Memories of Russia: 1916 - 1919 by Princess Paley

Chapter XXVI

Fears and hopes

On May 5th/18th, the day of St. Irene, our daughter received from Vladimir a telegram to congratulate her on her name day. In this telegram he announced that they were being transferred from Ekaterinburg to Alapaevsk, a little place in the Urals known for its mines and its factories, We awaited with anguish a letter giving us details, and this letter soothed our fears. They had been housed in the school of the neighbourhood, and they even had a little garden to cultivate. The Grand Duchess Elizabeth Fedorovna, widow of the Grand Duke Serge, assassinated in 1905 by Savinkoff and Kaliaeff, who since her husband's death had taken the veil without pronouncing a nun's vow. She was a saint, and she will certainly be beatified one day as Saint Elizabeth. She came first to Ekaterinburg, then to Alapaevsk, accompanied by two nuns.

The Grand Duchess Elizabeth had continued to work in her convent of Saints Martha and Mary, in Moscow, throughout the Revolution. She had had many disputes with the Bolshevists, who rage in a special degree against all that is holy and sacred, but her calm and her courage always won the day for her. When, in the spring of 1918, the Germans sent Count von Mirbach as Ambassador to the Soviets - an act of indignity on the part of the Emperor William - they imagined that the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, like the Grand Duchess of Hesse-Darmstadt, by reason of her birth, would be an ally to them, Count von Mirbach went to see her, but she refused indignantly to receive him. From that moment her fate was settled. Mirbach, who was all-powerful with Lenin, demanded that she should be sent back [to Germany], and therefore she also took the path of exile, It was, said, but I have never been able to verify this statement, that she had an interview with her sister and her brother-in-law at. Ekaterinburg, It must have been a heart-breaking meeting.

It was at the request of Count von Mirbach also that the Imperial Family was transferred from Tobolsk to Ekaterinburg. The Germans, not attaching any weight to the signatures of the Bolshevist Jews, stipulated that the Emperor should with his own hand sign the shameful Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. The Emperor, who has been so calumniated, preferred a dreadful death to breaking faith with the Allies. What an example for those who hold converse with the abominable regicide, asking them to lunch and shaking hands with them effusively!

On reaching Alapaevsk the Grand Duchess Elizabeth was installed in the same school-house with the others, She was given a room, which she shared with the two nuns, Princess John had a room with her husband; the two brothers, Prince Constantine and Prince Igor, had another, while the Grand Duke Serge Michailovitch wanted to have Vladimir with him, He was good and father-like to our son, who wrote:

"If only you knew, my dear parent, what a wrong notion you have of my Uncle Serge! What a beautiful soul, what intelligence, what a memory, what culture I If you only knew how he is helping me with my drama on Lermontoff ! He gives me details regarding the manners and customs of the Caucasus, he talks out quite openly with me and I know now that this man, who outwardly is so cold and haughty, is a man of tender heart and that all his life he has been profoundly unhappy."

We continued to live at Tsarskoe from day to day in Prince Boris's cottage. Vladimir's absence made a terrible void, and we tried to console ourselves in the company of the young daughter, whom life's trials had suddenly matured. The Grand Duchess Marie, who was expecting her baby, had installed herself in a country house at Pavlovsk with her husband and her parents-in-law. No longer having any automobiles, we had, with difficulty, got hold of a little carriage, drawn by a wretched, poor horse and driven by one of our former office-boys. This enabled my husband to take the air outside the garden, and we often went to Pavlovsk to see the Grand Duchess, the Grand Duke going in the carriage while I and the daughters went alongside on our bicycle which had not yet been requisitioned.

Towards June 25th the rumour went about, and the Bolshevist newspapers confirmed it, that the Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovitch, who had been in exile at Perm, had fled with his aide-de-camp Johnsson, and that this was a coup planned by the Monarchists, Immediately the hope came to us that the Emperor, with his family and others-our son among them-might succeed in escaping also. The rumour that the Tcheko-Slovakian troops were drawing near to the Urals filled us with hopes, Alas! It was only a new and abominable lie of the Moscow Soviet!

At this period, towards the end of June, a son was born to the Grand Duchess Marie at Pavlovsk. The birth of this dear little being was to bring us a last ray of joy. After that, there were only tears for us. The day of his baptism, July 5th/18th, when. the Grand Duke, his grandfather, held him over the baptismal font, was the day of the abominable torture of the eight martyrs of Alapaevsk and the morrow of the atrocious murder of the Tsar. . .

That day, and for long months afterwards, of course, we knew nothing. A letter from Vladimir, which had arrived the day before, had, however, troubled and moved us very much. They had been cut off from their enjoyment of the garden and, in spite of the torrid heat, they had been confined in their rooms and forbidden to go out. All their belongings had been taken from themeven their linen, only enough being left them for a change, It was by a miracle that Vladimir had found an opportunity of describing to us his torments. In the midst of these trials we said to ourselves that we must have patience a little longer, that the Tcheko-Slovakian troops, led by the English General Knox, were advancing and would deliver them immediately. The idea that the sanguinary Jews would dare to lay their hand upon their innocent victims never once came to us.

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