Protopriest Vladimir Khlynov, superior of the Tobolsk cathedral, celebrated services for the Royal Family in the governor's house and was the spiritual father of their Majesties at this time. Once, when he was imprisoned on Solovki, he witnessed that the Tsar had said to him:
"I can in no way forgive myself for having given up power. I never expected that power would fall to the Bolsheviks. I thought that I was giving up power to the representatives of the people..."
At first the Royal Family went to services in the cathedral. And they and all the people liked this. But once the cathedral protodeacon on the Tsar's namesday, at the end of the moleben, pronounced the "Many Years" to the Tsar with his full title. This annoyed the Tsar. After the service, on coming home, he said:
"Who needs this? I very well know that the people still love me and are faithful to me, but now there will be unpleasantnesses, and they won't let us into the cathedral again."
And so it turned out. But thanks to this, the protopriest was invited to the house to perform services, and in this way got to know the Family better. The princesses sang simply and harmoniously. They had good books in which they followed the services. The Tsar also assisted the priest during the services.
Once the Tsar sent Bishop Hermogenes of Tobolsk a bow to the earth, asking him to forgive him that he had been forced to allow his removal from his see. He could not have done otherwise at the time, but he was glad to have the opportunity of asking the bishop's forgiveness now. The bishop was very touched, and sent a bow to the earth to the Tsar together with a prosphora and asked for his forgiveness.
The late Rev. G.V. Vaughan-James, Anglican chaplain of the Convent of St. Denys, Warminster, England related the following story. He was on a British ship that was sent to a port on the Black Sea for the purpose of rescuing the Tsar and his family and bringing them to England. The crew were very excited by the mission. When they arrived at this port, Rev. Vaughan-James was told to leave the ship and get into a train without asking questions. The train travelled for some time and then stopped at a small station. A woman of striking beauty and wearing a sable coat entered his compartment. She told him that she was a lady-in-waiting of the Tsaritsa, and handed him an icon of St. Nicholas with the words:
"The Tsaritsa has asked me to give this to you. Take it back to England, and ask the English people to pray for the safety of her children."
The Rev. Vaughan-James was very surprised. The woman left the compartment, and the train returned to the port. After returning to the ship, the Rev. Vaughan-James was told that a telephone message had come from London, ordering the ship to return to England without the Tsar and his family. The rescue operation had been cancelled. No reason was given. On the way home all the crew were depressed, and while they were still at sea it was announced on the radio that the Tsar and his family had been killed.
The Rev. Vaughan-James did not know what to do with the icon, and gave it to the Admiralty, where, he said, it still hung in one of the rooms. However, a search recently undertaken at the Admiralty did not reveal the icon.
A commissar arrived from Moscow and informed the Tsar that the was being taken away that night. The Tsar feared that he would be forced to sign the Brest-Litovsk treaty, but the commissar assured him that that was not the case. The Tsar insisted on allowing someone to accompany him, and the Tsaritsa suffered much, not knowing whether to follow her husband or to remain with her sick son. Finally, after much heartbreak, she decided to entrust her son to his tutor and to follow her spouse.
The parents and children had never been separated, but now they had to be, and this on the eve of Pascha, which they had always celebrated together. On April 13/26, the Royal Couple left Tobolsk and covered 285 versts by wagon, reaching the railhead. On April 17/30, the Tsar, the Tsaritsa and Grand Duchess Maria Nikolayevna with some members of the servants, arrived in Ekaterinburg and were imprisoned in the home of the engineer Ipatiev. On May 10, the remaining members of the family arrived.
In Ekaterinburg they spent three hellish months of psychological torture - and yet they all retained their inward calm and state of prayer, so that not a small number of their tormentors were softened by these valiant Christian strugglers. As Pierre Gilliard, the French tutor to the Tsarevich Alexis recalled:
"The courage of the prisoners was sustained in a remarkable way by religion. They had kept that wonderful faith which in Tobolsk had been the admiration of their entourage and which had given them such strength, such serenity in suffering. They were already almost entirely detached from this world. The Tsaritsa and Grand Duchesses could often be heard singing religious airs, which affected their guards in spite of themselves.
"Gradually these guards were humanised by contact with their prisoners. They were astonished at their simplicity, attracted by their gentleness, subdued by their serene dignity, and soon found themselves dominated by those whom they thought they held in their power. The drunken Avdiev found himself disarmed by such greatness of soul; he grew conscious of his own infamy. The early ferocity of these men was succeeded by profound piety."
