23

 

Start writing in Caracas, Venezuela

19 February 1966

Alexander Leonid von Dehn

(Author of the history of this branch of my family)

 

I was born as the first child of my parents on August 9, 1908, in Peterhof near St. Petersburg, summer residence of the Imperial Russian Family.

After my Father Karl Alexander yon Dehn, married my Mother Julia Smolski, in 190V, he was appointed to serve in the Svodny Polk, for a term of one year at the Ekaterinensky Dvoretz (Catherine's Palace), in Tsrskoe Selo, which was the permanent residence of the Russian Tsar and his family, in the outskirts of St. Petersburg.

The Svodny Polk was a picked Guards Regiment selected~ from distinguished Guards Officers, who in recognition for their outstanding service were assigned for the period of one year to serve as the personal guard of the Emperor and his family.

At the time of my birth my Father was 31 years of age, and my Mother 24.By strange coincidence I was born on the day of my Mother's Birthday, as my Father was born on the day of his Father’s Birthday (February 28}.

Actually, by Old Russian style the date of my Birthday was July 27, 1908, as it appears in the "Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels.”

I was born in a house number "13" on a Sunday, near the Peterhof Palace, but, I do not know the name of the street there.

My parents were honoured by the Empress Alexandra Fiodorovna who offered to be my Godmother, and my Father asked his elder Brother August Ewald von Den to be my Godfather.

I was Baptized Lutheran, the religion of my Father's family according to family tradition, although my Mother was Greek Orthodox, the ruling religion of Imperial Russia

Prior to the assignment to Serve in the Svodny Polk, my Father had served on the Royal Yacht "Poliarnaya Zvesda" (Polar Star) which was assigned to the Dowager Empress Maria Fiodorovna, and when his term of service elapsed in the Svodny Polk, he was assigned to serve as an officer on he Royal Yacht “Standard” where he must have served from 1909, up to his assignment as Captain of the destroyer "Voiskovoy" ("Warrior") in 1912, which ship he commanded at the outbreak of the first World War in 1914 and up to the summer of 1916.·

The early years of my childhood were spent with the family near the Palace in Tsarskoe Selo, during wintertime, Peterhof in summer, and Livadia, in Yalta in summer and when my Father was in Yalta with the Royal Yacht "Standard.”

When my Father's term of service in the Svodny Polk came to an end, he was assigned an apartment in the Marine Guards "Gvardzieiski Equipage", officers apartment house in Petersburg, at Targovaya Ulitsa {Targovaya Street) No. 4, near the Marinskaya Ploshtchad, and opposite the prison building known as the Litovski Zamok (Lithuanian Castle).

In this apartment is where my childhood memories start.The apartment was on the second floor of the building, right hand entrance from the staircase.From the entry Hall to the right, were three large rooms facing the Targovaya Street.The first room was a large drawing room, with a mauve carpet, mauve curtains, and Empire style furniture, covered with mauve tapestry, which was my Mother's favourite colour.The next room was my Parent's bedroom, followed by my bedroom.On the left side of the entrance hall was my Father's Study, and another bedroom, which was occupied by my Grand-Father General Smolski, when he would come to visit us.

The entrance Hall led Into a large Dinning Room, which had a connecting door to my Bed-Room on the right side, and a passage leading to the Bathroom, and Kitchen and Servants Quarters, leading out of it on the left side.

Here our small family led a happy life.Father had an orderly assigned to him from the Navy, who was his manservant, whose name was Vladimir Loshak, who was my great "Friend.”My Grand Father's orderly - one "Vasily", was also there when Grand-Father was on a visit, and who was killed in the first months of World War One, which made us all very sad.Then there was Mother's personal maid Anna, who later married Vladimir, and a cook.

 

As was the custom I was permanently taken care of by a series of Governesses French, Swiss and English, all of whose names I do not remember, and who had constant clashes with my Grand-Mother Ekaterina Leonidovna, (my Mother's mother who adored me, and who would insist that I was badly treated by these Governesses, and insist on their constant dismissal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

24

Early Childhood

 

Early childhood memories of peaceful, happy, and prosperous life, in Pre-World War One and Pre-Revolutionary Russia, remain distant fragments through a veil of haze retreating into darkness of more than fifty years of turbulent times of trouble that came thereafter.

I find it impossible to establish the exact sequence of events; therefore, it seems easiest to divide them by the place where they occurred, thus:

Our apartment in St. Petersburg

The Palace at Tsarskoie Selo

Summer at my Grandmother's Estate in the Ukraine etc

Reval, Estonia.

One of the first memories, as always, which leaves a vivid impression was an accident, whereby a bodily injury resulted.

My Father had a favourite Dachshound dog called Jimmy.I was running after Jimmy in the apartment, slipped against a door, and cut my lower lip open, against a protruding lock latchet.Outcome was a visit by a Doctor, who stitched up my lip.Later poor Jimmy was run-over in the street, by a horse drawn carriage, and died in my Mother's arms, which was a sad incident, which was never forgotten.

Then there were the walks on clear sunny winter mornings with my Governesses in the Nicholsky Sad, and snowball games in glistening snow, and the making of "Snow Men,” with brooms in their hands, and sliding in sledges.Also long walks along the water front of the Neva River, along a Boulevard called the Naberejnaya and coming home to drink tea with Wild Strawberry cake, from the Cake and Pastry shop Ivanoff, next to the Marinsky Theater, which was the home of the famous Imperial Ballet.

 When teeth were falling out, Grandmother would always suggest that one tie a string to the loose tooth, and then tie the other end to a door handle, so that the tooth be pulled out when somebody opened the door, which would have been a dreadful operation, but, well recompensed because Grand-Mother would always give one a l0 Ruble Gold coin, every time one would allow a tooth, to be pulled out.

Once there was a New Year's Eve, when Grandmother came and woke me at mid-night, and gave me a sip of Champagne, after which I had dreadful dreams of a Lion chasing, and this "horror", I have never been able to forget.

Christmas Eve was always a special event because towards the evening two special Couriers sent by the Empress from the Palace would arrive with a huge carton about 6 foot long, and 4 foot high, containing presents for me.I remember particularly a large mechanical music box, a Balalaika, toy soldiers, and lots of clothing, such as sailors suits, etc., which had belonged to the Heir to the Throne Grand Duke Alexis, who was my playmate, and who was 4 years older then I, and who had grown out of these clothes which I would inherit.

Probably my first Birthday which I remember was one, when I received amongst other presents a silver goblet, with three handles, and our Coat of Arms engraved on it, and the year 1912 (I was then 4 years old), from my Uncle and God Father, my Father's Brother uncle August.

On one occasion I had to have my first operation a small inoffensive tumour had to be cut out from the inside of my nose.After the operation I was profusely treated to masses of Ice Cream, which made up for the little suffering caused.

 At another occasion a bad cold developed into Diphtheria, with high fever and violent throat ache.The Empress hearing of my ailment sent the famous "Miracle Man", Rasputin to our house to cure me, and this is an incident I have never forgot, I must have been terrified to see a tall bearded man with long black hair and a dark frock coat come into my bedroom.He knelt next to my bed, took my head, into both his hands and looked deeply into my eyes, with a piercing look of his steel blue eyes, whereupon I fell asleep, and according to what my Mother later told me, I woke up next morning completely cured of my illness.

Easter was a wonderful Joyous event.On Palm Sunday there was a big Public Fair, in St. Petersburg, where they would sell bunches of Eatkins, coloured paper flowers, painted Easter Eggs, and what thrilled me most little glass tubes fill with Alcohol.On holding the bottom of the tube, in the palm of ones hand, the body temperature would warm the Alcohol, and a little figure of a Devil in the tube, would start rising and jumping up and down.

Father was most of the time away in his Naval Service, and on returning from his foreign trips, he would bring back all kinds of foreign specialties, and delicacies.In our Dinning Room, there was always an old Oak Barrel containing Malaga Wine, which was tapped into glasses, through a wooden Tap.Also before each meal Vladimir Father’s orderly, would make small balls of butter, with two small wooden spades, and I loved picking these small rolls of butter with my finger tips and putting them in my mouth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

25

I do not remember in which year it was, but, it must have been between 1911 and 1913, the Doctor had declared that I had a distended stomach through drinking too much water, and that the cure for that to go to a "Kurort" in the Caucasus, at the foot of Mount Elbrus, called Essentuki, and drink Mineral Water called Borjom.

One summer my Mother proceeded with me to that place, and I remember living in a Sanatorium, drinking Borjom, and receiving body frictions with Salt Water, and afterwards lying naked in the sun, on a Roof Terrace of the Sanatorium.Once when Mother was sitting on a Bench, in the Garden of the Sanatorium, and a Gardener, who had been watering the Lawn with a hose left, it lying with water turned on spouting out, I picked up the hose, and turned it on my poor Mother who was sitting in a white dress, with a large fashionable hat on, which had - one can well imagine the expected effect and result.

Another time, and that is all I remember of my Grand-Father's Estate, Selimbek in Yalta, was walking in a fruit orchard, and admiring the ripening Pears, Apples and Peaches, on the trees, every individual fruit being wrapped up in small white Tissue Paper bags, to protect it from being eaten by Wasps.

All kinds of odd stories come back from tales heard from my Mother, and Grandmother.

Mother as a child had once been bitten by a Centipede (Scolopander), almost 6 inches long, while playing in the Garden of the Villa in Yalta.Her arm swelled to double its normal size, and her life was in Grave danger.

Grandmother had once had a strong attack of Appendicitis, and was forbidden to eat anything.She had a strong craving for Peaches, and when left for a moment alone, ate several of these succulent, delicious fruit.Whereupon her ailment improved rapidly, and she was again all right in a few days.

 My Great-grandmother Maria Horvath, born Pilar v. Pilchau, had a Sister called "Tante Lizine.”She could not stand the heat of the summers of Crimea, and when she would have to go driving in Horse Carriages, she would have a large Watermelon cut in two halves, and would sit on the cool, damp half of the Melon, to keep her fresh and cool.“Tante Lizine” married an Italian, Count Ruchelai, from Florence, descended from the family of Michael Angelo’s mother, and her descendants survive today in Italy.

Another sister, “Tante Nina,” was lady-in-waiting to the, at that time, Empress of Romania.Unfortunate, "Tante Nina” had a tragic end.She was once with the Empress in Geneva, riding a Carriage, when the horses took fright and careered, finally wrecking the Carriage.At the moment of the accident, "Tante Nina” threw herself in front of the Empress to protect her with her body, and was badly hit in the Breast; this caused a Breast Cancer from which she later died.

 My Grand-Father General Smolski also owned a Villa in the town of Bala over-looking the Bay.Mother as a child loved the place, and spent many summers there.She had a small rowing boat, and would go alone rowing in it, in the p Bay of Balaklava.The place was not far from the Port of Sebastopol, where Grandfather, was Chief Engineer in the Army, reconstructing the Port and Fortress (which was again destroyed by the Germans, in the Second World War.)He would frequently drive in a Horse Carriage from Balaklava to Sebastopol, to his assignment of rebuilding the Military installations, which had been destroyed during the Crimean War in 1856.One of his assignments was to build the Museum of Sebastopol, and I remember seeing pictures of it.Maybe that Building still exists today.

 In 1905, at the Estate of my Grandfather in Yalta Autka, - Selimbek -, digging a trench for a Vine Plantation, the foundations of an Ancient Heathen, discovered in 1905.Although, Mother, and Grandfather said it was a Temple of the Greek Goddess of Plenty Ceres.The Soviet Russian book "Gorny Krym", published in 1965, by the Academy of Sciences of the Ukraine, in Kiev, and written by A.M. Leskov, on page 186 (book in my Library), states that this a Taurean Heathen Temple, in the woods of the Goddess Deva, as proved by the Archeologist A.L. B-Delagarda, who worked there.Hundreds of Greek, Roman, and Bosphorus silver and bronze coins were found there.Many human and animal figures were also unearthed, some of fine Greek Art.A small figure in Bronze of a Greek Horseman is now in Athens Museum.The majority of the figures were locally made; of a primitive 15 cms high made of terracotta, representing a female figure, the Goddess, and made by the local Taurean population.

