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  • byakimov@csc.com.au
    A POET AMONG THE ROMANOVS The commemoration of the holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia has been established for the nearest Sunday to January 25th by the
    Message 1 of 2 , Feb 8, 2004

      The commemoration of the holy New Martyrs and Confessors of Russia has been
      established for the nearest Sunday to January 25th by the old calendar
      (February 7th by the new). This year the holiday falls on the Sunday of
      February 8th. Among the holy New Martyrs we also commemorate the Royal
      Martyr Prince Vladimir Paley, whose life and martyrdom we continue to
      publish in the form of excerpts from a wonderful biography of him, "A Poet
      Among the Romanovs", written by Professor Jorge Saenz.


      Prince Vladimir Paley Vladimir and his exile companions spent almost a
      month under an unbearable prison regime. There would be no improvement: the
      White Army was reaching the Urals, and the Bolsheviks decided to murder
      Tsar Nicholas II and all his relatives in the region before they could be
      rescued by "counterrevolutionaries." There would be no trial, no charges,
      just cold-blooded murders. For the Bolsheviks it didn't matter if the
      victims were to be sick children like Tsarevich Alexis, or promising young
      men who had never been involved in politics, like Prince Vladimir Paley and
      the Konstantinovichi princes.

      In the night of July 4/17, Tsar Nicholas II, his wife and children, and
      their faithful retainers were massacred in the basement of the Ipatyev
      house, and buried in a secret grave in the forests near Yekaterinburg. The
      Ural Soviet also decided to kill all the Alapayevsk prisoners.

      Unaware of the atrocious Yekaterinburg massacre, the prisoners in
      Alapayevsk spent the morning of July 4/17, their last one, in their
      secluded boredom. At midday, a Chekist by the name of Startsev arrived with
      several Bolshevik workers, sent away the guards on duty, took from the
      exiles almost all of their remaining money, and told them that they would
      be transferred that night to a place about ten miles from Alapayevsk. The
      Bolsheviks' real purpose, however, was to take them to an abandoned
      half-flooded iron mine near the village of Sinyachikha, which had already
      been chosen as the murder site. The mine had a pit called Lower Selimskaya,
      almost sixty-five feet deep, where the bodies would not be immediately

      Late at night they tied Grand Duchess Elizabeth's and nun Varvara's hands
      behind their backs, blindfolded them and took them outside the building,
      where several carts were waiting. They made them sit in one of the carts
      and sent them off to their destination, since it was decided earlier that
      the carts should not leave the town together.

      After the Grand Duchess and her faithful companion left, the Bolsheviks did
      the same with the men. The Konstantinovichi Princes and Vladimir were taken
      out into the corridor and blindfolded, then had their hands tied behind
      their backs and were placed in another cart. Only Grand Duke Serge realized
      what was going to happen and tried to resist, saying that they were all
      going to be killed. The Bolsheviks finally shot at him and wounded him in
      the arm, then put him in the last cart and set off.

      Shortly after leaving Alapayevsk, all the carts came together. In the
      darkness, a group of peasants going to town had a last glimpse of the
      Princes and their butchers on the road to Sinyachikha. They met a creepy
      silent column of ten or eleven carts, with two people in each. The Princes
      were wearing plain civilian clothes. One of the peasants bore witness to
      the fact that the column proceeded quietly and calmly; the carts made
      absolutely no sound at all. At about one o'clock in the morning the column
      approached the mineshaft. It was the 5th/18th of July, which happened to be
      Grand Duke Serge's namesday.

      Grand Duke Sergey Mikhaylovich
      Upon arriving near the mine, the prisoners were taken out of the carts and
      made to walk several hundred yards to the chosen mineshaft. The Grand
      Duchess Elizabeth sang a hymn as she walked.

      As to what happened afterwards, one of the Bolsheviks involved, a certain
      Vasily Ryabov, offered the following account of the murders:

      "First we led Grand Duchess Elizabeth to the mine. After throwing her down
      the shaft, we heard her struggling in the water for some time. We pushed
      the nun Varvara down after her. We again heard the splashing of the water
      and then the two women's voices. It became clear that, having dragged
      herself out of the water, the Grand Duchess had also pulled her sister nun
      out. But, having no other alternative, we had to throw in all the men

      Blindfolded and with their hands tied behind their backs, it was very
      unlikely that the victims could defend themselves against being hit or try
      to escape. However, Grand Duke Serge may have made a last attempt to
      resist, because he was shot in the head.

      Many months after the murder, autopsies of the bodies showed that despite
      their having been beaten, most of the victims were still alive when they
      were thrown down the mineshaft. From Ryabov's testimony it seems that the
      Bolsheviks expected that the victims, being blindfolded, injured,
      unconscious, and with their hands tied, would be quickly drowned in the
      pit, and that there was no need to shoot them individually.

      The autopsies also gave evidence of severe traumatic injuries to the skull
      and brain in all the victims. Prince Vladimir and Prince Igor were almost
      certainly unconscious from the time of their injuries, since these were
      particularly severe. Grand Duchess Elizabeth, Prince Ioann and Prince
      Konstantin may have remained conscious following their injuries, although
      this would have been for a short period of time only. The injuries
      described in the cases of the three Konstantinovichi brothers must have
      been extremely painful and would have made it difficult or impossible to
      summon help.

      Grand Duchess Elizabeth
      The testimony of the assassin Ryabov is consistent with the belief that
      most of the victims remained alive after being thrown down the mineshaft,
      and gives an idea of the cruelty of the executors:

      "None of them, it seems, drowned or choked in the water, and after a short
      time we were able to hear almost all their voices again.

