to my mind. I can see pictures of vividly colored flowers, soft green-blue waters and deeper skies, all fused together in the melting sunshine of the Russian Riviera. Life here was most pleasant, with less formality and with more leisure time for Mother and Father to spend with us children. Our visits usually came in the spring and fall, and the protracted winter which intervened became for all of us one long period of anticipation. Our last stay of any length was just before World War I, when I was almost thirteen.

We went to the Crimea by special train. We invariably went first to Sevastopol, where Father inspected the naval installations. These included the admiralty, naval barracks, hospital, and other buildings. Father frequently lunched with the officers at the Officers Club. When he was ready to proceed, we boarded a yacht or tender at the Tsarskaya Pristan (dock) and landed at Yalta where we were greeted by the people who lined the road as our carriages passed through. The natives considered this day a holiday.

Granny Marie had not visited the Crimea since the death of her husband, Alexander III, in 1894 and even the new palace which stood majestically among the trees could not induce her to pay us a visit. During the revolution, however, she was forced to flee to the Crimea.

Before the war, while we were in the Crimea, Father got up one morning before dawn, and dressed himself in a soldier’s uniform. Eluding the guards, he walked toward the rising sun. He passed through villages and saw people working in gardens and fields. All seemed happy and contented as they passed by him. We, afterwards, wondered if he had his great-granduncle, Alexander I, in mind. For it was believed that Alexander left one early morning, disguised as a beggar,[Pg 49] walking for weeks through the villages until he reached a Siberian monastery. History tells us that Alexander I was ailing and died in Taganrog. But many believe that the day he was supposed to have died, he was seen escaping into the darkness of the palace grounds. His wife had a simple funeral for him, which was witnessed by only a few. The body was then brought to St. Petersburg where it was laid in a mausoleum in the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul—where all the Russian emperors were entombed. But it is said that the entombed body was not the Emperor’s but that of a soldier who had died in Taganrog at the same time that Alexander I had escaped. Alexander I allegedly died while hiding in an ancient monastery in Tomsk as a monk; the birthmarks on the body were the same as those of the Emperor. Later the Cathedral in St. Petersburg was flooded and, when the coffin that allegedly held the body of the Emperor was opened, it was found to be empty. The investigation disclosed that the coffin had been pried open in the past and the body removed.

Father, however, after walking all day and talking to the peasants, returned late in the afternoon. He found the police and his staff officers terribly worried over his disappearance. Father was happy. He said it had been one of his most pleasant walks for he had seen how his people lived. General Dumbadze, who was responsible for Father’s safety, was very much upset over this incident.

Another time, when Father tried unsuccessfully to leave the palace in Tsarskoe Selo, dressed as a soldier, one of the guards saluted him as he passed. Father asked him: “Do you know me?” The guard answered: “I do, Your Majesty, by your kind eyes.”

In the Crimea there were other activities to look forward to: such as the bazaar that was organized under the patronage of Mother and Princess Bariatinsky. This bazaar was held annually and the funds raised went to the support of the Children’s Tuberculosis Sanatorium. This institution was located on the Imperial estate of Massandra. It was housed in a beautiful[Pg 50] building overlooking the sea and was surrounded by spacious grounds with avenues bordered by roses and rare species of carefully labelled shrubs and trees. This adjoined the Imperial vineyards. Here several hundred children were cared for and educated, and when they were cured of tuberculosis, many entered schools of higher learning. These children came from all over the Empire, from rich and poor alike. The large sums needed to support the hospital were raised through donations, concerts, plays, bazaars, selling flowers and photographs. Mother and her friends, with the assistance of my sisters, made many articles to be sold at this bazaar. We three younger ones felt the responsibility, too, and enthusiastically found buyers for flowers and for tickets to the concerts. The public was always generous.

Alexei was most eager to help in this project as he, himself, suffered so much and understood the misery of others. From time to time he gave his whole monthly allowance to this cause. Once, on our private train on the way to the Crimea, Aunt Ella joined us at the station in Moscow. She, too, brought with her gifts for the bazaar. We took turns selling Easter eggs on the train and, by the time we reached the Crimea, the donations had grown enormously large. One of our entourage carried the basket while Alexei sold many of these treasures with his heartbreaking sales talk to our friends who were on the train. He kept a careful account of all the gifts he collected which were valued at several hundred thousand rubles; a check for 50,000 rubles came from Prince Dolgorukov. Alexei never forgot this generosity and looked forward to another year in order to do the same thing. When he was subsequently praised for this, he answered cheerfully: “I never had more fun in my life!”

Our cousins, the Princesses Nina and Xenia Georgievna, helped us in this charity project when they were at their estate in Kharaks. Our other relatives from Ai-Todor, adjoining Livadia, always lent their aid as did those of the Youssoupoff[Pg 51] family. Countess Vorontsova-Dashkova, that beautiful woman, was a great supporter of this charity.

In 1914 the “Standard” was brought to the Crimean waters from the Baltic, through the North Sea. Box after box was carried down from the “Standard.” They contained items to be sold at charity bazaars which were held in the gymnasium under the auspices of the Governor of Yalta. Most of the buyers wished to purchase something handmade by my Mother or that had been touched by her. Madame Zizi (Elizabeth) Narishkina assisted Mother and handed to the guests whatever Mother selected. It might be a child’s bonnet, a cushion, or a scarf. Mother thanked them and offered her hand which they always insisted upon kissing. Olga and Marie, Tatiana and I sold at different stalls. Hundreds of beautiful handmade boxes of all kinds of shapes and sizes, in lapis lazuli, malachite, leather, or in the famous transparent enamel, or the lacquer boxes of papier maché were sold in great quantities. In the evening, after supper, a concert was given by Madame Plevitskaya, the nightingale of Russia. Her graceful bows were like a weeping willow and her long fingertips touched the floor before us. She was noted for her rendition of national songs.

Plays were given in our honor which were often attended by our friends and cousins. On one of these occasions Alexei was unruly. During the intermission he acted like a wild colt. His friend encouraged him in this exhibition. He jumped on top of a chair and then up on a table, pretending that he was delivering a speech. He changed his voice, using a peculiar accent in pronouncing certain letters. Marie and I were so ashamed of him and could not believe it was our brother. Mother said she would never again allow him to appear in public without the two older sisters.

Everyone worked hard and made large donations besides. During the war a part of this sanatorium was turned into a hospital for the wounded officers who recovered quickly to return to combat.

[Pg 52]

Father’s purpose in taking the long walks mentioned above was to make sure that the exercises required of his troops during maneuvers were not too strenuous for them. He frequently exceeded by several miles per day the distance the troops were required to march. On such walks Father carried only water and bread.

[Pg 53]

SPALA: 1912

The summer of 1912 found us once more in Peterhof.

Before long we departed on another cruise for official reasons. Kaiser Wilhelm came to Russia for a few days for nautical ceremonies and to inspect the Viborg infantry of which he was the honorary colonel-in-chief; he cruised with us in Finnish waters. He was so noisily jovial that Mother called him “the comedian.” At this time in our presence, one of his officers said something about “my men.” The Kaiser turned sharply and curling his mustache nervously said, “Once again, they are my men.” He was happy one minute and moody the next, so that my sisters remarked, “There is something wrong with him.” But, of course, at my age, I saw only the humorous side of his nature and enjoyed his amusing anecdotes and clever caricatures, drawn by himself, mostly characterizing his own relatives. He was jealous of Mother, because he could not understand how she could become all Russian, as his English mother had never become all German. He liked our yacht, the “Standard,” and said, “Nicky, I would like to have the ‘Standard’ myself, but with a German crew.” Father’s face flushed. He knew what he meant. The remark was intended to indicate German superiority in navigation. After a pause, Father answered: “We are very fond of the ‘Standard’; it is quite comfortable and the family enjoys it a great deal.”

The Kaiser often asked Father for donations for his charities and Father could not refuse him. This made my Mother angry. It was during this cruise that the Kaiser’s action and behavior aroused disgust in Mother more than before. Often she said:[Pg 54] “I remember when he was a young man he used to provoke Granny with his sharp words. But Granny did not spare him, either.”

At the time of his departure, the Kaiser surprised everyone by kissing Father’s hand in the presence of our Foreign Minister, Izvolsky, who remarked, “A kiss on the hand and a stab in the back.” This diplomat foresaw, obviously, the great events of the coming World War I. We were glad when the Kaiser sailed away on the “Hohenzollern.” Grandmother also did not feel kindly toward the Kaiser since the German absorption of Schleswig-Holstein and the expulsion of the native Danes from their homeland. The wound was so fresh that she strongly resented the Kaiser’s visits to Denmark. Kaiser Wilhelm hated every living Slav and I have often wondered how he felt in his heart when he accepted expensive gifts from us and ate food with Father, who was not only a Slav but defended all the Slavs.

The same year we went to the monastery of Borodino to celebrate the Napoleonic defeat on the Berezina River in the war of 1812. The people wept from joy to see the Imperial family and they gave Alexei relics of the war of 1812.

Occasionally in the fall hunting lured Father to Poland to his estates at Belovezh in the government of Grodno. On our way there we landed in Reval where Alexei laid a stone at the harbor to Peter the Great. Father reviewed the Sixth Army Corps here, while Mother and we children visited the Nicholas Institute for Girls. In Belovezh we stayed in our new large red brick shooting lodge, with several watch towers and a fine balcony, from where we viewed the game brought in after the day’s hunt. One side of this residence held rare stuffed animals found here years ago and the other side was used by us as our living quarters. The house was located in the midst of a forest of pine and white birch trees surrounded by picturesque hills and ravines. Most of the best hunting took place in the vicinity of Belovezh and Spala.

Our lodge at Spala was a two-story, gloomy, wooden villa near a river and a park; one side was closely surrounded by[Pg 55] tall trees through which little sunshine penetrated, making it necessary to keep the lights burning in the corridors and halls. The whole house here, too, was decorated in English chintzes.

We sisters went horseback riding over the broad, sandy roads and alleys which wound through the woods of white birch and fragrant pines. In the midst of fir trees the ground was covered with yellow milk mushrooms, as bright and smooth as silk which the natives ate raw. We also found time to play in the park or fish in the brook and occasionally Father and his guests had a game of tennis.

These forests had been stocked with game for generations of royal hunters. There were many wild animals roaming at large, including deer, wild boar, lynx, and wild fowl. But the most rare and sought was the auroch, an unusual variety of bison found only here and in the Caucasus mountains. At dusk the party returned, the prey was spread on the lawn and everyone was supposed to rush out to examine it and express great admiration. Mother often made some excuse to stay indoors, or appeared, out of courtesy, briefly on the balcony; she did not care to see these lovely creatures killed. The sight of dead deer with their large pathetic eyes, still open, reminded her too much of a human suffering.

Here, too, were many mounted heads, killed in previous years, which adorned the various walls in the house. I was glad when Mother had some of them removed from the dining room. Several large landscape paintings in heavy frames and some paintings of horses brightened these rooms. But the other pictures of hunting dogs with a fowl in their mouths or a large boar lying on the green grass with a spot of blood on its body was not very cheerful.

In spite of the wonderful care which always surrounded Alexei, he bumped his knee during our trip on the yacht, bursting a blood vessel, which affected his groin and developed into a black and blue lump. It was so painful he could not bear to have the doctor examine it. His condition had bettered and the swelling below his abdomen was somewhat reduced, but[Pg 56] when he was taken for a ride in a carriage, suddenly he became very ill and the swelling increased again, as did his temperature, and he became delirious.

Mother’s sister, Princess Irene, wife of Prince Henry of Prussia, and their son, Prince Sigismund, were visiting us at the time. She was very sympathetic regarding Alexei’s misfortune because one of her sons had died of haemophilia. She was one of the very few who knew about Alexei’s condition from the earliest symptoms. Those outside the family did not know of the serious nature of Alexei’s illness. Now Aunt Irene joined Mother in taking care of Alexei, especially since our trip to Spala had been planned several months ahead and previously arranged engagements could not be cancelled without arousing suspicion concerning the state of Alexei’s health.

We had many house guests who had come from several foreign countries and from many parts of Russia. Friends from nearby Warsaw sometimes joined us for dinners and entertainments which had been arranged for the pleasure of our guests. There was dancing and other professional amusements. But it was difficult for Mother to appear to be enjoying these festive occasions when at the same time fate might claim the life of her son. She ran up the stairs whenever possible, in order to be with Alexei for a few minutes. Meanwhile Father carried on as host, with Princess Irene taking Mother’s place as hostess during Mother’s absence.

We sisters gave a French play before our guests. I was delighted that our Swiss tutor, M. Pierre Gilliard, gave me a part that contributed largely to the success of our little performance. But, while performing before our audience, I mixed up my lines and could not hear the prompter; so I resorted to improvising. At this moment, while the guests were hilarious over my ad libbing, an elastic of my most delicate undergarment broke and the embarrassing white ruffled cambric fell to the floor. The audience became well-nigh hysterical and laughed far more than if I had remembered my lines.

The secrecy surrounding Alexei’s illness had always tormented[Pg 57] me. I knew bleeding was involved, like the bleeding of a wound that could not be stopped. Marie and I were almost as ignorant as the general public as to the real nature of his illness. I remember tiptoeing into my brother’s room and there I saw Mother lying on a couch. In one corner was a basin filled with pieces of cotton which she had been applying to the blue swelling. As Alexei’s condition became worse, the rest of the family joined Mother at the side of his bed. I would have preferred to be outside where I could not see my brother’s suffering or hear his moans, yet something held me inside. There they were, Father, Olga, Tatiana, and Marie, all huddled together, a thin layer of hope spread over their despair. They were all in an attitude of prayer, and totally unaware of the struggle that was taking place in me. Suddenly, shame-faced, I slipped in beside them and found myself in the front ranks of the sorrowing family.

We all watched Mother, her hand enclosing Alexei’s as though she were trying to transmit her own strength into his frail body. He was not lying in a pool of blood as I had always expected but looked quite normal, except that he was very pale and moaned pitifully. His eyes seemed to be sunk into his head and he wore a peculiar expression on his face. Mother knelt beside him, encouraging her little son with a smile which seemed to say, “You will be well soon.” So long as Mother did not give up, Alexei knew his condition was not hopeless. We knew her heart was breaking, but before Alexei she was a picture of confidence and hope. Mother knew that if she left Alexei to the nurses, the boy would stop fighting, for it was her heroic presence which strengthened him.

Dr. Botkin, Mother’s private physician, relieved her on many nights as did my Aunt Irene. Dr. Fedorov, Dr. Dreifuss and Dr. Ostrogorsky were all summoned to repeat all the treatments which had helped in previous attacks. Dr. Fedorov, a renowned specialist in haemophilia, was in charge of Alexei. He had brought my brother through several other attacks, after which Dr. Derevenko, who was Dr. Fedorov’s assistant, became[Pg 58] Alexei’s personal physician. The doctors’ efforts did not seem to bring about any change. Mother, however, remained confident even when the doctors were shaking their heads in despair. Mother understood every agony of the boy and seemed to be able to relieve his suffering. Alexei extended his feverish hands to her in appreciation. They understood each other perfectly.

Hopelessness was crushing Father. It was such double torture with the fear of losing Mother as well as Alexei in the event anything happened to Alexei. We had practically given up hope, but not Mother. She would not give up. We braced ourselves to meet the inevitable. Mother’s face was white but calm before Alexei’s searching eyes. As a last resort she directed that a telegram be sent to Rasputin at his home in Siberia, imploring him to pray for Alexei’s recovery. In the morning Mother sent for Father Vassiliev to administer the holy sacrament to our brother. Alexei and Mother looked straight into each other’s eyes, the one sending out waves of assurance, the other hopefully receptive. The light in her eyes never failed him.

In the meantime a bulletin had been issued about the boy’s serious condition. Father felt that the people had the right to know about their Tsarevich, although it was torture to reveal the secret kept so long. At this time Father also ordered the sending of wires to our foreign diplomatic representatives with a view to locating specialists who might be able to help Alexei, but no medic for this malady was found.

The doctors worked feverishly, their foreheads moist with their exertions. Silence was broken as Alexei moaned and Mother whispered, “Has no word come from the Starets?” Alexei clung to life even when all of us except Mother thought each breath might be his last. Under the tension we even wished that it would be, to spare him further agony!

Suddenly one of the officers approached with a quick step and handed a telegram to Father. He read it aloud to all of us in a clear voice. “The little one will not die, do not let him[Pg 59] be bothered too much.” (This was the sense of the telegram, the words are my own.) When we all heard these words, the air became charged with renewed hope. Alexei must have felt it too for he relaxed into a deep sleep. It continued for so long that Mother kept listening to his heart to make sure that he was still with us. When he awoke, the bleeding had stopped. Whether it was the medicine, the holy sacrament, or our prayers, as well as those of Rasputin, which caused the sudden turn for the better, we could not tell, but we knew that death had been averted. We had seen a miracle before our very eyes.

From that moment on, the boy’s ravaged body began to mend. We could only think of Rasputin as a holy man and the instrument in the healing of my brother. I recall seeing him later—only three or four times—but he made a deep impression on me. He was so different from other human beings. His piercing eyes seemed to look right through me even into the depths of my innermost self. He frightened me. When I first saw him he said, “Is this the little one?” and I was afraid that he would touch me, but he didn’t. He wore a long cassock with a cross hanging down on his chest. He looked like a monk. I was told he walked long distances barefoot, not having the necessary money to travel by train. But when I saw him he wore boots. By nature he was a son of the soil, like a wild plant nourished by accident.

Grigory Rasputin was not a monk at all except in a very loose sense. He was not even a member of any holy order. He was a Starets, a pilgrim and lay preacher among peasants. Could he be a biblical character come to life? I wondered. On his many journeys he had learned many of nature’s remedies. He had faith in them in the face of modern scientific medicine. He believed nature had made provision for man’s health as she had made provision for his food and drink. He knew an herb or berry for various maladies. His remedies were simple; it did not seem possible they could be effective. I heard he used to put dried berries in his tea. For bronchitis, he used high bush cranberries or red raspberry juice. We did not follow any[Pg 60] of his remedies for my brother. We believed that ultimately God was the only Healer.

Father Vassiliev, our chaplain, held services twice a day in the camp chapel, which had been especially built in a large tent in the garden, until our departure from Spala in the late fall. Many different gifts were sent to Alexei during his illness, including some enamel and silver icons of St. Alexius and a Virgin and Christ in gold and decorated with precious stones. These and others came with the blessing of the churches in their incessant prayer for his health.

After this dreadful experience in Poland, Alexei was like something that had been lost but was now found. We could not do enough for him, but in spite of the attention we gave him, he was not spoiled. He was only an average boy and there was no reason for him to be different because he had been born to a royal family. There was a magnetism about the little fellow which no one could resist, yet Mother and Father tried to be firm with him. We all knew Alexei was the most important thing in Mother’s life; in fact, he was in all of ours. His condition meant misery or happiness to the whole family. Our first question every morning was, “How is Alexei?” We really did not need to ask because when Mother was happy, obviously he was all right.

Later we heard all kinds of atrocious stories spread about the illness of this innocent little boy. How could any human being think of anything so cruel and untrue is beyond my imagination.

Alexei was very sensitive and sometimes when Mother rebuked him he would run to Olga for sympathy. He adored Olga and said he was going to marry her. He was even jealous of her in a way, because he did not want her to pay attention to strangers when he was present. He had a talent for making us forget to scold him when he had done something wrong by distracting our attention. We all knew his strategy but it was hard to punish him when we saw him perched on a chair[Pg 61] like a little sparrow, wondering what he would say to get our minds off the coming reprimand.

Late in the fall a few weeks before Christmas when the snow had buried the ground, Alexei was well enough to be moved to Tsarskoe Selo and there he made further recovery from his recent attack. This illness damaged the nerve and caused his left leg to become shorter. It required painful treatments and a special pad was placed in his shoe to build up the heel, so that he limped only slightly.

Mother had put so much of herself into the agonizing condition that it was hard for her to be herself again. For weeks she lay prostrate from her nursing and emotional strain but blissfully conscious of victory. She was disappointed not to be able to go to church to give fitting thanks for Alexei’s recovery, but the priest came to the house and conducted a special service in the palace chapel. When she felt well enough to be up and around again, Dr. Botkin found her heart again in a weakened condition and confined her to her room.

During these periods of rest, following the exhausting care of Alexei, Mother devoted herself to intensive religious study. The sparing of Alexei was God’s answer to her prayers; her gratitude was so consuming she lived in a realm of religious dedication. She had a rare collection of Bibles, which were brought to her from St. Petersburg and Moscow; these she studied, making comparisons of the various editions. She would then discuss what she had learned with Father who was no less interested but who did not have the time he would have liked to devote to the subject.

In our library we had some rare scrolls and texts. They had come from Egypt, Persia, Palestine, Sinai, and elsewhere. One of these was the famous Codex Sinaiticus, dating from the fourth century A.D., which was first discovered by the German scholar Tischendorff in a monastery on the Sinai peninsula. Great-grandfather, Alexander II, had acquired the manuscript; later, in 1862, he had it published. There were also very early[Pg 62] Russian texts. All these were under lock and key but we could see them in the glass case. Father knew the history of each of these texts and versions. The children’s library was separate. On its shelves were Russian fables and stories, and there were translations from the Danish. We had some originals signed by Hans Christian Andersen.

Mother was reared and educated in England and Germany and distinguished herself in her studies. She, herself, was a philosopher and often discussed philosophy with her friends. She saw things the others could not see and sometimes connected religion with the writings of the great philosophers.

However, she was not a fanatic as many described her, but she could see and understand things the others did not. She was well informed on various subjects. She understood and reasoned the value and depth of her religion. Her and Father’s knowledge of history surpassed that of many historians and their vocabulary was powerfully rich.

When Mother was strong enough, we children joined her at luncheon or tea. In the winter she selected a sunny room where a folding table was used for the occasion. One of Mother’s rooms was decorated in her favorite color, mauve, and was cosy with matching brocades, curtains and upholstery. One wall was covered with a collection of icons which were gifts from different people. These were continually lighted by two lamps, one blue and one pink. Some of these icons were the most beautiful that Byzantine art could produce, others were very simple, but all were symbols to Mother and a means of remembering the donors. Mother loved every one of them, and was most appreciative when people presented her one of these religious treasures. Some of them she carried with her from Tsarskoe Selo to Alexandria and Livadia palaces and later to Tobolsk and Ekaterinburg. She wanted to have the most meaningful in her room. Others hung in one of the small rooms of the chapel together with some of her Bibles and a panagia. She also had some icons of great historic importance.

Icons of these types were made only by the Greeks, Russians,[Pg 63] Serbians, Bulgarians, and Rumanians. No statues were permitted in our churches, since we discarded the pagan idols at the time of the adoption of the Greek orthodox religion. A lot of the best treasures in the country were looted during the revolution. Other gifts were hung in the long hall which ran the whole length of the palace including all kinds of plates and other objects of historical value which we had received during many trips in Russia and abroad.

We were shocked to see how frail Mother looked when she finally emerged from her convalescence. It was an effort for her to walk the length of the hall and she was wheeled to the lift which took her to Alexei’s room. She permitted him to come down to the music room and lie on the sofa, or to amuse himself in the library with his electric trains. He built villages, fountains, churches out of blocks. We girls read to him or engaged him in games to keep him occupied. I can still see my brother in the blue nightshirt which he wore after his bath when he came down every evening before retiring. Mother took his emaciated hand and they went upstairs to hear his prayers. She had a tendency to overdo, hoping no one would suspect how much these illnesses of Alexei took out of her. It is true that bulletins had been issued telling of the serious condition of the Tsarevich but the nature of the illness had never been revealed to the people—that would be admitting hopelessness. When Alexei and Mother were well enough to travel we went down to the Crimea where the change and rest were always refreshing to both.

These attacks of Alexei were hard on us. For one thing our education was disrupted. It was difficult for us to concentrate on anything other than our brother’s health. The shared sorrow welded us into a closer family and the realization of this brought a change in my life. Thoughts of self seemed empty; childish pleasures began to lose their charm. My life was now so bound up with the family that I could no longer be lighthearted and free as before.

Reluctantly I realized I was taming down, through sorrow,[Pg 64] not discipline. My childhood pastime of painting took a more serious turn. I even attempted to write imaginary stories about animals. Mother was so pleased with my efforts she sent one of these stories to Aunt Irene saying, “See what our little Nastia has done.” I now took a greater interest in music and hoped that by working hard I might sing as well as Mother or play like Olga. I loved Olga for her true kinship and often kissed her hand for her understanding of us younger sisters.

A week or two was a long time for me to stick to anything. Again and again I would revert to my childhood spirit but each time with less of my former zest. My reputation of being a problem child persisted. People often asked, “Where does the little one, small in size, store so much, much energy? She has an endless supply of jokes and pranks.” Some enjoyed my humor as I could tell from the expression on their faces, and some did not.

Marie and I had all kinds of “properties” with which to carry out our practical jokes. We had a set of stuffed animals which we called our “Circus Kingdom.” We had a mechanical mouse, a yellow iridescent snake with a moving head and a red, sharp tongue, a snapping turtle which might tangle in a victim’s dress. Frightened, our victim would jump up on a sofa or chair while Marie and I pretended to be equally scared and put on an act with wide-open mouths.

Often, new attendants were warned to watch out for me and my pranks, but in the end they suffered. In all these activities I was the leader and most of the time in disgrace. Once Alexei sprinkled water over me saying, “You must have been born in a dry summer, your jokes have outgrown you.”

Perhaps my most effective toy for playing pranks was a large doll with brown phosphorescent eyes that shone in the dark. This mechanical doll, when wound, would open and close its eyes, making life-like, blinking motions. On one occasion, I wound my doll while Marie was watching at the bedroom door and, when we heard our victim coming, I left the doll on the floor facing the door. We then jumped into our[Pg 65] beds and pretended we were asleep. The attendant, who had come to see if we were all right, saw this awful thing on the floor in the dark with its blinking eyes. Terrified she ran screaming into the hall and awakened everyone on the whole floor. After this a sign was put up on our playroom door which read, “Enter only by permission of Olga and Tatiana.” This was designed to prevent Marie, Alexei, and myself from entering the room at will.

In the face of recent family heartaches I was less and less proud of my reputation as a prankster.

[Pg 66]


The spring of 1913 marked the three hundredth anniversary of the Romanov dynasty. Celebrations began with a great jubilee in St. Petersburg. We arrived from Tsarskoe Selo a few days ahead of the festivities and took up our residence in the Winter Palace. On the first day we drove in open carriages through streets lined with troops to the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan where a picturesque ceremony was held. It was a gray, cold and rainy day, in contrast to the brilliance that awaited us inside the Cathedral.

According to custom the Tsar entered first, followed by the Heir to the Crown. When Alexei appeared, it was not a strapping, healthy Tsarevich to whom all the Grand Dukes and dignitaries bowed, but a frail little boy of nine, carried in the arms of a Cossack. This was a sad moment for us. We had hoped Alexei would at least be well enough to walk but he had not recovered sufficiently from his recent illness. We stood under a canopy in the middle of the great church. Alexei sat in a chair. Mother worried about Alexei. She asked us to watch him also. Dr. Derevenko stood nearby. We sisters were dressed in white, as was Mother. She wore the blue ribbon of St. Andrew, the order studded with diamonds and rubies. We had the red ribbon of the order of St. Catherine with its dazzling star. Grandmother Marie stood with us, trim and regal as always, blazing with diamonds, rubies and emeralds. The elite of St. Petersburg were assembled here, a magnificent sight, with the high clergy in golden robes and elaborate mitres, and the high military dignitaries in uniforms embroidered in gold.

[Pg 67]

During the service a dove flew into the Cathedral and circled above our canopy. Afterwards friends told us they were afraid it would fly into the lighted candles and start a fire, but fortunately it flew out of the church through a door. Since the dove is an important symbol of peace in our religion, a representation of the Holy Ghost, we all wondered if this event had a special significance. (It is worthwhile mentioning that also during the coronation, Father said, “A pigeon flew during the ceremonies.” Later, in Ekaterinburg on the day of tragedy, while we were having our last walk in the yard, a pigeon flew over us three times and then dashed repeatedly against the window.) After the ceremony, in the afternoon, we were attired in national costumes, as were our guests. Mother was especially beautiful, in her high kokoshnik, with her white robe exquisitely embroidered in silver and long veil. In the evening she wore a tiara of Catherine II and a necklace of diamonds. It was valued at several million rubles. It was so heavy that she used it in all only a few times. Olga and Tatiana were attired in soft pink tulle gowns, Marie and I in white silk and lace.

Some evenings later a ball was held in the Winter Palace. It was the first official appearance for us two younger sisters, the first time we participated in such a grand affair. I remember how excitedly we looked forward to that occasion. Mother was indisposed that evening and, after a short while, suggested that we leave early and go to our rooms. Grandmother, however, took our side and asked Mother to let us stay longer, and promised that she would personally look after us. Mother burst into tears and said: “These women of St. Petersburg might talk about the girls, and Anastasia’s jokes might be misinterpreted.”

I was very unhappy that evening for fear that every move I might make or every word I might speak would be used against me. All the innocent joy was taken from me that gala night for fear of those women’s sharp tongues.

From St. Petersburg we proceeded by train to Moscow[Pg 68] where the Jubilee continued. On this occasion Mother wore the crown jewels. She never cared for them after the unfortunate incident which occurred during her early married life. At that time Granny felt that she still was entitled to wear the crown jewels instead of the young Empress. In the underground vaults in the Winter Palace there was a section where Mother kept some of her personal jewels. Any time she wished to have them, she notified the court chamberlain, Count Benckendorff, who sent several responsible persons with papers to fetch the desired pieces which were then brought under guard to Mother.

After the anniversary festivities we never spent another night at the Winter Palace, our childhood home. But during the war my sisters often stopped in the rooms for a glass of tea, after various charitable meetings. It is sad to think what became of the treasures stored in those vaults and elsewhere for generations, belonging not only to the Imperial family but to the Russian people as well. These treasures, worth billions of rubles, were held until the leaders of the revolution, Lenin, Trotsky (Bronstein), Apfelbaum, Rosenfeld and others got their clutches upon them. It was rumored that much of it was divided among their relatives who came to our country for that purpose and to kill and loot. These people and their successors have been exporting our Russian national treasures, so long guarded by the Imperial family, and selling them to foreign countries.

From Moscow we went to Vladimir, then to Nizhni Novgorod and to Yaroslavl. The latter—an old historic city with a view of the wide river—was a charming sight. I cannot even begin to describe the enthusiastic reception. Throngs of children, cadets, the nobility and the townspeople lined the streets right down to the dock. What a rich sight from the river—this beautiful city on a little hill! The bells were still ringing until we could no longer hear them. We passed an expanse of meadows, shimmering fields, and the breeze was sweeping like a soft veil over that heavenly country.

In every city there were similar festivities, and dinners with[Pg 69] many guests who had been especially selected to honor my Father and my Mother. Father’s guests at dinner were mostly men, and Mother entertained ladies in separate drawing rooms. The famous Plevitskaya sang again and bowed gracefully before the appreciative audience. There were many outstanding entertainments at which we made many new friends.

We were so tired at the end of our trip that Tatiana, in this mood, said: “People and more people—I am tired of them!” Mother, overhearing her say this, reprimanded her.

On our way to Kostroma we sailed on the Volga. People lined the shores, some even wading into the water up to their waists. When our boat developed some trouble and while the repairs were being made, the people thronged the shores and sang “God Save the Tsar.” The Imperial party was delayed in reaching Kostroma. It was in this terraced city overlooking the Volga River that the Romanov dynasty had its official beginning, and now a special ceremony was to be held to celebrate the three hundredth anniversary of the Romanov reign.

At last we reached the city and proceeded to the monument of Susanin. This was a column on which rested a bronze bust of the first Romanov Tsar, Michael Feodorovich. This column was supported by the peasant, Susanin. The latter was the Russian patriot who deliberately misled the Polish army which had invaded Russia and asked Susanin to lead the way to the whereabouts of the newly elected Tsar, who was in hiding. As a result of Susanin’s false directions, the Polish army was destroyed and was driven out. The plot of the famous opera, “A Life for the Tsar” by Glinka, was drawn from this heroic incident. This opera was one of my Father’s favorites. From the time of Feodor Romanov, a number of the brides of the Grand Dukes upon marriage adopted Saint Feodor and took the name of Feodorovna as a patronymic.

From the monument, the procession continued to the Ipatiev Monastery, where the first Romanov was sheltered in 1613. In the monastery courtyard was the beautiful Cathedral[Pg 70] of the Holy Trinity and within it stood the iconostasis and the throne of Tsar Michael Feodorovich. This monastery had been built by a Tartar prince who was the founder of the Godunov family and who was the first to be baptized there.

While in the Cathedral we visited the dark rooms in which Michael once had lived. We sat on the chairs with the beautifully embroidered double eagles on their backs, and drank tea from the original containers at the same table once used by Tsar Alexei. In one of the rooms was a portrait of Michael and Alexei Romanov. Both looked a little like my Father. The legend tells us that Alexei was born on St. Job’s day, and so was my Father. And their experiences were sad, but those of Alexei were not as tragic as those of my Father.

Also, we went to the cemetery and laid an exquisite wreath made of silver in the form of the cap of Monomakh and decorated with jewels on the grave of Michael.

Parenthetically speaking, it was a strange coincidence that, in Ekaterinburg in 1918, in the Ipatiev House, the last Emperor of Russia, Nicholas II came to his tragic end. The Romanov dynasty was born in the Ipatiev Monastery in Kostroma in 1613 and died in the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg, three hundred and five years later. History tells us that, at the election of Michael Feodorovich Romanov, a crippled beggar woman who claimed to be a wandering saint had predicted that the Romanov dynasty was born with Michael and would die with another Michael. And so it happened. When Father abdicated, his brother Michael succeeded him to the throne but soon abdicated.

Another strange incident was that a three hundred year old tree of immense diameter, said to have been planted by Michael, had been cut down just before we arrived in Kostroma. We saw it mounted on huge wooden blocks to be preserved as an object of historical interest.

One of the members of our party on this trip was Prince Dolgorukov, a direct descendant of the family that built the city of Kostroma and also the first church in the Kremlin in[Pg 71] Moscow. Prince Dolgorukov, faithful friend of our family, followed us to Tobolsk and later to Ekaterinburg where he, too, came to a tragic end.

The year 1913 also marked two hundred years since the seat of government moved from Moscow to St. Petersburg in 1713.

During this entire trip we received many gifts and pictures, and our albums were filled with photographs of historic events. On our way home we stopped at the Nicholas Palace in Moscow. At the functions there, Mother wore the old Slavonic robe and the crown jewels. These jewels she never wore again after the Jubilee celebrations ended. This was a year of many anniversaries and festivities. Several regiments celebrated their hundredth anniversary. The Naval Cathedral at Kronstadt was reconsecrated in celebration of its hundredth anniversary. We attended all these functions.

Soon we were back in Tsarskoe Selo resuming our daily routine. During this busy year Baroness Iza Buxhoeveden became lady in waiting, replacing the young Princess Elizabeth (Lili) Obolensky whose health had become impaired. Lili had taken several trips with us, including the one to England. We had known Baroness Buxhoeveden previously. She had already assumed some responsibilities in the palace. All the ladies in waiting were required to be single and to come from titled families. Mother did not believe in all the old court etiquette with its traditions and restrictions. To her it did not matter whether these young ladies were princesses or baronesses. She selected them on the basis of the best possible ability, education and culture. Baroness Buxhoeveden came from a Baltic family which had produced several ambassadors. Her father had been an ambassador to Denmark.

The position of lady in waiting was an honorary one to which many young ladies looked forward. To distinguish their rank from the other staff, they received badges studded with diamonds, with Mother’s initial and a crown on its top. Some were in silver and some in gold according to their length[Pg 72] of service. The ladies in waiting were not permitted to discuss political affairs at any time and all the happenings were to be kept in strict secrecy. They were not allowed to enjoy the company of the officers and aides in the palace.

Their duty was to accept telephone calls for Mother and for us girls, make notations of the calls, note incoming and outgoing telegrams, filing them by date, and make a memorandum of all telegrams and letters. They also were to chaperon us on drives or at any other function. Maids, a footman and a carriage were provided for their comfort. Extra ladies were called to the palace for the day if needed. Later during our arrest in Tsarskoe Selo, our letters and telegrams did not escape from being read. Iza shared our deprivations and followed us later to Tobolsk, Siberia, but was not permitted entry into the governor’s house.

[Pg 73]

The First World War

[Pg 75]


Early in the spring of 1914 we went to Livadia. Full days of school work were continued here. M. Pierre Gilliard and our Russian tutor, M. Peter Vasilievich Petrov, accompanied us as usual. Sometimes our tutors were invited to lunch with us and afterwards joined us in our hikes when the sun was bright and warm, or in some other recreational pastime. Our hikes took us through the park or along the shore to Yalta or to the Church of Alexander Nevsky on the opposite hill. Dinner was the focal point of the day with friends and relatives as guests. We children, especially, enjoyed Prince Igor Constantinovich and the Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich. Aunt Ella, Mother’s older sister, the widow of the Grand Duke Serge, brother of Alexander III, was another cherished guest. She and Mother had similar religious views, having inherited this mysticism from their mother, Princess Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse, daughter of Queen Victoria of England.

Grandmother Alice, I was told, was a student of religious history and movements, having been inspired by her tutor, a theologian who was a close friend of the Hesse family. He also had a direct influence on Mother. This theologian imbedded into her thoughts the terrible fear of sin. For years we children watched her struggle, trying to leave this deeply-buried mysticism and return to reality. However, due to the thoughtless criticism by my other grandmother, Father’s mother, Marie Feodorovna, and also the unsympathetic attitude of the Russian court, she sought comfort in this mysticism[Pg 76] and her whole soul once more overflowed with it. Then with the misfortune of her son’s illness, she reverted to it all the more. At the same time she pretended not to notice the criticism and tried to hide her pride; but her sensitive heart suffered and the words which she should have spoken hardened in her soul. Courtiers took her for a heartless, cold and eccentric woman. She, having been raised by her austere grandmother, tried to carry on in an efficient English manner. Even though her humble faith grew stronger, her English upbringing never left her and she never became a true Russian in manners, but in her heart and soul she was a better Russian than most native-born Russians.

We boarded our yacht, the “Standard”, which had been brought to the Crimean waters from the Baltic Sea via the North Sea. We went on several short cruises on the Black Sea. Once we crossed to Constantsa on the Rumanian coast to return a visit of King Carol and Queen Elizabeth (Carmen Sylva) of Rumania. They had come to see us with their grandnephew, the future King Carol II. It was an overnight trip to Constantsa. Carmen Sylva at her late age was still beautiful, as also was Princess Marie (Missy), wife of Prince Ferdinand; later they became sovereigns of Rumania. During this visit Princess Marie and my sister Olga developed a close friendship. The strained relationship between Mother and Missy’s sister Victoria, who was divorced from Mother’s brother Ernest, was improved; all was forgotten now. We had luncheon in a pavilion which seemed to rise right out of the sea. From this vantage point we could see many yachts and smaller boats cruising back and forth for a closer look at the “Standard”.

In the afternoon, tea was served on board the “Standard” for the members of the two families. After tea a great many dignitaries joined us on board ship.






Courtesy The P.B. Corporation

ca. 1896


Courtesy The P.B. Corporation




Courtesy The P. B. Corporation





Courtesy E. L. Packer


Courtesy E. L. Packer


Courtesy E. L. Packer

NICHOLAS II—ca. 1914

Courtesy E. L. Packer



Courtesy The P. B. Corporation


Courtesy E. L. Packer







Courtesy The P.B. Corporation


Courtesy The P.B. Corporation



Photograph by the late Colonel N. Koishevski


Photograph by the late Colonel N. Koishevski



[Pg 77]

That night a grand banquet was held in the beautifully decorated pavilion overlooking the sea. The lights reflected on the water as various craft sailed by, and the sound of music spread over the sea like a cloud. It was a gala occasion with many garlands and flags flying. I could not help watching Olga intently for I had overheard someone say that this trip was planned with a view to her possible marriage into the Rumanian royal family. At the dinner table Olga and Prince Carol sat side by side, apparently having a good time. The table was decorated with tricolors: red, white and blue, and small gifts were exchanged. Olga received a Rumanian national costume which was beautifully embroidered; the skirt was in a dark color woven in a pattern of gold and silver thread, and the blouse daintily embroidered in white. Princess Marie did not hesitate to admit that she herself was a beauty, especially her blue eyes. She was the eldest daughter of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, and the Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna of Russia. She was named Marie Alexandra Victoria, after both her grandmothers, the Russian Empress Marie Alexandrovna and Queen Victoria of England. As already mentioned, her younger sister Victoria Melita (Ducky) was the divorced wife of Mother’s brother Ernest of Hesse; she was now married to the Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich. Another sister, Alexandra (Sandra), married Prince Ernest of Hohenlohe-Langenburg. A third sister was Beatrice (Baby B.), wife of the Infante Alfonso of Spain, first cousin of Alfonso XIII.

I was filled with a compelling interest I had never before experienced. But when we sailed away that night, I learned it had been decided Olga was too young to marry. Later she told us that she would rather stay single than marry outside of Russia. We sisters were so happy we could not help teasing her about losing a husband. It was a good thing that Alexei did not know about Olga; he would have been sick with worry that she might leave Russia. Later I wished Olga had married at that time, she might be alive today.

During the war Prince Carol came to Russia several times[Pg 78] and stayed with us for a few days. Once he was accompanied by Prime Minister Bratianu. However, even this time, Olga was not given an opportunity of being left with him alone for one single minute, entirely apart from others. There were always ladies in waiting and we the younger ones excitedly were in and out of the room. She had no chance to hold his hand and less of being kissed.

Nor was any one else given an opportunity to be with Olga unchaperoned. It was in Tobolsk that Mother first realized her mistake in not giving more independence to her older daughters.

Olga was named after my Aunt Olga. She was tall, slender, blonde with a lovely fresh complexion. Her eyes were a lustrous blue, her nose was slightly turned up. She often jokingly referred to it as “the little stub”. When she smiled she displayed beautiful white teeth. As I look back, I am more and more appreciative of her fine character. She was an omnivorous reader and wrote some stories which she sent to Aunt Missy, Queen Marie of Rumania, who in turn sent Olga stories she had written. Olga’s poetry was destroyed by herself at the time of the revolution. She had a deep religious faith and often sat beside a patient at the hospital praying that God might spare the life of the young soldiers. Her touch on the piano was excellent and was able to master the most difficult compositions of Tchaikovsky, Wagner, Mozart, and Beethoven. Mother and Olga often played duets on the piano. Her talent for composing and writing was inherited from her Danish and Romanov sides which boasted a long line of artists, poets, sculptors and musicians. She was a mezzo soprano; she memorized musical compositions very easily. Mr. Konrad was her musical instructor, as well as ours. Father’s favorite was Tchaikovsky’s “Chanson Sans Paroles”. When she played it for him, his face lighted up with pleasure. She loved Father tenderly. Often, when Father was troubled, he talked over his problems with Olga and permitted no other member of the[Pg 79] family to be present. She loved children and sponsored several who were confined to the hospital. She even provided for their education by setting aside money from her allowance.

Going back to our Rumanian cruise, we arrived in Odessa at night, where the Imperial train was ready to take us to Kishinev for the unveiling of the monument to Alexander I. I remember the trip especially because Alexei misbehaved. No doubt this was due to fatigue brought on by the heat on the train. In Kishinev we were the guests of the Governor, an old friend, who wore the longest beard I have ever seen, reaching almost to his waist.

At the tea which followed, champagne was served. At an opportune moment, Alexei took a glass of champagne and drank it down before anyone could stop him. Soon this champagne took effect and he became very gay so that all the ladies, old and young surrounded him. I never realized he possessed such a sense of humor. Youngster that he was, he did not realize what the champagne had done to him. Of course the family was terrified at this display. In the evening back on the train when the effect had worn off, Father gave him a scolding and he was put to bed.

We children now realized that Alexei’s illness and the Jubilee had brought our studies to a virtual halt. Alexei and I used to have our French lessons together, but now he was far ahead of me. French was much easier for him than for me. I was really bored with all my studies. When I entered the classroom, my face grew long, but when school hours were over, I shot out of the detested place like a bullet. As a result my tutors were not fond of me and I felt their disapproval.

We had been home a short while when the world was shocked at the news of the assassination of the Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria and his wife on the streets of Sarajevo, on June 28th, 1914. After that date Father spent very little time with us. He was constantly busy with his ministers,[Pg 80] diplomats and the Grand Dukes. The President of France, M. Poincaré, spent four or five days with us at Alexandria Cottage in Peterhof. He was as complaisant as President Fallières whom he had recently replaced. Father felt drawn to him from the start, admiring his diplomacy and friendly manner. Several dinners were given in his honor with the Imperial family attending. Everyone looked grave and alarmed, and I gathered matters must be serious. Why should the assassination of an Austrian be so threatening to Russia? I was told that Russia had an agreement which might implicate us all unless the affair could be settled amicably. The hour the President departed, the Austrian ultimatum was served at once on Russia and on Serbia.

Out of this puzzling dilemma which hung over Russia, two things were clear to me: the quiet paleness of Father and Mother’s tearful entreaties imploring that Russia be kept out of war. Mother kept repeating, “The country is not recovered from one war before it is in another.” She was thinking of the Japanese war, whose horrors were still fresh in her mind. Mother’s agonized face vividly foreshadowed the tragedy ahead.

Every summer there was a review of regimental maneuvers at Krasnoe Selo (near Tsarskoe Selo). This time they were held in honor of King Frederick Augustus III of Saxony. We sisters enjoyed horses and each had a favorite horse of her own. Tatiana especially knew a great deal about them, since she had been taught riding by a competent riding master, but so did we all. The two older sisters were unusually graceful on horseback, more so than Marie and I.

Cossack horses were especially fascinating to me, since they seemed to understand one’s very thoughts. Tatiana described to me how the Cossack and his horse grow up together. Training begins when the young Cossack is given a horse, a progeny of a Cossack horse, trained to the requirements of the Cossack regiment. From then on boy and horse are one, inseparable,[Pg 81] each learning to understand the other: the boy is the head and the horse is the body. When the responses are mutual, they are ready to enter actively the Cossack regiment. I often wished I were a boy so that I might be a Cossack with a noble horse and wear a stunning uniform.

We drove speedily past the cheering crowds. To see these maneuvers was most interesting and exciting as we watched from the Imperial pavilion. In one performance a large unit trotted in perfect formation, then suddenly all the riders jumped off their horses in unison, then jumped back on their saddles without a single horse breaking its gait or changing its speed. In another exercise each horseman threw his black cape around his own shoulders and over his horse, so skilfully that the cape covered both horse and rider. There were many stunts and jumps over wide trenches filled with water; no one fell into them. During the luncheon, which was served under tents following the exercise, a message came stating that Austria-Hungary had declared war on Serbia (August 1st, 1914). At once we left for home.

I remember previous years when I was taken to see the review of the troops annually in May. All the society of St. Petersburg felt it was a privilege to pay hundreds of rubles for a box seat at these maneuvers. The proceeds from the sale of tickets went to charities. I still carry in my mind that upon our approach a signal was given and cheers spread along the quays.

Our carriages were drawn each by two pairs of pure white horses. Father always rode to the left side of Mother’s and Grandmother’s equipage, accompanied by the staff. We sisters followed swiftly in our carriage between the lines of troops until we reached the Imperial box under a green tent. Father reviewed his troops. First to march were the men of his own Preobrazhensky regiment, then the Hussars, the Pavlovsky regiment, the Lancers, the cuirassiers and the others.

Father did not think that the Emperor Francis Joseph[Pg 82] would wage war on Serbia on account of the killing of the Archduke and his wife. Father thought so because of the remark the old Emperor had made, in the presence of Father and persons about him, that the Archduke was good for nothing, that not a bone in his body was worth saving, and that he was not fit to carry the Crown.

During the latter part of the war several captured, high-ranking Austrian officers told the Court Chamberlain, General Tatishchev, that the old Emperor was directly responsible for the Sarajevo incident and that the Archduke was purposely sent there, where he was hated and murdered by oppressed Bosnians of the Dual Monarchy. The officers thought it was a deliberate excuse to provoke war and the aim was to destroy the little Kingdom of Serbia and take it under control as had happened earlier with Bosnia and Herzegovina. They knew that this little country would not be able to resist the two powers, Austria-Hungary and Germany. But those millions of suppressed plucky Serbs had already endured deprivation of freedom and arrests and confiscation of their property under the Dual Monarchy. They were determined to defend what was left of their country from being dismembered again, and all were willing to die for the right to live in their own land.

Father sent a telegram to Kaiser Wilhelm asking that the Austro-Hungarian-Serbian dispute be tried by the International Arbitration Court at The Hague. He also sent word to King Carol of Rumania to wire the Kaiser that Russia did not want war. But all was in vain. They took the killing of this good-for-nothing Archduke as a deliberate excuse, even though the murder was committed by their own citizens who resented the Dual Monarchy. It was common knowledge that Russian mobilization which was under way was directed against Austria, not Germany.

[Pg 83]


Events moved rapidly. Austria and Germany declared war on Serbia. More than ever Father was shut away from us, doing all in his power to keep Russia out of the conflict. But Russia was an ally of Serbia. There was no choice. German and Austrian troops were already mobilized and were conducting maneuvers near our border, and soon we, too, were in war. Mother wept copiously. “Why,” she asked, “should millions of Russians lose their lives because one man is killed? Wilhelm has brought this on. I never trusted him. I never forgave him the humiliation and indignities toward our Granny (Queen Victoria).” My thoughts flew back to the visit in Germany when the Kaiser was my friend. Only two years ago we had exchanged jokes. Now he was Russia’s enemy, Mother’s enemy, and mine. Wilhelm, Mother’s own cousin.

Before we knew it the Austrian troops were threatening the old Russian fortification of Bendery. I was filled with forebodings. Being a believer in dreams, I tried to interpret a dream I had had the night before this news arrived. I dreamed that the forest on the Russian western border was ablaze. I could hear the crackling of the timber and could see fierce fire raging high into the sky.

A few years later, during my escape, I crossed these same forests and remembered my dream. Then the trees were not on fire but lay with their huge roots pulled out of the ground—witnesses of the terrific suffering and tragedy that had occurred there.

[Pg 84]

At Tsarskoe Selo that evening, after the news of the German advance, we prayed to the Almighty, hoping that disaster could still be averted and peace could be maintained. We realized how much Father was suffering when he appeared late for dinner. His face was pale, his bearing indicated anguish. He said, “Russia has no choice but war, when the armies of Germany and Austria are already on Russian soil.” Mother burst into tears, and so did we all. Supper was not finished that night. We left the table. That same evening, Foreign Minister Sazonov and the British Ambassador, Sir George Buchanan, spent half of the night conferring with Father. The next day Father was at his desk at five in the morning, working until breakfast. Alexei, who was ill, did not know about the war until the next morning.

In the afternoon we all went to St. Petersburg, except Alexei. As we were entering the Winter Palace, people gathered in the square and surrounded us as they cheered. After an old Russian tradition they kissed Father’s shoulders and Mother’s skirt. This display of loyalty brought tears to Mother’s eyes. Father went directly to a meeting at the huge Nicholas Concert Hall with the ministers and generals. Then the Te Deum was sung. When Father appeared on the balcony of the Winter Palace to read the Manifesto declaring war, all of us children and other relatives stood behind him. At once the voices died down and all was quiet as though the whole world had suddenly fallen asleep. The thousands of people who had assembled in the square knelt down, their garments making a rustling sound, and in unison sang “God Save the Tsar.” At this time Father took an oath that he would never make peace so long as one enemy remained on Russian soil. Then he promised his people that he would defend all the Slavs, even if he would have to shed his own blood. It was a painful moment to announce to the people that war was an actuality.

We returned to Alexandria and several days later we all left for Moscow. We were greeted with the same enthusiasm there. The church bells rang continually as we passed from[Pg 85] the station to the Kremlin. People were everywhere, on roof tops, balconies and trees. The Russian national anthem was heard repeatedly along the way. Alexei was ill, and had to be carried to the Cathedral of the Assumption to hear the Te Deum. The patriotic demonstrations lasted three days. “Ura” (hurrah) resounded everywhere. From Moscow we went near by to Sergievo to pray at the celebrated Troitsko-Sergievskaya Lavra. Practically every living person in the area lined the streets to the monastery, the richest and most important monastery in Russia. It covered a large territory and was surrounded by a lofty, thick wall with many towers. It contained some dozen of churches and many historical treasures, some dating from ancient days. Many pages of Russian history had been devoted to this monastery, about the heroic defense by the monks in 1608 against the Poles. Here were the tombs of Tsar Boris Godunov and his family. Here Father received an icon to carry with him through the battles. This icon was sent to the field chapel at General Headquarters and remained there to the last.

With war an actuality, all Russia seemed to unite in a determination to win a quick victory. Whenever Father travelled, the people greeted him enthusiastically; sometimes the whole family went with him and heard him deliver his war messages. During these trips the air was full of unity and the family never felt closer to the people. Many letters were received from students who begged to be allowed to go to war. “A beautiful patriotism,” Father said. “But how little they understand what war is.”

During the first days of the war, all factions drew together in a great patriotic surge. We saw some of our own relatives return to Russia to take part in the war. We sisters hardly knew some of these relations. All helped in the war effort; even our frail Grandmother did her bit in hospital work. Later she spent a great deal of time in Kiev, with her younger daughter Olga, our aunt, who worked in her own hospital there[Pg 86] as a Sister of Mercy. Being so near the front, she received the most critical cases.

Life in the palace quickened. For days on end Mother could not think of anything but the hospitals. Were they adequate for the most certain strain ahead? She was not ignorant of the heavy task. In her younger days, before her marriage, she had taken up medicine for a while, knowing that the dreaded haemophilia might be in her genes. She wanted to be prepared to take personal care of any children she might have in the event they should inherit it. Later on, through the long illness of Alexei and during the war, her previous knowledge of this affliction helped enormously in her work. Mother also had a medical library on the second floor in Tsarskoe Selo, where in addition to texts, all kinds of anatomical diagrams and other materials could be found. Even before the war she was an excellent organizer of hospitals and charitable institutions, being particularly interested in orphanages. In addition to her medical training, Mother had studied philosophy in one of the German universities. In fact I recall the very drawer in the desk in a room on the balcony where she kept her documents and other papers of this nature. Most of all, I was always sure, Mother was determined to meet with courage any problems she had to face. So now, a nurses’ course was arranged for Mother, Olga and Tatiana, so that they might serve the wounded more effectively.

Alexei no longer played at soldiering. He was now in serious military training. In Father’s study there was always a chair for Alexei, where he sat on certain days listening to various reports brought by the Ministers. He was not allowed to make any comments at these conferences, although, after the Ministers left, he could ask questions about anything that puzzled him.

“If Alexei could take part in things, why not I?” Mother said, “During a war there are first duties. Yours is to continue your education in order to be useful later on.” How disappointing. Yet the war-electrified patriotism compelled me to dig in at[Pg 87] my school work and to pursue my formal education. Stirring sounds of bands and marching feet often disturbed my good intentions. I learned the meaning of discipline and self-sacrifice from the men under arms.

My newly awakened conscientiousness would not let me waste a minute. Besides working on my lessons, I joined a group of young women in hemming children’s dresses for various charities. Later under Marie’s supervision we worked in the palace workroom on garments and often we called officers of Father’s own regiment on duty in the palace to turn the wheels of the sewing machines and sort the garments.

We had learned sewing at an early age because Mother had always stressed its importance in any woman’s life. She, herself, was expert at sewing and during the early years of her marriage made some of the layettes for us infants. Many of her embroideries sold at benefits and some handmade blouses in silk or linen, beautifully tucked and embroidered, went as gifts to our relatives in England and in Germany.

Grandmother, too, was clever at hand work. She could repair her own exquisite handkerchiefs so perfectly one would never know they had been mended. Grandmother could knit well, too; during the war she made fine woolen gloves for the soldiers and sent some to Father. Marie and I concentrated on socks, gloves, and caps, and received our war news while we were knitting in the evening. War and our mutual problems became the greatest teachers of responsibility. When I became the honorary chief of a regiment, the 148th Caspian Infantry, the monthly reports I received of my regiment brought to me news of the losses in dead and wounded. These reports were frightening and I ran to Olga to find what could be done to ease the situation. She said; “Hundreds of wounded are coming every day and it is horrible the way they suffer.” I heard that the German losses were even greater.

Once again I wanted to be a doctor when I grew up. Soon after this, Mother allowed Marie and me to visit our own hospital more often. As we entered the building they were carrying[Pg 88] a wounded man with bloody bandages. He was taken directly to the operating room; a moment later they carried him right out again. The doctors had found he was already dead when he was brought to the operating room. I had a dizzy spell. I was ill. No, I never could be a doctor. The sight of that poor boy could never be erased from my mind. For weeks I could smell blood. Red became a haunting color with its reminder of the horror of that picture. Even red medicine made me ill all over again.

Day after day Olga and Tatiana worked beside Mother at the hospital. They got up at seven, attended lectures, and then again resumed their hospital work. In the evening, they read while knitting. I could not understand how they endured it all. It was comforting, however, to learn that Olga, like me, could not bear to see suffering. Tatiana was like Mother in her ability to see beyond the suffering to the relief she was able to give. Doctors were scarce, and Mother assisted in many operations. Each day before going to the hospital she stopped at the Znamensky Sobor, the little church she had restored, to pray that her hands might be blessed with the power to do things right. She felt so obligated to each wounded soldier, she wanted to nurse him with her own hands to relieve his suffering. At the sight of each new patient she prayed anew for the war to end. She spent all day at the hospital and came home exhausted and would lie on her sofa for a short rest.

With tragedy on all sides Father ordered strict economy. Every possible kopeck must be saved to benefit the soldiers. Mother reduced our staff of servants. Our meals became simpler. Father insisted that the Court, without exception, must observe all the restrictions. These economies were not too difficult for us children, since we had not been brought up to expect extravagant luxuries. Mother had always preached to us against wastefulness, and against idleness. These ideals were now more necessary. We accepted whatever we received with appreciation. We had very few dresses. I wore the ones handed down from my sisters. Being much smaller than they,[Pg 89] the fit was not perfect and required alterations. A few tucks here and there made me happy in them. When we did get a new dress we were so careful with it that we could hardly bear to sit down. Each of us had definite duties to perform.

Olga and Tatiana continued their studies and carried on with their hospital work and also made out schedules for us younger sisters for the next day. In addition they checked supplies for the hospitals, attended meetings for charitable organizations, and supervised the raising of money through concerts and plays. Many of the leading artists donated their services and large sums were raised for the expanding hospitals and other charities. Our friend Madame Plevitskaya proved most helpful by generously donating her time and her talent to the war effort. Mother eagerly awaited reports showing the financial account of these benefits.

Marie and I selected gramophone records to be sent to the convalescent wards, also books which the soldiers might like to read. We ordered fruit, candies, cakes, games, stationery, soap and pencils. Box after box was taken to the hospitals. Sometimes we played dominoes with the men, or watched those who could play croquet, or wrote letters to their families.

Our playrooms were now deserted. Alexei’s electric automobile had been stored under the slide. His special duties kept him occupied, as did his class work. When he did go for a ride, with a friend or with one of his cousins, he made it appear as if they were engaged in an important war project.

With the beginning of war most gaiety ceased. Benefits became the social functions; anyone not helping was out of fashion. Everyone worked together to make each benefit a successful affair. To raise money, photographs of the Imperial family were sold. There were name days set aside when one member of the family was played up throughout Russia; the newspapers helped in the competition. It was exciting to see whose photographs sold best. Tatiana proved a great favorite with the people.

Many relatives and friends turned their homes into hospitals,[Pg 90] often paying the expenses themselves. In addition, they devoted all their time to the wounded. Some had as many as seventy patients in their residences. Olga designed an attractive calendar, each page gave the historical event of that day. It became a favorite and was ordered by the thousand. Aunt Olga, Father’s sister, made drawings and paintings which brought large sums to charities. Moreover there were outright gifts in large amounts. A banker named Yaroshinsky donated over a quarter of a million rubles. Yaroshinsky was assistant manager of Mother’s own hospital train. He reappears later in my memories of Tobolsk and Ekaterinburg.

