Saturday, May 19, 2007

They Won't Die, Let's Run!

I don't like this new format - not yet anyway.  Change comes slow to acceptance in my life, so rather than complain I'lll jot a tale true for you, perhaps one you already know very well.


It was the time of Nicholas and Alexandra, the last Tsar and Tsarina of pre-revolutionary Russia, and their 4 daughters and one hemophiliac son.  In tsarist Russia, the revolution of the people had long been simmering.  The royal houses all over Europe had been murdered, dispersed or forced into exile, but the House of Romanoff were troublesome, as they were the ruling power and could not simply be shut away.  No one knew quite what to do with them, except the one thing no one would dare utter.

For many months the Tsar and his family were kept under orders to remain in their castle, run-down and cold for lack of servants.  Accustomed to the most luxurious, replendent, richest most overdone living, all theirs by right of birth, the Romanoffs had to make due with soup and bread.  They seemed over-concerned with their clothing.  Soon the day came when the patience of their keepers gave out, and the expected group of soldiers with their bayonets arrived to take them away.

Their place of exile was a remote village, far from anyone but the locals, and they were ushered into a cottage bereft of everything but the barest of essentials.  The Romanoffs were kept in this place for over a year.  They learned to make due with what ever was at hand, amusing themselves, making up games, fully confident that they would soon be freed to leave Russia and start over in a new land.  Yet they were unaware of how very hated they had become, long before their capture.  The soldiers who guarded them perhaps had the greatest hatred, and all knew that they'd be called upon to execute their duty - execute the Romanoffs.  When the day came, it was by then not unexpected. 

From the statements of several witnesses we get the details.  The family was ushered into a lower-level basement, where they were lined up against a wall.  Clumping down the stairs came the group of six executioners, grim faces all.  They knew what had to be done.  The Romanoff women clung to each other and Tsar Nicholas, known for not having the ability to make a decision, must've decided to die bravely for he held his head high.  He whispered comforting words to his family as the guns went off.

Soon the room was full of pings and pangs of bullets and small bucket-shot.  Yet as the soldiers watched in horror, they noted the family was not dying, not falling, at least not completely - just sort of cringing at each shot, then trying to hide.  Every shot aimed at them seemed to ricochet off their bodies.  It reminded the soldiers of a tale long spoken of by superstitious and hungry peasants, that the Romanoffs were gods and could not be killed.  It appeared to them for an instant that this must be true.

With great will, a soldier broke from the ranks with his bayonet at the ready.  He plunged it into the body of the Tsar, who fell to the floor.  Other soldiers followed suit and as they shot at the family at close proximity, they were amazed to see the same odd thing happen as bullets simply bounced off the wounded but very much alive family.  So stabbing seemed in order.  It was a massacre, as the soldiers were now quite afraid of the consequences of their act, since bullets seemed to have no power over these hated people, hated only for their riches and power to which they were born, now the sad poor victims of a new way of seeing life, the Great Revolution.

With copious amounts of blood everywhere, the twitching bodies were stabbed and strangled.  Every method of murder possible was attempted, and succeeded.  Yet why wouldn't the bullets pierce their flesh?  It soon became clear.

During the time of their captivity in their own castle, before being taken away, it never occurred to the Tsar and Tsarina that they would not live.  They expected to be sent into exile, and wanted to be sure they had money to start their new life.  So, while in their home the Tsarina ordered all her daughters to sew every bit of their fabulous jewelry into their dresses.  There were so many jewels, so much in riches and finery, that the clothing became quite heavy, but the family sewed on.  Pounds of diamonds, rubies, emeralds, great necklaces of pearls, every jewel imaginable, was sewn into the clothing of the family.

When the soldiers starting shooting, the bullets had continually hit the jewels, over and over, protecting the bodies of the family.  Wherever they aimed, a fat ruby caught the bullet, and the flesh was left merely bruised.  This was all discovered when, after much strangulation and bayoneting, the dead bodies were stripped of their clothing and the treasures were discovered.  (The statements of the witnesses don't make it very clear what happened to all these riches)  Taking the bodies outside to a hastily prepared grave, each was thrown in and covered with dirt.  The soldiers stomped over the ground time and again, to make it firm and compact.  That first night, as they lie sleeping in the cottage, the sound of wolves was heard to come closer and closer, soon as close to them as the animals dared.  They smelled the newly-killed flesh, and were ready to fight for it.  

After the wolves were shot and frightened away, the men knew they had to find a better grave.  I can't even call it resting place.  The bodies were dug up easily, and laid out in a pile on the ground.  They were then set afire.  The odor was so vile the soldiers took to being overly sick and had to crawl back into the cottage to nurse their sickness.  The smell of rotting, burning flesh had a different effect on the local wildlife, and soon both wolves and bears were seen on the borders of the bonfire.  These soldiers had been through enough, they decided.  First, bodies immune to bullets, then they wouldn't stay buried because of wolves, then by burning them they'd drawn even more animals.  It must have been a night where simple shadows took on the appearanceof hell's own demons.

The witnesses' stories differ at about this point.  Most swore on their deathbeds that the burned corpses were reburied in a much deeper hole.  Another witness remembers a scene more horrific, stating just as fiercely that the bodies were allowed to be torn apart by the wildlife and the remnants then buried more easily.  Whichever is true, this family which had so much in the way of riches beyond belief, in the end were fatally let down by those same, sparkling jewels.    


pharmolo said...

Just as well the revolution that ended the dynasty that followed the Romanoffs was not commenced as bloodily, Cathy. Thanks for the reminder.

mutualaide said...

Well ... that was quite a read ... and also a reminder of how much I used to know.  

barbpinion said...

Quite an entry. Reminded me of how much I've forgotten. (I'm not sure I liked discovering that ) LOL
Love & prayers,

lanurseprn said...

WOW what a story!  I seem to recall hearing that story years ago. Pretty amazing, huh?

acoward15 said...

Didn't they excavate their graves a few years ago?

queenb8261 said...

Quite a story. Thanks for the refresher.

preciousone25 said...

This was a really interesting read for me, I didn't know this!!   Thanks so much for sharing!!  I really enjoyed that piece of history!!


Cathy said...

ANDY! Here I am, re-reading old posts and comments - so I saw yours. Yes indeed, the newly former Soviet did exhume the remnants of the bones, and through eventual DNA (coming after Anna Anderson died, pretender to the Romanov dynasty) it was determined that indeed, after making positive I.D. of the Tzar's teeth, the conclusion was drawn appropriately. Once buried, their remains were happily forgotten until science caught up it seems, to bolster the statements of the witnesses.