 One of my Grandmother's Sisters was married to General Piotr Yanoff, who was Director General of the Emperor's Palaces in Livadia, near Yalta, where the Historically famous Yalta Conference took place in 1945.His daughter Marie Dellin born Yahoff, is our "Tante Mimi", here in Caracas, and, Mother of Andre D Her sister, "Tante Nina" likewise here in Caracas, was married to an Ayvazowsky, as the Grand-son of the famous Russian Painter Ayvazowsky, in the 19-th century, and famous to all Russians - even up to now for his Sea Pictures (Ma Paintings), of the Black sea."Tante Nina's children, Marina, and Peter Ayvazowsky are likewise here with us in Caracas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

26

 Talking of Archeology, I also clearly remember hearing from my Grandmother that in her Estate Beletskovka, near Krementchug, on the Dnieper river, in the Ukraine, two enormous skeletons had been dug out, with Bronze Bracelets round their wrists and ankles, and two-handed swords made of Bronze, which were so heavy that a normal man could hardly lift.The Skeletons were of men more than two meters tall.They were probably Scythe Warriors.

Estates in the Ukraine

The Horvaths Estates, my Mother's family on the Maternal side, have already been mentioned before, but, I will now describe the two Estates which I knew - my Great-Grandmother's estate, Revovka, near the small town Novo-Georgievsk, an my Grandmother's Estate, Beletskovka, where I spent many a happy summer in my childhood.

My Great-Grand Father Leonid Horvath, who married my Great-Grandmother Maria Pilar von Pilchau, had led an easy going frivolous life, and had squandered his fortune, bringing the family to ruin, and when he died in London, England, he left his widow penniless, with five children, who were kept and helped by the rest of the family.

The eldest son, who became later General Dimitry Horvath, and General Governour of Manchuria in Harbin, and Chief Engineer, constructing the Trans-Siberian Railway, which is the longest Railway in the World (Moscow-Vladivostok almost 10,000 kilometers)- when he had made his fortune, bought back the family Estate Revovka, where my Mother was born in 1884, which he gave for life to his Mother, my Great Grand-Mother Maria Horvath, so that she and her children would have a home.

Revovka, as I remember it lay in low lying country, surrounded by meadows and wheat fields, with an old typical old fashioned Russian Farm Estate House, the type described by Chekov, in the midst of a Park of old Wall-Nut trees.In Autumn when the leaves would fall from the trees, all the Alleys in the Park, would have knee deep carpets, of dried Wall-Nut Tree leaves, and one would wade through these leaves, enjoying the sound of the cracking crispness of the dry leaves under ones feet.

Once, when walking with my Mother in the Park, I saw a little frog jumping ahead of me, and ran after it, stamping it to death.My Mother on seeing this gave me a good thrashing, and up to now, I remember the bitter tears I shed for the poor little frog which I had killed, and this is one of the little childhood tragedies that one never forgets.

I also remember Mother telling me that when she was a little girl, she once walked alone, in this same Park, and at the end of an Alley, she saw a large gray dog, that looked like an Alsatian.On reporting what she had seen, people went to the spot, and saw footprints, in the wet earth, which were proved to be footprints of a wild wolf.

My Grandmother, Catherine born Horvath, had married in her second marriage a Colonel Michael Zaharovitch Veletskli who was Commanding Colonel of an Infantry Regiment, stationed in the small town of Novogeorgievsk, near Revovka.

I remember a Birthday, probably in 1913, when we, I and my Mother woke up early in the morning, hearing the sounds of a Military Band, playing a Martial March outside our bed-room window, very early in the morning.This was the Band of Colonel Veletski's Regiment, whom he had ordered, to honour our Birthday (Since mine and Mother's were on the same day the 27th of July, old Russian style, and the 9th of August now) - by playing March Music outside of our window on that morning.

I loved my "adopted" Grand-father Colonel Valets dearly.He was a middle s strong man, with a large dark beard, and bright blue eyes, who was killed during the First World War, Commanding his Regiment, near Brest Litovsk, on the border of present Poland, and the Soviet Union (Polish - Brzesc nad Bugiem", by some tragic coincidence, precisely, on this same date of our Birthday in 1915.

I remember, him probably in the summer of 1913, already in the Estate of my Grandmother Beletskovka, which he administered, when he would teach me to understand how to tell the time from a watch, and how he would take me riding with him in the fields.He would always have with him a Thermos bottle, full of delicious cold tea with lemon, with which we would quench our thirst brought on by the heat of the sweltering Ukrainian midsummers.

We happened to be in Beletskovka, on the day of his death in 1915, and I remember, the despair of my Grandmother on receiving the Telegram with the sad news, and supposedly, on the night when he was killed, the seventeen dogs which belonged, to the Estate, had kept everybody awake howling.Later his effects were sent back from the front, with two dogs captured by the Russian troops from the Germans, who were large brown Boxers.Grandmother, went to the area behind the front, trying to recover his body, and to bring it, back for burial in Beletskovka, but, neither the body nor the grave were ever found, and the Germans moved forward and the search had to be abandoned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

27

To come back to Revovka, the last thing I remember was that in the Court Yard of the Farm Estate, there was a very old large Masonry Building serving as a Store House, called in Russian the "Kladovaya" -(Treasure House).

My Great-Grandmother Maria Karlovna, whom we all used to call "Babushka Bielenkaya,” (The Little White Grandmother), was a distinguished tall stiff old Lady with snow-white hair, who would always walk with a slight limp, and a walking stick (a thrombosis after-effect from one of her child-births).She had brilliant corn bloom blue eyes, and would always wear tight light grey long to her ankles dresses, with a white blouse, and lace frill around her neck.She had greatly contributed to the bringing up of my Mother, who adored her, as my Mother's parents were divorced, when Mother was 11 years old.I might add for the sake of reference that Maria Karlovna was the Great-Grand daughter of Field Marshal Prince Michael Ilarionovitch Golenishtcheff- Kutuzov, who commanded the Russian Armies, which liberated Russia from the Napoleonic Invasion, in 1812.

Her Hobby was Folk Lore embroideries, tapestries, and lace work.The mentioned "Kladovaya", was precisely the store house, full of coffers, of the most beautiful woven, and embroidered cloths, and tapestries, which were occasionally brought out for exhibition, or to be given as rare presents to some favoured person, and then aired, and put back in naphthalene, the smell of which I still remember, back to their treasure house, which was certainly either burned or looted later during the Revolution of 1917-18.

 This just about drains my memory Revovka, and I will now proceed describing the beautiful romantic estate Beletskovka.

Beletskovka Estate/

This was one of the Horvath Estates which had been lost by Leonid Horvath, and which my Grandmother Catherina Leonidovna, had managed together with her Second Husband Colonel Veletski, to re-acquire sometime between 1910 and 1912.

The Estate was situated some 10 miles NNE of the small town of Kruikov, a suburb of the town of Krementchug, on the river Dniepr, lying on the Western shores of the Dniepr.The Estate had some 7,000 - 8,000 Hectares (or Russian Dziesiatyns).Several miles of the Dniepr cut through its Eastern limits, and there were Islands in the Dniepr, which belonged to the Estate.

The area was most picturesque.The Estate itself occupied a Hill Top area about 3/4 of a tulle long, by about 1/4 of a mile wide.The slopes of the hill were covered by high trees, which on the Eastern side grew wild, and slopped down to humid meadows, covered with small ponds, and Bull Rushes which stretched out of the East, and ended on the shores of the Dniepr, some two miles away, with a very distant view of the town of Krementchug, to the SW.

 The Western side of the hill was covered by fruit trees, and ended in a wooden fence, which faced a rural road.Crossing the road, on its other side was a large abandoned Park, with century old trees, and weeds growing up to six feet, and three over-grown Alleys, through which one had almost to cut ones way through.This old park was surrounded by meadows, and at its extreme right end, there was little stream, on the shores of which, and on the edge of the park, grew several gnarled old Willow trees, at the foot of which grew clumps of wild Irises, shooting their golden yellow blooms, out of the scabbards of the sword like leaves.The undergrowth of the Park was full of stinging nettles, brambles, occasional clumps of Hazel nut bushes, here and there a Crab Apple tree, and whole hedges of white and mauve Lilacs, perfuming the Park with their scent in Spring, and with the humming sound of pollen and honey laden Bees.

 On one occasion I was thrilled, when a small village Boy told me that a Wild Duck, had her nest in one of the stumps of the old Willow trees.We climbed the trunk some six feet, to a large hole in the heart of the club shaped trunk, and there saw lying on the saw dust of small fragments of rotten bits of wood, three or four large marble like, olive coloured Wild Duck eggs, which we took to lay under a brooding hen.Unfortunately I do not remember seeing the Ducklings when they came out.

 Coming down from the Hill, to the old Park, and following the road to the left, it came out in the village of Beletskovka.A typical Ukrainian village of only one main street of peasant farmhouses, white washed, with thatched roofs, and brightly painted window frames, green, yellow, red, or blue.Invariably in front of each house, there were small flowerbeds, with long stalks of the red or white Malven flowers, adding colour and charm to the picturesque scene.In the middle of the village, and in the center of the main street, there was – as always in Ukrainian villages, a deep well, encased, in hewn tree trunks, drinking troughs for horses and cattle, and a long tree trunk, hinged on supports, and shooting out at an angle into the sky, acting as a crane, lowering a long thin pole into the well, to which was attached a wooden bucket, used to bring the fresh, pure, ice cold water out of the depth of the well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

28

 Another road forking to the right from the main street of the village led up the Hill, to the main gates of the Estate house and Park, and to the area, of the stables, cow sheds, store houses, and a large steam mill building.

The Main Gate to the residential and Park area, was as usual a somewhat monumental structure, of the type seen leading to Estates throughout Eastern Europe.

The old house of the Estate was a simple old fashioned, one floor, ground level structure, with some 10 rooms.My Grandmother, whose main hobby seemed to be in some way connected with always building something new, decided with her Husband to build something of a palatial mansion, and this building was completed just at the time when World War 1, started, and a year later in 1915, her husband was killed.

So coming in from the main drive-in gate, following the crest of the hilltop in a South-North direction came the new house, with the front facing east.This in a straight line, was followed by the structure of the old house, and the hill top ended, with a small Greek Orthodox Church, built in the 19th Century, white washed, with blue onion shaped, spires, surmounted by the double barred Greek-Orthodox Crosses.(All the Horvath family was Greek Orthodox).Just following the Church, and at the end of the hill, my grandmother had built a new family Mausoleum, a small Chapel, with an underground vault for several coffins, and although this was built and new, fate so willed it that none of us or our family were ever buried there, because of the upheaval which followed and ended in the Revolution in Russia, and Communism, and our whole family becoming dispersed throughout the World.

 The new house, founded on a spacious basement, ample living room halls, on the main floor, and a bedroom area on the first floor, had something like 15 rooms.The main Drawing room in the center of the ground floor, was faced by the entry hall, which led out on to the main terrace, facing West, and the terrace was embellished by four Grecian Columns, which supported the roof of the terrace, the later leading down through widely spread steps, to the main drive-in.The back of the main drawing room, led out, to a back terrace, that seemed to be partly suspended over the declining hill to, and through the tall trees of which one had a distant glimpse of the river Dniepr.On the terrace, during spring and summer, were large wooden barrel like flowerpots, containing flowering Azalea trees.

The whole house outside was painted white, and everything smelt of fresh paint and mortar, like all new houses do.Grandmother, in all her tragedy and despair of the death of her Husband, and the disaster, which followed, of the Revolution, would always repeat and old Russian superstition, that one should never build for oneself a new house, and live in it, as it brings bad luck.

The happy months of my childhood, during summer visits there were made doubly happy, by the lovely presents showered upon me.I was given a small children’s coach drawn by two ponies, to drive around in, and also a small Pony Stallion, who was a real Devil, since he had belonged to a Circus, and had been trained to do all sorts of odd stunts, one of which was to throw the rider, and gallop off to his stable.

Once I was thrown this way in the Park, and, fell up to my neck, in a Duck Pond full of green slime, and mud, an had quite an effort to extricate myself, from ignobly drowning in the mud.At another occasion, my mount tried to get rid of me, standing on his hind legs, neighing, and bucking its, back, and when this did not succeed, took off at a gallop, which I could not control, straight to the stable, and passing the open gate of the same, I hit my head, against the cross post and narrowly escaped getting killed.

Below the house, at the foot of the hill, towards the Dniepr, there was a damp meadow with small ponds, and rivulets, covered with aquatic vegetation and masses of white water lilies, with their flat, glistening, green leaves like pan-cakes, floating on the surface of the water.There was a tale amongst the village folk that during the Mongol invasion, the village population would flee to these meadows, and would submerge in the ponds hiding under these leaves, sticking the tips of their noses under the leaves, to be able to breathe.