In 1915, before Father took over the Supreme Command of the Russian Armies in the Field, there were occasional officers’ balls. Father and Mother attended these affairs but stayed only long enough to show their interest in them, always having in mind that it might be their last gaiety. Marie and I were too young to attend any of these functions at this time, but Olga and Tatiana went. When they were dressed to leave they came to show themselves to Marie and me that we might have a little touch of festivity. Their joy in being gowned in evening clothes instead of the customary nurse’s uniform made them radiantly happy.

Their eyes sparkled and their cheeks were flushed, making them look more beautiful, so that I was sure each might meet her Prince. Mother always wanted her daughters to be poised and act natural in the company of men. It was all so romantic, I could hardly wait until I, too, could go to such affairs. My sisters looked every bit the princesses they were, soft and graceful in manner, stately and tall, and we younger sisters had to be told about these parties over and over again in every detail.

Aunt Olga, Father’s sister, from the kindness of her heart realized, while the young men were at the front, the young ladies at home were more than ever appreciative of a little gaiety. She, too, planned several parties at her home in Petrograd (the new name for St. Petersburg). These usually came on Sunday when we met a great many young people. At other[Pg 91] times, we were asked to see stage plays at Countess Sheremetieva’s. The Countess was a close friend of our Aunt Olga. We had a wonderful time at these parties.

Aunt Olga was very close to us girls, more like a sister than an aunt, only thirteen years older than my sister Olga. She understood the art of living; she was full of life and gaiety; her visits brought joy to our lives. When she left, it seemed all the fun went with her. She loved sports; besides tennis she liked skating and skiing; she played a good game of billiards, often with her mother; also croquet and many other games. She was an excellent painter. Her religious art was appreciated by many churches. She was a woman of deep faith and loved her religion. Mother and Aunt Olga often talked about religion. The latter had a good voice and played several instruments. An excellent linguist she spoke at that time Russian, English, French and had some command of both Danish and German.

Her love for peasants was great. She disliked formality, and was happy to by-pass the rules of etiquette, which were forced upon the royal families. She considered them old-fashioned. She loved to dress like a peasant. Because of her liberal views she became a target of cheap gossip. Her husband, Prince Peter of Oldenburg, was chronically ill. Uncle Peter was tremendously rich, but all his wealth could not give her the child she so longed for. For this marriage my Grandmother was responsible. Finally and after fifteen years of marriage the Grand Duchess obtained an annulment, against my Father’s wishes, and married Colonel Nicholai Koulikovsky, a tall handsome officer, who was her former husband’s aide-de-camp and the head of her hospital in Kiev. For this she was criticized by gossiping women, but Aunt Olga felt it was her own affair and not that of the women who did nothing good in their lifetime but interfered with the lives of others. Prince Peter indeed was nice but companionship alone was not enough to make their marriage completely successful. This condition caused a strained family relationship, and she was eventually[Pg 92] to be exiled. But while we were in Tobolsk even Father wrote to her.

While Grandmother was in Petrograd, even for a short visit, she utilized her time folding bandages with her companions. Olga and Tatiana after their meetings in the Winter Palace often drove to the Anichkov Palace to take tea with Granny. They brought us news of her. When she was not well, Mother sent us children to see her. We took along some delicacies as a present. For some reason I felt uncomfortable and self-conscious in Grandmother’s presence. I could not help but admire her; she carried herself in such a stately manner in her pretty clothes, mostly black.

During the early part of the war, Mother took us to Moscow to see our Aunt Ella (Elizabeth), whose husband, the Grand Duke Serge, was murdered by a bomb. I did not remember Aunt Ella in any other way than in a nun’s costume with its finely draped habit covering her hair entirely. Her features were beautiful and symmetrical. Many highly titled men would have given anything if she would but consider a second marriage; some even made suggestions to Mother who, knowing her sister, realized it was useless.

I learned a great deal of history from her. She told us that when she first came to Russia as the bride of Serge Alexandrovich, she studied the Greek Orthodox religion with the court priest for several years before she felt sufficiently versed in it to join the Church. The night before Uncle Serge’s name day, she said to him, “I have a gift for your name day.” “A piece of jewelry?” “No, my dear, something more precious to you.” At breakfast next morning she said, “My gift to you today is my embracing the Greek Orthodox religion.” Uncle Serge replied: “This is the happiest day of my life since our marriage.”

In 1914 when Aunt Ella was with us in the Crimea, she told us sisters that during the Japanese war Uncle Serge offered to take command of the army, confident that he would win and prevent a civil war. But Count Witte, the Prime Minister, opposed it. A controversy ensued and the two men became[Pg 93] enemies. After the signing of the peace treaty, which was encouraged by the President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, Uncle Serge and Count Witte fought over it.

Soon after this someone threw a bomb at Uncle Serge as he was leaving the Kremlin in a sleigh. Aunt Ella heard the explosion and she knew it was intended for her husband. This occurred just outside the gate. She and her lady in waiting ran out to find only the remnants of his body which the two gathered with their bare hands for burial. They also gathered the pieces of his torn uniform which Aunt Ella enclosed in a holder in the shape of a cross and later kept in her convent cell. It was after his death that Aunt Ella went into the convent of Martha and Mary. From then on she wore a habit of her order in soft pale gray, which was artistically draped around her head. She thought Count Witte was behind the man who killed her husband. Yet she forgave them. She even sent food, cigarettes, and clothing to the prisoners who had murdered her husband and frequently went to visit them in prison in spite of Father’s objections.

Many sufferings and much unrest took place while Count Witte was Prime Minister (1905-6). Madame Narishkina often spoke to us children about the opening of the Duma in 1906. She said that at the time Mother, Grandmother and many others cried when during a reception people marched to the Tauride Palace singing the revolutionary song. She said, “Witte gave all the power to the Duma, and because of the character of this power the Duma was dissolved in 1906.” But it left the most damaging results, and these effects germinated and were ripe at the opening of the Fourth Duma in 1912. Witte was still living at that time. Even during the war the Duma so jeopardized the life of the nation that finally it collapsed.

The news from the front was for a time encouraging; there was talk of a short war. People seemed to work harder than ever. At this time Father was often summoned to the telephone which he did not want to have on his desk in his study.[Pg 94] Even while Father was on his daily short walks, frequently an officer on a velocipede was dispatched to fetch him on an urgent matter.

[Pg 95]


The news from the front was bad. There were serious reverses. Father was staggered. The people and the army were dissatisfied with Grand Duke Nicholai Nicholaevich, who was in command of the Russian armies at the front. A change had become imperative.

My father now decided to take over the Supreme Command of the Russian Armies in the Field. He realized that a tragic hour was at hand. The Army already had begun to show disunity, under the Grand Duke Nicholai Nicholaevich who continually complained about Father, not only to Grandmother and our Aunts but also to the officers of the high command. Father thought that this older giant who was at least 6′ 4′′, would be better off in the warmer climate of the Persian front as he suffered from rheumatism. But the Grand Duke claimed that Father was jealous of his position.

Father’s decision meant going to General Headquarters and entrusting the government to others in his absence, hoping for the wholehearted support of the Duma. It also meant separation from the family. Mother believed completely that this was the correct decision, but never from that moment on was she free from constant worry.

Before his departure Mother drove with Father to the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul, then to Our Lady of Kazan to pray for guidance in his undertaking and to dedicate all, even life itself, to the task. Then they crossed the Troitsky bridge over the Neva, which was built as a memorial to the silver wedding anniversary of Alexander III and Marie Feodorovna.

[Pg 96]

At this time Mother believed she saw the sign of a cross in the sky. This saddened her, for she became worried that Father by taking command would encounter personal danger. She dreaded lest he become the victim of some fanatic assassin, as was his grandfather, Alexander II.

We realized this risk when we went to the Alexander Station to see Father entrain for Mogilev. The waiting room was filled with guards and secret police. No one was admitted except by special permit. Even ministers and relatives could not enter except by invitation. When the big, blue, Imperial train, with its double eagle crest, pulled out of the station, we saw Father standing at the wide window of his sitting room.

It was a comfort to know that each hundred feet of track was guarded by a soldier against accidents or bombs. No one knew in which car Father rode. All the church bells rang until the train was no longer in sight. The Nicholas railway on which they travelled provided a direct line to General Headquarters. Several days before the trip, roads were searched and guards were posted. As a further precaution, railroad tracks crossing the Nicholas line were removed until Father’s train passed. Once he said, “I have known from my early years that I will fall a victim for my country.” Nevertheless, Father disliked all the fuss.

With Father speeding away from us, we knew he would carry on efficiently and with determination. Of course he would miss his family, but we were going to send him letters daily and an occasional package containing needed articles. We often sent him fruit and books and occasionally flowers received from Livadia. I can still hear Mother say, as she examined the flowers while placing them in the box, “When one sees these heavenly blossoms, how can one be reconciled to this terrible war?” Whatever went into each package was lovingly and tenderly packed; and Father knew it. Mother often packed everything with her own hands and made a list of what she included. A jaeger (messenger), an aide-de-camp, or a relative waited until it was ready. Mother sometimes[Pg 97] handed the package to him personally and he departed to the undisclosed destination where Father was. There was always a letter in the package, describing our activities, sometimes only a note from Mother, containing a language just the two of them could understand, words that made her love sing in Father’s heart.

In going to General Headquarters, Father discarded all conventionality. He went behind the lines to fight with his men in arms. He took it as a matter of faith that it was his duty to sacrifice everything in order to save Russia. He promised to do so the day he took the Crown. He said, “I shall not allow my people to be insulted and to be trampled upon by the enemy.”

His cheerful disposition gave great inspiration and happiness to the Army whom he loved more than his family; here he found happiness among his men in arms.

We heard of victories. Surely the war would soon end especially since reports from the front showed that prisoners were captured by tens of thousands at a time. “A supreme success,” Father wrote home. No wonder a few months later the Kaiser wanted to sign a peace.

Spring, 1916. Father sent word it would be impossible for him to be with us at Easter. This was his first absence from home at this important holiday, which in the Greek Orthodox religion is celebrated more fervently than Christmas. Instead he sent Mother a gift from G.H.Q., a most beautiful Easter egg, which he himself had designed. It was indeed a rare gift, made by Fabergé himself because his many workers were at the front and some of them had been killed. M. Fabergé delivered it in person, and, in our presence, Mother opened the beautifully wrapped package and exclaimed, “It is exquisite. How can human hands make such a beautiful work of art?” Then, when she opened the egg itself, five dainty miniatures of us children unfolded in a row. Father had remembered Mother’s expressed wish to own a miniature of us children. M. Fabergé beamed with pleasure, as did Mother and[Pg 98] we children. That Easter the service was held by Father Vassiliev at the Feodorovsky Sobor and we all took Communion.

Easter afternoon was the customary time to distribute gifts to the hospital patients. These consisted of china eggs and real eggs and some sweets. We “tied” hundreds of the special china eggs. They had been decorated with the gold-crested double eagle with Mother’s initials on one side and the Red Cross emblem on the other. Usually they had the hole lengthwise from one end to the other so that a ribbon could be pulled through to be suspended below an icon under which there was a burning lamp (lampadka). Also, special Easter eggs were made by Fabergé, and Father distributed them to the Allied Mission as well as to deserving men. Mother, too, sent some of these to Petrograd to the English Hospital for Lady Sybil Grey so that she might give them to her patients. Mother also sent a beautifully hand-painted one to Lady Sybil herself in appreciation for her excellent work at the hospital, also to Lady Buchanan. Our household maids received gold enamel bijou trinkets; many girls wore a necklace of them for six weeks preceding Ascension Day.

This particular Easter afternoon, a little family argument ensued between Mother and Olga, who wanted to wear a pretty dress for this occasion. Mother insisted that Olga and Tatiana wear their nurse’s uniforms as usual. There were pleadings, opinions, and disagreements, but Mother stood her ground. We all went to the hospital to which we were assigned and we sisters agreed among ourselves that Mother was wrong and unfair to deny a change for the two young girls, who would have found pleasure in appearing before the patients in a different dress. In the evening, Alexei came running into our bedroom. He was excited and upset. He informed us that “Olga was crying.” He ran to his tutor’s room and returned. We rushed into her bedroom and tried to comfort her, assuring her that we felt Mother had been unjust. Olga soon forgot the whole thing and Mother never knew of our indignation.

Mother worried about Father’s loneliness, in the midst of[Pg 99] responsibilities and without the comforts of home and family. However, Mother was quite surprised when Father wrote that he had no time to be lonely, and that, on his next trip home, he would take Alexei with him to G.H.Q. M. Gilliard, his Swiss tutor, and others would accompany Alexei, so that his studies need not be neglected. Dina Derevenko and Nagorny would watch over him. Dr. Fedorov was already at G.H.Q. as Father’s physician and also as lecturer to the Headquarters hospital staff.

The more Mother thought on this subject the more reasonable it seemed to her. Alexei would learn military science first hand. He would get acquainted with officers and men, and learn about war in general and foreign representatives in particular. Above all, he would be the best possible company for his Father. So Alexei left home—in tears. It was the first time he had been separated from Mother. While Alexei was away, Mother would slip into his room every day and pray on her knees beside his empty bed. His absence was a heartrending experience for her. We tried hard to comfort and console her by showing how much we, too, missed the little fellow.

So Alexei joined his Papa, but now Mother’s worries began to increase. She telephoned almost every day, asking about Father’s and Alexei’s health. She wondered whether Alexei was getting the proper food, having enough sleep. Was he careful, or was Father too busy to pay attention to Alexei? In spite of these worries she was proud to hear that they were together, sharing the same room.

While Mother worried, Alexei was proud of his association with Father. We discovered it when we arrived in Mogilev. With great pride Alexei showed us his bed beside Father’s, then added, “We say our prayers together, too. But sometimes, when I am tired and forget, Papa says them for both of us.” He could not wait to show us photographs of himself standing beside Father reviewing troops and partaking of the soldiers’ rations. Father was proud to show Russia what a real[Pg 100] Tsarevich she had in Alexei and the tender relationship between Father and son and the country. This made Mother proud enough to endure the heartache of the little boy’s absence from home. Alexei remained at General Headquarters.

Mother talked constantly about her “boys” at the hospitals. They were all her boys. On her trips to nursing centers to visit the wounded, Olga and Tatiana accompanied her when she made her rounds. When the sickrooms were on the second floor, she had to be carried upstairs in a wheel chair. She was their symbol of courage, representing home and loved ones, and they died in peace. When the day was done she was exhausted, but it seemed to mean so much to the men that the Empress herself cared so deeply for their welfare. She could never face death philosophically. She considered each death as that of her own son, each death a fresh cause to despair at the futility of war and the greed of Wilhelm.

She was a very good Christian and followed the religious teaching, but towards the Kaiser she disregarded all the teachings of Christianity and her hatred for him was beyond description.

Mother, seeing all the young on the verge of death, suffered vicariously with them, and spent many sleepless nights pacing the floor. Often in the darkness of the night, she ordered her chauffeur to drive her to the cemetery. From grave to grave this tall shadow went and said a prayer in this quiet place for the young men. She knew them all and grieved over the loss of the lives they gave to their country. She often sent us sisters to plant flowers on the graves of these men; they were all her children.

I cannot describe more deeply nor find words that could give a better understanding and do justice to this much misunderstood woman. She insisted upon being present at the most gruesome operations. Carefully she handed the instruments to the surgeon, while one of my sisters stood by with the freshly threaded needles ready for use. Mother, looking upon these heartrending scenes, tried to give her very inner[Pg 101] self to these sons and husbands and brothers of Russia. So did the nurses who worked heroically in our hospitals or public institutions, practically all of them volunteers. Mother never postponed taking care of important matters. She checked the reports on supplies for the hospitals to see if they were sufficient.

Mother had at first considered the question of the duration of Alexei’s stay at G.H.Q. Now she planned a hospital inspection tour in the area, so that she would be able to bring him home. But Father and General Hanbury-Williams asked Mother to let the little boy stay at G.H.Q. We left for home without Alexei.

When Father was absent for any reason, General Alexeiev was in complete command. All military matters were discussed between them; they worked together congenially. A number of times Father took Alexei with him to inspect the troops of Generals Ivanov and Brussilov and to decorate all those involved in heroic action with crosses. The soldiers were quite impressed with Alexei. In the uniform of a private, he stood proudly beside Father during military reviews. By the erectness of his posture and the tenseness of his expression, it was obvious he felt deeply responsible. They returned to G.H.Q. from the front, which was within the range of German guns. Fortunately the Kaiser did not know this. Father insisted that his food come from the field kitchen—the same that the soldiers had.

My sisters continued working; when they were tired they rested on little stools at a bedside reading, praying for the sick, or writing letters if the patients were unable to do so. Olga was deliberate in her decisions and very exact in all her work. She was responsible and successful in raising a great deal of money by her carefully planned programs of entertainment, which were always carried out successfully. Tatiana who was physically stronger was prone to take the lead in their hospital work. We heard from doctors that she was unusually gifted in this type of work, took everything calmly and systematically[Pg 102] and with a clear head. Mother always counted on her to carry out the most pressing work with accuracy, and she never failed.

Mother also used to sit with the sick men for hours and when the officers were returning to the front, Mother was introduced to each as he passed her and gave him a prayer book. Standing next to Mother, Madame Narishkina gave each one a package containing a set of underwear, made out of silk in the “Marie-Anastasia Workshop.” It was to protect them from body lice, mainly at the front.

Alexei, when home, visited the wounded often at our hospital. He enjoyed listening to the men of war speak of their experiences at the front, never tired of hearing stories. Often he told them jokes to make them laugh. He felt indignant when the time came to leave, when the merriment might only have begun.

As to our trips no one knew the date of our departure or return. Count Fredericks, Minister of the Court, made all the arrangements. In the fall we left for an inspection of different military hospitals, stopping on our way in Mogilev. We made our headquarters on the train which stood on the track in a deep forest, some distance from the station. A few days later, Father and Alexei returned home with us. The many dangerous trips to the front, the sight of the wounded in the hospitals, and the feeling of responsibility made a deep impression on Alexei, causing him to be nervous.

While at home, Father had a long talk with Olga, and asked her to see that Mother kept all those hated people out of our house. But Mother, thinking they were helping her, continued to have them. Olga disliked Rasputin, never wanting his name brought up in her presence. When our company mentioned his name she changed the conversation. Once I heard her say to Mother, “Why do you listen to some of these women? Their minds and upbringing are so different from yours. Why do they come to you with all kinds of gossip? In their position,[Pg 103] they should not be permitted to interfere with things that do not concern them.”

Mother answered, “But, my dear, every ruler must have contact with the people outside. That is the only way to get at the truth. Granny (Queen Victoria) had confidential informers, and consequently knew everything that was going on.”

Olga replied, “That is all right, Mother, but these people were not constantly in Granny’s company. Especially we like to have a visit with Father when he is home for a short period. You must keep your public and private lives separate.”

These unworthy, capricious people irritated Olga when they became involved in matters about which they knew nothing. Their careless words later ignited a devastating flame. Marie often was reprimanded because of friction with one of them who was a constant friend of Mother’s.

Soon Father and Alexei left for an inspection at the front; they went as far as Chernovitsy, Bukovina, where I spent some time after my escape. Could Father ever have dreamed that a child of his would ask shelter near this battered city? He was also in Warsaw, and described the battle in that area to us. He brought back many pictures, showing, as I recall, on one side of a road thousands of crosses on the graves of Russian soldiers and on the other side the enemy’s graves. We prayed God that our men would be able to defend our country.

My parents visited the Red Cross units and ambulance trains for the evacuation of the wounded village people and went to the field hospitals to say a few encouraging words to the wounded. Mother and we sisters carried envelopes containing writing paper, handkerchiefs, sweets, fruit and other articles for distribution. Father depended on us sisters for these supplies. Ambulance trains were named after us children and the train was met by that person whose name it bore. Often these trains arrived simply packed with the wounded who in some cases were even lying on the floors which were covered with straw and blankets. Frequently infections set in, when flesh was torn and bones were shattered. German bullets[Pg 104] usually made a jagged hole, tearing the flesh. Russian bullets made a clean cut. Infections were especially prevalent during springtime when the snow had melted and the trenches were filled with polluted water which made it impossible for the men to lie down. It was difficult to move the wounded along roads cut up by the heavy artillery. Instead muddy fields had to be used for their transportation to the nearest hospital or the train; often the mobile hospital got stuck in the field and the rescue work had to be done in the dark. It was heartbreaking.

Every possible space was used. Even the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoe Selo had to be utilized. Mother also had built many new hospitals with Father’s and her own money; she appointed Madame Zizi Narishkina as the head of the hospitals. Mother also established refugee homes for the unfortunates whose farms were plundered and laid waste by artillery. For the evacuated village people, shelters and orphanages, hospitals and convalescent homes were constructed. She had built about ninety military hospitals from Petrograd down into the Ukraine.

Many men released from the hospital were unable to return to the front. Some of them were sent to farms and trades. Others learned to paint and their pictures were bought and sold at different bazaars; some were taught to weave rugs; others did wood carving; still others took up sculpture, photography, printing or bookkeeping. All this was made possible through the organized efforts of my family.

Grandmother and other members of the Imperial family did the same. She even built camps in Germany to house Russian prisoners of war there. But a Red Cross doctor and a nurse returned from Germany with a report of the terrible conditions, the mistreatment of prisoners, and the lack of heat and sanitation. They said that many wounded were infected with sores and no nurses were permitted to help them. Officers were insulted and beaten, because they refused to give the Germans information as to the situation at the front. One of[Pg 105] the Kaiser’s sons was present and saw all these conditions and indignities. Over the Russian prisoners the Germans put Russian Jews, who had run away to avoid serving in the army. The mistreatment of the prisoners was unbelievable.

Through the Red Cross, Mother sent supplies to these camps in Germany including Bibles, books, bandages and other necessities. She also helped to organize camps near the railroad stations in Siberia for German and Austrian prisoners of war; many such prisoners were sent to work on farms. These camps were well regulated as she was eager to demonstrate that Russia could lead in the humane treatment of prisoners. For this she was deeply criticized on the ground that she was saving the lives of our enemy. Maybe later the same men were the killers of her own family.

Often my sisters came with a story of some unusual occurrences. One young patient coming out of anesthesia sang and moved his arms as if conducting an orchestra. When he was told later what he had done and that Mother was present, he apologized, fearing he might have used some vulgar words. Another said that he had received a letter from his girl friend. He kept on repeating all the sweet words only a bride-to-be can write to her fiancé.

We looked forward to the evening when we could snuggle around Mother in her room. Usually there was a letter from Father. These arrived by special messenger and were delivered to Mother by Mother’s ladies in waiting or maids. Mother read parts to us and afterwards seemed more contented. She preferred to open her own personal mail. Mother eyed her other letters with suspicion, turning them over. When she read a line or two, her face grew dark, her eyes flashed anger; she tore them to bits and threw them in the wastebasket. With all the misery in the world, many found time to criticize her and were too cowardly to sign their name. God forgive them for the unpleasant hours they caused Mother, not to mention the injury to our war effort. She said the Germans used the same method of propaganda as did the Japanese in 1905.

[Pg 106]

Father never allowed us girls to discuss these unpleasant matters. Once when Father was absent, I mimicked one of the suspected trouble-makers. I was promptly reprimanded, then everyone burst out in laughter. My technique worked. The next morning Mother’s eyes were red and swollen. She said she had read late and her eyes hurt. It was obvious to us that she had cried herself to sleep. We four sisters got off a letter to Father begging him to come home for a day or two. Father and Alexei arrived. Now Mother was a new person. She gave all her heart and soul to Father, and Alexei’s entertaining chatter lifted her spirits. Her eyes were no longer red and swollen; instead they glistened. Evenings found the whole family gathered together in Mother’s boudoir. If one had looked in, he would have been impressed by the harmony in that room.

Mother expressed her wish to have a little house, away from everybody, where she could have peace and quiet. We wished so, too. Mother’s and Father’s love for each other would have made a home out of any humble dwelling.

All too soon Father had to leave. Alexei was so diverting, we wished we could keep him home, but the little fellow was too proud of his association with Father even to listen to such a suggestion. Good-byes were hard on Mother, and we often wondered whether we had been wise in asking Father to come from G.H.Q. After he left, Mother prayed daily for his safe return; she was proud of his service to the country.

Almost on the very day of Father’s departure, the anonymous letters began to come in greater numbers. Mother almost dreaded reading the numerous letters because of their venomous content. One of the letters was signed by Princess Vasilchikova. She accused Mother of many things and claimed to be speaking for the women of Petrograd. She suggested that Mother leave Russia and go back to Germany where she had come from. How little she knew that Mother came from the little province of Hesse and had no connection with Prussia. I wondered what this woman thought the Empress’ children[Pg 107] would do? Obviously this and other letters were inspired by those who wanted to overthrow the Imperial family and its government in order to gain control of the country, as they eventually did.

Mother even was accused of sitting behind a curtain at the top of the stairway of her maple sitting room which let into Father’s study, listening to all the reports given Father on the progress on the war. These reports she was supposed to transmit to Kaiser Wilhelm. This ridiculous gossip was not only believed by many in Russia but was even circulated in foreign countries. The story was so impossible it hardly needs refuting. To reach the spot, Mother would have had to climb some dozen steps to the top of the balcony room, which she could not have done because of her heart condition. Besides, Mother never was left alone. She always had a personal attendant with her on duty, day and night. In a room next to Mother’s bedchamber, a bell was connected with the maid’s room in which there was a narrow bed and a comfortable armchair; also a small table on which were magazines and books for the maid’s relaxation. The other personnel were dismissed at 11:00 P.M. Most of her help had been with Mother since her marriage; we parted with some, when we left for Tobolsk. Her loyalty to her adopted country was unquestionable and her personal dislike for the Kaiser and his government was almost an obsession with her.

Another rumor, freely circulated, was to the effect that Mother had been visited secretly by the German General Ludendorff. This and many other similar rumors were part of the propaganda to destroy Russia by attacking the heart of the Russian government. Mother was depressed and exhausted as these accusations multiplied. Some of the writers demanded the discharge of all officials with foreign names. This would have meant dismissing people like faithful Trina Schneider whose loyalty was beyond suspicion. In the end she, too, was killed outside of Perm. She had taught both Mother and Aunt Ella the Russian language. Now she served as a reader and a[Pg 108] governess to Marie and myself. Some of the people had German names but were Scandinavian; others were descendants of people brought to Russia during the reign of Catherine the Great.

With Father at G.H.Q., there was much he could not follow first hand. Mother felt she must report to him everything that came to her notice. All the praise, criticism, advice, countless suggestions of many individuals were brought to her that she might pass them on to Father. Sometimes these were important messages, sometimes they were petty and trivial in comparison with the momentous questions that confronted the nation. Mother was eager for advice but unfortunately most of the suggestions came from those she had the least reason to trust, persons who were suspected of being the real instigators of the propaganda against her. More and more she felt that most of those who volunteered to advise her were serving their own self-interest.

Reports often brought depressing information: that Father’s orders, his telegrams, were purposely sabotaged, and often were replaced by others. Inefficiency and betrayals were noticeable. Father was frequently imposed upon as a result of his kindness and generosity. Mother said, “He must make his will felt, inspire wholesome fear through firmness and discipline. To inspire love is not enough.” With her own background Mother often wished that Russia had some of the efficiency of the Germans. She thought Russia needed more ingenuity and greater economic independence. She felt the need of more railroads for the transportation of troops and supplies, though one Siberian line had just been completed during the war (in 1915).

Petrograd was full of crosscurrents. One said this, another said that. Mother did not know whom she should believe. In spite of slanders that were heaped on her, she still wanted to find out the truth to pass on to Father. The people were tired, tired of everything, especially of war. Whatever the reason, they were in a careless mood in their attitude toward their[Pg 109] country. No one had brought proof to back up their accusations of Anna and Rasputin. These two, in Mother’s opinion, were continually persecuted. Had not Anna given every kopeck of her compensation for injury in a terrible train wreck to establish a hospital for convalescent soldiers so that they might receive training in some trade? The hospital was so successful that before the Revolution hundreds of invalids had been trained and she had purchased the land on which to build an additional building. What greater proof of her loyalty was needed? Could anyone know better than Mother the power of Rasputin’s prayers? Had she not witnessed his miracle on Alexei? Now all she wanted for Father was divine guidance to see things straight and to bring Russia safely through this ordeal. Had not Rasputin used his foreknowledge which made him see what others could not? He had foretold several events which later came true. Once he predicted that our death would follow his death and that in the event of a member of the family surviving, he or she would meet with disaster in 1960.

Another accusation was that Mother was hiding Uncle Ernest in the palace. Uncle Ernie had been in Russia with his family in 1912. It was at the new palace in the Crimea. That was the last time he visited Russia. During the war, the Kaiser made it so disagreeable for Uncle Ernest that, in 1918, he abdicated. He and his father had worked so hard to make their country economically sound. We had a few letters from Aunt Victoria, Mother’s sister in England. Prince Louis of Battenberg, her husband, was the First Sea Lord of the British Admiralty. Pressure was brought against him also during the war hysteria so that he was forced to resign his commission, in spite of his loyalty to his adopted country, Great Britain.

When the war broke out, the Grand Duke Constantine Constantinovich and his wife were in Germany. They were subjected to considerable mistreatment so that, a year after, he died. Father was furious when he received the report of the abuses from the Grand Duke himself. Grandmother also was[Pg 110] passing through Germany at the outbreak of the war, and she, too, was subjected to the same indignities. The death of the Grand Duke Constantine was a great loss, not only to the family, but to all Russia. The Grand Duke was a most brilliant scholar, poet and patron of music and drama. He wrote plays, essays, poems, using a pseudonym. He translated Hamlet into Russian. He wrote a play entitled King of Judea. It was a magnificent production, in which he took part. Even when his health was failing, he continued to promote the arts. The last production in which I saw him on the stage was Hamlet. He played the leading role of the Danish Prince himself. Some of his children had parts in it. During the last performance my family was present. Alexei sat with Mother in the front row and excitedly called out, “Mother, Mother, do you know that is Uncle Constantine! And that there is an officer of the Guards?” Uncle Constantine sponsored a number of young people in music and drama. He had a theatre of his own and designed his own stage settings.

He was deeply religious and brought up his family in the best Christian tradition. Despite his good life he suffered great misfortune. Shortly before he died, his son-in-law was killed in the war. Earlier, one of his sons, Prince Oleg, had been a battle casualty. While the Germans were retreating Oleg followed them on his horse when a wounded German officer played dead and shot him; he soon died in the hospital. The names of his children were all taken from early history. During the revolution, three more sons were brutally murdered, together with Aunt Ella, near Alapaevsk.

I remember Aunt Mavra, Constantine’s wife, and one of her daughters having tea with us for the last time, shortly before the revolution. Always deeply religious, they crossed themselves for safe driving before they entered their car. Whoever could have known that we would never see one another again? Still Aunt Mavra lived through all the tragedy that befell her innocent family.

Mother seldom came to the dinner table these days. She[Pg 111] was served in one of her rooms and we joined her after the meal. At that time Father’s letters were read and reread. Usually there was a clever one from Alexei, too. His note was always so cheering to Mother that we hoped she could retain the mood till bedtime. To break the monotony, I planned on entertaining them, even though it made me feel sad rather than lighthearted, but, once I started, everybody began to laugh and we were soon all in the midst of great merriment.

Watching Mother carefully, when she looked troubled, I sprang a new joke or some lighthearted remark to cheer her up again. In this self-appointed task I had a helper. I found a book of funny stories, which I kept in one of the drawers in the round table in the music room, and in privacy I delved through it. It contained many jokes which I did not understand, but, believing they must be funny, I put my own interpretation upon these and tried them out on the family in the evening.

On Father’s last trip to the capital, his appearance before the Duma was a great success. In his speech he urged unity and warned that only unity would bring victory—the victory he reminded them was so near. Hearing his inspiring message, everyone was optimistic. There was country-wide rejoicing, especially when shortly afterward the news came that Erzerum, which had been stubbornly held by the Turks for so long, had fallen.

Father said that he was willing to grant liberal concessions but he feared that this was not the time for great, radical changes. They would have too damaging an effect during wartime.

Sir John Hanbury-Williams was in Petrograd for several days and saw Olga and Tatiana at this presentation of Father’s at the Tauride Palace (Duma). He afterwards said to Olga: “Knowing your Imperial Father the way I do, I am most sorry for His Majesty; so is all the High Command, for there is not one single word of truth in all the propaganda circulating. He assuredly does not deserve such malicious criticism.” Hanbury-Williams[Pg 112] thought that Father’s address was most enthusiastically accepted and would bring good results. However, it created apprehension among the enemy who seemed to be losing hope of winning the war. Nevertheless, it provoked more damaging propaganda. Father repeated that he would not yield to Germany. More than ever, Wilhelm made Father his target. He aimed at him with traitors who spread their lies insidiously underground like the roots of a tree. There were attacks on Father from all directions—a whispering campaign spread to injure his reputation before his people. Of course Mother already had come in for her share of this terrible barrage of falsehood; in her case the slander centered around Anna and Rasputin. But that only made Mother stubborn, and she closed her ears and no longer would believe anyone around her. She had felt for a long time that she was doomed to death from the day she set her foot on Russian soil.

[Pg 113]


The year 1916, the date May 6th. It was Father’s forty-eighth birthday. The day before, we went to G.H.Q. at Mogilev to be with him. As usual we stayed on our train. On this occasion the Russian and all the Allied High Command, as well as some of our relatives, came to extend to Father their congratulations.

Mother, shy and reserved by nature, came with us even though she dreaded meeting the members of the Allied Military Missions, some of whom she had not yet met. We knew many of the officers quite well. I particularly remember our friend General Keller, Generals Ivanov, Lechitsky, Dieterichs, Yanin, Resin, Kornilov, Brussilov, Father’s Chief of Staff, General Alexeiev, General Dubensky, the military historian attached to G.H.Q., and Captain Nilov. I recall, too, the traitor, General Ruzsky, who left such a bad impression in the Baltic.

In the morning we went to the garrison church services nearby, under the thick pine trees. There were many high ranking men and titled guests in attendance.

Mother had ordered flowers from the Crimea to be used as decorations for the occasion. We sisters made two flower arrangements for Father’s study and his bedroom. One of these was placed on the table in his bedroom in front of an icon of Saint Nicholas. On the piano in the big hall were large branches of white orchids artistically arranged.

Dinner was served to about fifty guests. All the members of foreign missions and the Russian generals and their wives[Pg 114] who happened to be there attended, as well as a number of the Grand Dukes who came to Mogilev especially for this occasion.

We assembled in the large hall and stood in line with Father to receive the congratulations of the guests. We girls wore white dresses and white hats trimmed with ostrich feathers. Uncle Serge Mikhailovich, who was in command of the Russian artillery, was present. Others were the Grand Duke Cyril and his brother the Grand Duke Boris Vladimirovich; they could not disguise their bitter hatred for the family, especially for Mother, when their turn came to take our hands.

At the dinner Mother sat next to Father and at her side was our handsome, lively brother Alexei. Opposite them was Olga, Hanbury-Williams and the others. In the evening we took in a movie. Prince Igor Constantinovich was there and accompanied us next morning on a walk in the forest, where spring flowers were abundant.

From Mogilev we went to Sevastopol, Crimea, making several stops on the way to inspect military hospitals. At the Tsarskaya Pristan (dock) in Sevastopol we were greeted with cheers by sailors from Navy vessels. Everywhere we went, we were met with a great deal of friendliness by the people who came forth with flowers, fruits, and gifts of money for the hospitals. We also made a surprise visit to the Romanov Institute of Physical Therapy. In Evpatoria we met Admiral Kolchak, who later played an important role in fighting the Communists in 1918 in order to capture Ekaterinburg and rescue us. Unfortunately he was betrayed by the Czech troops. We had tea with Anna, who had been sent there by Mother on a special mission some weeks earlier. Father and Alexei went back to Mogilev and we left for Tsarskoe Selo. Anna accompanied us for several stations, and then returned to the Crimea.

About this time the people began to show unrest as a result of a rumor, which an investigation showed had been spread by German agents, to the effect that Mother and Aunt[Pg 115] Ella were hiding Uncle Ernest. It upset my Mother so much that she had a heart attack.

When demonstrations began to take place in Moscow, because of this false propaganda, Mother was told that Kerensky, who up to now was biding his time, urged Guchkov to start a revolution, while the situation was still hot. Mother said he should be hanged for it. While Kerensky was plotting against my family, Father was at the front making every effort to bring Kaiser Wilhelm to his knees, despite the offers for the separate treaty which were made by the Kaiser who stressed that an alliance with Germany would be more beneficial to Russia than one with England. But all the proposals were ignored. Father knew the German position in the war was the lack of physical strength, particularly after Father’s Chamberlain, General Tatishchev had interviewed German officer prisoners and was told by them that the Kaiser had lost all his power which now rested in the hands of the High Command.

Mother went to Mogilev again and this time she took Anna with her. It caused a great deal of trouble and more hatred sprang from it. Even our own cousin, the Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich, spread the most unjust lies: that some drink was given to Father by Anna and that he was under hypnosis. How shameful that this young man in return for love gave disloyalty to the man who had given him kindness and affection as if he were his own father. Another ridiculous rumor was that gold had been shipped over the border to Germany in the coffins in which supposedly were bodies of German soldiers killed in the war.

Mother became resentful toward these rumors and stubborn in her reaction to them. Now she and Father would defend any innocent friend who was brought under false suspicion or accusation. How could anyone believe such falsehoods, especially against my Father, which were found in the end not to be true. Madame Narishkina once said to us that Mother’s friends brought her nothing but misfortune. It is true, but for[Pg 116] this misfortune many others also were responsible. Anybody could have believed anything under the prevailing chaotic conditions of rumor and deceit For example, some years before the war, while the family was in the Crimea, every day a bouquet of fresh flowers was sent to Father for his desk in his study, and the card in them bore the signature “Ania.” This naturally aroused great consternation. Upon investigation, it was found that Ania Vyrubova at that very time had been with her family in the small village of Terijoki on the Gulf of Finland and so could not possibly have sent the flowers. Later Princess Sonia Orbeliani, once Mother’s lady in waiting, a bitter enemy of Anna’s, in a fit of anger revenged herself on Anna by saying that Anna had hired a gardener to send the flowers.

Another rumor related that Rasputin came to the palace by way of the back porch and visited the children’s quarters. In the first place, there was no back porch. On one occasion, he did come upstairs to see Alexei in his sickbed, using the private spiral stairway from Mother’s apartments, but subsequently, whenever Rasputin came, Alexei was carried downstairs. Moreover, Rasputin was accompanied by Father Vassiliev and almost always the Emperor was present. Father had traced this rumor to its source, and everyone connected with the story admitted that they had not seen Rasputin enter the palace, but that they were told to say so by a certain person. In fact, I never saw the peasant in any of our private quarters. These were always guarded at the foot of each stairway. We were so surrounded with people that he could not have avoided being detected by many.

This false rumor grew stronger and more outrageous stories were added to it. Those spreading these cruel gossips which injured Mother’s reputation were those who never had an opportunity even to see any member of the Imperial family, people whose feet never had trodden the grounds of Tsarskoe Selo. For every person living in this village was known to the police and any stranger coming into the area was always[Pg 117] picked up and investigated. Anyone entering there had to carry his credentials. Those who spread such propaganda lived to regret it, but their remorse came much too late. Tragic as it was, these paid agents schemed to take Father away from the front because they knew his presence was all-important.

Alexander Park was enclosed by an iron fence, which was topped with three rows of barbed wire. Inside and outside were sentries at regular intervals. Every day these grounds were searched to be sure that no one was hiding there. Not a single person could enter the palace without a great deal of red tape. There were four entrances to the palace. The peasant was not allowed to use the main gate. In retrospect, this was probably a mistake as it gave an air of mystery to his rare visits. Accompanied by Father Vassiliev, he entered through the side or garden gate (across from the Znamensky Cathedral) which was accessible to only a few. The procedure here was simpler but any such entry was recorded, as was the case at the main gate. These authentic official entries were available since the time of Peter the Great, but many were destroyed by the invading Communists.

The visitor had to present proper credentials as to whom he was to see and for what purpose. His name was written several times; also the time of his arrival to the very minute. Halfway up the driveway to the palace the door of the car or the carriage was opened and the vehicle checked; also again a note was made of the identity of the visitor. In the meantime, the sentry at the gate had already telephoned the palace guard, announcing the arrival of the person. At the palace entrance, the guard on duty opened a square, barred window, and the visitor was ushered into a room where he presented his card to the officer on duty. The latter checked and compared the name and description of the visitor with names and photographs in a book, copies of which were found on tables in various parts of the palace. Then the visitor was directed to the reception room, where Mother received him. This was the procedure for all.

[Pg 118]

At each end of the corridor, and at the foot of every stairway, there was always an officer on duty who kept a record to the minute of everyone going up and down the stairs, no matter how many times a day.

Upon departure of a visitor, the same accuracy as to time was maintained, and a record of his stay was handed to the palace police. There were also a number of runners and about thirty-five guards on duty in the corridors and stairways alone; not all were armed. That same strict rule applied to all the palace staff, including the well-known Mistress of the Robes, Madame Narishkina, and the ladies in waiting. In fact when any one of us, even Father, arrived, the carriage was always inspected. We were never left unattended and we did not know what privacy was, being always surrounded by our teachers, ladies in waiting, governesses, nurses and chambermaids who frequently entered our rooms.

Secret police continually checked every activity of everyone. It would have been impossible to enter or leave in secrecy. No doubt there was a file on Rasputin with a complete record of his visits to the minute, showing how long he had been there and whom he had seen; and the names of the officers on duty had to appear in the record, especially after it was rumored that Rasputin was a spy. The secret police were watching him; according to some it was only for his own protection. But, at the same time, his activities were being carefully scrutinized. One slip on his part would have sent him to his death. The palace chief of police kept a copy of such records; another copy was delivered to the chief of police in Petrograd. In fact, during our arrest, these records were checked on Rasputin and on every member of our family to the very morning of our departure from the palace. The Ministers were responsible for many troubles, because they gathered around Rasputin and that gave him more confidence.

As for Mother’s supposed pro-German leanings, how often I wished Kaiser Wilhelm could have been in our household to[Pg 119] hear the uncomplimentary remarks attached to his name. Alexei and I used to stuff pillows and take shots with toy guns at Uncle Wilhelm. The name Wilhelm aroused such invectives we were ordered not to use the word.

Olga Constantinovna, wife of King George I of Greece, sister of the Grand Duke Constantine Constantinovich, spoke to Mother about the peasant. She had become very upset about the gossip and because of it and the hot summer of 1916, she had suffered a heart attack. Later Father’s friend, Prince Volkonsky, came to see Father to warn him about the peasant. At that time, Aunt Ella became so upset by these rumors that she sent Count Sheremetiev, a friend and distant relative of ours, to deliver the message that Rasputin had been using our family name for his personal advantage while under the influence of liquor in Moscow. Mother and Father even now refused to believe the tale. It left Father very distressed. He could not understand how this highly educated man could have allowed anyone to recount such tales to him. This good family raised a great deal of money for hospitals; in their huge villa in Petrograd they sponsored a hospital for officers and paid for the upkeep from their own pockets. Besides, two of their sons were at the front.

Shortly afterwards, Aunt Ella herself appeared at Tsarskoe Selo. First, she talked to Mother alone about the peasant, but Mother said, “Sister, you do not believe all that do you?” Ella said, “I do not, but the people do.” Mother asked, “And who are those people? Please do not speak, as the others do. There is not one word of truth in what your friends are telling you.”

Mother was especially furious and could never forgive her sister when she said that God might punish Mother by taking her son away from her. That was a most painful remark for my Mother. The following morning, Aunt Ella pleaded on her knees before my parents. Even then they refused to believe the story. Instead Father turned to his aide-de-camp saying, “Have a train ready for the Grand Duchess’ departure.” Father at[Pg 120] once left for G.H.Q. very upset. When Aunt Ella entered the room where we had bid good-bye to Father, her eyes were wet with tears and she was wiping them with her handkerchief. This was a sorrowful parting for both sisters as well as for the whole family. We kissed her for the last time, never to see her again. When she was leaving the rooms she lifted a hand, saying, “Remember the fate of the other Empresses.” Mother and both older sisters accompanied Aunt Ella to the station. We were told that Aunt Ella knew then that Rasputin would be killed.

Mother often asked why people had not opened their eyes to see something else besides an inclination for harm, which springs from stupidity and ignorance. Why were they not able to judge us, and see the good we had done? Even now she did not see that one could be capable of falsehood. Mother had such a love for Russia that often she said, “I would rather die than see Germany win the war!” She was English in every way. She had spent most of her time with Granny (Queen Victoria), and from her earliest childhood had taken a dislike for her cousin Wilhelm, largely because of his lack of consideration toward their Granny.

During this time, Mother’s mail was more voluminous than ever. One of the letters she received called her attention to the illustrated magazine Niva, in which was an article with a photograph of a dog undergoing vivisection. Among the magazines usually to be found on the table in the room next to Mother’s room, I could not find this issue. Because we were not allowed to remove books or magazine from the shelves, Mother immediately requested Mr. Shcheglov, our librarian, to bring this magazine to her. She asked me to find the page showing this needless cruelty. I opened the periodical; it fell open at that page. Strapped to a table, the unfortunate animal was being operated on without anaesthesia. This horrifying picture made an enormous impression on us. Mother without wasting time took steps to prevent such laboratory work being done without the animals being anaesthetized.

[Pg 121]

At once she became unpopular with many technicians and medical men. We all were always sympathetic towards animals, especially Alexei who frequently took home many homeless animals; he fed them and never feared being harmed by them. This good child repeatedly said, “Some time I shall have a large place for all the animals who have no home. I will feed them and care for them myself.” Many unfortunate animals were made homeless by war. He brought dozens of cats and dogs and sent them to our farms. Proudly he once said, “I am positive there is not a mouse left here.” The farmer agreed with him there was none.

There were always appeals to Mother for help. If a son was missing, she was asked to help trace him. Any injustice which came to her attention she tried to resolve by appealing to the proper authorities. When the burdens became too heavy, Mother rushed to the Church. To her, religion was more than worship, it was life. She loved the rituals, candles, chanting and prayers. Through the unburdening of her heart, through supplication for guidance, she was strengthened and helped to think more clearly, to understand more deeply and accept God’s will with greater humility. But dishonesty, insincerity, friction and perfidious gossip were continually clouding her sense of God’s will. At such a time disunity was high treason to Church and State. She wanted a new regime so that Alexei would not have to struggle with the old autocracy handed down by his Grandfather.

Father had taken an oath in his war manifesto that he would never make peace so long as one enemy soldier remained on Russian soil. The enemy knew that only a revolution could defeat the Russian armies, so they spread a network of lies to poison the Russian mind. Their central theme held that Mother was redoubling her pro-German activities. In the Duma attacks were made on Father in an effort to discredit him. Many friends no longer participated at the meetings of the Duma; they could not stand to hear the slander of their Emperor.

[Pg 122]

These words are painful for me to put in writing, and I shall not further denounce these slanderers, as it would be against my Christian belief.

Word was brought from General Headquarters that Alexei had caught cold on the train during a trip to the front. He had sneezed and burst a blood vessel in his nose. When Dr. Fedorov was unable to stop the bleeding, also fearing that his cold might get worse, he suggested that Father return Alexei to Tsarskoe Selo. He had almost died on his way home because of the jolting and jarring and it had been necessary to stop the train several times at night in order to change Alexei’s dressings. He collapsed into unconsciousness several times and seemed to be on the verge of death. All night Nagorny had to support his head.

Meanwhile in Tsarskoe Selo, we were receiving wires posting us on his condition. Some arrived late in the evening so that Mother sat up all night, fearing that the end had come. At six in the morning Anna called Rasputin and requested him to pray for Alexei. Rasputin replied that Alexei would be better, not to worry, and that the bleeding would stop. Strange as it may seem, the bleeding did stop shortly thereafter. Later we were told that Anna informed the peasant that Alexei was better. Mother went to the station to meet the train and when Alexei was carried down the platform, he smiled at her. She was thankfully relieved. His bleeding stopped. Mother kissed him and he drew her hand to his lips. Father left again for G.H.Q. and Alexei remained at home recovering from his illness.

In spite of my brother’s poor health, our parents insisted that, as soon as his condition improved and the weather permitted, he must return to Mogilev. It was felt necessary that he prepare himself for his future responsibilities, even though his health had been impaired. Father said that Alexei was not to be shielded behind the scenes as he himself had been during the reign of Alexander III. As soon as the war should[Pg 123] be over, Alexei, accompanied by his tutors, was to go to England to receive special training. My little brother became nervous under the strain, and we all felt sorry for him. Once, at two o’clock in the morning, Alexei awakened Olga in her room and said, “I cannot sleep; I am worried.”

The fact that I had been asked to share the responsibility with Olga and Tatiana deeply stirred me. They suggested that Mother should not be left alone in her bedroom at night while Father was away even though a maid was in the room next to Mother’s. We sisters decided to take turns spending the nights with Mother, as well as time after school hours. Alexei was hurt, because he was not asked to share this loving trust. He protested: “Am I not a member of the family? I am tired of taking humiliations from you. You seem to enjoy giving me orders.” I explained that he could do his share by sleeping in Father’s bedroom when he returned to G.H.Q. This satisfied him.

I shadowed Mother, amused her, and did everything in my power to make her happy. I did many things by which I hoped to spare her needless steps. I accepted my responsibility seriously and was a little hurt at Mother’s amused surprise at my obvious attentiveness. It pleased me to have Mother call me her little helper, because I saved her many steps. Often Alexei called Mother on the telephone and, while she was talking to him, I would run up and warn him not to call Mother again. I felt responsible for her and at the same time I was filled with a sense of importance while on duty at her side. For some time we thought Mother’s health was deteriorating under the strain of worry and sorrow. Now her heart became worse and she no longer was able to give actual care to the wounded at the hospital.

While Father was home, he had several stories about Rasputin investigated. One report declared that Rasputin had boasted in a restaurant, in public, that the embroidered upper blouse which he wore that evening had been presented to him by the Empress. Father sent for this man, whom he had disliked[Pg 124] for so long. He questioned him about his claim. The peasant appeared to be surprised and frightened, but had finally admitted that he had made the remark. “How dare you?” Father looked straight into his eyes. Then, Father pointed to the door and Rasputin was shown out by an aide-de-camp. Olga remarked later to us sisters that the only regret she had was that the peasant had not been thrown out long before this.

Father never liked nor believed in the Starets and neither did we girls. Even Alexei was doubtful about the peasant’s honesty. In our presence, Rasputin was always respectful and unobtrusive. Mother, however, was convinced that Alexei’s life during his most severe attacks was saved by Rasputin’s prayers. Mother was impressed by the man’s simple common sense. He had such a saintly approach that Mother believed that he was a man sent by God. Most of the messages from Rasputin had come to Mother through Anna. It was at Anna’s house that Mother saw this wandering monk and their conversation was always about religion. There was little doubt that he was a healer of a sort which some Christian Churches have always known and recognized. However, many discounted Rasputin’s healing claims by explaining that he always came into the picture when Alexei was already on the way to recovery. When Alexei was previously ill, because some one inserted into his lower body some kind of serum which caused him untold suffering and many sleepless nights, Rasputin was blamed for it. It was Rasputin who made all the nurses and maids go to confess at the church as a result of which it was found that someone close to the family was responsible for this illness.

The attacks Alexei suffered had become fewer and less serious. My parents were hopeful Alexei would eventually outgrow his trouble. Alexei was often puzzled about Rasputin, whom he considered to be a healer. One day he asked, “Tell me, Mommy, why is it that God listens to the peasant’s prayers, but not to mine.” Mother honestly believed that Rasputin was[Pg 125] sent to save her son. Under similar circumstances any mother would have felt the same.

On another occasion we had Father Vassiliev as our guest. Alexei was just getting over a bad cold. He asked why people said that the peasant was a saint. Papa replied that he would rather have Father Vassiliev explain this to Alexei. The clergyman answered that anyone who does good and lives according to the Holy Scriptures could be a saint. “Then what shall I do that God will listen to my prayers?” asked Alexei.

Father Vassiliev of the Feodorovsky Sobor taught Alexei religion. Alexei was deeply attached to his instructor, who was very religious, had a kind heart, loved people, made friends easily and was loyal and defended them when they were in trouble. Alexei was bright, lively, had a quick mind, delicate features, a white, clear complexion and coppery, auburn hair. In secret among the family he was called “Ruchka” (the hand). This he knew, although we did not at first know it.

[Pg 126]


The fall of 1916 was a beautiful one, with the brilliant flames of orange oak and russet beech trees, elms and avenues of lime trees all fused harmoniously as in a painting. It was our last autumn in Tsarskoe Selo. Again, Alexei joined his Father at G.H.Q. and both went to review the troops at the front. As usual, Father inspected the field kitchens and tasted the food to be sure that it was kept up to the prescribed standards. Then they visited the hospitals in Kiev, at the same time spending several days with Granny who had been living there in the palace near the beautiful Dnieper river for the duration of the war, in order to be near her daughter Olga.

Upon their return to G.H.Q., Alexei sent a note home to say that Father was distressed after having had a talk with Granny; she had changed. Alexei, although a child, was conscious of the fact that this disquieting conversation stemmed from Ruchka’s illness and the peasant. Granny did not know that Alexei knew that in secret he was called “Ruchka”. There were other relatives present at this discussion, one of them being Uncle Sandro (Alexander Mikhailovich). He was the head of military aviation and was stationed in Kiev.

During this conversation, Aunt Olga defended Alicky (Mother) whereas Granny blamed everything on her. Grandmother openly predicted then that all would end in disaster. Alexei promised Mother that he would never cause Father trouble, and would be careful of his own health. He told us later that he had cried on the train while Father was in his study, and that he no longer loved his Granny as he used to.[Pg 127] At this time Aunt Olga was happily remarried. Her husband was the handsome officer of the Guard whom she had known for a long time, Colonel Nicholai Koulikovsky.

Soon Mother and we sisters went on another tour to the hospitals and were greeted enthusiastically everywhere. We received big donations for the hospitals. During this tour we stopped for a several days’ visit with Father. This was to be our last trip to G.H.Q. We knew right away that something connected with Rasputin was troubling Father, as a result of his last visit to Kiev.

Now Father asked Granny to leave for the Crimea in order to end the gossip, which without Granny’s encouragement would never have taken place. Later even Olga wrote her asking for God’s sake to leave for the Crimea. But all was in vain.

At this time Uncle Sandro, the husband of Aunt Xenia, proposed to Father that he should promulgate the constitution on his name day, December 6th, but Father said it was impossible because at the coronation he had sworn on the Bible to uphold the autocracy.

Now we already knew of the plan to assassinate Mother, Father and many of his aides, especially Prince Dolgorukov, Captain Nilov, A.D.C. Mordvinov, Count Fredericks and others. It was organized in Kiev by Guchkov. Granny and the Grand Duke Nicholai Nicholaevich in Caucasia supported the idea, but Granny confessed to Father, during her last conversation with him, that she did not know that the Guchkov plan was to assassinate Father and the others. She believed that they were working towards Father’s abdicating the throne to the Grand Duke Nicholai Nicholaevich.

The former Governor of Mogilev, Mr. Pelts, who let my Father use his residence, and others also warned Father of the plot and told him that many officers were approached by Guchkov to carry out the mass murder but they all refused. The secret police were to close in on Guchkov but Father wanted to have more proof. On this visit Granny wanted us[Pg 128] children to come to Kiev, but we feared that the murder might be committed while we were away. After the abdication and before Father left Mogilev, Granny came on her train to Mogilev. Even then she blamed the abdication on Mother. Then Father asked her whether she knew of the plan to assassinate him and Alicky, his wife. She cried that she had not known of the plan to murder but had encouraged the abdication. With these words they parted forever. No matter what, Father was condemned from the day of Lenin’s brother’s execution during the reign of Alexander III, and also from the day of the execution of Trotsky’s brother who was connected with one of the most dangerous revolutionary organizations during the Japanese war.

Father occupied a section of one floor in the Governor’s home in Mogilev. Built on a wooded hill, it enjoyed a magnificent view of the broad Dnieper River. Father had two large rooms, one being the bedroom he shared with Alexei. In it, two iron beds stood side by side, separated by a little table on which was a Bible and an icon. There were also a mahogany dressing table, a wash stand, a settee, and a bookcase. The windows of this room faced the river on one side, the garden and the parade grounds on the other. The adjoining room was Father’s office with windows facing the parade grounds. It held a large Victorian desk fully equipped, some photographs of the family, several barometers and a floor lamp; also Alexei’s desk used for his school work, a settee, and a bookcase. Next to the office was a large anteroom with two big portraits of Father and Mother, plus a couch, a piano, and numerous chairs. Next was a large, gloomy dining room. The entire suite had parquet floors and fine carpets.

Some of the upper and lower floors were occupied by Father’s staff: General Voyeykov, Count Benckendorff, Prince Vasily Dolgorukov, A.D.C. Nilov, Dr. Fedorov and Dr. Derevenko, now in charge of Alexei; Prince Igor Constantinovich often came here. With Father was also General Dubensky, a friend of the Grand Duke Dimitri, Count Sheremetiev,[Pg 129] A.D.C. Drenteln, and others. Father was accompanied by his rather numerous military escorts and by his tall bodyguard Dendeniev, a Cossack officer, who almost always was at his side. This officer could fire at the smallest flying object in the air without ever missing one shot. Also present was Father’s personal guard, Polupanov.

In Mogilev, we took some short trips, sometimes driving to the beautiful Archayerevsky woods; or we walked in the deep snow, while Alexei played in the park with young cadets.

At some distance from the Governor’s home under the pine trees was the Army field chapel. The General Staff office was within a short distance of the house. Due to the shortage of houses, all government buildings and some private residences were converted into living quarters for the military staff and hospitals. In the winter Father had his luncheons in the dining room at the Governor’s house. The General Staff officers and officers on duty from the front were usually asked to join him at the noon meal. At these meals no military business was discussed. Discussions of such matters took place every morning in the Supreme Command office near by. Father disliked sitting at the table longer than necessary and, as soon as the meal was over, he rose from the table and his guests followed. During the summer, the luncheons were held in a large tent on a hill in the pine woods.

In the evening, when we were there, Father tried to be with us on our train. He poured the tea himself with only the family present. Father’s train stood on a sidetrack in the woods, his study was at the end and two strong Cossacks stood always on guard.

On one visit, we saw General Hanbury-Williams. He spoke to us about his children, especially his two sons who were actively engaged in the war. The General and Alexei became great friends. He and General Rickel both spoke to Mother about the boy, saying that his presence made them forget about the war and that Mother should leave him in Mogilev. My[Pg 130] brother remained at G.H.Q. General Hanbury-Williams was often invited to dinner with Father and Alexei.

We left Mogilev. When we arrived at Tsarskoe Selo, we found one of Mother’s ladies in waiting, Princess Sonia Orbeliani, critically ill. This young friend of ours had suffered some years earlier a back injury caused by a fall from her horse. Now the spine began to trouble her seriously. In the end she was totally paralyzed. We had a special nurse for her, and she continued to stay in our house. Her room adjoined our rooms, and Mother went to see her every night to make sure that she was comfortable. Having her in our home caused a great deal of jealousy among the other ladies in waiting and our staff. Sonia, herself, was jealous of Anna Vyrubova, who in turn quarrelled with her. Poor Sonia was still young when she left the world. Several times during her illness, before the war, we took her to the Crimea and we sisters pushed her about in her wheel chair. Fortunately for her she passed away quietly before the fear of devastation settled over our family. Father returned home with Alexei just in time to attend Sonia’s funeral.

Father was home for a few days only. He wanted to have a quiet evening with just the family. Anna invited herself the very first evening. This upset Mother so much that she said exasperatedly, “I hope Anna can live one day without seeing me!”

We sisters and brother left Mother’s room early, hoping that Anna would do the same, but Mother told us the next morning that Anna had continued to stay until very late. Father told Olga that after the Christmas holidays, he would keep Alexei at G.H.Q. most of the time in order to avoid having Rasputin called in the event Alexei should become ill.

