Memories of Russia: 1916 - 1919 by Princess Paley

Chapter XL

Manner of Their Death

When I regained consciousness, I found myself in my own room, surrounded by my sister, my nieces, Marianne, Mlle. Ponomareff and Dr. Obnissky, who was busying himself about me and giving me some kind of medicine. I felt a horrible pain in my throat - it seemed to me as though I had a ball in it which prevented me from breathing, I could not weep, my eyes were dry and burning. Marianne, her eyes red, told me that she had -been to see - Mme. Gorky, who seemed greatly affected by the crime. She obtained for my daughter a permit to the Tche-Ka. Marianne had been there and had begged, in vain that they should give her the body of my husband for Christian burial. They had refused absolutely.

I did not move from my chair for I don't know how long - twenty-four hours I believe, Then I remember the door opening and my daughter coming into my room, accompanied by a fair-haired actress from the Imperial Theatres, whose name I cannot give because she has remained in Petrograd. Both of them knelt down in front of me and kissed my hands.

The actress then said to me:

"I beg of you on my knees to come home with me. I have learnt by chance that the Bolshevists see in you a too troublesome witness of their crimes and that they want to 'suppress' you as they say. Think of your children, of your daughters who have nobody in the world except you, As soon as I had wind of the Bolshevist intentions I went round to see Countess Zarnekau and here we are - I beg of you, come round to my place. The idea of finding the Princess Paley living with an actress will never occur to them," she added with a sad smile:

"I will hide you so \vell that none in the world will know where to find you."

The doctor, who just at this moment returned, insisted that I must accept the invitation of the young actress. Marianne packed my bag, which the doctor carried, They wrapped me up in my cloak, put my hat on my head and led me a short distance from the house. I walked like an automaton, without understanding anything, without knowing who was taking me, or whither I was going. . . . I believe the doctor did all he could to make me cry - to make me shed tears. It was three o'clock on Saturday, I . had eaten nothing since Thursday and the idea of opening my mouth to swalling food was repugnant to me. The doctor pretended to get annoyed; he told me how much the Grand Duke would he pained if he saw that I would listen to no one, not even him.

Four days after my arrival at the home of Mlle. X-- , Marianne had a Mass said in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan. My daughter spoke to the Bishop who officiated, She must have told him of the tragic happenings, for after the Mass he came up to me and said:

"I have noticed that you have been praying fervently, Be convinced that God sees your deep grief and that one day He will reunite you to your martyred husband, You are more to be pitied than he. He suffers no longer, he is happy, Jesus has applied His own wounds to his and they have been healed at once."

At these words, a flood of tears, the first, scorched my eyes. . . . They surrounded me and took me away. . . .

Despite all his efforts, the doctor did not succeed in making me sleep. Marianne spent whole nights in an arm-chair, watching over me: her filial devotion made me suffer more still. Everything was dead within me, I felt astonishment only at being still there when HE, my beloved, was no morE.

I spent eight days with the actress in absolute seclusion. But for my family, the doctor and Armand de Saint-Sauveur, I saw nobody. One great actor from the same theatre as Mlle. X did indeed see me for he came by mistake into my room. He said some moving words to me and added:

"Monseigneur is there where it is fitting he should be-in the fortress of Saints Peter and Paul, the Campo Santo of the Romanoffs."

Although it was not until later that I learned the details of the crime, from a Dr, Maltzoff, who was imprisoned in the hospital with the Grand Duke and who gave them to me in Finland, I shall, with a trembling hand, try to reproduce them here.

When the soldiers arrived with the automobile on Tuesday, January 15th/28th, to fetch my husband, the Commissaries made Dr. Maltzoff come with them. They gave him the order to announce to the" prisoner, Paul Romanoff," that he was to get ready to leave. Dr. Malt20ff entered the cell which the Grand Duke shared with Colonel K--.

"Monseigneur," he said to him: "be so good as to pack up and dress yourself, you are going away from here,"

"I am free at last then?" the Grand Duke asked with joy. \" I have orders to prepare you for going, and they are about to take you to the GorochovaIa."

"Probably, it is to set you free," the Colonel said.

The Grand Duke shook his head sorrowfully. "No," he said. "It is the end. I feel that it is all over. I have had a presentiment of it for some days past. Doctor, promise me to tell my wife and children that I have loved them passionately. Say also that before dying, I ask pardon of all those to whom I may have given offence during my life. And now help me to arrange my things, and let us go."

On the Wednesday evening at the Tche-Ka, the Grand Duke addressed himself to a Georgian whom they were liberating, begging him to telephone to me that they had taken him to the Gorochovaia. The Georgian did not do so, perhaps out of fear, perhaps because he could not get through to me. Dr. Maltzoff told me then that an old servant who was present at the murder, swore on his plighted word to tell him the whole truth: the Grand Duke, alone, was taken to the Gorochovaia where he was kept until ten o'clock on Wednesday evening. He was told that he was going to leave but that all his luggage was to remain there. They took him in an automobile to the fortress of Saints Peter and Paul; the other Grand Dukes were taken there direct from the Schpalernala, They were shut up in the black dungeons of the Troubetzkoy Bastion. At three o'clock in the morning, two soldiers named Blagovidoff and Solovieff made them go out, naked to the waist, and led them on to the Place de la Monnaie within the enceinte of the fortress, in front of the Cathedral. They saw an immense, deep common grave in which thirteen bodies lay already. These soldiers made them stand in line near the grave and the abominable crime was accomplished, Some moments before, the old servant heard the Grand Duke utter out loud the words:

"God forgive them, they know not what they do..."

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