Memories of Russia: 1916 - 1919 by Princess Paley

Chapter XXVII

Terrible News

On July 6th/19th a shattering piece of news came to plunge us in grief inexpressible The Bolshevist newspapers announce< quite calmly that "Nicholas Romanoff, havinl made an effort to escape," had been killed by the Red Guard who had him under watch, and tha the Moscow Soviet had approved of their conduct. Not a word about the Empress or the children We did not know what to believe. For a long time we hoped that it was only an astute manoeuvre of the Bolshevists to hide from tht whole world their danger at the Emperol having made his escape. There was immense excitement, the churches of Tsarskoe were filled unceasingly with people; women and childrer prayed and wept. Te Deums were sung and there was very little in the way of public prayer for the dead. Alas! all lived in the hope that the Imperial Family was saved - a hope with which some desperate fanatics deceive themselve; even to-day.

On July 8th/21st, on opening the papers, I fainted for the first time in my life. The room swam round me and everything became black.

I sank down on the couch on which I was sitting. I was alone in the room and I don't know how long I remained thus-perhaps only a few seconds. When I came to myself, my head heavy, my temples all moist, my heart palpitating, I picked up again the newspaper which had fallen from my hands. This is what I read and what had moved me so much:

"On July 5th/18th, the ex-Princes Serge Michailovitch, Constantine, Igor Constantinovitch and Paley, imprisoned, at Alapaevsk, succeeded with the help of armed men in escaping from the house in which they were living; there were some men killed and wounded. I have sent some men in pursuit of them.

Signed: Commissary BELOBORODOFF."

Saved! Saved! My beloved boy, my child, my joy, was saved! At the moment he was far from the monsters who were torturing him! He would go by Siberia to Japan and thence to France, where he would await our deliverance.

Trembling, and my legs giving beneath me, I made my way up to my husband's room and, without a word, showed him the paper, He read it, made a Sign of the Cross, and said:

"Let us thank God for His great mercy, our dear Bodia is saved! Now, at all costs, we ourselves must get out of this hell! "

On leaving the Grand Duke I went back to my own room and knelt down before my ikons. I took up the New Testament and opening it at random, I read these words of St. Luke, chapter vii. verse 12:

" And as he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, they were carrying the body of a dead n . man, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow."

These words chilled me to the bone, but the closing words: "the dead man lifted himself up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him back to his mother," inundated my heart with an immense happiness. I said to myself, "Vladimir will be thought to be dead, but the Lord will give him back to me one day!" My whole being exulted with joy.

About a week later, towards July 16th/29th, the little Pole who had accompanied Vladimir into exile arrived. They had made him go away from Alapaevsk, as well as one of the nuns who were with the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, three days before the murder. He brought us one of the magnificent letters which Vladimir knew how to write. Our son told us of their sufferings, of the humiliations they endured; but his profound faith gave him courage and hope.

"All that used to interest me formerly," he wrote, "those brilliant ballets, those decadent paintings, that new music-all seems dull and tasteless now. I seek the truth, the real truth, the light and what is good. . . . Be kind to that nice little Kronkovsky - he looked after me with untiring devotion down to the last minute. They are separating me from him, and I cannot even give him any money - do so for me ! " \

The good little valet told us that on taking leave of his master he gave him secretly all his little savings, some hundreds of roubles, and that Vladimir had thanked him with tears in his eyes. He wept as he told us this. Did he know already the terrible fate which the bandits had inflicted upon his master, and was he having pity on us in concealing it from us? We were never to know, for, after we had reimbursed him generously for his generous action, he talked to us of returning to Poland. We never saw him again.

On July 20th/August 2nd, the Grand Duchess Marie, her husband, her father-in-law and her brother-in-law set out secretly from Pavlovsk for. the Ukraine, leaving the baby in the charge of its grandmother, Princess Pontiatine. The persecution of the officers had become such that the two young princes were in continual danger of being arrested. They came to say good-bye to us, and the Grand Duchess told us that she hoped to come across Vladimir again somewhere abroad. Our adieux were sad. Had she the presentiment that she would never again see the admirable father who loved her so much and whom she had always adored?

A week later, on July 27th/August 9th, towards ten in the evening, we were seated in the little writing-room of the Grand Duke Boris. My young daughters were asleep. Suddenly someone rang and knocked simultaneously. Feeling apprehensive, we asked, before opening:

" Who is there? "

" It is I - Marianne! " answered the voice.

And in a moment or two my daughter, whose courage was equalled only by her devotion, was seated with us and thus addressing the Grand Duke:

"My dear Uncle Paul, you must follow me immediately. It is no longer the trifling matter it was last year. I have come to you on behalf of the Danish Minister, M. de Scavenius. I have not seen him myself, it is Peter Dournovo who sends me. Your life is really in great danger. The bandits have decided to suppress all the members of the Imperial Family. It is necessary, dear Diadia-Palia (the name which my children by my first marriage had for the Grand Duke), that you should come just now and leave by the last train. I am to take you to the Austrian Embassy, which is under the protection of Denmark and over which the Danish flag is flying. You will remain hidden there for three days; then you will put on the uniform of an Austrian prisoner and you will leave for Vienna with the first convoy. . . ."

The Grand Duke looked at her with. his kind eyes and said: "Little Marianne, let me embrace you for all you have done and want to do for Mama and for me; but you will say to the friends who sent you that I prefer to die rather than put on, even for five minutes, an Austrian uniform. Your mama has thought well to deposit the remains of our fortune in the Austrian Embassy, out of the power of the Bolshevist brigands and under the protection of the Danish flag, and you are aware that I hold that everything your mama does is done well. . But as for my wearing the enemy's uniform, that, never! You must not speak of it to me any more. "

But it is your life that is at stake," insisted Marie, her eyes filled with tears.

The Grand Duke, with his noble heart, remained unshakable, and Marianne went back to town alone by the last train, depressed and miserable.

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