While home Father told us of a report that in one of the military hospitals a wounded soldier who had been decorated for his bravery with the St. George Cross—one of the highest decorations in the Russian army—had asked for and received[Pg 131] photographs autographed by each member of the Imperial family. After he was discharged from the hospital, in his bedside table drawer was found a German code. It was intended to use the pictures signed by us in propaganda leaflets which were to be dropped in the Russian trenches. This soldier was identified and he confessed. There were important names involved in the plot. He was executed, and his Latvian mother was placed under surveillance.

Meantime Father investigated everything in the palace. To his great dismay and disappointment, he found disloyalty. German machine guns were found hidden near Peterhof, and in the outskirts of our farms at Dudendorff near the Swiss chalet. No one knew how these were smuggled in. Our own family was now being exposed to danger. The propaganda having failed at the front, it started to penetrate into homes, schools, hospitals and elsewhere. One day a folder was found on our library table. The headline said, “Germans are killing the Russian peasants, confiscating their cattle and taking everything for themselves.” The article went on to say that Mother was a spy and was collaborating with German agents. How this folder came to be placed on the table remained a mystery. Mother’s real sorrow was that now Russia had begun to believe these unfounded lies. At this time, King George of England wanted Mother to come to Sandringham for a rest, but she refused to hear of it. “I shall rest when the war is over,” she said.

Father also discovered that many peacetime guards had been removed from duty at the palace and sent to the front without his knowledge, leaving the palace guard insufficiently manned. Father ordered additional guards to be sent from the mixed regiments but his orders were disobeyed. Instead, revolutionists were assigned to guard the palace.

The last time we saw Granny was in Kiev some weeks before Christmas of 1916.

Our last trip to inspect hospitals was shortly before Christmas. Accompanying us was Anna Vyrubova. More and more[Pg 132] we discovered how much, under a superficial politeness, Anna was hated. She was aware that her friendship with Mother caused Mother a great deal of suffering. It was at this time that we went to the old city of Novgorod. At the station we were met by the Governor with bread and salt and his family presented us with flowers; greetings came from a squadron of Mother’s own Uhlan Guards. Both sides of the streets were lined with military men, school children, and civilians. With cheers and “ura” they threw their caps into the air, waved their handkerchiefs, and pelted our limousines with flowers. At last we reached the cathedral where special carpets were stretched and the church was packed with well-wishers. Princes Igor Constantinovich and Andrei Alexandrovich came from nearby. At luncheon Igor remarked, “The people most assuredly displayed great joy and devotion to you.”

In the afternoon we went to the hospital and Mother was touched by the kind reception. It gave her courage and strength. To everybody’s surprise she was able to walk to the second floor to see the sick men. Here, too, we were given money to aid the wounded. At twilight, with music, our automobiles were escorted to the station. We reached home late that night. This trip gave Mother a lift and confidence and for days she carried a smile of contentment, thanks to the people of Novgorod.

The Christmas of 1916 stands out brilliantly in contrast to the Christmas that followed. None of the secret joy was missing. Before the war, when still quite young, we children used to be sent on a long drive as the Christmas Eve dusk gathered. Oh, the thrill of watching the daylight merge into night’s cocoon, knowing the excitement that would come with darkness! At last the drive was over and we stood on the very threshold of the mysterious room where Christmas Eve was to be celebrated. From somewhere nearby Christmas carols were wafted up to us. As the door opened, there stood the glittering tree, each year more beautiful than any before. The room was filled with people: family, friends, and the palace staff. From[Pg 133] the highest to the most humble servant, everyone gathered around the tree. Each was remembered with a gift, no one was forgotten. For weeks my sisters, with the help of ladies of the court, had wrapped the presents, each looking like a gleaming jewel. The day before Christmas, most Russians take no food, only water, until the first star appears in the heavens. This year, in the early morning, we went to a service at the Feodorovsky Sobor, and at dawn the Christmas trees were lighted for us, the officers and the guard. We sisters had helped to decorate the trees.

The fast was followed by the Christmas Eve dinner of twelve courses, representing the Twelve Apostles. No meat was served, but there were many kinds of fish, each course having a symbolic meaning. There were hors d’oeuvre, soup, mushrooms, fruit and nuts, etc.

We decided to keep our own tree, set up on the second floor, until late after the New Year. The flames of war and intrigue hissed and sizzled but could not outshine the glow of Christmas. First of all there were plans for the hospitals and orphanages, great effort being put into the personal cheer of each invalid and needy person. There were sparkling trees decorated by Mother’s own hands, with white and silver ornaments. With the hospitals full of wounded men and the tense condition at the front, every one made a special effort to effect a semblance of gaiety. On Christmas day, in the early afternoon, the tree was lighted for the Guard, the regimental orchestra played, and the Cossacks danced and sang. Everyone stood around the tree and Olga, acting for Mother, presented the gifts. Our gifts were usually simple and useful.

Although that Christmas had the familiar setting, it did not have the customary joyous spirit. First of all, Father’s duties claimed his time with heavy responsibilities. I remember that the day before his departure for Mogilev, he was discouraged and upset. He had a long talk with Olga in his study before he left. Asking her to persuade Mother in some way that she should not write him daily long letters, he relied on the help[Pg 134] of our oldest sister. For these letters, telling Father what should be done, were resented by him. He was especially annoyed when Anna sent along her own naive suggestions; these he called stupid. “Everyone is issuing orders and I have to listen to them,” he said. He also asked Mother not to talk with her friends regarding matters they knew nothing about. That, he pointed out, was the Ministers’ business and no one else’s. Father himself had asked Mother not to do this. He was tired and worried about the things she mentioned, long before she was aware of the fact that Father’s replies to her were short and concise. Mother felt surprise that he made no comment on what she had written. Then she decided to go and see Father in Mogilev.

Mother was a great thinker and a reader of scientific books, natural science, religion and astronomy. She could solve the hardest mathematical problems. She spent many hours in her small library next to her sitting room, reading her rare books on Indian philosophy, given her by the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nicholaevna, the divorced wife of the Duke of Leuchtenberg and later the wife of the Grand Duke Nicholai Nicholaevich, who himself was also a scholar of Persian and Indian history. Mother never wasted one minute. Everyday she spent many hours with her secretary on reports. Her mail was enormous. She wrote beautifully and her letters were sad and touching. She cared little for wealth. She left behind in Tsarskoe Selo and Petrograd, Livadia, and Alexandria items of immense value—her platinum, rock crystal desk set, and a gold one; her dressing table accessories; her collection of crosses and boxes; the dozen genuine blue sapphire, gold-rimmed glasses (the work of Bolin) given her one at a time over a period of years by Father; valuable laces; and over 300 Easter eggs. She took with her only a few keepsakes; many of the most valuable items were left in Tsarskoe Selo in the care of Count Benckendorff.

At the end of the holiday week there came a great change. On December 30th, 1916, Olga came to us excitedly and[Pg 135] whispered: “Rasputin is missing!” His daughter had just telephoned Anna that he had not been home all night. This had alarmed Anna who had seen Rasputin just the previous evening, in Petrograd—for a few minutes only, in order to avoid further talk. Anna remembered that Rasputin had told her then that Prince Felix Youssoupoff was to call for him late in the evening to take him to his home to meet his wife, Irina. Mother was sure that our pretty cousin, Princess Irina, was in the Crimea and ill at that time. Irina was the daughter of Father’s sister, Xenia, and the Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich, the grandson of the Emperor Nicholas I, and Father’s favorite cousin and his brother-in-law.

Olga and Tatiana left to attend to their work in the hospital as usual, while Marie and I reluctantly went to the schoolroom. After classes we joined the family and found, to our horror, that suspicion of Rasputin’s disappearance pointed not only to Prince Youssoupoff but to our own cousin, the Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich. After a thorough investigation by the police, it was established that Rasputin had been murdered, his body wrapped in a military blanket and thrown into the Neva river in Petrograd.

The frozen corpse was found two days later, under the ice. It was assumed that the body had been carried in a Red Cross car, then thrown into the river from the bridge. Inasmuch as a Red Cross conveyance had been involved, it came as a sickening shock to learn that the murder was linked to these two young men with the knowledge of the Commander of the Red Cross, Purishkevich, who was a member of the Duma. Several previous unsuccessful attempts on Rasputin’s life had been made. Once he was stabbed by a young woman in Siberia and another time deliberately run over by a carriage. Each time he had escaped serious injury.

It was especially shocking to find Dimitri Pavlovich involved for, ever since he had been a young man, he had had a room in our home in Tsarskoe Selo and in the Crimea. His sister, Marie, had also spent many happy days with us. Aunt Ella had brought[Pg 136] him up as her own son after his widowed father married a second time and left Russia for a while. Dimitri was considered a member of our family and we all were extremely fond of him. It was almost impossible for us to believe that he could be implicated in the murder of this much despised man. Later we heard that his role in the affair was very minor.

Suddenly the news came that General Hanbury-Williams’ son had gone down with Lord Kitchener on the torpedoed “Hampshire” in the North Sea. It was such a blow to our family that we all cried on hearing the tragic news. Mother sent some orchids to the General with our profound sympathy. Later, Alexei told us that, when the General appeared that evening for dinner, and when they greeted each other, the General threw his arms around Alexei in tears. Alexei said: “My heart went out to him.” After dinner, they kissed each other, the General calling Alexei the most loving child as he departed for his quarters. The next day General Hanbury-Williams once more joined Father and Alexei at dinner.

In the meantime, Father had received a telegram announcing that Rasputin had been killed. Father and Alexei left for Tsarskoe Selo, and Alexei never saw the General again. Painfully Alexei described to us the last evening he had with the General. Alexei, sympathetic and sensitive, suffered with him and felt he, himself, should return to G.H.Q. as the unfortunate General needed someone to comfort him. The General later sustained another sad blow, upon learning that his second son had been wounded. We all felt his tragedies as though they were our personal loss.

Father posed for a moment only for a family picture beside the tree. Then he read the report of the Rasputin murder. His reaction was: “To think that a member of the Imperial family could commit such a crime as to kill the Starets. I am ashamed to face the peasants who are fighting valiantly for Russia, and many of whom have died. And yet these boys find time for murder, as though there is not enough crime in the world.”

Those who committed the murder should have been at the[Pg 137] front. How unjust to kill a man without a trial and without an opportunity to defend himself. It may be these young men imagined themselves to be patriots in killing one who had repeatedly prophesied future reverses for the Empire. If this despised man was undermining the foundation of Russia by promoting a dishonorable peace with the enemy, then he deserved even a greater punishment. But there was no proof. Father did not come home because Rasputin was killed but because our two relatives were involved in the crime, and the punishment had to come from him only.

Because of Rasputin’s death, a great rejoicing had swept over Petrograd. There were telegrams of congratulation for the illustrious deed, toasts with the touching of glasses filled with champagne. No one could foresee that these toasts, with glasses “bottoms up”, were for their own funeral.

Father struggled with the problem of how to punish the young men. He ordered Felix to be exiled to one of his estates in the province of Kursk. It was during my escape in 1918, when I set foot there, that the whole picture seemed to come into focus before me: Mother, Dimitri, Felix. It must have been a great shock to the quiet, beautiful, young wife, Irina, who was deeply in love with her husband, Felix. Most of the people thought of this Oxford graduate as a fascinating handsome man, having a great deal of humor, one who could never do such a terrible thing. But he believed that this was the solution to save Russia. Dimitri was sent to the General Staff on the Persian border, where the Grand Duke Nicholai Nicholaevich was. Luckily Dimitri escaped the fate of his father, his half-brother, his cousins, and other relatives who were killed in 1918-1919. Immediately, his relatives tried to intercede, as had been done at the time of the coronation disaster, which it was claimed, was the result of the negligence of the Grand Duke Serge Alexandrovich.

It was a blow to Father himself, since we all were so fond of Dimitri. Besides he was Father’s ward and like a brother to us. On account of Dimitri’s poor health, after having spent[Pg 138] several months at the front early in the war, he was sent back to Petrograd and, since then, he had spent his time there without occupation and so had become involved in this crime. His own father, the Grand Duke Paul, expressed dissatisfaction. Even though the punishment was light, still the relatives resented it and expressed coolness towards us. The Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich, Father’s brother-in-law, came to see Father but to no avail. Father said forcefully: “No matter whether it was a Grand Duke or a peasant, the law is the same for all.”

Almost the whole Romanov family, led by the Grand Duke Cyril, his mother, Marie Pavlovna, and his brothers, Andrew and Boris, signed a petition in which they asked for the release of the two young heroes. My father was so angered by this, he said: “They would never have dared ask such a favor from my austere father, Alexander III” and “No one has the right to commit a murder, especially in time of war and within my realm.”

The Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna (née Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin) being successful in turning almost all the relatives, as well as many influential friends, against my family hoped by this division of the family to bring the crown to her son. She invited to her parties some mutual friends and continued her slander against my family. Among these courted guests was Rodzianko, President of the Duma. Some of these could no longer tolerate her scheming and, to her amazement, they asked to be excused and left in the midst of the conversation. The most damaging effect, due to this division of the Imperial family, was the plot organized by the Grand Duke Cyril to kill Mother and Father. The planning had taken place at the Imperial Yacht Club in Petrograd, of which my Father and all the relatives were members. Many friends also belonged to it.

They were given a warning to discontinue making trouble while other men were dying in the trenches. Father gave orders to separate them, and they were to go to their various estates.[Pg 139] This blow was more than they could bear. No matter what the cost, they were determined to uproot this man who was a thorn in their side.

After the sad parting of the two sisters in Tsarskoe Selo, Aunt Ella’s bitterness toward my Mother increased. I was told that she knew then that there was to be an attempt on the life of Rasputin, yet she did not discourage Dimitri from taking part in it; instead, she spent her time in a convent where she met one of her friends, and prayed on her knees in this convent while the murder in Petrograd was being committed. I wonder now whether she was praying for her own soul. To my sorrow her life also ended very painfully in 1918.

[Pg 140]


Mother once thought that, if Alexei could not be spared, Dimitri might marry one of her daughters in order to carry on the Romanov line. Now she had to take Rasputin’s death philosophically. At the same time, she grieved over the mistake of the young men, especially the one whom she had loved as her own son. Unfortunately, the Emperor Paul (1796-1801) had decreed that no female be allowed to succeed to the Russian throne. I think that, in case of political turmoil, the decree could have been set aside. Olga would have made a wonderful Empress. She was intelligent, well-read, had a kind disposition, was popular among her friends, and understood human nature. She was a true Russian in heart and soul. She could not have been easily deceived. I am sure that she would have ruled wisely in the interest of her people. Father had inherited from his father, Alexander III, the autocratic form of government which contributed in part to the downfall of Russia.

Father stayed on but we hardly saw him, except at mealtime. He left the table hurriedly and buried himself in state papers and military problems. It was a great comfort, nevertheless, to have him with us.

The Germans reasoned that Rasputin’s death would remove one of the most fruitful subjects of their propaganda. Consequently they hastened to push forward another subject. German agents dropped leaflets into the Russian trenches stating that the Tsar was about to sign a separate peace treaty with Germany. It was also said that Mother, while she visited Father in Mogilev, had entertained Generals Ludendorff and Hindenburg[Pg 141] at night and received letters from her brother, Uncle Ernest. Another rumor had it that the Russian officers of the General Staff and the Grand Dukes were gambling and wasting their time in cabarets while Russian soldiers were dying in the trenches.

The patriotic army was not taken in by this propaganda, because they had seen Father’s devotion to the cause of Russia. But General Ludendorff and the Kaiser intensified this propaganda because they knew it was impossible to defeat the brave Russian army without the connivance of a revolution behind the lines. The idea was to divide, conquer, poison the mind of the Russian people and weaken loyalty to the Emperor. Mutiny was feared at the front since Father was away in Tsarskoe Selo, not because our troops were inadequately fed, clothed and supplied with arms. On the contrary the troops, Father said, were never so strong and well-fed, and our military strength was now greater than at the beginning of the war. But the supplies were deliberately delayed by the merchants who received bribes from German agents while Father was away. So the goods were withheld from the markets by the merchants. Ten million rubles were spent to overthrow Russia by revolution. It was this money that originally had been intended to be used to improve the conditions of the Russian prisoners of war in Germany. Father’s presence was needed at General Headquarters. In spite of Alexei’s symptoms of measles and the fever that raged in him, Father left for G.H.Q., promising to return soon. For Mother, always apprehensive of Alexei, had begged Father to stay home a few days until the boy’s condition could be better determined. But Father’s plans had been made some months ahead for a surprise attack on the enemy and could not be changed.

Father had hardly departed before riots and strikes became a common occurrence in Petrograd. Shortages were reported; there was plenty of bread, even though it was not available in the stores. However, many merchants—some were foreigners and some were not—hid the products or raised the prices so[Pg 142] high that the poor could not purchase any meat, butter, or other essential commodities. Train loads of grain stood on the tracks until the grain became mouldy and unfit for human consumption.

One morning Mother entered her room to find Father’s picture lying on the floor. The glass covering this picture, taken recently at the trenches, was broken at the position of Father’s neck in the photograph. Immediately Mother’s superstitious nature reappeared. There was, she felt, something wrong with Father. This breakage could have been the work of a hostile servant but, more likely, the wind had done it. To Mother it was a bad omen. Again her anxious mind went back to the large cross she saw in the sky as they crossed the Troitsky bridge a few years before. Did these signs indicate that Father was to bear a heavy cross in the future?

Then she had a dream which increased her anxiety. In it she saw the Grand Duke Serge, who had been blamed for the coronation disaster and had been dead for years, come to visit us; suddenly he began to dance and wave a chiffon veil. Father sat and watched him. All at once the Grand Duke came to the end of his little dance, and the veil he was waving caught on the stone on top of the crown on Father’s head. A quick move of the Grand Duke and the crown was off Father’s head and dashed to the floor. Seven of the large stones seemed to disappear, only one being left. Soon that, too, began to evaporate slowly until it became a tiny pebble and finally vanished. The dream haunted her. Did it mean that the crown would be lost? The little stone that vanished—did that indicate that Alexei might be taken away from us?

Another bad omen! The chain which held the cross and the ruby ring (actually it was a red diamond) which Father had given to Mother and which she lately had been wearing around her neck, had broken. These she had always considered her good luck charms. She often placed her ruby ring on the chain with the cross and now, when the chain broke, the ring rolled one way and the cross another. Did this have a meaning in[Pg 143] relation to Father’s safety or did it indicate a rift between Father and the Church? Later this same ring was taken from Mother by Voykov several weeks before the tragic night at Ekaterinburg; he wore this red diamond on his little finger. Mother and I, myself, were great believers in dreams; I still believe in mysticism.

Mother had not heard of Father’s safe arrival at G.H.Q. Finally we received the news that he had reached his destination. Serious disorders in the streets of Petrograd began two days later and lasted for about ten days. While the air was thick with suspicion, strikes, riots, and accusations, we children were seized with measles. Alexei had been ill before Father left; next Olga was stricken; then Tatiana; and, at last, I caught the disease. Marie helped Mother to care for us, but not for long because she, too, fell ill. Then both she and I contracted pneumonia and had to be placed in oxygen tents.

Early in March, we heard through General von Grooten, assistant to General Voyeykov, Commandant of the Palaces, and at that time with Father at G.H.Q., of the conversation he had had with the military commandant in Petrograd, General Belyayev. He had, himself, been able, through General Voyeykov, to speak to Father and tell him of the true state of affairs. Rodzianko had wired His Majesty that everything was quiet. The General had acted on his own initiative because he could see the critical conditions in Petrograd and in Tsarskoe Selo. Father was relieved to hear that we were alive. Through General Belyayev, Father sent word that we should do nothing until he returned home. But we must be ready to go away at a moment’s notice. He had also been informed that we all were ill, but he hoped that, when he arrived home, we would be well enough to leave. He did not know that Marie and I and several others at the palace had pneumonia.

At this time Rodzianko called the palace to say that Father was well but we were in great danger and should go at once to Gatchina Palace, about thirty miles southwest of Petrograd. Uncle Michael also had his residence there, and many other[Pg 144] relatives of the Imperial family maintained villas in the park. Had we gone there, we would have had more freedom. Two parallel wings, connected by a third, were almost completely enclosed. Each wing had more than several hundred rooms, and the grounds held a fair-sized lake in the middle. The estate included thousands of acres of gardens, forest and ravines. We might more easily have escaped from there abroad.

There were rumors that Uncle Ernest was hiding in a tunnel. People probably confused a tunnel at Alexander Palace in Tsarskoe Selo with a natural passage at Gatchina. This natural passage could be entered from the stairway of the palace into a dark narrow hall, the exit of which led to the bank of Silver Lake adjoining the Baltic Sea. This spooky tunnel was cold, damp, and had a mournful echo. All these gruesome things came to my mind. I could see the statue of Paul I in front of the palace. His clothes, which were brought into his room after his assassination, remained there undisturbed as on the day he left the palace. There was a belief that Paul’s ghost walked at night about the vast rooms, corridors, and terraces. Others even claimed that they had heard him calling in the tunnel, and some servants were afraid to leave their rooms when the clock struck twelve midnight. This palace was my Grandfather’s favorite residence.

In Tsarskoe Selo there was a tunnel or passage through one of the park entrances. This entrance, with a stone structure over the gate, was carefully watched, and was used by the workers—delivery men, repair men, cooks, maids, gardeners and others. No one could enter this passage without showing his or her pass and the picture on the pass had to correspond with the one in the book which was at the disposal of the guard. When these workers reached the inner end of the tunnel, they were in the English basement of the palace where there were a number of rooms set aside for their use. These included a lounge, dining rooms, etc. In another section of the basement were rooms for the officers, including a dining room which was below Mother’s bedroom. Five or six hundred[Pg 145] workers used this tunnel daily. It was one of the busiest and most widely used entrances. Practically all these people using this gate had been known to the guards, inasmuch as they had used this entrance for many years.

We heard that the soldiers were breaking into stores, getting drunk, and even becoming intoxicated on wood alcohol. As a result, some were poisoned and died. These deaths were blamed on the palace guard.

Mother was on duty with us children all night for several nights. Although she made frequent changes, she appeared constantly in her nurse’s uniforms. She rested on the sofa in order to be near us. The trials my Mother endured during these turbulent days are beyond description. One of the first things Mother did as a prisoner was to go through her personal letters. She burned some of the intimate ones she had received from Father during their courtship. Other letters which she destroyed were those from her Granny, Queen Victoria. When Mother was a young bride, expecting her first child, her Granny gave her useful advice. All letters written by the Imperial family were almost always numbered and dated so that it was easy to know whether any were missing. When the palace was searched by the commissars appointed by the Provisional Government, they noticed the paper ashes in the fireplace. They accused Mother of having burned important evidence. She could not change their suspicion that she had burned more than personal letters of sentiment. When she was through burning them, she said; “All is dead—but not my memories. No one can take them from me.” Then she buried her face in her hands, resting her arms on the mantel of the fireplace where she had burned her Granny’s own handwritten, cherished letters. She wept bitterly over the flame that carried Queen Victoria’s precious words into smoke.

The authorities now read all the remaining letters of my Father and my Mother. When they were unable to find anything detrimental with which they could accuse them, they fabricated all kinds of lies in order to deceive the general public.[Pg 146] They even forged Mother’s handwriting and signature and published all sorts of atrocious lies against my parents. Several of those “letters” we saw later in Ekaterinburg; the handwriting was very much like Mother’s. Mother was accused of pro-German sympathies and actually of being a spy. What would it have mattered to the traitors if Mother had been a spy? But she was not. It was purposely done with a view to putting the blame on someone who would have produced the most damaging results to the country. It was all a part of the traitors’ pattern of intrigue to wreck the country and to weaken the Russian government, if necessary by revolution.

All these accusations were a betrayal and deceit. They sprang from the rumor that Mother, with the help of her brother, was seeking a separate peace with Germany. Mother was falsely accused, had absolutely nothing to do with it. It was caused by the actions of Princess Maria Vasilchikova, of whom I have written before, who also knew Uncle Ernest. She came from a Russian family who were also friends of Aunt Ella. She had known Mother for some ten years. She was a friend of the Imperial families of Austria and Germany, and, just before the outbreak of war in 1914, she was in Austria. Sometime in 1916, she had been persuaded by the Austrian and German Governments to write letters to Mother in which she stressed that both Governments had always been friendly with Russia, that they wished to renew this friendship, but that they did not put much faith in the alliance with England. Three or four such letters came to my family. These letters were known to all the High Command, the secret police and to the Minister of War. Father did not answer them. Both Governments, he said, should have known better. Instead, they waged war rather than take Serbia to the tribunal at the Hague.

Father was angered when he heard that Maria had been to see the Russian prisoners of war in Germany, expecting that they would put pressure on Father to agree to a truce. He had received information that these prisoners were well cared for, but the subsequent report from the Red Cross proved that was[Pg 147] not true. In one of her letters Maria stated that, if the treaty were not considered, all Russia would be endangered. Evidently Maria well knew the aim of the enemy: fostering revolution. She also went to see Uncle Ernest, and subsequently a letter came from her and Uncle Ernest, addressed to Mother, sent by way of Sweden.

Mother was very angry and terribly upset about Maria and Uncle Ernest, particularly that he would even think that Father might conclude such a treaty. She said that she never wanted to see her brother again. She answered this letter herself and emphasized that no separate peace treaty would be signed with Germany. Because Mother sent this letter without Father’s consent, he was greatly upset.

Then a letter from Wilhelm II came to Count Benckendorff asking him to encourage Father to sign a separate treaty. Father said, let him write such letters to all my Allies, but a separate German treaty with Russia only, will never take place.

Still later a letter came from Petrograd from that same Maria, enclosing a note from Uncle Ernest. She begged for an audience with my Mother, who refused to grant her request but, instead, referred Maria’s letter to the proper authorities. Her appearance in Petrograd stirred up considerable trouble because it made people believe that she had been to see Mother. Then she wrote to Aunt Ella and, when Aunt Ella did not answer, she went to see Minister Sazonov. He, too, angrily said: “There will be no separate peace with Germany.” All the letters were turned over to the secret police who were especially furious at her saying that her estate in Austria would be confiscated. At this, Mother remarked: “Why should Russia be held responsible because Maria’s estate will be confiscated?” Father ordered that Maria be sent to her sister’s estate. Father was very angry, saying “Wilhelm must be mad.” How could anyone forget the actions of the German and Austrian Emperors which brought on the war and resulted in the loss of thousands of Russian lives, widespread suffering and enormous destruction of property, especially in the Ukraine.

[Pg 148]

How absurd for anyone to think that Mother would spy for Germany. For she had waited so long for a son to fulfill the need of the country when Father’s time was to come. How could she betray anyone she loved dearly, her husband, her son, or her adopted Mother Country! Anyone believing such illogical and unintelligent propaganda was not a healthy thinker.

One day the commissars, in searching the palace again, discovered a secret panel cupboard. No one knew how they discovered the secret door as it was so well concealed in the wall. This secret closet contained a number of Mother’s treasures of various kinds. There was a keepsake of no value, an accordion-pleated fan which had upon it pictures of Mother and Father when they were young. It had been presented to them on one of their visits to France. From one angle, when you looked at it, there appeared a picture of Mother; from another angle, it showed a picture of Father. At this time, some others of Mother’s keepsakes were removed. One, especially beautiful, was a fan with a tortoise shell handle, jewelled with emeralds; the pleated lace was studded with tiny, double eagle, gold sequins. There were many other items of great value.

As we lay in our darkened rooms trying to recuperate, we kept asking why Father did not come. Five invalids at once! When Madame Lili Dehn, the wife of Charles Dehn, the captain on our yacht and a friend since our childhood, received the news of our illness, she left her little boy with a nurse and rushed to help us, but the day of her arrival she became a prisoner in the palace with the others. She brought us the news that shops had been plundered, and that serious clashes had arisen between rebels and police. Dr. Derevenko brought news that the Liteiny Arsenal in Petrograd was in the hands of the rebels, that explosions in factories were taking place and that soldiers had been deserting their posts in panic.

Princess Obolensky, Olga Butsova and Princess Dundakova, once ladies in waiting, and the brother of Captain Charles[Pg 149] Dehn likewise offered their assistance, but were denied entry to the palace. Mother had so wished that they could be with us, because they had always been faithful to us. Countess Anastasia (Nastinka) Hendrikova, a lady in waiting, heard of our illness and she left the Caucasus and came to Tsarskoe Selo to offer her assistance.

To Mother’s distress she found that many of her servants had contracted the flu as the epidemic swept the palace and some had run away in fear, including Derevenko, the sailor, Alexei’s servant. He told the other employees that he might prefer to serve the new regime; he was finally arrested by order of the Provisional Government, which had found stolen property on him.

We could hear the clashing of the mutineers, the screams and the shouts and some shooting near the palace gate. Mother was shocked to find there were so few soldiers on duty. She hurried to the phone to speak with the officer at the main gate, but there was no answer. She phoned the other entrance and the officer on duty informed her that many guards had deserted their posts, only a few being left to guard the palace.

A cannon was brought into the courtyard in readiness, but Mother begged the guards not to fire even one single bullet into the crowds. No matter what the consequences, she wished no blood shed on account of her family.

Mother heard noises in the officers’ room below her bedroom. She went down personally with Marie. She requested one of the officers to accompany her to the section where the guards came in to warm themselves. Mother ordered that hot tea should be served to them as often as they came in, because the temperature had dropped to 18° below zero.

Dr. Botkin was announced and when he entered our rooms he looked pale and distressed. He told Mother of a rumor that Father had been shot. But Mother refused to believe this. With the world collapsing around her, she crept back to her children. This good man, who was Mother’s personal physician, offered to care for the five invalids. Because of the emergency he even[Pg 150] helped to change our garments, although there was a rule that no man could render such assistance.

Some time after the New Year, the Grand Duke Paul, in spite of his failing health, took command of the regiments in Tsarskoe Selo. This was most encouraging to us. All became quiet for a short period. The Grand Duke came to the palace and talked with Mother at some length. Marie heard raised voices in the next room. The conversation was mostly about Anna Vyrubova. The public objected to her staying in the palace. At this time her parents, the Taneevs, came from Terijoki on the Gulf of Finland to be with their daughter during her illness, as she demanded so much attention. Everyone thought that Anna with her measles required more care than all five of us put together. So her parents continued to stay with us until Anna had recovered. This increased the public’s resentment.

We had known for a long time that an attempt had been made on Anna’s life, in her own home, so, in order to prevent another crime, she had been asked to stay with us. Mother became resentful toward the Grand Duke Paul, who warned her that the palace would be stormed and that Anna would be carried away dead. Mother indignantly said that it was no one’s business whom she had in her home and that she had the right to keep anybody she wished in the palace. Mother and the Grand Duke parted in hot anger. It went on and on, so that this talk left Mother in an agitated mood.

Anna was told by the others of the unpleasantness Mother had on her account with the Grand Duke Paul. Mother had suffered many such experiences before, just because of her strong will; she always defended this friend from jealous creatures. Several servants, because they so despised Anna, later reported to the Provisional Government everything that took place in the palace; they even told about the letters that Anna suggested be burned. They were dismissed and, before their departure, they asked to speak with Count Benckendorff. But this was denied them. However, no one could convince Mother[Pg 151] that Anna’s presence in our home caused a great deal of trouble and, at the same time, endangered our lives. Even after she had recovered from her illness, Anna continued to stay with us.

When we were little girls, Mother resented Anna’s intrusions, but when Anna confided in Mother that her parents were harsh to her, Mother felt sorry and took the girl under her wing. Mother told Madame Zizi Narishkina that she remembered how unpleasant her own life had been when her own brother, Ernest, was first married. At the time, she could not even speak to her brother and, in order to avoid conflict, with her new sister-in-law, she spent her days in her rooms. Subsequently, Granny took her to England.

Anna continued to come to the house on the pretense that her husband was away. At the same time she was telling her husband that she was being called for duty at the palace. When Mother found out that Anna misrepresented the facts, she became so upset that it caused her first heart attack. At the same time, Mother’s personal physician resigned his post because he felt that the heart attacks would continue as long as Anna was present. Mother never told us children about this, but we learned about it from Madame Narishkina. However, to my Mother, no one could say one word against Anna and many felt that she had some undue influence over the Empress.

We sisters became aware of the general feeling of the greater danger we were facing. So we displayed coolness toward Anna. That again displeased Mother, and she insisted that we be friendlier to Anna. She reprimanded us in spite of our weakened condition. She became angry with Olga and Marie, and said, “I will not allow anyone to criticize my friend.” Olga however said; “Anna, with her petty talks has made herself indispensable to you.” This, though true, so agitated Mother that we were sorry Olga ever brought the matter up. Even Dr. Botkin felt that, for the sake of the children, Anna should be sent back to Terijoki in Finland.

Now all who entered the palace were searched, the women by a woman, and the men by a guard.

[Pg 152]


At Mogilev, Captain Nilov, Major General Prince Vasily Dolgorukov and others with whom Father discussed the matter agreed that he should leave immediately for the capital. He was then ready to grant the Constitution. Mother also wired him to this effect. Soon afterwards a telegram was received informing Father that the revolution in Petrograd had been crushed. The news displeased General Ruzsky, who at that time was the Commanding General of the Northern Front. He and others were afraid that people would accuse the Duma and himself of treason, so they made one last attempt to damage the standing of my Father. At the same time they knew that our troops were strong, were well provided for, and eager for the spring offensive, for the last surprise attack, which was to bring a complete victory to our armies within three months.

Ruzsky disliked General Alexeiev and his son, and openly displayed hatred for them both. He did everything to separate Father and General Alexeiev, whom Father had known for some time and found most capable. General Ruzsky also had an animosity toward Count Fredericks because he knew that the old Count was suspicious of him. General Ruzsky wanted Father to relieve the Baltic Baron from his post as Court Minister, saying that the people resented anyone with a German name in a high position. When Father took the Supreme Command of the Armies in the Field, the Count had warned him that Ruzsky was a dangerous man and would inevitably weaken Father’s position among the people. Granny[Pg 153] too tried to discourage Father and felt that Alicky (Mother) was responsible for this appointment. But Father was determined to correct the inefficiency and raise the morale of his army.

It had been reported the Grand Duke Nicholai Nicholaevich was inclined to favor one officer over another with resulting injustices. General Krymov told Prince Dolgorukov at the time Father took the Supreme Command that there was great rejoicing among the officers and soldiers. They knew that from now on there would be no favoritism shown in the army. The effect of this new spirit was shown in the victories that followed when thousands of German and Austrian soldiers were captured, together with vast quantities of ammunition. Every night thousands of the enemy soldiers escaped across the border and sought sanctuary in Russia. The German High Command indeed had a good reason for ordering Princess Vasilchikova to write numerous letters suggesting a separate peace treaty.

Going back to General Ruzsky, the officers became suspicious of the old General. Knowing that Father disliked gossip and accusations, they were so secretly enraged with Ruzsky that they were ready to kill him. Later, Prince Dolgorukov told us that Captain Nilov, at the time of Father’s abdication, became so furious at Ruzsky’s attitude that he angrily struck the table with his fist and declared; “His Majesty must not abdicate! He has the Army and the peasants with him. Ruzsky will destroy the Empire and the Emperor, but I will have the pleasure of killing him with my own hand.” However, the rapid progress of the revolution deprived him of this privilege, and the General’s life was spared by a narrow margin. Whoever would suspect that this near-sighted man with thick glasses, this short, insignificant, old man with a wrinkled face whose gray hair stood up like the bristle of a stiff brush was capable of spying? Even his epaulets, his sloping shoulders, were not commensurate with the military bearing one expected of a general. He was well aware of the[Pg 154] rapidly changing conditions in Petrograd. This was the man of whom Father said; “I can never forgive Ruzsky because, as a Russian general, he committed the most terrible crime against his country.” During one of our visits to Mogilev, General Ruzsky was there. He acted strangely toward Mother, trying to avoid her eyes. His nervousness indicated that his conscience was bothering him.

About this time Father received a telegram from the Caucasus from the Grand Duke Nicholai Nicholaevich suggesting that Father abdicate. This was a disheartening blow to Father. He knew however it was a deliberate gesture of revenge, because Father had found it necessary to relieve the Grand Duke from his supreme command in the field. At the same time, Father had relieved Prince Orlov (Fat Orlov), who had held the position of Director of Chancery, and had sent him to the Caucasus with the Grand Duke. While Nicholai Nicholaevich was in Tiflis, he made a great impression on the people with his enormous height and his thunderous voice. His great physical strength and enthusiastic manner, as well as his skilled horsemanship, added to his personal popularity.

Meanwhile General Ewers and General Ivanov were ready to send troops to Petrograd to crush the riots. But Ruzsky wired Rodzianko, asking him to take no action. (Rodzianko was related to Prince Youssoupoff by marriage.) Still another blow Father received was that the Litovsky and Volinsky regiments, constituted of recruits, had capitulated to the revolutionists. On top of this, Father was misinformed that Mother had been killed and that the children who had been ill were in grave danger!

About this time, Father still at G.H.Q., felt that there was still time to avert the revolution if he could get support from the people of Petrograd who would recognize that the coming spring offensive would defeat Germany. He discussed this with his Chief of Staff, General Alexeiev, who had confidence in the strength and loyalty of the Army. They decided that Father should leave for the capital where he was to grant the[Pg 155] Constitution. But Ruzsky, Shulgin, and Guchkov prevented Father’s reaching the city on time. Purposely, by direction of the Duma, the train was shunted back and forth until the revolution had taken a stronger root and the abdication, which Father had so stubbornly resisted all night long, was finally forced upon him.

Before Father left G.H.Q., he wired to General Khabalov in Petrograd that riots during the war were not tolerable, and must be crushed at once. But the General wired back that it was all too late; that his barracks were already deserted, and that the two companies of Life Guards, commanded by my paternal cousin, the Grand Duke Cyril Vladimirovich, had marched through the city, led by the Grand Duke himself with a red band on his arm and a rosette on his chest. This act alone gave untold encouragement to the revolutionists. Cyril thought that this was the opportune moment for him, with the help of various members of the Imperial family, to seize the Crown.

At this time the Grand Duke Michael (Uncle Misha) who was being held at the Tauride Palace (the Duma), knew what Cyril was trying to do and refused to see him. Uncle Misha had been called from Gatchina to discuss the possibility of becoming Regent. The problem was complicated by the poor physical condition of the Tsarevich who, Uncle Michael felt, could not assume the heavy burden of rule in view of the condition the country was in and in view of his lack of experience.

Meanwhile Cyril Vladimirovich was seeking to establish good relations with the newly-formed government. But, even now, Rodzianko had begun to doubt the Vladimir family. All this was told to Mother by the Grand Duke Paul Alexandrovich himself.

Cyril proceeded to the Duma and handed over the troops under his command to the new regime. This was a deliberate revenge against my Mother. Previous to this, Cyril and his German mother, Marie Pavlovna, the elder (née Duchess of[Pg 156] Mecklenburg), the widow of the Grand Duke Vladimir, Father’s deceased uncle, had often spoken admiringly of Bismarck, who had once been German Ambassador to Russia. They had also praised Kaiser Wilhelm, in spite of the fact that the countries were at war. The Grand Duchess had made no secret of her sympathies. She and her son had given huge parties to which they had asked many influential friends. We heard that among them were General Ruzsky, Princess Radziwill and Sir George Buchanan, the British Ambassador. We heard also that they also entertained many revolutionists and German agents who no doubt gained much valuable information as they mingled with other guests. Father received this report after our arrest in Tsarskoe Selo. The invitations to these parties were most extravagant. The double eagle and the crown were embossed in different shades of green, yellow, and blue with real gold sheets or red and blue enamel, pressed into the finest grade of paper.

This attractive plotter, Marie Pavlovna (the elder) was a charming personality and an excellent conversationalist. She did everything in her power to tarnish the names of my Father and Mother. Her son Cyril had married the Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, granddaughter of Queen Victoria and divorced wife of Mother’s only brother, the Grand Duke Ernest of Hesse, who was a grandson of Queen Victoria.

Mother had had a sad experience when Victoria became Ernest’s wife, because of Victoria’s jealous disposition. At the time Mother had had no choice but to live in the same home with the unhappy couple. Fortunately, the benevolent Granny, Queen Victoria, soon took Mother to England. Then, when there was no sister-in-law to pick at, Victoria made Uncle Ernest’s life miserable, and their marriage ended in divorce several years later. Subsequently, Victoria married Cyril, and they were banished from Russia, but had returned just before the outbreak of World War I. Cyril expressed malicious joy when four daughters in succession were born to the Imperial[Pg 157] couple; and later, when it became known that the new heir to the throne, Alexei, was afflicted with haemophilia—which might kill him early in life—Cyril had felt that the throne was already within his grasp. This was especially true when Uncle Michael was banished from Russia, after having married a divorcée. Now Cyril’s hopes for the Crown were redoubled and his mother held, practically, a court of her own. But these relatives of ours lived long enough to see the catastrophe in which they plunged their country.

When the secret of Alexei’s haemophilia had been learned by Cyril’s mother, she suddenly, after more than thirty years of indecision, decided to adopt the Russian orthodox religion in order to strengthen her son’s potentials for eligibility for the throne. Such maneuvering was entirely in vain, inasmuch as the church would never have accepted, let alone crowned, as Tsar a man whose wife’s first husband was still alive. This same factor of marriage to a divorced woman also affected the eligibility of Uncle Michael to succession.

Now at last Mother agreed to the suggestion of men who had stood by her during the trying times: General von Grooten, Prince Putiatin, and her secretary, Count Apraxin, who came by foot from Petrograd in the winter cold solely to tell Mother that Father was to arrive the next morning; also Count Adam Zamoyski, A.D.C., and General Dobrovolsky. Their suggestion was that she visit the troops assembled in the courtyard. Mother and Marie, accompanied by Count Benckendorff and Count Apraxin, greeted and thanked them for their kind services. At this time Mother could see no noticeable difference in the men’s behavior. Count Apraxin was a devoted friend of my parents and loyal to the end. He was deeply religious, encouraged culture and the arts, and had a knowledge of conditions in the country.

Before the abdication, an ukase was signed by Father dismissing the old Cabinet and appointing Prince George Lvov as Prime Minister. By it the Grand Duke Nicholai Nicholaevich was to resume his former position as Commander-in-Chief[Pg 158] of the Army. In spite of Prince Lvov’s protest, all the old Ministers were arrested by the Provisional Cabinet, then still under his direction. The pressure came from Kerensky, Shulgin and Guchkov, the latter a bitter enemy of Mother’s. He was, it was said, influenced by traitors from abroad.

There now was an epidemic of measles, flu and pneumonia in the palace. Twice a day additional doctors were permitted to attend all who were ill, officers of the guard standing behind them during all examinations. It was embarrassing to the patients to have these strange men in their bedrooms. Count Benckendorff spoke to the commissar, asking that the guards remain in the hall. No extra nurses were permitted to help care for the sick.

We heard that Countess Fredericks had contracted pneumonia and been taken to the English Hospital, then under supervision of Lady Georgina Buchanan. But the Ambassador, Sir George Buchanan, ordered that she be removed at once. He expressed himself as being averse to helping any one of the old regime, because he believed in the new social order. In the midst of bitter cold, they carried her out on the street, but a good Samaritan gave her refuge. Her crippled daughter, Emma, our friend, was taken before the Duma, where her jewels were confiscated. The rebels wanted to arrest the old Count but not finding him at home they set his house on fire, destroying not only his residence but his valuable family art collection as well. Strange to say, we knew that Sir George liked us personally and also enjoyed his life and women in Russia. He had known Mother and Uncle Ernest for a long time. He had been in our house many times enjoying meals with us, and often came to see the newsreels of the war which were shown in our palace. This middle aged Ambassador was admired by many women and through them he gained popularity in Petrograd. It was said that he accepted hospitality from the highest to the lowest women of all kinds of character and position. At the end he became hated by the jealous husbands[Pg 159] who were at the war. Later he regretted his mistakes and praised Father’s loyalty to his Allies.

Father was disturbed when he heard that Sir George said he would not care if Germany would invade his own country, England. Especially when Sir George helped to spread untrue stories about Mother, which disturbed Princess Victoria of Battenberg, Mother’s older sister, who wrote Mother an upsetting letter. Father requested the Grand Marshal of the Court, Count Benckendorff to write King George to recall Sir George from his post. At the same time Father ordered Peter Bark to withdraw all his personal money from the banks in England; the rapid progress of the revolution made the withdrawal impossible.

In contrast, Sir George’s wife, Lady Georgina, was most energetic in the war work, and Father presented her with the Order of St. Catherine. She supervised a sewing group at the Embassy, also the Anglo-Russian hospital on the Nevsky Prospect, and was the head of the British convalescent home.

The Provisional Government sent General von Grooten, Commandant of Tsarskoe Selo, to prison. It also placed under arrest Colonel Girardi, Chief of Police, General Resin, once the Commandant of the Combined Regiments, and Prince Putiatin. Mother sent A.D.C. Captain Linevich, one of Father’s closest friends, to negotiate with Rodzianko but we never saw him again. He too was arrested. About this time we were told to have our bags ready to leave Russia at a moment’s notice. Our suitcases and our trunks were brought from the storerooms and were placed upstairs in two rooms. Mother, when free from nursing duties, selected the most important articles to be packed. But everything that went into these trunks later was checked by the new masters.

We heard that two revolutionary divisions were marching toward Tsarskoe Selo with tanks and armored cars, to storm the palace, but the harsh wintry weather prevented them from reaching the village. One night, soon afterwards, all the lights went out for about twenty minutes. The courtyard, the park,[Pg 160] the gates, everything was dark. Then our water supply was cut off, but fortunately it was soon restored. Also the lift at the end of the hall was put out of commission and Mother had to be carried to the second floor. All these events kept us in a continual state of apprehension, and we became frightened, thinking that the rebels were trying to get into the grounds.

Later we were told that on this dark night, the rebels had attempted to remove Rasputin’s body from the grave, by order of the Provisional Government. Not knowing the exact location, they dug up the body of our old butler, who had died about the same time as Rasputin, and burned his remains in the Pergolovo forest. It was this faithful butler who carried my great-grandfather, Alexander II, into the Winter Palace the day he was killed. Since then he had continued as a family butler until, years before, illness overtook him, after which time he was cared for by the family.

The rumor which said that Mother had ordered Rasputin’s body to be buried in the park in Tsarskoe Selo was not true. She had nothing to do with his burial, although she had sent a message suggesting that his body should be shipped to his family in Siberia. It was Anna Vyrubova’s desire to have this man buried on the property she owned on the other side of the Alexander Park gate and the Alexandrovka village, near the woods on the high road to Viborg. Anna believed that he had saved her life and she paid the expenses of the funeral, which was officiated over by Father Vassiliev. The gossip continued that we had signed an icon especially to be placed in Rasputin’s coffin. It was true that shortly before his death we had signed an icon which was for the coffin of one of our tutor’s sons who had been killed. But as Father had already sent one for the tutor’s son’s coffin, the other icon that had been signed was placed in the butler’s coffin.

The first unfounded rumors about Rasputin started a long way back. There was a foreign representative who antagonized the Christians in Persia. My Father—defender of Christianity—was[Pg 161] informed about this man’s malicious actions and used his influence to have this instigator removed from his diplomatic post in Persia. Since then this man was looking for an opportunity to strike back at the Imperial Family. With the help of a collaborator he wrote a book most insinuating in its nature and based on malicious lies. The collaborator demanded $60,000 from my Mother to prevent the publication of this slanderous book, but Mother ignored this threat, and refused to be blackmailed, for there was absolutely no truth in their accusation. During the war the contents of this book was circulated throughout Russia, thus poisoning the minds of the people against my Mother. With their first venture a success, they now started a vicious campaign against Father by picturing him as weak, irresponsible and incapable of holding the Crown, and by so doing they rendered the Bolsheviks a most useful service. Yet none of these instigators knew Father personally for they had never had an opportunity to set foot inside the village of Tsarskoe Selo.

One afternoon at home the mutineers insisted on seeing Mother and Alexei, because of a rumor that Alexei had died or escaped. Mother, accompanied by Count Benckendorff and Marie, went out on the balcony. In a voice, clear but weak, she said; “I hear you want to see me and my son, but why? My son is critically ill, and he must not expose himself to cold. To see him is impossible at this time. For myself I am only a mother who is nursing her sick children.” They left without a single word. That same unlucky evening, March 13th, Marie became ill and was taken into the sick room with a high temperature. With the help of Baroness Buxhoeveden, Madame Dehn, Dr. Botkin, and several nurses and maids, Mother managed to take care of all the invalids.

In the midst of this confusion, word reached Mother of Father’s abdication. Then later in the same afternoon the Grand Duke Paul returned, with a bulletin announcing Father’s abdication. He expressed sympathy for our plight and suggested that we leave Russia as soon as possible. Mother burst[Pg 162] into tears saying, “Russia is lost; Russia was betrayed.” Mother could not bear to convey this news to Alexei, and asked M. Gilliard to do so. Alexei’s reaction was to say; “How can that be? Father promised Alexander III that Russia would always remain an autocracy, and Father had to swear to uphold this type of rule.” It did not occur to him that Father no longer was the Emperor and that he himself no longer was the Tsarevich. He was thinking only of the life of Russia. With all his troubles, he never thought selfishly of himself. To us sisters, Mother with quivering lips gave details of the recent happenings. Soon afterwards, boxes containing Father’s various documents, including the abdication papers and the speech he had delivered to his beloved army, arrived at the palace.

We knew that Mother had been tortured with the thought that Father had been shot; now we learned that Father too had been tormented with the rumor that she had been murdered. But soon we heard that Father was on his way to Petrograd; that when he was about to leave, Shulgin and Guchkov arrived in Mogilev. Father was surprised when he saw how Ruzsky received these men with the warmest greetings. Father knew then that they were bosom friends and that Ruzsky was a spy.

Six men were responsible for the delay which prevented Father’s train from reaching the capital. The train was delayed by the railway officials on orders from the Duma, in order to give the revolution a chance to become solidified. Kerensky worked from Petrograd; Guchkov, Kalenin, Gribushchin and Shulgin were on the train with Father; and at the other end was General Ruzsky, Commander of the Northern Front, located in Pskov. When Mother heard this, she said; “I urged Father to close the Duma long ago. Before Papa left for G.H.Q., he was discouraged with the Duma and left a signed order with the Premier, Prince Golitsyn, to dissolve it at once, but the Premier failed to carry out his orders.”

Immediately after Father’s abdication, two of his close[Pg 163] friends came to see him. One was General Count Keller and the other was General Khan of Nakhichevan. Both were Generals of the Guard and had known Father for many years. They asked Father’s permission to send their troops to Petrograd to suppress the revolution. Father was in favor of this, but since he was no longer in power, he suggested that they make this proposal to the Provisional Government. No doubt General Ruzsky received the offer of these two generals, but purposely tabled their suggestion.

From Pskov Father’s train went back to Mogilev to enable him to take leave of his beloved Army. Here once more General Count Keller came to see Father. He kissed his hand, saying; “Your Majesty, I would rather be dead, before I would serve any other government.” Later, I heard, he shot himself or was shot.

In Mogilev, General Alexeiev, Father’s trusted friend, now made known that Father was a prisoner. Present were a number of generals and the committee of the newly formed government, and several grand dukes, including Boris Vladimirovich, Cyril’s brother, who wanted to see Father, but General Voyeykov said that the Emperor could not see him.

Soon after Father’s farewell speech to the Army, the General Staff took the loyalty pledge to the Provisional Government, which then ordered that Father’s initials be removed from their epaulets, but these men refused to remove them, saying that they would kill the traitors before they would do such a thing. And Father said, “Now, it is too late.”

Prince Dolgorukov later related to us that Father’s tears were streaming down his face and that he turned away from the window of his study which was facing the parade ground. He could not see this painful performance inflicted upon his beloved Army. Before he left G.H.Q., he received the news that Granny was on her way to Mogilev. He dreaded a meeting with her, as she usually distressed him so much that he found her harder to handle than all of his ministers put together.[Pg 164] He saw her on the train; she blessed him and they parted forever.

Later after several days aboard the train, Father finally reached Tsarskoe Selo, on March 9/22, 1917, at 11:30 A.M. Here at the pavilion (station) many of Father’s lifelong friends his trusted officers and his favorite aides-de-camp, who had come on the train with him, departed in an effort to save their own lives. It was said, though no one ever will know whether this really was true, that on the train that same morning before they reached Tsarskoe Selo they were told that if they stayed with Father they would be shot. “They deserted me in my saddest hour,” said Father. Among those of whom he spoke were Cyril Narishkin, chief of his mobile secretariat, the son of our dear Zizi Narishkina, the Mistress of the Robes; and also Count Grabbe, an A.D.C., whom we had known since our childhood. I remember when he accompanied us sisters on long walks on the shore in the Crimea and the time when I, in mischievous play, poured sand down his neck. Others who deserted Father were a Duke of Leuchtenberg and our friend A.D.C. Mordvinov whose daughter I knew and liked, and Sablin, whom we children loved like one of our own, once a lieutenant on the “Standard.” All of them had been close associates and friends. Captain Drenteln, a most beloved friend and a member of a battalion of Father’s own Preobrazhensky regiment, also disappeared.

Father came directly upstairs to Mother. He found Marie and myself desperately ill; I was only partly conscious. At first I thought that I dreamed of his being home. A few days later I realized how bad he looked. He was thin and his eyes were sad. His left shoulder shook nervously, much more than before. Only later Prince Dolgorukov told us of the unpleasant experience Father had upon his arrival at Tsarskoe Selo. Father had left the pavilion (station) and had received a shock upon seeing that his chauffeur was already dressed in civilian clothes. An even greater shock awaited him: although all the guards on duty, both at the outside gate and at the[Pg 165] Palace entry, had been informed of the exact hour for the arrival of the Emperor, they showed their newly-acquired importance by asking the chauffeur over the phone for the identity of the occupants of the car. Both times the chauffeur replied, “It’s His Majesty.” With deliberateness, they replied, “Let Nicholai Alexandrovich pass through.” Father was very angry at this curt treatment and was surprised to see the antechamber packed with people, only a few of whom he knew. He passed by without saying a word. When Mother heard of his arrival, she ran breathlessly down the stairs and the full length of the long corridor and fell sobbing into his arms. Both of them came directly upstairs.

We were told that the same afternoon several men from the Provisional Government appeared to question Father at length.

At this time these terrible men ordered the staff wearing Father’s badges on their shoulders to have them removed, without Father’s consent, and to have Father and the family placed under arrest. Now Mordvinov wanted to come to the palace, but the Government forbade it.

Father brought home copies of his abdication and his farewell speech to the Army. We were able to learn more about the abdication which had taken place at 3:00 P.M. on March 2/15, 1917, in the study of his private train at the railroad station in Pskov. Later after talking with Dr. Fedorov, Alexei’s physician, Father abdicated also on behalf of the Tsarevich in favor of his brother Michael, although Father knew that the Holy Synod of the Russian Church would not recognize Michael as Heir to the Throne. But he did so, in order to avoid a bloody revolution. We were also told by those who had been with Father on the train, that General Ruzsky threatened Father, saying “If the Emperor will not sign it now, I would hate to say what may happen to his family.” With swimming eyes we read the touching words in which he asked his people to uphold the Provisional Government and to try to be loyal to it. Following is my Father’s farewell address.

[Pg 166]

Leave of the Army

I address you for the last time, soldiers so dear to my heart. Since I have renounced in my name, and that of my son, the Throne of Russia, the powers I exercised have been transmitted to the Provisional Government which has been formed on the initiative of the Imperial Duma.

May God help it lead Russia on the path of glory and prosperity.

May God bless you also, glorious soldiers, to defend our native land against a cruel enemy. For two and a half years you have in every hour undergone the fatigues and strain of a wearing campaign, much blood has been spilt, great efforts have been crowned with success, and already the hour is at hand when Russia with her splendid allies will finally crush by one joint and daring effort the last resistance of the enemy.

A war such as this, unknown in history, must be continued to the final and definite victory. Whoever dreams of peace or desires it—at this moment—is a traitor to his country and yields it to the enemy.

Carry out your duty, protect our beloved and glorious country, submit yourselves to the Provisional Government, render obedience to your chiefs, and remember that any slackness in your service means a gain to your enemies.

With the firm conviction that the boundless love that you have for our great country will ever remain in your hearts,

I pray that God may bless you, and that St. George the Great Martyr may lead you to victory.

(Signed) Nicholas

(Countersigned) Alexeiev, C.G.S.

Father’s speech was a heavy blow to his men; they were stunned from the shock. One of his personal guards had a heart attack while Father was speaking. Father urged the troops to[Pg 167] continue the war, at any price, until victory was complete. The hour was at hand, he said, when Russia would finally crush the last resistance of the enemy. But this resistance did not materialize, nor, in fact, did the Emperor’s own planned powerful attack. Some people of the upper classes in Petrograd failed to support him in regard to this final blow against the enemy, designed to win the war within three months, as Father had promised in his last speech before the Duma in Petrograd a short while before. It was not Father’s war, but the war of the nation. When Uncle Michael came to urge Father to return immediately to G.H.Q., he found Father on the verge of departure, despite the serious condition of Alexei.

The current malicious gossip was more important to the political leaders than was the destiny of their country. These same leaders afterwards criticized Father, saying that because he loved his family so much, fear of having his family killed caused him to abdicate. The killing of his family would not have solved the problem, which would have been solved easily by the leaders themselves had they not supported the traitors and not spread unfounded lies, especially about my Father, whose men were shedding their blood at the front. If I may ask, in what had we children sinned before our people that we should have to give up our lives—we children who, from the oldest to the youngest, denied ourselves all amusement and devoted our energy to the war effort? Should we children have had to pay the penalty of death? Why did not those busy conspirators take their weapons and go to fight the common enemy?

They could not say anything against my older sisters, upon whom they had never had an opportunity to lay their eyes. What they said about me, because of my innocent jokes and pranks, I have never given a rap about.

When Dr. Botkin read Father’s last addresses, his eyes moistened and he added, “Only His Imperial Majesty could speak such deep words.” Father repeated the words of Tsar Nicholas I: “Gde raz podniat Russkii flag, on uzhe spuskatsia ne[Pg 168] dolzhen.” (Where once the Russian flag is raised, it shall never be lowered.)

Little by little we received more details. At first Father abdicated in favor of Alexei, with Uncle Michael as Regent. But after consulting Dr. Fedorov about his son’s delicate health, Father abdicated also for Alexei in favor of his brother Michael, who was called in from Gatchina to Petrograd, to accept first the Regency, and then the Throne. To Father’s intense disappointment Uncle Misha, after accepting, soon abdicated because of pressure by the Provisional Government, in whose hands the nation’s fate then rested. This new government placed under arrest many ministers and high officials, because they refused to sign the loyalty pledge to the Provisional Government. What was happening in Petrograd at this time Father did not know until he reached home.

General Ruzsky and others, in order to hide their crime, spread the most heartless rumor that Father had been drinking wine before his abdication. However, Father was not alone during this painful ordeal. With him on the train was his friend, the Minister of the Household of the Court, Prince Vasily Dolgorukov; Flag Captain Nilov, A.D.C.; General Voyeykov, Chief of Administration of the Palaces in Tsarskoe Selo; Count Vladimir Fredericks, Father’s Chamberlain; and the latter’s assistant, General Mossolov. Others present on the train were A.D.C. Count Grabbe, Commandant of an Escort; A.D.C. Captain Drenteln; A.D.C. Cyril Narishkin, head of the Chancery; Colonel Mordvinov and General Dubensky. The Provisional Government was represented by Kerensky’s friend, Vershchinin, and others.

Prince Dolgorukov spoke to us of this merciless rumor, saying that Father at the time drank only tea and paced back and forth in his study. Father’s valet and his butler, after reading this lie, saw Count Benckendorff and in tears said that those who spread such a lie had committed a great sin toward their Emperor. It was also said that during the last night on the train Father sat up all night in his study. At midnight one of[Pg 169] the engineer officers, who previously had conducted many trips during Father’s travels, asked to see Father and was received. He sank to his knees, kissed Father’s hand and tearfully said, “Your Majesty, I will never serve these bandits. It is the end of my life.” After the train reached the pavilion in Tsarskoe Selo and just as Father was getting into his automobile and as the standing officers were saluting Father for the last time, a shot was heard and the engineer officer fell dead.

