Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia - Biography - World War I and Revolution

World War I and Revolution

During World War I Anastasia, along with her sister Maria, visited wounded soldiers at a private hospital on the grounds at Tsarskoye Selo. The two teenagers, too young to become Red Cross nurses like their mother and elder sisters, played games of checkers and billiards with the soldiers and tried to uplift their spirits. Felix Dassel, who was treated at the hospital and knew Anastasia, recalled that the grand duchess had a "laugh like a squirrel," and walked rapidly "as though she tripped along."

In February 1917, Nicholas II abdicated the throne and Anastasia and her family were placed under house arrest at the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo during the Russian Revolution. As the Bolsheviks approached, Alexander Kerensky of the Provisional Government had them moved to Tobolsk, Siberia. After the Bolsheviks seized majority control of Russia, Anastasia and her family were moved to the Ipatiev House, or House of Special Purpose, at Yekaterinburg.

The stress and uncertainty of captivity took their toll on Anastasia as well as her family. "Goodby," she wrote to a friend in the winter of 1917. "Don't forget us." At Tobolsk, she wrote a melancholy theme for her English tutor, filled with spelling mistakes, about Evelyn Hope, a poem by Robert Browning about a young girl: "When she died she was only sixteen years old," Anastasia wrote. "Ther(e) was a man who loved her without having seen her but (k)new her very well. And she he(a)rd of him also. He never could tell her that he loved her, and now she was dead. But still he thought that when he and she will live next life whenever it will be that ..."

At Tobolsk, she and her sisters sewed jewels into their clothing in hopes of hiding them from their captors, since Alexandra had written to warn them that she, Nicholas and Maria had been searched upon arriving in Ekaterinburg, and had items confiscated. Their mother used predetermined code words "medicines" and "Sednev's belongings" for the jewels. Letters from Demidova to Tegleva gave the instructions. Pierre Gilliard recalled his last sight of the children at Yekaterinburg: "The sailor Nagorny, who attended to Alexei Nikolaevitch, passed my window carrying the sick boy in his arms, behind him came the Grand Duchesses loaded with valises and small personal belongings. I tried to get out, but was roughly pushed back into the carriage by the sentry. I came back to the window. Tatiana Nikolayevna came last carrying her little dog and struggling to drag a heavy brown valise. It was raining and I saw her feet sink into the mud at every step. Nagorny tried to come to her assistance; he was roughly pushed back by one of the commisars ..." Baroness Sophie Buxhoeveden told of her sad last glimpse of Anastasia: "Once, standing on some steps at the door of a house close by, I saw a hand and a pink-sleeved arm opening the topmost pane. According to the blouse the hand must have belonged either to the Grand Duchess Marie or Anastasia. They could not see me through their windows, and this was to be the last glimpse that I was to have of any of them!"

However, even in the last months of her life, she found ways to enjoy herself. She and other members of the household performed plays for the enjoyment of their parents and others in the spring of 1918. Anastasia's performance made everyone howl with laughter, according to her tutor Sydney Gibbes. In a May 7, 1918 letter from Tobolsk to her sister Maria in Yekaterinburg, Anastasia described a moment of joy despite her sadness and loneliness and worry for the sick Alexei: "We played on the swing, that was when I roared with laughter, the fall was so wonderful! Indeed! I told the sisters about it so many times yesterday that they got quite fed up, but I could go on telling it masses of times ... What weather we've had! One could simply shout with joy." In his memoirs, one of the guards at the Ipatiev House, Alexander Strekotin, remembered Anastasia as "very friendly and full of fun," while another guard said Anastasia was "a very charming devil! She was mischievous and, I think, rarely tired. She was lively, and was fond of performing comic mimes with the dogs, as though they were performing in a circus." Yet another of the guards, however, called the youngest grand duchess "offensive and a terrorist" and complained that her occasionally provocative comments sometimes caused tension in the ranks. Anastasia and her sisters learned how to do their own laundry and assisted the cook in making bread while they were in captivity at the Ipatiev House.

In the summer, the privations of the captivity, including their closer confinement at the Ipatiev House negatively affected the family. According to some accounts, at one point Anastasia became so upset about the locked, painted windows that she opened one to look outside and get fresh air. A sentry reportedly saw her and fired, narrowly missing her. She did not try again. On July 14, 1918, local priests at Yekaterinburg conducted a private church service for the family. They reported that Anastasia and her family, contrary to custom, fell on their knees during the prayer for the dead, and that the girls had become despondent, hopeless, and no longer sang the replies in his service. Noticing this dramatic change in their demeanor since his last visit, one priest told the other, "Something has happened to them in there." But the next day, on July 15, 1918, Anastasia and her sisters appeared in good spirits as they joked and helped move the beds in their shared bedroom so that cleaning women could clean the floors. They helped the women scrub the floors and whispered to them when the guards weren't watching. Anastasia stuck her tongue out at Yakov Yurovsky, the head of the detachment, when he momentarily turned his back and left the room.

Anastasia was executed along with her family in the early morning of July 17, 1918. The execution was carried out by forces of the Bolshevik secret police under the command of Yurovsky.

Read more about this topic:  Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna Of Russia, Biography

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