One evening at the very beginning of the Bolshevist rule, my husband and I decided to go to the ballet. I had never before been in the Imperial Theatres otherwise than through a private entrance and in the imperial box, and I found it interesting to view the house from orchestra seats, as a private individual. See more
We bought our tickets and went. At that time no one ever thought of dressing for the theatre so we went as we were. We arrived when the spectacle had already begun. During the first interval we went into the foyer. The theatre was crowded by people from all walks of life. I remember that from the beginning I was shocked by the contrast between the well-known music and performance and the unusual, odd appearance of the house.
On our way back to our seats I looked up—it must have been for the first time—and saw the box on the right side of the stage which from time immemorial had been occupied by the imperial family. Framed by the heavy silk draperies, in the arm-chairs with the gilded backs, there now sat several sailors, their caps on their dishevelled heads and with them their ladies in woollen, coloured kerchiefs. All things considered, there was nothing unusual in this sight, but nevertheless it affected me powerfully. My sight grew dim; I felt myself about to fall, and groped for the hand of my husband, who was walking beside me. Beyond that, I remember nothing. I came to myself after a thirty-minute fainting spell, the first and the last in my life, lying upon the hard oilcloth couch of the theatre's infirmary. The strange face of a doctor was bending over me and the room was filled with people who must have come to stare. My teeth chattered j I was shivering all over. Putiatin wrapped me in a blanket and took me home, and I recovered only the next day.
I had discovered, moreover, upon returning from Moscow that I was expecting a child; this, in the circumstances, disturbed me greatly.
Life became every day more unstable, more alarming. The Bolsheviks issued decrees demolishing everything and hastened to carry out their programme. We stood, all of us, at the edge of a precipice, and I especially feared for my father. See more
Several searches were made in his house in Tsarskoie by members of the local Soviet, men in soldiers' uniforms, with foreign names and alien, un-Russian faces. They looked for and confiscated firearms, which were now prohibited in private homes.
Discovering my father's immense and very valuable wine cellar, the Soviet sent men to destroy it. Throughout an entire night they carried out bottles and smashed them. The wine burst forth in a torrent. The air was saturated with vinous vapours. The whole population came at a run and, paying no heed to the threatening shouts of the Soviet representatives, gathered into pails the snow saturated with wine, drew with cups the flowing rivulets, or drank lying flat on the ground and pressing their lips to the snow. Everybody was drunk—the members of the Soviet who were smashing the bottles and the people surrounding the house. Throughout the night the drunken uproar continued. Shouts and abuse filled the house, the yard, the adjoining streets. No one in the house slept that night; it seemed as if every minute the free debauch would end in some terrible violence, but this time the crowd was too drunk to close in and kill.
Another day passed, then VolodiaDuke, lieutenant, poet. came to see us. My father, he said, had been for the moment set free only on the condition that he would not leave Petrograd until he had received special permission to do so. See more
For this reason my stepmother, the Princess Paley, had decided for the time being to settle in one of the back apartments of my father's house on the quay.The Bolsheviks, Volodia said, had intended to imprison. Father in the Fortress of SS. Peter and Paul, but word came of this in advance from a devoted retainer, who learned of it from a conversation overheard in the Soviet of Tsarskoie-Selo.
The warning came to Princess Paley. Utterly terrified, she rushed at once to the Soviet, where, with the energy and persistence inherent in her, she did not desist until the decision was revoked. My father spent three days in Smolny. Then he was told that he would be transferred to the fortress. He understood perfectly how such an imprisonment might end. This time, however, the storm passed us by. My father was placed, as I have said, on parole with his family in Petrograd. They lived thus for two weeks and then received permission to return to Tsarskoie-Selo accompanied by a sailor, a member of the Petrograd Soviet.
We reached Petrograd safely, if not on time. Everything there seemed quiet. We drove home to the Nevsky. The minute I was in the house I rushed upstairs to the Laimings to find out what had happened during our absence.At my entrance they both fell a step backwards as if they were seeing a ghost. See more
In Petrograd, as in Moscow, the Bolshevist uprising had succeeded. Kerensky had fled, the members of the Provisional Government had disappeared, but the troops loyal to them had engaged the Bolsheviks in several bloody combats. In this fighting the heaviest losses had been sustained by the Women Battalions and by the youths who were defending the Winter Palace. Petrograd appeared to have had no reports of what had happened in Moscow, and the Laimings could tell me nothing about conditions at Tsarskoie-Selo.
We made inquiries and learned that the passenger service between Petrograd and Tsarskoie-Selo had been discontinued. That terrified me. I had to know at any cost what was happening there. I could not go myself, so again we dispatched the orderly, the only suitable person in this world of grey soldiers' coats. He remained absent the entire day. Upon his return he came into my room, and, with that imperturbability which so often distinguishes people of his mentality, announced: "I am to tell you that everything is all right and that the Grand Duke Paul was taken away to the Smolny Institute two days ago."