[Pg 171]

Arrest And Exile

[Pg 173]


It was decided to separate Mother from the rest of the family. But Father objected, saying that it would be cruel to take Mother from her sick children. At last it was conceded that Father should stay downstairs in his apartment and Mother on the second floor with us.

Now that we all were under arrest, Mother was allowed to remain with the sick children upstairs and Father was permitted to join his family at mealtime. But all the conversation at the table had to be carried on only in the Russian language. I was told that our private wing of the palace was strongly guarded by a new kind of guard. They were noisy and overbearing. Mother warned everybody to be courteous to the sentry.

Had we children not been ill, Father would have insisted that we go to England; at least the children if Mother had refused to leave. From what he said later, we were convinced that he himself would not have left Russia.

At once Kerensky appointed his communist friend Korovichenko, whom he called his governor, as a commissar over us. This man proved to be rude, dishonest, insulting, ignorant, and he quarrelled with everyone in our household, disturbing and annoying us every hour of the day. The guards were selected for the same qualities as those of their masters. We were grateful when General Kornilov sent Colonel Kobylinsky and Commissar Makarov to replace the cruel Korovichenko.

[Pg 174]

From my sick bed all this was hard to imagine. I could not believe it, until I was able to sit up by the window. I noticed that the appearance and the action of the soldiers and officers were not the same. Gradually our health improved. Tatiana had temporarily lost her hearing and we had to write communications for her. Alexei’s condition was still not up to par.

To kill our dull moments we played light games, worked on word games and other puzzles and listened to French history read to us by Mlle. Schneider.

We were told that Kerensky was coming to see us. The name Kerensky brought terror to our hearts. Was he not the instigator behind the treatment that Father was receiving? We waited, dreading his visit. When the time of his arrival drew near, we were filled with antagonism and fear. We were told that it was this enraged man, Kerensky, and his communist friend, Korovichenko, who had assembled our employees in the large hall. Kerensky told them that they were no longer working for us, and that they were from now on to take orders only from those who paid their wages. He meant of course the Provisional Government, who appropriated the money belonging to the people of Russia and us. But they themselves were paid to live in an abundance such as one could only read about in fiction.

Some of the servants were bribed to spy on us and Anna. A few servants hated Anna to such an extent that they notified Kerensky of Anna’s improved condition. Kerensky angrily ordered Anna to dress at once, and she was then taken to prison. Alexei never before heard such rough voices and he burst out crying. “Will he kill us?” he asked his tutor. Those two men not only disturbed the family but upset everybody. I saw these men passing by on their way to the classroom where they were to see my parents. Father brought Kerensky into a room and introduced my two older sisters, by merely saying, “My daughters, Olga and Tatiana.” Marie and I were still in bed, recovering from our illness.

When I first saw Kerensky, a man of medium height, he appeared[Pg 175] to be nervously twisting his finger. His face was pale and ugly, with small greenish eyes imbedded in a peculiarly shaped head, which was flat on top. His brown hair stood up similar to General Ruzsky’s. Whenever I see a man like this, it always has an unpleasant connotation for me. Outside in the hall and behind him, there was a committee of workers, allegedly soldiers and sailors but really nothing but released convicts, untidy, rough-looking individuals, who were armed with daggers and hand grenades. We were frightened. At first, I thought I was seeing this nightmare with my feverish eyes.

With the help of foreign spies, and convicts released by Kerensky and the new leaders, these traitors were anxious to break the morale of the armies. They told the soldiers that the land was to be divided among them, but first they should return home in order to receive their share of land. They said that it was a case of first come, first served, and inasmuch as capital punishment had been abolished, wholesale desertions from the armed forces resulted.

In the meantime the munitions and other factories fell into the hands of the new government and many were set on fire. So the soldiers, lacking supplies, had no choice but to desert their posts. All this helped the enemy who was ready to collapse. Thanks to Kerensky for the ruination of the army.

When the arrest of my family, especially of Father, became known to the public, it caused a harmful effect on the morale of the Army, and in general the situation became dangerous. Many soldiers left their posts in panic; even in Tsarskoe Selo, Father’s own military escort, not from choice but from fear, displayed red ribbons. The rebels were freeing criminals who were breaking into wine cellars and becoming intoxicated.

The snow was very heavy that winter, and the new leaders cared little about having it cleared away. There was only a narrow space available where Father and the others could walk about. This proved actually to be a godsend to Father, because exercise was vital to his health and was the only activity permitted him at this time. Each day from the window[Pg 176] I watched Father shovel snow. No doubt that for Father it was much more than exercise. His physical exertions enabled him to maintain his mental faculties in every respect.

In the beginning he had an unpleasant experience, during his outdoor exercise, when he was allowed to walk in only a small area close to the palace. One day on his return from his walk, he extended his hand to one of the soldiers, but the man refused to take it. This was hard on Father and made him realize the extent and intensity of the propaganda against him. Father’s philosophical attitude toward these incidents made him a greater hero in our eyes.

To us children, Kerensky was at first a beast, a dragon waiting to devour us. His repeated visits kept us filled with terror. He thought at first that he could come to the palace at any time and wander about in our own home, without permission from the proper authority and without Father’s consent. Kerensky, always accompanied by the Marshal of the Court, followed by a messenger, was received in Father’s study.

Father was always courteous, wishing to make everything easy for the new government. But this man Kerensky at first did not seem to know the meaning of courtesy. After a while he saw Father’s ready cooperation and became quite human. We children began to feel more relaxed in his presence. After several conversations with Kerensky, our parents felt more confidence in him. However, Mother could not forget the recent injustice she had suffered, and she hoped her innocence was now proven. But Kerensky had made no attempt to inform the public of the true situation at the palace. He was responsible for Anna’s arrest, and Mother could not forgive him, especially since she believed that Anna was still ill when she was sent to prison. Madame Lili Dehn also had to leave the palace at the same time. Moreover Madame Zizi Narishkina became ill with pneumonia and left the palace because Mother felt she would receive better care at a hospital.

This wise little lady was a favorite of my Father whom she had known since his childhood. She was like a mother to our[Pg 177] Mother. Her kindness and simplicity was written all over her face. She insisted that she be addressed as Madame instead of Princess, yet she was a true-blooded Princess. Among us she called my Father Nicky. In spite of her old age, she too had been a victim of unfair criticism. It caused so much resentment that the newspapers had been forced to retract their false stories.

Even my Aunt Olga, who loved peasants, had been condemned because she enjoyed visiting and accepting their hospitality.

Our prison hours were well regulated. We were permitted two walks during the day, between 11-12 and 2-5. With nervous excitement we waited the designated hour, eager not to miss one second of the out-of-doors. As the clock struck eleven, we and the staff gathered in the semicircular room where we were to meet the guards who were to accompany us on our walks. We had to wait sometimes as much as one half hour. This meant our walk was sometimes curtailed that much. We felt cheated, and the thought that Father could do nothing about it made us feel worse. We discovered that the more we fretted, the longer the delay; so we learned to wait submissively. The key to the circular room was held by the commissar on duty, and the other doors, including the balcony facing the Znamensky Cathedral and the gate, were sealed. We had to wait until the commandant appeared with the key to open the door. Since Korovichenko was as a rule basking himself in the sun, he made it a habit of being late. Even the sentries hated the sight of this man. When we did go out finally, we walked briskly to cover lost ground. Sometimes we crossed the bridge over the ravine, since the area was less exposed to the public view. But because of demonstrations our afternoon walks soon were scheduled later and we were outdoors until 8:00 P.M. Our friends helped us with our garden work. M. Gilliard proved well-nigh indispensable.

At first we had no news from our relatives. But we were pleasantly surprised when several letters came to Father and to Tatiana from Aunt Xenia at Ai-Todor in the Crimea. The[Pg 178] letters giving us news of the family were the only joy we had had since our arrest. Our mail was censored and parts of the letters we received were inked out.

Probably Aunt Xenia found our letters dry and uninteresting. But we wrote them reluctantly, as in a daze—we so strongly felt the blow of the happenings in our country and to its people. The shock was so great that no outsider ever will know the feeling unless he lives through a similar experience, that is, if he loved his country. We were glad Granny was there too. It was her first stay in the Crimea since the death of her husband, Alexander III. We had been wanting to write to them but we feared repercussions.

For months we waited for a reply to our letters which we were obliged to leave unsealed for censorship. We hoped that our coming departure would take us to the Crimea to be together with the rest of the family. Father hungrily read the newspapers, even though the ones he received had been thoroughly censored, parts of them inked out. All too often the papers were withheld altogether. Father read every word carefully to find some clue to the real truth. One of our best sources of information came from the various members of our household. Before long they too no longer were free to leave the palace. All around our home there was a strong guard posted, especially in the small garden in front of Mother’s windows and the garden gate across from the Znamensky Cathedral, which was the closest to Mother’s balcony. She was very much disturbed, having these men watch her windows; she never could look out. During this time we saw some one drive in and out of the courtyard in Father’s favorite automobile, a Packard sledge (sleigh). Kerensky of course often used our private cars, chauffeurs, and even our valuable horses.

After midnight another unpleasant incident occurred. Several uncouth revolutionists, headed by a Pole named Mstislavsky, came from Petrograd. They proceeded to show their thievish authority by ordering the telephone and telegraph lines from the outside disconnected. After a great deal of bickering[Pg 179] and fighting with the guards, who would not let them enter the grounds, Mstislavsky broke down the gate with his heavy artillery trucks. It caused such a noise that a large number of persons collected on the avenue and loud voices were heard from the angry crowd. This noise awakened the household. The bandits forced themselves towards and into the palace, in spite of everything. They were armed and threatened the officers on duty, “Shoot us, or we will shoot you.” Count Benckendorff and Prince Dolgorukov came down and told Mstislavsky and his companions that it was impossible for them to talk to the Emperor. The intruders were asked to produce the required permit from General Kornilov, commanding the troops in the area at this time. The officers on duty then said, “You arrest us, or we will arrest you.” Notwithstanding, the bandits went upstairs to the gallery room. There they encountered Father who was walking toward them. Without a word the bandits ran away in terror.

Kerensky was held responsible for this incident, having revealed to Mstislavsky the anticipated departure of the Imperial family for England via Murmansk.

Subsequently we heard that Mstislavsky ordered many innocent families shot, people who were in his way; also he and his friends seized from them anything to their liking.

We shortly learned that all escape routes were already blocked.

Korovichenko’s transfer lifted our hopes. His place was filled by Colonel Eugene Kobylinsky, an officer of the Imperial Guard. We were thankful to General Kornilov for sending this wonderful man, who served my family faithfully in spite of many dangers to his own life. He was sincerely anxious to alleviate our condition and was determined to save us. But with many hundreds of men in our guard he was helpless, as any action of his would have drawn suspicion upon him. He went with us to Tobolsk and stayed there until four days before our departure, when he became dangerously ill. Consequently, we did not see this kind man again before we[Pg 180] left for Ekaterinburg. Another well-disposed man was Commissar Makarov, a very intelligent and cultured person with a great deal of tact and knowledge of several languages.

He had a prison record for having killed a policeman. For this, this fine looking man paid fifteen years of his young life before he was released. He accepted his punishment as having been deserved. His imprisonment had not embittered him, and his gentle, kind manners had not changed.

Many of the guards we had known from our childhood. Whenever possible Colonel Kobylinsky tried to have these men accompany us during our walks, as these guards could not tolerate an abusive attitude of others toward us. Nevertheless, he did not dare to defend us. By this time the Provisional Government had become convinced that Father had no intention of making trouble for them. Father eagerly followed the course of the war and grieved at the way it was going. If only he could have now had a part in it, even as a private!

There were secret messages suggesting our escape to Germany. Father answered, “No, we shall not escape like convicts.” One day Father was walking, Alexei was sitting on the bench, with his dog Joy at his feet, and we sisters were a short distance from Father, when a large enclosed car rapidly drove in and two young men in it wanted Father and Alexei to get into the car and escape with them. Father was very upset by it. He said, “Go at once.” Soon after more new guards appeared.

During this time we became tired of eating cabbages and carrots. We longed for something different. Those days no green vegetables came out of the greenhouses. Father saw the rich fields for labor lying open to us, and he was willing to work. So, in the spring, Father suggested a vegetable garden be planted in an open space where some trees had been cut down. We were all eager for outdoor exercise. Count Fredericks talked it over with Colonel Kobylinsky who gave permission to go ahead. We were now full of enthusiasm, with plenty of ideas of fresh food as our objective.

[Pg 181]

Father began to work, and even Mother, for the first time, cheerfully was willing to leave the house in the afternoon. She was wheeled in her chair into the garden. She sat under a tree near the brook, while the guards paced back and forth on the bridge. Mother seldom walked those days. We planted the seeds and watered the vegetable beds from a barrel. As I worked, I thought of the words in the beautiful Russian song which said:

“The Christ had a garden, where many roses bloomed,
He watered them thrice a day to make a wreath for himself.”

Because of the demonstrations, we worked late in the day, often till 8:00 P.M. In the evening Father read to us while we were sewing or knitting. When the first green shoots appeared, we were thrilled with the thought of salads within a month. The seedlings grew into bushy plants. The blossoms became tiny beans. In another week or so we would have our first harvest from sixty luxuriant beds in all. Spring, which always seems to hold a special appeal for all Russians, was beautiful but sad for us.

[Pg 182]


When the first days of July with their white nights were approaching, a time when night is much like day in those northern regions, when twilight spreads a kind of magic transparency in the distant sky and woods, we saw creeping figures with shining bayonets emerge from the bushes. They were watching the windows of the prisoners. I wish I did not love that great country with so much promise, whose soul lies in debris now and of which I cannot speak without the feeling of a heavy weight on my chest.

Before the leaves came out, we withdrew to an area where we thought we could not be seen so easily. That led us to the greenhouses. We found them dreadfully neglected. No one had taken care of the plants. The gardeners had been discharged or put to work in some other capacity. Now many rare and valuable bushes surrounding the colonnades were cut down against everybody’s objection. The orders, we were told, came from Kerensky. Tears were in Father’s eyes to see such destruction.

We realized that the iron fence which protected us from the outside was now our prison wall. The driveway was a source of fear. Even the bushes and the trees of our beloved park secreted spies who watched every move we made. Even though we were accustomed to isolation from the world by a cordon of police and military protection, being surrounded by unfriendly guards was indeed depressing.

During the turbulent days, even the swans cried mournfully every morning because they knew we were in the palace, and[Pg 183] they felt that something was wrong that we did not speak to them and feed them. Even these majestic birds must have known....

Our food now was ice-cold, more so than ever before. Our kitchens were in a separate building and the food was wheeled through the long tunnel in large carriers which had to be opened for inspection. Therefore the food cooled off before it reached our apartments.

Sometimes we played on the “Children’s Island.” On several occasions Alexei went out in a rowboat with his toy sailboats, but was not allowed to enter his little four-room playhouse where he used to play with his cousins and young cadets. It was locked up and his rowboat taken away, making him very unhappy.

We enjoyed our cycling, Father and Alexei on bicycles and we four girls on velocipedes. In the afternoon even Mother went into the woods and sat in the shade with her tapestry work, copying the original pattern of her Hepplewhite chair, while Father, his officer friends and others were cutting down the dead trees. We sisters helped to carry the smaller pieces and built tall stacks for the wood to dry during the summer months.

We heard that our friend Captain Nilov, whom we called “the little admiral”, once a commandant on the “Standard” and later at G.H.Q. with Father, had been arrested on order of Kerensky and shot without trial. This because he said while at G.H.Q. that he would kill General Ruzsky. Fortunately for Ruzsky, Captain Nilov was denied this pleasure. General Ruzsky also had a cordial dislike for Captain Nilov because the latter knew that Ruzsky was a traitor.

We already by this time had begun to enjoy our fresh vegetables. We lingered and feasted our eyes on the beauty of nature which until now had been taken for granted. Alexei, not yet thirteen, in the early summer delighted in shedding his boots and wading into the sparkling water up to his knees. It did not take much to satisfy him during these trying times.[Pg 184] He wished nothing more from those heartless men than to be free to enjoy God’s given creation. How fortunate we human beings are, to see and feel all the loveliness and enjoy it to the utmost! How cruel too when men deny this privilege to their fellowmen!

Later, when we were in Tobolsk, Alexei recalled the Children’s Island and wistfully expressed the hope that he might be able to return to it and wade in the water again. He spoke of his playrooms, his small cars, and then all of a sudden he seemed to realize that these reminiscences of former places, dear to his heart, caused only pain, and he never spoke of them again.

Many days we saw curious strangers and friends being driven from the fence. The people, knowing the time of our walks, gathered along the fence; some even climbed on top of carriages to get a better view of us. Especially on Sundays, there were a great many watching us through the railing.

Often we saw familiar, friendly faces in the crowd, but we were afraid to recognize them. Once I thought I saw near the fence some of the Tolstoys—Marie and Elizabeth, also Pasha and her brother. Mother in her youth had met from time to time some of the Tolstoy relatives who lived abroad. Another time we saw friends from Petrograd and some nurses from the Tsarskoe Selo hospitals.

Near Easter my parents were informed that about eighty servants and workers employed in the palace were to be discharged. My family was perturbed, because some servants had families who depended on their earnings, and many of them had been with my family from the time of Father’s marriage. Before these people, so close to us, left, both parents thanked them for their past services and each one of them was presented with a gold or silver medal. Orders came that Count Benckendorff and all ladies in waiting, as well as Prince Dolgorukov, should leave us. However, they were permitted to stay without compensation.

During Lent we were allowed to have services in our private[Pg 185] chapel, but Father Vassiliev had to eliminate Father’s name from the ritual. With trembling voice he stopped in confusion when he came to the part in which he was supposed to say, “Long Life for the Imperial Family.” I am sure that in his mind he added the omission to his own satisfaction. When Father Vassiliev became ill, after much negotiating Count Fredericks, the Court Minister, received permission to have Father Belyayev, a deacon and four singers come to the palace during the Easter holidays.

Palm Sunday services had been held in the palace chapel on the ground floor at the fourth entrance of the building. During the services we were carefully watched. The guards were secreted behind the draperies and the altar. Father Belyayev seeing all this could not control his emotions; his tears fell freely down his vestment.

During the Holy Week two services a day were the only refreshing moments in our new lives. Mother stood behind a large screen made in her favorite purplish-blue crystal glass, which Father had given her previously. Behind the screen was a small, cushioned, kneeling stand, on top of which rested a Psalter. On the wall to the right, were several religious paintings, inherited from her Mother Alice and several gifts from her Granny, Queen Victoria. The Psalter was searched when it was brought in and again when taken away. In the small room on Mother’s right adjoining the chapel some Bibles were kept. Mother was very much annoyed when a guard stood behind her throughout the service. “Even in this holy place,” she said, “one is deprived of a moment of meditation.”

On the day of the Lord’s Crucifixion the revolutionists decided to bury their own dead. With the red flags flying and a band blaring forth with the Marseillaise and Chopin’s Funeral March, the procession advanced through the avenues of lime trees and stopped opposite the circular balcony from which we could see them marching. Among the dead they paraded were bodies taken from the cemetery, including those who died in the cellar, which they had set on fire during a drinking[Pg 186] spree. But their evil scheme came to an end on this day, when angry, black clouds darkened the sky, when a terrific hail and wind storm furiously broke whole branches from the trees and pelted the metal roof of the palace with large hailstones. Candles were lit. When daylight returned, the courtyard was flooded, and there were large cakes of ice in the water. All was quiet now.

The same screeching cry and the detested Funeral March that should be reserved only for the dead was now heard every day. It became annoying even to the sentries. Often they whistled sarcastically as soon as the demonstrators appeared. I even heard this abhorrent March in my sleep.

Saturday night the staff, the servants and others, several hundred in all, were present at the midnight service in our chapel, which lasted till an early morning hour. The procession, headed by the priest who carried an icon, went through the rooms with the lighted candles and the message: “Khristos Voskrese (Christ is Risen)”, bringing the hope that our dark lives might be brightened.

We thought it was a sad Easter, but a worse one was to follow. On this Easter morning the staff, the chief of the guards, the commandant, officers, ladies in waiting and a few others assembled in Father’s library to break the blessed bread. In the afternoon those on duty assembled in Mother’s room for congratulations.

This year our relatives, and high ranking military men, Ministers, and the representatives of foreign countries no longer were permitted to come to congratulate us on this Holy Day. Queen Olga of Greece, the sister of the Grand Duke Constantine Constantinovich, miraculously entered the grounds but her entry into the palace was prevented. Her kind message and the Easter egg were delivered to us by an officer. A great many others came but were turned back at the gate.

There were several birthdays during our five months of imprisonment at Tsarskoe Selo. First came my Father’s. On his birthday, services were held in the chapel. The words “Long[Pg 187] Life for the Tsar” were still missing; a sad day. Then Mother’s, then came Tatiana’s, and on June 5th, Russian calendar, I became sixteen years old—the year I should have been officially presented to the Russian court. But there was no debut for me and I did not care. The family did their best to make an occasion of it. A service was held in the chapel and I received congratulations from all around me. A year earlier a design made by Fabergé for my lavalier had been approved by my family, to be made of diamonds and pearls. I was to receive it on this day. Instead, these sixteen diamonds and sixteen pearls, one for each birthday and one for each name day, were sewn into my clothes when we left for Siberia. Not long after my own birthday came Marie’s, and then just before our departure from Tsarskoe Selo came Alexei’s.

More about our imprisonment. First, there was some improvement in Mother’s health. However, during the hot spell in July her heart condition became worse. She was forced to lead a quiet life. There were no more separations, no more hospital work and no attacks of haemophilia for Alexei. We all fell into a routine. Lessons had been entirely neglected since our illness. Some of our instructors came from outside. They taught in the gymnasium and in other schools. Now it was no longer permissible for them to resume their former duties. Monsieur Gilliard spent most of his time with Alexei, and in general was most helpful in reorganizing the household with which the others were inexpert to cope.

We had books galore to choose from, and several pianos for our use. We resumed piano lessons—now with Anastasia Hendrikova; previously they were given by Mr. Konrad. Father began to teach us history, geography and natural science; Mother, religion; Baroness Buxhoeveden, English; Dr. Botkin, Russian; M. Gilliard, French; Mlle. Schneider, mathematics. There was only one thing lacking—inspiration.

From the very first Kerensky barged into Father’s rooms without warning, much to the disgust of the Court Marshal who followed him angrily. Kerensky asked Father whether[Pg 188] he would go to Germany if the Kaiser would extend an invitation. Father disappointed him by answering, “I shall never set foot on German soil. I have already previously rejected the invitation.” A car supposed to carry us over the border crashed into the fence as it tried to drive through the gate. Even if an opportunity had presented itself, dozens of strong chains that bound us to our Mother country would not let us leave Russia. There was an offer that we leave Russia by way of Murmansk, but Kerensky betrayed it to the revolutionists, even though we would not have accepted the offer.

Suddenly Kerensky wanted General Kornilov’s resignation but the General refused to comply with his order. Kerensky then told Father that Kornilov was a traitor. What was Kerensky? I wonder now if the General was not in Kerensky’s way! Kerensky also was against Captain Count Kotsebue, the Commandant of the Palace who formerly was an Uhlan Guard officer. Kerensky forced him to give up his post in favor of Kerensky’s communist friend, Colonel Korovichenko.

Once after a walk when Father was about to enter the palace, one of the new guards stepped in front of him and barred his entrance. Alexei from the open door saw what happened and burst out crying. Another time Father was walking with Prince Dolgorukov in the park when one of the new officers followed close behind and stepped on his heel. Father turned suddenly and hit the officer with his walking cane so hard that the officer bent double. After that none of them tried this incivility again.

Years later I spoke by chance to a former Russian officer who said the Emperor should have “prayed less but worked more.” But this officer’s wife at that time remarked to her husband, “What kind of officer were you? When you became ill with appendicitis you carried on like an infant! Is that bravery?” My Father not only prayed and worked but possessed the bravery of a hero. Every day he spent ten to fourteen hours at his desk. There was no other man that worked and fought harder and with more determination than did[Pg 189] Father. Such words were spoken only by German traitors and weaklings who did everything to buy the privilege to stay far behind the front lines. Some said that Father was mild. Perhaps he was; he might have been appreciated in another country. However, many said that Father should have ordered guns, but the Emperor would not take the lives of men. He was very kind because he did not believe in the ruthlessness of Ivan the Terrible, or Lenin, Trotsky, Apfelbaum, Rosenfeld, Himmer, and others.

The very things we loved most, were now turning against us. Each morning when I awakened I hoped for an improvement. But one glance around convinced me the times were not right. One day a bullet hit a window in Father’s study and left an ugly round scar, showing the great thickness of the glass. Our walks continued, but every time we went out we discovered many familiar faces had disappeared, and were replaced by new ones. In the park the sentries followed us closely and engaged us in conversation. Most often we did not care to hear what they said. Then came an order limiting our walk to the first bridge of the brook. Now we were confined to a more restricted area. We tried to ignore the impertinence of guards who lolled in our chairs on the lawn in front of the small balcony which led into the entry room. This balcony was a few steps up and had an entrance on each side, but the arbitrary guards prevented us from entering except through one side only. Mother watched us from the window, and when we returned to her, one glance indicated that she had been weeping. We knew it was the sight of our being so restricted that made her cry. Whether long or short, these walks remained the most coveted events of our day. Mother too was wheeled out in her chair, and sat with her embroidery in the shade. Usually she was surrounded by the young guards who asked her all kinds of questions, mostly religious ones. Those big children understood her and she won them with her kindness.

At first our captivity at Tsarskoe Selo was not so difficult, even though there was a complete lack of privacy and our freedom[Pg 190] to come and go was restricted. In fact it was not much different from our usual routine as we had been accustomed to watchful eyes and many limitations. We would have been fairly comfortable if we had had enough heat and the right food for the convalescents.

The familiar rooms, furnished with what we always considered to be our own possessions, were at once comforting and disturbing. But soon we found out that these things and many personal household treasures no longer belonged to us. Many of these were confiscated immediately, including all Mother’s silver sets. Some of these were heirlooms from her Granny, Queen Victoria, and some were Father’s wedding gifts. Other confiscations included trays, platters, urns and numerous gold plates, gold tea glass holders and spoons, over five hundred table place settings, Mother’s imperial jade figurines and crosses by Bolin, the most famous jeweller in Petrograd; also many priceless gold icons decorated with precious stones and other treasures.

They even took Alexei’s jade and rock crystal collection of animals, gold swords, miniatures of the family, and his icons, many of which were presented to him during his illness in Spala in 1912 and were especially esteemed by him, because the people had prayed before them to spare his life. Some of these were in gold, studded in precious stones. On his birth in 1904 the Shah of Persia ordered a religio-historical rug to be made and had presented it to Alexei on his twelfth birthday. Approximately 12 feet by 16 feet, it took twelve years to make. As I remember it, it had Christ’s face in the middle, surrounded by about a hundred world leaders from the time of Moses up to 1900. There was an excellent likeness of George Washington.

Olga and Tatiana had saved some money with which they were able to redeem some of our tea sets, place settings and a few gold tea glass holders. Our home had the finest Persian rugs and Hepplewhite furniture. The gallery contained fine paintings and rock crystal chandeliers.

[Pg 191]

Father read in the paper that capital punishment had been abolished. He knew this would mean disaster for Russia. He wrote a long letter to the Provisional Government and expressed his views, pointing out the detrimental effect it would have on the Army and the country as a whole. Moreover, it would cause a great deal of danger to the public—and so indeed it happened. He preferred death before such conditions should develop. He gave no thought to his own fate and that of his family. As a consequence of the abolition of the death penalty, Kerensky was blamed openly for the murder of hundreds of young cadets and the torture of their superior officers. It was said that he was hand in glove with the perpetrators of these crimes. Many of these officers were well known to us. We heard that many of them were bound, then covered with straw saturated with kerosene, which was then set on fire before the eyes of their stricken families.

Kerensky was a good speaker and his words flowed smoothly. He seemed to impress people as being honest in his undertakings. This belief in him eventually vanished. He spoke of freedom and many exciting ideals poured from his lips. He promised that when these ideals were put into effect they would bring a prosperous republic and a good fruit. But his theory brought nothing but tragedy. Yet the seeds of the fruit continued to grow, and do so even now.

During this time, Kerensky’s absurd promises were constantly broken. Many came to regard him as a sheer opportunist. First, he told us that we had an invitation to go to England. Later he contradicted himself by saying that the invitation had been cancelled. We were puzzled and still we had to trust him. In the beginning Father believed that he was the right man for the office. Soon people began to doubt Kerensky’s sincerity, but we could do nothing to repudiate him. All kinds of fantastic stories were germinating during Kerensky’s short-lived administration which emerged rapidly but was soon carried away into a river reddened with blood. Even[Pg 192] his own friends whom he himself had liberated betrayed him.

With the air of a conqueror he went to General Headquarters, and the people sarcastically said, “A Napoleon is now on the march. With a snap of his fingers, he will sweep on to Berlin and secure the keys to the city.” The new hero marched with thieves and murderers of Russia, and with these men he thought that he could win the war, and thus gain popularity. They carried the red flag and sang, “My poidyom vperyod i vyigrayem voinu s krasnym flagom—(We are marching forward and will win the war with the red flag).”

Many officers whom Kerensky had kept arrested, and who were anxious to fight the enemy, were left by this man to rot and die in unkempt prisons. He wanted to be the sole power and to keep all in his hands. As a result Prince Lvov, Rodzianko (once his friend) and Generals Alexeiev and Kornilov, as well as many others, resigned their positions.

Kerensky moved into a section of the Catherine Palace, which once was occupied by Father’s A.D.C., and indulged in luxuries to gratify his palate. It was said that all kinds of vegetables and rare flowers were especially raised for his pleasure, that he spared nothing to satisfy his thirst for luxuries, and that he left terror and rivers of blood for the Russian people to remember him by.

My little brother seemed to have faith in Kerensky and on one occasion he asked him whether Father could legally abdicate for him too. Kerensky replied, “Yes and no, but in your case I think, yes.” How surprised Father was at this. Alexei must have been puzzled by the abdication and evidently, on thinking it over, he wanted an explanation by someone else.

[Pg 193]


The illness we sisters had just gone through resulted in a partial loss of our hair. When Marie became half-bald our doctor suggested that we have our heads shaved, which was done shortly before our departure for Tobolsk. We four looked so much alike afterwards that we could not tell who was who. Outdoors we wore turbans, especially when we were working in the vegetable garden which was beautiful and ready for our use.

On the evening of Monday, July 31st, 1917, old style, Kerensky permitted Uncle Michael to come to the palace. Father was grateful for this kind gesture on the part of Kerensky. At that time Uncle Michael had already been placed under arrest. The visit had a painful effect. No one of the family was allowed to see Uncle except Father. Kerensky and Colonel Kobylinsky had to be present during the visit which took place in Father’s study. The meeting was distressing to Father and I am sure it was also to Uncle Michael. It was almost useless, because privacy was denied to the brothers. Neither thought this was to be the last time that they would see each other. Under the conditions the two brothers were deprived of an opportunity to confide in each other. However, I remember Father saying that he would not have abdicated under any circumstances had he known that Uncle Michael would also abdicate. It was said that the latter did so under pressure while being held as a prisoner by the Provisional Government, for which Kerensky was responsible. At this meeting Father asked about his mother and was told by Uncle that it was impossible[Pg 194] for him to see her. Father said: “Why not send Mr. Johnson (Uncle’s secretary) or contact General Ivanov.” Father asked Uncle to have Kerensky arrange for us to go to the Crimea. Granny was in the Crimea—for the first time since the death of her husband, Alexander III. Also our Aunt Xenia with her family and Aunt Olga with her new-born first child were there.

As Alexei’s thirteenth birthday had approached, we had trembled for fear that something might happen on that day. We somehow expected our departure, but not on such short notice. So many momentous incidents had been connected with the number thirteen that we sisters were superstitious about that number. The three hundredth anniversary of the Romanov dynasty was celebrated in 1913. On March 13th, 1917, Marie became deadly ill with measles and pneumonia. On Sunday, July 30th (August 12th), 1917 Alexei became thirteen years old. Misfortune struck us again. After the Te Deum in our chapel and congratulations for Alexei’s birthday, Count Benckendorff brought the news that we were to leave the next day. We still hoped it would be the Crimea. Because of Alexei’s birthday it was postponed to the following day. We all went about as if nothing had happened, but in our hearts there was grief and fear. Alexei played on the little island and we went out and looked over the garden. We knew then that it was our last time in this beloved place. If we must go, let’s go quickly.

We did not know our destination. Kerensky made a secret of it. He assured Father it would be a safer place, and that we should take with us plenty of warm clothing. Both parents were stoical. Evidently we were not going to the Crimea. For weeks our trunks had been ready, but now we each had been told to decide what additional, but only needed, articles we wished to take with us. Mother said to leave everything undisturbed. I laid aside many things which finally had to be abandoned. I felt like a traitor. At last, I finished sorting.

I was determined to help pack my own suitcase for the first[Pg 195] time. It was no longer possible to take anything out of our vaults, treasures given Mother by Father and her family. A number of her precious icons were wrapped carefully. She took only those given by proven, loyal friends. We children also selected some from the corners of our bedrooms to take with us on this trip.

In spite of our intentions to travel lightly, trunk after trunk was filled and sent downstairs. If we should ever reach England we wanted so much to have some of our things with us.

It was decided that any member of our household who so wished could go with us, but anyone who did not intend to follow us should leave the palace immediately. A number of employees, not wanting to be separated from their families, had already left. Father preferred to take along only those without family responsibilities. However, many servants left their families behind and followed us into exile. No doubt, it took courage to follow us, especially when our destination was not known, yet we hated to leave so many behind whose loyalty we never questioned. At the same time it was decided that the garden vegetables would be used by those employees who stayed with us to the last. Count Benckendorff was to remain in the palace and care for Father’s private business affairs.

Before we left Father reminded Count Benckendorff that he, through Count Rostovtsev, Mother’s secretary who was in charge of our private fortunes, and through Mr. Peter Bark, whose responsibilities related to family private interests abroad including insurance and investments, should pay, respectively, all our bills at home and abroad. One of Count Benckendorff’s stepsons, Prince Valia Dolgorukov, was to go with us. We heard later that Kerensky went back to the palace, after taking us to the station, and ordered Count Benckendorff to leave our home at once.

Father was given the choice of taking one of the generals with him. He selected General Tatishchev. This friend, who was independently rich, had all the necessary qualities and was liked by everybody. The several hundred men who carried[Pg 196] our baggage downstairs were rewarded. One of them, a soldier, lifted his three-ruble note to his lips and kissed it. By the way his shoulders shook, we knew that he was crying. A few of our trunks were left upstairs and some were brought to Tobolsk much later. We were allowed to take with us several dogs. I took my “Jemmy” who had been given to me by Anna. Being small she did not require much food.

We were now leaving our bedrooms, music room, class room, and playrooms, where we had placed our dolls with their arms stretched out as if they were asking us not to leave them behind. Alexei tearfully placed his Teddy bear against the door to guard his possessions. As we wandered through the rooms in lingering farewell, each tried not to see the other. Those who were to stay behind cried and kissed us children every time they saw us. These good-byes to our childhood home were dreadful. This ancestral home we were leaving was part of us. We gave it a reverential farewell. Marie and I went to our knees in the corner of our bedroom, set up with icons. Our eyes were fixed on the empty places from which some icons had been removed to go with us on this trip.

We were nervous, full of anguish, and, in spite of our efforts to be brave, we cried and we were reduced to sobs. Our good friend Dr. Botkin, who had been absent because of illness in his family, had just returned. He gave us sisters drops of valerian to quiet our nerves. What went on in Father’s and Mother’s hearts only they knew. It was a queer, heartrending feeling when we left our rooms not knowing of the future ahead.

We five children went down the private spiral stairway. As we did so, the memory of my young years came back to me. I remembered when I happily used to run up and down the steps trying to make two at a time. Now I could not see them; a handkerchief was pressed to my swollen eyes. The stairs led us to Mother’s apartment. She had just finished a thanksgiving prayer when we appeared. We did not dare to look at her.

No doubt that to Father that home was full of Tsar-spirits,[Pg 197] looking down on him from portraits condemning this final surrender of autocracy. A life-sized portrait of Mother when she was young, happy, and beautiful hung in Father’s study—his favorite portrait. It was by Kaulbach, painted in 1903. He stopped and examined it as if he had never seen it before.

No doubt in Mother’s mind were the words Aunt Ella said to her once: “Remember what happened to other Empresses!” Mother may also have thought of the painting of Marie Antoinette and her children by Mme. Vigée-Lebrun, which was given to Mother by the President of France. Was she thinking now of a common misfortune? Or, possibly, she thought of the words of the Emperor Joseph II, brother of Marie, when he prophesied to his pretty sister the coming disaster: “In very truth, I tremble for your happiness; the revolution will be a cruel one and perhaps of your own making.” But it was not the case with my Mother: revolution was of the traitors’ making. I often ask myself, why was Mother so drawn to this unfortunate woman, who in character and education was so different from my Mother? At home in the glass wardrobe, were Olga’s and Tatiana’s christening gowns. They were copies of the dresses of Marie Antoinette’s children. In another case were a few copies of the Queen’s own dresses, made for Mother in Lyons during one of her early visits to France. We were all puzzled by the fascination Marie had for Mother, who was a student of history and had an aversion for its tragic pages.

Our departure was scheduled for midnight, August 13th, new style. Before the fateful hour arrived we were served tea. Midnight came but no summons. Nevertheless, shortly after one in the morning, we assembled in the semicircular hall. Our personal luggage was standing at one side. Soon Count Benckendorff came with a message that General Tatishchev had informed him that he was not allowed to come to the palace but would be at the station to meet us.

Books and magazines were brought to us. We could not read anything. My thoughts went back to the pages Mlle. Schneider had read to us while we were recovering from our[Pg 198] illness, and to the painting on the wall of Marie Antoinette in a large hat, sitting with her children and a white, long-haired dog at her feet. This large, gold-framed painting, approximately six feet high, dominated the room. Below it there was a simple, inlaid console table and on the floor, on either side, stood two tall red French enamel vases. Somehow I had the idea that they had been a gift to the family from Cousin Wilhelm. From the time of the outbreak of the war, I had a strong impulse to break them.

Father, who long before had read all the best known books on the French Revolution, asked for those volumes again when the reign of terror swept our country. My older sisters read them, too. Marie and I, because of our weakened eyes, went through only certain parts. No doubt these traitors and the revolutionists had read them also, and followed the same pattern. Kerensky likewise was probably not ignorant of these events. There are so many similarities between the French and the Russian Revolutions.

Now the French Revolution stood full of meaning before me. During the coronation festivities in France, when Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were being crowned, a number of shocking disasters occurred. These were similar to the tragedy that occurred at the coronation of my parents. In the former, when France’s economy declined and conditions were bad, only 35 per cent of the land was held by the French peasants; the rest was in the hands of the Church, the nobility and the crown. But Russia economically was strong in spite of the war and the devastation of the western areas.

When a daughter was born to the royal couple, Marie Antoinette had eighty attendants at her service. History records that she was a gay woman with demands for unlimited luxury and extravagance. It was also said that during the critical economic conditions in her country, she had purchased an enormously expensive jewel for herself. They discovered much too late that this was not true.

The Russian people would not have believed that Father[Pg 199] and Mother had been extravagant. As Father commented, when the revolution broke out 75 to 80 per cent of Russian soil was in peasant hands. When one of the children in our family was born, we had only a few attendants. Besides, Mother never cared for gaiety or luxury. During the war we repaired our own clothes and made our own beds. As Louis XVI was betrayed by Mirabeau, so Father was betrayed by the Allies, with the help of the Duma and men like Kerensky, Ruzsky, Lenin, and Trotsky, and other foreign instigators. Many foreign elements gave aid and encouraged the revolution in my country. As horrors occurred in France, so did they in Russia. Marat asked for a quarter of a million lives, but Trotsky, Lenin, Apfelbaum and others of the clique demanded more than fifteen millions. Allegedly they all were guilty of something. Most of the educated classes, millions of peasants, and forty thousand Greek Orthodox clergymen were killed.

Many of the revolutionists were shipped to Russia for the purpose of inciting the plundering, robbing and strangling of Russia. They were supported by the prisoners of war, mostly Austro-Hungarians and Germans. They were helped by a powerful branch of the Christian church, who were apparently desirous of detaching our people from the Greek Orthodox Church. Fortunately the Russian people were and still are very devoted to and proud of their own religion which they consider to be the true exponent of the Christian faith as delegated to us by the Apostles and particularly by the Apostle Paul. (Read M. Pierre Gilliard’s book, Thirteen Years at the Russian Court.)

Distressed and restless we sat in this room, wondering if the same misfortune that befell the court of Louis XVI was awaiting us. In one instance to stimulate the revolution, the weapon was the jewel; in the other, Rasputin. We wondered whether the other courts of Europe and particularly our own royal relatives were making any efforts to save Russia and ourselves.

At four in the morning we had tea again. As daybreak was pouring through the windows and the lights were turned off,[Pg 200] breakfast was ordered for 5:30. By mistake or by force of habit, the table for us five children and the governess was set upstairs. This caused a furious consternation and confusion around the watchful men. We were not allowed to go upstairs and we did not care to return there again.

Finally an excited officer came running and announced to Count Benckendorff that he had talked with Kerensky who was on his way to us. The room became full of people who waited interminably to say good-bye to us and to the staff who were to go with us. The sentries filled the doorways, forming a long line on both sides to the waiting motors. We strained our swollen eyes in the dawning light to see all we could as the cars sped down the courtyard and through the garden’s side entrance.

Near the fence there were some people who had been waiting all night to have a glimpse of their Emperor for the last time. They ran toward this gate but were repulsed by the sentry. We saw the church with its blue dome, the double eagle and the golden cross, the little lake, the palace, the park, all for the last time. The iron gates, our prison gates, swung open and closed after us. Our hearts closed with them. There were no bells ringing as we left our home, no cheering of the regiments of Cossacks who used to pass in brilliant parade before the palace. No convoy followed the Emperor on horses, dressed in tall caps and red and blue coats; and no yellow flag fluttered on the car. No flag caught the morning breeze on the roof top; it had been removed long ago, even though Father and we were still there. The cars moved like a funeral procession.

Escorted by a detachment of cavalry, we arrived at the Alexander station. The air was fresh. The golden sun flooded the sky. One hoped that he could hear the words: “I shall light your way wherever you go.” What a change in the appearance of this charming and beautiful village had taken place! The immaculate asphalt roads of Tsarskoe Selo I used to drive over only five months ago were no longer the same. I could see the[Pg 201] wound the new leaders had inflicted upon this peaceful village. It was indeed a depressing and fearful sight.

In order to board the train, our automobiles stopped a short distance from our own white station, which was not far from the public one. Approaching it we saw in the distance a heap of luggage still being loaded into the train. With the troops guarding the vicinity, we walked along and crossed the track. As we were to board the train, Mother gave her hand to Kerensky who kissed it and wished her a pleasant trip. There was no stool to step on and Mother had trouble negotiating the high step. When she reached her compartment, she collapsed and fell before anyone could catch her, spraining her ankle and a finger, and struggling to catch her breath. Dr. Botkin gave her a sedative. Partly because of the heat, it was several days before she recovered from the strain.

It was sad to leave our friends, especially those officers who stood at the station humbly with their caps in their hand, and their heads bowed for the last time—their final reverence to Russia. The family stood near the windows in two different cars and blessed those good men, when suddenly several of them entered the car, and wanted to fall on their knees before Father, but he would not let them do so. Instead, he embraced them, their faces resting on his shoulder. This great man thanked his loyal officers (especially two men, Kushelev, and another whose name I do not remember but which was something like Artasalev) for their services with the words, “Be loyal and help your country; they need you now more than ever.”

With these words, they withdrew, and Father touched his own insignia of command, promoting them to a higher rank for the last time. This touching scene made him withdraw from the window so that they might not see the tears in his eyes. Suddenly on order of Commissar Kozmin, all the shades of the car were drawn.

Already within the confines of these quarters, Father’s spiritual[Pg 202] agony was supreme. He knew that he had abdicated not for selfish reasons, but to avoid the bloodshed which he foresaw, but which the others did not. Now, this suffering family carried with them into uncertainty the centuries-old secrets of the dynasty.

With a quick jerk and screech the wagons-lits began to move. The vibration sent shivers to our souls. It was 6:30 A.M. We hoped the train would be heading for the west or south. However, it was not long before we realized much to our disappointment that we were heading eastward.

Father once promised us that as soon as the war was over, he would take us to visit the Siberian cities. It was now evident that Father’s promise to us of a Siberian trip was being fulfilled without advance knowledge or planning. Later when Kerensky was being accused by the people for sending us to Siberia, he did not have the courage to admit it, but instead cowardly tried to lay the blame on my Mother by saying that it was her wish to have the family go to Siberia. The truth is however that when it became evident that we were being sent to Siberia, Mother remarked, “Of all places, how could he think of Siberia?”

Just before our departure from Tsarskoe Selo, Father made each of us sign our names on slips of papers, put them in separate envelopes and leave them in our rooms.

[Pg 203]


It was broad daylight outside but inside, with shades drawn and lights glaring, it might as well have been night. We were all terribly tired and we sat quietly for some time before having our breakfast. No one knew what the other was thinking. Our hearts were heavy and there were tears. Mother gathered us with her eyes. “We are together,” she said. “You are my wealth and I am rewarded by the Lord for giving me such a good family.”

Our train consisted of four or five cars. One car was occupied by us. In the next car were Prince Vasily Dolgorukov, General Tatishchev, Mlle. Schneider, Countess Hendrikova, Dr. Botkin, M. Gilliard, and Colonel Kobylinsky. In addition there were Commissar Makarov, Vershchinin, and another person whose name escapes me.

The other cars were occupied by our household staff and the guard. We were grateful to them all for staying with us, grateful too that Kerensky had allowed Colonel Kobylinsky and Commissar Makarov to accompany us.

Coffee was served to us; it helped lift our spirits. We hardly moved except to go to the dining car for our meals. Mother and Alexei were served theirs in their own compartments. It was very hot, dry, and dusty, especially before we reached Asiatic Russia. The train made a number of stops to take water, usually a short distance from the stations. All the time we were closely watched and guarded by the sharpshooters commanded by Colonel Kobylinsky. It was a grim ride, but Kerensky had[Pg 204] made Father believe we were headed for a much safer place.

On the third day we passed the city of Perm and followed a river. The view was picturesque, a typically Russian scene. We felt the change of air as we crossed from European to Asiatic Russia, through the Ural Mountains. The train reduced its speed. Luckily for Mother, the air became cooler, otherwise she might have had heart failure. We passed through Ekaterinburg with its two stations one on each side of the city. No one would have believed then that eleven months later, this Siberian city would become the scene of one of the world’s most atrocious crimes about which many volumes would be written.

Several times along the way and between stations the train would stop, once for one full hour, which gave us an opportunity to take a walk along the tracks under the watchful eyes of our guard. This gave us sisters a chance to pick violas along the track.

Father had been in Siberia in 1890-1891. Consequently, he knew Siberia well, not only the cities, but the locations of different industries and the mining regions, which he had visited during his travels. He pointed to us locations of the most important industries, such as the iron works, paper mills, and gold and copper mines. He was sent to Siberia by his father, Alexander III, with the engineers at the head of the committee for the construction of the railroads connecting European Russia with the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

When he ascended the throne he continued the work entrusted to him by his father, to complete this construction. The Amur line was finished in March 1915 exactly two years before the revolution. He told us that the first stone for the Ussuri line was laid in Vladivostok in 1891, upon his return from the Far East. Several uncles also had been in the Far North of Siberia. The University of Tomsk was inaugurated during the reign of my Grandfather, Alexander III. Father gave to the museum of Ekaterinburg part of its famous Numismatic Department, with its rare coin collection. He also gave large contributions to the Ural mining school in Ekaterinburg. The Ural Society for Natural Sciences was under the patronage of my Uncle, the Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich. The Imperial stone cutting works and the gold melting department which were also in Ekaterinburg belonged to the Imperial family.











Courtesy The P. B. Corporation


Courtesy The P. B. Corporation









Courtesy The Chicago Tribune




Photograph by Robert E. B. Speller, Jr.





Photograph by Robert E. B. Speller, Jr.


[Pg 205]

The Alexander house for the poor and other civic institutions were built in their entirety from funds of Alexander III. Some of our friends had some industries in these regions, namely Count Vorontsov-Dashkov, Countess Stenbock-Fermor, General Tatishchev, Prince Dolgorukov, Count Ignatiev, Prince Demidov, Baroness Meller-Zakomelsky, Count Muraviev-Amursky, Count Stroganov, and others. All these names were familiar to us. General Count Tatishchev, who was with us on the train, gave us many historical facts about Ekaterinburg. His ancestors had built this city in honor of the Empress Catherine the Great.

Ekaterinburg is the junction of various railroads, connecting the Siberian main line via Perm with Tiumen and Cheliabinsk and other side lines. On Father’s wedding date November 14th, 1894, old style, a library and free reading room was given by him; and every year thereafter, whole sets of books were sent to Cheliabinsk on this day. He described to us the tea packaging business at Kiakhta in the Transbaikal, from where many of our grey horses came.

On the way to Tiumen we saw feeding stations, medical shelters and railroad car churches and portable schools. They were built for the convenience of the settlers. Practically in every city was a school or a hospital built from the funds of my Grandfather.

We kept climbing higher and in the morning we stopped near the town of Bazhenovo. Some peasants who saw us wanted to come close to us, but were sent back by the guards. They told the men that the distilleries, which had been closed during the war, were reopened and the people were becoming intoxicated on the spirits and wines produced there. They also said[Pg 206] that the emerald mines already had been closed and that the workers were spending their time in the wine cellars getting drunk.

On the fourth midnight our train arrived in Tiumen where we were to take a boat to Tobolsk. While our trunks and other heavy boxes were being loaded on the boat, we walked for several hours through the dimly-lighted street near the dock in the cool Siberian air and crossed the three railroad tracks to the boat. In the distance and around the bend of the river we could see the flickering lights of the city of Tiumen.

We boarded the small, two-decker steamer “Rossia.” Father and his friends stayed on the deck until morning. We sisters got up early to get a view of the city in the distance, but the boat was already on its way, escorted by two smaller vessels, “Kormilets” and “Sibiriak.” We passed many small rivers, and swamps and lakes, parts of which were covered with reeds and millions of red flowers. Mother called them saltwort. We saw some red foxes and white partridges, and on a swamp there was a singing swan. We saw many beautiful birds, some familiar to us and some not.

Father said Godunov, Volynsky and Prince Bariatinsky contributed a great deal to the progress of Tiumen. Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich founded Tiumen in 1664 and visited this frozen land himself. Alexander II constructed hospitals and later Father sponsored shelters, feeding places and medical centers for the exiles on their way to the settlements.

Speaking of exiles in Siberia, the first exiles to Tobolsk Government began at the time of the murder of Tsarevich Dimitri in 1591. Two Romanov brothers, Ivan and Vasili Nikitich Yuriev-Zakharin, and Prince Beloselsky were banished in 1601 by Tsar Boris Godunov. Later even Sheremetiev and Prince Dolgorukov were exiled to Tiumen and Tobolsk. The descendants of those old families were close friends. Another coincidence: the first Romanov was to visit Siberia and the last Romanov was to die in Siberia. The people believed that Ivan the Terrible was responsible for the establishment[Pg 207] of the prisons here. However, vicious propaganda tried to make the people believe that it was Father who had established these prison camps. This was nothing more than an unadulterated Bolshevik lie.

In the late afternoon we came to the juncture of the Tobol and the Tura Rivers. We passed the village of Pokrovskoe where on a high bank overlooking the Tobol stood Rasputin’s house. Soon the Irtysh River met the Tobol, and we continued on the Irtysh, which by now had become wider. On the second day, late in the afternoon we arrived in front of Tobolsk. This city seemed to be built on two levels of a hill, one above the other. Near the upper level of the town was a stone wall. We were told that this wall was a fortress and was built in the 16th century in order to protect the new colonies from invasion by plundering Kirghiz, Kazak and Kalmuk tribes. There were lots of people at the wharf; apparently they had heard of our coming. Dr. Botkin, Colonel Kobylinsky and Commissar Makarov went to see the Governor’s house, where we were to stay, and they found that the house was being redecorated and was not yet ready for occupancy, so we continued to live on the boat for a number of days. They also found that the furniture was inadequate and the beds were not suitable for our parents. They took it upon themselves to find beds. Later Makarov purchased even a piano, using a part of his own money for this purpose.

During the day the steamer made little trips on the river. Several times we went ashore for a walk and once to the monastery of Abalak, around the bend where the Irtysh and the Tobol Rivers met.

A carriage from the monastery was provided for Mother’s use, but the rest of us preferred to walk the narrow road up the hill, under a strong guard. The monastery stood amidst lovely grounds on a hill not far from the landing place. There were people on one side at the monastery church, who began to cry when they saw us. We prayed before the miraculous Image of the Holy Virgin with her hands raised from her elbows and[Pg 208] the Christ Child resting in the folds of her robe. Her headgear was studded with pearls.

This Image of the Holy Virgin later was brought to Tobolsk. Peace and contentment we found in our undisturbed prayers, in this Holy sanctuary. Our hearts were strengthened, and it gave us a new hope and courage. The iconostas, with many Byzantine icons, was much more beautiful than the one in Tsarskoe Selo. We had often heard of this monastery and now we had the opportunity to see it. We were grateful to Colonel Kobylinsky and Commissar Makarov for allowing us this kind of privilege. We never forgot this gracious gesture.

At night the boat anchored in the middle of the river in front of Tobolsk.

At last the house was ready. Mother, Alexei and Marie were driven to the house, while Father and the rest of us walked along the Tulyatskaya street to the house. I think that was the street leading from the dock. Later, Marie told us that, when Mother passed near the Lutheran church, her eyes filled with tears. She said: “It reminds me of the day after your Grandfather’s death. I was baptised in the old chapel in Oreanda in the Crimea.” It was the day she was converted to the Russian Orthodox Church and given the name of Alexandra Feodorovna with the title of Grand Duchess of Russia and the style of Her Imperial Highness.

[Pg 211]



I had pictured the house in the midst of woods, but when I saw it surrounded by a high wooden fence still being erected, it gave me a feeling of loneliness and fear. When we crossed the noisy, wornout wooden sidewalk and the gate closed behind us, we were prisoners. Paradoxically the name of the street was Svoboda (Freedom).

With us came the following: Our faithful friend General Ilia Tatishchev, General Valia Dolgorukov, Dr. Eugene Botkin, M. Pierre Gilliard, Countess Anastasia Hendrikova and Mlle. Ekaterina Schneider; also Miss Alexandra Tegleva, a nurse and her assistant, Elizabeth Ersberg, and the chambermaids, Miss Tutelberg and Anna Demidova; Father’s servant, Terenty Chemodurov; Mother’s servant, Alexei Volkov; and Ivan Sidniev, the servant of us four sisters. Also there were our brother’s personal attendants, Trup, Ivanov and Markov, and his male nurse, Klementy Nagorny; a writer, a hairdresser; several cooks including Kharitonov and his helper, Leonid Sidniev; and other help. About forty people came with us. Later came Mr. Sidney Gibbs, our English tutor, and Dr. Derevenko, who were permitted to join us and resume their duties. Still later Baroness Buxhoeveden, a lady in waiting, followed, joining us on the boat on the day we were leaving for Ekaterinburg. This does not include the military personnel, which numbered about 300-400.

The house itself was quite nice. Our quarters on the second floor were smaller and more crowded than those we were[Pg 212] accustomed to. We occupied three bedrooms: one for my parents, one for Alexei, and the other for us four girls. On this floor there was a big hall with a piano and a comfortable divan, tables and other pieces of furniture. Next to Alexei’s room was a room for his male nurse. Father’s study was in a corner room at the head of the stairway. We also had a balcony which we found extremely pleasant when the sun was out. From it Mother watched us when we went for a walk in the small yard. Often we went out on the balcony to see the sunset and the view of the cathedral and the low mountains in the background. It was beautiful; the sun seemed so much brighter than in Petrograd or Tsarskoe Selo.

The arrangements of the first floor were the same as on the second. The rooms opened on both sides of a long corridor which ran from the front to the back of the house. The closest room to the vestibule was occupied by an orderly officer on duty. M. Gilliard’s room and the dining room were on this floor, as were the remaining quarters used by our household. But later the larger rooms had to be divided by partitions to make two rooms out of one, in order to accommodate everyone possible. Almost all the rooms had parquet floors, and on the second floor we had some of our fine Persian scatter rugs and others, all sent to us from Tsarskoe Selo by Makarov. Most of the remainder of the staff was housed across the street in the large residence which belonged to a rich merchant named Kornilov. Extra maids had accommodations in town.

Our walks were not exciting, because of the limited space, which consisted of a small garden, where there were some Siberian irises, and a part of the street and a part of a square joined to the garden by a high wooden fence. This space was always guarded by a dozen or more soldiers on the outside and by that many more inside. In the back of the house there were the temporary barracks built to accommodate the guards. From here they could observe all our activities. We played ball or tug of war among ourselves; and occasionally other games with the guards. Father was always present at these games.

[Pg 213]

We began to feel almost natural in our prison house. The small quarters took the form of a home and we settled down into a peaceful routine. From the absence of shooting and rioting, it was evident the revolution had not reached this part of the country. In fact, everything was so quiet it was hard to believe it could be Russia.

One of Father’s complaints was the lack of news. We were completely isolated. We did receive a locally published newspaper containing mostly hearsay. No first hand information freshened its pages, nor did it contain any foreign news.

Now and then Commissar Makarov and the guards inadvertently dropped some news. Our friends from across the street were at liberty to enter the governor’s house and resume their duties. They even were permitted to see the town, but we could not go out. Thanks to Colonel Kobylinsky, our first two months at Tobolsk were quite pleasant. The house came near to being the kind of home that Mother had always longed for—one in which we could be close to each other. No external duties claimed any of us, not even Father—a situation that made him restless.

There were many guards everywhere, but they, like Colonel Kobylinsky, had come with us from Tsarskoe Selo and knew us as submissive prisoners. They became our friends and we chatted with them freely. The colonel was very kind; Father nicknamed him “our friend.” There was no friction because we complied with every demand. They trusted us but still they watched us as they were ordered to do.

Our food was simple but nourishing. Our own chef, Kharitonov, and his helper cooked to our satisfaction. In living this simple life, Mother became much stronger. She ceased to fret over the wounded soldiers, whom she could no longer help, and she found compensation in her writing, painting and religion and in our close family life. At least, we were all under the same roof. She had her one wish: the right for us to belong to each other. Our being together went a long way to soften our captivity.

[Pg 214]

At first it was very difficult for Mother to adjust herself to the new experience of housekeeping, managing personally and coming in direct contact with the attendants. The sudden change from many servants to a few was very confusing to her. She had not kept house for some years; even while living with her Granny she had devoted her time to her studies. Since these servants had to assume duties which were strange to them, we sisters helped Anna and Tootles in their daily work. Operations were not always smooth but the servants were willing and adaptable and above all loyal. After a while Colonel Kobylinsky gave permission for several maids from Tsarskoe Selo, who were willing to come, to join us. But the sudden changes in Tobolsk kept them waiting there for weeks and in the end they never were able to enter the house.

At this time we had a few letters from different friends but nothing from our relatives in the Crimea. The latter were constantly in our minds and we wished so much to be near them in that beautiful country, among all those flowers and near the blue-green sea. Then, as if by mental telepathy, Colonel Kobylinsky arrived, his pale face beaming with excitement, and handed a letter to Father from Aunt Xenia in the Crimea. It calmed us, but at the same time left in our hearts a painful and lonely feeling which stayed with us incessantly. Later a number of letters came from that distant land. One such letter took six months to arrive. Father wrote short letters as there was always the fear of bringing trouble to the recipients.