 Often the village fishermen, would go down to these ponds with drag nets, and would come back with large baskets full of fish, Pike, Roach, Wild Carp, and a delicious small round and flat silvery fish called "Karas", which was delicious fried in butter and sour cream.Once they came in with a giant Carp, which three men had to carry, and it must have been at least four feet long, and had the weight of some 30 to 40 kilos.Wild Carp apparently grew to that size in those ponds.

North of the Estate there was a large wooded area of age-old oak trees, which belonged to the property, some two or three thousand Hectares large.In spring the foot of the forest was covered by a mass of small woodland irises, of a deep blue colour, and in Autumn the forest was a favourite Mushroom collecting ground.

Once towards the evening when we were sitting, on the main terrace of the house we suddenly noticed a wonder on the horizon floating in the air, low over the meadows a ball of fire, that would touch the grass, bounce off, drift again in the evening breeze, and again come down and singe the grass, leaving traces of smoke trailing behind it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

29

 Grandmother, immediately called a workman, and told him to saddle a horse, and go out and see, what this apparition was, and he galloped out and returned shortly, shivering from fright saying that it was a "Zshmiy", in Ukrainian a Serpent, which meant according to a local belief, that a "Zshmiy", was the spirit of a man who had died, and who would come at night to the peasant house where his widow lived to visit her.Later naturally we found out that this Fire Ball, was a concentration of electro-magnetic swamp sparks which is a well-known Phenomenon of Nature.

In late summer, there was also the harvest of Water Melons.Whole car loads, of these enormous green globes, were being delivered to the nearest railway station, to be sent to Petersburg, and Moscow, and I can see the strange, comic appearance of a field covered by hundreds of these Water Melons, before the were harvested.

Talking of Water Melons, I remember we had a man cook called Nikanor, who was big, strong, and fat, and had an enormous belly.He was very proud that before he came to us he had worked for the Princes Yusupoff.I would always say that Nikanor’s big belly was because he had swallowed a Water Melon.

 Once, I saw a peasant woman walking in the yard, with a huge swollen belly, she was obviously pregnant, but, at my youthful age I knew nothing of pregnancy, or such matters, and appalled at her appearance came running to my Grandmother, saying that I had just seen a woman walking in the yard, who had swallowed a Water Melon.

 In the Farm Yard, there was a kitchen where food was prepared for the workers - Sour Cabbage soup, Buck Wheat Groats, and my favourite dish, which I say has remained my favourite for life "Vareniki", triangular Ravioli like cookies, filled with cottage cheese, thrown in boiling water, and served with masses of melted hot butter and sour cream.I could and can eat about two-dozen of them in one session, and an alternative dish, as a desert is to fill the "Vareniki,” with sour black-red cherries, and serve and eat them the same way with hot butter and sour cream.I would wait impatiently when "Vareniki,” would be served in the Worker's Kitchen, and eat my fill, until I could hardly walk back home.

Every evening the milk maids would come to my Grandmother from the Dairy farm, and bring big dishes, with enormous balls, about the size of large water melons of butter, which had been made that day, and pails of sweet cream, which could then be deposited for storage in the Ice Cellar.

 These Ice Cellars, common to all country households throughout Eastern Europe were underground basements, with steps leading down to them, and nothing but a roof showing on the surface of the ground.During late winter, workmen would chop large cubical blocks of ice out of the river, and bring large quantities of these blocks, and deposit them in the Ice Cellar.It was hardly believable, but the Ice held fast throughout the whole of summer, keeping food and vegetables fresh and producing the Ice for the making of Ice Cream, during the hot summer days.There was always a smell of Pickled Cucumbers in these Ice Cellars, as they stored amongst other things many barrels of pickled cucumbers, always very delicious taken out of their brine spiced with Dill, Laurel leaves, peppers and salt, and many other mysterious ingredients such as Oak leaves etc.

 Talking of food, one of Nikanor’s specialties was a desert made out of half a Water Melon filled with a delicious jelly.And pieces of other fruit served ice cold.Or little baskets made out of half an orange skin, filled with Orange flavour Jelly, which was also very good.

 One of the unusual situations which would occur every spring in Beletskovka, were the folds of the low lying fields and meadows, through the melting of the snows, and the overflowing of the Dniepr, which created a fast sea of floods from Horizon to Horizon only leaving Islands, of elevated ground, and hill tops, like the hill where the houses of Beletskovka were built, and the villages on dry ground and isolated from the rest of the land for several weeks.Communication during such periods was possible only by boat.My Grandmother arid her staff, during such periods when they had to go to town to Kriukov, and Krementchug, would use a large wooden raft, on which would mount a horse drawn carriage, with the coachman and its passengers, and then several men with poles, would ferry the raft along, the flooded fields and meadows for several hours, until they got to town, and then came back naturally the same way.

Another character, which I must mention, was an old frock-coated orthodox Jew, called Gehmann.This character had a large family of children and lived in the depth of poverty.Once my Grandmother, held an open bid, for the sale of milk and butter produced in the Estate, and although, Gehmann's offer was not one of the best, she decided to award him the contract, taking pity on his poverty and children.Gehmann never forgot this and his gratitude was several years later demonstrated during the Revolution, which matter I will describe later, when I come to that period.

This about drains my memory of life in pre-Revolutionary Beletskovka, and this place has remained one of the happiest places, of joyous childhood days, in beautiful in a way unique surroundings, and a dearly beloved former maid of my Mother's from Revovka, who then became my Nurse when I was born, Nadia, whom I even mentioned in my Babyhood prayer, before going to sleep in those days.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And a final incident vivid in my memories of those days, of a big shaggy village dog, which had been almost stoned to death by village urchins, and thrown into the swampy stream at the back of our house, with a heavy stone tied to its neck with the intention of drowning it.

Someone from our household found the dog half-dead before it had drowned, and brought it up, and it lay on the floor of a basement on some old sackcloth with a gapping wound in its head, oozing brain matter.My Mother did everything possible with bandages, and iodine in an effort to save the poor animal, who would only give a sign of life by occasionally lapping a little bit of milk, and thankfully looking deep into the eyes of the person tending it.

All to no avail, - in a day or two the dog was dead, and this - as if an omen of the cruel years to come, and which at the time no one in the least suspected, has remained in my mind as a warning of the bestial cruelty already implanted in the minds of children capable of such an act, and multiplied manifold in acts of "man's cruelty to man" demonstrated in history to follow.

 

Ekaterinaskiy Dvoretz (Catherine Palace) Tsarskoe Selo

Early Childhood at the Royal Palace

 

 I was frequently brought wither by my Mother when she was visiting the Empress, who was my Godmother, and left to play with Grand Duke Alexis at the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoe Selo.

On other occasions when Mother was away on distant travels, either sent by the Empress to Siberia, with Anna Virubova, a Lady-In-Waiting to the Empress, to visit Grigoriy Rasputin, in his village Pokrovskoye near Tobolsk, or on a trip to Japan, to visit my Father who was stationed for a short while in Yokohama, I was left to live with my Governess, in the Apartment of Anna Virubova, in Tsarkoe Selo, and was almost daily brought to the Palace to play with the Grand Duke.

The earliest event remembered connected with the Royal family, happened as told by my Mother, not in Tsarskoe Selo, but at the Livadia Palace in Yalta, one summer.

As a small child I was playing in a Drawing Room of the Palace, in the presence of my Mother, and the Grand Duchess Anastasia, who was some 6 years older than I.I suddenly picked up from a table, a valuable Saxon Porcelain figure and ran with it in my hands, whereby there was imminent danger that it would fall out of my hands and break on the floor.

My Mother ran after me, wanting to save the figure: whereupon the young Princess Anastasia cried after Mother, - "Leave him alone, let him play with it, - it does not matter if it breaks, it’s not ours, its government property.”

During my visits to the Palace in Tsarskoe Selo, we would always play with Alexis, chasing each other, round the spacious Reception Halls& and Drawing Rooms, playing "Hide and Seek", or sliding down a Toboggan Chute, constructed out of wood, with a highly polished Parquet Floor, sliding Channel, on which one would slide down, sitting on small squares of specially made small carpets, used for the purpose.This shute was built at the time of Catherine the Great for her children.

On one occasion, in the private Drawing Room of the Empress, which had at one end a Mezzanine, in the form of a balcony, connected with the main room by a wooden staircase, we ran up to the Mezzanine chasing each other.Up there Alexis stumbled, and pushed over, a large mirror, which was standing on the floor in a Mahogany Frame.The Mirror came crashing down, narrowly missing Alexis, who could have been badly hurt.Naturally, this incident was cause for much discussion, as the Grand Duke Alexis suffered from Hemophilia, and exposure to any wound or accident, was a permanent menace to his health, if not very life.

At the doors of all the Halls in the palace were posted permanent Guards, mostly young officers from the Guards Regiment on duty at the Palace.Every time one of the young Grand Duchesses, or the Grand Duke would walk or run by, the Guards would stand at attention and salute.

On one occasion I complained to the Empress, asking why when I went alone no one would salute me, and the Empress laughed heartily.

Five o'clock in the afternoon was "Tea Time,” of the Royal family.Tea, cakes, and hot buttered scones were served.There was always fruit for the children.Strawberries and cream in winter time, when snow and frost were glistening out of the windows, and I do not know why, always plates of cold curded sour milk which was profusely sprayed with sugar, and cinnamon powder, and eaten by the children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One day, when I was running alone through the Halls of the Palace, an officer on duty came running after me, who asked me to pass on a message that had come through by telephone from St. Petersburg, to the Empress or to one of the Grand Duchesses.He said "Please tell Her Majesty, or one of the Royal Highnesses, that Dr. Karovine, called saying that he is now at the house Voznesenskaya Street No. 25.”(Karova in Russian means Cow, and Voznesenskaya means Resuscitation.)I ran to the Empress and said "Auntie Baby the Resuscitated Cow No. 25, has just telephoned you" (Voznesenskaya Karova No 25 has just telephoned you.)This was cause for much merriment, and was often mentioned thereafter, associated with my person.

Note: "Auntie Baby", was the name with which I always called the "Empress" which arose from the fact that when I was a Baby, and was always addressed by the Empress as "The Baby", I made out of it the name "Auntie baby", which staid on thereafter.My knick-name in the family was "Titi", derived from the French "Le Petit", and the "Empress" later frequently used the name "Tili" in her correspondence with my Mother, which meant "Titi-Lily" - "Lily" being my Mother's name.

 Another combination of names frequently used by the Grand Duchesses was

"O T M A'", which was a combined code of the first letters of their four names 0lga, Tatiana, Maria, and Anastasia.

In the Palace Park in winter, sledging, skiing, skating and building mounds of Snow and Snowmen was practiced.I remember many times building snowmen with the Royal children, big, fat snowmen, with a Black Hat, a Carrot for a nose, and a broom in their hands.Also many times, the Emperor, coming in through the Garden Terrace, leading to the private Drawing Room of the Empress, with Rosie cheeks, from the outside cold, and snow crystals on his beard, with a smile and a teasing joke, walking past me.

One important occasion, when I was some 6 or 7 years old was my conversion from Lutheran to the Greek-Orthodox religion, at the Cathedral of Tsarskoe Selo.

I had originally been Baptized, Lutheran at birth, the religion of my Fathers and the Empress as stated had been my Godmother, and my Uncle August my Godfather.

 The fervently believing Empress, who was also deeply Russian patriotic, insisted, obviously because of my family's close association with the Royal family, and my friendship with the Grand Duke Alexis, that I be converted to the Greek Orthodox faith (which anyway was the religion of my Mother, and the official religion of the Russian Empire.)

 I clearly remember this ceremony, and the religious service which took place at the Cathedral of Tsarskoe Selo, and which was attended by the Empress, and her daughters, and who was again for the second time my God-Mother, and who blessed me after the Service, with a large Holy Image (Ikon), of Alexander Panteleymon, my Patron Saint, which was given to me by the Empress, and later lost with everything else in the Revolution.Also she gave me a fairly large, massive Golden Cross, on a chain, with her initials, which I used to wear as a child, and which was likewise lost.

