One of the greatest romantic, dramatic stories in history is the violent demise of the family of Russian Czar Nicholas II. It’s a long and detailed unfolding of events that, if you are not familiar with it, can be reviewed on this link. The Cliffs Notes are a bit like this:
Nicholas II ruled from 1894 until his abdication on 15 March 1917. His reign saw Imperial Russia go from being one of the foremost great powers of the world to economic and military collapse. Critics nicknamed him Bloody Nicholas because of the Khodynka Tragedy, Bloody Sunday, the anti-Semitic pogroms, his execution of political opponents, and his pursuit of military campaigns on a hitherto unprecedented scale. As head of state, he approved the Russian mobilization of August 1914, which marked the first fatal step into World War I, a war in which 3.3 million Russians would be killed, thus leading to the demise of the Romanov dynasty less than three years later.
Nicholas II abdicated following the February Revolution of 1917 during which he and his family were imprisoned first in the Alexander Palaceat Tsarskoye Selo, then later in the Governor’s Mansion in Tobolsk, and finally at the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg. Nicholas II, his wife, his son, his four daughters, the family’s medical doctor, the Tsar’s valet, the Empress’ lady-in-waiting, and the family’s cook were murdered in the same room by the Bolsheviks on the night of 16/17 July 1918. This led to the canonization of Nicholas II, his wife the Empress and their children as martyrs by various groups tied to the Russian Orthodox Church within Russia and, prominently, outside Russia.
One of his children, Antastasia, was believed killed with the family but no one could establish that for a fact until 2008. I am glad to have a long-standing mystery resolved on one hand, and on the other I hate to see a good “what if” taken from all of us who like to imagine that Anastasia was really living among the rest of us, cloaked in Russian dynasty diamonds under her plain wool coat all these years.
All of this came up for me when I met my new neighbors. They are very young with an infant daughter, and rent the house across the street. This house has turned over tenants three times in the past 6 years, and each time I take a deep breath and wait to see who will neglect the property this time. The landlord is out-of-state, and no one seems to care too terribly much what happens to the roof, the gutters, the landscape, or the carpet.
When I walked over to introduce myself, I don’t know exactly what I expected, but what I got left me rather stunned and speechless. My neighbors don’t appear to have a lot of money. They drive an older car, they dress in casual clothing, and his lean physique and beard suggest a life of blue-collar work. Her flowing hair and ease of speech tell me she lives in a world without pretense, where things are not necessarily simple but relationships are assumed to be trustworthy and people are expected to be good.
He pointed to the roof of the house and expressed concern about yellow jackets in the gutters. He’d already been stung several times cleaning out the inches of muck accumulated from years of neglect. He noted the vines smothering a pine tree, and said he would soon be taking them down. He had a long list of other concerns for the property and said he planned to ask permission from the landlord to start making some serious changes.
I could tell he intended to do it all himself.
She……how to say it……She has an elegance that goes beyond the sum of her parts. I told my husband I just had a vibe that she was a lost princess, a royal soul who had been born into a modest life in West Virginia. Her voice is soft and lyrical, and when she moves her hands and arms you get the feeling of watching a dancer. She remembered my name after the first time we met, just speaking in the street.
Yesterday, we spoke for the second time in several weeks, and I noticed a large full-color tattoo on her upper arm. It’s an elaborate crown encrusted with jewels, and her baby daughter’s name is written below it in swirling script.
Anastasia, Tatiana, Olga, and Maria survived the first hail of bullets; the sisters were wearing over 1.3 kilograms of diamonds and precious gems sewn into their clothing, which provided some initial protection from the bullets and bayonets.
There are lot of people with money in the general vicinity where I live. Suffice it to say, I have been around enough blocks to see the glaring irony in the general attitude many of them take that says, “I am more. I am special. I am valuable because of what I drive, where I live, and what I wear.” They also rarely remember my name, pay other people to clean their gutters, and speak openly about their desire to get distance from their young children.
My new neighbors just kicked the bar way, way up. I hope they buy the house.
P. S. I met an older man visiting them who said her was a family friend. He seemed nice, but had a bit of a Rasputin edge. I’ll be keeping an eye on him.
Images credit: Wikipedia