Not a star tsar.

anaknitting Anastasia1904a pigtzar

Today is Anastasia’s Birthday.  THE Anastasia.   The one born on June 5, 1901.

Not the Fox Studio’s Anastasia…. from the animated film.  Although, while we are on it.  There is the pretty-good-story-plot for the 1997 animated version.  It begins in he year is 1916. In St. Petersburg, Russia.  Anastasia’s dad is …. Tsar Nicholas II… and he is throwing a grand ball to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Romanov rule.

His mother is  Dowager Empress Marie Feodorovna.   And she  gives her favorite granddaughter…. that’s right… our little 8 year-old Grand Duchess named Anastasia….. a music box and a necklace reading “Together in Paris” which serves as its key.

But everything is  interrupted by the arrival of that dag-nabbin’ Grigori Rasputin.  He is the bad guy.  He is also an un-dead corpse…. who used to be a monk!  Rasputin was once trusted by the Russian Imperial Family.  But Nicholas thought he was a traitor and cast him out on his little hiney.

Hence… Raspy gets mad.

He starts his revenge… by summoning a curse that sparks the Russian Revolution.  But the movie has Anastasia being reunited with her grandmother ten years later.  And from all of that… she has the final showdown with Rasputin.   No spoiler alert here.  You will have to watch the end.

Of course there REAL princess was  Anastasia Nikolaevna (Velikaya Knyazhna Anastasiya Nikolayevna Romanova) and she was officially known as the Grand Duchess of Russia.

The film differs quite a bit from the actual circumstances of her life.  She was the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, the last sovereign of Imperial Russia. (Okay… they got those details pretty much right.)

And here is a spoiler alert.  She was executed with her family by the  Bolshevik secret police.  In 1918.     Rumors of her possible escape circulated after her death, but her possible survival has been conclusively disproved.  She was 17 years old when she met her demise at gunpoint…. after watching the executions of all her siblings and parents.

The family’s life story is pretty-snappy-fascinating. For example. The Tsar’s children were raised as simply as possible. They slept on hard camp cots without pillows.  Not at all like Russian Royalty.  They took cold baths in the morning and were expected to tidy their rooms.  They also had to do needlework to be sold at various charity events.

And. Rasputin was a real character in their lives.   Anastasia’s mother relied on the counsel of Rasputin.  He really was a Russian peasant and wandering  “holy man.”   But the mother credited his prayers with saving the ailing Anastasia on numerous occasions.  (She was a sickly child, apparently.)

Anastasia and her siblings were taught to view Rasputin as “Our Friend” and to share confidences with him. As it turns out, there were later accusations that he had molested the children.

But most of that is unrelated to the reasoning behind their execution.  It happened as a result of  the Bolshevik revolution in October 1917.   Russia quickly disintegrated into civil war.   War. War. War.  We want things THIS way… and they want things THAT way.

The Bolsheviks, known as the Reds… wanted things THAT way.  As such…. they held the family in captivity.  There were “negotiations” for the release of the Romanovs.  To no avail.  On the night of July 17, 1918, the family was put in one room and told to wait.  After several minutes,  a bunch of Red guards entered the room, led by their commander… a guy named… Yurovsky.

Yurovsky quickly informed the Tsar and his family that they were to be executed. The Tsar had time to say only “What?” and turn to his family before he was killed by several bullets to the chest.  The rest of the family was killed in order.

Such a tragedy.  Such a thing.  I stood at the front door of their palace a couple of years ago, and also walked around Rasputin’s cottage, which was a stone’s throw from the main palace.

This story has always had a great impact on me for some reason, and on the day that I stood there, I really got the wobbles.

Such huge tragedies and travesties, have resulted in our world.  All because of politics and religion.

I  can only hope we never have to see any wars in the remainder of our life times.     But it takes a careful, careful balance of knowledge, and understanding of potential outcomes.  I can only hope, and pray, that our future leaders will be capable of doing this.

And to Anastasia.  Happy Birthday.  I hope your life will remind someone, somewhere of what this all could mean. For everyone.

I suppose what makes me most glad is that we all recognize each other in this metaphysical space of silence and happening, and get some sense, for a moment, that we are full of paradise without knowing it.
—  Thomas Merton

At the entrance of a second person, hypocrisy begins.
—  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Isn’t it surprising how many things, if not said immediately, seem not worth saying ten minutes from now?
—  Arnot L. Sheppard