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Diaries and Letters - Letters of Grand Duchess Maria

Extracts from the Letters of Maria to her Father

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These extracts have been chosen to provide an idea of daily life for the Tsar and his family and specifically to give a picture of life in the Alexander Palace. They were translated by Jsenya Dyakova.

 

601,1291, PP.12,26, March 8, 1914.
"...It was fun to bathe in your bathroom, I enjoyed myself like a pug-dog, and, of course, I did "business" in your "OO". It was not very comfortable and rather cold as the lid was opened but I did not notice it. The water reached my shoulders - not in the "OO" but in the bathroom... Mother and Tatiana are playing "halma". The window in the bedroom is opened and there is a draught from the door and we can hear Gulyga..."

Sept. 20, 1914, pp.29,30
"...Now I am writing to you in the bathroom. Liza is combing my hair and Tatiana is washing herself behind the curtain..."

Sept. 23, 1914, pp.29,30
"...Anya (Vyrubova) had dinner with us and is now lying on the couch beside Mother. Mother has just got a letter from you and is very happy..."

Oct. 31, 1914, p.50
"...I am going to have an English lesson now. What a bore!..."

Nov. 19, 1914, p.52.
"...It's 2 p.m. now. Mother is lying on the couch and writing a letter to you and Anastasia is writing to Aunt Olga... I always sit in your arm-chair at tea- time... Aleksey is resting upstairs after breakfast... I am happy that we'll have no lessons on Friday because of the holiday. It's such fun..."

Dec2,1914, p.61
"...Pyotr Vasilyevich (Petrov) is reading Turguenev to me and Anastasia..."

601,1291, Jan. 12, 1915, p.69
"...Now I am sitting at Mother's writing-desk and am writing with a very bad pen. Sisters are in the hospital but will soon come to be present at the service that will take place in Mother's sitting-room..."

Jan. 24, 1915, p.71
"...Aleksey is in bed in the playing-room. Mother has just come to his room and they are playing differentgames..."

Jan. 27, 1915, p.73
"...Alexey has just come back home after his walk. He is taken upstairs in the sledge for the sake of convenience. It looks awfully silly..."

March 6,1915, p.79
"...I am writing to you in the morning before 9 a.m. Anastasia is doing her homework. Ortino has just been here but is already running back along the passage to Tatyana..."

Apr. 5, 1915, p.82
"...The concert in Maria's and Anastasia's hospital was a great success. De La Zari was very good and told a lot of funny stories. Then a lady in a sarafan danced a Russian folk dance. (She was rather affected). My Demenkov (Demenkov was an officer, Maria's favorite) was a dear and he introduced all the actors to us. Little Shvybzik (Anastasia's dog) has just done the "Governor" on Mother's carpet and Anastasia is now trying to teach him how to behave..."

Apr. 8, 1915, p.84
"...I am now sitting near Mother's bed in which she is lying. Olga and Tatiana are reading. Aleksey wanted to sleep in your place today and told Mother that he wanted to play her husband. Yesterday he ate too many dry bread crusts and inthe evening he was sent right to Derevenko...(a sailor, Alexey's dyadka)... After dinner Mother and I played "colorito". Now she is reading an English book..."

601,1291, Apr. 18, 1915, pp.86,87
"...We have just finished dinner. Aleksey has come to Mother's to pray. Sisters are sorting out the flowers sent from Livadia by the Yanovs. Mother is trying to send Anastasia to bed but she is desperately trying to find Shvybzik which is missing. Everybody is calling him but he would not come, merzavets. He was found at last 10 minutes later. We all thought that he was under the sofa. Mother started to bark and Shvybzik answered. he appeared to be sitting under Mother's couch and we all put a great effort in pulling him out of there. I continue writing next morning at 8 a.m. I've just drawn back the curtain and was delighted to see that it was 19 degrees above zero in the sun. Alexey has come into our bedroom and is now lying in my bed and is playing with Anastasia and Shvybzik. Sisters are still sleeping. Shvybzik is squeaking. I think, he wants to see the "Governor". He has done it already and Anastasia has run in with a small shovel and took it away..."

June 19,1915, p.100
"...Aleksey goes fishing with a fishing-rod to the pond almost every day. Yesterday my Kolya (Demenkov) and Sapozhnikov were on duty. Anastasia and I kindly talked to them through the open window. Olga and I sat on the window-sill under the balcony today and watched the soldiers play draughts..."

601,1291, Aug. 30, 1915, p.106
"...The four of us are now lying in the arm-chairs with our legs on the chairs. Olga is knitting a stocking. Anastasia is sorting out the old letters; Tatiana is reading poetry. The morning we were at the service. We had breakfast in the balcony with Sonya. In the afternoon we went for a drive and visited the cemetery. A small church is being built there..."