At one occasion when sleeping, in the Bedroom of Anna Virubova, in her house at Tsarskoe Selo, I believe at the time when Rasputin was assassinated in December 1916, I was terrified, when I went to bed, and the lights were put out in that bedroom, to see a luminous crucifix, hanging over my head, behind me on the wall.I screamed from fright, and called my Governess, who came in put on the light, and explained to me that the crucifix was painted with phosphorescent paint,

 Up to the age of 8, as was the custom in those times, I would run around with long hair, as may be seen on photographs in my possession, and in July 1916 when my Mother went to Japan to visit my Father, and I was visiting the Palace, the Empress decided that it was time, and I was old enough to have my hair cut.

 I was taken by the Grand Duchess Olga, and her sister Tatiana, to their Bedroom, on the first floor of the Palace, seated in front of a mirror on their Dressing Table, my shoulders were covered by a white sheet, and the Court Hair-Dresser was called, who rapidly cropped my head, giving me at last the boyish manly appearance which was considerably overdue, and much to the merriment of the Grand-Duchesses.As an outcome a Telegram was sent to my Mother, Informing her of this important event.The Telegram reached her at a wayside station in Siberia on her way to Japan, and I have it in my possession together with other letters and documents, treasured Souvenirs of the Royal family inherited from my Mother, and in my possession.

Today I greatly regret that only these are the view memories which have remained with me of those long ago days with the Royal family, and in their Palace.As an eight year old child, which was my age when I was last with them, what knowledge could one have that they and the whole World which they represented was about to crumble, and have cognizance of the fact that every little fragment of what took place around one, should be grasped and retained in the soul and memory, hidden away in the depth of ones heart a cherished treasure, for the rest of ones life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

32

Childhood Days in Estonia

 A cousin of my Mother's (twice removed) Alexandra von Harpe, born Baronesse Pilar von Pilchau, daughter of a Brother of my Great Grand Mother Maria Karlovna Horvath, born Pilar von Pilchau, had an Estate some 20 miles from Reval called Hark, where she lived with her husband, and three children Roland (Bob), Marcel, and Alix (Lixi.)

Alexandra von Harpe (Nick-named in the family "Bibka"), also had a Sister Marion Pilar von Pilchau, who remained unmarried, and is still alive today and lives in Hamburg, Germany, with her niece Alix (Lixi.)They also had a Brother Dimitri, who was married to a Danish Lady called "Jenny.”He was killed in a car accident in Estonia just before the Second World War, and Alexandra von Harpe, died in Hamburg on 8 October 1952, strangely enough on the same date as my Mother, who died 11 years later on 8 October 1963.She was my Mother's favourite, loved Cousin, and was married to Herman von Harpe, a cousin of my Father.

Their Father Baron Pilar yon Pilchau, married a Countess Alix Kotzebue, who was their Mother and known as "Tante Alix", who died in Poznan, Poland in 1943, at the age of 94.

Since Alix Kotzebue, was the last of her name, and on marrying Pilar von Pilchau, the name of Kotzebue, would have become extinct, by special Decree of the Tsar, the title of Count Kotzebue, was transferred to Baron Pilar von Pilchau who on his marriage became Count Kotzebue, Baron Pilar von Pilchau his son Dimitri (who anyway died childless) inheriting the title of Count Kotzebue, whereas the daughters, Alexandra and Marion were Baronesses Pilar von Pilchau.

In the 1870-ties, their Father Count Kotzebue, etc., was Governor-General of Russian Poland, with official residence in the Royal Castle of the Polish Kings, in Warsaw, Poland, where his daughter Alexandra was born in 1877.During times of the pre-World War 1, Russian occupation of Poland, which lasted more than 100 years, there was even a street in Warsaw, called Count Kotzebue Street.

The old Countess Kotzebue, when I knew her in Poznan, during the last 2 years of her life, would spend most of her time in a Wheel-Chair, and would tell me of her reminiscences as the wife of Governor General of Poland, describing State Balls, at the “Zamek” (Royal Castle) in Warsaw.She also knew personally, the great Pianist and Composer Franz Liszt, who would come to Warsaw during that period, and give concerts at the Residence of the Governor General, to which all contemporary Polish Aristocracy was invited.

My wife Inge, as a young girl, living in Reval, was presented to the Countess Kotzebue, who in the 1930-ties in Reval, appears to have maintained a remnant of tradition of Baltic German Nobility, whereby at her house, once a year a Ball was held, at which were presented to her, growing up young girls of recognized families who had to courtesy in front of the old Countess, and kiss her hand.A custom similar to the coming out of "Debutants,” practiced even still today in England and the United States.She obviously was in those days in Reval by Rank and Age the First Lady, of the Baltic German Society, ruined, expropriated, and decimated as they already were in those days in Estonia, were trying to keep up old traditions for the young generation.

 When my Mother went to Japan in 1915, to visit my Father who was taking over the Russian Imperial Cruiser "Variag", from the Japanese Government in Yokohama, (a story which I will later tell when I come to that period), she left me in summer to stay with her Cousin Alexandra yon Harpe, and her children in the Hark, - Estates.

 Hark was a beautiful old Estate, with an ancient old house, surrounded by a spacious Park of old trees.In this house in Hark the Russian Emperor Peter the Great, had signed a Peace Treaty with Charles XII of Sweden, in l718 (P), although this was said, I have not been able to confirm the fact historically.

 There was also a family Ghost in the old house.It was said that every New Year's Eve, exactly at Midnight, a horse drawn carriage, with a lot of noise would stop in front of the front door.A footman would run to open the entrance, and would return saying that "There was nobody there", although all the invited guests and hosts, had heard the carriage arriving.My Mother and I as a, small child, were witnesses of this mystery, during a New Year's Eve reception, of 1915 or 1916.The "Mystery,” was never clarified.

 During that particular summer of 1916, when I stayed in Hark, my young Cousin

"Lixi" was bitten by a Copperhead snake in the Park.She was about to pick-up, what she thought to be the feather of a Pheasant, and it turned out to be a snake, which bit her in her hand.As young as she was, she was profusely treated to Vodka, which was in those times believed to be the best cure for snakebite, and to which she was treated in quantity, with complete disregard of her young age.Apparently neither the Vodka, nor the snake venom had any really bad after effects on the patient.

 One day at the village Blacksmiths, of Hark, I saw another copper snake, held, in Iron Pincers, while its head was being burned out with a red-hot iron.Afterward the dead snake was thrown in a nearby pond, which was probably the proper kind of castigation administered by the village Folk to their mortal enemy - the copper head snake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

33

A permanent mischief-maker in the household was a monkey called "Jako.”This creature would constantly break-out of his cage, and on one occasion when my Mother arrived from Petersburg with a large box of Chocolates, which was left on a table in the drawing room, the Monkey broke loose, grabbed the box, climbed up on the cornice of a column, high up under the ceiling, and ate the Chocolates, one by one, throwing the papers down, at the faces of the disgusted guests in the house who had gathered down below to witness this outrageous act.

At another occasion the Monkey appeared in front of a gathering of distinguished guests, with, a Rubber Syringe under his arm, stolen from an old maid Governess who chronically suffered from constipation.The Governess was almost hysterical, crying, "Give it back, you villain Jako.”Amidst laud applause of the gathered guests

Jako bit the bulb of the Syringe to pieces, spitting down pieces of it, at the people down below, from his vantage point on top of the Column.

After many more - even more disastrous performances, I was told that "Jako,” was put away in safe keeping in a Zoological garden.

 There was also the case of a Hedgehog, found in the Park, and of an evening introduced into the bed, of a particularly obnoxious visitor, who was spending the night in Hark.Shortly before retiring for the night, somebody controlled the bed to see if the Hedge-Hog was still there, and found that the little, and very prickly animal had disappeared, but, had left as a visiting card, the bed sheets covered by profuse quantities Diarrhea, obviously brought on by its state of nervousness.Hardly any time was left to change the bed sheets, to avoid a scandalous episode.

 Thus were spent the carefree days in lovely Hark, of which remains a group photo of myself with "Aunt Bibka", and her children Bob, Marcel and Lixi, taken in the Drawing Room, which was the stage of "Jako's" performances.

During the summer of' 1915, or the first year of World War 1, my Father was stationed with a squadron of six Imperial Russian Destroyers, in the Port of Reval and the squadron would constantly go into action against the German Navy.Father commanded the Destroyer "Voyskovoy"(Russian name for "Warrior".)

Every time Father ship would go into action, I remember my Mother saying "Good-bye", to him with bitter tears, as all soldiers wives do in such circumstances, when they think they may never see their beloved husband again.The in the evenings after leave taking, Mother would take me down to the Sea Front Boulevard, and in the light of a full moon, appearing and disappearing behind fast flying clouds, we would see in the distance the squadron of Destroyers, steaming out to Sea, in search of contact with the enemy.

On one occasion, and it was my Birthday, and just before my Father was due to leave on another expedition on saying "Good-bye" he gave me a small Golden Medal, oval in size on a chain, with the figure of St. George and the Dragon, on it, and the inscription in Russian on its back "Spasi i Sahrani” – “Papa i Mama” and the date of my Birthday 27 July 1915 (Old style.)( Spasi i Sahrani means "Save and Protect").During the Second World War, I lost this medal, already when I was 32 years old, during a Tank Battle, with the Soviet Army, near Rozana, Eastern Poland, which incident I will later describe, when I come to that period of my life.

 On another occasion, my Father and his Destroyer, was called out to Board and take prisoner the officers and crew of a German Cruiser the “Magdeburg,” which ran aground on a Sand Bank, in the Baltic somewhere in the vicinity of Pilau.A historically important event developed from this incident.Father claimed that he was one of the first Russian officers to go on board the "Magdeburg,” to claim the surrender of the Cruiser and its crew.The first thing done, was a search instituted for the secret codebook of the German Navy.This book was nowhere to be found.Suspecting that it may have been thrown overboard, a Diver was submerged to search the bottom of the Sea, in the vicinity of the stranded Cruiser.This proved effective.The body of a German Seaman was found, lying drowned and grasping in its arms, pressed to its chest the important Code Book.

This Code was then passed on to the Allies, and the British Navy, and apparently the High German Naval Command, up to the end of the War never suspected that their Code, was in the hands of the Allies, their enemies.Thus when the Battle of Jutland (in German, the "Skaggerack Schlacht") took place the British Navy being in possession of the Decyphered German Code, knew all about the movements of the German Battleships.When Father came back from this expedition, he brought with him Souvenires from the "Magdeburg,” some of which I received.German Sailors' Caps ribbons, with the name “Magdeburg,” on them, and German Naval Officers Daggers.

 While in Reval, we lived in a small rented house, many Centuries old at the foot of the "Dome Kirche" (The Reval Cathedral).The old house was sunk in the ground several feet, through age.One went down several steps to come to the entrance.Once in the street in front of the house a strange animal appeared.It had the head of a cat and the hind body of a Rabbit, with a Rabbit’s tail.Supposedly, it was a hybrid between a cat and a Rabbit.

The last memory of Reval of those times was lying in a bed, and seeing through the window, a light high up in the tower of the “Dome Kirche”, hearing the sounds of the Organ player, practicing late into the night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

34

 The "Ritter und Domkirche" in Reval had, and is still believed to have its inside walls decorated with seventy four Coats of Arms, of the 74 Noble families of the "Baltische Ritterschaften" or Baltic German Nobles in Estonia, amongst which is also our Coat of Arms.Apparently the older the families the higher near the ceiling; the Coats of Arms were installed.The old Church dates from the XIII Century

This seems to bring to an end my early childhood memories of my short stays in Estonia.I do not remember my Grandparents Joachim and Ida von Dehn, who both died in 1910 and 1911, respectively.Grandfather spent the last years of his life living in Reval, where he died and was buried in Mehheküll, nr.Wesenberg (Rakvere or possibly the Koppel Cemetery nr.Reval, and Grandmother is buried in her Estate Nömküll, likewise nr.Wesenberg.I was at that time 2 and 3 years old, and my Mother said we would visit the Grandparents, but, naturally I do not remember them at that, my early age.

To wind up the memories of this early age of my childhood, I see a gallery of persons drifting through my mind.Anna Virubova, close friend of the Empress and my Mother, whom I loved dearly and from whom I still receive letters today from Helsinki, Finland, where she lives in a Russian monastery and is more than 80 years old (1965).My cousin Boris (Robert) von Dehn, who as a young Lieutenant of the Guards of the Navy, would come to our apartment in St. Petersburg, very frequently and play with me, throwing me up to the ceiling and catching me, until once he bumped my head badly against the ceiling.