When this would happen, the inhuman Bolsheviks would replace the guards who had been so touched with crueller and more animalistic ones.
Seldom being allowed to go to church, they nevertheless nourished their souls with home prayers and greatly rejoiced at every opportunity to receive the Divine sacraments. Three days before their martyrdom, in the very house in which they were imprisoned, there took place the last church service of their suffering lives. As the officiating priest, Fr. John Storozhev, related: "'It appeared to me that the Emperor, and all his daughters, too, were very tired. During such a service it is customary to read a prayer for the deceased. For some reason, the Deacon began to sing it, and I joined him... As soon as we started to sing, we heard the Imperial Family behind us drop to their knees' (as is done during funeral services)... Thus they prepared themselves, without suspecting it, for their own death - in accepting the funeral viaticum. Contrary to their custom none of the family sang during the service, and upon leaving the house the clergymen expressed the opinion that they 'appeared different' - as if something had happened to them."
The Tsaritsa used to say:
"We are one, and this, alas, is so rare today. We are tightly united together... a small, tightly knit family..."
Inseparable in life, they were now to remain unseparated in death.
After midnight on July 4/17, 1918, the entire family, with their doctor and two faithful servants, was brought to the basement of the house of their confinement under the pretext of moving them once again. There they were brutally and mercilessly murdered, the children as well as the adults, under the cover of darkness - for "men loved the darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (John 3.19). The Tsar was shot as he stood forward to defend his family. Tsaritsa Alexandra was able to make the sign of the Cross before she, too, fell. The first bullets did not bring death to the youngest ones, and they were savagely clubbed, bayoneted and shot at point-blank range.
Those killed were: the Tsar (born 1868), the Tsaritsa (1872), Olga (both 1895), Tatiana (1897), Maria (born 1899), Anastasia (born 1901), Alexis (born 1904), the Tsar's physician Eugene Botkin, the Tsaritsa's chamber-maid Anna Demidova, the cook Kharitonov and the servant Trupp. The sailor Clement Nagorny, who had looked after the Tsarevich since early childhood, and Sergius Sednev, the servant to the Grand Duchesses, both of whom had defended the Royal Family from robbery and insults in Ekaterinburg, were taken away to prison and shot there. Those who were refused permission to stay with the Royal Family at Ekaterinburg, and who were also shot in prison were General Elias Tatishchev and Prince Basil Dolgorukov. The maid-of-honour, Countess Anastasia Hendrikova, and the court teacher, Ekaterina Schneider, were taken to Perm and shot there.
On August 21, just before Countess Hendrikova was shot, she was asked if she had voluntarily followed the Romanovs to Tobolsk. She stated that she had. When asked if she would return and continue to serve them if she were set free, she said:
"Yes! Up to the last day of my life!"
On the night of July 4/17, Blessed Maria Ivanovna, the fool-for-Christ of Diveyevo, began to shout and scream:
"The Tsar's with bayonets! Cursed Jews!"
There is evidence that the murders were ritualistic. Thus strange cabbalistic symbols were found on the walls of the room where the crime took place which have been deciphered to mean: "Here was wounded in the heart the head of the Church, the people and the state", or: "Here, by order of the secret powers, the Tsar was offered as a sacrifice for the destruction of the state. Let all peoples be informed of this." Again, on the wall of the death-chamber was found an inscription which fittingly sums up the deed from the point of view of the Jewish revolution. It was a quotation from the German Jewish poet Heine, slightly altered to bring out the word "tsar" and identifying the tsar with Belshazzar:
Belsatzar ward in selbiger Nacht
On the same night Belshazzar Von seinen knechten umgebracht. Was killed by his own slaves.
But the truth was quite the opposite. Belshazzar hated the people of God, and his removal opened the way for the rebuilding of the Temple of God in Zion by the Jewish Prince Zerubbabel. The killing of Tsar Nicholas, on the other hand, opened the way to the destruction of Orthodox Russia and its transformation into Babylon.
Thus ended the life of the Christ-like Tsar, as a sacrifice for the Orthodox Faith and for the Russian people, both of whom he so fervently loved and believed in.