When shortly our English tutor, Sidney Gibbs, arrived in Tobolsk, he brought us first hand information on the happenings in the Crimea and the conditions in Tsarskoe Selo and Petrograd.

The older men who came with us from Tsarskoe Selo, especially of the First and the Fourth regiments became our friends. They were kind to us and could not understand why we were held prisoners. These men loved Alexei, and to them he still was their Tsarevich. Those good fellows brought him gifts, which they proudly presented to him with loving smiles[Pg 215] and touching words. I will never forget the time when one of these men spent many evenings carving a puzzle out of white soft wood. It was chain-like and every turn made gave it a new design. Another man made for him a set of wooden Kalmuk toys, from the great-grandfather to the tiniest baby boy. They fitted into each other so skilfully that when all together they formed only one big great-grandfather. Alexei was touched by these gifts. We knew all these men and the families of some of them. Knowing their financial condition, we felt sorry for them.

The soldiers of the Second regiment, who at first were unpleasant, had by now become actually insolent. They formed a Soldiers Committee under the direction of a man called Arnold Goldstein who came to Tobolsk about a month after our arrival and at once started to poison those men. All other individuals who came to Tobolsk were at once arrested but this man was allowed to stay and make trouble. The committee asserted its authority over the officers whom Kerensky had sent when we first arrived in Tobolsk. The friendly spirit that prevailed in our prison was reported. Stern orders bounced back. Our kindly guards had to step aside, and radical ones took their places. Colonel Kobylinsky tried to resist but, alas, it was a losing fight.

Shortly after we reached Tobolsk, the young townspeople had a dance on the street, called “Krugom.” The girls were dressed in handsome embroidered red babushkas and the boys in high boots and pleated trousers. The dance starts when one of the girls calls her boy friend by his name, saying please come. He takes off his fur cap and the couple dance in the middle of the circle while the balalaika and accordion play and the participants sing a song—the words of which usually center on water, birds, the moon, etc., all taken from nature. The boy then kisses this girl, the girl of his heart, and asks her to dance with him. The girl then calls another man who in turn invites his own girl. The first couple drops out and the procedure is repeated.

[Pg 216]

Father liked the Siberian climate and the fabulous splendors of the sunrise and sunset over the mountains and the soft clouds hiding the distant hills. We too found it agreeable and peaceful after the turbulent months we had just gone through. But these tranquil few weeks came to an end all too soon. We shortly learned that one of our former ladies in waiting, Mlle. Rita Khitrovo was in Tobolsk. Her unannounced arrival caused us a great deal of apprehension. We felt that our Russian teacher, Mlle. Bittner, in whom Colonel Kobylinsky was interested, might find an opportunity to exaggerate the reasons for Mlle. Khitrovo’s presence in Tobolsk and thereby create an incident which would have serious repercussions. Once Mlle. Khitrovo was seen talking to a member of our staff across the street, and making a cross with her hand toward the balcony on which we were standing. Immediately after that she was arrested and sent away. The letters she had brought with her were seized and were not delivered to their owners until after they had been censored. Following this incident Kerensky ordered that all persons coming to Tobolsk must be registered.

As a result of this incident Commissar Makarov who knew of Khitrovo’s coming was relieved of his post and replaced by Commissar Pankratov and his deputy, Nikolsky. Pankratov, despite his prison record, was kind to us. His knowledge of languages and his taste for art and literature betrayed his cultural background. This middle-aged man often used to tell us sisters about his experiences in prison. Yet never once did he complain. Instead he admitted his guilt. He was a man of fifty with dark hair. He made a notation on every letter received and often delivered our mail, most of which was addressed to him, saying that he was glad that our friends had not forgotten us. Once he told Marie that no harm would come to us while he was there.

Nikolsky was a Pole of disreputable background. He was rude and fanatic and had an uncontrollable temper and hatred. He immediately ordered everyone to have his picture taken and to carry a card showing the name, age and day of birth,[Pg 217] because he had had to have his picture taken and carry a card while serving a prison term for killing two men.

Our schedule for the week was made up by Olga and M. Gilliard. Our friends were the only gleam of light in our daily life. To change the atmosphere it was decided to stage some plays in which the staff and we children could take part. A stage was put up in the big hall on the second floor, which also served us as a school room and later as a chapel. All our friends from across the street were asked to these performances to share in this diversion. Olga was in charge of the music, if such was needed. Alexei was not very keen about taking part in the plays and often begged for someone else to take his role. There was always an officer present at these performances. But soon rapidly changing conditions no longer permitted us these recreations.

Our day began at eight in the morning with breakfast served to us and our friends in the dining room downstairs. It consisted of tea or weak coffee. Olga had hers with Father in his study, and Alexei his with Mother. At 9:00 A.M. we younger sisters took our lessons in the big hall, but during the cold spell, before the house warmed up we started the first lesson in bed with Mother. We wore in the house our woolen leggings or boots and were bundled in warm cardigans. Our instructors were M. Gilliard, Mlle. Hendrikova, Mlle. Bittner, once a teacher at the gymnasium in Tsarskoe Selo. Father continued with the history and geography lessons. The classes lasted from 9:00-11:00 A.M. Alexei had his lessons in M. Gilliard’s or his own room. Afterwards we went out into the yard for a half hour’s exercise before our luncheon at 1:00 P.M.

Father and Olga ate luncheon with us in the dining room. Mother and Alexei had theirs upstairs. Our luncheon consisted of soup, meat or fish and sweets. From two to four we went out again and helped saw wood behind the greenhouse. Mother seldom went out with us in the morning. Alexei joined us in the afternoon after his rest and, when the weather permitted, Mother sat in a chair in the sun, sewing, knitting, writing or[Pg 218] painting. When indisposed she stayed upstairs. Sometimes she played the piano and sang, mostly religious pieces. From 3:45 to 4:00 there was a short break for tea, for the family only, during which Mother poured the tea herself. The lessons started again at 4:00 and lasted until 6:00 or 7:00 P.M. Dinner was served at eight; the menu was the same as that served at luncheon except that we had no dessert. Mother always was present at these meals. After dinner, coffee was served upstairs. While Father poured, all stood up except Mother. We could not help noticing that usually there were thirteen persons at the dinner table, seven from the family, and six from the staff. Occasionally Dr. Derevenko and his son were asked to dinner, also Colonel Kobylinsky and Mlle. Bittner.

During the first few weeks the food was satisfactory; this did not last long because many products became scarce and prices went sky high.

It was decided to raise our own food. Within a month we had many chickens, turkeys, and ducks that enjoyed swimming in their little pond which we had made by diverting a small portion of a brook which ran through the garden. The horse stable was used for pigs and even the greenhouse was converted into a chicken coop.

Soon the people learned of the hour of our walks. They tried to get a better view of us through the cracks between the boards, and many of them kneeled down in prayer for us. Even Kalmuks who are Mohammedans raised their hands and prayed to Allah for us, without being afraid to do so. To many millions, the Emperor and Empress were still the Father and Mother of Russia.

In October before navigation on the river stopped for the winter, and after his enforced return to Tsarskoe Selo, our friend Makarov sent us from there some warm clothes and rugs, curtains, linens and other needed items as well as some provisions.

During Kobylinsky’s administration we were permitted to go[Pg 219] to church on Sundays and holidays. The church services were held at 8:00 A.M. when it was still dark. We assembled in the yard and proceeded to the church flanked on each side by sentries. The church was a short distance from the house and in getting there we had to cross the street, pass through a small park and onto another street. Father went into the church first, followed by Mother, Alexei and then us sisters. Some of the guards entered the church and stood behind us while the others remained outside, waiting near the steps. On our return, after the service and as a mark of honor, the church bells kept ringing until we entered the house. This procedure however was changed by Nikolsky who, in a childish show of authority, ordered that the ringing of the bells be stopped before we reached the gate. Church services for us were strictly private and the public was not permitted to participate in the services while we were there. Instead they waited outside, and as we left the church they kneeled and kissed the ground after we passed as a sign of their love for the family.

When Dr. Derevenko came to Tobolsk with his son Kolia, it was a joy for Alexei. The two boys played together, read and wrote little stories. Alexei was happy to have a friend to play and eat with. But this did not last very long. One day Nagorny carried a letter from Alexei to his friend Kolia. It was nothing more than childish play. Nikolsky searched Nagorny and found the letter. He immediately went to Pankratov with it, saying, “You see how easily they can smuggle letters out and who knows what else?” Kolia was forbidden to come into the house, and only occasionally were they permitted to play outdoors under the watchful eyes of the guards, provided they kept at a distance from each other.

For weeks Mother had been suffering from neuralgia. Now her teeth caused her a great deal of pain. Everyday she waited patiently for her dentist, who was to come all the way from the Crimea. I never knew of anyone who suffered so much and still had so much patience and never complained. On the[Pg 220] arrival of Dr. Kostritsky, he repaired Mother’s false tooth and one of my front teeth which had been damaged. He brought us news from Granny and both our aunts who were in the Crimea. From a previous letter we had learned that Grandmother was ill and was complaining about the shortage of food and the fact that her belongings had been taken away from her, news which distressed us considerably, especially my Father. We had also received a charming letter concerning Aunt Olga telling us about her baby son being driven in a carriage drawn by a small donkey. I remembered when I was a little girl I rode in a small wicker chair strapped on the side of a pony. The news brought by Dr. Kostritsky was cheerful on the whole.

Finally Dr. Botkin’s children, Tatiana and Gleb, arrived in Tobolsk. We hoped that they would join us in our class work, but even that was denied us and we could only see them from the second floor window.

The situation was gradually getting worse. Nikolsky was stirring up more hatred among the soldiers and poisoning their minds with false doctrines.

Dr. Botkin spent several hours with Father, telling him of the conditions in Tsarskoe Selo and Petrograd. We now had a fairly good idea of the existing situation in our country. We heard that Pravosudovich, head engineer of the Imperial personal train, had been shot; also that Kerensky, his relatives and his friends were splurging at the Catherine Palace, indulging in all kinds of luxuries, of which we had deprived ourselves at all times, especially during the war. Kerensky and his friends were driving in our cars and carriages, and even some servants lay at his feet. Within a short time this man who not long ago had appeared on our threshold in Tsarskoe Selo, with men whose past was steeped in crime, was now enjoying all the luxuries of which he deprived the original owners.

We had several letters from Anna Vyrubova and even some packages. We gathered from her letters that Anna was having a terrible time, though her language was cryptic. She was[Pg 221] forced to assume her maiden name in order to avoid persecution. All our mail that came through the regular channels was censored and the contents were known to Colonel Kobylinsky. Father tried to discourage the sending or receiving of mail secretly. He even asked his own relatives to address their letters to Commissar Pankratov, in order to avoid any misunderstanding. Father wrote only a few letters, primarily to his mother and to his sister Xenia.

We had news from the English sisters of mercy in Petrograd, and from the hospitals in Tsarskoe Selo; also we heard from Countess Orlova-Davidova; from Shura Petrovsky, whose husband was one of Father’s aides-de-camp, and from Liuba Khitrovo, sister of Rita Khitrovo who had been arrested in Tobolsk. The news we received indicated untold tragedies. Many officers were shot after they recovered from the wounds. The Provisional Government cared little for these helpless men.

We heard that the people wanted their Emperor back and that the Army was hostile to the new Government, refusing to take orders from the former convicts, spies and invaders, and that it wanted to get rid of Communist agitators around the country. Again Kerensky refused to sanction this proposal, because he wanted to retain all power in his hands, even though it would mean the destruction of Russia. Father knew then that the country was lost. We heard all kinds of stories. One concerned a boat caught sailing in the dark on the Volga River without the permission of the authorities. On the shore, it was discovered that this boat carried six bullions of gold, each worth a fortune. When asked where they were taking this loot, the persons aboard replied that they were taking it to the village of one of the leaders.

Kerensky made many blunders. He prevented the Army from crushing the revolution at a time when it was ready and willing to do so. The soldiers of our regiments, who came with us from Tsarskoe Selo, complained to General Tatishchev that they had not received the allowances that Kerensky had[Pg 222] promised they would receive while they remained with us. As a result they were discontented. Many of these men had to meet their family needs. Some of them were able to obtain extra jobs, but those who were not able to do so became angry, which strengthened their sympathy for Bolshevism.

A few weeks before Christmas came the shocking news that Kerensky’s Provisional Government had fallen and that the Bolsheviks had taken control of the country. He was now receiving a dose of his own medicine. The persecutors were more lenient and less cruel toward him than he was toward his Emperor and his family. General Tatishchev told us that when Kerensky was betrayed by his colleagues—the Bolsheviks—he jumped from the second floor of the Winter Palace in order to save his life and in his haste to do so left the belt of his tunic behind. It was said that Prince Volkonsky was an eye witness to this heroic performance. A brave man, indeed. An Emperor without portfolio, a minister, a lawyer, an orator, and Napoleon, all in one.

There was talk that if the Ukraine were to go to Germany, Father would be placed on the throne by German help. Father said, “Never will I or my son accept the throne with the help of the enemy.”

We learned that the Winter Palace had been plundered and that many of its treasures were in the hands of foreign bandits from both hemispheres who came to our country to rob, take and plunder. They pulled down our tricolor flags—white, blue, and red. White stands for snow, blue for the heavenly sky and red for the blood spilled in defense of our country. They hoisted their own flag over the Winter Palace. They removed the double eagles from the buildings and were burning them on the streets before the eyes of respectable citizens. They emptied the historical treasures preserved for generations by our forefathers, the pride and wealth of Russia when she was in her glory. These treasures were sold abroad. The wine cellars of the Palace were broken open and the mob drank so much wine that some of them literally died from it; the rest[Pg 223] of the old wines were poured from the bridge into the Neva River.

The secret police still was working at the time of our arrest. Before our exile the names appearing below were given to my Father which he remembered and made us remember. When some of these men found it necessary to escape from Russia for their lives, they were given sanctuary by other countries, instead of being tried for their crimes against the Russian people. These men dared to look into the eyes of Russians knowing what they had done to them, and how easy the Russian people had forgiven them all the wounds they had inflicted upon them.

Communism was founded and organized by these men whose real and assumed names follow.

Original names Changed to
Bronstein Trotsky
Tsederblum changed to Ulianov then to Lenin
Apfelbaum Zinoviev
Rosenfeld Kamenev
Goldenberg Mikhovsky
Krachmann Zagorsky
Hollender Mieshkovsky
Tsederblum II Martov
Himmer Sukhanov
Goldmann Goriev

We were told that Tsederbaum (Tsederblum?), Lenin’s father, was arrested for murdering a policeman; his sons were very young. One son was brought up in Simbirsk by a well-to-do half-Kalmuk and half-Christian family by the name of Ulianov. The other sons were with Lenin’s uncle, Tsederbaum. While in college both boys met secretly with other boys and inspired them with revolutionary ideas, such as the derailing of the train in which the Emperor and his family were riding; as a result many people were killed. One brother was hanged; the[Pg 224] second, Lenin (Ulianov), ran away; and the third was in hiding in Russia until the revolution when he reappeared. There were two brothers who are mentioned above in my list which was given Father while in Tsarskoe Selo. Later in Tobolsk and more so in Ekaterinburg, additional names were given to us to remember, the names of men with whom we actually had contact. Unfortunately I can only remember now the names of about twenty-five out of a total of approximately one hundred.

One morning Colonel Kobylinsky arrived in Father’s study. With tears in his eyes he informed Father that a peace treaty was to be signed, but that prior to the signing the old Russian Army would have to be demobilized. Father said that this terrible move by the Bolsheviks was dangerous not only for Russia but also for the world; that this move on the part of the traitors should now make the Russian people realize that they were being deceived. I cannot describe the feeling it left on us. Father was a prisoner, trapped like a lion in a cage, thousands of miles away.

But going back to Kerensky, it is significant that when he was in danger, he did everything to save his own life. But he never stopped to think that he was the one who had sent the Imperial family to the distant, frozen North. Did he give a thought to the fact that the unfortunate victims were trapped by the traitors and by the bribed convicts, and not by their own people? Now we could see why he had ordered the arrest of everyone who came to our aid and who was willing to risk his life, as well as ours, to save us. Kerensky had given his word of honor to Father that he would protect us. He knew what these men were like and what they were doing. I often ask myself the question: did he do it intentionally? Will one ever know?

If Kerensky was sincerely interested in protecting us, he could have ordered the train in which we were traveling, under the Japanese Red Cross flag, to proceed to Vladivostok from where we could have gone to Japan whose Emperor was quite friendly with Father and would have given us the protection[Pg 225] of his country. During the war we had a visit by two young Japanese Princes who brought beautiful gifts for Mother and us from the Empress of Japan. They also visited Father in Mogilev.

Now the Russian people were helpless, numb as from paralysis. With stunned eyes they watched the nightmarish happenings in their country, the wiping out of their possessions, and the tragic end of their families.

[Pg 226]


The days passed rapidly as winter approached, the cold was relentless. We were glad of the warning to bring warm clothes. December was very cold and it continued through the months of January and February. The house was unbearably cold and our bedroom was like an ice house; even a glass of water had frozen solid overnight. Our rooms were large and each had only one tile stove, providing scant heat against the raw winds that forced themselves right through cracks in the windows. Even Mother, who always preferred cool rooms, complained of the cold. The only time the house ever felt warm to us was on coming in from the icy outdoors.

Mother’s arthritis began to give her serious trouble, her joints and fingers became swollen. She suffered a great deal of pain and was not able to write or paint as much as before. Tatiana had a gift for nursing. She knew how to care and comfort the sick. She massaged Mother’s frostbitten hands in a bowl of warm water. Mother’s eyesight troubled her, too; her glasses no longer helped, since she needed new ones. The cork on the bridge of her frame had broken off and she felt this increased her sinus condition which bothered her to the very end. After a long debate a doctor came and she at last had her new glasses. Now she spent a great deal of time in theological studies and writing in the old Slavonic language.

Father’s joints were swollen also, but my saintly Father never complained lest he might worry us.

We all were supposed to keep our diaries. Alexei made only occasional entries. Whenever he was encouraged to think of[Pg 227] something, he wrote “The same old thing.” I too lost interest, for fear that writing what took place in our daily lives might cause us trouble. Olga and Tatiana wrote a great deal, but right after our parents left, General Tatishchev suggested that they burn all unnecessary papers. Olga’s poems and Mother’s poems and paintings all went up in smoke.

Our dogs always went with us on our walks. They were our constant diversion; they saved these outings from complete boredom. We envied their retrieving sticks we threw and jumping happily, since we ourselves felt cramped. Every morning my own dog Jemmy announced her arrival by scratching frantically at the bedroom door. Her happy mood made us forget our troubles. I carried her up and down the stairway, because her legs were too short to climb the stairs. Her long silky ears got into everything. Her long tongue was always out. The poor animal did not know that a few months later her happiness would end in Ekaterinburg.

For months before Christmas we worked on gifts for everyone who came with us from Tsarskoe Selo. We had some yarn on hand and some was sent to us by our friends. Mother made waistcoats, mufflers, mittens, socks and wristbands. We tore apart old blouses and fashioned them into handkerchiefs and then embroidered initials on them. Pieces of silk were made into fancy bookmarks—some of which we painted and some we embroidered. We wanted to surprise our friends with these gifts, in appreciation of their loyalty to us.

Mother, however, seemed to have a premonition of trouble. First, she was worried about Anna, who, she thought, might be in trouble for sending letters and packages to us. Mother warned Anna to be careful about sending people with messages. She feared they might betray us. And so it happened. The least suspected person was Soloviev, husband of Matriona, Rasputin’s older daughter. Soloviev came to Tobolsk several times with letters and packages. Even Olga and Marie called the situation to Mother’s attention, and suggested that Anna[Pg 228] should let the officers handle matters and not the Yaroshinsky-Soloviev clique; but Mother said that Anna would die before she would betray us.

In the evening we gathered in Father’s study which was smaller than our other rooms. Father read to us and we sewed until our fingers became so stiff we could hardly hold the needles. But there was a richness in that room that made us reluctant to complain. Sometimes we played dominoes, bingo, or durachka, a card game (resembling five hundred) which Father disliked. Tatiana played bridge best of all, while Mother’s favorite was bezique. Ten o’clock was bed time for us younger girls, but Alexei used to retire at eight. Later on when life became monotonous, Mother asked our friends to join us in the evening. Some played games and others read.

Father also brought with him his diaries and his letters. These had been confiscated in Tsarskoe Selo but were returned to him when nothing incriminating was found in them. We sat around Father in the middle of the room, away from the draft of the windows, listening to his reading aloud. I am sure his heart felt sad as did our own. We learned many interesting events that took place before and during Father’s reign. Father wanted Olga or Tatiana to write a history of present events as soon as we were free, and for that reason he wanted us to remember every event that took place before and after our arrest and during our life in Tobolsk.

Our letters to friends were harmless; some went through Colonel Kobylinsky’s hands and were read by him, but some were not. Later, when we were in Ekaterinburg, we were shown photostatic copies of these letters carried back and forth by Soloviev. Then we realized he was a spy. Once in Ekaterinburg, Mother in her dark hour said, “I warned Anna again and again to be careful of what she was doing, and now she has made another mistake.” After this Mother never again mentioned Anna’s name. I hope she did not leave this world with this bitterness in her heart toward her friend, who unfortunately[Pg 229] brought one serious trouble after another not only to Mother but to the whole family. Olga and Marie always opposed Anna but Mother resented anyone saying anything against her friend.

It had been promised that when Baroness Buxhoeveden arrived, she would be staying with us. We fixed her room ourselves and the final touches were approved by Mother. It was Christmas week when she reached Tobolsk. The day she was supposed to come to the house, Colonel Kobylinsky notified Father that he wished to speak to him. He informed Father that the Soldiers’ Committee decided against her joining us. Not having money Iza and her English assistant organized English classes in town and found many people enthusiastic to study this language. She met us only on the boat when we left for Ekaterinburg.

On two occasions, the icon of the Image of the Holy Virgin was brought from the Abalak Monastery to the Church of the Annunciation for services which the family attended.

The first time was November 14th, old style, the anniversary of my parents’ wedding. We had prayed before this icon in the Monastery and were deeply moved to be able to do so again. The church bells rang as we left the church and continued until we reentered the house.

The second time was on Father’s name day—December 6th, old style. No one was allowed to enter this holy place while we were there. At the end of the service, as though nothing had changed, prayers were offered, ending with a Mnogoletie (“Long Life for the Imperial Family”) as had always been done before the revolution. We were surprised at the priest’s courage. Father’s face turned white and we all glanced at each other. Olga’s pale face turned faintly red, and she wiped her eyes. We wondered if there was going to be trouble ahead. There was. They promptly demanded the death penalty for Father Vassiliev, but he was saved, though not for long. He was sent away by Bishop Hermogen and was replaced by another one. The nuns too were taken away.

[Pg 230]

We were now forbidden to attend church services, but after hours of pleading with the Soldiers’ Committee by Colonel Kobylinsky, we received permission to attend church services but only on the twelve principal holidays. From now on the restrictions became more severe.

Finally Christmas eve arrived. Mother presented everyone with one of the gifts we had been working on for months. The villagers too were thoughtful. They sent us two Christmas trees, one of which we sent to our friends across the street, with whom we shared some delicacies that were sent us by the Ivanovsky nunnery and by the head people of the local museum. In the evening, vespers were held in the big hall and we were grateful that there was no interference. We looked forward to the Christmas morning services at the church.

Somehow I felt a sadness as we walked along the path packed with snow. It was cold and dreary and at eight in the morning still dark. The sky overhead was heavy. It gave me simultaneously a feeling of loneliness and apprehension. It was so quiet that only the crackling of the frozen snow under our feet broke the stillness. We did not speak to each other; each one was occupied with his own thoughts. It is quietness like this that awakens one’s heart to fond memories of the past. We crossed the small garden and with my mind’s eye I could see the museum, the little park, and in it the proud obelisk dedicated to Yermak, the conqueror of Siberia. A short walk, but my thoughts covered thousands of miles behind the frozen plains of Siberia. I could see our Grandmother, our aunts and their children, and our friends, and I wondered if they had forgotten us. Above all I thought of our old homes, where I had spent sixteen happy years of my life. All seemed so cold and so far away.

My thoughts came back to Tobolsk. Only recently we had discussed with our friends here the historical background of this town. It frightened me. I thought of the chapel adjoining the Metropolitan’s residence where the Bell of Uglich was formerly hung. This bell summoned the people of Uglich when[Pg 231] Prince Dimitri, son of Ivan the Terrible, was murdered in 1591. By an order presumably given by Boris Godunov, this bell was transferred to Tobolsk, where it was damaged by fire and recast. We too were transferred to Tobolsk, by Kerensky.

Father realized what the prison life had done to his family. We once overheard Father saying to Prince Dolgorukov, in the presence of Colonel Kobylinsky, that his heart was aching for his little family whose life which had just begun was about to come to an end. He continued, “During my whole life I tried to serve my country faithfully, and if I have done wrong I am willing to suffer for it. I am not sorry for myself or my wife, but for the children. It is a crime to punish these innocent youngsters. They are so pure and so good. They are the children of Russia.”

On New Year’s morning we went to church. It was one of the twelve holidays on which we were permitted to attend services. The new priest officiated but he appeared nervous. Then we heard that our former priest, Father Vassiliev, who had officiated at the previous service, had been taken away from the Abalak monastery. He was then tied, beaten and thrown still alive into the Tobol River in front of the monastery. It was very cold that morning. The temperature often went down to 25°-35° below zero. The church was unheated but dimly lighted, and we could offer only one candle apiece. Although we were provided with rugs, even then our feet were numb from the cold, but our hearts found comfort, warmth and hope ahead. Due to the extreme cold, my sisters and brother became ill again with the German measles. This time, however, they were not so seriously ill as the previous year.

Through General Tatishchev Father was informed that we could not go to church on Epiphany day, commemorating the baptism of our Lord, which falls some twelve days after Christmas. It was decided to build a movable altar in a corner of the big hall on the second floor, where we took our lessons and gave our plays. Mother busied herself by supervising[Pg 232] the placing of the icons in their proper places. The priest and the four nuns came to the house for the Divine Liturgy and the Blessing of Water. Father and we children sang with the choir which consisted of some members of our staff, including Nagorny, Alexei’s servant, who had a very fine voice. At the end of the service, according to custom, the priest dipped the cross into the water and with it sprinkled the water in the air in the shape of a cross. We all kissed the cross but when Alexei’s turn came to kiss it, the priest bent over and kissed his forehead. It touched Alexei deeply. This kindness meant so much to the little, frail boy. To the last he never forgot this courtesy, nor did we. We “broke bread” with our friends in the dining room downstairs.

It was on this day that Prince Dolgorukov and General Tatishchev pleaded with Father to have his epaulettes removed. For the sake of his family, finally Father gave in. Right then and there something died within him. He did keep his St. George’s Cross and the French Croix de Guerre. He was very proud of them. Father told his valet, Chemodurov, that General Tatishchev should remove the epaulettes before brutal hands touched them. With a painful expression the general removed them. I remember when the St. George decorations were given to Father and Alexei. General Ivanov sent Father’s friend Prince (Toly) Bariatinsky to present these decorations while Father was home for a few days.

Practically buried by snow, we were permitted to make a mountain. Hundreds of shovelsful of snow were carried up and covered with water, which froze immediately. The process was repeated until a good sled course was built. We helped our friends, Prince Dolgorukov and M. Gilliard, as well as the soldiers, until we were exhausted.

January 12th/25th was Tatiana’s twenty-first name day. After the Te Deum, which was held in the house, we all extended to her our congratulations. Even the soldiers of the Fourth regiment presented her with various blooming plants and flowers. Except for Mother, we had no gifts for her.

[Pg 233]

We heard that Felix Youssoupoff was killed. Mother said, “God forgive his mistakes.” Later the rumor was denied.

We had a swing in the back yard, but Nikolsky’s men at night wrote vulgar words on the wooden seat board. We were forbidden to go near it until Dr. Botkin, Colonel Kobylinsky or Pankratov had examined it. Our outdoor exercises were limited to the small space allotted to us. Each day they found something new to accuse us of. One afternoon Alexei was on the front steps before the house, which were protected by a wall about 2-3 feet high on either side. He heard some children on the street and climbed on top of this wall which was about 35-40 feet from the fence. Nikolsky saw Alexei from the window, and like a bullet ran out of the house and loudly reprimanded the little boy, who had done no harm. From then on we feared him.

From the window, hungrily, I watched the children romp and play all wrapped up like little bear cubs in bright red felt boots. They rode around in bright colored orange or red sleds, or were drawn by plucky little horses which reminded me of the Crimea. These ponies looked so warm in their winter “coats” and so alive as they tramped over the packed snow with their bells ringing and jauntily pulled their sleighs behind them. I pressed my face against the window. The jingling bells outside and the icy cold of the window cutting into my cheek inside were cruel substitutes for my great desire to go sleigh riding myself.

Nikolsky taught the soldiers all kinds of communistic doctrines which he called Yurovsky’s teaching. At that time we did not know who this evil Yurovsky was. The hatred Nikolsky taught to the men, he was to experience himself. Soon afterwards the soldiers drove Nikolsky out. Unfortunately, old Pankratov had to go too. His going was a loss to us because he always defended us. From what we heard in advance about the new commissar who was coming from Ekaterinburg, we were apprehensive.

There were many repercussions in store for us. All the old[Pg 234] soldiers of the Fourth and First regiments, who had come with us from Tsarskoe Selo, were ordered to leave. Before they did so, however, they came quietly one by one to Father’s study to say good-bye. Almost all of them cried as Father embraced them and thanked them for their loyalty to us. One of them brought a small body icon for Father to remember him by, and another one brought with him a small notebook which he asked us to autograph. Two men from the Fourth regiment refused to leave the place, saying that they would stay to guard their Emperor. At the point of a gun they were taken away and later we heard that they were shot, near the river. When the last several hundred men were leaving, they assembled on the street behind the fence in front of the house. We all, even Mother, went part way to the snow mountain to see our friends depart. We were never to see them again. The whole family and all around us were crushed by their going and, as they went, our hopes left with them.

We derived a lot of pleasure out of tobogganing on the snow mound we had worked so hard to build. But our pleasure lasted only one month. To the guards the snow mound was a sore spot and we tried to pacify them by not going to its top, so as not to attract the attention of passers-by who often gathered on the other side of the street to watch us. Notwithstanding, the Soldiers’ Committee decided to have the mound demolished. We soon heard heavy chopping and pounding in the garden, and we knew then that the snow mound was being destroyed. They cut deep notches across the mound so it could not be used for tobogganing and in order to prevent us from looking across the street. We showed no resentment at what they did, although in our hearts we felt differently.

Now we had even less space for exercise than we had had before and we tried to amuse ourselves as we elbowed each other in the yard. We looked at each other understandingly even though no words were uttered.

More bad news reached us, that agents of the underground, friends and relatives of the men listed previously, continued to[Pg 235] pour into Russia from foreign countries by the thousand, followed later by Generals Pilsudski and Ludendorff and Count von Mirbach, the German Ambassador. We were told that all the buildings in Moscow including all of the Imperial quarters in the Kremlin were taken over by these intruders. These men ordered that the Russian Army be disbanded and that all German and Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war be released from the camps. These camps were scattered on the important railroad lines and mining regions throughout the territories of Omsk, Tomsk, Tiumen, Ekaterinburg, Cheliabinsk and other cities.

Up to now Father had refused to allow himself to be depressed. But this time he no longer was able to hide his feelings. He suffered painfully, because he believed his Allies, in whom he had had faith, had failed to help him in these difficult times. They could have prevented these men from coming to Russia. Instead, passports and other documents were issued to them. Father said again that fifty years from now there would be no democracy left, that when Russia falls the whole world will fall with it. A year later, when I recalled these words, in 1919, I wrote in my notebook, “Only the future will tell.”

Father was so distressed that he often sat up at night with only a little flickering lamp in the corner of his study. Mother knew that Father could not sleep. We heard the cracking of the floors which were more pronounced at night. She had left her bedroom and gone to him. We heard her say: “Nicky, are you not tired? Can you not sleep? I came to keep you company, dear.” Said Father: “No, Alicky, I am not tired. I thank you for thinking of me.” Such words of devotion and understanding always rang in our ears.

The only joy we had at this time was whenever we heard from our family or our friends. We longed so much to see our aunts, especially Aunt Olga’s baby. Aunt Xenia’s letters described to us the little man so charmingly that we felt as if we knew him.

[Pg 236]


After Nikolsky and Pankratov left, Colonel Kobylinsky brought back the key to the balcony which Nikolsky had taken away. Now Mother was again able to sit on the balcony in the sun. For several months we lived quietly and peacefully. But when the new guards came, our lives saddened.

One day Olga was found crying. She had been unhappy. She said that she had been observing the developments and believed that we were doomed. Father sent for Colonel Kobylinsky who admitted that danger was creeping upon us. Prince Dolgorukov and General Tatishchev believed she was right and thought we should escape before the new commissar from Ekaterinburg arrived. But our parents refused to leave Russia, and would not think of separation. We humbly bowed our heads and accepted the inevitable.

All of a sudden a change came into our lives. The Bolsheviks turned their binoculars on us. One day Colonel Kobylinsky informed Father that the Imperial family must go on rations, because keeping us was too heavy a burden on the Communist regime. Each one of us was to receive 600 rubles per month, the same as the soldiers. Father knew nothing about the cost of the operation of our establishment. He asked M. Gilliard, who was the most practical of all, to set up a budget and Prince Dolgorukov and General Tatishchev to help him. When they came with figures, it was concluded that ten servants had to be discharged. My parents became terribly distressed and made all kinds of excuses: this one had a sick[Pg 237] mother, another had an invalid son, a third was the sole supporter of his motherless children. What would happen to all these families who came here from Tsarskoe Selo? It went on and on. At last Gillek (M. Gilliard) and General Tatishchev made their own decision, and ten servants came to thank us for treating them so kindly in the past. It was sad losing them, though we could not foresee how fortunate they were.

The new commissar from Ekaterinburg arrived and we heard that he had brought with him about one hundred men, all fanatical Marxists. He was a red-faced brute by the name of Zaslovsky, with a bad reputation.

No sooner had the new young men arrived than trouble developed between them and the old soldiers who had refused them entry to our residence. They became angry and threatened to storm the house. Colonel Kobylinsky and Zaslovsky were bargaining all night downstairs. We dressed and sat up expecting trouble. Long after midnight we heard familiar voices in the corridor. Colonel Kobylinsky sent for more guards to insure our safety. We heard some foreign voices coming from outside the gate, then a loud voice saying, “I am following the orders of Colonel Kobylinsky. I cannot let you in. Then speak to him.” As a result of this incident Colonel Kobylinsky wanted to resign but Father persuaded him to stay with us. We felt that his presence was helpful to us, even though we knew that he had no power over the new soldiers.

Father believed that at least ten of the new men were disguised former officers. However, if they were former officers they were helpless, because Zaslovsky ordered more men from Tomsk. These men boasted that they had killed the director of the Cadet School and destroyed the headquarters of the Fourth Siberian Army Corps stationed in Tomsk. They said that they had burned the house on Father’s estate in the town of Bernaul on the river Ob and had killed the superintendent in charge. Father had inherited several big estates with large milk and cheese plants in Siberia. Tons of these products were distributed every year to different charitable institutions.[Pg 238] Father had visited his estates during the construction of the Trans-Siberian railroad. Zaslovsky bragged that they had already destroyed the gold smelting works and had taken away all the available gold. They also tried to plunder the monastery at Tomsk but were driven away by the monks. This is the monastery that was referred to previously.

Zaslovsky brought us much misery and inexpressible horror right from the start. He ordered us to keep from five to six feet away from the fence, and to go out only under guard and only for thirty minutes twice a day. Our outdoor exercise consisted mainly of cutting wood. We performed this humble work in the back of the building cheerfully and without complaining, and by so doing we helped members of our household whose duty it was to supply the house with wood. Zaslovsky had our house searched and several items belonging to Father were taken away.

Each day brought some new deprivations or restrictions and some fresh heckling by the guards who took pleasure in humiliating us. In return we acquiesced in their demands, disarmingly, at least outwardly. Following Father’s example we accepted everything. Among the soldiers only a few good men were left. In the past, each relay of guards had started out to be severe, then gradually softened. But not these men. They were a dangerous lot. In order to avoid trouble Father and his friends—all of them understood carpentry—had earlier built a ladder which led outside to the top of the roof of an unused greenhouse, which had already been converted into a chicken coop. They also built a platform where we could sit in the sun without being seen from the street.

More restrictions were put on us. The last two days before Lent are by custom days of merriment during which the people enjoy themselves at concerts, balls and in many other ways. Zaslovsky, fearing riots by the people, forbade us to leave the house during those two days. The schools were closed and there was a constant flow of students from the gymnasium.[Pg 239] They were gay; we heard the bells ringing; the children were expecting to see the monkey and to hear the organ grinder, who had stopped before the house for Alexei to witness the spectacle and to hear the children sing and play. But Zaslovsky had locked the balcony door and had taken the key back to the office. We heard loud voices outdoors; the guards were driving the students and the youngsters away with the butts of their rifles. The youngsters ran and the students cried: “Go back from where you came, you unwelcome guests.” Zaslovsky said he would shoot anyone who came near the fence. In spite of the warning, the passers-by continued to walk past the house, even more than before. When the people saw us in the window, they always removed their caps and bowed low.

Sorrow and dread were our constant companions. We woke up with sadness, and went to bed in sadness. Father tried to read to us, but the silent interchange of fear muddled the thread of the story he read. He tried to make his voice firm and hopeful but it did not have the ring of former days.

Up to now we were able to send and receive some letters from our relatives in Ai-Todor in the Crimea. Now we heard that the mail service was being discontinued. However, we continued to receive some letters. Since Zaslovsky’s arrival we had stopped writing letters as we knew that they would not be mailed. The last letter we received from the Crimea told us that the family there had been separated. Aunt Xenia with her family and Grandmother had been moved to the chateau of Dyulber, belonging to the Grand Duke Peter Nicholaevich. Though they were not far from the Youssoupoffs at Koreiz, still they could not see each other.

A few weeks before our departure for Ekaterinburg we received a letter from the family through a peasant woman from the Crimea. She had carried this letter surreptitiously thousands of miles. Through her, in return, we sent a letter to the family in the Crimea, together with a photograph of the family—one of the few we had taken in Tobolsk. It was our last[Pg 240] link with Granny and our aunts. The very last letter we received came from Irene Tatishcheva. A few of our letters were returned to us undelivered.

We huddled closer together, not so much for warmth, as to feel the strength of each other’s presence. In the evening we dreaded to think of what the morning would bring. Morning returned with the same overhanging fear. Mother’s first words were: “Thank God for the night just past and for the breaking of the new day. Also for giving me such a good family. The Almighty is watching over us.” Then Father read from the Bible some reassuring message.

Our brief walks around the yard brought us no inspiration. They were cut shorter. Mother assured us that God was with us even in our trials. No harm could come to those who had faith in Him. He is putting us to the test. What good is our religion if we are not victorious over suffering? So we continued to endure, brightening the darkness in our hearts with the trust that in time God would lead the way to our safety.

Not being able to attend church was our hardest punishment. Mother especially missed this spiritual support. It had helped us. We had found there the answer to our prayers, and temporary relief. Tatiana made her decision to sacrifice her life in search of theological subjects. She became stronger and firmer in her belief and spent part of the day in reading the Testaments. Mother was a tower of strength to us. She was full of resourcefulness and hope, continually replenished by faith. We felt sure our fate was in the hands of God. This trust in Him made Father calm and resigned. He was one of those who had the truth within him. He carried his grief silently and maintained his high spirits for the sake of his family. We shuddered at the thought of being separated and clung closer together.

Suffering had made Mother meek and more tender and her soul had grown stronger. Under Mother’s influence Olga composed a prayer which follows:

[Pg 241]

Give patience, Lord, to us Thy children,
In these dark, stormy days to bear
The persecution of our people,
The tortures falling to our share.
Give strength, just God, to us who need it,
The persecutors to forgive,
Our heavy, painful cross to carry
And Thy great meekness to achieve.
When we are plundered and insulted,
In days of mutinous unrest,
We turn for help to Thee, Christ-Saviour,
That we may stand the bitter test.
Lord of the World, God of Creation,
Give us Thy Blessing through our prayer,
Give peace of heart to us, O Master,
This hour of utmost dread to bear.
And on the threshold of the grave,
Breathe power divine into our clay
That we, Thy children, may find strength
In meekness for our foes to pray.

Zaslovsky hated everybody. He even kicked our friendly dog Lisa, because the dog wanted to make friends with him. He also beat the dog in the yard and stepped on our cat without any reason. He said that before he left he would do away with all our pets. We suffered and our animals clung to us. When they heard his loud voice downstairs, they all ran and hid under Mother’s chaise longue. Eventually the soldiers drove Zaslovsky away and he went back to Ekaterinburg.

In the meantime our finances were getting low and Anna Vyrubova made an arrangement with a banker named Yaroshinsky to send us some money through Soloviev, the husband of Matriona, Rasputin’s older daughter. Marie and I knew Yaroshinsky from Tsarskoe Selo. He had financed Marie’s and my hospital and we had seen him occasionally. He spoke poor[Pg 242] Russian with a Polish accent. He told us once that he had an uncle who was a cardinal in Italy. Soloviev was entrusted with several thousands of rubles and some letters to be delivered to us. We did not know Soloviev but knew that Anna trusted him and that he had delivered some letters to Tobolsk previously. We received only thirty thousand rubles out of the three hundred thousand that were sent to us by Anna. Later in Ekaterinburg we were shown copies of all letters and records of the money, which Soloviev took as a payment for spying on us. Because he was the husband of Matriona, Anna had confidence in him in financial and other matters. Dr. Botkin told Father that Yurovsky said that Soloviev and Yaroshinsky were friends of General Pilsudski, Lenin and Trotsky and of Voykov (who later, it seems, signed the death verdict of the Imperial family).

We still had about 35-40 employees whose wages we were unable to meet. Food became a problem. We had no sugar, coffee or butter. When the good people of Tobolsk learned of the conditions in the Governor’s house they sent us whatever they had. Some of the merchants and the heads of the city had met Father in 1891 when, on his way home from Japan, he had made an extensive tour throughout Siberia. At that time the museum of Tobolsk was established and Father deposited a great deal of money in the Imperial banks for the upkeep of this museum. Magazines and articles were sent to us and we read them with interest. Incidentally it was twenty-seven years later, in July also, when the murder took place in Ekaterinburg, July 16th-17th, 1918.

One morning we awoke to an acute misery; Alexei was ill. The dreaded disease had returned. And now our previous deprivations seemed insignificant. The youngster’s resistance had been lessened. He was thin and unable to take the food offered him. As always Mother nursed him. Her care for him was the same but her affection for him had changed. My heart tells me not to say that, but conscience tells me otherwise. Alexei sensed it. I remember how much Mother loved her[Pg 243] precious “Agoo” and wanted to have him close to her on the chaise longue. I can still see this little boy under a blue silk and lace cover lying on her chaise, or later, his hand in her hand, going into his bedroom to say a prayer. M. Gilliard and all the others knew of the change on Mother’s part, and they gave Alexei more love now to make up for the loss of a part of his Mother’s affection. We sisters became much closer to him, and our hearts formed as one and this one we gave to our unfortunate brother and to our Father who suffered so much.

Following the incident when Nagorny was caught carrying a letter from Alexei to Dr. Derevenko’s son, the Doctor was not permitted to come to the house. But now his services were needed and he, at last, was allowed to see his patient.

When the conditions became dangerously bad, following Nikolsky’s departure, Father wrote an important document about the war, which was placed in a safe place until a change in the Government should occur. At that time it was to be released to the proper authorities. It was left in care of four men and it was endorsed and countersigned by at least four persons.

A treaty between Bolshevik Russia and Germany was now in the process of being signed. We were told that one of its provisions was that the Imperial family was to be brought to Moscow unharmed. Evidently the Germans suspected that our captors were dangerous and would not spare our lives. Father feared if the family went to Moscow, he might be forced to sign the treaty in order to save his family’s life. He said: “Now the people know who are the real traitors to Russia. All these years they have been accusing Mother for being a spy and wanting to sign a separate treaty with Germany.”

Father blamed the downfall of the Russian Army—our national pride—on Kerensky, Guchkov, Ruzsky and Shulgin. He said that now Germany would get all kinds of concessions, which would reduce Russia to poverty, but that Germany would not enjoy these concessions. The treaty was prepared in advance by Tsederbaum, Bronstein, Apfelbaum, Rosenfeld[Pg 244] and others—better known to the world today as Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev, Kamenev. Not many Russians among them, but traitors. I well remember that as we sat one evening, Father said to Prince Dolgorukov, “Valia, you remember the time when I refused even to consider a separate treaty with Germany. I would not accept any appeasement after the loss of thousands of lives and all the property damage. I was determined to bring Germany to her knees. Even if I had signed a separate treaty, Germany would have paid for all the damage done, and now she is going to get from the traitors anything she wants.” Father went on, “Germany will not enjoy the things she has done to us, and our Allies will not either. They are digging their own graves and soon they will be buried in them. If Russia falls, the whole world will topple with her, and within fifty years from now there will be no democracy left, believe me, Valia.” I remember the last words as though they were spoken only yesterday.

By betraying his country he would have bought freedom for himself and his family. Every soldier knew that Russia was betrayed and that the propaganda about my family was totally untrue. But they were helpless. Father never lived for himself but for his people; they sinned against him and still he loved them. Mother said the time would come when they would stand before Him to answer for murdering our country. The Bolsheviks had every reason to remove Father and all male Romanovs, because by so doing they would eliminate all interference with their plans, and no emperor would ever be in power again.

Lenin had a personal hatred for the Imperial family. He waited for an opportunity to get his revenge. When Father was a young man, he and his parents were on their way to the Caucasus when the train in which they were riding was derailed and eighty people lost their lives and many more were injured. The roof of the Imperial car was on the verge of collapse when my Grandfather, Alexander III, held the roof on his shoulders, preventing further disaster. Six years afterwards[Pg 245] he died as a result of the injuries he suffered on that day. The conspirators who caused this derailment were Lenin and his brother. Lenin’s brother was caught and was executed. Lenin himself escaped abroad. The Russian people did not know that Lenin was one of the Ulianov-Tsederbaum brothers. Later it was established that Lenin himself was the mastermind in causing this accident. Little did the people suspect that he was later also an agent of the German government. Trotsky’s brother was also a revolutionary; he was hanged in 1905. Lenin and Trotsky came to Russia shortly after Father’s abdication. Once my Granny told me if Grandfather had not held up the roof of the railway car they would all have been crushed. Aunt Olga suffered an injury to her back, and Granny to an arm. From the life-size painting which hung in Father’s billiard room, I judge my Grandfather to have been enormous, with broad shoulders and colorful, healthy cheeks, a handsome specimen. I would not be surprised if his voice was a deep baritone, like the voice of a lion roaring throughout the vast rooms of the Gatchina Palace. That kind of impression my giant Grandfather made on me.

Father was emphatic about two things: He would accept nothing from Germany and would not permit the family to become separated. After seeing what these people had done to Father, we sisters, though we longed for freedom and an opportunity to enjoy our life, young as we were, were ready to sacrifice everything and even die to save our country.

A new detachment of guards arrived from Moscow under the supervision of a man named Yakovlev. He had been in Tobolsk for several days and no one knew the reason for his being in town. Before the thirteenth day of each month approached we feared some kind of trouble, and the 13th of April was no exception. On this day Yakovlev put under arrest General Tatishchev, Prince Dolgorukov, Countess Hendrikova, Mlle. Schneider and Mr. Gibbs. They were ordered to move into our house.

After all the rooms had been searched, Yakovlev, wanting[Pg 246] to be sure that Alexei was ill, brought in a doctor from the outside, who soon verified the boy’s illness.

I remember a conversation one evening with Count Tatishchev. Prior to the war he represented Father at the German Court and spoke German fluently. During the war he questioned German prisoners who told him that their officers were dissatisfied and that even Von Moltke, the German Commander in the field, was disgusted the way things were going by 1917, and was in favor of putting the Kaiser under arrest; that virtually the Kaiser was a prisoner at his own headquarters and no longer had the power to do anything about the situation. Besides, it was further said, Germany was at the point of collapse.

Ludendorff was then master of the Army and the Empire. It was the Russian revolution which was so skillfully promoted by the traitors who had settled for a while in Switzerland that saved Germany. Had it been delayed even by as short a period as three months, victory would have been ours.

Another evening the subject of discussion was the treaty which was about to be signed. As usual we were gathered in the big hall. With us were Prince Dolgorukov, General Tatishchev, M. Gilliard and Mr. Gibbs; also the two ladies in waiting, Mlle. Hendrikova and Mlle. Schneider, both of whom were later killed outside of Perm. Father turned to General Tatishchev and said: “General, do you remember the letter that Wilhelm wrote to me in which he said that he wanted to sign a separate treaty with Russia, after which the whole affair would be forgotten and the two countries would be friends again?” Across the face of that letter Father had written: “Our friendship is dead.” There was a second letter, this one to Count Benckendorff, in which the Kaiser asked the Count to speak to Father about a treaty with Germany.

We all knew about these letters as we were at General Headquarters at the time. Father showed these letters to Sir John Hanbury-Williams and the other members of the Foreign High Command. His own reaction (which may have been sent to[Pg 247] Berlin by Count Benckendorff) to these letters was, “If the Kaiser wants peace, let him make his proposals to all my Allies; a separate treaty with Russia alone is out of the question. No treaty without indemnities to my country and my Allies.”

Prince Dolgorukov said to Olga, “Knowing how honest His Majesty is, he would and could not break the promise he made when he put his hand on the Bible, assumed the purple and was crowned, and received the Orb and the Sceptre. At the same time he kneeled in prayer to guide him in his service as Tsar and Judge of the Russian Empire and to keep his heart in the will of God asking for His guidance to help him in his task to rule wisely and be a true father to his people, in order that on the Day of Judgment he may answer without shame.” During the proclamation of war Father again swore with his hand on the Bible never to make a peace with the enemy as long as one enemy soldier was on his soil.

Father would never have betrayed his Allies. However, the Allies did not recognize his loyalty to them and his unwillingness to sign a separate treaty with the Central Powers. Because of his loyalty and their failure to recognize it, he underwent great spiritual suffering, particularly because he knew that it would mean the end of Russia at a time when he so needed the support of the Allies which they failed to give. Even the Bolshevik leaders feared that the stubborn Emperor might be a threat to them, and decided that the only thing left to do was to kill him. Father might still be alive today, if he had been willing to betray his Allies. It was known that Wilhelm had more confidence in Father for keeping his word in honorable dealings than in his other cousins.

[Pg 248]


At this time the new commissar informed Father that he would have to leave Tobolsk within twenty-four hours; and that, because he could not take along the entire family on account of Alexei’s inability to travel, he could take with him any other member of the family who wished to accompany him. That meant separation, the thing we dreaded most. Mother was caught between two tortures, at Yakovlev’s mercy. If she accompanied her husband, she must leave behind her sick boy, who needed her above everything else. But should Father face whatever was ahead alone? Suppose he was to be tried and questioned, would he not need her support? Might they not try to force him to sign the shameful Brest-Litovsk treaty, by threatening to kill his family? Yet Alexei might die without Mother. And what about Father? Did this mean death for him? We knew that all this was surging through Mother’s tormented mind, just as it was through ours.

General Tatishchev wanted to go with Father and said: “Your Majesty, you will not sign anything. They will have to kill us both.”

Olga was like a mother to Alexei. With Gillek, our loyal friend at his side, and Dr. Derevenko across the street, Alexei would be well cared for. At last Tatiana spoke up. She suggested that Mother and Marie go with Father. We knew that was the right suggestion. We knew also how Mother and Alexei would grieve for each other. In the midst of this discussion Father, as was always his habit, went outside in the[Pg 249] yard to be alone and not show his agony to others. He had always found the answer to his problems when alone, but this time he had none.

Father was supposed to leave at night, but it was decided to wait till morning when it would be safer to travel on the river. If only they could wait a few days, perhaps Alexei would be able to go with them. It was decided that General Tatishchev should stay in Tobolsk while Dr. Botkin, Prince Dolgorukov, Chemodurov (father’s old attendant) Sidniev (our footman) and Anna Demidova, Mother’s maid, would go with them. Colonel Kobylinsky selected eight soldiers of our guard, under the supervision of eight officers, who would accompany them on this trip.

All day we moved about in a daze, as if we were under hypnotism. Mother ordered her most needed articles to be packed. Tatiana with trembling hands placed them in the suitcase. She swallowed fast to turn back the tears but in spite of stoical efforts more than one tear dropped on the articles and sank deep out of sight. Alexei cried incessantly. With him was Gillek (Gilliard), his faithful tutor. Alexei called for Mother for hours but she could not go to him. She could not hide her tears. At last she found strength to see him. When Gillek left the room, Mother threw herself on her knees in front of his bed and her face next to his, though she could not control her emotions. Her arms around Alexei’s thin body, she wept bitterly over the sick boy, “We will be back in a few days. We will soon be together.” A few drops of valerian were given him. While she sat in a chair, holding his hand, Alexei fell asleep. Then Mother bent over him and kissed her sick boy. He woke up and started to cry again. We could all see that she had prepared herself for this ordeal.

Mother understood the seriousness of this trip, that it might mean the death of all three of them. They all accepted it stoically in the hope that it might save their country even though it could lead to the loss of their lives.

[Pg 250]

The presence of new guards produced another problem, but Colonel Kobylinsky promised that he would see to it that all who remained behind would be cared for by him personally and that he would have the few remaining old soldiers on guard in the house and watching over us. Countess Hendrikova and Mlle. Schneider were to move in with us.

When all the business was finished, late at night we all assembled in the large hall. All the employees, with tear-stained eyes, came to say good-bye to those who were leaving. Mother embraced all the women and Father all the men. After tea our friends from downstairs departed. The family did not go to bed; our friends also stayed up all night. At 3:30 A.M. tea was again served to the travellers. All changed into clothes for the trip and took with them a few valuables which could be sold, if necessary. But upon their arrival in Ekaterinburg, Mother’s and Marie’s handbags were searched and the contents confiscated.

Mother drew us daughters into our room. We gathered around her. Then and there I suddenly realized what Tobolsk had done to her. Mother’s hair was partly grey and her eyes were sunken deep in her head. Her beautiful skin was lined and transparent, and her neck thin and drawn. Her clothes hung on her wasted frame—she cared little how much she had aged. She was speaking slowly as if the choke in her throat would not let the words come through. “My only desire,” she said, “is that should we ever be scattered outside of Russia, I hope none of you will ever choose Germany, and that you will never do anything to disgrace yourselves. There will be some people who will try to put you in a compromising position—to take advantage of your youth. Always keep respectable. Never marry for wealth or power, only for love and devotion. The greatest happiness I can ask for you, if ever you will marry, is that you will love your husbands as I do mine, your dear Father, and we are thankful, for He has rewarded us by giving us such an understanding family.”

[Pg 251]

We fell on our knees while she prayed for our safekeeping. Then she drew each one of us to her and kissed us feverishly. She embraced us together, then tore herself from our clinging arms and started toward the door. Suddenly she was back again to hug us once more. Again and again she tried to leave. Each time she came back.

Until the last moment we could not believe that God would let this separation take place. Not only that we feared what would happen to them when they reached their destination, but there was the dangerous river to cross for which one closed carriage and several tarantasy (Siberian primitive open carriages) were provided, now that the ice was thawing. The night was dark and cold. It was safer to start early in the morning, because the river freezes overnight, and they had to travel in the middle of the river where the ice was thicker and safer.

Without a word, Marie clutched my hand; my arms flew around her. With burning cheeks our lips met. Then and there I felt that a great part of my life was gone. Marie was my other half.

Father was the most possessed of us all. He was so brave, parting from him was the hardest, for we might never see him again. Mother was gone. We stood there motionless, not yet believing, staring at the door she had just passed through. She was heading for Alexei’s room. We knew that she wanted to be with him alone. We could see into the room. She found him crying with his head buried under the covers. He always thought it was bad taste to cry before others.

Through the mist in our eyes we saw Father standing. He was white, but with a faint smile on his face, he said: “Come now, children. We will only be away for a short time. Hurry Alexei’s recovery so that he will be well enough to travel.”

Somehow we passed the intervening hours with the servants, those faithful few who had given us their all in their desire to lessen our suffering, friends whose loyalty had lightened our burdens. Now these friends were pouring out their love and devotion we so needed, all the time assuring us of their watchfulness[Pg 252] over Alexei and ourselves. Nothing would happen to him or to us sisters. We never could have gotten through that night without our friends.

Each moment we thought to be the last, yet each moment was filled with the hope that the trip would be called off. The minutes passed into hours. Midnight, morning, each second was filled with listening dread. Then came the guards, and Colonel Kobylinsky and Yakovlev. Mother went again into Alexei’s room as he was still crying. Almost gayly she assured him she would be back soon. Father made a cross over us, gave his blessing and kissed our wet cheeks. “All ready,” a voice came. “Certainly,” Father answered. We followed our parents out of the house and stood on the steps to see them seated in the waiting tarantasy. In one a mattress had been rolled to make a seat; it was covered with a blanket. This vehicle, drawn by three horses, Mother and Marie occupied. The other one had a bundle of straw to serve as a seat, which also was covered with a blanket. Father and Yakovlev got into this one. There were also tarantasy to carry the others, all the luggage and three folding beds. The guards stepped aside; the gate opened and closed. They were gone. Prince Dolgorukov, Dr. Botkin, Chemodurov and Anna Demidova were with them. The officers and soldiers were following on horseback.

The gate closed at 4:00 A.M., April 26th, 1918, new style, leaving us standing there in tragic silence, confused, frightened, bewildered as to our future. We ran to our room, threw ourselves on the beds and sobbed until we could cry no more. Our dear friend Gillek was with Alexei. We could not get to him. He understood. Thank God, for our loyal friends who defended us. How much they suffered on account of us! And how many good people lost their lives to save us. God give them everlasting peace.

Alexei was calling. The room was full of his calls, pitiful calls for Mother and Father. Tatiana bent over him tenderly with both arms wrapped around his frail body. From utter[Pg 253] exhaustion his cries grew fainter. She pressed him close. At last he quieted down and fell asleep in his new mother’s arms.

After the parents left, we sisters assumed additional duties. I, being of a restless nature, was given the task of entering all bills and receipts in a big book at the end of each day. The first time I opened the book I found inside many bills and copies of receipts and promissory notes that were given to merchants by Prince Dolgorukov and General Tatishchev. On inquiry we found out that when the expense money which had been promised to Father by Kerensky and which was to be drawn from our own funds, had failed to come, our household bills had been cared for, unbeknown to Father, by Prince Dolgorukov and General Tatishchev. When their own personal funds were exhausted, these good friends of ours gave the merchants their own personal notes guaranteeing payment of these debts. This fact was kept secret from Father.

The same railroad for which Father and his forefathers laid the first stone in construction was now to carry him to his death. All was left for the new masters who claimed credit for everything and who even changed the names of our once proud cities, universities, hospitals, palaces, museums, industrial and other enterprises, regarding which they had nothing in common except the desire to blow them up at the first opportunity. They renamed them after the worst thieves and murderers in all history. Petrograd, built by Peter the Great, they changed to Leningrad after that murderer, Lenin, whose body upon his death became black and so badly decomposed that the poor chemist was shot because he was not able to complete the process of embalming.

The leaders went into the prisons where among thousands of innocent officers, clergymen and others, they found a man resembling Lenin. At four o’clock in the morning they shot the innocent victim and his body was embalmed. Later that same morning Lenin’s body was disposed of. Today millions of tourists see this mausoleum on Red Square close to the wall of the[Pg 254] Kremlin. Within a short distance of the red brick wall lie the Holy Sanctuaries. Here are the remains of the murdered man under glass. If you should see this man, do not condemn him, for he is an innocent victim, but pray for him that his suffering was not long. I have heard this from a friend who met a sister of the nurse who was present at this event.

