1917‐ Empress Alexandria understands that the Bolsheviks will soon topple the Czar. She charges her godson, Kirik Pirogov, to carry the imperial crown of Catherine the Great and a cache of Romanov jewelry to a secret czarist refuge in western China. Alexandra informs her youngest daughter, Grand Duchess Anastasia, of the escape route necessary to carry on the Romanov Dynasty.
Kirik and Anastasia make perilous journeys across Siberia via the Trans‐Siberian Railroad. Their story is told against a background of revolution, their hardscrabble life in the Russian village, constant fear of the Cheka (Soviet secret police), and unscrupulous treasure‐hunters.
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The Romanov family rushes to dress and pack a few personal belongings. When the family arrives in the
cellar, the Cheka sergeant tells them that their transportation will arrive shortly. A guard brings a chair for
the Empress. For a moment, Alexandra’s heart fills with hope. If the Czech Legion and White Army are so
near, rescue might be imminent. Soon they might all be free, on their way to England. She was right, she
thinks, not to send Anastasia away on her own. Now the family will be together. She puts an arm around
her youngest daughter’s waist. Thanks be to God.
Suddenly a squad of Cheka soldiers with their rifles at port arms marches single file and at double
time into the cellar. After the last soldier is in position, the first sergeant commands, “Squad, halt! Right
face.” The soldiers turn to face the Romanovs. After a moment, the sergeant shouts, “Squad, ah‐ten‐hut!”
The sound of rifle butts hitting the concrete floor reverberates throughout the cellar.
Several minutes later, Major Vasili Yurovsky enters. He is the senior Cheka officer in the area. He
wears the summer grey short‐sleeved tunic uniform with red piping and his major’s pips on the
“Present. Arms!” commands the first sergeant.
The soldiers bring their rifles to the present‐arms position to salute their commanding officer.
In return, Major Yurovsky returns a snappy hand salute.
The Czarevich, Alexi, giggles in delight at the military prompt.
However, fear and concern race through the rest of the Romanov family. Alexandra knows exactly
what is happening. The Czar, Anastasia, and her three sisters wonder what this military demonstration has
to do with their rescue by the Whites or the Czech Legion.
“Order arms!” commands the sergeant. The soldiers return their rifles to their right side. The
pounding of the rifle butts hitting the concrete floor sends chills through the Romanovs, causing them to
wonder what is happening.
Yurovsky orders Alexandra to stand. She stares with smoldering hostility at Yurovsky. But, no
longer enjoying the resources of royal status, she complies. After a moment or two she slowly moves a few
paces to her left, next to Anastasia.
With his arms akimbo, Yurovsky walks down the line of the imperial family. He stops in front of
each person and looks intently into their eyes. All but the Empress turn away from him. Summoning all her
courage, she returns her most imperious glower of disdain. He smiles faintly at her feeble attempt
The Czarevich is dressed in his sailor uniform. Maintaining proper military protocol, he salutes
Yurovsky. The major stares at him contemptuously and does not return the salute.
Major Yurovsky turns to the first sergeant and snaps, “On my orders!”
“As you say. Sir!”
Yurovsky moves to the cement steps and climbs three. “Port arms!” he shouts. He surveys the scene
to ensure that the Romanovs are positioned correctly and that his soldiers are ready.
Satisfied that the staging is correct, Yurovsky commands, “Fix bayonets!”
There is a loud clanging of metal as the soldiers snap their bayonets onto their rifles.
Anastasia now understands with crystal clarity the task that her mother assigned to her so long ago.
They are not going to be rescued, and she and her family are going to be murdered by the Bolsheviks. An
overwhelming fear of death engulfs her. Her family is in this cellar for an execution. She fights to be brave
and to hold back her tears. Her mother cannot help her.
“Load!” The soldiers pull back the bolts of their rifles, then jam the bolts forward, loading a round
into the rifles’ chambers. The metal‐on‐metal clicking sends a vibration of horror through
The other three daughters begin to sob and make the sign of the cross as they realize their fate is
death. Alexandra commands, “Be brave. You are Romanovs. St. Nicholas will guide you.”
The Czar has been standing silently, as if he were in a dream. Aroused by the loud clicking of metal,
he exclaims, “What!”
“Aim!” The riflemen select the nearest target.
The Romanovs see the loaded rifles with bayonets pointed at them. Their fate is all too clear.
August 2013, Lamplight Press
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Retired Naval Captain S. Martin Shelton’s 40+ years of military service, including active duty in the Korean and Vietnam wars, required that he travel throughout the world, with particular emphasis on the Far East. Shelton has an extensive background in Soviet and Chinese studies which fostered his interest in the 1917 Russian Revolution, the Bolshevik’s regicide of the Czar, Empress, and their five children, and the burgeoning Soviet Communist régime. Shelton’s particular interest in China focuses on the chaos during the 1930’s.
Shelton explores Russian History in his blog, and authored, St. Catherine’s Crown, an historical novel begging the question: What if Anastasia survived?
Visit the author online at http://smartinshelton.wordpress.com/