Martyr-Great-Princess Olga Nikolayevna wrote from Tobolsk: "Father asks the following message to be given to all those who have remained faithful to him, and to those on whom they may have an influence, that they should not take revenge for him, since he has forgiven everyone and prays for everyone, that they should not take revenge for themselves, and should remember that the evil which is now in the world will be still stronger, but that it is not love that will conquer evil, but only love..."
And in the belongings of the same holy martyr were found the following verses by S. Bekhteyev:
Now as we stand before the gates of death, Breathe in the lips of us Thy servants That more than human, supernatural strength To meekly pray for those that hurt us.
In 1917 Metropolitan Macarius of Moscow, who alone in the Church's hierarchy had refused to accept the Provisional Government because of his oath of allegiance to the Tsar, had the following revelation in a series of dreams: "I saw a field. The Saviour was walking along a path. I went after Him, crying,
"'Lord, I am following you!'
"Finally we approached an immense arch adorned with stars. At the threshold of the arch the Saviour turned to me and said again:
And He went into a wondrous garden, and I remained at the threshold and awoke. Soon I fell asleep again and saw myself standing in the same arch, and with the Saviour stood Tsar Nicholas. The Saviour said to the Tsar:
"'You see in My hands two cups: one which is bitter for your people and the other sweet for you.'
"The Tsar fell to his knees and for a long time begged the Lord to allow him to drink the bitter cup together with his people. The Lord did not agree for a long time, but the Tsar begged importunately. Then the Saviour drew out of the bitter cup a large glowing coal and laid it in the palm of the Tsar's hand. The Tsar began to move the coal from hand to hand and at the same time his body began to grow light, until it had become completely bright, like some radiant spirit. At this I again woke up. Falling asleep yet again, I saw an immense field covered with flowers. In the middle of the field stood the Tsar, surrounded by a multitude of people, and with his hands he was distributing manna to them. An invisible voice said at this moment:
"'The Tsar has taken the guilt of the Russian people upon himself, and the Russian people is forgiven.'"
In the same year Elder Nectarius of Optina said: "Now his Majesty is not his own man, he is suffering such humiliation for his mistakes. 1918 will be still worse. His Majesty and all his family will be killed, tortured. One pious girl had a vision: Jesus Christ was sitting on a throne, while around Him were the twelve apostles, and terrible torments and groans resounded from the earth. And the Apostle Peter asked Christ:
"'O Lord, when will these torments cease?'
"And Jesus Christ replied: 'I give them until 1922. If the people do not repent, do not come to their senses, then they will all perish in this way.'
"Then before the throne of God there stood our Tsar wearing the crown of a great-martyr. Yes, this tsar will be a great-martyr. Recently, he has redeemed his life, and if people do not turn to God, then not only Russia, but the whole of Europe will collapse..."
The sanctity of the Tsar has been revealed in a number of miracles.
Thus in 1947 Protopresbyter Michael Polsky recounted the following story in which which the intercession of the martyred Royal Family saved about a company of Cossacks who had lost contact with their transport and army, and were surrounded by the Reds in the midst of a swamp. The priest Fr. Elijah summoned everyone to prayer, saying:
"Today is the day of the commemoration of the Tsar-martyr. His son, the young Tsarevich Alexis was the honoured ataman of the Cossack armies. Let us beseech them that they intercede before the Lord for the salvation of the Christ-loving Cossack army."
And Fr. Elijah served a moleben "to the Tsar-martyr, the Emperor of Russia". And the refrain during the moleben was: "Holy Martyrs of the Royal House, pray to God for us!"
The whole company sang. At the end of the moleben, Fr. Elijah read the dismissal: "Through the prayers of the holy Tsar-martyr Nicholas, the Emperor of Russia, his Heir the young Tsarevich Alexis, ataman of the Christ-loving Cossack armies, the right-believing Tsaritsa-martyr Alexandra and her children the Tsarevna-martyrs, may He have mercy and save us, for He is good and loveth mankind."
To the objection that these holy martyrs had not yet been glorified, and miracles from them had not yet been revealed, Fr. Elijah replied: "Through their prayers we shall get out... They have been glorified... You yourselves have heard how the people has glorified them. The people of God... May the holy youth Tsarevich Alexis show us. Don't you see the miracle of the wrath of God on Russia for their innocent blood?... You will see revelations through the salvation of those who honour their holy memory... There is an indication for you in the lives of the saints. You will read that Christians built churches over the bodies of the holy martyrs without any glorification. They lit oil-lamps and prayed to them as to intercessors and petitioners..."