The curtain had fallen on the travellers—Father, Mother and Marie. They had left. The new day could not draw the curtain aside to permit one look into their uncertain future. Only our anxiety could keep them from continuing the trip and force them to return. Perhaps the river would prove impassable and they would have to wait for the thaw, when we could all go together. If Alexei’s illness had not delayed our trip, perhaps we would all have been taken to Moscow. Probably Mother would have given her consent that the children go abroad, and she and Father would have stayed in Russia. This matter was laid before her, but she would not listen. She emphasized that the trial was only the preparation of the spirit; she was willing to die for her country. She prepared us to believe her belief. Olga, Marie, Alexei and I were not willing, Tatiana accepted the inevitable.

We received no news to break our apprehension; no sunshine dispelled our dread. Dread loomed everywhere, but we knew we must not give in but hope this trip would bring betterment to our lives. There was Alexei to cheer and there were new guards to win over.

At night we heard heavy footsteps and the clicking of arms. Every sound suggested fear. We heard that Count Benckendorff was negotiating with Mirbach for our rescue. Olga kept warning us to be particularly careful. “Now that we are alone, we must be cautious with those cruel men,” she said. When Dr. Botkin left us, we lost one of our staunchest protectors. Now our good friend and tutor, M. Gilliard, played the role of a brother to us. Other friends who had moved into our house were now fellow prisoners. They were helpless but at[Pg 255] least we had them as consultants. Colonel Kobylinsky, that blessed little man, was still with us. It gave us comfort. Others too were protecting us, including General Tatishchev, Mlle. Bittner, Shura Tegleva, and Alexei’s faithful Ukrainian servant, Nagorny.

The guards continued to flow into Alexei’s room to check on his health. They still did not believe he was ill. We sisters were anxious for Alexei to be well, so that when the river thawed we should be able to follow our parents. Meantime one of the men who drove the family half way to Tiumen brought a letter from Marie describing the incredible condition of the river. It was a miracle that Mother had survived that trip. We were sick at heart that they were suffering there, while here we suffered just as much. The new guards were rough and frightening. We submitted to their tyranny, making no challenge to their disagreeableness. But we were eager for any news which might come to us through Colonel Kobylinsky. Now the poor man had grown nervous and troubled, his hands shook and a strain was noticeable on his face.

The following day Colonel Kobylinsky brought word that the family was safely on the train. The destination was not mentioned. Then came a short note from Mother addressed to us all. It said the journey had been very difficult but they were on the train. We tried hard to read between the lines but found nothing more there.

Day after day followed monotonously; anxiety made us too tired to think; and we lost interest in our studies. In spite of M. Gilliard’s and Mlle. Bittner’s gentle approach, we could not concentrate on our lessons.

We grieved for those we loved most. Every turn we made, the emptiness reminded us of the former times and we were unable to escape from that feeling. Our hearts beat painfully without refreshing news.

The Holy Week was unbearably sad. Almost four days passed without news. At last on Good Friday, Colonel Kobylinsky received a telegram. It read, “We are safe.”

[Pg 256]

The only comfort we had was when we noticed an improvement in Alexei’s health. We tried to amuse him, but he too had no thought beyond what was happening to Mother and Father. Now I realized why Mother had taken Marie with her. In case of separation from her husband, she would not be left alone. Marie had the patience of a saint, her presence would be comforting to both.

Olga was frail in nature. Mother had wished to spare her this trip if possible. Tatiana would take the responsibility for Alexei’s care. To alleviate the boredom, I had been given the responsibility of keeping the family accounts and soon assumed the role of family banker and bookkeeper. A special permit was required each day for our food purchases. Every evening, I entered in the ledger all our expenditures; General Tatishchev made me believe I was indispensable in that capacity.

Nagorny was a godsend to Alexei. He slept in Alexei’s room and kept the boy busy, amusing him with tales of his province in the Ukraine; of the great poet Taras Shevchenko, and he recited some pastoral and other poems, including “Naimichka” (The Maid), a beautiful poem. This great poet asked to be buried in the expanse of the golden wheat fields on the broad Dneiper River. Here Alexei used to wade and play in the sand at General Headquarters in Mogilev.

Our days were long, but the nights were even longer. On Easter Eve we were permitted to attend the midnight service in the big drawing room. It was a sad performance. We heard that the guards had completely disrobed the priest and searched him thoroughly. They searched the nuns, too, who came to sing in the service. They insulted them. During the service the guards were disturbing and hurled improper remarks. Had we known what would happen, we would not have requested the service at all.

Outside there was the constant sound of footsteps on the wooden sidewalk. Now that the snow had begun to melt, the garden was full of slush. Soon we were not allowed to go out[Pg 257] at all. We waited anxiously for Alexei to get well and for the ice to melt on the river. Then we received a letter, ominously brief. It said the family had halted at Ekaterinburg. They were safe, but there was no detailed explanation. All three of them were accommodated in one room. Marie slept on the floor. We were grateful that Father, in particular, had not been taken to Moscow where he would have met a disastrous end, because he would never have agreed to sign a treaty harmful to his country.

We knew of Ekaterinburg from Father and General Tatishchev. We had passed around the city on the train en route to Tiumen the summer before.

Coincidentally the founder of Ekaterinburg was an ancestor of General Tatishchev who had dedicated the name Ekaterinburg to the Empress Catherine the Great. General Tatishchev was destined to be shot in his ancestor’s city of Ekaterinburg years afterwards. My Father had many friends and relatives interested in different business enterprises. The Imperial family owned the stone cutting works and had other commercial operations. Close friends of ours had extensive businesses in this region. Knowing this vicinity General Tatishchev spent several evenings telling us about the city, where two months later my family, and he as well, were destined to be murdered.

Alexei was nearly well but the river was still not open for navigation. Any day, however, the conditions would be right for our departure. The Commandant ordered Dr. Derevenko to let him know the minute the boy would be able to travel. Once more our house was searched. They took many of Father’s belongings.

The men who guarded us at this time were the most vicious we had had. They hurled obscene words at us, then laughed at our flushed faces. Rodionov, the new commissar, was a wild bloodthirsty Latvian, always insulting. He took several pieces of our valuable possessions as souvenirs. Now almost all our[Pg 258] guards were completely new and strange to us. The only friendly ones who remained were those who, thanks to Colonel Kobylinsky, were posted at each door. They were old guards and saw to it that only his own men could enter our rooms.

We received orders not to lock our doors at night: our last bulwark of privacy was removed. On the pretense of finding out whether we were asleep, at any time of night, a guard without knocking or asking for permission was free to enter our bedrooms and other rooms. Now that Marie was gone, we three sisters remained in the same corner bedroom. Being frightened, we took turns guarding our room at night. While the other two slept, one of us sat up in bed on watch, wrapped in a blanket. When the floors creaked, we knew that the guard was approaching, and the one on watch would lie down pretending to be asleep.

We became insensitive to the new guards and were no longer annoyed by their overbearing conduct. Our worst anxiety was to get some news from Colonel Kobylinsky, but he did not appear; not in the morning, not in the afternoon, not the next day. What did all this mean? He had never stayed away so long. Finally the news came; our beloved Colonel had become ill and had been sent away just a few days before our nearing departure and was not permitted to say good-bye. We hoped our parents were not informed about this. It would add greatly to their troubled minds.

The guards were now everywhere, even at the door of our bathroom. We never went alone to bathe, always Shura or Mlle. Schneider was with us. One morning Tatiana crossed the hall on her way to the dressing room. A guard followed her closely, though she was not at first aware of it. When she heard footsteps behind her, she turned back suddenly and bumped into Rodionov, thus crashing into the wall. He had something hard on his person which hit her breast, so that she was pained and frightened. She screamed. When we arrived she was trembling and ghastly pale. She did not get over the shock for some time. After this incident none of us dared go into the bathroom[Pg 259] alone. Always Volkov, Mother’s old groom of the chamber, or Nagorny paced back and forth in the hall.

From then on we assumed a mock respectfulness, hoping to shame these men and to arouse their conscience. We believed the only way we could hold them at bay was by appealing to their sense of honor. But the way they leered and chuckled gave us a feeling of hopelessness. Without my Father, Dr. Botkin, or Colonel Kobylinsky they might dare anything.

May 6th, old style, was my Father’s birthday, his second during our captivity. It was distressing to think this was the first time in our lives we could not congratulate him. Marie told us later that Mother and Father wished to have a service in Ekaterinburg on that day, but no priest was permitted to come to the house.

More than ever we were anxious to be on our way. The desire to be with our parents was above all else. Yet we wanted to do nothing which might harm our brother. The lack of letters and news from our family spelled tragic overtones. One or two letters did arrive from Dr. Botkin to his son Gleb and daughter Tatiana, and they managed to relay news to us. But these messages told little beyond the word “well.” That word told us they were alive but were so restricted they were unable to communicate with us.

At last the river opened and the boats could navigate. Alexei, though far from well was able to sit up in a wheel chair. We hoped the trip might help him to get his strength more quickly, especially the thought that he was on the way to his Mother might prove a tonic. With this idea in mind we persuaded Dr. Derevenko to tell the Commandant that Alexei was able to travel. At once he was glad to comply with our wishes, since our condition was so wretched.

For some time in anticipation of this signal our suitcases had been packed. We had very few clothes with us. But Anna Demidova on behalf of Mother wrote to us from Ekaterinburg, that the medicine (meaning the jewels) should be packed carefully. General Tatishchev took the inventory; there were[Pg 260] not many pieces, but they were invaluable. The General estimated the value of the stones and other items at between three and four million rubles. He and Gillek (M. Gilliard) and Shura Tegleva took great care in placing them in our clothes, suitcases, and pillows. We were to carry these things with us. Some of the large stones had been removed from their settings in Tsarskoe Selo. Mother also had taken from her big trunk in Tsarskoe Selo a few small valuable laces, which she always supervised when the inventory of these priceless pieces was taken, usually twice a year.

It had now been three weeks since our parents had left and we had lived through all kinds of hardships. The night before we were notified that our departure was scheduled in the morning at 11:00 A.M. The guards were standing at each street corner, as they hurriedly whisked us through the streets to the dock.

On May 20th, 1918, we boarded the “Rossia,” the same boat that brought us to Tobolsk almost ten months before. No other boats followed us. We reached the steamer before noon, but not until late in the afternoon did we start to move. No one was allowed on the dock but in the afternoon people crowded on the river bank to see us depart. Some pressed handkerchiefs to their faces, some wiped their eyes with their long sleeves, some made crosses in the air or on their breasts. When the crowds grew larger we were told to get back into our cabins, which were damp and cold.

About an hour or so later, before our departure, we were allowed to come out on the upper deck. We recognized some familiar faces on the shore, but were puzzled not to see the Botkin children among the people. We could not later explain the reason to their father. Upon our arrival in Ekaterinburg, fearing for their safety, Dr. Botkin addressed a letter to Voykov in regard to their coming, but the sinner’s eyes were closed. Later Nagorny told us that one man had called out: “Lunatics, what are you doing to this innocent family? God will punish you for your brutality.” Rodionov, having heard[Pg 261] this remark, said to us, “Your friends called us lunatics.” They were lucky that the boat was sailing, otherwise not one of them would be alive now.

[Pg 265]



With us on the “Rossia” were General Tatishchev, Mlle. Hendrikova, Iza Buxhoeveden, M. Gilliard, Sidney Gibbs and Mlle. Schneider, who had once taught Russian to Mother and Aunt Ella; also Alexei Dmitriev, the hairdresser; Alexandra Tegleva, governess; Elizabeth Ersberg and Miss Tutelberg (“Tootles”) and Alexei (Diatka) Volkov, Mother’s groom of the chamber; valet Trup; Leonid Sidniev, Klementy Nagorny, Ivan Kharitonov, and others.

We were concerned about Alexei, so we went to his cabin and to our dismay we found that he and Nagorny had been locked up in the cabin for the night. Dr. Derevenko, too, was not permitted to see my brother. The Doctor and Nagorny protested such cruelty toward the sick boy. Rodionov shouted back, saying, “You will see who is running this boat.” Then after a series of curses in Russian and expressions in some foreign language, he continued: “I have orders to shoot anyone who resists.” No more could be said or done, and we were thankful that Nagorny was with him. We were not allowed to close our cabin doors. The trip to Ekaterinburg would not be long! We did so hope nothing would happen to Alexei now at the last minute. The spring air on the river Tobol—the little that sifted through our windows—was refreshingly sweet, though the cabins were raw and chilly. The next day they permitted us to sit on deck. We could see the shores were a fused iridescence of the early tree leaves; the stream was swollen and formed numerous little lakes. From our midstream view the world seemed tenderly beautiful. Could our world be tender? Was this a new beginning, or an end?

[Pg 266]

The guards armed with bayonets were everywhere, dampening any desire on our part to indulge in any kind of conversation. Whoever spoke to us had to raise his voice well above normal, speak in Russian only, and sit at some distance from us. We were happy when Alexei was allowed to be carried out on the deck in his wheel chair. He remained quietly in the sunshine; his eyes followed M. Gilliard whenever he left him for a moment. Alexei was very attached to this faithful friend and protector. He was afraid to talk for fear he might be locked up in his cabin again. He sat worried and forlorn, occupied with troubled thoughts. The little fellow realized the seriousness of his trip, he was obviously in deep agony. Our hearts beat painfully for him. We tried to play some games but none could concentrate. We spoke little for fear they might misinterpret our most innocent conversation.

On the second morning, May 22nd, we arrived in Tiumen. Here were more guards armed to the teeth, even with a machine gun. They were afraid of possible riots when we would disembark. There were crowds of people to see the arrival of the first boat of the season, or perhaps they were aware of our being on board. We waited on the boat several hours before we disembarked, then we walked from the landing, crossing the same tracks to the waiting train as we had done, in reverse, the previous year. A group of ladies threw flowers at our feet, but we did not dare to look in their direction. We saw they were wiping their tears with handkerchiefs. Many crossed themselves and others made a cross in our direction. Still others stood motionless except for their quivering lips. An elderly gentleman knelt down. Immediately a guard pushed him over, swearing at him in a mixed tongue. I felt ashamed to see such brutal disrespect for venerable years. This Russian gentleman was one of the old generation. I could tell by his posture and by the cut of his clothes. He had a familiar look; it seemed I had seen him before somewhere. Tatiana asked Commissar Rodionov if it would be possible to have Baroness Buxhoeveden and others with us. He grinned, saying “Panie, nyet” (lady, no).

[Pg 267]

We were exhausted and hungry. We had had nothing to eat since noon the day before, and still there was a long trip ahead of us to Ekaterinburg. Finally our brave Nagorny managed to get us a bottle of milk. I presume someone gave it to him and he rushed to give it to us. We sisters each had half a glass and the rest we saved for our brother. Then we were transferred to the train. One car was assigned to us girls and our brother. One side of the aisle was occupied by us sisters and Hendrikova, Buxhoeveden, Schneider, and Ersberg. On the other side were General Tatishchev, Alexei and Nagorny. We were not allowed to speak with those on the other side. Now Alexei was separated from his devoted teacher and protector, M. Gilliard. The rest of the suite, we understood, was in the car behind.

We did not dare to undress that night since the guards were pacing back and forth in the aisle and at each end of the car. They stood or sat continually guarding us as if we were criminals. The shades were pulled down all night, but several dim lights were kept on. We knew we were approaching Ekaterinburg when the guards spoke of Bazhenovo, a town near Ekaterinburg. At midnight the train stopped and we spent the rest of the night there on the train. We remembered Bazhenovo where, on our way to Tobolsk, we had stopped along the track. Father had told us that near here were the famous emerald mines.

About nine o’clock in the morning several men entered our car and said, “Please carry your own personal luggage.” The guards made no move to help us. Nagorny, heavily guarded, was told to pick up Alexei. Without a word he carried him off the train. It was raining and dark clouds were hanging over the area making a most depressing day. Some people stood near the road under the trees which had begun to show their green leaves.

Evidently the news of our arrival had leaked out. The guards loudly ordered the people to turn their backs toward us. We carried our heavy suitcases and other belongings. Olga had[Pg 268] been ill during the night and was still so dizzy she could hardly walk. She was unable to carry much. We feared she had had a heart attack that night but Dr. Derevenko, who was probably in the next car, had not been allowed to see her. Four or five carriages met us near the railroad tracks, I presumed in the outskirts of the city. I remembered passing Ekaterinburg the previous summer on the way to Tiumen. The railroad ran partly around the town; there were two stations. I think our train was stopped near the station where a demonstration on the part of the populace would be less likely.

Nagorny placed Alexei in the first carriage, then he ran toward us to give us a hand. He tried to reach for the heavy suitcase which Tatiana had carried with great effort in one hand, the dog and the blanket in the other, but he was brutally pushed aside. We struggled with our burdens in the muddy ground mixed with cinders; no one was permitted to come to our assistance. Our carriages with suitcases and a commissar in each followed the carriage bearing Alexei and Nagorny. While the rain continued, they raised the hood of the carriage in which I rode. In the carriage with me was a man whom I later recognized as Zaslovsky.

Sitting on the edge of the seat I could see that we had entered a broad avenue; shortly on the left I saw a church. Proceeding into another broad avenue, there was a chimney visible behind a wooden fence at the end of which the carriage stopped. I saw a short distance away another church. It was the view of this church that remained in my memory that day as I entered the Ipatiev House.

Trembling with fear we were eager to reach the premises. At the arch of some sort of a porte-cochere we stepped out from the carriage. It was 9:40 A.M. or perhaps a little later when we entered the Ipatiev gate. At the entrance stood Goloshchekin, the Commissar. Olga entered first and we followed her. As we entered the house, we were met by a rough-looking man who stood in the vestibule. From here we were escorted through a wide stairway and entered an anteroom and then passed into[Pg 269] another room which was the Commissar’s office. We each had to present, separately, our identity cards, each with its serial number and photograph of the bearer, taken in Tobolsk some time earlier. They showed the place and date of birth, surname, patronymic and family name, as well as our address at Tobolsk.

We found Father standing near the hallway at the foot of the stairway. He threw his arms around us. Then Alexei was placed in Father’s arms. Mother and Marie met us at the threshold. We sobbed in each other’s arms, but when Alexei was brought to Mother, she put her head on his chest and wept bitterly. “My baby, my precious one!” It was nice to hear again these words which had been missing in Tobolsk. Joy and sorrow mingled in that tragic reunion.

Mother looked pale, haggard, and prematurely aged. Even Marie had lost her glow. Father’s once clear blue eyes were circled with dark shadows and his hair was sprinkled with gray. His hands were thin and I noticed dark spots on them. “It is his liver,” Dr. Botkin said. Marie gave her bed to Alexei. In Father’s and Mother’s room were the three folding beds which had been brought from Tobolsk. We four sisters moved into one room.

Late in the afternoon, our cook Kharitonov, his helper Leonid Sidniev and the valet Trup were brought to us. They told us they had been questioned for hours. Their interrogators stripped them of their extra clothing and took some of their belongings. The interrogators had not forgotten the unpleasant incident which took place on the boat, where Nagorny exchanged angry words over Alexei’s being locked up overnight in his cabin. They told us that General Tatishchev, Countess Hendrikova and Mlle. Schneider had been arrested and taken away to prison. But they were unable to find out what had become of Dr. Derevenko, M. Gilliard, Buxhoeveden, Tegleva, Ersberg, Father’s valet Kirpichnikov and the others. Our money, including our household money, carried by General Tatishchev, had been taken away from him. Now we had[Pg 270] nothing left. Father wrote to Voykov asking of what these people were guilty to be sent to prison.

In spite of these unpleasant incidents we were glad and pleasantly surprised to have these few friends with us again. Mother was thankful to have these men, since Father’s old valet Chemodurov had been taken ill as a result of the trip from Tobolsk and sent to a hospital. On the day after our arrival it was our turn to be searched. Our suitcases were opened and ransacked. Fortunately we had brought with us little clothing. My shoes were almost worn out. While on the boat, Iza Buxhoeveden promised to let me have a pair of her own shoes. She wore size 4½, the same as I. But she was forbidden to give me hers.

The trunks which were shipped from Tobolsk reached the house but they were taken directly to the attic. We heard banging above the dining room and the sitting room. Evidently they had taken the keys to our trunks from General Tatishchev when they arrested him and were removing our belongings.

Several times they asked Olga to play the piano, which was in Commissar Yurovsky’s room. There we recognized our table linens, on one occasion a large one with the double eagle and the crown woven in it, and also one embroidered in the center with the double eagle and the crown. Commissar Yurovsky also helped himself to Father’s clothes which were much too tight and too short for him.

With all our troubles Olga became ill again with a nervous stomach disorder and suffered excruciating pain. Mother and Father and Marie had a small wardrobe when they first came to Ekaterinburg, but most of their clothes were in their trunks. One misfortune followed another in rapid succession. To add to our distress, Alexei knocked his knee against the bed while trying to get up. At first he fainted and after some minutes the pain became unbearable. An internal hemorrhage caused him untold suffering, with no immediate relief or medical help. Finally, after several letters to Yurovsky and pleading by Dr. Botkin, Dr. Derevenko was allowed to administer medical treatment.[Pg 271] Mother spoke to the doctor while he attended Alexei, but he gave no reply. The guards were at the door watching him. He looked pale and his hands shook. When he did not respond to Mother’s question, she realized that he was under strict orders not to speak to us. Mother was so upset by these events that she burst into tears. The doctor’s face turned red and he looked at her pleadingly. He gave her some lotion, salve, clean gauze and epinephrine as Tatiana took charge of Alexei. Dr. Derevenko saluted and left like a shadow or a dream that comes and goes. Tatiana was to apply the compresses of epinephrine to my brother’s knee. When the cotton was used up, she washed the gauze and saved it, and when that too was gone, she used Father’s old shirts or our old blouses. For weeks Alexei suffered. He lost a great deal of weight and became weak. Not only was his knee stiff, but this time both feet were partially paralyzed and one leg somehow became shorter again. Nevertheless, Dr. Derevenko was forbidden to take care of his young patient. We were not able to use the foam apparatus. The instruments were in a trunk in the hallway but were useless because most of the time there was no electricity and very little hot water. This was the only trunk that was turned over to us—because nothing was in it that those cruel men wanted.

It became apparent that the new life we dreamed of and the new hope that ran through us were being mocked at every turn. Restrictions and distrust teamed together to destroy our morale. We four sisters shared one bedroom. The first days we slept on the bare floor covered with blankets and a conglomeration of coats and cushions, as the house had been stripped of rugs and carpets. The floor was cold and damp. Olga and Tatiana became so thin their bones ached from sleeping on the hard floor. I was well padded then and felt less discomfort than the others. After a while we received heavy mattresses made of sacking stuffed with straw. These had to be turned over every day creating much dust and making my Mother’s sinus worse.

We sisters were frightened and agreed among ourselves that one of us should keep watch at night as we had done during[Pg 272] the last days at Tobolsk, lying down during the day on our parents’ beds to make up for lost sleep.

Marie described to us their treacherous trip from Tobolsk to Tiumen. As they were crossing the Irtysh River in tarantasy, the ice, which was many feet thick, began to break up with a thunderous noise, so much so that even the sharpshooters and officers who were escorting the family under Rodionov’s surveillance were frightened.

The horses struggled in the thick slush which came up to their stomachs. Unable to raise their feet they merely pushed the slush ahead of them. Large pieces of ice wedged between the wheels, causing the spokes to break. In front of Rasputin’s house, a crack like thunder was heard underneath and a huge block of ice heaved close to them. One of the horses fell and could not get up and it took the efforts of all the guards to lift him to his feet with the aid of a wooden plank. What Rasputin had predicted ran through Marie’s mind: that our family would visit his village and that our death would follow his death. When Mother saw that Marie was frightened, she tried to brace her up.

Horses had to be changed a number of times before Tiumen was reached. Father, Dr. Botkin, and Prince Dolgorukov got out and walked in the marsh to lighten the burden of the horses which were wet, steaming and foaming at the mouth. In the evening the party was put up at a peasant’s cottage where some tea and food was served. Mother’s clothes were wet; she was so cold that her teeth were chattering and her lips were blue.

After resuming their trip, Father recognized one of his generals going in the opposite direction, dressed in peasant garb. Their eyes met. Neither one spoke. During this trip Dr. Botkin became ill, but in spite of that they had to continue their trip during the night, because the river did not thaw as rapidly at night. Finally they arrived at a point near Tiumen early in the morning.

Here part of the ice had already melted near the banks of[Pg 273] the river, and it became necessary for them to put up a temporary bridge in order to cross the opening between the ice and the shore. Although it was early in the morning—just after daybreak—all kinds of guards were there to meet them, only a few of whom spoke Russian. The rest seemed to be foreigners. Under a heavy escort of soldiers armed with guns and hand grenades suspended from their belts, they were taken to the railroad station. Here they boarded a train. The entire party was seated in one car with Father, Mother and Marie on one side and the others on the other side. These included Prince Dolgorukov, Dr. Botkin, Chemodurov, Father’s old valet, Anna Demidova and Sidniev—once a footman to us girls. The family was not allowed to speak to any one of them.

For four whole days the train was shuttled back and forth by Yakovlev, who had charge of the family and was sympathetic to Father. He feared that when they reached Moscow, if Father should refuse to comply with their demands, the entire family would be killed. Father was puzzled at Yakovlev’s changes as to going or not going to Moscow. But soon the family recognized that Yakovlev was against those traitors in Moscow, but he was helpless, knowing that Father would not leave Russia, especially not leave his family to the mercy of these cruel men. The Germans were in control in Moscow and Father was convinced that all orders concerning our family came from Count Mirbach. Yakovlev’s purpose, therefore, was to forestall this. The train itself was even set on fire in order to give the prisoners a chance to escape. Father would not take advantage of this, as the rest of the family would have been held in Tobolsk as hostages. Soon thereafter Yakovlev received orders to proceed to Ekaterinburg. They spent Palm Sunday on the train.

As they were approaching Ekaterinburg a Commissar came asking for their papers. Father had only an identification card he always carried in his billfold of light leather embossed with a crown in gold. It bore his name, the date and the place of[Pg 274] his birth, his religion and marital status. It also indicated the issuing office: the Imperial desk. In addition he had the identification card that had been issued to him at Tobolsk, which contained his picture and the words: Nicholas Alexandrovich Romanov, ex-Emperor, Citizen, Tsarskoe Selo.

In Ekaterinburg a photograph of the whole party of five was taken by Commissars Sverdlov and Goloshchekin, both Jews. Near the station at Ekaterinburg the people on the street went down on their knees and kissed the ground on which my family passed. They were guarded by the same men who came with them on the train, plus some additional guards who now surrounded them. Upon entering the house each gave his name and was admitted, but when Prince Dolgorukov gave his name the Commissar said: “You are under arrest.” This beloved friend of many years with whom Father had played during his childhood, was now separated from them. Prince Dolgorukov pulled out of his pocket one of his general’s epaulettes which had been removed from his uniform in Tobolsk. He handed it to Father and said: “It came from my Emperor and I give it back to my Emperor.” There was no chance to shake hands. He saluted Father and said, “God be with You, Your Majesties.” He was taken away.... Father was so shaken by this incident, he wrote a note to Goloshchekin, who was in charge of all prisoners, but it was fruitless.

At two o’clock in the morning a great mob of people gathered outside the house. Several shots were fired. From the screams they knew some were killed. The guards then entered and made a thorough search of the house. They took Father’s money and Mother’s jewelry and stripped all the others, including the maid, of their valuables. Anna Demidova had all her savings with her and also jewelry given to her by the family over the years. A foreigner who spoke to Mother in German and to Father in French, although he understood Russian, was insulting. It was said that he was Yurovsky’s, Trotsky’s and Mirbach’s friend, and that he was sent to the Ipatiev House from Moscow as a connoisseur of antiquities for a Swiss firm. His name started[Pg 275] with “K”. Father resented this treatment and said that up to now he had been accustomed to deal with honest men, and that he did not need to be reminded by a foreigner that he was a prisoner not of his own people, but of traitors, convicts and foreign agents. It is unbelievable that such men could come into our country and wrest all power from the people.

The guards were Russians whose orders came from foreigners in Moscow. Even though most of the guards were ex-convicts, they could see the injustice that was being done. And sooner or later they began to be more lenient. But immediately the change in their attitude was noticed, they were replaced by new recruits.

Such was Marie’s account of their trip and stay in Ekaterinburg.

The arrival of Kharitonov, our chief cook; Trup, the valet; and Leonid Sidniev, the 14-year-old kitchen helper, cheered somewhat the gloomy atmosphere. When Dr. Botkin met us, he threw his arms around us and kissed each one of us, as if we were his own children. Tears filled his eyes. In less than a month he had greatly changed, as had all the others.

Father’s knuckles were swollen with arthritis. His kidney condition caused excruciating back pains. Mother’s hands too were swollen more than before and the lump on the index finger of her right hand was quite noticeable. She no longer could hold a needle in her fingers. All this was due to the very difficult trip from Tobolsk and the mental agony which persisted.

Dr. Botkin’s sad eyes forced a smile, beneath the swollen bags under them. His pastime was limited to reading. The dear man was anxious for news of his children, but we had none to offer, except a few indefinite rumors we had heard on the boat. In spite of the surrounding terrors, Dr. Botkin continued to reflect his intelligence, kindness and tenderness. Why should dear “Papula” be punished? I remember his children called him that. Commissar Yurovsky was especially abusive to him, Dr. Botkin wished his children to be brought to Ekaterinburg. He begged Commissars Avdiev and Yurovsky to[Pg 276] have this done but the request was denied. Fortunately, by not coming to Ekaterinburg, they escaped the tragedy that befell their father. This seemed so unnatural since Yurovsky was the father of three children, and the son of a Jewish rabbi. One would think that he would be kind to other children.

Up to now our parents had had their food prepared outside. But when Kharitonov arrived, he resumed his duties as our cook. In the beginning we were allowed fifteen minutes each day to walk in the small, muddy garden; soon the grass began to show signs of life and the fragrant lilacs began to bloom. We were permitted to take some violets and lilacs to Mother, but they had to be examined at the office before they were taken into our apartments. A few trees showed considerable abuse, as the horses had chewed off much of the bark on the white birch and poplar trees. We picked the blossoms of the linden tree, dried them and used them to make tea. There was always something fragrant in the garden; when the acacia was in bloom the fragrance seeped through the windows. Sometimes Mother went out with us in the yard, when Alexei was feeling better. After Nagorny was taken away and when Father was ill, Dr. Botkin or Marie carried Alexei down into the garden. One day when Dr. Botkin carried him, Alexei threw his arms around his neck and kissed this good friend on both cheeks in gratitude. During our walking exercises we were subjected to the watchful eyes of the guards. They all carried hand grenades in their belts. Some of these were good men, but none stayed more than a few days. Once we heard them say, “Where there are devils, there is Hell, and that is what we have now.”

Our window panes had been painted white outside, except for a tiny space at the top through which we could glimpse the blue sky. After a while Father wrote Yurovsky asking him to remove enough paint so that we could see the thermometer which was on the left side of the window frame outside. We saw nothing but walls, prison walls.

Alexei asked Father to request that M. Gilliard be returned[Pg 277] to us. This too was denied. Alexei also asked Father how long we would have to stay in this place. Father could not help but tell the truth, “It might be long.” Alexei never brought up that question again.

Sometimes at night shots would be heard; an agonized cry, then quiet. They searched our house again. We sisters were still without beds. They told us to set our clocks ahead by two hours. We had our breakfast at 12:30 noon. Kharitonov had to work not only for us and our staff but also for these terrible men. The odors of fish and other good-smelling things would drift to our rooms, but they were not for us. These foods were for the Commandant and the guards. We were given a thin fish soup or half-cooked veal cutlet at noon and a cold one at night. Father could not eat these things, so he went frequently without food. Mother’s meals consisted usually of spaghetti and tea, which little Leonid prepared for her over a small kerosene burner, because she refused to sit at the same table with those vulgar men. The guards ate at the same table with the family. For us, it was a question of eating the revolting stuff or starving while the guards lived off the fat of the land at our expense.

[Pg 278]


Every week Father was questioned in the Commissar’s room, while the guards stood by at the doorway of our rooms. One day Father returned very upset after being questioned for two hours. They showed him a war document, the “Orange Book” as it was called, from which a number of documents were missing and accused Father of destroying these documents and substituting a letter from the Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria, in which he wrote to Father that he did not wish to acquire any territory, but to die in peace in his old age. They ignored the fact that these documents had been held at the Ministry of War after they had been read by Father and the General Staff. Their suspicions were based on the assumption that it was impossible for the Emperor Francis Joseph to have written such a letter.

We had no privacy, not even the privacy of a prison. All the doors of our rooms had been removed before we arrived at the Ipatiev House. At any time of the day or night the guards or the Commandant would stalk into our rooms, without knocking. This occurred about every three hours for their check-up. The stench of liquor that flooded the rooms warned us of their approach. They sat on Alexei’s bed. They drank from our tumblers. They stuffed into their pockets anything that caught their eye. They came in twos or threes. By this time we had kept only our most treasured keepsakes, so whatever they helped themselves to was a real loss to us. But even precious things were worth losing if they would but leave us alone without this constant intrusion. They kept coming in[Pg 279] more often, flaunting their authority in our faces, joking at our expense, and toying with the veneer of our composure. By comparison, the first guards at Tobolsk were gentlemen. We could not believe these creatures were soldiers. They seemed too uncouth to have been in any service of the Army. At night their hideous brawlings reached us from their quarters below to fill us with disgust and terror. Dr. Botkin tried to intercede. He went to the Commandant and urged him to see that his men were less rowdy, but they continued to act as before. Father seldom spoke to the Commissars. Anything he needed he wrote down and handed it to his valet Trup to deliver to Yurovsky.

In cases of illness, Dr. Botkin took care of us on his own accord. We sisters at home were trained not to be familiar with anyone around us, and always to be reserved. Mother also spoke seldom to her help, except when giving orders; and yet she was very kind to those who were in trouble or in need. Mother was the first one to help them financially. And now when Anna Demidova lost all her belongings Mother promised to replace their losses to all who were in our service.

Once when Kharitonov was ill, we sisters undertook the task of preparing the food. One day a burlap sack of potatoes was brought to the kitchen. “Peel them,” said one of the guards. Potatoes! Something so real, so much a part of the earth, to hold in our hands. We fondled each one, breathing in its earthy smell; no perfume like it. We made a game out of paring and when we finished, there was only a small pile of peelings. It was a refreshing task. We assumed some of these would be for our meals, but no potatoes were served to us. We helped on another occasion in the kitchen, baking bread. Kharitonov was appreciative of our help, since he had lately been in poor health, and the task of cooking for so many, commissars and others as well as for us, was too much for him.

Twice a week two maids came in to care for our rooms. They cleaned, washed the floors and changed our bedding.[Pg 280] We helped them all we could and were glad to see the new faces about. We could not converse with them, because the guards stood at the doorway wherever they worked. We saw their frightened faces. We understood and they applied themselves to the execution of their strict orders. Upon entering our rooms and again on leaving they were searched. But somehow these women managed to tell us that some of our friends had been imprisoned and some shot.

Now we utilized a code using verses of the Bible. While the women worked, Mother or one of us sisters was told to read certain verses from St. John. We hoped the maids understood that she was to communicate with someone on the outside. The next time she came to clean she merely raised one or two of her fingers. We thought that someone had been interviewed and had suggested that we read Chapter 1 or Chapter 2. Another time we understood we were expected to read other chapters of the Bible. In that way we thought we were in touch with someone on the outside. We did this when conditions became dangerous. It was the only hope we believed might save us at the crucial moment. But if any of these messages reached anyone outside we did not know it.

We knew that food was being delivered to the house from the neighboring monastery every other day, for our family use. However, very seldom did any of this food reach us. The Commissars took most of it for themselves. During our meals Avdiev sat at our table and so did the guards. At such times the food was much better. Our few remaining servants felt uncomfortable sitting at the same table with us, and they asked Dr. Botkin to speak to Father about it Father made it easier for them by saying: “We are all in the same boat, and if we are to sink we might as well sink together.” They were exceedingly sympathetic and showed us more kindness. We could read the grief in their faces, but they were as brave as the rest of us. Trup and Kharitonov were approached by Voykov to cook for them at the club outside, a home of the Commissars. In spite of Kharitonov’s wife and a daughter being[Pg 281] in Ekaterinburg, both refused, and preferred to work for their old employers without compensation. In response to Mother’s anguished prayers, Alexei began to feel better now. One day, Yurovsky came in and said abruptly, “Alexei is better now. He does not need Nagorny any longer.” Poor Nagorny was taken away. This faithful Ukrainian had done no more than serve his young master faithfully. Also our young footman Sidniev was taken away.

What was left of our silver disappeared gradually, except for a few forks and spoons which we kept in our rooms. Most of our silver had been seized from us in Tsarskoe Selo during the Kerensky regime. Part of it was repurchased by my two older sisters from their savings and part was purchased by Count Benckendorff who gave it back to us.

At meal time these wretched guards monopolized the conversation with all kinds of jokes. Their table manners were atrocious and their appetites voracious. One of the guards leaned against Dr. Botkin to light his cigarette from the candle which stood in the center of the table. His sleeve got into the food, and I without a thought gave him my napkin. The man actually looked ashamed. But as time wore on, we thought we could notice an improvement in the attitude of the guards. Some became tolerant and a few were even friendly. During one of our walks in the garden one of these men spoke so that Father could hear him say, “How cruel and senseless to hold and abuse an innocent man.” This guard suddenly disappeared, as did others. Every day there were new arrivals to replace those who were being sent away, for showing sympathy for us, which no doubt worried Yurovsky.

At night we tried to create a homelike atmosphere by lighting candles on the table. These nourished our souls, even if the food did not nourish our bodies. But we were told to burn one candle at a time, or one kerosene lamp. So for a long time we did burn only one candle. Often we were compelled to sit in the dark or go to bed early. Electricity was off most of the time. There were promises that it would be fixed tomorrow,[Pg 282] but tomorrow never came and we never saw electric lights again.

Among our household dishes, Kharitonov had a box of gold candles. When the men searched the kitchen they became suspicious and melted some of the candles but found nothing.

Yurovsky had an office in the house. This consisted of an impressive desk and community bed covered with a military blanket, on which he and others took turns resting their troubled heads. The room, dirty and filled with cigarette butts, became a human pigsty. A samovar graced a table, many glasses of tea were consumed. A German newspaper rested majestically by the samovar. There was also a pointed knife with a black horn handle, a special culinary tool with which Yurovsky had proudly speared his cutlet at the supper table and expertly carried it straight into his mouth, profusely decorated with a curly, bushy black beard and mustache. In the corners of his protruding mouth there was an accumulation of saliva which never experienced a lonely hour. A dish with a mound of fresh butter was replaced as soon as it was finished. We long ago had forgotten the taste of butter. Since his last cold, the doctor had prescribed this diet for Yurovsky’s weak chest. This brute even looked for sympathy.

The table was covered with an elegant damask table cloth with a woven double eagle and a crown in the center. We also recognized Prince Dolgorukov’s handkerchiefs, presumably taken away from him during his arrest. His coat of arms displayed a hand holding an arrow. Dolgorukov means “long arm.”

Frequently the guards asked Olga to play the balalaika or the piano, for their amusement. Sometimes she played her own compositions. Father could but consent so long as the pieces were not construed to have a double meaning. Whatever the guards ordered we complied with, thankful for an occasional moment when they occupied themselves with something constructive. But when they insisted that Olga sing “We Abandon the Old Regime,” she stood up and in a firm tone said, “I will[Pg 283] not do it, even if you kill me.” Surprised they were at her courage. Once when she played Andante Contabule by Tchaikovsky, they screamed “No” at the top of their voices. “It is sad, play something else, please.” Then she played a war song, “He Died in the War Hospital.” “No, no, please stop it; it is sad too, play something else.” Cheerfulness they were seeking at the hands of those who long ago had forgotten the meaning of a happy mood. Father always stood at the doorway when anyone of us played or sang for them. But Mother was never left alone. This habit we had formed at Tsarskoe Selo. No matter what we did one of us remained with her.

It had become a regular thing to search our quarters, not so much for valuables, since by now they had already taken an inventory of them, as for possible means of escape. Each day there was a fresh excuse. They constantly suspected us of having something incriminating. They heard that we had guns hidden, they would say. No matter what the answer was, a whole troop of them would stalk in. Each day’s experience sharpened our detective powers. We could see without looking. Every time they stole we sensed it. We saw them take our silver spoons, pencils, soap and other articles. They removed everything they saw and slipped them up their sleeves. They took apart a picture with a heavy enamel frame with the excuse that the frame might have something hidden in it. Underneath they found a photograph of Mother’s beloved brother Ernest. With all the persecution she had feared to display her brother’s photograph. So she covered it with one of our pictures. They said nothing. Even we had not known that her brother’s picture was hidden underneath. They also took a gold chain with an icon which hung over Alexei’s bed. We never made any effort to stop them, nor did we give any sign that we saw. We ignored their thievery and curiosity since Father said: “We must not let them know how much they annoy us; soon they will grow tired and leave us alone.”

After much argument and after waiting for over two weeks, Dr. Botkin was able to persuade Yurovsky to have a window[Pg 284] opened in one of the rooms for ventilation. They unlatched two other windows, then accused us of unlatching them. We sisters moved our mattresses for the night closer to that window for a breath of air. Father’s and Mother’s beds were also moved closer to our room, where there was only one window open, and where near by was the guard booth. We felt sorry for Dr. Botkin, Sidniev, Trup and Nagorny. They had no privacy. They shared the same room with doors removed and at one end was the staircase which was used by the guards to go downstairs. The room had two opposite doors, one leading through a hall into one side and the other into the apartment on the other side; Nagorny and Sidniev had been taken away in the beginning of June before the heat became unbearable. Poor Kharitonov and little Leonid had slept in the hot kitchen.

Our days were irregular although we arose regularly at eight in the morning. Before breakfast we held a service and sang a prayer in our room. Father, Mother, Dr. Botkin and all the rest joined us for a half hour of prayer and meditation. These were the most pleasant moments of the day, because our friends were with us at this hour.

Mother worried more about Alexei, since he had grown steadily worse with the small amount of nourishment he had. Now all the supply of tissue-building ingredients was gone from his diet. The Commandant would not heed Dr. Botkin’s plea for the food necessary to his well-being—gelatine, vegetables and fruit. The saintly “Papula” (Dr. Botkin) begged Yurovsky to be generous to the sick boy, but to no avail. Father also wrote to Yurovsky, but this too was ignored by him. All this tension reacted on Mother’s heart. She had grown much weaker and her lips, when blue, warned us of a heart attack.

Father looked desperate, because he could do nothing to spare his children. We knew he himself could stand anything for Russia, anything but the persecution of his family. Only occasionally did his hopelessness come to the surface, though[Pg 285] he tried to disguise it from us. With us sisters low spirits rotated from one to another. Each lived for the other. Father knew everything that went on in our hearts and often told us what we were thinking.

[Pg 286]


It was a sad moment when we heard that Nagorny and Sidniev had been taken away. Without any notice they were ordered to get ready in a few moments time. Dr. Botkin told us that both men wanted to see us before they left. Nagorny said, “I am employed by my Emperor and I am going to see him.” But he was rudely pushed toward the stairway. Poor Leonid lost his only relative, his uncle Sidniev, who had devoted his life to this little orphaned boy. Now Leonid, the scullery boy, took the responsibility of taking care of our dogs. It was a great treat not only to Alexei but to the family to see someone who had been with us in Tobolsk. Leonid’s smiling face brought some diversion to Alexei, but Leonid too was a prisoner in the house, like the rest of us. The two boys played navy games with toy boats and so were able momentarily to forget the existing conditions surrounding us. Since Leonid was an orphan, Alexei’s ambition was to give him the best possible education and care for him as long as he would be in need.

Now that Nagorny was gone, Father himself carried Alexei down into the courtyard for his daily airing of thirty minutes. Father’s tenderness choked us afresh each time. All the time it was evident to us that Father was buckling under the weight of his own injured back. We had little heart to go out at all into a cheerful courtyard full of heartless men. The thirty minutes airing was hardly worth the strain on Father, but the fresh air was medicine to Alexei, until God would answer our prayers.

[Pg 287]

We did not take the wheel chair down into the garden. Mother wanted Alexei to walk a little each day. We took turns holding him under the arms; his legs were so weak they would have collapsed under him without support. Dr. Botkin thought that braces on both legs would help. The rubber had gone to pieces on the braces he had been using. Olga and Tatiana took stays, hooks, and other parts of our corsets and made two braces that hooked in front. Not having any rubber, they padded these with cotton placed between two pieces of cloth. These proved to be effective and Alexei was able to go outdoors wearing these braces under his trousers.

Once when we walked around the courtyard some birds made a commotion. In my mind I wondered if they came from the Crimea. One little fellow warbled on so eternally that we were lifted as by a religious service. From then on we listened hungrily, each songster seeming a harbinger of that world so shut away from us.

Now our walks were cut down to fifteen minutes. The time was so short that it seemed we were back in the house at the moment of leaving! Olga used to say, “Back into the vault.”

Mother seldom went out with us but, on our return, she eagerly drank in the sweet air that still clung to our clothes. There were a few ways left for us to amuse ourselves but these had grown monotonous. Our books, which had been taken away from us on our arrival, were now restored and we read them but our thoughts were far away.

Father read the Bible aloud, often starting on the page at which he opened the book. We girls had our tapestries, but the lack of yarn and the bad light caused us to give up working on them. Mother no longer sewed, her eyes being bad from the inadequate light of our lone candle. It was too much of a strain.

Alexei no longer had his toy soldiers, the guards having seized them some time earlier. Now he passed many hours cutting out paper soldiers with his little friend Leonid—lining them up in formation on the squares of a chessboard. We sisters[Pg 288] helped to design different uniforms and color them. Anything to help the boys forget the dreary hours. The guards leaned over the boys’ shoulders commenting on the play.

Father wrote Yurovsky requesting a priest to come and hold a service. After a long debate with Dr. Botkin, one of the Commissars came at last to inform us that, on the next day, a priest would come to hold a service in the house, the first one in Ekaterinburg. Mother was ecstatic. We selected our choice icons and, with the help of our friends, we put up in the sitting room a small altar, a table covered with a hand-embroidered cloth. With the coming of the priest and the service a little light crept into the Ipatiev House.

Just before the service began, Alexei’s bed was brought into the room. He had been suffering from the cold as well as from swollen hands and legs partially paralyzed from his knees down. Yurovsky leered at us from one corner of the room but we ignored him. The priest’s voice trembled. He was upset for fear of making a mistake, probably knowing the fate of Father Vassiliev in Tobolsk.

It was an inspirational day; the simple ritual, the chanting, the Communion and its consummation, our lips kissed the cross, and our souls feasted on the Blessed Bread. Exaltation swept through us and we soared to an enveloping oneness with God. Father read the Holy Scripture and we all sang. What a day it was!

After the service Mother said: “The priest and the deacon seemed so sad. Priests are in great danger these days. I pray they get into no trouble for coming to the house.”

Did the guards feel as we felt that day? They did not interfere with our taking Holy Communion. God’s hand was upon us and we felt safer. The world of prison and persecution was not real. We had glimpsed the real world, that world where our souls were filled and a new life flowed into our withering flesh. Mother kept repeating: “The Communion has been such a healer.”

Perhaps it was the influence of this Communion service[Pg 289] which gave us an inspiration. We girls put our heads together and wrote a prayer of seven verses, one for each member of the family. We memorized each verse completely so that we could destroy the written copy in order to keep the prayer to ourselves. We agreed that if we were ever separated, we could communicate with each other by using one or more of the verses as a sort of unwritten code. We were delighted with the idea and worked on its composition, each member contributing. Olga put the prayer together in its final form. Then we memorized it verse by verse. When everyone had mastered the prayer we tore into the tiniest bits the paper on which the prayer was written and disposed of them, a little at a time, every day. Six verses of the prayer follow:

Our Father of all men, Giver of our lives,
In our saddest, stormy hour of this day,
We stand at the Gate of our Lord,
Give Thy courage and nourishment to our innocent bodies.
Watch over us in the hour of our fate, bathed by our tears.
Almighty Father, though men may stain their hands in martyr blood,
Fill our hearts with forgiveness,
Grant Thy salvation to us—defenseless—
As we pray for the sickness of the souls who have gone astray.
O, Father in Heaven, light up the land of Russia.
Enlighten her way from darkness to understanding,
Stretch Thy Blessed hand over those in need of Thy help.
Lighten their sorrows and heal their wounds.
Almighty Father, breathe into us Thy power, Thy strength;
And when the storm breaks, grant us patience.
With prayers on our lips, numb the pain in our bodies;
With compassion, close our eyes with Thy blessed hand forever.
[Pg 290]
When we are no more, open Thy doors to the hungry spirits of our souls.
Guide them in a prayer to be worthy of Thy Kingdom,
And grant that we may receive Thy mercy on the day of judgment.
Blessed Father, Thou hast bestowed life upon us with the great power of Thy hand.
Grant that, when Thou takest our lives’ spirits to be born free again,
We may rest in peace in Thy heaven, O blessèd Father of all men.

[Pg 291]


Yurovsky was now getting worse than ever, especially when his men were nearby. He chose to ignore the insolence of his men when they caught us washing our glasses after they finished drinking out of them. Dr. Botkin again tried to intercede but, while Yurovsky pretended to be shocked, his attitude did not change.

The maid came and whispered that Nagorny had been shot a few days after he was taken away. She thought Sidniev too had been shot.

The Commandants continually fabricated that Father was in touch with the outside world, and that Father had written a letter to some person telling him how to get into the house. Father had no knowledge whatever of the layout of the house. From the day we entered the premises all of us, including Father, were confined to our quarters. We used the same stairway every time we went out or returned. We could not even see the street because the window panes were painted to make them opaque. We heard only the voice of the guard on duty in front of our window, who often sang obnoxious songs. There were two tall wooden fences surrounding the house, but we did not know their distance from each other.

Another day, Yurovsky and Goloshchekin told Dr. Botkin that both Father and Mother knew of an escape plot. Dr. Botkin answered firmly it was not true. It had been suggested to us in Tobolsk, but Father refused even to think of such a thing.[Pg 292] Then Yurovsky said that we had been communicating with our friends. For some time our parents were puzzled but, after learning that every move they made and every letter they wrote were known to the authorities in Moscow, they realized that they were being betrayed. There was nothing incriminating in their letters that were sent from Tobolsk through Markov and Soloviev. They were not censored by Colonel Kobylinsky. However, Mother complained in those letters about the leaders selling out Russia to the enemy. She also expressed her harsh feelings toward the traitors and the crooked foreign policy that centered in Moscow and said that Father would stand firm no matter what the consequences might be.

One morning Yurovsky and Voykov appeared with some papers. After making themselves comfortable in our sitting room, they called Father’s attention to photostatic copies of the letters that Mother had written to Anna Vyrubova and other friends in Tsarskoe Selo and Petrograd. There were some letters written to us from Mlle. Fredericks and Mme. Sukhomlinova, the wife of a former Minister of War. These were carried to and from Tobolsk by Soloviev, husband of Matriona, Rasputin’s oldest daughter, who was selected for this mission by Anna Vyrubova.

There were also letters purportedly in Mother’s handwriting but which she did not write. Voykov said: “You thought Anna, Yaroshinsky, Markov and Soloviev were your friends. We have photostatic records of all the letters and activities in Tobolsk.” Father glanced at the photostatic copies, recognized Mother’s and Anna’s handwriting. His face turned white and the “Otsu mark” on his forehead became red.

To explain this “Otsu mark”: Before his marriage, Father had made a tour around the world and, on the last lap of his journey, while in Japan, the Emperor invited him to visit a temple where no Christian had ever set foot before. Father rode in a ricksha, followed by Prince George of Greece and many other rickshas. The road was lined on both sides by the police. At the end of the line the last policeman struck Father with[Pg 293] his sabre on the head close to the hair line. Father was saved by his hat, and the second blow cut his arm with which he covered his face. At this moment Father jumped down and ran into a store blinded with blood, still followed by the madman. Then Father ran out of the store pursued by the would-be killer. At this moment Prince George overtook the latter and knocked him down with his cane. The police became confused and clashed sabres among themselves. Fortunately the examination by his private physician showed that the wound was not serious, but it left Father suffering from frequent headaches and with a permanent scar. The family called it the “Otsu scar” or “Otsu mark”.

We two younger sisters also knew Yaroshinsky. He was a rich banker and during the war, he financed Marie’s and my hospital in Tsarskoe Selo. Once he told Marie and me, while at the hospital office, that he had come to Russia with his poverty stricken Polish parents to work in the mines. Marie remarked later, “But where did he get all the money?” However, the conversation had come to an end.

Mother warned Anna to be careful about whom she was sending to Tobolsk. Moreover, she warned her to destroy all our letters and not to involve people not known to us. Anna failed to heed those warnings and in the end Mother died with a feeling of bitterness toward her well-meaning but careless friend. We knew Anna did not do it intentionally but from stupidity.

Yurovsky was right. We had been betrayed. Poor Father had had no part in it. It was clear to us then that the leaders in Moscow knew of Father’s firmness, but Yakovlev, who was in charge of Father on the train, felt that if Father came to Moscow, he might be persuaded to compromise with the leaders—Mirbach, Ludendorff, Lenin, Kamenev and Trotsky. My Father never would have done anything to harm his people. Father made Yakovlev understand that he could expect no appeasement from him; that he would rather have his right hand cut off than sign anything that would harm Russia. He[Pg 294] also told Yakovlev that he was prepared to sacrifice his life for his country. Yakovlev, Father said, had telephoned Moscow of Father’s stubbornness. They knew that Father was dangerous to them and that his people wanted to have their Emperor back on the throne. They decided that Father’s presence would ruin their negotiations and that the best thing to do would be to keep him in Ekaterinburg. Yakovlev however had disobeyed the orders from Moscow and kept the train that carried Father shuttling back and forth for four days till they were finally detained in Ekaterinburg. Yakovlev had given Father to understand that he himself was against the foreign invaders and the traitors.

The Emperor and his family were clearly not their own masters—they belonged to Russia. He was the father of all Russia and the children were the children of Russia. He tried to impress his family to be simple and not to show importance and conceit, but to be humble and kind toward the people and serve them in good faith.

It was decay and disunity that poisoned and divided the people from the Emperor and split the Imperial family into factions. It was not a cyclone that ripped apart and ravaged the Empire, but a disaster and robbery planned from abroad years before by insidious men, and when the first opportunity presented itself, they struck a deadly blow to this great Slavic Empire. How many other great ancient empires suffered the same fate—Egypt, Babylon, Persia, Rome, and others. It was an epoch of short-sightedness on the part of the people who were not able to see with their own eyes what the Emperor and Empress saw, and failed to recognize the accomplishments they had achieved for Russia. But they looked blindly in trust to the very ones who were murdering their country before their very eyes.

It was hard for the Emperor and his family to die, but it was even harder for him to die with the knowledge that his death was also the death of Russia. He could have saved himself and his family by signing the disastrous treaty of Brest-Litovsk,[Pg 295] but not he; he could not do this to his country, the land he loved beyond all measure. He would not do it, even in the moment of the greatest personal danger. He never broke his fidelity to the oath that he took on the day of his coronation, and he carried this heavy load on his shoulders, courageously and uncomplainingly, for more than twenty-two years. Many people do not see or do not want to see the full extent of those demoniacal days; neither do they see the grandeur of the deeds performed by this great man, the Emperor Nicholas II.

Many thought that the Emperor was not powerful enough to bear the Russian crown. The world did not realize the strength it took to carry this burden of representing innumerable races. That alone would have broken the stamina of any ordinary man. The Emperor was made a constant victim, but the strength, loyalty, and superhuman power which made up this man, in contrast, were lacking in his contemporaries.

Those who really knew Father would readily admit that his predominant characteristics were fearlessness, kindness, honesty, loyalty and firmness. When he knew he was right, he stood by his convictions. He was often called the “Stubborn Tsar.” He disliked gossip and idleness and refused to listen to those who warned him against his enemies and spies.

An officer who later helped me escape from Russia told me the names of several officers who were involved in actions against Father. There were some good names; one was the son of a high Finnish statesman appointed to his position by Father. The son was an officer and was a coward; he feared being wounded. He received money from the Germans to help in the attack against my Father.

I knew Father for seventeen years of my life, especially closely during our imprisonment, when we were together almost every minute of the day. His refusal to save himself and his family at the expense of Russia should be proof enough of his strength and character. When Moscow pressured him,[Pg 296] Father with deep emotion said, “My family and I will never agree to what they ask me to do, no matter what happens. Anything they have to say, they should say to me and leave my family out of it. They have taken everything away from them, their youth and freedom, but none of them will yield to German spies and convicts who do not represent Russia, and will never forsake the Russian people.” Father suspected the final outcome. He knew Moscow’s intentions of discrediting him before his people, but he stood firm in his refusal. Even in the hour of danger, he respected his high morals and obligations. Most of the conversation was conducted through Dr. Botkin. Father seldom came in contact with these men. It may have been during these conversations that Dr. Botkin said to Father, “When I needed your help you were very kind to me, and I have made my mind up never to leave you as long as I am needed.”

Now all the hope of freedom vanished, and I often in despair pressed my body against the damp wall that held us prisoners, wondering if ever we would see the sunshine break through this wall again.

[Pg 297]


After the incident with Yurovsky over the intercepted letters, almost overnight Mother’s hair turned white. She became weak and could hardly walk without leaning on someone’s arm. Even when prayer bolstered her spirit, her hands shook and her voice faded into a whisper. For one month she suffered untold agony, refusing to believe that we had been betrayed. Yet she said, “It is God’s Will.” In these words we could sense her craving for the Holy Communion which brought her the calmness of God’s spirit. Father would look at her and turn his face aside so that his falling tears would not be seen. It was his quiet way of bearing himself that carried along the rest of us. He dropped his head, but not for long. Once more he would hold himself erect, determined to look beyond these cruel conditions to the time when Russia would once more believe in him and repent. For each other’s sake we tried again and went through each day with renewed faith in God and hope for the morrow.

Here we never went out to Church. The priest came to us only twice. Whatever services we had, we held them ourselves. Mother read aloud from the Bible; the rest of us chanted the prayers. We had our own service every day. The comfort of the homemade service lifted us all and gave us satisfaction. Morning, noon and evening we refreshed our faith in God. Religion was our nourishment, especially to Mother. There is no book as precious as the Bible and nothing will ever be able to take its place. It is the Word of God and will never die. Even the hovering guards listened in quiet, their heads bowed. We were astonished.

[Pg 298]

At last the hard shell of the guards began to crack and out of the cracks oozed a crude shame. In their rough way they tried to atone for their treatment of us. They extended pity when all we wanted was to be left alone. They even gave us some of that by lessening their intrusion into our privacy. Mother called it victory—an answer to our prayers. But when it was discovered that they were becoming lenient, they were, much to our sorrow, promptly removed. The last part of June or the beginning of July they were replaced by the toughest, lowest crew imaginable. These men were beasts. We tried submissiveness, courtesy, but to no avail. When they saw the comfort we derived from our daily services they took away our Bible. But they could not take away our faith. Mother said, “This is another test. Is there not enough of Christ in us to do without the Bible?” But Mother was more shaken than I had ever seen her as she said this. Father looked at the guards and accepted the humiliation.

The men were so unshakeable and cruel. Now we no longer saw or heard them. Their inhuman treatment had built a wall around us, a wall of fear, hard and dark on the outside, soft and mystical inside. We became a world apart, detached from mundane things. Our bodies touched the ground, but our souls were far above in God’s world. Each day of persecution lifted us higher. We were helping Christ to carry His burden. We were marked to suffer, for Russia.

In our last days our privacy was so uncertain we never wholly undressed. The men were there with a repulsive curiosity. Instinctively we drew our skirts aside as one draws away from vermin. The new guards were not Russian at all. We heard every kind of language: Polish, Latvian, Hungarian, German and Yiddish. In the dining room, carelessly thrown on the table, we saw German newspapers which we did not touch. The guards were ready for any trouble, their expressions were filled with accusations.

Yurovsky took a fiendish delight in drawing the family into conversation. The evil in his soul came through, to scar his[Pg 299] face. We wanted to hold ourselves aloof but we did not wish to anger him. His mouth was always full of saliva and every time he spoke we feared it would fly out at us. Yurovsky, Sverdlov, Goloshchekin and Medvediev with four Letts and Hungarians searched the entire house. They pulled out all our suitcases, books and pictures and examined every nook and corner, and by the time they were through searching, the house was in complete disorder.