My Grandfather General Alexander Smolski, who was always very loving, but, a very strict, and his orderly Vasili, who was killed in the first World War.My Father's orderly and valet Vladimir Loshak, who was a sailor, and always my Great Friend, and who married my Mother's maid Anna, who took care of me so well during the Revolution of 1917, and through her loving care, probably saved my life, by not letting me die of hunger, during the dreadful months in Petersburg, when thousands were dying of hunger, and my Mother was at the Palace under arrest with the Imperial family, and then later a prisoner at the Peter and Paul fortress in St. Petersburg, which events I will deal with more closely, when I come to describe this period.

My Grandmother Ekaterina Leonidovna, is always vivid and clear in my mind.I would frequently travel with her, and my Governess, by train from St. Petersburg, to her Estate Beletskovka, nr.Krementshug, a journey of two and a half days.We would always have a large supply of food with us, and mainly dozens of little cutlets (risoles), made from chicken meat, and covered with bread crumbs, each one wrapped up in tissue paper, and which always tasted deliciously.Grandmother, as was the habit in those times’ would never use a public W.C., in trains, Hotels or elsewhere, she would always travel with a Chamber pot, hidden away, in a roundtraveling wooden hat box, which was also for my use, when the necessity arose.

On the way down by train, to the Ukraine, the train would always stop for a couple of hours, at the station of the city of Kharkov, and I would always look forward to that with great anticipation, because one would always get in Knarkov, bags of delicious sweets, in the form of round sweet coloured balls, the size of marbles, which I do not remember ever seeing anywhere else but in Kharkov.

 Talking of sweets, there was also in Reval a famous candy manufacturer called “Stude" who was famous for making landscapes of Reval, out of Marsepan (ground almonde mixed with sugar), and also animal and human figures made out of the same almond and sugar paste.That, together with "Rahat-Lukum" (Turkish Delight), Pastilla, Toffey-like sweets, called "Tianushki", "Marmelad" sweets, were all Russian and Oriental specialties, which also included, of course, the famous "Halva", and which are almost unknown in the Western World, but, which were the delight of all children in old Russia of those times.

Also native to the Crimea, was a delicious Liqueur, called "Massandra,” ruby red, with a fragrant flavour, which was so delicate and alcoholically weak, that we children were allowed to drink it.At my Grandfather's  E~state 5Sellimbek, near Ya]lta there was a plantation of special Crimean grapes called "Damskiye Paltshiki", or Ladies Fingers, narrow, long oval succulent lightly rose-tinted grapes that had quite a special flavour.

My Grandmother, as most Ladies of that period, had always the habit of being late, to whatever visit, or departure when traveling, etc.I remember clearly the

excitement, and "Reise Fieber," going on around the household, when we were getting

ready to go traveling.

In Beletskovka, it wan an established habit, since one was always late to catch a train, to send a horseman galloping to the nearest Railway station, well ahead of the coach with horses, in which we were going to the station.The mission of this horseman, was to tell the Station Master, and the Locomotive driver, to hold up the train, so that we would not miss it, as "Her Ladyship" and her family were on the way to the Station to catch the train.Such a wish was always respectfully carried out, and we would triumphantly arrive some 15 or 20 minutes late of the normal departure time, and with all dignity go aboard the waiting train, with a locomotive impatiently firing blasts of steam in all directions, and the Station Master, standing at attention and saluting my Grandmother and the departing train as it slowly moved out of the station, on its long journey North to St. Petersburg.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

35

The Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Fall of Imperial Russia

 

            In February 1917, while the First World War was in full progress, the Russian Revolution broke-out in St. Petersburg, when I was 9 years old.

Shortly before its outbreak, in December 1916, Gregory Rasputin, was assassinated by Prince Felix Yusupoff, and I remember the anxiety and excitement caused by this event and how upset my Mother was, and spending several nights at the house of Anna Vyrubova in Tsarskoe Selo, as Mother wanted to be near the Empress and the Palace.

Father came with his Cruiser the "Variag", which he commanded from England, in convoy service from England, to Murmansk and Archangel, White Sea ports, through which Ports, enormous deliveries of armament were taking place from England and the United States, for the Russian Armies, as a massive spring offensive against Germany was being planned for the Spring of 1917, and on January 11, he and Mother, had dinner with the Emperor at the Palace, as mentioned by the latter in his Diaries.

The "Variag", a 6.500 ton displacement Cruiser was built for the Russian Government by Wm. Cramp and Son, Shipyards of Philadelphia, U.S.A., and delivered to Runnia in 1899.

She served in the Far East, in 1904 - 1905 during the Russian Japanese War, Commanded by a Captain Rudniev, and at the time when my Father Commanded the Russian Submarine “Som,” based on "Vladivostok” - Early in 1905, at the outbreak of the Russian-Japanese War, the “Variag,” and a Destroyer the “Koreyete,” were sunk by the Japanese Navy in August 1904, in the Bay of Chemulpo, in Korea near Port Arthur.“The Variag,” had put up a heroic fight before being sunk, and was considered a historic epic incident in the Russian Navy.

During World War 1, the Russian Navies were blockaded by the Germans and their Allies, in the Baltic and the Black Sea, whereby, only a few small units, which were stationed in the Far East, were outside the blockade.

            Of the many ships sunk by the Japanese Navy, during the Russian-Japanese War, several were raised by the Japanese, and put into service in their own Navy.Amongst these was the Battleship "Peresviet,” a Cruiser called the "Ashold,” and the Cruiser “Variag.”During the summer of 1916 my Father was Commandeered to go to Yokohama, Japan, with Crews of Sailors, to man and take over, Command, of the "Variag.”The Russian Government anxious, to have some Warships outside the blockade had negotiated with the Japanese Government to purchase the three raised and reconditioned Warships mentioned above , and to use this small fleet for, convoy service based in , England.Thus Father and other officers and crews were sent to Japan, took over these Warships and sailed with them from Yokohama, through the Indian Ocean and Suez, the Mediterranean to England.In the Indian Ocean, this small fleet had an encounter, with the German "Pirate" cruiser "Emden" which made a get away from them, having higher speed, and another unpleasant incident occurred in Colombo, Ceylon, where they spent a few days.

            A number of Russian sailors, 17 in all deserted the “Variag,” in Ceylon, and were recaptured by the Police, and returned to the ship.Since it was War-time, they

had to be court-martialed, and by Military Law were condemned to death.Father sent

an appeal to the Admiralty in Petrograd, asking permission for a lighter sentence,

and this appeal was refused, and the condemned men had to be executed on board the

ship, by shooting.The incident caused a lot of restlessness amongst the crew, and

later resulted in a lot of unpleasantness, after the Revoltuion had broken out in Russia, and the “Variag,” was docked in Glasgow, and resulted in a kind of mutiny in Winter 1917.

From Ceylon, the ships proceeded through the Suez Canal, and warning had been given that the waters outside the Canal on the Mediterranean side had been heavily mined by enemy submarines, and strict orders were given to sail through lanes, which had supposedly been cleared of mines.

Father disobeyed orders, feeling that at the exit of those lanes enemy submarines may be lurking, and he was right, the "Variag", taking another course, and coming out safely, whereas the “Peresviet,” on coming out of the "lane", struck a mine, or was torpedoed, and sunk.The “Askold,” also came out alright.

Further, when sailing through the Bay of Biscay, the ships ran into a heavy

storm, coal in the bunks of the "Variag" shifted to one side, and the ship leered dangerously, over to one side, finding itself in an emergency condition.There was apparently no other course left, but, to put the crew to work to throw coal overboard, and when the ship finally righted itself, and sailed out of the storm there was not enough coal left in the bunks, to make a port.With the greatest of effort, and burning every available piece of wood on board, including the piano from the Officers Mess, they managed to make port, in Southern Ireland.

While Father was in Japan, Mother took the opportunity of joining him there and she came back, full of stories of the beauties of Japan, and the strange customs there, and brought back with her many presents, including two Japanese dogs, one of which a small black and white pug-nosed lithe dog called "Chinny", was with us throughout the whole Revolution.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On that particular January 1917, the last month of Imperial Russia, and when my Father came down from Murmansk, where his ship the "Variag", had arrived with a Convoy, and he had several days leave, and came down to Petrograd, on his way down by train, the following small incident occurred, which was indicative of the "atmosphere" around the Court in Russia at the time.

The train stopped at a wayside station and met another train going up to Murmansk, by which the Grand Duke Cyril, Supreme Commander of the Imperial Navy, and Cousin of the Tsar, was going to Murmansk.Father went up to him, to present himself, and the Grand Duke told him."I am tired and worn out, and need a vacation, Dehn - you will certainly be seeing the Tsar, so do me a favour and ask him to grant me a vacation".As absurd as this statement seems, it indicates what a weak position the High Commander of the Navy, and Cousin of the Emperor had with the Tsar, and how favoured by the Tsar, Father was, a simple Captain of the Navy, when his Chief asked him to intervene in his favour, in such a small matter as a vacation.The whole matter seems absurd, but, so it was, and the mere fact that Father was honoured, by an invitation to lunch with the Tsar, indicates how favoured Father and Mother were by the Imperial family, a fact known to the Grand Duke and others.

Shortly thereafter, Father returned to Murmansk, and to his ship, and sailed again for England, through heavy seas, and an arctic cold in the White sea, with waves breaking over the decks of the ship, and forming masses of ice on the guns and cables on board, and through weight creating grave problems in maneuvering the ship.

The fact that Father actually did sail away from Russia, at that moment probably meant that this saved his life and that of his officers.Very shortly thereafter, the Revolution broke out in Petersburg, and hundreds of Officers were massacred by their own sailors and soldiers, and this would have certainly been the fate of my Father, had not fate mercifully led him away from the shores of Russia back to England, on his Convoy assignment.

            When news of the Revolution arrived in England in February 1917.The "Variag", I believe was anchored in G1asgow or Liverpool, and the crew mutinied and demanded to be immediately returned to Russia.The situation got out of control, and threats were made by the sailors, that they would murder their own officers, even while in England.Finally, the British Military Police had to be called on board the "Variag", and the mutinied sailors were segregated, in two groups, one who wanted to be sent back to revolutionary Russia, and the other mainly officers, who wanted to stay in England.With the group who went back to Russia, was Father's

orderly Vladimir Loshak, of whom I had always been so very fond of as a child, and who was married to my Mother's maid Anna.Vladimir went back not because he hated Father, and was also a revolutionary, but, because he wanted to get back to his wife.Several years latter he wrote to Father in England from Murmansk, saying how sorry he was that he had left him in England, and how difficult his life was in revolutionary Russia at that time.

To come back to the Revolution itself, as I was 9 years old, and it was 50 years ago that it took place.I see glimpses of it in my memory such as mobs of civilians and soldiers running up and down the streets of Petrograd, as the former St. Petersburg, and the present Leningrad, was at that time called.A profuse small arm shooting was constantly heard, and bullets came through the windows of our apartment, and lodged in walls and furniture.

My parents had an apartment allotted to them in the Officers Apartment Building of the Guard Marines, or more precisely on the second floor of the building Targovays Ulitsa (Ulitsa - means Street in Russian.)No.4. This building stood across the Street from a large Prison Building, called the “Litovski Zamok” (meaning "Lithuanian Castle".)I remember the fear that struck my heart, when the Revolutionaries set fire to the Prison, and let out the thieves and prisoners who were confined there, and who swarmed out in their striped pyjama clothing worn by convicts.We would look out of the windows of our apartment through clouds of smoke and flying debris, thrown in the air by the flames, and tremble at the sight of the criminals, imagining that at any moment they would enter our apartment, and rob and murder us.

            While all this was going on I was alone in our apartment with my Mother’s maid Anna, and later some days or weeks later my Grandfather General Smolski, arrived and stayed with us.My Mother was with the Imperial family at the Palace in Tsarskoye Selo, where she was later arrested with Anna Vyrubova on the 4th of April (22 March old style), by orders of Alexander Kerensky, the at that time Prime Minister of the Revolutionary Government.Both Mother and Vyrubova were moved out of the Palace under arrest, to the Peter and Paul Fortress in Petrograd, where they were prisoners for some days or weeks, and were interrogated and then liberated by orders of the same Kerensky.These events are thoroughly described in the Memoires written by my Mother in her book “The Real Tsaritsa,” and the Memoires of Anna Vyrubova “Souvenirs da Ma Vie,” – Payot, Paris, 1927.