The company and transport got out of the encirclement in a miraculous manner.
They were walking up to their knees, even up to their waist in mud. Sometimes they sank in even up to their necks. The horses got stuck, but then jumped out and went on... They didn't remember how far they went or how tired they were... And they got out... 43 women, 14 children, 7 wounded, 11 old men and invalids, 1 priest and 22 Cossacks - 98 people and 31 horses in all. They came out on the other side of the swamp, on the corner of land which was occupied by the Cossacks who were holding back the encircling movement of the Reds, straight into the middle of their own people. None of the locals could believe that they had come through by that route. And the enemy had not heard the noise made by their passage. And the in the morning the Red partisans could not find any trace of where they had got away. There had been people - and then there were none!
Again, the nun Barbara (Sukhanova) writes: "In the summer of 1923 a girl known to me by the name of Irina Meier received a letter from Petrograd from her friend - also a young girl of gentry family. I am amazed that this letter got through at that time. The girl from suffering Russia openly wrote that with the help of God she had decided to choose the monastic path and was striving for it with all her heart.
"This pure soul described a recent dream she had had. She was walking in Petrograd when in front of her there rose up a new, beautiful, white church. She entered it. The house of God was amazingly beautiful. Everything in it was shining, gleaming and irridiscent. The girl was struck by its majesty and asked:
"'In whose honour is this church built?'
"And an invisible person replied: 'In the name of the slaughtered Emperor Nicholas Alexandrovich.'"
Again, Monk Zachariah writes: "The Serbian people loved the Russian Tsar with all their heart. On March 30, 1930, there was published in the Serbian newspapers a telegram stating that the Orthodox inhabitants of the city of Leskovats in Serbia had appealed to the Synod of the Serbian Orthodox Church with a request to raise the canonization of the late Russian Emperor Nicholas II, who was not only a most humane and pure-hearted ruler of the Russian people, but who also died with the glory of a martyr's death.
"Already in 1925 there had appeared in the Serbian press an account of what happened to an elderly Serbian lady who had lost two sons in the war and whose third son, who had disappeared without a trace, she considered also to have been killed. Once, after fervently praying for all who had been killed in the war, the poor mother fell asleep and saw in a dream the Emperor Nicholas II, who told her that her son was alive and was in Russia, where he had fought together with his two dead brothers. 'You will not die' - said the Russian Tsar - 'until you see your son.' Soon after this dream, the old woman received news that her son was alive, and within a few months after this she joyously embraced him alive and well when he returned from Russia.
"On August 11, 1927, in the newspapers of Belgrade, there appeared a notice under the headline, 'Face of Emperor Nicholas II in the monastery of St. Naum on Lake Ochrid.' It read as follows: 'The Russian painter S.F. Kolesnikov was invited to paint the new church in the ancient Serbian monastery of St. Naum, being given complete creative freedom in adorning the interior dome and walls. While completing this, the artist thought of painting on the walls of the church the faces of fifteen saints, to be placed in fifteen ovals. Fourteen faces were painted immediately, but the place for the fifteenth long remained empty, since some kind of inexplicable feeling compelled Kolesnikov to wait for a while. Once at dusk he entered the church. Below, it was dark, and only the dome was cut through with the rays of the setting sun. As Kolesnikov himself related later, at this moment there was an enchanting play of light and shadows in the church, and all around seemed unearthly and singular. At this moment the artist saw that the empty oval which he left unfinished had become animated and from it, as from a frame, looked down the sorrowful face of Emperor Nicholas II. Struck by the miraculous apparition of the martyred Russian Tsar, the artist stood for a time as if rooted to the spot, seized by a kind of paralysis. Then, as he himself describes, under the influence of a prayerful impulse, he leaned the ladder against the oval, and without marking with charcoal the outline of the wondrous face, with brushes alone he made the layout. He could not sleep the whole night, and, hardly had the first daylight appeared than he went to the church and in the first morning rays of the sun was already sitting high on the ladder, working with such a fever as he had never known. As he himself writes: 'I painted without a photograph. In the past I several times saw the late Emperor close up, while giving him explanations at exhibitions. His image imprinted itself in my memory."
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