Father read a great deal in order to get his mind off the humiliating surroundings. He wondered if we could memorize such and such a passage, hoping thereby to relieve our nervous tension. He still believed that the fate of our family and Russia was in God’s hands. His belief was a great comfort to us, and helped to carry us through the dark nights. At length our Bible was returned to us.

Yurovsky came into our quarters one day with a cigarette in his mouth. As he stood in front of us, he pulled out a match from his pocket, struck it on the sole of his shoe and lighted the cigarette. It was not hard to recognize it as one of Father’s gold-tipped, Russian double-eagle cigarettes. These cigarettes were made especially for Father by Benson and Hedges with his name on them, but Father had not used many of these during the war. Yurovsky wanted Father to see him smoke this long, slender aristocrat of cigarettes, hoping to hurt his feelings. When he finished smoking he left the gold-tipped butt on the ashtray for us to see. We girls also noticed he wore some of Father’s clothes, probably taken from the trunks in the attic. His appearance was always untidy, no matter what he wore, and his shirt was always open at the neck. From his bushy, black eyebrows he looked out sideways, never straight into one’s eyes.

To our horror we were not allowed to lock our bathroom door, so we went in pairs to wash, one of us always stood near the door for fear that someone might walk in. Near the bathroom there was a stairway leading downstairs, at the head of which there stood a guard, all eyes. One day while Marie and[Pg 300] I were crossing the hall, I noticed something shining on the floor and picked it up. It was a key with the inscription, “Made in U.S.A.” We wondered if there were an American in the house, perhaps for the purpose of saving us. Mother thought she had heard some one talking in English, but she was not sure.

Yurovsky was an assumed name. He and many others had changed their names so as to attribute their crimes to the Russian people. There is no doubt that many Russians were involved in crime but when the character of the revolution was revealed and much Russian blood had been spilled, then it was too late for those who supported the revolutionists to repent. The revolution was a foreign importation of Lenin and Trotsky—it destroyed the soul of Russia. They attacked the churches and smeared the altars with human blood, those altars that had stood there since Byzantine times. This beautiful religion, “The Eastern Church”, our forefathers had adopted while persecution of the Christians was still practiced.

Many of those of varying backgrounds who took a leading part in the revolutionary movement in Russia were poisoned by German propaganda. Germany, I have heard, spent many tens of millions of dollars of Russian money to promote the Revolution; this money was made available to them for the care of the Russian prisoners of war. Instead they used the money to overthrow Imperial Russia, while our warriors were starving in dirty barracks.

Father was accused of being instrumental in the Jewish pogrom in the Ukraine. The fact is Father did not know about it at all until one of the Grand Dukes, while on his way to the Crimea, heard of it and telephoned Father. Immediately the Preobrazhensky regiment was dispatched by special train, and other military forces and police were sent from Bendery to quell these riots. Jews were not the only casualties of these disturbances. Other nationalities such as Bulgarians were taken for Jews, and some were killed. The pogrom was touched off by the following incident. A small boy was seized allegedly by Jews. A Jewish sect at that time, in its ritual, believed in sacrificing a Christian and taking his blood. For this purpose they took the boy who was without stain. The veins on the boy’s body were cut in many places from which blood was taken. From this torture he died. When the boy was not found someone reported hearing a scream. A storekeeper placed the boy into a nail barrel and carted it away to a field. There he was found dead with bloody nails imbedded in his body. The barrel was traced to the storekeeper. The discovery of the crime marked the start of the pogrom. This incident was told to us children by our friend Dr. Vatrik, the famous surgeon who came occasionally to the palace to care for Alexei during his illness. According to another account the boy was not seized by Jews, but by one of his relatives.

ca. 1911



ca. 1906

ca. 1916

ca. 1960



ca. 1938



ca. 1944



ca. 1913

ca. 1934


ca. 1934



ca. 1913


ca. 1913-14


ca. 1914


ca. 1960

ca. 1928

ca. 1929




ca. 1936



ca. 1938


ca. 1913

ca. 1934

ca. 1914


ca. 1934


ca. 1913

[Pg 301]

The Imperial family never hated the Jews. Jews were received in all military hospitals with the same care as any other men during the war. Many Jews fought heroically for Russia and died on the battlefield. But many did everything possible to escape being taken into the army, by crossing the border to the Austrian and German side, where they were placed over Russian prisoners of war and caused them untold suffering. Father did more for the Jews than any Emperor before him. My parents always advocated the principle of freedom of religion.

Count Benckendorff and several others connected closely with my family from the time of Grandfather’s reign were Roman Catholics.

A new commissar arrived from Moscow, and Father was questioned several times in the next few days. The Commissar hinted at the possibility of freedom to leave the country, if Father would consider signing certain documents. Father vehemently rejected having anything to do with Moscow. He made it clear that he had nothing more to say.

Father once asked us, after he returned from one of these talks, if we children would accept freedom in Germany or stay and suffer. We all agreed to stay in our country. He seemed[Pg 302] pleased at this mutual feeling. Soon afterwards new guards arrived and our situation became worse, almost unbearable. These heartless men made us understand that their duty was to cause us every kind of humiliation and deprivation.

One afternoon Voykov came and demanded to see our jewels. They searched the house many times. Finally he picked Mother’s engagement ring—a large ruby of a beautiful color, actually a red diamond, probably the only one of its kind in the world. When Father was about eighteen years old, various jewelers in St. Petersburg began to search for rare stones. Bolin, the well-known jeweler, found this diamond and Father purchased it from him to be made into an engagement ring for his future bride. Voykov took this ring as a souvenir, he said, and wore it on his little finger. Father could do nothing but forget the loss. Voykov was still wearing the ring when we saw him again a few days before the tragedy.

On another day, this man again came into our living room without warning and began a long discourse about Ulianov (Lenin) and Pilsudski. He claimed that these two would soon be regarded as the world’s greatest men. Father made no reply but picked up a book and began to read. When Voykov continued his assertions, Father agreed with him saying that no doubt what he said was true.

[Pg 303]


On Saturday, July 13th, 1918 (new style), we made our final decision, after Father was questioned for the last time. Now Yurovsky and Voykov pretended to have a special interest in Alexei. We feared they might take him to Moscow, so that Father would be forced to yield to their demands. Father said they would have to kill him first before they could touch any of his children. They knew that Father meant every word of it. Those heartless men got into Alexei’s room, sat on his bed and watched him cut out his soldiers. They kept up a rapid-fire conversation, even though Alexei was annoyed. We wondered if they were trying to gain my brother’s confidence in order to poison him. So we warned Alexei not to eat anything they might give him.

Yurovsky, unlike other Commissars, constantly followed us. We were conscious of his presence and could not ignore him. He was surrounded with guards mostly of foreign origin whose breath reeked with alcohol, though he himself did not appear to take any. He told Dr. Botkin he had had pneumonia a year before and since then his doctor forbade the use of alcohol. We felt that the new guards were dangerous men.

One of them, a German or Austrian, whose name was Mebus or Nebus, said he was sent by Trotsky to search the house. He must see everything of value. He rifled through every drawer, suitcase, bed and mattress and cushion. Among the medicine bottles they found one bottle with Persian grey powder. They took the bottle, saying that it was dynamite. Dr. Botkin was present when they sent this dangerous explosive[Pg 304] to be analyzed outside, in spite of his explanation that it was a powder prescribed for Mother to be used in a vaporizer for her sinus trouble. Shortly thereafter it was returned, having been found by the chemists to be a harmless powder.

After his initial haul, Mebus returned, saying he had been searching in the bathroom, and announced that he had found some bullets wrapped in a woman’s garment, also some guns hidden under something, God knows where. We saw that the garment in question was a blouse belonging to one of us sisters, probably taken from the trunks in the attic, but we had not seen these trunks nor the garment since we left Tobolsk. The keys of these trunks and our money had been entrusted to General Tatishchev, but upon our arrival in Ekaterinburg we were separated from him. The Commissars probably confiscated the General’s belongings and thus found the keys, which they must have recognized as ours by special markings upon them.

We did not know where the entrance to this attic was. As to the blouse, it was originally sent to us in Tobolsk by Anna Vyrubova. Nebus or Mebus came in with the blouse, accompanied by a Commissar named Horwath, a Hungarian, and by four or five others who spoke German. When we heard them saying “Kishason” (lady), we knew they were Hungarians. One of these men wore an open shirt, and from his neck hung a black cord, a cross and a small square bag of soiled white cloth with something in it.

Thousands of these prisoners of war had willingly joined the Cheka, some for political reasons, others for religious reasons—or lack of them—and still others for loot. Horwath’s companions also included two Jews named Beloborodov and Goloshchekin (they had adopted these names). They fixed their eyes on our icons with a remark to which we did not reply.

That same afternoon Yurovsky, Beloborodov, Goloshchekin and Horwath walked through our rooms, demanding that we place all our jewels on the table. At this time we wore only[Pg 305] our gold baptismal crosses and silver rings with an inscription “Save and Protect us”. We were afraid not to expose everything, especially with eyes fastened on us girls so suspiciously. They made no effort to examine our travelling clothes and for that we were thankful. They took everything they saw. Yurovsky with the help of others made a list of every item, then gave Father a copy—a scrap of paper—as a receipt, signed by all four thieves. He asked Father to value each item. Father said, “They have great sentimental value to us, since many of them are gifts from my wife’s family and her grandmother—Queen Victoria—and from myself.” Yurovsky asked: “But how much would such a piece cost if purchased today?” Father answered, “I am not a jeweler by trade, I cannot put a value on them.” Their grasping hands trembled when they took our treasures and placed them between layers in a cushioned bag. Later by searching the dining room and among the household things they found some gold-coated candles. They became suspicious and melted some but, to their disappointment, found nothing in them. The clinking of glasses in the office that evening kept us awake until long past midnight. No doubt the jewels were disposed of before our eyes were closed. These stolen and now blood-stained treasures were sold in foreign lands and are no doubt now adorning various ladies in many countries.

Early in the evening of this Saturday, Yurovsky stood excitedly at the door of our parents’ bedroom and said, “Nicholai Alexandrovich, your request is granted. The priest will be here tomorrow to conduct Sunday services.” The same evening we gathered some icons and, with the help of Father’s valet, a table was prepared in the middle of the rear wall and covered with a long white towel. We got everything ready for the next morning and prayed that there would be no unpleasantness between these godless men and the priest.

Sunday morning, July 14th, arrived and as we assembled in our room, Yurovsky came in and asked if we were ready. “Right, we are,” said Father. One of us sisters wheeled Alexei’s chair into the room. He gazed happily around with[Pg 306] a greeting to the little group of a few friends who waited for us to enter the big room. However, a mistake had been made in this service. In his note to Yurovsky, Father had requested a service called “Obiednya” at which Communion is administered. We were all surprised to find that “Obiednitsa” was being conducted at which no Communion is administered. It is a service that is held for the dead.

Father asked Dr. Botkin to check with Yurovsky, because he had requested a Communion. Yurovsky motioned to the priest, saying, “A Communion is requested.” Evidently Yurovsky knew that the service for the dead was meant for our own funeral service. No doubt Father must have known that the tragedy was near because he requested the Communion. While the priest made his preparations and covered the wine chalice with a fine embroidered cloth, Yurovsky made an attempt to take the chalice from him to see what was in it. Father Storozhev jerked the chalice away and in a trembling voice shouted, “I will not let you touch this Holy Sacrament with your hands.” The priest stood some distance from us, since we were not permitted to have confession in the usual way. He raised the cross and said, “God shall forgive your sins.” We went to our knees in tears as Yurovsky stood aside watching us. We sisters were weeping throughout the entire service, and, as our hearts were only human, we could not chant during this service. We arose; the priest held the cloth over the chalice and administered the Holy Communion to us, while the deacon sang the creed.

Father Storozhev had brought the usual prosphora—the small biscuit which is given to each communicant—but Yurovsky insisted on breaking each of these into pieces to make sure there was nothing hidden in them. Dr. Botkin and others who until now had maintained their composure broke down. A napkin was brought and the prosphora was broken into pieces by the priest, and the service was concluded. In this dimly-lighted room a rite so divine and profound in our moment of solitude gave us a secret hope in our hearts. After the service[Pg 307] Father kissed on both cheeks, according to Russian custom, the few remaining friends—Dr. Botkin, Trup, Kharitonov and the little Leonid. Mother and we sisters kissed Anna Demidova, our faithful maid.

Mother gave her hand to Dr. Botkin; he bowed and kissed her fingertips. All noticed that on his face was a strange expression. He was nervous after hearing the prophetic words being sung “Peace to the Soul.” He kissed us children on both cheeks, while tears fell from his eyes and remained between his glasses and the bags beneath his eyes.

Dear Papula, how he suffered beyond measure for his loyalty to us. His face always brightened whenever he saw me. I always engaged him in a conversation. Somehow he felt closer to Alexei and to me than to our sisters. At the end this good man became bold, in spite of his frailty. He was somewhat older than my Father. At that time Father was fifty years old and Mother forty-six. There was a unity and peace among us. Father said, without bitterness, “A great crime is being committed, but I feel we have been true to ourselves and to Russia. The Russian people have been betrayed.” Olga, who could say things so beautifully, added from her tender heart, “The Russian people have been hypnotized and one must not judge them by the present. They are good people.” Dr. Botkin added, “Be true, do not fear, in a minute all will pass.” We were startled at his words, and we wondered afterwards whether he realized the full meaning of what he was saying. He must have known of our destiny.

In spite of the hostile actions of Yurovsky and his accomplices throughout Father Storozhev’s service, we felt we had been enfolded by God and filled with power to ignore the brutality of the guards. When they came into the sitting room while Father was reading aloud, one of us stood up, so that they might see as little as possible.

On Monday, July 15th two maids came to clean the rooms as usual. Obviously they were frightened and seemed anxious to deliver some message to us, but the guards’ presence everywhere[Pg 308] prevented any communication. On the same day, Yurovsky brought his associates to the house. These included Voykov, Goloshchekin and Jacob Sverdlov who were comrades of Lenin, Trotsky, and other international conspirators. We saw these four and others in the house all day long; they followed us even into the garden, when we went out for a fifteen minute walk in the afternoon. Once Sverdlov said to Father that when the festivities of the Three Hundred Year rule of the Romanov Dynasty were celebrated in 1913, he was ready to blow up the whole Imperial family with a bomb. Father replied, “What kept you from doing it? I probably would not be here today nor would my family be.”

On Tuesday July the 16th, the young kitchen boy, Leonid, who used to come to play with Alexei for an hour every day, had no sooner arrived than a guard announced that Leonid’s uncle, Ivan Sidniev (our former footman) had come to see the boy. The little fellow jumped to his feet and happily said, “Oh, please forgive me, I shall be back.” We knew right then, it was some sort of trick. When he did not return and Father inquired why, he was told, “Tomorrow he will come.”

On the 16th also, Alexei got up, though his cold was worse, due to the hot water treatments for his swollen hands and feet which were still partially paralyzed. In the afternoon, we took him into the small garden where he was able to walk a little, but had to be carried down the steps. We all went out except Marie, who remained with Mother who had not been out for several days.

While we were in the garden a pigeon flew toward the porch, frantically flapping its wings. Then it flew to the other side of the house, where we were not allowed to walk. Upon our return Mother to our surprise told us that a bird flapped its wings on her bedroom window and she could see only a fluttering shadow of a bird’s wings in the window glass which was painted white. Then she said, “At the coronation we were presented with two birds; and, as you remember, during the Three Hundredth Anniversary a pigeon flew inside the Cathedral[Pg 309] when the service was held; and today a bird came into the picture again.”

Some time before the tragedy Dr. Botkin was sent by Yurovsky to ask Mother if she wished her sister Ella to come to see her and that, if so, Yurovsky would arrange her transportation. Mother at once wrote to her sister to say that we were looking forward to her arrival.

Very late that afternoon, Father and the rest of us were asked by Goloshchekin and Yurovsky to write letters to our friends and relatives here and abroad to the effect that we were in the far North, in Sweden, and that we were quite happy in our new surroundings. Olga angrily replied, “If we get there, we will write to our friends from there and not from here.” Dr. Botkin had written such a letter or letters under pressure since he feared for the lives of his children. He said he had written one to Madame Elizabeth Narishkina and one or more to his children hoping they were still in Tobolsk.

Evidently those men wanted the world to believe that we escaped at night and were hiding somewhere in the wilderness and that our friends after receiving such letters would be satisfied that we were safe. In this way they wanted to hide their crime from the people. While Father was reading, suddenly he turned to us and said, “It is exactly twenty-seven years this month (July 1918) since I returned from Japan and that is the icon which was presented to me in the Government of Ufa upon my arrival there.” It was from the Government of Ufa that Father’s train was returned a few weeks earlier to Ekaterinburg. Someone commented that it seemed weird that Father suddenly at this time should remember that unpleasant event which took place in Japan, where he almost lost his life.

In the evening Yurovsky walked into our sitting room startling us. Jemmy, my little dog, charged at him, snarling. She had never acted like that before. I called her back, but it was too late. Yurovsky grabbed her by the neck and carried her away, saying, “Who brought this dog up here?”

Yurovsky reappeared as if nothing had happened and began[Pg 310] talking, though no one heard what he said. Our only thought was, “What became of Jemmy?” No apologetic attitude crept into his affability. He continued to talk and to toy with my frightened stupefaction. Then he walked to Alexei and sat on his bed as if they were on the most intimate terms. He pulled out a revolver and handed it to brother saying, “Do you want to see an American automatic?” “No,” replied Alexei. No doubt all the warning given against the man leaped into the boy’s mind. He did not want to take it but Yurovsky thrust the weapon into his hand. “Is it loaded?” asked Alexei. Father stood up next to Alexei and said, “Please leave my son alone, he is not well.” Ignoring Father’s request Yurovsky answered, “It is not loaded now, but it will be.” Alexei became frightened as he held the pistol and Yurovsky regarded him with amusement.

At last Yurovsky went out. Mother with trembling hands picked up a book as we gathered around while Father read aloud. He let the book open itself and read: “Let us take courage and be strong, look straight with our spiritual eyes up to Christ.” Then again he read: “Do not fear those who kill the body, but those who wish to kill the soul.” It may not be exact but as I remember it went like that. His voice was hardly stronger than a whisper. We could hardly hear him over the drunken shouts that shrieked through the house from the guards’ quarters. Mother bent her head close to the window and listened in bewildered absorption. Her cheeks turned somewhat red, she looked around and smiled. Finally she said, “I hear the beautiful Ave Maria so clearly, just as if it were being played in this very room.” We strained our ears again but could not hear what Mother claimed she was hearing.

I tried desperately to lose myself in the quotation which Father had just read, but Jemmy kept coming to my mind. I was afraid they had killed her. Father said, “Most of the Russian people usually are kind to animals.” Those were comforting words, but was Yurovsky a Russian? I was depressed with the thoughts about Jemmy, added to the off-key singing of the[Pg 311] guards downstairs. Mother also noticed that they seemed unusually noisy this night, and they were drinking entirely too much. Father laid the book down and said: “The best thing we can do is to go to bed and forget about it.”

That evening as Father crossed the hall he saw several extra guards examining some rifles in the middle of the hall near the doors between the office and the stairway. When they saw Father, they lowered the butts of their rifles to the floor. Father knew every make of gun. He said, “These are the high-powered, German army rifles holding usually five cartridges; they can be fired singly or in rapid succession.” Olga replied, “I remember at the hospital, soldiers used to come with their bones shattered and their flesh mutilated. We always knew the type of gun which inflicted such wounds. Russian guns caused clean wounds.” Then Father added, “If Wilhelm had enough poison, he would have poisoned all the bullets.” This was the last time he mentioned the Kaiser’s name. It was four or five hours before the tragedy.

Father knew the Kaiser was obsessed with the thought of victory at any cost, victory even if it meant the sacrifice of the Kaiser’s own godson, my brother, whom he had vowed to protect according to our religion; also the sacrifice of his own cousins, my parents, and their daughters, too, for whom on his last visit in 1912 he had professed so much love. All this must have been on his conscience. Yet Holland gave refuge to this man who enslaved Russia and his own country as well.

These German guns which Father saw were frightening but we could not believe and it did not even come to our minds that Wilhelm, bad as he was, would permit the assassination of our family. We knew that Germany had demanded that our family should be delivered to Moscow unharmed; apparently the German High Command had learned of the character of our jailers.

Later I heard that the assassination was not known to Wilhelm until afterwards and that the German High Command was responsible, as well as some of our Allies, for all the[Pg 312] catastrophe in my land. They had sent, or permitted, these men to come to Russia in order to bring about a revolution. They knew that if the old government should recover power it would not be pleasant for those responsible for the terrible killings and robberies they had caused in my country.

After my escape I was told that, when the Kaiser heard of the killing of our family and of the Grand Duchess Elizabeth and some of the other Romanovs, the Kaiser was beyond himself. He cried bitterly for hours, saying: “I have lost my best friend. Nicky was my best friend. I loved them all. My hands are clean. Why have the other cousins permitted such crimes to take place? My conscience is clean. I did not know what they were doing. I had nothing to do with it. It was Mirbach and Ludendorff, supported by those Nicky believed were his friends.”

In the last hours at Ekaterinburg Father spoke and his words are still fresh in my mind. He said: “It is the end of Russia, but of the Allies, too. They have dug their own graves and soon they too will lie in them, and Germany will pay retribution for her deeds of treachery. No one can escape consequences, no matter what they do to avoid them; sooner or later they will have to pay. The taste of blood is an epidemic and it will soon flow all over the world.”

Wilhelm could not bring disgrace on Father before the people of Russia, but he did bring disgrace on himself before the world.

The orders to kill the entire Romanov family came direct to Voykov, Beloborodov, Goloshchekin from the top Bolshevik leaders: Trotsky, Lenin, Sverdlov, Apfelbaum and the other men I have mentioned previously. They exchanged telegrams daily. On the 16th of July Yurovsky had a long talk with the men in Moscow. In the afternoon when Yurovsky came into our sitting room, Mother got up and went into her bedroom. He boasted that he, Sverdlov, Beloborodov and other comrades in Ekaterinburg were connected by telephone the entire morning talking with the comrades in Moscow. Dr. Botkin[Pg 313] told us later that Yurovsky had talked with Trotsky, Lenin and others and that Goloshchekin or Sverdlov, or both, had just returned from Moscow, and that there had been a great deal of activity and excitement at the office.

In fact the Kremlin leaders were responsible for sending the Austro-Hungarians and Letts to guard the house inside for the last two weeks. Father remarked, “They use the same tactics as the Chinese did in the Boxer rebellion. But the danger here has come to the native people in their own land but not to foreigners.”

These two weeks our lives had hung by a thread and on the 16th of July between 9:00 A.M. and 12:30 P.M. our destiny was sealed.

During my escape my rescuer told me that all the guards outside the house—they were Russians—were given vodka to drink—as much as they could consume. None of them knew what was to take place inside that night. He also told me that one of his friends was told by one of the outside guards that the crime never would have taken place if the guards inside had been Russians and if the guards outside had not all been given free drinks late that evening. These outside guards, Russians, would have turned their guns on the foreigners because their humiliation was at its summit.

[Pg 314]


On Tuesday, July 16th, in the early evening, we heard directly below our rooms what we thought was the moving of large and heavy objects. The noise disturbed the whole household. We went to bed at 10:30 but could not sleep. Drunken voices from outside penetrated into all our rooms. Yurovsky’s room was on our floor somewhat removed from our quarters. From his room came the sounds of lewd talking. Soon we heard heavy footsteps approaching in our direction. The light went on and then a deep voice was heard. It was Yurovsky’s.

He entered the room and then went on into Father’s room. Soon Father appeared in the doorway and in a faltering voice told us to hurry and get ready as we had to leave within the next forty minutes. While we were washing and dressing, we prayed and quietly cried. We were almost ready when another guard came in, telling us not to pack any of our belongings as there was no time. We took only a few essential things. Tatiana ran into our parents’ bedroom and helped Alexei to put on his braces over his limbs while Olga packed Alexei’s medicine. He was still ill and quite helpless and began to weep as did we sisters.

We girls dressed in white blouses and lightweight gray skirts and jackets and carried top coats, which bore some of our treasures sewn inside. Father and Alexei were dressed in military coats; Mother in a black suit. When we were ready, Dr. Botkin came in with a small bag and a coat on his arm.

The last few minutes before we left, we went to our knees and fervently prayed before an ancient icon of Christ and[Pg 315] shared the holy prosphora given us by the priest on the previous Sunday. This icon for centuries had been handed down from one Russian sovereign’s family to another. All our treasures had been catalogued for many years; there was a description of each piece with its origin and history. We carried this icon to Tobolsk and Ekaterinburg. We knew that it was the oldest and the most venerated of all the icons and more valuable than those that were embellished with gold and silver and studded with precious stones.

This framed cloth icon was said to have been made from the towel that was used by Jesus to wipe the perspiration and blood from His face before His crucifixion and it pictured clearly, though faintly, the imprint of His face. Subsequent tests disclosed that the cloth of the icon was made of the same material that was used in Jerusalem at the time of Christ, and that the spots and outline of the face were of human blood and perspiration. It was further shown that no human hand could have made this icon and for that reason it was called in Russian “Nerukotvorenny Spas” which means: No-hand-created Saviour. We left our rooms with a prayer on our lips.

My heart was pounding and a cold chill ran over my body as I was again struck with the violent force of the premonition which had haunted me all day long, ever since I awoke with a horrible dream early that morning. I had dreamed that I stood in the doorway of a very small wooden house somewhat like a fishing shack. It stood on a wooden platform. Presently I sensed that the little shack was floating on waters which were gradually rising from below the surface. As I looked through the mist I could see nothing around but water: no forest or mountain which could produce any safety. Not a murmur or a sound or a ripple could be heard. The depressing, lonely quietness engulfed me. I knew I was sinking slowly.

I was haunted by this nightmare when a man came into the dining room where the family had assembled, together with Dr. Botkin, Ivan Kharitonov and Anna Demidova. The man asked, “Are you ready?” Father answered, “Right, we are.”[Pg 316] “Follow me, please,” the man said. Before we left the dining room Anna, who had with her two pillows, a blanket and a tiny bag, handed one of the pillows to Tatiana. Concealed in the pillows were some of our jewels.

With his lantern shedding a feeble light the man now led us along the hall and down the stairway into the courtyard. Father’s strong and protective arms were carrying Alexei who was crying from fear.

Suddenly I remembered our dogs. “Jemmy,” I said tearfully. “My dog, please let me have her.”

“You will get your dogs downstairs,” shouted one of the men.

With our help, Mother followed behind Father. The man moved his lantern from side to side to give a better light to the stairway. Mother almost fell as we reached the ground floor and passed into the yard. We saw shadows moving around in the court. The air was cool and the night was bright.

We re-entered the same building, passed through a hallway, and entered the second room on the right. It was approximately the same arrangement as upstairs. This was probably where we had heard the noises earlier in the evening from my sisters’ and my room. It had sounded as if furniture and other heavy objects were being moved. This room was about the size of our sleeping room and had not one single piece of furniture in it.

Dr. Botkin and Anna were told to put their small bags on the far side of the room, and we, too, had to put our jackets and top coats in the same place. The house was on an elevation so that these rooms were actually on the ground floor, I think one step up or down. Yurovsky went ahead of Father. In the hall he said something to Father, pointing to the first door we had just passed. Father held Alexei until three chairs were brought. Then he placed Alexei on one of the chairs and left the room. Mother sat on the left side of Alexei. About eight men were there when we came in. Probably some who followed us had been the shadows in the courtyard. They were dressed partly[Pg 317] in civilian and partly in foreign military uniforms. All had revolvers stuck in their holsters and hand grenades attached to their belts.

Trup had been compelled to follow us. He had been ill for some days and had not been on hand to care for Father’s personal things. The guards had either failed to arouse him earlier or his fate had been decided at the last minute, for he appeared in his night garment and carried his clothes on his arm. We had not been allowed to see him frequently during his illness. He was not more than thirty-four or thirty-five. He looked much thinner and was almost blue in the face.

Tatiana rearranged the pillow which she had taken from Anna to make Alexei more comfortable, while we waited for Father to come back. In four or five minutes the group of men separated into two groups. Father walked between them. His face was ashen and the “Otsu mark” on his forehead was red like fire. His left shoulder and the left side of his face just below his eye were twitching. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket, wiped his face and took the chair next to Alexei on the latter’s right side. What this man Yurovsky had said to Father in that room no one will ever know. Father preceded Yurovsky who was followed by others and who remained standing in the middle of the group.

I was on my Mother’s left side and Dr. Botkin was behind her on her right. My sisters were a few steps behind us. The men stood about eight feet away facing us. I am sure the others thought as I did that we were trapped, and there was nothing to do or say.

When Father entered the room, Mother started to raise herself. Suddenly she trembled and fell back into the chair as her head slumped to her right shoulder toward Alexei. Then I screamed and grabbed Dr. Botkin’s arm. While I was screaming, Yurovsky said something, exactly what, I did not hear. Simultaneously, I heard screams....

After this I was somewhat conscious. Still I felt no pain and did not see anyone fall but my lips were frozen cold and[Pg 318] I felt very clammy and there was a violent ringing in my ears. I wanted to get up but I felt as if I were paralyzed, and lost consciousness entirely.

How long I lay in blackness, which held me floating between life and death, I cannot tell. Was it hours or days? I do not know. All too soon I awoke from oblivion to realization and horror. I had no sensation of coming back to life. All at once I knew I was alive and in pain. My mind was clear, I was cold and conscious of some terrible catastrophe. At first I shrieked frightfully; then I was afraid to breathe and to open my eyes. I knew I had just come to from unconsciousness. I began to feel the increasing pain and shiver from the wet cold, and became convinced that I was not dreaming. But a fear came over me. First I thought that I fell on the floor and got hurt, and that they, thinking I was dead, had buried me alive without a coffin, and that my grave was not yet sealed. I tried to control my shrieks realizing too well what had happened, though all was perfectly quiet now. Still I did not wish to open my eyes for fear of what I would see. I was cold and in great pain. My neck seemed swollen. I felt a tightness around my nose and swelling below my left eye.

The others: Were they beside me? Were they alive but afraid to move? I began to wonder. In the darkness I could feel no body warmth; I could hear no sound of breathing. Suddenly, it came to me. I remembered the anguished screams. I lay in a hush, a silence that was all the more pronounced by contrast with the noise and frantic screams before. It was the silence of death and the tomb. I opened my right eye, just a little. Quickly I closed it. My left eye was so swollen, it could not open. The air was heavy and there was a smell of damp earth. I listened. Surely someone must be near me. I moved my hands cautiously. I could feel on my right a crumbly earthen wall. Was I in a tomb? Buried alive? My eye flew open. I could see a tiny opening a little distance above.

I made a move, only to feel excruciating pain. I felt nauseated. My head pounded with pain. When the convulsion[Pg 319] passed away, I lay exhausted, wet, clammy, awaiting the death I could not escape. Now I did not want to escape. I wanted to die. How long could I last in this tomb? Dear God, let it be quick! Why did they not bury us together? We always wanted to be together, in life and in death. My convulsive noises had brought nothing but silence. I was frightened and so ill. I began to weep chokingly. My cries resounded through the hollowness, increasing my feeling of loneliness. If only someone would hear and end my agony. My ears rang, my head reeled with dizziness. My nausea returned. Once more I was in the grip of a convulsion.

[Pg 323]

After The Tragedy


Suddenly I felt a hand on my forehead. I stiffened with terror, unable to cry or even feel nausea. Was it the hand of death? Now I was cold all over, except my head—the hand warmed my forehead. The hand lifted. I waited for the weapon to plunge. I could not look. I kept my eye closed. I waited. The suspense would hold no longer.

I opened my eye a little. I could see a candle light. My eye opened wider. I saw a woman coming toward me. I screamed and shut my eye. Again I felt the warm hand on my forehead. I was hardly breathing. I waited another eternity. The hand went away. As I lay there in fear, I wondered if it was a real woman or a vision. She was no one I had seen before. She came closer again and lifted a container of water to my lips, but I could not lift my head to drink it.

“Where does it hurt you?” she said in Russian, but with a foreign accent. I wanted to answer, but no words came. I pointed to my stomach and gagged a little. It was too much effort. I began to feel ill, writhing in nausea. I felt a thin slice of preserved lemon thrust through my lips. My lips smarted. I clutched them with my hand. There was something wrong with my lips, my left arm, my head, my ankle and nose. She had bandaged my abdomen. I was too miserable to care. The lemon preserve soothed the nausea. I sucked it eagerly but hardly tasted it, it was so washed with tears. I lay there stupefied as my eye fastened on the lighted candle. It was so frightening, so bewildering: the tomb, the candle, the woman. The flame flickered and almost went out as she moved.

[Pg 324]

Again startled, my eye moved around to find that once more the woman was creeping down the wall; a few steps and she was at my side. She lifted the candle nearer, placed it on the little table beside my bed, set down a basin of water, threw back my covers, and began to undo the bandage about my stomach. Without a glance at my face she washed my wound and deftly rebandaged it. Still without looking at my face, she unbandaged my leg, bathed and bandaged it again. She dressed my head wounds, washed my face and hands, picked up her basin and disappeared up the wall and through the ceiling.

Fascinated and yet horrified, I stared at the spot where she disappeared. Suddenly two feet appeared again, a skirt, a woman coming down. She was at my side and placed another thin slice of this rare lemon preserve to my lips. She looked at me for a minute. Then she climbed up the wall and was gone.

I did not know where I was, but now I could see a trap door and a ladder of not too many rungs leading up to it. I have a clear picture of the woman’s face as she nursed me. She had nice features, black eyes; the hair, perhaps dark brown once was now partly gray and pulled back tight into a knot at the back of her head. She seemed no older than my Mother. Her hands were long and slender; she was tall and thin. She did not look like a peasant, but her general appearance told me she was no stranger to hardship. She was confident and efficient but did not seem to be a professional nurse.

For a moment I forgot my aches and pains. I wanted to know who this person was. How did an utter stranger happen to be with me? How did I get here? How long ago had things happened? Perhaps several days, since I felt crusted dry blood on the left side of my eyebrow, nose and cheek. My hair was matted and stiff with blood, crumbs of dried blood covered my pillow. My left leg was so sore I could hardly move it. My finger nails were packed with stained matter. But where was[Pg 325] my family? I was afraid to think. My head hammered, my jaws ached, my ears rang. Every little emotion—every motion—was an agonizing experience. I must have cried myself to sleep, for I awoke sobbing. Perhaps it was a nightmare. It could not be that I, the little one, always protected and spared could be alone. Now the woman was moving about near me. Were they, too, being cared for by strangers? I sobbed until sleep overtook me. There was no way of measuring time. I wept until I slept to wake up sobbing until I wept myself to sleep again.

After the sobbing a violent nausea seized me and the woman rushed up the ladder to bring me a drink of water. She sponged my lips and fed me with a spoon. All too soon I discovered why my lip was sore. My two upper front teeth were broken and driven almost through the upper lip. One of these front teeth had been filled in Tobolsk by Dr. Kostritsky who took care of Mother’s false tooth and Father’s teeth. Several of my teeth, in the lower left jaw, were also loose; they merely were in place. There was a small hole in my right cheek and a piece of flesh was missing.

Sleep was the only respite. Wakefulness brought nothing but horror and haunting thoughts. I welcomed sharp pain as it distracted my thinking. How long this orgy of weeping and sleeping kept up I have no idea. Occasional moments of composure wedged themselves in as I realized I felt better. Immediately desperation drove me into fresh weeping. I wanted to die. I was afraid to think.

All the time the woman worked tirelessly to make me comfortable. I could not help but feel sorry to see her climb up and down the ladder to bring me something when her efforts seemed to do me so little good. She was thorough but gentle. She changed my dressings often. While she busied herself with me, I kept my eyes closed—the sight of her accentuated my loneliness. She seemed cruelly impersonal as she worked over me. She wanted to do a good and thorough job. If she would[Pg 326] only speak to me, give me some sign of sympathy, that I might know she felt friendly! She always avoided meeting my eyes, eyes that now squinted through smarting slits, so sore were they from constant crying.

Her care was faithful but she seemed oblivious to the hungry soul inside me. She washed my scalp wound but made no attempt to comb my matted hair. Each passing day there were fewer and fewer bits of dried blood on the pillow. Finally she cut my hair on the two spots of my scalp in order to keep the wound clean. The deep round hole in front of my ankle and the wounds in my back were still painful.

The torments of my mind partially overcome, I wanted to ask questions, yet I did not. As long as I did not know definitely, I could hope. At such moments I was almost glad of the woman’s lack of sympathy. Her most expressive kindness was when she placed her hand on my head when I felt nauseated, but that hand was too much of a reality and always a fresh spur to loneliness. The nausea attacks became routine under the incessant crying. The woman did everything in her power to relieve them, everything except to extend a sympathetic word.

Uncertainty was tearing my heart. One minute I longed desperately for the woman to talk. The next minute I watched her with horror for fear she would. Perhaps she was waiting for me to grow strong enough to hear the truth—the last thing I wanted to hear. If I could only be told that the others were being cared for, I would not murmur at this temporary separation, and the pain would not be so great.

The moment came when my torture boiled to the surface. The woman was dressing my wounds when the desire to know the answers became overwhelming.

“Where am I?” I whispered.

She hesitated, then in a low voice I could hardly catch, she said, “In a little room underneath a house.” Then she added, after a pause, “It is very dangerous; never talk aloud lest someone might hear.”

[Pg 327]

“The others?” I gasped. It was out—the question. If I could only retrieve it. Suspense. I thought she never would answer. She turned her face away and said, “All gone. Please ask me no more, that is all I know.” She rushed to the ladder and went away.

All gone. I had known it all the time but would not admit it. Yet everything had happened so quickly, I could not be sure. The excitement, the running up and down the stairs, the confusion, the room filled with rough-looking men. The woman with dishevelled hair; who was she? Was all this a vision or a reality? To this day I’ll never know. Yurovsky, the most vicious man in the world swaggered after Father, whispering things I could not hear. Father’s shocked face, Mother’s trembling, her slumping back in her chair: all this horror together kept reappearing in my consciousness. The words, “All gone,” whirled around my head flying out at me from all directions at once. Those soft blue clouds which I imagined carried them rapidly through the clear skies. I still could not believe it. Perhaps only Father and Mother are gone, and brother and sisters are somewhere in a prison.

Another period of oblivion ended. Consciousness returned to find the woman bending over me. The sight of her brought back a realization of the horrible truth; the family was no more, only I was left. No, it could not be. Now I wanted her to tell me more, but she shook her head. I understood.

Frantic with the hopelessness of it all, I shivered down into my covers. My foot struck something solid but warm. It was a bed warmer, a hot stone wrapped in a cloth. Using my uninjured foot I manoeuvred it so that I got my hands on it. To me it was more than stone, more than warmth. I now felt the woman was sympathetic and underneath her still exterior I discovered a new companionship.

In spite of longing to die, I awoke from each sleep more alive. Each awakening brought a little less suffering and pain. I could now turn my head with less pain and without dizziness.[Pg 328] The nausea attacks were almost gone—I was getting better. Sleep was the great healer: the vitality of youth swayed the balance.

With real resentment I allowed the woman to tend to my wounds. Since they were not serious enough to let me die, I had no desire to examine them to ascertain their nature. So far I had received very little nourishment from taking food, partly because I was afraid the nausea might return.

She brought me some delicious soup with a strong flavor and containing some barley. It was nourishing; I could almost feel an increased strength as I took it. Yet I did not want to get well. The woman gave me good care, but it seemed to be mistaken kindness. Now that I knew the worst, she seemed more distant than ever. It was as if she feared for her own life. She did what was necessary and departed quickly. But why was she nursing me? I could not understand it. I only knew I was alone and could not die. Hauntingly the prayer we sisters had written together kept coming to my mind. I tried to say it but the words had lost their meaning.

Over and over haunting thoughts catapulted into my mind. How did I escape the death intended for the whole family? Why did they want to do away with us? We could have gone abroad, never to return, if we could only have kept together. I remembered Mother’s frequent words, that the throne had brought nothing but unhappiness to our family. We all loved our Motherland and would have been content to live as ordinary citizens in some obscure part of it.

Had Father suspected this ending? When he carried his head erect, was he looking forward with hope or was he facing death squarely to show how bravely a Tsar could die? At the price of disloyalty to Russia, he could have saved his life. Not he, not Mother, nor any of us could be tempted to save ourselves at Russia’s expense. Except when his epaulettes were removed, I had never seen Father bitter, but only infinitely sad that he could not spare his people the tragedy of a revolution. The[Pg 329] ruthless propaganda would not let the nation know him for what he was—one who wanted to do right and do it well. Father was the victim of the Kaiser’s intrigue. Mother was misunderstood. She had done only what she thought was best for Russia. Now I could see it all. From the very first, there had been no chance....

We had been moved to Tobolsk, further inland, making our escape less possible. Siberia was far from Finland, the mecca of fugitives. Father had believed Kerensky who assured him we would be safer in the hinterland—far safer as targets!

I hoped and prayed that Mother’s heart had failed her before the assassins’ bullets reached her. I hoped that she had cheated Yurovsky and his fellow-murderers. This would have given me great satisfaction. He at no time fooled Mother. She knew, suspected, and understood it all. She and Olga had uncanny discernment.

We believed God would always take care of us. The little intuitive prayers that arose within us, when suddenly confronted with a fresh persecution; the strength that we received in adjusting ourselves to new humiliating requirements; the exaltation we felt in the sense of God’s guidance. All these underlined the idea, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.” Perhaps if we had not trusted so exaltingly, we might have done more to help ourselves.

These were my thoughts of despair when suddenly I heard voices in my cell, faint voices, but I could understand this much: the man said, “Organized parties are searching everywhere, in the woods, in the houses. They have found nothing. No one suspects us, but you can see we are in danger.” He said much more than that, but this is all I could understand.

“Which one of your sisters was very tall?” the woman asked.

“Tatiana,” I replied excitedly.

Turning to the man she said, “It is too bad. Just think, she too, could be alive if ...”, her voice faded away, as if she was trying to keep me from hearing.

[Pg 330]

“If what?” I burst out with a cry and tried to get out of bed only to fall back in pain. When I gained my composure, I looked for the man, but he was gone. The woman was still there.

“Tell me, ‘if what?’” I pleaded, as I stretched out my hand to her.

“Please do not ask any questions. I cannot answer,” she said, as she rushed to climb the ladder.

Was there no end to my tortures? I was so near to a little truth, then to lose it forever. Tatiana. What could have happened that she did not come through ... as I had. Together we might have found something to live for. That man ... who could he be? He had the same kind of accent as the woman. From what I had heard him say, it did not seem as if he had been one of the actual rescuers. He spoke as if he had heard through someone else; as if he were connected with the rescuers in some manner. He, too, was frightened, all because of me. Had they saved me for a humane reason or had they stolen my body to rob it and finding me alive thought it safer to nurse me back to health than to dispose of me?

For the first time I began to observe my surroundings. The place was tiny with a ceiling so low a good-sized person standing could easily touch the ceiling with his head. The width and length seemed about nine by ten feet. All four walls were of dirt with little roots protruding. The floor was also plain earth, covered by a braided oval straw mat extending from my bed almost to the ladder. Now I could see plainly about what I had first taken to be my unsealed grave. Close to the ceiling was a small window, a dirt-stained pane of glass about five by eight inches which let almost no light through. I was lying on an army cot. On the opposite wall was a wooden ladder leading to the trap door. To the right of the ladder was a wooden bench covered with blankets, which looked as if it had been used as a bed. Beside me was a small marble-topped table with a drawer. A small candle on the table lighted the room. A chair was the only other object in my dugout.

[Pg 331]

The question came to my mind, what had become of my clothes—my white blouse, gray plaid skirt? Now I was clad in a white cotton nightdress, much too large for my frail body. It probably belonged to this woman. And where were my shoes? Had the man discovered the precious stones in the heels? Had they found the other stones which were sewn in my clothes, especially inside the buttons? We sisters had some money in the belts of our skirts. What had become of all that?

They could have everything if only they would tell me about Tatiana. The man knew why she had not come through, and so did the woman, yet they would not talk to me. The man thought I could be moved, but he soon discovered I could not stand on my feet. The woman’s hand was on my covers; then I felt sudden warmth in my shivering body. The stone was back, good and hot, nicely wrapped. I curled around it.

Gradually my body marched on toward recovery; my head had ceased to throb. I could turn it easily. Immediately the woman sensed this progress and removed the bandages. My wounds were less painful. Again with her uncanny insight into my condition, she placed the pillow behind me and sat me up in bed.

One day when I was sitting up in bed, I noticed on the table next to me a brown lump. It looked like a section of a dried apple. I picked it up; it gave me a feeling of horror, and I quickly dropped it on the army blanket covering my bed. As I looked at it closely, I saw a familiar design. I unfolded a small portion of it, and recognized the edge as the handkerchief that was given me by Grandmother, who also gave one to each of my sisters. I could not imagine where this handkerchief had come from. I remembered that when our rooms had last been searched, I had picked it up from the floor and had placed it on a small table in Mother’s room. I do not remember taking it when we rushed to get dressed that final night, nor did I intend to use this fine lace handmade keepsake. I must have picked it up absent-mindedly. According to the woman, when I was brought into the dugout that fateful morning, the handkerchief[Pg 332] was clutched tightly in my hand. I had brought it with me when we left Tsarskoe Selo to Tobolsk and then to Ekaterinburg. I intend to place it in the museum which I plan to establish. Mother had beautiful laces and had brought a few small pieces with her to Tobolsk. Fearing they might be mishandled, these valuable laces were to be divided among us children.

The woman cared for me quite frequently, although I had no clock to mark the passing hours, nor was there any sunshine by which to conjecture the time of day. During my convalescence she let me wear a white cotton jacket which had starched pleating around the neck and down the front. This bed jacket was far too large for me, but it was her best. The sheets on my bed were of a coarse cotton; so was the pillow case. The latter was edged with a peasant lace and was buttoned together. Over the sheet, she had placed a warm army blanket.

The room was dark, day hardly distinguishable from night. The little window high up near the ceiling was covered on the outside with hay, as I later discovered. A little light did penetrate into this dugout, but at night she hung a dark cloth over this pane. My eyes were sore from the lighted candle and I put it out except when she cared for me. I had no book or magazine or newspaper. No calendar to mark the time of year or the day of the month. I had no idea whether it was summer or fall. My room was always cool and damp and the days long.

As I lay in this dark mustiness, I had time to think about everything that took place during my seventeen years with my dear family. There were so many sudden changes in the political hysteria, that I wondered if in my thoughts I was confused! It was unbelievable that actually such developments really had taken place. One day I asked the woman, whether all the turmoil was a reality or just a nightmare!

“No!” she replied, “it is true.”

Propped up in bed, from this vantage point, I was able to see and hear the man, should he ever come back. I would[Pg 333] judge whether he was friend or foe. Whatever the man might be, I was sure the woman had nothing to do with my rescue beyond the determination to make me well. But I remember the words, “You see how careful we must be.” That sounded as if they were working together. Perhaps others were involved, others saved? When the man should come back I was determined to find out all the events from him, from my last recollection to the present time. The questions they had asked me gave me hope that Tatiana had been saved.

Absorbed in these thoughts, I was unaware that someone had come down the ladder until I suddenly realized the man stood beside me. Behind him was the woman holding a lighted candle. Waves of fresh, sweet air wafted out from his clothes.

“Good evening,” he said, “it is cool outside.” “How do you feel?” he asked.

My lips said, “Better, thank you,” but all the time I was thinking, he sounds friendly. I will ask him.

Before I could open my mouth to form the words, his manner became serious, almost severe. “Never speak out loud,” he warned. “Only in a whisper. It is very dangerous.”

He wheeled around and was gone up the ladder without another word. The woman followed.

I looked hard at that man and felt satisfied he was not one of the Ekaterinburg guards, nor was he anyone I had ever seen before. In his shabby English clothes I could not be sure what he was. He carried himself erect like a soldier, his hair was well-groomed and he had an easy manner. He looked at me squarely without self-consciousness and delivered his orders without hesitation.

The woman usually carried my food on a rough, wooden tray. Gradually, she brought me more solid food. Occasionally I had some potato; fresh fish was on my regular diet. When eating solid food I had to be very careful as I was afraid that I might swallow some of the teeth that were broken at the roots.

I found one disfigurement after another. I could chew only[Pg 334] on the right side of my mouth. Feeling around my head, I realized I was covered with welts, one more painful than the other. I also discovered two long grooves, one on the right side of my head, back of the ear, about an inch long, which still remained very painful. I wondered if this pain was the result of the accident or was inherited from my Mother who had a sensitive spot on her head. Her hairdresser had to be very careful when arranging her hair. Mine might have been caused by the bullet that had grazed my head. The pain indicated that my nose, too, was broken.

A deformed, partly toothless girl at seventeen, alone in a world that did not care. My only consolation was that in spite of everything the Lord continued to be beside me.

Beneath the bandage of my stomach, no part was shot away. I could not find a bullet hole; instead, my skin was covered with traceries as though cut by myriads of flying glass. The woman seemed pleased that I was well enough to take an interest in my wounds. She actually volunteered the information that she had pulled out small pieces of blue glass from my flesh. She spread honey over my abdomen and finally the honey drew the glass slivers out.

She asked, “Do you remember carrying any glass container with you?”

Mother often carried a small blue bottle of smelling salts. It was possible she had this in her hand at the time.

The woman showed me the wounds on my left leg, an oval gash, very deep; and a small one in the back; a round, corresponding hole in the front. She said nothing more as though to give no loophole, but worked rapidly and then hurried up the ladder.

The man became a more frequent visitor in my dugout. He was always friendly, more so than the woman. He always had something pleasant to say about the weather, perhaps a cheerful “Good evening.” After a while he brought along another man who seemed to be of an entirely different type—dressed in peasant clothes, and obviously a peasant. Both were impatient[Pg 335] for me to get well. They were inquiring about my progress, asking the woman how soon I might be up and around. From their nervousness I could see they were in constant terror of discovery. During one of the visits, I saw a newspaper folded in the pocket of the first man. When he turned around I recognized only the Latin characters. I could not tell what the language was.

Whenever the men came I was frightened and excited, hoping that one of them would drop a hint that another member of my family was saved. It was hard for me to believe that all were gone. With these thoughts and uncertainties surrounding me, I was terrified. I knew nothing of an outside world—my home in Tsarskoe Selo was the only world I knew. Perhaps all this was a retribution, because I had often envied girls who were free to go where they wished. As a young girl I had never taken anything seriously. I had always been shielded, often looked on with amusement, until the war broke out when suddenly I discovered how serious life was to be. Now no one was left to stand between me and reality. These dirt walls were reality. Yet even here someone protected me. Beyond these walls there seemed to be some sinister power, yet I could not comprehend it all. Days and days passed, perhaps weeks and months.

Sitting up in bed was a short preliminary, a to-be milestone. Standing on my feet, first touching the ground, I felt the braided straw rug on the earthen ground as my head reeled in dizziness. I could not get back to my bed fast enough. That proved one thing; I was not as well as my nurse had thought.

Next morning she put me on my feet once more. My legs were stronger and there was no return of my dizzy spell. I stood a very short time, then thankfully I found myself in bed. This was repeated. I protested against these exercises, because my thoughts and my whole being were disturbed by them.

All too soon she had me walking the length of the rug several times. I wept defiantly as she led me along. I staggered frightfully, but in the end I forced myself to walk as long as I[Pg 336] could endure it. Finally I had it mastered and the woman was satisfied.

Then came the time when the woman began to bring things from above. She brought clothes to dress me in. First she drew on long, heavy underwear. Then she put on me a pair of old black cotton stockings, a slip, and an old gingham dress, so faded the original blue-gray color was almost undiscernible. Finally she fastened on peasant shoes two or three sizes too large. My original shoe size was about four-and-a-half at the time. She stood me up, tied a babushka on my head, threw a coat around my shoulders and walked me toward the ladder. “We are going upstairs,” she said. “The outdoors.”

My heart started to beat. Perhaps they were going to kill me. The thought of possible death did not generate fear now.

If I were going to my death, my mind was ready, but my body lagged. My hands held tight to the rung of the ladder when I realized the left side of my lower back was injured. I could not raise my feet without help. The woman lifted them one at a time—to the first rung, then to the second. She unclutched my hands and placed them on the next higher step. She swung herself behind me, her hands on the rung beside mine, her body framed me like a strong armchair. She began to climb, lifting me ahead of her, up and up, and through the trap door.

I climbed out on my hands and knees as she instructed me to do. She guided me along a dark hall about two yards wide through a door to the opposite side and into a room. Sitting at a table in front of me were the two men who had previously visited my dugout. A candle on the table was the only light in the room. The windows were tightly covered with heavy cloth. These things my eyes took in as the woman led me to a chair facing the men. My mind was calm but my body shook uncontrollably.

The man, my first visitor, was the spokesman. “Don’t be afraid,” he began. “You know we are trying to help you.”

His voice was reassuring and my body calmed a little.

[Pg 337]

“We are in great danger,” he continued. “Spies have been everywhere, searching for missing bodies. If anyone comes near you, and tries to speak to you, pretend to be deaf and dumb. Make signs with your hands but never speak to anyone, not even to us, unless we first speak to you. We cannot be careful enough.” In a softer tone he added, “I grieve to inform you—the others are no more. I can tell you nothing more.”

He paused deferentially. I understood. That subject was closed between us.

In a moment he went on, “It is becoming too dangerous to remain here. We must go away, but first you must accustom yourself to the outdoors. Ahead of us is a long, strenuous journey. We dare not risk the daylight, so the trip must be made after dark. Tonight will be a starter. Tomorrow we will see you again.”

[Pg 338]


I was dismissed. It was over. I was not to be killed. My body throbbed with gladness.

The woman was standing beside me. She led me to the door and out into the open night. The air was sweet and fresh, so noticeable after being accustomed for so long to musty air. I breathed deeply to refresh my whole being. It was so long since the last time I had seen the night all lighted up with golden stars so near and yet so far. This was the most beautiful night and the saddest one I could remember. The horizon seemed to be far away, sad and quiet as if the world were in a deep slumber. But probably this very minute some one was facing a death sentence.

A heavy stone lay on my soul. I could find no consolation. Never will I see them again. My sisters fresh as rosebuds, in the very morning of their lives, and now withered away before they even blossomed, their youthful faces now covered with the cold earth, vanished completely and forever before my very eyes. My heart was aflame with a grief that was tearing my soul.

Were these the same stars which looked down on us at Tsarskoe Selo? At Livadia? The same as on our cruises, when Father’s stories about the heavens seemed so real? Father could see them no more; nor Mother, nor sisters, nor my brother Alexei. Knowing that their eyes were closed forever, filled me with a loneliness I could not bear.

How could the stars go on shining as if nothing had happened? How could the air be so sweet and fresh when such[Pg 339] foulness had taken place? If my family could not breathe this fresh air, how could I? And how could I gaze on this heavenly grandeur?

All about me reminded me of my family. I had no more tears but I cried inwardly. I lost my balance. I collapsed on the ground. The man and the woman were watching me. They rushed to help me to my feet, and back into the house and down the ladder.

Again I sank into the damp earthiness of my tiny room, thankful for its darkness. Here I felt closer to my family. Outside the stars could sparkle, the air could be fresh, but inside the contrast could not flaunt itself before me. I need not look at a world untouched by our tragedy.

In the middle of the night I awoke to find myself walking about my dugout. I was completely confused, with no idea of where I was. My bare feet sank into the soft dirt. At last my foot touched the straw rug which led me to my bed, and in bed was still the welcoming warmth of the stone wrapped in a cloth.

Walking around with bare feet had given me a slight cold. The woman was upset; she attributed the setback to the night air, to my first trip outdoors. The men called early in the morning. They were annoyed that I had a cold but agreed with the woman it was best to defer another trip upstairs until I felt better. I heard them say, “Speed up her recovery.”

I lay still another night wrapped in my thoughts. Though the men had said that my family was no more, still I would not believe it How could they be so sure? I would never cease to hope, since I had learned how difficult it was to die. To me their nobility, their trust in God, their character were more impressive than the grandeur of the night. God would not fail them.

But we were separated. That was certainty. Somewhere I would be deposited to face an indifferent world, a world that would not bend its knee to me. I must suppress my identity and make a new life, all alone. God knows how I missed them[Pg 340] all. I lay there, one minute hoping, then despairing. I felt close to them in a world which was not theirs nor mine. The woman continued her care of me; I was suspended between two worlds belonging neither to this one nor the one to come. The idea crossed my mind several times that suicide was an easy escape from my misery, but my strong faith based on years of prayer would not permit this lack of will power.

Soon my cold faded away and once more the woman had me climbing the ladder. This time she stood on a chair, put both hands under my arms and lifted me up the few rungs through the trap door. In a few moments I was again in the presence of the same two men.

As before, the only light came from the candle on the table. The windows had the same heavy coverings. I almost said, “Good evening,” but remembered not to, just in time. With no preliminaries the spokesman started immediately.

“We are very much interested in straightening out a few things,” he said. “We want to ask you some questions.”

I was all fear. At Tobolsk, at Ekaterinburg, questions meant traps. Surging through me, I remembered my Mother’s advice: “Answer courteously but give no information.”

“Were they unkind to you in Tobolsk?”

I wanted to tell the truth. In spite of my impaired speech, they wanted me to answer their questions.

“Very unkind, the last days,” I answered.

“What sort of things did they do to you?”

I hesitated. There had been so much torture and suffering, it was difficult to begin with any specific detail. In contrast to the final outcome, the treatment we endured at Tobolsk suddenly seemed trivial. I could not mention anything specific, not yet. The tragedy towered over all events, making all others seem unimportant.

“Everything to contribute to our unhappiness and humiliation,” I said.

“Who were with you in Tobolsk?” he began.

Something I could answer easily. I told him, “Our friends,[Pg 341] and household help.” Their faithfulness excited my memories.

“Did they all go with you to Ekaterinburg?”

While in thought, I raised my eyes and saw a door on my right side which apparently led into another room. Through a crack I saw a bright light and a shadow flitting across the crack in a sort of rhythmical motion, as if someone were swinging back and forth. My thoughts were distracted for a moment. My training came to my aid. I could see without betraying what I saw. I hid my surprise at discovering that there were other people in the house besides the two men and the woman. I dismissed my curiosity since I was beginning to have confidence in these men. Their questions must be answered.

I began, “Some went first with Father, Mother, and Marie, Dr. Botkin, Prince Dolgorukov, a maid and Father’s valet. When our parents left Tobolsk the others stayed to take care of us children who were left behind to go later when Alexei should be better.”

What kind of quarters did we have in Ekaterinburg? Did we have enough to eat? Did we ever go outdoors? Did we see our friends? How did we pass the time? These questions were meant to pave the way for more questions that were to come later and to encourage me to answer them. In a way I was glad to confide my sorrow.

When they were through, one of the men signalled the woman, who led me outdoors. My second walk in the air. I had decided to take the outing without once lifting my eyes to the sky. I took short breaths and leaned heavily on the woman’s arm. We walked around the house. Guarding us, I sensed rather than saw, was one of the two men, walking a few feet behind us. At last we were back at the entrance. The house was dark as we entered the first room and passed through the open trap door and down the ladder. The trap door was lowered and I noticed a cloth was nailed on the inside. No sounds must penetrate through that floor. The exertion and[Pg 342] gratification at my own courage put me into a sound sleep that night.

I awoke stronger and aware of a new milestone in my march to recovery. Each day the terrifying world I knew nothing of drew closer. I had almost ceased to struggle to keep from entering this world of reality. I was being carried like a leaf floating on the surface of a fast-flowing stream. I could not stop or sink. The prospect of living my life in good health would have been frightening enough, but now I must face ill health and loneliness as well. If only crying could oust these seething tortures.