Sept.3,1915, p.109
"...Pyotr Vasilyevich (Petrov, a teacher) is reading "An Icy House" to me and Anastasia. It's awfully interesting..."

Sept. 5, 1915, p.115
"...We are drinking tea now. We had a very nice walk. N.D. (Nickolai Dmitrievich Demenkov - an officer of the Guards' Crew. Maria was in love with him.) was on duty and we talked nicely through the open window. We went as far as the "caprice" and climbed the stairs, do you know? And as soon as we reached it Olga took her umbrella and rushed furiously at one of the windows and broke three glasses with her umbrella and I broke another window, then Anastasia did the same thing... Olga is reading a newspaper now and Mother is talking to Anya..."

Sept. 19, 1915, p.117
"...We always have dinner upstairs now in the playroom. It's very cosy, I think. After dinner Mother, Aleksey, me and Vladimir Nickolayevich (Derevenko, a doctor) or Mr. Gilliard usually play the game which we call "The slower you go the sooner your reach your destination". It's fun because you can"eat" the others. We played this game last year in our hospital..."

601,1291, Oct. 31, 1915, p.122
"...I am writing to you from my bedroom. We've just had tea. Sisters are still at Mother's. In the morning we had classes and in the afternoon we went for a drive with Nastenka (Hendrikova). I was in our hospital with Anastasia and she took some pictures of the wounded officers... An English woman had breakfast with us the other day. She had come to Petrograd to organize an English hospital in Dmitry's house..."

Nov. 5, 1915, p.124
"...I see Nickolai Dmitrievich only in the church. Now I am sitting in my bedroom. Liza is lighting the icon lamps and Olga is writing something in the next room. Her bedroom became very comfortable when they put a couch there... I think, we are going to Anya tonight. Grigory will be there, too. We spent the whole evening upstairs because of Olga and had tea there, too. Olga is crying out now because she almost upset her ink-pot and her fingers are dirty with ink and she doesn't want to write any longer..."

601,1291, Nov. 28, 1915,p.129 "...Anastasia and I usually play big tennis in our classroom throwing the ball against the wall when we are at home. Of course, we knocked down a lot of things but did not break anything yet..."

Dec. 1, 1915, p.131
"...Now I am sitting on the floor in Mother's study. She is lying on the couch; Anya is sitting in your arm-chair and sisters are sitting on the chairs and and working..."

Dec. 17, 1915, p.133
"...It's so cold here, even in the rooms that one wants cry out. We are going to have breakfast upstairs with Aleksey. I often play cards with him and we don't argue as yet..."

Jan. 4, 1916, p.137
"...Anastasia is sitting on the sofa near the stove and is drawing something. We changed everything in our room. We put the beds where they belonged and put the screen in a different place. I can't describe it well to you. You'll see everything with your own eyes when you come back..."

March 3, 1916, p.148
"...You must be enjoying the English book. Grandmother sent Mother the book "Olive" and Mother sent some other book to her..."

March 9, 1916, p.150
"...Anastasia is also sitting here now and is playing balalaika..."

March 14, 1916, p.151
"...Nickolai Dmitrievich Demenkov left on Saturday. I talked to him over the telephone. He was very happy to go. Do you remember, I sewed a shirt for him? I asked him about it and he said that he liked it very much and it was just his size... I am writing to you from Orchy's room. Mother is lying on the couch and Vladimir Nickolayevich is doing the electrical treatment to her..."

601,1291, March 29, 1916,p.153
"...Now I am sitting at Mother's after dinner. Anya has already come. Tatiana is playing cards and Olga is having a reprimand. Alexey and Anastasia went to bed. They had played balalaikas here and Olga had played the piano.."

Apr. 2, 1916, p.157
"...Now I am downstairs. Mother and Tatiana are playing cards. Olga is reading and Anya is biting her nails. Volkov is running about asking about a lot of boring things. Tomorrow we'll have breakfast with Aunt Olga (Greek Queen Olga Konstantinovna) and Khristo(Greek Prince). Dmitry will have tea with us..."

May 20, 1916, p.162
"...Now I am sitting in Mother's room. Olga is playing the piano and Tatiana is reading something. Anastasia has already gone to bed. Mother is reading some petitions. Yesterday Ledigarov had dinner with us. He was very nice and told us a lot of things about the regiment. We are all wearing Yevpatorian shawls and missing warm weather..."

May 29, 1916, p.165
"...We went to the Children's Island the other day with Poup's sister and she pulled out the weeds with us. There was a lot of rotten grass in between the lilies of the valley which did not let them grow fast. We cleared up the half and are going to do the other half soon..."

July 4, 1916, p.166
"...We drank tea in the balcony, then we rocked in the hammock. It is hanging on two trees behind the path in front of the balcony. The trees there are very strong. Before dinner we went for a drive with Mother. After that I went for a walk with Tatiana, Anastasia and Trina. We walked along the streets around the boulevard to the railway station and back..."