The shooting did not cease. We were cut off from everything. The servants were afraid to go out to get provisions. When such supplies as we had in the house, and which we used very carefully, were completely exhausted, we were obliged to take counsel and consider our situation. Only a short street and a wide square separated us from the Nicholas station. See more
It seemed that the best thing to do would be to go forth, attracting as little attention as possible, and attempt to return to Petrograd. My husband's orderly was with us in Moscow. He volunteered to go that evening, under the shelter of darkness, to the station and find out whether there was any train service. In his grey soldier's coat he would attract, he felt, no particular attention. I remember how anxiously we saw him go forth. He returned shortly with the information that there were some trains to Petrogradj he had also learned that to all appearances the Bolshevist uprising had succeeded, though the losses were great. A great many buildings, he added, had been damaged, the Kremlin worst of all. We decided to pack our things and go to the station. It was quite late when we left the house and, accompanied by the orderly and the janitor, who carried our suitcases, proceeded along the street plunged in complete darkness. The square was like an inkpot. But we did not meet anyone, and reached the station safely. It presented an extraordinary spectacle. People were sitting or lying all over it, their luggage or bundles piled up by their side. Many had been sitting there for three days without eating, without changing their position. The air was thick and close from human exhalations. Talks, arguments, abuse, rose in a hubbub. In the crowd were many wounded, tied up with all sorts of rags. Here and there sneaked suspicious-looking soldiers, and beggars in indescribable tatters loitered about.We were unable to learn anything except that the Bolsheviks had been victorious the troops loyal to the Provisional Government; nor could we learn whether anything had happened in Petrograd. Finally, after endless inquiries and waiting, we discovered the time of departure of the train for Petrograd. It seemed strange beyond belief that there still existed such things as trains. And when we actually got into a carriage, my astonishment knew no bounds. For it was an ordinary, clean, old-fashioned first-class sleeping-car with a polite conductor, electricity, polished mirrors and doors, and clean bed-linen.
The town seemed peaceful. We decided to go to the bank for the jewels. We rose early and set off. As he opened the gates for us the old janitor said: "Something's wrong in town. It strikes me that the Bolsheviks are up to something today. See more
Maybe you shouldn't go out; it pays, nowadays, to be careful”. He was right; there was in the air of the town something altogether peculiar. That curious sense of imminence to chaos acquired since the revolution, warned us that something was going to happen; as we walked, my heart contracted painfully. But the streets were still deserted. We took the first cab we came upon and drove towards the centre of the city. At first we met small groups, then crowds of armed soldiers. Their faces expressed the same silly excitement that I had noticed before.
As we turned into the Tverskaya our cab was stopped by a post of soldiers who barred the way with their rifles. We made a detour. Then, somewhere in the distance we heard shots in quick succession, like the beating of a drum. People ran down the street and there were soldiers again, gathering in groups, running. At the corner of the side street on which the bank was located, we dismissed our cab, preferring to walk. The driver, lashing the horse, set it at a gallop and quickly disappeared from view. Some men were carrying two stretchers towards usj the stretchers were empty. A man in a dark, shabby overcoat was lying at my feet, sprawling awkwardly, his head and shoulders upon the sidewalk, his body on the street. And still I did not quite understand what it was all about. Suddenly a volley broke from unseen rifles towards the end of the side street, leading into the Tverskaya. Putiatin and I did not even exchange a glance. We hurried towards the bank. The door was locked and bolted. At a complete loss, we stopped and looked at each other. What now?
The excitement in the street was swiftly increasing. The shooting, sometimes distant, sometimes quite near by, was almost incessant. All the cabs had quite naturally disappeared j and it would have been now, in any event, quite out of the question for us to drive through the town. Where were we to go and how? Putiatin did not know Moscow at all. I had forgotten most of it during the years of my absence. Still, we could not remain standing there j the shooting was coming closer; we had to move.
A small crowd had rushed into our street from the Tverskaya, as though pursued. In their continued rush they now carried us with them. Putiatin, afraid that we might lose each other, clutched me tightly under the arm. Together with the crowd we ran along, half pushed and half dragged, to a street running parallel to the Tverskaya.
Here trucks rumbled noisily by, filled with armed soldiers. These soldiers stood crowded closely together, shooting at random, as the trucks bounced them up and down on the cobblestones. Bullets whizzed above our heads and smashed through the lower windows of the houses. The shattered window-panes fell clattering to the ground. Occasionally, one of the crowd would suddenly sit down in a heap, or fall with an awkward throwing gesture of the arms. I did not turn around or look at them. For the second time in my life I was experiencing mortal fear. We sneaked from one side street into another, avoiding the larger thoroughfares, rushing like rats from corner to corner. As far as possible we tried going in the direction of that part of town where my husband's people lived. The Yusupovs' house was so far away as to be out of the question. By noon we were only at the Grand Opera. Now shells were bursting over the city; we could hear the explosions and the deafening roar when they hit. In one of the side streets adjoining the Theatre Square we had to remain for a long time Shooting was going on on all sides, all exits were blocked.