The woman was busy folding a blanket. When she finished she piled it on her arm, tossed the pillow on top and lowered her chin on it for a firm grip on her burden. Now she was climbing the ladder, load and all. There was something final in the way she climbed. It suddenly dawned on me that she had spent the many nights close by my side. Satisfied that I was out of danger, she was henceforth going to sleep upstairs. I had not been conscious of her presence; misery had made me deaf and blind. Now that her watchful custody was removed, I became frightened and longed for the nearness I had not been aware of.

Without a clock, I had no idea at what time our day started. When the woman appeared, it was morning. The smoky window became a panel of gray after she removed its covering. I always listened for a “Good morning.” But that was all. She never did tell me what I should call her. If I needed her attention, I whispered, “Lady, please.” I did overhear the man call her Iliana or Irina. When she combed my hair, she did it gently. All her services were performed tenderly. I thought I detected a resemblance between her and the man who was the first spokesman. I wished I knew something about these men and the woman.

After an early supper she helped me to get dressed again in the same grotesque clothes and took me to the room above. The same men awaited me; the same rhythmical shadow flitted[Pg 343] through the crack. Previously the questions had been of a general nature. Now they began to ask me more personal ones. They asked about Madame Vyrubova. Did she influence the Tsarina? Was she intimate with Rasputin? Did she live in the palace? I did not want to answer any of these questions, yet I did not dare to refuse.

All the time the shadow continued to pass over the lighted crack of the door. Who could it be? Was there someone writing down my answers? I was terrified. Suddenly I became so exhausted that I thought I would fall from the chair. My interrogator saw the situation and excused me. The woman accompanied me outdoors, and we walked around the house several times. Then I returned to my little hole. Once more I sank into my congenial darkness. The woman climbed the ladder, her touch was as soft as a feather. The trap door opened, then lowered back into place, quietly but firmly.

One day she brought me a piece of meat and vegetables. I refused to eat meat. The woman had no longer to bandage my wounds; they had healed sufficiently. Now I felt an itching sensation on my head and the woman was pleased with my progress. “Your hair will cover it nicely,” she said. There in the darkness my hair was growing fast. I was able to braid it.

Ahead of me lay the nightly inquisition. Yet each trip into the outdoors made me more independent physically. Once more and many times later I sat in the question room trying to control myself in the face of the curiosity of these two men and the woman. Now my Mother was the subject of their questioning.

“Did your uncle come from Germany to see the Tsarina?” The shadow in the next room seemed poised for my answer. Suddenly I was glad of the recording. Here was the opportunity to show Mother as the eager helpmate that she really was, trying to report to Father the facts as she saw them in his absence. “Did the Tsarina listen to Rasputin, because she believed in his honesty, foreseeing, and experience?”

I answered, “Whatever Mother did, she did it only for the[Pg 344] good of Russia. When Father did not agree with Mother, she accepted his decision as final, knowing she could have no further influence.” I expressed these thoughts as carefully as I could, hoping whoever it was would take them down accurately.

Every evening for some two weeks I was questioned. Each period of questioning lasted about an hour. When each bout was ended I was burning as with a fever. The questions were personal and plentiful. The subjects were continually changed, covering the entire Imperial family and the palace staff, as well as the household employees. Many of these questions seemed so impertinent to me that one night I burst out, “Why are you asking me all this?” They replied, “We only want to know.”

Gradually I began to take in my outdoor surroundings. Not far away I saw a haystack. Beyond it, a dark vastness, perhaps a forest or low hills. During my walks around the house, I noticed that it was square and squat like most peasant houses. I gathered it was made of wood. The roof was shingled. I tried to find my tiny window and finally located it behind the camouflage of hay. I could hardly see it. Now I understood why my room was so dark.

The house stood some distance from the road and a long dirt driveway extended from the road to the rear of the house. To one side was a large shed, perhaps a barn, which apparently did not house any animals since I heard no sounds from it Occasionally I did hear lowing herds in the distance. Perhaps one of these cows was responsible for the milk I received each day. There were no signs of horses or chickens. But several times I heard a faint train-whistle in the distance. I never saw any arrivals or departures. Did these men come from the neighboring houses and walk across the fields? What went on in this house was a complete mystery to me. Did these two men and the woman live in this house? There was another young woman. Was she behind the ill-fitting door? I had only seen the hall and the question room, but I felt sure there was another room in the house. The furnishings I saw were meagre. Perhaps[Pg 345] this was an abandoned farmhouse or discarded servants’ quarters attached to someone’s estate. The outside, too, had a deserted appearance. I noticed some hay scattered near the house. My observations were all based on what little I could see in the darkness. I felt sure these people were in someone’s service, or they were using the place as a temporary hideout.

The men became quite friendly. The woman continued her silent care of me. The men talked freely, even joked about my recovery. Without warning, the question I had always suppressed, suddenly broke out. “Why did you rescue me?” I inquired.

The faces of both men turned red. The man I first met was shocked. The second man’s eyes blazed with fury. “What is it that you want to know?” he said.

My feelings were deeply hurt at this coarse reply. My fears returned in full force. The worst must lie ahead.

It was obvious that I must soon go away, otherwise these people would pay the penalty. Now I wanted to stay in my dugout forever. It was mine and I was part of it. I would inscribe my name here, but where exactly? I had nothing with which to write, no crayon, pen or pencil. There was a hairpin on the table. Quickly I was out of bed and standing on the rug. I pulled out the small drawer and set it upside down on my bed and began scratching my name with the hairpin. I bore down with all my strength on the bottom of the drawer and formed the letters and numbers: “A.N.R. 1918.” It could not have been a legible signature but, such as it was, there it would stay, a witness to my habitation, these hairpin hieroglyphics.

A few days after this incident the woman seemed to take unusual pains with my grooming. She braided my hair smoothly. She gave me a fresh pillow which had a lace edging, sat me up and dressed me in one of her jackets. She arranged my covers neatly. By the time she had finished the men were already descending the ladder.

The first man took a small kodak from his pocket and after lighting several candles snapped my picture. A few days later[Pg 346] they returned with several prints. I had one of these until it disappeared with my manuscript. The clearest object in the picture was the lace on the pillow case. How different I looked! My nose was still swollen, my jaw caved in, my eyes had many light dots.

“Isn’t it a splendid likeness?” the spokesman was saying.

As they turned to climb the ladder, they reminded me of the danger of their position. “Things are terrible,” they said in unison. “People are lined up and shot at the slightest excuse.”

I gathered that they were more and more frightened at having me around. The questioning continued, followed by a walk each time. How could they think of so many things to ask?

My family would have been surprised at my diplomatic skill. The mystery continued. I learned no more about the house. After each outing I was returned to my dugout. Then I began to feel an undercurrent of excitement which told me that the time of my departure was near.

One day when I was again in the question room, one of the men said, “We can not stay here any longer. We are taking you to another little place. It is very risky. Never forget to be deaf and dumb. Speak only with your hands. We start early in the morning. You will take a short walk now, then sleep until we awaken you.”

Our outing was brief. Once more I was hustled down the ladder. The woman helped me into bed and went away. Some time after midnight, the woman returned. This hour reminded me of the night at Ekaterinburg. I began to cry. Her worn, white face told me only too well that she had worked many hours preparing for our departure. She brought me a cup of milk. Her hand was shaking. I felt a warm feeling of appreciation. I too was trembling. I spilled the milk. She dried the splash on my dress and turned away but our souls were knit together.

She rushed me to dress in the same clothes I had worn before, except that the old dress now had a wide hem. It almost reached to my ankles. My black stockings were well hidden by my[Pg 347] high laced shoes and the long dress. She tied a babushka around my head.

Silently she handed me a label which had apparently been removed from someone’s coat or dress. Stamped on brown taffeta in gold were a double-headed eagle and the words, “Mikhailov Moskva.” Mikhailov was the name of a well-known Moscow firm. I could not recall having ever seen such a label and could only guess at her motive in giving it to me. Possibly she thought I would recognize it and surmise something as to what had happened to its owner. I still have it.

I asked once more what had become of my old clothes that I had had on that fatal night. Puzzlingly she replied, “They were so badly bloodsoaked that I had them burned.” I wished to ask her again what became of the items I had had hidden in my clothes. I was afraid. I was at their mercy. I had no choice. There were some fifty large diamonds and pearls and about twenty-five rubies, emeralds and sapphires.

I took a final glance at the room and thought of the uncertain future ahead. Now that I was leaving this tiny spot, I knew that I owed it a great deal. The only thing I had to give it I had already given—my initials.

In front of the ladder I knelt down to pray for a moment for my dear ones. I dreaded to leave the dugout for fear that I might never again visit this part of the world where the remains of my beloved ones no doubt were buried—somewhere nearby.

My mind went back to a question I was once asked: Why did I always stand at some distance from my sisters? I now realized that I must have unconsciously had the premonition that we would some day be separated.

I blew out the candle and groped my way through the room to climb the ladder, and out through the trap door. A clam was being tom from its shell.

In the hall I was greeted with a rush of fresh air. Our departure was to be immediate, with no light of any kind. In a few seconds the woman led me outdoors.

[Pg 348]


I was conscious of figures mysteriously scurrying back and forth to the house. My eyes began to focus better and I could see standing a man who led me to the back of a hay wagon, as if to introduce me to the scheme devised for my escape. He took my hand that I might feel him unlatch a little door, then he pushed my arm through the opening, indicating to me the empty space inside. He guided my hand to the bottom, to the bedding of hay and the blanket, then the arched roof to feel the hoops laid closely above. He directed my fingers to the cloth between the hoops, trying to let me know a covering had been thrown over to keep the hay from falling through. He made me touch the sides of the wagon and the arched top covered with hay. My hiding place was to be this coop, camouflaged as a load of hay. The ingenious plan revealed once more the risk these people were taking. I stood hesitating between fear and appreciation, when suddenly I found myself being lifted feet first through the tiny door. He handed me a bottle of water and without a word hooked the little door. Locked up in my little cage, I listened. Footsteps. It seemed there were many. I was anxious to catch every sound. I could hear nothing. The wagon bent forward as under a heavy weight. A stronger lurch and we were in motion.

Now I felt like a little calf being taken to the market. Yet I had reason to trust these people. Their careful preparation, their discreet silence could be only for my safety. I could not understand them, but I could not mistake their kindness. Perhaps someone would meet me at our destination. The serious,[Pg 349] elaborate precautions indicated we were in great danger. This first part of the journey was no doubt the most critical. Through the rear of the wagon I could see a light. It was the sun coming up.

I presume we traveled for hours, the horse moving at a steady and brisk pace. I could tell when we were going up or down. The road was rough and I was badly shaken. These country roads were in poor shape and full of ruts. The dust sifted through the partitioned door and filled my eyes and nostrils. I felt I was suffocating. I could hardly breathe. My dry throat stiffened. I reached for the bottle, found and removed the cork, swallowed some water to wash the dust down, and sponged my face. My cramped coop was long enough to permit me to lie full length, and high enough so I could easily turn over. I could even draw up my knees, though I could not sit up. I rolled on my stomach and pressed my face against the little door to catch any current of air. I hoped they would soon stop, but dared not call out for fear that my voice would betray us. The driver seemed to know the road well, as the cart did not hesitate in making any of the turns. It had no springs and it jolted brutally and ceaselessly. My head was splitting. Would my wounds break open? My face was stiff and plastered with a mixture of dust and sweat. I was miserable. We travelled for a long time. Then light began to penetrate through the door and the wagon took a sudden turn. A plunge down and up again, then slowly along a level road with many bends. It stopped. I listened. Had we been halted for searching? Did someone jump down from the driver’s seat? Some one was coming around the wagon. It was one of the men, pushing the hay from the little door.

Suddenly the door flew open. In came a rush of fresh air. Feeling unsteady I tottered into the arms of the woman. I was glad she had come with us. She smiled, reflecting my pleasure at seeing her. She held me for a moment before I could walk around to loosen my tensed body.

[Pg 350]

It was most exciting to find myself free in the woods in the daylight. I learned there was no trouble here. We had stopped for a rest and to care for the horse. My eyes squinted and watered painfully, and I could distinguish very little. I bathed my eyes and the woman tied a cloth over them and left me sitting on a log. I lifted the cloth a tiny bit to accustom my eyes to the light. First I saw some green, then the forest, then a winding stream and myriads of bushes screening us from the road—a perfectly secluded spot. Later in the evening we resumed our journey, stopping several times for a rest. At daybreak the light started again to seep into my coop. The way the horse turned indicated we were not here by accident, but had actually stopped according to plan.

It was a beautiful morning; the dew still on the grass made the air superb. I could see some deep orange-colored flowers and some wild asters. I plucked some of those dry seeds from the plants and tossed them into the air, hoping they would fly through the woods in the direction where my family was resting. I knew so little of the cruel facts surrounding my dear ones. If I could only kneel beside their graves for a silent prayer. But even this was denied me. Water rushed down a little stream and humming insects flitted about No prison walls here.

Presently the woman spread the army blanket on the ground, motioning me to sit on it, and opened a lunch basket. She had some hard boiled eggs, one for each of us, fried fish, bread. It was a sumptuous feast, and a glorious feeling there under the shaggy trees, the profusion of pines and birches, under the deep blue sky—a typical Siberian scene. The horse stood still munching. The leaves hung motionless, the birds were quiet; all nature seemed to breath in suspended and sympathetic silence as we ate our lunch hungrily.

The great sacrifice these people were making impressed me once more and I felt appreciative. In no time all three were asleep. In order to make it easy for everybody I had an urge to run away, but because of the effort these people were[Pg 351] making, my conscience would not permit it. Also probably at the “little place” they knew of, someone might be waiting for me.

The little brook rumbled on in the quiet of the countryside. It alone defied silence. The trees stood in a colored hush of yellow, red and green. The white birch and the trembling aspen beat their wings. All this indicated it was early fall and nature was ready for its long sleep. After taking these details of the setting, I realized I, too, was exhausted.

The men were harnessing the horse and the woman was packing when I awoke. She was waiting to fold my blanket. I was chagrined to have been such a poor sentinel, but no harm had resulted. Now the men were ready. The woman started for the wagon, so I followed, though I could have enjoyed nature in that spot indefinitely. In a few minutes I was back in my coop; the men and the woman were in their places. The wagon bent forward several times and we were on our way again.

We moved steadily and confidently. The way must have been perfectly familiar to our driver. I did not hear any other passing wagons, nor was I conscious of passing through any village. I kept thinking about the beautiful spot in which we had lunched. That day God and nature were fused together. There in that beautiful resting place the family had been with me in spirit guiding me in the very air I breathed, caressing and encouraging me. I imagined I could hear Father’s quieting words. Even now I thought those words might be directing us. The driver seemed so sure of the way I became less alone, less suffocated, less desperate. I could lie quietly. Transcended, I simmered in wishful dreams. This was the second night on the road. The wagon rumbled. Another abrupt turn awakened me. I listened. The horse halted. One of the men was opening the door of the coop. He pulled me out and set me on my feet. We were in the midst of a thicket. The third stop on our journey. It was twilight, the sky still holding its sunset colors. The colors faded into the gathering darkness.

[Pg 352]

The men worked hurriedly, nervously and anxiously to get through feeding and watering the horse. It was a short stretching period, only long enough to eat from our basket and let the horse finish his feed. Not one word broke the evening silence, not one moment was wasted. Once more I lay in the coop and the horse started out again.

Even in the dark I could feel a certainty of direction. The horse’s feet met the ground as if the way was not strange to him. We went on about the same pace as during daylight. Each moment I was prepared for any difficulty which might arise. So far there had been no trouble. Would we travel all night? I could not sleep in the chilling darkness and I did not suppose any of the others did. Suddenly a lurch to the left, a short run and a halt. No sounds, only poignant stillness. One of the men helped me out of the cage. I found myself standing beside a house. The woman opened the door and walked in. They all seemed to know this house. Though it was dark, they made their way around, and lighted a candle. The woman led me to a bed. After she finished with me, she went out of the room.

It seemed but a moment before the woman was awakening me from my sleep. I was getting used to the inevitable. It was still dark when she came in with a candle in her hand. She guided me to a table where milk and bread was laid out for me. Then she led me outdoors to the wagon which stood ready. I could see clearly by the light of the stars.

To my surprise, we did not stop at the rear of the wagon. We passed to the front where one of the men already sat in the driver’s seat. The second man turned as if to help me up. I looked at the woman, seeking an explanation. She put her lips to my forehead, pressed my hand, then gently pushed me toward the man who helped me to the seat beside the driver. The other man climbed after me. The wagon started, it had two horses this time. We had left the woman behind! I suddenly realized the woman had said good-bye. I was never to see her again. We turned out of the yard, onto the country road. A man on each side of me and the woman gone. I had[Pg 353] misgivings. The men sat rigid, gazing at the pre-dawn blackness. They were on the alert. To them, leaving the woman behind was a planned milestone in their hazardous task. Her part was finished, now it was up to them to carry on.

The woman was protection to me, the last remnant of a feminine world. We were still in danger, judging by their alertness. I wondered why I had not returned to the coop. These men were stoical and brave to attempt this journey at all. Their continual watchfulness inspired confidence. One of these men had annoyed me with his questions several days ago. Now he sat beside me.

Each moment took me farther away from the woman. I had taken her protection for granted. My feeling for her had been a mixture of wonder and resentment. I always hoped that some day she would talk to me and tell me what I wanted to know. Now that day was gone forever. But she had done her part faithfully and I must be grateful. That last night at the dugout, when we looked eye to eye, she understood what I wanted most. I would have liked to put it in words. That night I had felt close to her. Now she was far from me, free to return to her accustomed way of life. What was her life? On our way, had we dropped her at her home? This dugout, where I had been so long, was it far from Ekaterinburg?

The men spoke of Uktus and Mramorskaya. Was one of these the location of my dugout? It was an irritating mystery. No part of the mystery was solved and now the woman was gone without telling me a thing.

The men kept peering through the darkness, taking advantage of its unlimited screen to make all possible progress. My inner darkness exceeded the darkness of the night. At length the outer darkness lifted to herald the coming dawn. Soon the majestic sun appeared unchallenged. I was cold and numb until a quick turn of the wagon made me forget my numbness.

The horses halted and the men stood up to stretch. They jumped down and helped me to alight. Then handing me the basket and the army blanket, they began to unharness the[Pg 354] horses. This was the beginning of our fourth day on the road. I attended to the food while the men cared for the horses. The basket contained a fresh supply of food—black bread, eggs and a bottle of water. The woman must have baked the bread for us, while we were asleep. I found a sunny spot on which to spread the blanket while we ate.

When we finished they jumped to their feet, folded the blanket and we were off again. I climbed to the driver’s seat, where we sat three abreast. We were a family of peasants driving between work fields. My faded clothes fitted perfectly into the scheme. That day the horses seemed to know the route as well as the driver. They knew all the byways. They must have driven these roads frequently. From a hill I could see a village in the distance. I did not ask their names and the men did not volunteer the information. We did see some people walking on these roads. We also passed a few wagons.

When I noticed that the men were less tense, I assumed we were beyond the danger zone. We were all in a more relaxed mood. We stopped in another spot and laid out the food, but there was very little left. They were so tired, they hardly could eat The meager meal was soon finished and they harnessed the horses. One of them took the blanket and climbed on top of the hay and spread it out. The other man helped me up; here I was to spend my night. How imperturbable these men were, so reassuring when I was most afraid. Their thoughtfulness touched me. Now that the men could not see me, I could shed the tears I had turned back yesterday. I fell asleep until the wagon halted again. I sat up in fright. It was a dark night. The stars were quivering. I heard the straps fall. The whiffle-tree hit the ground. The horses were stepping out of their traces. We were to spend the night here. The men stretched outside beside the wagon.

We had been sleeping for a while when I thought I heard a scream of some kind. I heard it again. Now it was a shriek, the horses neighed with a shrill sound and jerked the wagon to which they were tied. The men sprang to their feet and began[Pg 355] to pull some hay off the wagon. They threw it to the ground and lighted a match to make a fire. Soon the horses quieted down. I overheard the men saying there were two wolves.

After this scare it was easy to keep awake. I felt sorry for the men who were up and down several times during the night. At last dawn appeared and I heard them stirring in preparation for a new departure. I combed my hair, using my fingers for a comb and my palm for a brush, trying to make myself as presentable as possible. I knew I did not look well groomed but I did not much care. One of the men helped me down from the wagon, the other brought some water and poured it into my hands. I washed my face without soap. We had spent the night not far from a farmhouse known to my companions.

We emerged from the forests into open fields, then another forest. Judging by the sun I figured we were moving in a southwesterly direction. These inscrutable men stopped at another byway for rest and food. We ate bread and washed it down with water. Not a word was spoken during lunch. Soon we rattled again along the roads and country lanes without any special incident. We met a number of frail men and women, and barefoot children wearing tattered clothes. We got out of one rut only to get into another. The jerks and vibrations were making me ill.

Now the farms were great distances apart. A shortage of seeds in their shacks indicated a harsh struggle to raise food and keep the family warm. The condition of the country was such that it permitted only a bare existence. What went on in the big cities could hardly interest these peasants. Perhaps these people had not even heard of the massacre of the thousands of people, of their Emperor and his family. Surely the chances of meeting with anyone acquainted with the Imperial family must be remote. Who could associate this pathetic, toothless, faded creature between these two men with anything royal? I heard later that all the grain was taken away[Pg 356] from the peasants and many died during the winter of 1917-18. Now the men talked freely about their journey. They even joked about their fright. But they exchanged only a few words with me. They did not address me nor use my real name or title.

Late in the evening the wagon halted again. It seemed like an eternity since the woman had left us. The horses were unharnessed and tied to a tree. We rested until dawn broke. Now we had no food.

They seemed eager to reach the destination. All of a sudden, in the mid-afternoon, the horses made a sharp turn and we entered an open stretch with fields and a few trees on a nearby hill. Below, in the distance, we could see a village. The horses were unharnessed, hitched to long ropes so they could graze at will. The men stretched out by the wagon and soon were sound asleep. I had no idea where we were.

In the early evening, the men awakened. They jumped up and shook themselves, saying, “Let us get going.” We were leaving the horses and wagon behind and taking off on foot. They looked back several times to make sure the horses were safe. I had become fond of those horses and hated the thought of leaving them. Soon we were three abreast. We began descending the hill, then went up and down several times until we could see the village more clearly. One of the men gave the other directions and then returned to his horses. The second man and I started down the small hill to the village. As I looked back I saw in the dusk only the figure of our departed companion going up the hill. Now my hostility toward him was lost in the widening distance between us.

How long could I walk in my huge and uncomfortable boots? Would my wounded left leg hold up? In spite of all the care I had received, it continued to pain. The ground we walked on was rough. It was hard to keep my feet from sliding around in my boots. It was dark when we reached the village. Several dogs barked and ran out in the street, and then turned back to their houses. Here and there in the windows[Pg 357] flickered an occasional candle or a kerosene lamp. All was quiet in the streets as if the villagers had turned in for the night. We kept walking until we reached a small dimly-lighted house. My companion gave two short knocks on the window and a tall lean man with a cane came to the door. He held the door open for us and said, “I have been expecting you for the last two nights.” I extended my hand to him. He held it in both of his hands, kissed it, and looked into my eyes, without a word. A tear rolled down his cheek. He stood in silence ... overcome with emotion, then said; “My dear, you must be tired and hungry after such a trying trip.” His voice and words were touching and more friendly and warm than I had heard in several months. He drew me to a chair at a table and when I was seated the two men sat on either side of me.

[Pg 358]


Did you have any trouble getting here?” my host asked.

“Very little,” answered my companion. “We used a few matches—only three are left—to set fire to some hay in order to drive away two wolves. Matches are scarce these days.”

“Do you want some?” asked my host, handing him some loose ones.

“Thanks,” said my companion, “It is very pleasant here, but I must not stay long.”

“Marushka,” called our host, “tea, please.”

Immediately thinly sliced ham with cheese and bread were placed on the table, also a small samovar. My host was surprised when I refused the meat (a great luxury it was) but since Ekaterinburg I had not been able to stand the sight of it, remembering the shortage. I felt guilty taking sugar in my tea, but my host insisted and I took a lump but did not stir the tea in anticipation of a second glass. It was refreshing to us all.

As we finished, my companion said to me, “You are indebted to this gentleman, not to me. He saved your life.”

As if to end such embarrassing conversation, my host stood up and handed my companion an old, thick envelope, brown from age. The envelope was so thick that I thought it must have contained paper money and perhaps some jewelry. My companion lifted the flap and glanced inside it as our host[Pg 359] said, “Take some bread and cheese to your friend. He must be hungry.”

“Are you really leaving?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said, “my part is done.”

I did not know what he meant, but I did feel confidence in my host. Meantime I thanked the man for everything he and the others had done to help me. I began, “There is nothing I can offer you, but my deep, deep gratitude and appreciation. In the name of my family and myself, I thank you for what you have risked for me.”

He bowed and was gone. Each good-bye was less of Russia. That part of my rescue in the little room beneath the house was over.

The man had said that I owed my life to my host. What part had the latter played? I did have a sense of security with him. He seemed like one of my own people. I felt I could talk to him freely and find out who he was.

“Is this your house?” I ventured.

“Yes and no,” he said. “The cottage belongs to a former estate. Marushka’s husband worked on this farm but now he is missing in the war. The woods and fields you crossed were also part of the estate. One section used to belong to a family who were relatives of the Giers of the Ukraine.”

“Was there not a governor by that name?” I asked. “I remembered meeting him and his daughter.”

“The very same,” my host agreed, and I felt a common bond with him.

Just then Marushka came in and announced everything was ready for me. I thanked my host and followed her.

The house contained two rooms besides the kitchen. The host slept in the room in which we had tea. Marushka and I occupied the other room. I slept on a cot, Marushka on a narrow wooden bed next to the wall. On a stand stood a basin, a pitcher with water, soap and towel, and a lantern. I discovered this house, like many others, did not have inside conveniences.

[Pg 360]

Next morning outside the window I saw a vegetable garden. A small dog completed the friendliness of the house. He would sniff around every time I bathed the wound on my leg. When I shed a tear, as I washed, he would look at me soulfully as if to sympathize. He licked my hands. I was drawn to him right away and could not entertain the thought that I might have to leave him some day. He followed me everywhere in the day time and slept by my cot at night, as if to protect me from danger. You might have thought he had always belonged to me.

In the morning my host said, “We will not hurry. You need the rest and time for your wound to heal better. We will remain here a week or so.”

I was glad to hear this for he had already made me feel so comfortable in mind and body that I was glad to wait. He seemed to want to talk. After weeks of silence it was a treat to converse.

He said his name was Alexander, that he was an officer during the war. He had received the St. George’s Cross for his distinguished service in the Russian Army. He had also been decorated with the medal of St. Vladimir, 3rd class, usually given to commandants of large units. He knew my Father’s mother, and on one occasion had met us children at G.H.Q. when he had come to see Father.

During the war he was wounded in the abdomen and was nursed at the hospital in Kiev or Rovno where he had met my Aunt Olga. One evening he talked of my Father, saying His Majesty was kind, really too kind. He was so patient and understanding through his banishment. Only Christ could understand his suffering. Their Majesties suffered a long time. He bent his head and tears rolled down his cheeks. “It is all finished for all of us and for Russia.”

I remembered my Father’s tears on that final night of July 16th-17th after his talk with Yurovsky.

My host and I wept together. I breathed a prayer of gratitude to God for such a sympathetic and good friend. We had[Pg 361] many talks together, but we did not touch on the subject so delicate to both of us. For the present neither of us felt equal to it. I wanted to hear of my rescue, yet again I did not, because of my family. He avoided the subject, fearing the effect the truth might have on me. We did talk of my life beneath the house. I told him of the excellent care the woman had given me, and said I was frightened by the various questions the men asked me.

“They questioned you?”, he said. “What about?”

“About my family, the imprisonment,” I answered. He was surprised at this news.

“Do you think they knew who you were?”

“Yes.” I said, “They never came out with it, but, judging from their questions, I suspected they had guessed.”

“Then we must leave immediately,” he said. “There will be trouble.”

He seemed agitated and called Marushka to get things ready. It was the third evening I had been with my host. Now we must cut short the week of delay we had both looked forward to.

On the fourth day, long before dawn, my host and I took to the road. It was early September, by the Russian calendar. I became aware of the date from a calendar hung in Marushka’s room. She used the previous year’s calendar, having changed the dates on it. Marushka, weeping as she did so often because of the loss of her husband, saw us to the door. We said a quick good-bye, and the little dog stood puzzled. It was hard to shut the door in the face of my little friend.

We were off. I carried nothing. My host carried a small canvas bag containing some food and a salve for his wound. We walked without event, and by late morning we were near a small town. My companion was quiet. At times he did not seem sure which road we should take. We rested about an hour; then suddenly he said, “I know now where we are. I see the church steeple over there.” He began to tell me that he was familiar with this part of the country. After walking[Pg 362] several more hours, we came upon the ruin of a factory. We sat on the fallen bricks and ate our lunch. We had bread, hard-boiled eggs and a bottle of sour milk, and we purchased some apples.

For the first time, I knew approximately where we were. Passing the ancient city of Ufa, high up on the banks at the junction of the Ufa and Belaya Rivers, we had a beautiful view. We could see the vast stone quarries and stone cutting mills spread before our eyes. There were many chimneys, a witness to the size of Russian industries. But no smoke came out of them.

Part of Ufa was inhabited by Bashkirs, but now there were very many foreigners who were purchasing grain from the government, exchanging precious stones and platinum for the food sold or given them by the Bolshevik leaders, while the Russian people were not able to purchase their own products.

Here we stayed well into the afternoon, when my host surprised me by saying, “We are lucky that the train is leaving on this day. We will take the train from Ufa.”

We remembered that the depot was on the other side of the town, but when we reached it, we found no train there. We were told that the train had stopped farther down the track. We followed the track for a distance until we found the train standing. There were many peasants but the foreigners with their loot were boarding it first; some of the peasants even got up on the roofs of the cars. We finally managed to get into the doorway, but had to stand up all night. There were facilities on the train, but the rest rooms were packed with people.

We were afraid to get off the train for fear of not being able to get back on again. Our next stop was a small town named Bugulma. Here we changed to another train to go on to Simbirsk (since renamed Ulianov, after that heinous Tsederbaum-Ulianov-Lenin). We saw the Volga River at one of its most beautiful spots, the picturesque city of Simbirsk lying high on the bank, its many church steeples spread out[Pg 363] before us. Suddenly I remembered what Miss Rita Khitrovo, former lady in waiting, had said of her ancestors, who had founded Simbirsk, and how we had hoped to make a trip to this historic city when the war was over. Palisades had been constructed here by the Boyar Khitrovo in the seventeenth century to defend the city from the Tartars.

Every Russian knew the song “Stenka Razin” about the famous Volga River robber, and that the many legends about him originated here. We saw the monument dedicated to the Russian historian, Karamzin. At Nicholas Garden, Alexander pointed out to me the Club of the Noblesse.

Seeing all this I felt a great pain in my chest. We passed the Convent of the Redeemer. I begged Alexander to let me enter it, since no one would know my identity. Alexander refused to listen to me, saying that many priests and nuns had already been driven out of convents, and many had been killed. It was no time to remain in Russia. It was dangerous; it might betray our whereabouts. So I had to be content with a prayer every time we passed a church. The sight of those holy sanctuaries lifted my spirits and calmed my nerves.

Alexander seemed to know this city, for without hesitation we walked some distance from the station to a wooden gate leading to a small house. He knocked on the door and an attractive lady of some forty years opened the door. Her name was Alexandra. They were happy to see each other.

“You look tired,” were her words of greetings.

“I am,” he said, “my side is troubling me.”

“You need a rest, I will have tea ready in a minute.” She invited us to sit down.

“Nikolai will be back any minute; he will bring some bread,” she said. “Usually the bread line is quite long and one must start very early in the morning.”

I was not prepared to find such a lovely lady in this house. I wondered who she was and what her relationship to my host could be. She was very aristocratic looking. Soon Nikolai, dressed shabbily in civilian clothes, like Alexander, arrived[Pg 364] with a loaf of bread tucked under his arm. I could see he was a warm friend of Alexander. He was delighted to see us and said he had rather expected us. He and Alexander chatted at length while we drank our tea.

As we finished, he turned suddenly to Alexander and asked, “How did you ever happen to go to E.K. (that is, Ekaterinburg)?”

Alexander answering at length: “I wanted to join Admiral Kolchak’s army but was arrested and put in prison for a time. While there, I had a fresh attack and they let me out of prison. Instead of going to a hospital, I went to Ekaterinburg. There I met a priest by the name of Father Storozhev whom I visited several times. He informed me of the desperate condition at the Ipatiev House. It seemed he had been summoned to conduct a service there and was alarmed about the consequences. He suggested I contact a man by the name of Voykov, who was in charge of hiring the guards and other workers. I applied as a worker, but did not get the job.

“One day I went to the guard house next to the Ipatiev House where I became friendly with the guards through a guard whom I had met previously and with whom I later played chess. I returned to the guard house several times. Some of the guards were jolly but rough; most of the outside guards were Russians, former convicts. They did not object to my presence. They remained guarding the house to the last. The inside guards, I was told, were replaced by foreigners two weeks before the tragedy.”

Alexander was right; they were foreigners, mostly ex-prisoners of war.

It was as if Alexander were taking the opportunity to tell Nikolai, in front of me, what had happened. He felt that I ought to know.

“I saw Father Storozhev a few days before the night of July 16-17th,” he continued. “I went to the guard house again, after dark, because the priest had given me a feeling of danger. I did not tell him where I was going nor did I see him[Pg 365] again. When I came upon the guards with whom I played chess, I saw most of them had been drinking heavily.

“They asked me to drink a toast to Comrade Yurovsky; he sent the liquor in appreciation for their services. I refused to take anything pointing to my wound. ‘Never mind, tovarishch,’ one of the guards said. ‘More will be left for us. You are sick and only good for the dogs.’ They seemed to be drowning something in drink. I am sure they were not aware of the forthcoming murder. I began to feel uneasy and feared there was real danger. I was afraid to leave the place. I wished I had four or five armed men with me. After dinner it was announced that no one would be allowed to leave or enter the place. They looked at me and said jokingly, ‘We have a new prisoner.’

“Some of the guards left drunk for their various posts. With several other guards I entered the courtyard. I heard a truck drive up to the house about eleven P.M. I offered the truck driver to help him back up the truck. He accepted my offer. It flashed through my mind that this truck might be for the purpose of secretly taking the family away. After a while the driver fell asleep, giving me the opportunity to get into the back of the truck. I lay down flat in the back of the truck. Imagine the shock when I felt warm, twitching objects thrown next to me. I knew then what had actually happened.”

At this point Alexander burst into tears. I ran out of the room. I had been hoping he would say that some of my family were still alive, but he denied it with his tears.

Only twice was the subject again brought up, once by Alexander and later by Nikolai who told me the rest of Alexander’s heroic rescue. From fear, Alexander remained in the truck, horror stricken and unable to move, realizing his dangerous position. He had no choice but to lie there quietly next to still warm and twitching bodies. If discovered, he too would have been shot. That night most of the guards were drunk. The truck moved rapidly out of the courtyard through the streets and then slowly over the bumpy country roads, the wheels sliding out of one deep rut into another. Suddenly[Pg 366] Alexander heard a moan among the bodies. As the truck turned at the bend of the road, he picked up two bodies and tossed them into the bushes. The guards on horseback being far behind, Alexander jumped into a ditch and lay among the bushes until he knew they had passed. Returning to the bodies, he quickly examined them. One appeared to be lifeless. He wrapped the live one with his coat and carried it a long way to the first house he could find. It was the house with the dugout underneath. Alexander took notice of the location, which was in the vicinity of Uktus and Mramorskaya. The long walk with the heavy burden caused his wound to rupture, and infection set in on the side of his abdomen. He was ill and soaked in blood, not knowing what to do. He took a chance in asking unknown strangers to care for me, offering them a generous reward. If these people had known from the beginning who I was, they would probably have refused to care for me for fear of being discovered. One of these men kept Alexander informed of my condition. This explained why our journey from our little hiding place to Alexander’s cottage was so dangerous. I told Alexander and Nikolai about having some valuables sewn in my clothes. They said that that was perhaps another reason why my clothes had been burned and why they cared for me the way they did. They were well paid. Alexander also paid them through the brown envelope. How much was in it, I did not ask. He did say that I was fully clothed when he delivered me to the house and that my clothes were soaked in blood, probably from that of the others as well as my own.

When I left the dugout, I carried with me only the blood-stained handkerchief, the piece of blue glass, and my soul. If any one is still alive from among those who were with us in Tobolsk, he would recognize the handkerchief as the one seen in Tobolsk.

Alexander said nothing about leaving Simbirsk. I took it for granted that we would be moving on, but was grateful for the respite in which to get hold of myself. All I had heard[Pg 367] had unnerved me. I suspected Alexander needed a rest for our strenuous trip ahead. On the evening of our third day a truck drove up. Alexander and I said good-bye to Mlle. Alexandra and were on our way again.

Alexander sat on the front seat with Nikolai, and I sat in the back on the straw-covered floor of the truck. We drove through the night with only the customary stops in wooded spots for rest and to change drivers, Alexander seemed unusually thoughtful; he was continually trying to spare Nikolai and me all he could. He made attempts at light conversation.

“We missed the hottest month of the year; it is usually in July, and January is the coldest,” he said.

I learned the truck belonged to a factory in Kursk, where Nikolai was employed by the new government in some industrial capacity, and the truck was to be delivered there. We continued our journey in the truck until late in the afternoon, when we stopped in a wooded spot with tall poplars, birches, walnut and elm trees which grew profusely in this area near Penza. We rested a while and then proceeded toward the city, an old historical site. We made some purchases of food here, although the prices were prohibitive. Alexander noticed a woman selling shawls. He approached her and asked for the price. It was so high that he glanced at me disappointedly—he knew I was cold as I had no coat. The woman came close to me and stared into my eyes. I was frightened. She said she would take only one-fourth of the price she had first asked. She selected the best one and placed it on my shoulders. When we left, I turned back for a glance at her; she was making a cross in our direction. Alexander hurried away, as I limped along next to him. At the time the cruel murder of the Imperial family was already known in Russia. Here we met people of many races, Tartars, Buriats, Kirghiz and others.

We passed a lovely square with beautiful trees where the Lermontov monument stood. Descending, we passed Sadovaya Avenue. It reminded me of the Sadovaya in Tsarskoe Selo. The canal, the pond, the orangeries, the Chinese Village,[Pg 368] the Siberian blue bridge and the palace all came to my thoughts.

The truck rolled on. Nikolai glanced at me. I knew he felt sorry for me. Both men watched me tenderly giving every kindness to make up for the loss I had had some weeks ago. I was appreciative of all their attentions and hoped to cause them no unnecessary trouble.

When we passed Tambov, Alexander said he had some friends in Voronezh; perhaps we could get a little rest there. We arrived in Voronezh in the afternoon and stopped in front of the Convent of St. Mitrophanes. With my companions’ consent, I walked into the convent and asked if I might rest there for a few hours, while Alexander and Nikolai went to see their friends and a doctor. Here the kind nuns washed my clothes and prepared a hot bath for me, washed my hair, and dressed the sores on my leg which looked infected.

In about three hours, when I was ready to leave, they packed some food for us, all they could spare. While I prayed with the nuns, I was seized by a most extraordinary feeling. Three times I felt a breeze flying over my shoulders. My lips froze, I turned around and sensed nothing. In my mind I saw my family in the church in Tsarskoe Selo, entering through the small side door the Feodorovsky Sobor where we prayed with our beloved escort. The choir in the Feodorovsky Sobor with its beautiful voices sang throughout with such perfection that one wished it would never come to an end. I also saw my loved ones in Tobolsk in the winter church. Coming back to present surroundings, I realized that I stood alone among a few humble women. There was only a murmur of voices within these sacred walls. I thanked God for the kindness I had received in this convent. My heart found peace and I felt refreshed. I often wondered if they knew who their guest was.

As I came out of the convent, I was horrified to see Alexander approaching, his face pale, grief-stricken and excited. He said, “There is no use going to the Crimea. I have just heard from responsible sources that your Grandmother, both[Pg 369] aunts, their husbands, and all their children have been killed. We also learned from a relative that Vostorgov (a high clergyman in Moscow), together with a great many others, were assassinated last month. Among them were the young Ministers Maklakov and Khvostov, who had replaced the old Minister Goremykin, Minister of the Interior.”

That Khvostov’s wife, Anastasia, had been shot in Moscow, I had learned previously. I could not cry but shook as if in a state of fever. All this distressing news pointed out our own danger. I had hoped that in a week I would be in the Crimea with my relatives.

We heard, too, what had happened in Sevastopol. The revolutionists had killed and tied stones to the feet of the young cadets and thrown them into the Black Sea. Their disappearance was a mystery until a young woman on her way to market saw some bodies and reported them. She was turned away from the scene and was not allowed to enter the street where the bodies were seen. Later a diver went down and came up screaming. “They are alive and walking on the bottom of the sea,” he claimed. He had lost his mind. A second diver discovered the bodies were upright; heavy stones were tied to their feet and the waving motion of water made them look as if they were walking.

Only fate helped me to listen with fortitude to this heartrending news about my relatives. Later I learned that the report about them was not true.

Alexander had also heard that late one night in June, 1918, Uncle Misha and his English secretary, Nicholas Johnson (who thought his presence might help the Grand Duke), were taken away into the woods near Perm, and mysteriously disappeared. Unfortunately they had been executed, as I learned much later.

Father was right, the taste of blood begets an epidemic.

Having heard all this about the Crimea, we knew that going there was out of the question, so we did not, as originally planned, go through Tula, which, I was told, seemed like our[Pg 370] best route. We went instead to Kursk where Nikolai delivered the truck. While he was delivering it, we purchased some food. The price of bread was not so exorbitant, but we paid outrageous prices for the other products. Now we were headed for the Rumanian border.

When we first started this trip we passed mountainous fir-clad country—with many ravines. Now the country was much flatter and dotted with many granaries. We walked through forests and cut through the muddy wheat fields. We rested, then walked some more. We slept in farmers’ sheds on straw, glad of any place to keep dry, as it rained almost every day. We crossed railroad tracks, we saw rusty freight cars full of sacks of wheat. All were moldy, and the wheat was growing through the burlap sacks while the people were starving, forbidden to take this grain. Later on, when we ran out of food, Alexander bought some wheat from a farmer and both men ate a little of it. I would have eaten some, too, if I could have chewed it. The grain swelled inside of them and both men were uncomfortable, drinking water whenever they could. We heard that many had died who had eaten raw wheat.

We were not far from Kremenchug (on the east bank of the Dnieper) where, according to a letter we had received in Tobolsk, Lili Dehn was living. I would have liked to join her. Fighting was going on in the area. We continued our westward trek.

Many citizens in order to disguise their identity lived in charred railway cars. The walls were patched with canvas, the only protection against cold and heat. Many children were born on these cars, and died there as a result of exposure and lack of food. No one claimed the bodies of the dead which were buried in shallow graves near the railroad tracks. Many grain elevators were filled with charred corpses. The foreigners seemed well-fed and well-dressed; they received all the best attention. This was the “liberty” that Kerensky—and later the Bolsheviks—had championed, polluting the minds of the people.

[Pg 371]

As we continued on our way Nikolai and I noticed that Alexander was lagging behind. Nikolai stopped to examine him and found a pus spot on his shirt, just below his waistline on the left side. His wound was infected again. Fortunately, he had an effective salve with him which they applied and then bandaged the wound. We hoped that it would tide him over until we could get to a doctor. We gathered some leaves and made a bed for him. I put my shawl over him as he stretched out on the wet leaves. Nikolai and I sat beside him, hoping he would be able to reach the next village. I would have given my right arm and eye to save this good friend.

We were surprised to learn from the crackling noise of branches that there were other people in these woods. The footsteps came closer and suddenly two men walked up to us. They seemed to be afraid of us. When they saw us they started to go back in the same direction they came from.

“Come and join us,” said Nikolai in a friendly tone of voice.

“Is anything the matter?”, asked one of the men in a language we recognized as Serbian.

“Our friend’s wound has opened and is infected,” said Nikolai, “and we do not know what to do.”

The Serbian, in broken Russian, suggested that, when night came, we take our patient to the nearest house. He volunteered to look for and find a house. While we waited for his return, we talked with the other man and found that he was a Croatian. The two of them had not been able to get on the train in Kursk and had started to walk to the border. Both had been officers in the last war. One fought on our side, the other fought on the enemy’s side. Now they were on their way to their respective homes.

The Serbian returned in about an hour. He had located a house not too far away. At dusk the Serbian and Nikolai helped Alexander to his feet and supported him all the way to the house.

It was a thatched-roof, white-washed house in which a young woman about thirty-five years old lived with her four[Pg 372] children. The little boy, five years old, with his blond curly hair and big gray eyes reminded me very much of Alexei at that age. I was drawn to him at first sight, especially when he looked at our invalid and asked, “Is the father ill?” His own father had been wounded in the war and they hoped he would get home soon. He imagined that his father had been ill the same way.

Small as the house was, we all spent the night there. We two women slept in one room with all the children, the men in the other room. By morning our invalid felt much better. We lingered all day to make sure that he was capable of continuing the trip. The woman was most generous. She shared with us her scanty food. To avoid the heat of the day the Serbian and the Croatian planned to start on their way in the early evening. When Alexander heard about their leaving, he insisted that Nikolai and I go with them. We protested, but he said his temperature was normal and the little mother promised to give him the best of care. He assured us everything would be easier if we obeyed him. Finally we were convinced and reluctantly left him with the promise that as soon as we were over the border, Nikolai would come back for him.

[Pg 373]


Now when an opportunity presented itself, it must not be rejected. The four of us struck out on foot about ten in the evening. I cried all night, recognizing that we had left our dear friend to die when he needed us most. We walked all night until the next noon, through wheat fields, hoping to find some peasant home where we could get some food. We had had our last meal just before we left the peasant woman. On the way we had no breakfast or lunch, and not enough money for train fare, nor did Nikolai and I have documents to permit our crossing of the border.

It became unbearably hot. A good farmer provided us with food and shelter for the night. We slept till the following morning, then started out again. The farmer’s news was most alarming. He said that the war was continuing. Socialism was spreading to Austria and Germany. Crimes were increasing daily. Criminals were even crossing the border to Russian territory to commit their killings and robbings.

A third prisoner, who had been in the Austrian army, was the last to join us. He had a supply of food which he shared with us. As we came closer to the border, the number of refugees increased, and there was more apprehension. Nikolai expressed fears that we might be turned away from the border, or might even be put into prison. I was prepared for any eventuality. One thing I was sure of: I would never let anyone know who I was.

[Pg 374]

We finally emerged from that gruesome forest. We crossed a small stream where we drank some water and filled our bottle. As we continued our journey, the Serbian officer began to question me. He asked me so many questions, I was afraid he was suspicious. Nikolai, too, became anxious about these conversations. He said he would go ahead and walk with the Serbian to find out what was in his mind; in the meantime I walked with the Croatian and the former Austrian soldier. Finally Nikolai returned, satisfied and said, “He knows the facts, but will not betray us, I am sure.” The Serbian was a loyal friend, offering considerable protection to me all the way. When we were near the border, he scouted ahead to see what could be done to make the crossing successfully. Nikolai made an arrangement with the Austrian soldier as to where, in case of separation, he could find us.

We were in constant sight of many refugees in rags, the children undernourished, thin and ill. We heard that the German armies were still in Kiev. We saw troop trains going by. Many people were on the way to the border, wearing garments partly military, partly civilian. People were being arrested because they had no passports. Our latest companion was helpful in directing us to the border. He had fought on the Austrian front and was himself on his way to Bukovina. Now we were five, approaching dangerous territory. Two had been prisoners of war and had the necessary documents for crossing the line. The Serbian had his papers. It was suggested that I pose as the wife of one of them for the purpose of entering Rumania. The Serbian would not do; the Croatian would be better. He had been on the German side. Nikolai would be my brother.

At this time we were tired and hungry. We had not eaten in the past twenty-four hours. We located another peasant who furnished us with food but was not able to give us lodging.

Nikolai spotted a haystack. I climbed on top and covered myself with hay. The four men slept at the base of it. I was sound asleep when I was suddenly awakened by a terrific clap[Pg 375] of thunder. The rain began to pour. The lightning was frightening. The men called to me to come down. By the time I slid down to the bottom, my clothes were soaking wet. All five of us dug our way into the hay and remained there huddled, warm and steamy until we fell asleep. It must have rained for hours, coming down in sheets. When we were ready to walk again, the fields were a mass of mud and water. My ankle bothered me considerably. Poor Nikolai carried me over the mudholes, up to his knees in water. Many times we were glad that our invalid friend was not with us; he could never have survived the strenuous trip. Every time I stepped, mud oozed out of my boots and my leg hurt. On top of all the trouble I was seized with a terrible itch all over my body, adding a great deal of discomfort to the usual fatigue. Squirming around in my loose-fitting garments did not relieve the itch. Now something new had to be endured. All this may have been due to some poisonous weed in the hay. I was miserable and hungry, having had no food all day. It was decided that in case of separation at the border, Nikolai would follow with Alexander in four or five weeks, and that he could find me through the Austrian soldier.

I had given Nikolai endless messages to give to Alexander. I wanted Alexander to know how grateful I was and how close I felt toward him, for saving my life. It was hard to say good-bye to Nikolai since he was the last link with my beloved Russia. I wanted to throw my arms around him and say a prayer of thankfulness for all the sacrifices he and Alexander had made for me. I felt sure in my heart that the separation was to come soon. He warned me not to cry in case his escape should fail, but to walk away as if I were following my husband. As we continued through the muddy fields, we found some tiny potatoes, which the rains had washed to the surface. We rubbed off the soil and ate them raw. At dusk we were practically at the border. The Ukraine was still occupied by Germany. It was our luck; one month later the uprising was in full swing in Germany.

[Pg 376]

My face was swollen and covered with small red pimples.

The Serbian had just returned from a scouting search when suddenly we heard the command, “Halt. Where are you going?”

“We are going to a doctor,” answered Nikolai.

“All of you? And for what?” said the guard.

“Look at the lady for our answer,” said Nikolai.

“It looks like cholera. Who are you?” asked the guard.

“Her brother,” said Nikolai, and the Croatian assured the guard that he was my husband. Three of them, the Serbian, the Croatian, and the Austrian soldier produced their papers.

Facing Nikolai, the guard persisted, “Where are you from?”

“The village over there,” answered Nikolai, pointing back. “There are whole families ill, all needing medical care. When we obtain some drugs we will return to the village. We must locate a doctor soon.”

“What doctor?” asked the guard.

“There used to be a doctor over the bridge,” said the Serbian, pointing straight ahead.

“But you cannot go that way. It is under German occupation. Do you really know a doctor?”

“We’ll surely find one.” Nikolai retorted.

“But you absolutely cannot cross here,” said the guard pointing to Nikolai.

“How far are you going?” the guard turned to the Croatian. “How soon will you be back?” he inquired. “You are all right, but where are your wife’s papers?”

“Does she need papers to see a doctor?”

The questions were answered, but no one heard or cared what they were—we were all but drowned in the terrific rain.

“All right, go on.” said the guard at last with a gesture of hopelessness, “but be back in one hour.” He turned to Nikolai saying, “Not you!”

So only four of us crossed the bridge. The flimsy, temporary structure shook as we did so. We glanced into the[Pg 377] waters below but saw nothing in the darkness. All nature was angry.

I had made a cross in the air as Nikolai and we others parted in the dark. Only his shadow was running away, in order to escape the guard. I prayed to God that He might spare him and that Alexander, Nikolai, and I would meet again.

Now we were to face a new hazard. As we approached the demarcation line several soldiers approached us, asking where we were going. The two former prisoners of war spoke German and presented to the guards their papers. They were in order. Turning to me, the Croatian said that I was his wife. The Serbian, too, showed his papers. After hours of conversation and questionings and waiting, an officer arrived to say that everything was in order. I was to be permitted to enter Bukovina.

Now I was having my last look toward my troubled country, leaving it to the darkness of night.

When this long journey had started I had had no real wish to leave my country. I was ill in body and soul. I needed rest and quiet. My resistance was low. I wished for security. Willy-nilly, I went along with my early companions, then with Alexander and Nikolai, and lately with my new acquaintances.

With quivering lips, I had now left behind me the land I loved so much, and, somewhere in the wilderness, the remains of my beloved family. There were, also, Alexander and Nikolai. With deep feeling I had left all the tragedies behind.

God wanted it that way—to lay their swords and their lives at the altar of their country. May He grant them rest in Heaven. Father departed with his family very young, but in true Christian faith and fidelity to Russia. Now free from the cruel human lies, injustices and misunderstandings, he left the world not in pomp and glory, but in greater glory. He died for his country and his people whom he loved best.

With these thoughts in my mind I left behind the land of my heritage forever.

[Pg 378]


The rain came down in torrents and washed my tears from my sunken cheeks. Now I was alone with strangers. As we walked away from the border, we were drenched, hungry, and tired, with no prospect of a place to sleep. We spied a faint light ahead and hurried toward it. The man of the house would not accept Russian paper money. At that point the Austrian soldier produced some of his money, which he had been saving, and bargained with the proprietor for us to stay briefly, hoping that I would feel better quickly. I consulted the woman whom we also saw about my itching. She suggested pouring sour milk over a bed sheet and rolling me in it. This she did so completely that only my eyes and mouth were left uncovered. The only unaffected parts of my body were the palms of my hands and soles of my feet. This treatment brought great comfort and relief. My leg was better, though still swollen.

I was ready to resume my travel. The woman provided us with sufficient food to last for several days’ journey. She also gave me some rags with which I wrapped my feet so that they would not slide around in my boots. We passed many wheat fields and woods of tall oak trees; many had been uprooted and were lying dead, leaving big holes in the ground which were now filled with water and mud. The trenches were uncovered and deserted and the rain made rivers of them. The war had turned this area into a battleground. We could see[Pg 379] pieces of clothing, brass artillery shell cases, chains, pieces of iron and other odds and ends of metal buried in the trunks of trees—mute testimony to the destructive power of artillery. Tragedy was all around us. Rains had washed away the traces of blood shed here during the past four years. Suddenly I spied a geranium plant in the midst of the holocaust. Here and there were pieces of blankets and abandoned, rusty canteens.

Unexpectedly, here something gave away under my feet, uncovering some leaves. I screamed. It was a pair of feet—the flesh was all gone, just bones. They fell apart under the impact of my weight. The others responding to my scream came over and removed the leaves from the sunken body of a Russian soldier. His uniform was so rotted and stained, it was impossible to tell that he was an officer, but a rusty watch was still wrapped around his wrist bone. The woods showed all kinds of tragedies.

Father knew this battlefield as he himself had been shelled several times while inspecting the troops. For this he and Alexei received their St. George decorations. Father had had his to the last day. He knew the devotion and bravery of his men, those heroes who sacrificed everything. In the end they, too, paid with their lives, making room for Lenin and Trotsky.

The day before the war in 1914, I dreamed that woods like these I had just crossed were in flames, the fire was red and went high up to the sky. I heard the crackling of the trees. I knew then that the war was unavoidable, especially when in the evening for the first time Father appeared late for dinner. Now I recalled my dream as I saw this place of suffering. In distress I left the touching scene.

The men carried me through the deep mudholes, taking turns. I worried that I was too heavy. Actually I weighed only forty kilograms, not quite ninety pounds. The latest companion to join us, the Austrian soldier, had been stationed in these parts with the Austrian army and knew well the nearby villages. Moreover, he himself came from this part of the country. He volunteered to be our guide. A day or two later,[Pg 380] in the afternoon, we came to a stretch of woods where we saw some women picking yellow mushrooms.

A young woman among them already had her baskets full. We spoke to the young woman who said she was going home, part way to the nearby village.

We joined her. The men carried her baskets. The odor of these mushrooms brought back gnawing memories. Toward the end of the day, we reached the village. The Austrian soldier knew this village, having relatives here. Through him we were able to be taken care of for the night. He went into the house while we waited outside. An elderly woman came out and in a Slavic language I understood, said, “Come in, my child, I hear you have an injured foot. I know you are hungry. I will have supper ready for you in a minute.” She seemed so clean and kind and motherly, I was drawn to her immediately. We followed her into the house and there we met her daughters who also welcomed us.

I sat on a low stool shivering, while one of the girls took off my muddy boots and the other brought pails of water from outdoors which they poured into a large kettle on the wood-burning stove. My muddy stockings were stuck to my feet. Warm water was poured over them to take off the worst of the plastered mud. The mother took a sharp knife and scraped some salt into a fresh pail of warm water to serve as disinfectant. By the time we finished with my foot, the supper was ready. It consisted of warm mamaliga—a yellow mush made out of maize—with warm milk poured over it. It was a new dish to me, but nothing ever tasted better.

The mother examined my wound. While she washed it a tear dropped on my ankle. Our eyes met. “I think it will be all right, I do not see any infection.”

The warm milk soon stopped the chattering of my teeth. The good girls had already made up a bed for me: a small wooden bed with linen sheets spread over a narrow mattress. They had hardly left the room when I was fast asleep. The girls shared the same room with me, but I was not aware of[Pg 381] them. When I woke up the next day, the girls told me that the men had been waiting for me since eleven in the morning.

“What time is it now?” I asked.

“Four in the afternoon,” they laughed. “Several times the men came in and looked to see if you were asleep or dead, and were reassured.”

Evidently I felt safe at last. The girls told me excitedly that the men had slept in the barn and later had helped their mother clean the stable. The Germans had left her one horse and one cow, confiscating all the rest of the livestock before the Russian invasion, fearing that the Russians would take it.

When I started to dress, to my surprise I could not find my wet travelling clothes. Instead of my clothes I found a new outfit: everything from a cotton dress to a pair of shoes. This humble family had presented me with Sunday clothes belonging to their youngest daughter, six months my junior.

I located the men in the garden eating half-dried plums still on the trees. They were relaxed, free and happy after getting me safely across the border.

I, too, was relaxed and free.

At long last I had found a peaceful refuge with this unknown but friendly family which had taken me into its midst and made me a welcome member.

It was October 24th, 1918 ... for me a new day ... and the beginning of a new life.

[Pg 384]



The Grand Duchess Anastasia Nicholaevna was born in Peterhof, Russia, in 1901. A member of a close-knit family, the Grand Duchess was educated--as were her three sisters and her brother, the Tsesarevich Alexei--by private tutors, Russian, English and Swiss.

She accompanied her Family on several trips abroad and on numerous trips within the country, including extensive travel in 1913--a year widely celebrated in Russia as the Three Hundredth Anniversary of the ascension to the throne of the first Romanov, Michael Feodorovich.

After the escape of the Grand Duchess Anastasia from Russia--the point at which the present volume ends--she lived for short periods in Rumania and Yugoslavia and for many years in the United States, principally in Illinois and Wisconsin. She is now an American citizen and is currently living in New York City.

A future volume, on which she is working, will deal with her life and experiences in the post-escape years.

A lover of animals, the Grand Duchess is now completing a short book entitled My Friends: the Dogs, all of the royalties from which will be contributed to animal shelters and organizations devoted to the health and well-being of dogs.

The Grand Duchess Anastasia is creating a foundation which will establish and maintain a museum devoted to Russian culture and containing a chapel in memory of her Family. A substantial portion of her royalties from her autobiography will be turned over to the foundation and to a very small number of charitable and philanthropic organizations which she has, for the most part, already definitively selected.


By Ambassador Charles Yost
The Memoirs of H.R.H. Prince George of Greece
By Joseph F. Rudinsky, D.D., LL.D.
By General Baron P. N. Wrangel
By Clarence Lininger,
Colonel, U. S. Army (Ret.)
Brig. Gen., N.Y. Guard (Ret.)
By Joseph Paul-Boncour
By Professor Halvdan Koht
By General Emilio Aguinaldo and
Ambassador Vicente Albano Pacis
By Field Marshal Lord Birdwood
With an Introduction by Sir Winston Churchill
By General Sir Hubert Gough
By Alfreds Berzins
Edited by Jacob Baal-Teshuva

Transcriber’s Note

Minor printer’s errors were corrected by the transcriber. As far as possible, however, the original spelling and punctuation have been retained.