Ekaterinburg, Russia: July 1918
Extract from the journal of Empress Lydia Romanov
Gregori Rasputin once told me that for some men religion is nothing but ego. The pious, the devout, the faithful, the mercenary, the manipulator, the hypocrite . . . who could tell them apart?
As easily as he was able to recognise his own frailties, he saw the falsehood in others. His eyes were a gift and understanding swept wide in their gaze, consuming quick studies and processed deceits, unmasking liars and veiled treachery.
He knew they would kill him for it. He wrote:
“I am prepared for this murder; who am I that I should presume to defy God’s intent? My Faith is absolute. So my destiny has been ordained along a select path, one I dare not refuse. I have come to understand that for some men religion is but ego: for some men the notion that three-score-years-and-ten is the sum of their worth . . . is unbearable.
...So they invented a paradise and the promise of an eternity, saying: [This is for me. I shall never die, for am I not a wondrous creation, designed for much more than a mere blink of mortality? Surely God exists to confirm all that is beautiful about my body, all that is gifted about my mind.] Know that these are the true blasphemers, little mother, and never trust them. They have it so very wrong. We are God’s confirmation, not He ours. I am the infamous Rasputin, fornicator and predator, who takes the willing flesh of virgins and wives to realise the appetites of his heart. This is what they say about me and I would not insult my Lord with haughty denials. But God weeps when I sin, aches when I stray, howls when I err. Perhaps He forgives when I pray. See how familiar I am with my honesty? Should all those marionettes who surround you be half so truthful, you would know in whom you could place your trusts and on whom you must never turn your back . . .
...Alix, beware! We are all called to account sooner than we would like, but the calling must be answered with contempt if it be at the whim of those blasphemers—though it must, nonetheless, be accepted as a fate. (They shall find me hard to kill, but kill me they will.) Yet I implore you, after I’m gone beware for the children, Alix. I shall not be there to protect them when the time comes. Should any blasphemer [poxed son of Satan naming hisself Revolutionary]—should he DARE to take upon himself the calling-to-account of your little innocents, then such men are worse than vain braggarts . . . such men are evil. Fight them! Fight them, my Queen. As all of us must fight the wrong in our souls, so must we combat that in our hateful brothers. I pray for your children, always.”
(Your devoted Servant—Gregori.)
Prayers didn’t help, Gregori. For any of us.
So I have taken the Biblical word—and fought fire with fire. My own wrongness is all that I have as a weapon.
What are the mysteries that reach out to us at death, tease our curiosity, warm our iced hearts, promise peace and answers? I couldn’t know. Because I refused the invitation. As the bullets pushed the last breaths from my body, I refused the invitation to eternity’s succour. I only screamed for God or Satan or any force within hearing to punish those swine who…
…who heaped our bodies on a cart and covered them, to make secret the crime from the approaching White Armies, who would have shown little mercy to the revolutionaries once discovering the brutality of that small white room. Question the revolution on its political justification, and doubtless it would have a history of reasoning that even the imperialists would have difficulty refuting. But question the revolution on its excuse for destroying my children with bullets, finalising that savagery with bayonets rammed into their limp bodies—and there would be much retribution during the admission.
‘Pro Patria’ is no excuse for infanticide.
So they hurried our corpses away, to the muddy forests with fields of swamp, to hide forever their filthy act until the time was right to boast the possession of those two pictures.
The track sucked at the wheels of the cart, wet mud flinging itself from the spokes. Like the Lord’s tears, the rain fell off leaves in heavy drops on to the sacking which covered my babies. Trees leaned in over the path, sinister branches crowding the track. I could hear the breathy exertion of the horses, see the patterned stains of sweat along their flanks.
The cart listed, and soldiers leapt from the boards cursing. They applied shovels and temper to the task of freeing the bent wheel. We moved on again, winding through lost paths into the darkest quarter of the forest.
When they unloaded our bodies, the soldiers appeared satisfied that they had found some place previously prepared, for they didn’t dig our graves, but unearthed them from mud-covered planks which revealed forgotten mine shafts. Still, it took time for them to be sure in their own minds that these corridors to hell were deep enough for interring the remains of the royal family. Then they cast our ruins down, with insincere and sickening celebration.
They poured acid after us.
Why?—to eat our skins, to—what?—to defile even the memory of us? To deny us even the sanctity of becoming the dust of Earth’s dust?
All that was clear to me was that they humiliated my children even further, that sacrilegious ceremony a needless rite to perform.
I was relieved to be disposed of my body. I was thankful that I had no heart to ache, no throat to gag, no mouth to vomit. I was grateful that Time rescued me then. And took me someplace else. Far far away.
(copyright Gareth K Stokes 2007)