Memories of Russia: 1916 - 1919 by Princess Paley

Chapter XXXIX

Shot - the Ex-Grand Dukes Paul Alexandrovitch, Dmitri Constantinovitch, Nicholas and George Michailovitch

After this night of nightmare and anguish, on the Thursday, towards' eleven in the morning, I went with my baskets to the Gorochovaia. A long file of persons were there, waiting to give their provisions to the prisoners. When it was my turn, the soldier who received the food said to me:

"Paul Alexandrovitch Romanoff is no longer here. Since this morning three baskets have been brought for the Romanoffs - none of them is here,"

"Probably," I said to myself, "the Grand Duke's cousins will have been brought here, as those who are looking after them have brought their food here; surely it is their liberation that is coming about, But where are they? Where ought I to go with my baskets? My husband cannot have had much to eat since the day before yesterday." I decided to return to the Island of Golodai, as it was the day for the reception of the food. A train packed full with people was going in that direction. I clung to the railings of the platform. A kind soul made just a little room for the baskets, and at the end of an hour I arrived for the last time at that hospital of unhappiness.

"Ah, so you've come back again, Citizeness Paiey," laughed bitterly the Commissary whom I had seen before. Well, you must have plenty of time to waste, since you have been told over and over again that Paul Romanoff is no longer here. Look for him at the Gorochovaia, or elsewhere," he added in tones which agonised my heart.

I returned to the Gorochovaia and tried to force my way inside, hoping that the fair-haired man who had helped me in August would come to my assistance again. The man on guard was stern, pitiless, I resolved not to budge from the vestibule of the Tche-Ka. Perhaps someone whom I knew would pass on the way up and would get me permission to go up also, I waited in vain until hvo o'clock, more and more tortured by the thought that my husband must be hungry. At last, at three o'clock, I decided to return, and in the street, at the gate of the Tche-ka, I met Treulieb, the Commissary of the Schpalernaia prison.

"Ah! Comrade Treulieb, what good luck! " I cried, "do run up I beg of you, and get me a permit to go upstairs. I must discover where my husband is to be found."

I saw him redden - he became quite crimson, then went pale: "I can do nothing for you," he stammered, " Really I can do nothing," and, without adding a word, he disappeared into the building.

What was I to do? I tried a last resource. A few yards away, in the same street, lived Woldemar, the hair-dresser to whom we all used to go. I hastened to his place and asked leave to use the telephone, After an hour of waiting, I got on to the Tche-Ka. A voice answered me:

"I am listening,"

"I am the Citizeness Paley; I ask you where is my husband, Paul Alexandrovitch Romanoff? "

"He isn't here,"

" Where is he ? "

" I don't know, wait a moment."

Then, after a long silence:

" Your husband is not here. Come to-morrow morning, a permit will await you at the entrance, You shall know all to-morrow morning."

And the voice cut short the conversation.

Giving it up, I returned home and spent the rest of the day crying and grieving over my husband's fate. I tried to telephone to Mme. Gorky and could not get on to her. The kind Mlle. Ponomareff and Koni did all they could to distract me, but that evening I could not take part in the conversation. I felt as though I had a nail driven down into my head and making me suffer horribly. Where was he? Where had they taken him? Was it to save him? The idea of assassination did not come to me but the fear that he might not have had anything to eat gave me no rest. I did not close my eyes that night.

Towards half-past eight, next morning, at the moment when I was reheating in a little chafing-dish a little coffee left over from the previous evening, Armand de Saint-Sauveur, looking very pale, came in to see me.

"Good day, Armand," I said, "what an early hour! Is it because you didn't come last evening? "

He did not reply to my question.

"Listen," he said, "do you know where the Grand Duke is? I am horribly anxious about him, horribly anxious," he repeated.

I felt as though a great block of ice were pressing down on my body. "'W'hat do you know?" I cried. "Speak, I beg of you! "

"I know nothing definite, They must have taken them somewhere a long way off. I am so anxious. Let us go down to Freze's, the engineer, shall we? He has a telephone! You must speak with Mme. Gorky - she should know."

We went down together to the first floor, I asked Mme. Freze to excuse me and grasped the telephone. In a moment, Mme. Gorky replied.

"Maria Fedorowna," I said, "I am in a state of appalling anguish, I can hardly stand. I implore you to tell me where my husband is. Since midday on Tuesday, when they took him away from the hospital, I have not been able to find him, and a friend who has just come to see me says he is very nervous about his fate. I beg of you to tell me the truth."

"But your husband is in no danger," she  replied:"replied: "This morning at eleven o'clock - that is in two hours from now  - Alexis Maximovitch should return from Moscow with all their liberations signed."

"But I am told they have been taken away. The most sinister rumours - are going about as to their fate."

"What an idea!" she said: "the Soviet Government never punishes without reason. There is justice now in Russia. I give you my word that your husband is not in danger."

Saint-Sauveur, who had taken the second. receiver, said to me: "Listen, Mme. Gorky must know. As she declares there is nothing in it, I may tell you now that I read in the paper this morning that all the four had been shot."

I sank on a chair utterly crushed. I did not doubt for a moment that Saint-Sauveur's news was true. Mme. Freze sent out to buy the paper. I remained there stupefied, understanding nothing, unable to say a word, . , . All the radiant happiness of former times passed before my dazed vision. Then the paper arrived, after a long martyrology of people assassinated on January 17th/30th, I read these words: "Shot. . . the ex Grand Dukes, Paul Alexandrovitch, Dimitri Constantinovitch, Nicholas and George Michailovitch," and I remember nothing more of that day.

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