            In the meantime acute hunger set in, in the city of Petrograd, and our maid Anna had more than a problem to find food for herself and to keep me alive.In fact things got so bad, that I remember waking up in the mornings, and being so weak that on getting out of bed, the room would go around in circles, and I would fall back on the bed in a half faint.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Lack of heating material became likewise acute, and as it was still Winter, we were literally freezing in the apartment.To keep warm at night the good Anna, would sleep with me in one bed, to keep me warm.

As mentioned the only food available seemed to be rotten potatoes and turnips, and mouldy black bread, our house and apartment was constantly searched by bands of drunken soldiers and sailors, climaxing they were looking for hiding officers, and arms, and at the same time stealing whatever odds and ends they could lay their hands on.

Shooting in the streets went on day and night, and to add gruesomeness to the scene, mobs with red flags, and screeching Military Bands, would parade the street and hold meetings in open places and street corners, with yelling politicians holding meetings, and addressing discourses to these starving throngs.

One such parade remained clearly in my mind.A fairly large group of civilians marching with a large red banner on which was inscribed the following text.

            “We have given you your God, and now we are giving to you Communist Freedom.”This banner was signed “The Jewish Bund.”

One day late in the evening in April, I was overjoyed to hear the voice of my dear Mother, at the entrance to our apartment.

She had just been freed from Prison, and came running home to fetch me, and take me and herself away, to some place of relative safety.The next day a few things were packed in a hurry, and we left for a small place across the border in Finland, yet still very close to Petrograd, called Keliomiaki, near Terioki and lying on the coast of the Bay of Petrograd, between Wiborg, and Petrograd.From the Beach there was a hazy view of the Island of Kronstadt, the important Naval Base, and we spent a great part of the summer of 1917 there.I remember how hot the sand on the beach would get in the mid-summer heat of July, whereby it was said that one could even make hard-boiled eggs by burying them for a few minutes in the hot sand of the beach.

Over there existed the same problem of surviving and finding food.The area teemed with roaming starving bands of soldiers and workers, who looted and murdered.A neighboring family who lived in a Villa, were all one night stabbed to death by one of these bands.

 My Mother did not want to move away from the area, always hoping, she would be able to get back to her beloved Empress, and the Imperial family, but, when in August 1917, by order of Kerensky, and the Provisional Government, the imperial family were transported to Tobolsk, in Siberia, there was no longer any object for Mother to remain in Petrograd, or any other area close to Tsarskoye Selo where the Palace was, and Mother decided - in view of the dangers and hardships of life in the Petrograd area, to go with me to her Mother's estate in the Ukraine, near Krementchug, Beletskovka.

To get on a train in those times, was in itself a major feat.I remember spending hours, in the dirty waiting room and platform at the Petrograd Station, then storming in a mad rush, and together with a wild crowd of passengers, to climb into a coach of the train, and try and get a seat, and finally traveling several days and nights South, through Charkow, and Poltava, until we got to Krementchug, and Grandmother, and Beletskovka, a temporary quiet haven of refuge.This must have been in September/October 1917.

Here we stayed up to the end of November 1918, and I will now describe in detail this stormy stage of my childhood life.

When we arrived from Petrograd to what appeared to be peaceful serenity, after the infernal turmoils of Revolutionary Petrograd, we found Beletskovka, and the surrounding country occupied by German troops, and an independent Ukrainian Government set-up in Kiev with German support, headed up by Hetman Skoropadzki and General Count Keller.

I as a young boy of 9, immediately got very friendly with the German officers and soldiers, who were stationed in the Estate, amongst which were several men of Polish origin, from the Poznan (Posen) area of Poland, which at that time still was an integral part of Germany, having become so during the partition of Poland at the end of the 18th Century.Amongst these officers we made special friends of two, one a Captain Sztukowski, and another Captain Cieslinski.In 1918 when Poland became independent, and the German armies disintegrated at the end of the lost by Germany first World War 1, these officers joined the newly created Polish Army, and later in the 1930’s when my family lived in Poland, we again met Sztukowski, and maintained friendly relations with him, when he was an officer of a Polish Uhlan Regiment stationed in Wilno.

            The officers of the German regiment took a special liking to me, and they would mount me saddled on a large cavalry horse, and take me with them riding in the fields and the woods of the Estate.At first I was very frightened of the large horse, because I had before that been always accustomed to my small ponies, but, after a short while I became accustomed to the German hunter, and the officers and I enjoyed these trips very much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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            Towards the end of summer 1918, the Germans who were losing the War, began to withdraw their troops from the Ukraine.Just about that time I had a rather serious accident.I loved to climb on the roof of our big country estate house, by means of a big tree with a lot of dried branches which grew at the back of the house overlooking the steep slope, which led down to the marshes and the damp meadows leading down to the river Dniepr.

One day when I was climbing this tree to get on the roof, a branch broke under me and I came falling down some 8 feet, and hit my head badly on some stones that were lying down below.A large gash, bleeding profusely had cut the back of my head and I was brought into the house partly conscious.A sergeant of the German Medical unit, stationed in the Estate was called in who quickly shaved the back of my head and stitched up the wound, and bandaged the head.A photo of myself and the Sergeant was taken on the terrace of the house to record this little incident.

With the withdrawal of the German troops, the whole of Southern Russia was thrown in the strife of civil war.From the North advanced Bolshevik troops who were attempting to capture the Ukraine.They were being fought and resisted by independent Ukrainian units, which were fighting to protect the "independence" of the Ukraine.Again from the Crimea and the Don area, large units of white Russian troops commanded by the Generals Denikin, and Wrangel, were marching to fight the Reds, while in between large bands, of armed bandits and brigands operated in various areas, murdering land-owners, burning Estates and looting.In our area operated a band led by a bandit called Machno, and the Beletskovka and Krementchug area was constantly fought over by Ukrainian troops, and bandits, and was more and more threatened by the advancing Bolshevik troops from the North, and repeatedly changing hands.

In this chaos, and throughout the summer, my Mother was in constant contact, and was a link of a small insignificant Monarchist organization, which was sending couriers to Tobolsk in Siberia, trying to communicate with the Imperial family who were held prisoners there, and attempting to organize a rescue operation, which weak underground movement had its headquarters in Petrograd and was organized by a certain Markoff, Anna Vyrubova, a young officer called Sedov, who was a son-in-law of Rasputin, General Count Keller, Commander of Troops in Kiev, my Mother Julia von Dehn, and several other young army officers who had remained loyal to the Imperial family, amongst whom was a certain Serge Markoff, (No relative of the Markoff in Petrograd.).

During early spring 1918, Serge Markoff left Beletskovka, as a secret courier of the organization and made his way in disguise to Tobolsk, and managed to establish some indirect contact with the imprisoned Royal family.He many years later when resident of Vienna, Austria, where he worked as conductor of Railway sleeping cars, wrote his memoirs, in which he dedicates considerable space to his stay in Beletskovka, and his expedition to Siberia, and my Mother.His book is called "How we tried to save the Tsaritsa,” written by Sergei Vladimirovitch Markov, and published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1929.

            I remember Sergei very well; he was a close friend of mine.He used to make forts, and fortifications out of gypsum, paper, and wire, and play toy soldiers with me for hours.I also remember him arriving from some long journey disguised as a woman, as officers were everywhere being hunted down, tortured and shot whenever uncovered.

When the Germans withdrew they left a lot of Army rifles and Ammunition, and I remember Sergei, and other officers spending a whole night, wrapping up these rifles and ammunition, and sinking them in a cesspool, of a garden W.C., with the hope of preserving them, and being able to use them in fighting the Reds.   

Then towards the end of July 1918, the dreadful news was received that all the Imperial family had been assassinated, and at first none of our group of people believed this tragic news to be true, and hoped against hope that they had escaped and had been saved.Also around this time a local Newspaper printed a report that my Father’s ship the "Variag," had been torpedoed and had sunk with all the Crew.One can imagine the desperation of my Mother and Grandmother trying to keep this news from me.

With the withdrawal of German troops complete chaos and anarchy broke out.On two occasions attempts were made to assassinate me, a child of 10.The contention in the village was that if the “brat” was done away with the women would abandon the Estate and would leave the area.

One day I was sitting in a little house, which I had built in a tree out of an old basket, which had once been used as a Baby Carriage.The tree was near a wooden fence, which separated the Park from the main road.Once when I was sitting in this over-sized basket, several revolver shots were fired at me from over the fence.The bullets whizzed past me, and I tumbled out of the tree into the under-growth below, and fled.The person shooting at me must have thought that I had been hit.

On another occasion I was playing outside our main house, and saw from a distance two civilians on horseback with rifles, riding in through the drive-in gate.I noticed them taking their rifles down from their shoulders and aiming at me and again I fled round the corner of the house, before they had time to shoot.

The looting bands would raid one neighboring Estate after another.In one case they tied the Estate owner, his wife and three children and a governess with ropes, poured Gasoline over them and set them on fire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Another neighbouring Estate called Skalevaya, which was owned by my Great Grandmother Maria Horvath, and was administrated by a Manager, was raided by a Band.They found the manager's wife, in the Bathroom having a bath, and threw a hand grenade at her, tearing her to pieces in the bath.Her husband fled to the garden, and they followed him and threw another grenade after him, which exploded and tore both his legs to pieces, and he also died from these wounds shortly thereafter.

I remember the funeral, when the two coffins arrived on horse drawn wagons, and man and wife were buried, near the little Church, which was on the Estate grounds.An adopted daughter of theirs, who was their niece, a girl of some 16, called Pasha, was left orphan, and my Mother took her into our household, and she became my Mother's maid, and finally fled together with us, and came with us to England in 1919, where she finally met a Russian carpenter named Plotnikoff, who lived in London, and married him.

While this reign of terror was getting worse and worse, my Grandmother and Mother decided that it was impossible to stay much longer in the Estate, as we awaited any moment that we would also be assaulted by bandits, or I would be killed.So, preparations were started to move to the town of Krementchug.

My Grandmother bought a large town house, in the suburb of Krementchug, called Kriukov, from a local merchant called Gusiev.The house apart from several apartments in the higher floors, had a movie Theater on the ground floor.

Furthermore, shortly prior to moving, away from the Estate to live in that house, my Grandmother took out of the bank in Krementchug the money she had deposited there.Because of the fear of inflation she asked the money to be paid out in Gold Rubels, and she received in several sacks, more than 100,000 Rubels, which she took home to Beletskovka with her.

On that same night we were raided by bandits, and it was seriously suggested that somebody had informed them that Grandmother had withdrawn such a large sum of money from the Bank.

When the whole family were seated at Dinner, and had visitors in the person of the local Greek-Orthodox Priest and his wife, suddenly loud steps were heard in the corridor outside the Dining Room and a group of armed civilians, entered the room, and with a cynical smile declared “charming guests, get up and follow us" - At the point of pistols, we all got up and were herded down the basement into a store-room, and two men remained at the door guarding us with pistols and hand grenades pointed at us. These men declared "when we finish our work upstairs, you will all be executed.”

In the meantime upstairs, they ransacked the whole house, found the sacks with the Go1d Rubles, entered the bedroom of my old Great Grandmother – Maria Horvath, who was over 80 years old, tore down a curtain from a window, and tied pieces of it around her neck, knocked her down on the floor and tried to strangle her.

While all this was going on, my Mother later told me that I was holding her hand and told her "Mother don’t be afraid - if God so wills - there is nothing to be afraid of."

Suddenly, we heard hushed whispers outside the store room where we were held captives, and then the two guards at the door withdrew, and we heard them close the door, and heard the sound of some heavy furniture being moved outside to the door, and then complete silence.

After a period of dead silence, which seemed eternity, finally someone moved and tried to open the door.It was found that a heavy cupboard had been moved to block the door, and when we came out, all was still in the house, and there was no trace of the Bandits.

We went immediately to the bed-room of our Great Grandmother, and found her lying on the floor, bound and gagged and half strangled by pieces of curtain, but still alive.

What had apparently happened was that a mounted detachment of Ukrainian cavalry, was moving past the Estate that night, on the road down below, and one of the Bandits on Guard outside had heard the noise of the marching unit, and had alarmed their men, who presumably so content having found such a large sum of money, retired and fled, without taking the time necessary to execute us, and not wanting to alert the troops down below that something was taking place in the house of the Estate, if they heard the noise of revolver fire, or the explosion of hand grenades.Very certainly this almost miraculous appearance of the Military Unit marching past the Estate at night, just at the moment when we were about to be shot, saved our lives.I remember the date of this dreadful night.It was November 17, 1918.