Then suddenly, probably from the square, a file of soldiers swung quickly into our street. It was steep goings they bent forward as they marched uphill towards us. As they marched we could see them reloading their rifles. A short distance from us they halted, exchanged matter-of- fact glances, deployed and, lifting their rifles, took aim. The small crowd of people, amidst whom we were first flattened in terror to the wall, now seeing no hope in that, with the black muzzles of those rifles still steadily upon them, all of one accord lay down flat.I remained standing. I could not lie down in front of the rifles of these men. I preferred to take what was coming on my feet. My head did not work; I did not think, yet I could not lie down. After a first volley came a second. I heard a bullet hit the wall just above my head, then two others. I was still alive. I do not remember how nor where the soldiers wentj I do not remember what was going on around me. I remember only that I turned around and saw upon the bright yellow plaster of the house three deep holes and around them white circles where the lime was knocked off. Two of them almost merged into one, the third farther off.
What happened afterwards remains in my memory as a continuous nightmare. The details of all the hours we spent that day in the streets of Moscow are enveloped in a fog permeated by a feeling of inexpressible horror and despair. People ran past me J they fell, rose, or remained lying j cries and moans were intermingled with the roar of shots and the exploding of shells, while a thick, vile-smelling dust stood in the air. My head had been crammed with so many impressions that it now refused to register j my mind was dulled. We reached the old Putiatins only after five in the afternoon, having spent the entire day, since nine that morning, in the streets.
But even if they would confiscate all the money in the banks, we would still have our jewels. Mine were in a state bank in Moscow. I thought that it would be wiser to take them from there before it was too latej it would be safer, I thought, for me to hide them at home. See more
We decided therefore to go to Moscow and take the jewels from the bank, and to see Aunt Ella, who had not met my husband. Taking very few things with us, we left at the end of October. In Moscow we stopped in the house of the Yusupovs, near the Nicholas station.
Direct attack had availed me nothing, very well, then, I would try the indirect. Upon inquiry, I learned that KuzminAndrei Kuzmin - ensign, revolutionary, "president" of the Krasnoyarsk republic (1905), assistant chief of the Petrograd military district in 1917., Kerensky's new assistant, enjoyed the confidence of both Kerensky and of the Soviet. I decided to act through him and attack, as it were, on both fronts at once. See more
Certain of my friends who had the necessary connexions undertook to arrange this meeting. They gave a dinner to which they invited among others Kuzmin and myself. Kuzmin was among the guests awaiting my arrival. Purposely, he was not placed beside me at dinner. When we rose from the table and scattered about the rooms, I watched for an opportune time to begin my conversation. Finally the moment came. As not to be silent, I said something inconsequential and fumbled for my cigarette case in my bag. The case was empty. Kuzmin reached for his somewhat awkwardly, offered me a cigarette, and gave me a light. When we both were smoking, the ice seemed to melt.
We talked. I listened. When he finished speaking about himself, he questioned me.
I began to tell him about myself, about the atmosphere in which I had been brought up, about my work during the war, my conversations with the peasants. He listened intently, hands folded on the table, head bent. It was now his turn to hear for the first time in his life something contrary to all that had been taught him since childhood. Much of what I said was evidently incomprehensible to him and he asked more detailed explanations. Finally, when I had spoken of my life at the front and at Pskov, he raised his head and asked:
"Is it possible that the Romanovs love Russia?"
"Yes, they do; they have loved and will continue to love her always, no matter what happens," I replied, not suspecting how often I would in the future have cause to remember this sentence.
The way was paved. Now I could speak of my father. And that night, bidding Kuzmin good-bye, I felt that I had accomplished something by talking with him. My father was not set free by the day of my wedding, but I now felt less anxious about his fate. And I was not mistaken} a few days later the guards were removed from his home.
Dear Tatiana turned 20 years old. I walked to Mass with Tatiana, Marie and Anastasia. Korovichenko was one of the officers of the army guards. The weather had become lovely. During the day we went out for two hours. I went with the children to work in the forest. See more
My darling Papa, dearest one. I am sitting in a darkened room with Olga and Tatyana. They send you big kisses, they are lying down and not doing anything in particular. They both have a slight temperature. I have not been in to see Alexei, as he was still asleep. Maria and I are still well, and sitting with everybody in turn. I wonder when I will fall ill and which of us will fall ill first - myself or Maria?!
I love you terribly and send you big hugs and kisses! God bless you.