Saturday, July 17, 2010

Massacre of the Romanovs

Send us, Lord, the patience, in this year of stormy, gloom-filled days, to suffer popular oppression, and the tortures of our hangmen. Give us strength, oh Lord of justice, Our neighbor's evil to forgive, And the Cross so heavy and bloody, with Your humility to meet, In days when enemies rob us, To bear the shame and humiliation, Christ our Savior, help us. Ruler of the world, God of the universe, Bless us with prayer and give our humble soul rest in this unbearable, dreadful hour. At the threshold of the grave, breathe into the lips of Your slaves inhuman strength — to pray meekly for our enemies.

~Grand Duchess Olga (1895-1918)

Please see Gareth Russell's moving post on this tragic anniversary. I was particularly impressed by these passages describing the heroism of the Tsar's second daughter, Grand Duchess Tatiana:.
The Emperor and Empress's second daughter, Grand Duchess Tatiana, was the tallest and most beautiful of the four Romanov sisters. A courtier, who knew her, said: "One never forgot she was the daughter of an Emperor." It is clear from the horrific physical wounds revealed by the examination of Tatiana's remains and the memoirs of those who helped kill her that she used herself as a sort of human shield, to protect her two younger sisters, during the first and second hail of bullets fired upon the family.
It is clear however that Tatiana died, eventually, from a single bullet wound to the head. Yakov Yurovsky, who was in charge of the execution that night, delivered the fatal gunshot and he recorded that as he marched towards her, Tatiana struggled to her feet from the corner where her eldest sister lay dead, her youngest lay unconscious and another lay in hysterical convulsions after sustaining a bullet wound to the leg. It is often assumed that Tatiana was attempting to run away from her executioner - a perfectly natural assumption, but one which Yurovsky himself did not suggest. There was, in fact, nowhere for her to run. She was backed into a corner - the bodies of her parents and eldest sister were in front of her, her two youngest sisters were cowering in a corner behind her and there were eleven men (so to speak) blocking the only exit from the cellar. Moreover, Yurovsky does not record her attempting to move, but rather pulling herself to her feet, using the blood-soaked wall for support.
The Grand Duchess chose to die standing. Death was coming and rather than weep on her knees in the corner, she hauled herself to her feet. She was relatively calm, under the circumstances, as Yurovsky fired a bullet through her head. And it is perhaps the perfect way to look at the disgusting, hideous massacre of Ekaterinburg. Those who were degraded were not the bleeding or the dying, the sobbing or the maimed, but those wielding the guns.
Not surprisingly, Albert I, King of the Belgians, then grimly struggling through some of the darkest hours of World War I, was outraged by the massacre of the Russian imperial family. He had long pitied Nicholas, but the news of the Tsar's murder roused the King to storms of indignation. According to biographer Charles d'Ydewalle, he raged: "Nothing could be held against him!" Albert was deeply troubled by the Russian Revolution, fearing the consequences for Belgium and Europe. Queen Elisabeth, for her part, while visiting King George V and Queen Mary, had the courage to reproach Great Britain, Belgium's foremost ally, for failing to save the Romanovs. By a strange coincidence, Elisabeth's grandson, the young King Baudouin I, would sadly ascend the Belgian throne, reluctantly replacing his revered father, King Leopold III, on the anniversary of the massacre, July 17, 1951.

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