On the following day, a close friend of ours, a Ukranian officer called Yaroshenko, informed us that the Ukranian troops in the area were too weak to be able to maintain any semblance of law and order.Furthermore, my Grandmother was visited by a group of peasants led by a “Commisar,” called Shkoluda, red bearded, red haired, with leering blue eyes, who declared nothing here belongs to you anymore everything is the property of the people, and they started driving the cattle away from the Cow Sheds, and the horses from the Stables.So this was the end of our dearly beloved Beletskovka and our stay there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

40

 

Household effects, and personal belongings were packed on that same day, and with heavy hearts, and in deep sorrow, we moved to the Gusiev house in Kriukov.

We stayed there not more than some two months.A winter of bitter cold, and heavy snowstorms arrived.Food and fuel were short.The old Great Grandmother was ailing, and could not set out of the after effects of the shock she had sustained.I remember a dismal Christmas, with the tragedy of the death of our beloved Royal family confirmed, and the doubts as to whether my Father was still alive.The only spark of Joy, I can find in my memory of those moments was two canaries which I kept in a cage, and who would distract me from time to time with their gentle songs.

Then the Red front moved closer and closer from the North to Krementchug, and stories were told of the atrocities these troops were committing by mass shootings, torture of captured officers, to whom women commissars would burn out eyes with burning cigarettes, or have strips of' skin cut out on their shoulders, where officers had formerly in their uniforms of Tsarist time "epaulets."Or strips of skin were cut out on the outside of their thighs and legs, where formerly staff officers had worn red stripping, on the trousers of their uniforms.In other towns officers had been stripped naked, and herded in crudely made cages, which were left standing in public view in market places, and left there to die of hunger and exposure.

One day in January 1919, we heard heavy artillery gunfire coming from across the Dniepr, in the outskirts of Krementchug, and witnessed a disorganized withdrawal of the Ukrainian forces, across the bridge into Kruikov, and to the Railroad station, where goods trains were being loaded.We were told that within 24 hours the town would be surrendered to the Bolsheviks.

My Mother and Grandmother in panic, began to pack and arranged for us to board a train that was shortly to leave in a Westerly direct towards the port town of Odessa, which was normally some 10 hours train journey away.

It proved impossible to take with us our very sick Great Grandmother, and she was left in the care of our former Jewish Milkman Geymann, who as we later found out cared for her for more than three years taking her in his own household, and when she died in 1921, buried her in the local Cemetery.This all in gratitude for having received from her the contract to buy milk from the Estate, at a lower price than others had offered, because he had a family of seven children, and they lived in profound poverty, in times before the Revolution.

The train that was standing at the Railroad siding, was composed of Box Cars and was heavily armed with machine guns, and loaded with Ukrainian troops and arms, who were fleeing in a panic.It was also said that on the way to Odessa, there were town and stations occupied, by Bands of Machno, or Bolshevik troops, and we would have to break through these towns, at high speed or fight the way through.The cold was intense, and heavy snowdrifts were lying all over the countryside.

My Grandmothers great passion was her stud of pure blood Hannover horses, and she had a team of four stallions, which just before the War she had imported from Germany with excellent pedigree.She would not be separated from these horses and room was found in one of the Box Cars for the horses, sacks of oats for them, our effects, and ourselves.Boxes of food supplies were also taken with us, amongst which were quantities of roasted hens.My dear canneries had to be left with the Great Grandmother, as they would have never survived the cold.

So when the transport was finally loaded, and the gun fire from across the river was drawing closer and closer, the train started moving out of the Station, and we were on our way.

Fortunately part of the Army stores were evacuated from Kruikov before we left, and amongst these stores were quantities of winter army uniforms with padded Jackets, well wadded with cotton to protect from the intense cold.I had one of these Jackets on me, and other crude peasant passengers with us in the Box Car, who were soldiers of these troops, had bottles of "Moonshine" vodka with them, and they were drunk most of the time, executing Cossack dances on the floor of the Box car playing an Accordion, and singing obscene soldiers songs.

During the night, sleeping on the floor, and leaning against a sack of oats, when I woke up next morning, I found that a crust of ice had formed between my back and a sack of oats, and I was firmly stuck to that sack, and had difficulty in extricating myself from that Icy Predicament.

When we started having breakfast we found that the roasted chicken had crusts of ice covering the tasty meat, and it was quite a problem biting through it.

And so that Exodus proceeded.The train was about to pass a station called Znamenka, and we were warned that the place was occupied by Bands of Machno, and that we would have to break through the station at full speed with the hope that the line ahead was clear.We flew through the station at full speed with all machine guns and rifles firing, and we lying on the floor, behind the aforementioned sacks of oats.The enemy likewise opened fire on the carriering train, and it was even shelled by a gun that opened fire.Several bullets entered our Box Car, but, providence was with us, and there were no casualties, and we managed to get through.

At another station where we stopped called Razdzielnaya, which was in the hands of Polish troops, to the despair of my       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

41

(April 16, 1966.)

Grandmother, her beloved horses were confiscated from her, which fact almost broke her heart.

After 11 days, instead of the normal 10 hours, our train finally arrived on Odessa, finding us in an extreme state of exhaustion, and suffering from acute Diarrhea.Odessa was full of thousands of refugees, and it was almost impossible to find living quarters.

The town was occupied by troops of the French General Franché Desperais, and it was full of anxiety, rumours, speculation, crime, and communist subversive agents.Food was everywhere a major problem.My grandmother who was always very active and had a strongly developed sense of business, managed somewhere to find a source of a sweet product called Halva, which was packed in tin pails, and was a paste made of ground Walnuts, and Sugar.

I would spend hours, on the local market place, selling Halva by Table-spoon-full, to raise some money to be able to buy some bread, potatoes, or other staple food, which was everywhere at a premium.This must have been my first experience in business.

Children of distinguished Russian families were being kidnapped; and held for ransoms, in underground caves, which were profusely distributed in the area of Odessa.

Then the vogue of the period was a Russian singer called Alexander Wertysnai, whose songs were hummed, and whistled by everybody in the town.One of his songs called “Your Fingers Smell of Incense,” was composed for a famous film star called Vera Halodnaya, who had apparently been killed in Odessa, because she had been acting as a Bolshevik spy.

Shortly before the occupation of Odessa by the French Expeditionary force, the town had been in the hands of the Bolsheviks, and mass atrocities as usual had been committed.

An incident occurred, when the French sent a Diver down to the bottom of the Port.The man came back in a state of collapse.He reported that the bottom of the Port was covered in human corpses of men and women, who had been thrown into the sea, by the Bolsheviks, with weights tied to their legs.The standing up corpses were swaying in the under-currents of the sea, and women with their long hair floating from their heads in the water, had made a shockingly appalling impression on the Diver.

Our stay in Odessa was limited to a few weeks.Without warning or notice, and day the French started in all haste to evacuate the city, and it was rumoured that they were about to deliver it back to the Bolsheviks.

My Mother and Grandmother in a panic, made every possible effort to obtain passage on a ship, which was about to leave for Constantinopel (Istambul,) in Turkey.The ship was a troop transporter belonging to the Russian Merchant Marine the “Kherson,” but,.it was controlled and in the hands of the French.After great effort, and by bribing French officials, with some of their last jewelry, they obtained a “First Class Passage,” but, when we got on board the ship, there was hardly enough space for us on the open deck to lie down.

After a few hours, the ship sailed, but, some five miles outside the Port stopped and anchored.This was night, and on the following morning, when the sun rose, we had the whole panorama of the city of Odessa in front of us, with a view of the surrounding countryside.We were also anchored in the vicinity of a Cruiser of the United States Navy, I believe the “Richmond” (?.)

In a short while, we watched a highway leading into the city over some cliffs from the East, and we saw motorized columns of Bolshevik troops moving into the city.At that moment the American Battleship opened artillery fire, and from a distance of some five miles, we saw the impact of American shells, blowing up clods of Earth, and shelling the moving Bolshevik columns.The reason for this action was never made clear, but, one may well appreciate the enthusiasm we experienced at this sight, and the hope that rose in our hearts that perhaps some definite action was about to be taken to stem the invading flood of communism at that moment taking over the remnants of free Russian territory.This action of the American Warship, to my knowledge has as yet nowhere been recorded.

Shortly after this incident the “Kherson” raises anchor and sailed for Turkey.Of the few reminiscences of this journey, remain the mixed feelings my Mother and I had on seeing the disappearing shores of Russia, which she was never more in her life to see.To me at my early age of 10, all this was all a great adventure, and on board ship, I met three boys, distant relatives of Princes Obolensky, and we all had a grand time together.After a while we got mixed up with French sailors in their Mess, and they treated us to quantities of Bordeaux wine, whereupon, we returned on deck in such high spirits, that none of our parents could understand, where we had got our strength and energy from, when some heavy wooden crates had to be moved on deck, and some men were struggling unsuccessfully with them, we youngsters pushed these crates around, as if we were adult athletes.

Here ends the first period of my life, up to the age of 10, when I left forever the home country of my ancestors Russia, in March 1919, and which I was again to see for three short months during the Second World War in 1941.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

42

May 6/7, 1966

(Barbara’s Birthday)

Journey from Russia to England via Turkey and Greece – 1919

So with a thousand or more refugees, my Grandmother Ekaterina Leonidovna, my Mother and myself, we were on board the "S/S Kherson", fleeing from probable death or persecution by the Red Bolshevik Communist hoards, that were taking over our home country.

After some hours at anchor several miles out at sea the ship finally sailed taking a course for Constantinople - now Istanbul, which at that time was the capital of Turkey.

The ship was manned by a French crew, she was heavily overloaded, and people were lying everywhere on deck.There was sadness and disorder everywhere.The shores of Russia in convulsions of chaos, blood and revolution disappeared in the distance slowly behind a curtain of sea mist, and after some two days sailing, our ship entered the Bosphorus, and slowly moved through its emerald-blue waters to its Western outlet into the Sea of Marmara, on which shores wan spread the sprawling city of Constantinople, with its Sultan's Palaces, and hundreds of Minarets shinning in the morning sun, as we approached the city, through the narrow, winding channel of the Bosphorus. The shores of the channel were covered on the Northern side by sumptuous Villas and Residences of the Turkish Nobles, with the tall thin spires of Cypress trees adding beauty to the landscape of the gardens of these residences, which sloped down to the water's of the Bosphorus.

We anchored in the Fort of the city called the Golden Horn, and left of us we saw the panorama of this glorious Oriental Metropolis, with the massive structure of "Aya Sophia", (St. Sophia) the great former Byzantine Christian Cathedral, converted to a Mahometan Mosque since the Turkish conquest in past centuries, with its four Minarets shooting into the sky.To our right we had a view of an elevated part of the city, covered with houses, and on top of the building of the Sultan’s Palace, and the one large European Hotel, the “Pera Palace,” this being the center ofthe town.

In the Bay of the "Golden Horn,” were many ships at anchor and a constant traffic of small boats, and several warships, amongst which the most impressive was the British Dreadnaught the "Iron Duke.”

The Turkish Government had not granted permit to disembark the refugees, and there was talk, that we would be taken to refugee camps in French Morocco, and with this end in view we were all taken off the "Kherson", and loaded on board a luxurious Liner captured from the Germans by the Allies, the S/S "Corcovado," which I believe belonged to the Hamburg America Line, or the German Lloyd.This was indeed a fabulous ship, of some 15,000 tons, with luxurious staterooms, a real swimming Palace, which was a wonderful change after our miserable conditions on board the “Kherson.”

Our stay on the "Corcovado," however, was not to be long.After prolonged and heated negotiations, between Allied authorities and the Turkish Government, it was decided to allow us to disembark and find accommodation on Turkish territory, in a refugee center which was about to be created on the Princes Islands, of the Sea of Marmara, some hours by boat from Constantinople.This is a group of four small Islands, of which two are uninhabited, and the two larger ones Halki, and Prinkipo have small towns, and Prinkipo is the site of the Naval Academy of the Turkish Navy.

A night or two before we were removed from the "Corcovado," and transferred in small boats to the Princes Islands, on incident occurred on board the "Corcovado."We were told that amongst the refugees there were found Communist agents, who were discovered to be in possession of explosive material, and were about to blow-up the whole ship with the refugees on board, with the intention of destroying the lives of some important anti-communist individuals who were amongst the refugees.All I remember, that on a certain night, in a cabin underneath the one we occupied, at a lower deck level, there was apparently a Court Martial proceeding going on, as for many hours during that night we heard heated discussions, and groans and cries, of the men being tried, who it was said were finally condemned to Death.What actually happened to them afterwards, I do not know.