601,1291, June 8, 1916, p.170
"...Shvybz (Anastasia) got a ping pong as a present for her birthday, that is a table-tennis. And we played it with her. It was very tiresome as we had to lie on the floor all the time to look for and pick up the balls..."

Aug. 7, 1916, p.186
"...It was very pleasant to see Issizaki Z.I. at breakfast yesterday. He showed Olga the menu from a distance and at the same time was telling her that he remembered his letters that he had written to her to Mogilyov in Japanese. I was sitting between Uncle Georgy and Uncle Pavel, so I felt at ease and was not embarrassed. Now I must go and change in black for the funeral service. We are constantly having offices for the dead nowadays."

601,1291, Sept. 28, 1916, p.205
"...I am reading the book "Rosary" in English now. You have read it. I like it very much.

Oct. 16, 1916, p.206
"...How dull it is to be back to Tsarskoe Selo again. Our daily routine again - classes in the morning, our hospital, the Grand Palace and a walk in the afternoon, the sisters' hospital in the evening. Now I am sitting at Mother's writing desk. We've just finished breakfast. ...Olga and Tatiana are reading, Mother is writing to you now. Shvybz went upstairs..."

Oct. 30, 1916, p.208
"...It's been 2 years since the Grand Palace's dear hospital was organized, so we should go and attend a concert there. Your friend Lersky will be there. I'll be happy to see him as he is a nice person to talk to and usually tells a lot of funny things. I am at Mother's now... I think, I have to close up as I have to finish two shirts for the officers who are leaving our hospital and will come to say good-bye today..."

Nov. 3, 1916, p.210
"...You can't imagine how pleasant it was to hear Aleksey's voice over the telephone. I have a feeling now that you've become closer to us but what is most important - no one can overhear us as when the engineer connects our two lines he switches himself off..."

Feb. 23, 1917, p.223
"...I am writing to you from my bedroom. Olga and Tatiana are resting in the next room and Alexey is in bed in the playing-room. Mr. Gibbs is sitting at his bedside in the doctor's white smock. It looks very funny. Mother, Shvybz and me are also wearing overalls not to infect other dresses..."

1917, pp.277,278
"...Now I am sitting in the middle of our bedroom. They all lie somewhere around me. Mother is lying on the couch and Olga, Tatiana, Anastasia and Aleksey are lying in beds. Tatiana has got pain in the ear therefore her head is covered with bandages and she can't hear any- thing. Olga has become voiceless because of the bad cough. Shvybz and Aleksey are better than others, they are the only ones who speak loudly. Alexey tries to jump in bed which he is forbidden to do. Lily (Den) is sitting on the floor and is talking to Mother in a low voice. I usually stay with them for a long time talking to them or looking out of the window. Each one of them has his animal-pet in bed..."

601,1291, 1917,p.297
"...Sisters are still kept in beds in a dark room but Aleksey got tired of it and was transferred to the playroom where he doesn't curtain all the windows. Today Zhilik, me and him cast bullets out of tin and he liked it very much. Mother is cheerful though her heart is not quite O.K. yet. I spend all my time with Mother now as I am the only one who is not sick and can walk. I also share the bed with her to be closer to her in case someone wants to see her or to tell her something. Lily sleeps in the Red Room near the dining-room on the sofa where Olga used to sleep. She is a dear and helps us a lot in everything. We can see our cossacks and soldiers out of the windows. Yesterday Mother and I went to the basement to see how they all had got settled there. There was complete darkness there as there is no electricity in the house in the day time. The soldiers were very nice; when we passed by they leaped up from their straw beds where they were lying to greet Mother. We were led by the porter who carried a candle and gave the soldiers the command "attention!" Yesterday we had a service here. The icon of the Virgin of the Sign was brought from the Church for the sisters. We felt better the whole day after that..."

601,1291, 1917, pp.282,283
"...I am with Shvybz now. She is lying in bed and drinking tea. Yesterday she could still work and we looked out of the windows at dear cossacks and other soldiers.The soldiers were wonderful. They fought with each other, pushed each other and fell on the snow thus warming themselves up. Victor (Erastovich Zborobsky - a cossack sotnik of Her Majesty's Escort) was also sweet. He talked to the soldiers all the time and they made a crowd around him. He told them different funny things and they laughed loudly. Then he smoked a cigarette and offered them cigarettes from his case. In the afternoon we saw out of Shura's (Aleksandra Tegleva) window the cossacks with their horses standing around their officers and singing their songs in low voices. Then some hay was brought and they fed their horses; then they went to the basement to have their own meal. There was always dinner and tea ready for them. Small mobile kitchens were situated in the yard..."

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