      Then I threw in a grenade. It exploded and everything was quiet? We decided
      to wait a little, to check whether they had all perished. After a short
      while we heard talking and a barely audible groan. I threw another grenade.
      And what do you think ? from beneath the ground we heard singing! I was
      seized with horror. They were singing the prayer: 'Lord, save your people!'

      We had no more grenades, yet it was impossible to leave the deed
      unfinished. We decided to fill the shaft with dry brushwood and set it
      alight. Their hymns still rose through the thick smoke for some time yet."

      According to Ryabov, some guards were posted by the mine, while most of the
      murderers went back to Alapayevsk, where they sounded the alarm from the
      cathedral bell tower and told the people that the Princes had been taken
      away by unknown persons. Apparently some people then hinted at what had
      really happened, but the guards who were watching over the mine prevented
      them from trying to help the Princes. Other testimonies refer to the
      continued survival of the victims at the dark bottom of the pit: some
      peasants who crept to the edge of the pit heard the sound of singing rising
      from the bottom; others revealed that the Grand Duchess Elizabeth had used
      a piece of her head scarf to bandage a wound on Prince Ioann's broken

      Although the martyrs died primarily as a result of their terrible injuries,
      it is also possible that hunger and thirst added to their suffering, after
      hours or even days at the bottom of the mineshaft.

      Prince Ioann Konstantinovich
      A White army officer wrote that although the circumstances of the murder of
      Tsar Nicholas II and his family were terrible, they paled in comparison to
      the crime of Alapaevsk. Some sources said that two of the Alapayevsk
      executioners became insane due to the hideous nature of the massacre.

      After the murder, the Bolsheviks cynically announced that the Princes had
      been abducted from Alapayevsk by a group of unknown men. News about the
      "escape" was published in the Bolshevik press in Petrograd, and for about a
      year the victims' families believed that the Princes were alive somewhere
      in Siberia, and fervently waited to hear from them.

      But Prince Vladimir Paley and his companions were gone forever, victims of
      the holocaust that was beginning to spread all through Russia and which
      would kill millions of people through the remaining decades of the gloomy
      twentieth century. On July 18, 1918, Russian literature had also lost one
      of its most promising poets. At the early age of twenty-one, the final
      verses of one of Vladimir's poems, Inscription on a grave, became a

      "His soul with tired wings
      will fly up, murdered, to the Creator."

      Prince Igor Konstantinovich
      Prince Konstantin Konstantinovich

      On November 1, 1981, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia
      canonized Tsar Nicholas II and his family, along with all the New Martyrs
      who have been killed during the Revolution or under the Soviet regime,
      including the victims of the Alapayevsk massacre. Accordingly, Prince
      Vladimir Paley was depicted in the icon of the New Martyrs of Russia,
      painted at the Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, New York. He appears
      at the left edge of the Imperial family, next to the Konstantinovichi
      princes, in military uniform and with a roll in his hand.

      Royal Martyrs

      A hymn from an akathist dedicated to the Alapayevsk victims contains the
      following words:

      "Rejoice, O venerable martyr Elizabeth, true model of Christian sacrifice!
      Rejoice, O Barbara, devoted daughter of thy spiritual mother;
      Rejoice, ye who intercede for your compatriots who find themselves amid

      suffering and exile!

      Rejoice, O Sergius, valiant confessor of the true Faith;
      Rejoice, O brethren, equal in number to the Trinity!
      Rejoice, O Princes John, Igor and Constantine, who were like unto the
      holy youths in the fiery furnace;

      Rejoice, O Vladimir, prince and martyr, who foresaw thine own suffering and
      Rejoice, ye who have washed your souls clean in the streams of your blood;
      Rejoice, ye who stand before the Saviour in the ranks of the new martyrs

      and confessors!"

      After the Communist regime collapsed, the mineshaft near Sinyachikha became
      the site of religious pilgrimage, and an Orthodox chapel was built there.
      There, in the middle of the Siberian forest, believers arrive to pay
      tribute and to show their respect and devotion to the innocent sufferers
      sacrificed in that terrible summer night of 1918.

      Jorge Saenz

      The author, Jorge Saenz, was born in San Jose, Costa Rica. He is a
      professor of the History of Law in the University of Costa Rica, and also
      teaches Diplomatic History of Costa Rica in the Costa Rican Foreign Service
      Institute. He has published several books in Spanish, mainly about Costa
      Rican juridical, diplomatic and political history. The author first became
      interested in Prince Vladimir after reading an autobiography written by the
      latter's half-sister, the Grand Duchess Maria. Later, coming across further
      material on the Prince, he became fascinated by the life and work of the
      young martyr, his strong faith, his talent, as well as terribly shocked by
      the way he and his relatives were murdered in Alapayevsk. Being deeply
      moved by the Prince's writings, the author felt a desire to let more people
      know what a talented writer and marvelous human being he was, which led to
      the writing of this exemplary biography.

      The author has most kindly given us his permission to use excerpts from his
      book to compose a saint's life of the Royal Martyr Prince Vladimir Paley.
      The chapter on the final martyric journey and death of the New Martyrs of
      Alapayevsk will be presented almost fully.


      The gloaming has already deepened,
      But in the sky, above the weary earth,
      The crimson gleam of sunlight glitters,
      Reflected on the golden domes;

      And summoning to dreams and prayer
      All those who orphaned are and poor,
      The crosses on the high bell towers
      Continue shining here and there,

      As though the sun's delay in resting
      On every church's golden dome
      Strives to remind us of the One
      Who promised us the resurrection.

      - Prince Vladimir Paley

      Petrograd. February 1917.
      Translated by Natalia Sheniloff
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