As stated we were transported to the Princes Islands, by small passenger boats, and unloaded on the Island of Halki, which was a picturesque jewel island about 3 or 4 square miles in circumference, covered in luscious vegetation, and flowering trees and creepers, amongst which predominated Camellias, and Magnolias.It seemed to be real paradise after the Hell we had gone through in Russia.

The local population of the Island were Greeks, and we were allotted quarters in a small wooden house, owned by some old women, very close to an old and beautiful Greek Orthodox Monastery.The whole little town did not have more than some 30 or 40 small houses, and which-ever way one looked one had a view of the placid turquoise blue waters of the Sea or Marmara, and the warm breath of the Sea Wind of April spring time of this warm temperate region, brought hope of life and happiness, back to the homeless refugees, amongst whom we found ourselves.

Some 3 or 4 miles away from the Island of Halki, looking East to the right we had a view of the larger Island Prinkipo, with its large buildings of the Naval College, and small boats and Yachts, anchored on the waterside near the white buildings.

            We were taken care of and fed by the American Relief Association, the “A.R.A.” headed up by Herbert Hoover, who later in the late 1920’s became President of the United States

 

 

 

 

 

 

43

Life on Halki, was quiet and uneventful.Poverty of the local population and primitive customs were strange to us.I remember a house next door to us, inhabited by a Greek family.The ground floor was nothing but a shed, with a wooden stepladder leading up to the top floor, where the people lived.The Rooms upstairs had no furniture whatever, and the room usedas a bedroom, had all the floor covered with the wool of sheep, about two feet thick, on which the people slept.All the house swarmed with bedbugs, which would keep one awake at night.

Once there was much excitement in the main street of the town, and people rushed about closing their doors and windows, while a procession moved down the street.When this reached the level of our house, I saw the corpse of a dead man tied to a chair, which was being carried by four men followed by the procession of mourners.This was a burial taking place, and it was the custom on the island that the uncovered corpse was carried three times round the Island, before it was put to rest as a symbolic leave taking of its home.Thereafter the body was buried for five

years, and then there was a final ceremony of exhumation, whereby the remnants were removed from the grave, and the bones broken up, and put in an urn, which was deposited in a family "Niche,” in the local Church.The reason for closing doors and windows of houses passed by a funeral procession, was to prevent the spirit of death from entering the houses of the living.

Playing with local boys in the street I quickly picked up some Greek and Turkish and, at times having some surplus of American food in the form of canned goods, or cheese, I would exchange this with the boys for some primitive toys or gadgets made locally.

My Grandmother, who would never sit still, and was very active, immediately rented some small place, with four or six tables, and opened a Restaurant.The whole enterprise failed very shortly, since bread, salt and mustard, were served free on every table, the local visitors would come and eat these without paying, and not order any food from the “Menu.”Nevertheless, I remember Grandmother, Mother and me, at times sitting many hours, with an earthenware bowl on our lap, turning yolks of eggs, with olive oil, and lemon juice for hours to make Mayonnaise, the taste of which I still remember was most delicious, and much better than the one we buy today, made by "Kraft’s."

On one occasion my Grandfather General Alexander Smolski, came from the Crimea, which was still free and in the hands of White troops, and he visited us for several days, before going back to his property in Yalta, from where he had to finally flee to Poland in 1920, when the Crimea was lost to the Reds.This was the last time I saw my Grandfather alive, as later he died in 1925 in his Estate in Poland, when we lived in England.

Since my Mother was the wife of a Russian Naval Officer, we soon made friends with British Naval Officers from the Warships anchored in Constantinople, who would come and visit the Turkish Naval Academy, and the Islands, and through them we got to know the Turkish Navel Officers.

The Director of the Naval Academy, a Turkish Naval Officer of a Noble family named Sbevkhed Bey, was most attentive, and he would at times come in a Sailing Yacht to the Island of Halki, and take us on board for a sailing trip on the Sea of Marmara.Once when we were about to board the Yacht from a Dhingy, I fell overboard and scraped the skin of my ribs rather badly, which painful incident remains vivid in my mind.Also on one occasion, when we sailed past the two small uninhabited Islands of the Princes Island group, Shevkhed Bey told us, that one of them was called the "Dogs Island", because hundreds of stray dogs, roaming the streets of Constantinople, were cleared by sanitary squads, and brought out and let loose to starve on that Island.

The Sea of Marmara teemed with Fish arid Spiny Lobsters, and Sea Horses, and the beaches were covered with lovely shells.A especially delicious fish called the Sultan fish (Sultanka in Russian), abounded, and it was Pink-Red in colour, and resembled very much the Red Snapper, or "Pargo Real," which we have here in the Caribbean, of the shores ofVenezuela.

The wish of my Mother, was to try to get to England as soon as possible, to find out if my Father was still alive, as up to that moment we had had no news from him, and during the visit of my Grandfather he had left Mother enough money to pay our passage to England.After considerable time and trouble, my Mother succeeded in getting us a passage to England, and the travel documents required.Also I must add that we had with us Mother’s maid, Pasha, the unfortunate orphan whom we had saved with us from Russia, and it was Mother’s wish to take her along with us to England.

Grandmother, who was most unhappy having left her own Mother in Krementchug when we had fled from there, always hoped that that town would be re-captured by White troops, and that she would be able to go backto Crimea, still in the hands of White troops, with that hope in her mind.So she took leave of us and went back on that sad and unsuccessful journey, which ended up in her finally getting through to Manchuria to her Brother General Dimitri Horvath, where she lived the rest of her life and died later in Peking, in 1937.This was also the last time I saw my dear Grandmother alive.

So very late in May 1919, we obtained passage to England on a Cunard Line Cargo boat the S/S "Verencia", and sailed for England via the Dardanelles, and Greece, a journey of three weeks, calling in Athens, and the small port of Patras, in the Corinth Canal, in Greece on the way with hopes in our hearts of finding my dear Father in England.Before we left Constantinople, my Mother sent a telegram to the still existing Russian Imperial Embassy in London, asking them to try and trace my Father, if he was still alive, and to inform him that his wife and son were on their way to England.

 

 

 

 

 

 

44

Journey from Turkey to England – May/June 1919.

With the whirlwind of Revolution left behind in Russia, bathed in a bath of blood of Civil War, mass assassinations, and total anarchy, and with broken hearts having for the last time in our lives taken leave, of my dear Grandmother, Ekaterina Leonidovna Beletski, and my Grandfather General Alexander Adamovich Smolski, whom we were never again to see alive in this world, and who had gone back to Russia, as already mentioned before, we found ourselves on our way to England, on board the S/S "Varencia".

The boat was a cargo steamer of some 8,000 tons, with a few cabins for passengers.These were my Mother, myself, my Mother's servant Pasha, also a Polish refugee girl Ada Yanowska.Also I believe a man who was a Russian refugee, whose name I do not remember.

We sailed serenely through the placid sea of Marmara, to the Dardanelles, which we passed cautiously, through the wrecks of sunken ships, whose funnels and masts were sticking out of the water, a sad reminder of the gigantic struggle which had so recently taken place here during the War, when the Allies, in an attempt, to land here, sacrificed thousands of lives of their soldiers fighting the Turks, who were under command of Kemal Pasha, and who heroically defended themselves, and won the battle.

We had a comfortable cabin, and the poor simple Pasha., not accustomed to anything like a sea Journey, was violently sea-sick for many days, moaning and groaning on her bunk, and constantly demanding fresh tomatoes, and cucumbers, such delicacies, naturally being, completely absent in the stores of the ship those days.

The next port of call was Pireus, the port of Athens in Greece, where we docked for a couple of days.My Mother took the opportunity of taking me with her to visit the city of Athens, and in the middle of the night we went up the mountain which is in the center of the city, on which are spread the magnificent ruins of the temple of Acropolis.It was a full-moon night, and the ghosts of the past in the shadows of the ruined temple, in moonlight, and the lights of the city down below, was a sight which I have never forgotten, and have always wished to go back to Athens some day.

When we went back to Pireus, and our boat, we found a Russian submarine anchored in the port, which had fled from the red take-over of Crimea.The Captain of the submarine was a friend of my Father's, and we spent several pleasant hours with him, visiting the submarine.

We then sailed through the Corinth Canal, which cuts Greece in two and anchored in the small port of Patras, on the outside of the Canal, where we loaded many tons of Raisins in sacks.

A tragic accident happened while we were in Patras.The ship was being cleaned and painted on her way back to her port in England, and one of the young sailors, who was painting a mast suspended by ropes on a board high up the mast lost his balance and fell ten meters down hitting a deck house, with his body and, falling on the deck.The poor fellow with multiple fractures, and many bones broken, died several hours later in the sick-bay of the ship, and when we sailed from Patras, we had a burial at sea..He was not more than twenty years old, and had his parents and Sweetheart waiting for him in England.Such sad incidents impress a young child’s mind, and bring a sadness which one never forgets.

The quiet rolling of the ship.The blue waters of the Mediterranean, and sailing past Malta, in clear view from deck.Then one morning the monumental rock of Gibraltar, illuminated by the rising sun.The rough seas in the Bay of Biscay, and the every day drawing nearer hope of seeing my Father, if we found him alive in England, and the desperate fear of what then!If he had gone down with his ship the Cruiser “Variag,” as the papers had said, in Revolutionary Russia, were all mingled hopes and frustrations in our mind, as we were drawing closer and closer to England, which was to become a new life in a new World, and a never forgotten period of my youth, and which has thereafter left a dear love for England in my heart.

Our destination was the port of Tilbury, in the Thames estuary, on the outskirts of London.We arrived there on June 19, passing through the English channel, and admiring a never forgotten sight, the “White Cliffs” of Dover, on the way.

The “Varencia,” moved in slowly, and dropped anchor in Tilbury.There was on all sides a movement of ships, tugs, and small riverboats, and suddenly a motor launch, was headed for us and came alongside, and a tall blond man, in a grey civilian suit, climbed up the ladder, and came on board.The Captain of the “Varencia” greeted him, and came up to us, who were naturally standing on the deck fascinated by the distant sight of London, and the activities in the Port.The two men came up to me and my Mother, and the Captain of the “Varencia” said “Mrs. Dehn – your Husband, Captain Dehn.”My Mother must have nearly fainted from joy, as neither of us had recognized in the clear shaven civilian, my Father, whom we had last seen in Russian Naval Uniform, with a large blond mustache.The greeting was a mixture of laughter and tears, and in the excitement of the moment, when I ran down a gangway to go to our cabin, I fell down several steps and cut my left knee open, and my leg smothered in blood, was then dressed by my Father with plaster and Iodine, lying on my bunk in the Cabin.I have a scar as a reminder of this touching meeting on my left leg up to this day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

45

Father had one evening in June been playing bridge at the still existing remnants of the Imperial Russian Embassy, when suddenly a telegram was delivered to him.This was the message my Mother had sent from Constantinople informing him of our arrival on the chance that it would reach him if he was alive in England.

That is how it came about that he came to meet us when we arrived in Tilbury Docks, on that day.So then we proceeded to disembark, went on shore passed the Customs and Passport controls, took a taxi, and drove a radiantly happy family to London, to the Knightsbridge Hotel, on Knightsbridge, (which is now known as the "Normandy," and which I visited again in 1955, when I went to London.) where Father had reserved rooms for us.

Driving through London we noticed great excitement in the street, and groups of people looking up to the sky.On that day June 19, 1919, the British Airship the "R-34" had come back on its flight there and back across the Atlantic from the United States, and was flying circling over London, as we drove to our Hotel.

We lived in the Knightsbridge Hotel some 7 weeks, until Father rented a house in the vicinity, a small Mansion at No. 8 Walton Place, at the back of the Harrods Department store.One of those small narrow old-fashioned London Houses, with a ground floor, and two higher floors, with three rows of windows, on each floor facing the street, and painted yellow front.

Before we moved into the house from the Hotel, we celebrated my eleventh birthday, and Father took me to Harrods Toy Department, and told me “choose whatever you want."So I naturally chose the most exciting thing one could in those days, a wonderful model Military Tank, 1918 vintage, with clockwork mechanism, caterpillar drive, and a cannon that actually could shoot pellets.