Excerpt from The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Romanov Sisters

The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra

by Helen Rappaport

The Romanov Sisters
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    Jun 2014, 448 pages
    Jun 2015, 544 pages

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The Romanov Sisters

Although it was mid-March Maria was still very sick and Anastasia had developed such acute earache that her eardrums had had to be pierced to relieve the pressure in them. And then on the 15th Anastasia developed a secondary infection – pleurisy – on a day when Maria's temperature hit almost 105 degrees F. Both children were prostrated by fits of terrible coughing. In a letter to Rita Khitrovo, Tatiana wrote that Anastasia wasn't able to eat either, 'because it all comes back again'. Both her sisters, she said, were 'very patient and lie quietly. Anastasia is still deaf and you have to shout so that she can hear what you're saying to her.' Her own hearing was much better, although she was still having problems with her right ear. She couldn't say much more: 'Remember that they are reading your and my letters.'

By the 18th Maria was so ill that Alexandra sent Anna Vyrubova an anxious note, fearful that she was dying. Anastasia too was 'in a critical condition, lungs and ears being in a sad state of inflammation'. 'Oxygen alone was keeping the children alive', administered by a doctor who had come out voluntarily from Petrograd to attend them. It was not until 20 March that Anastasia and Maria's temperatures finally began to drop. They were at last over the worst, much to their parents' relief, though were still very weak and sleeping a lot. Alexey was recovering too and Tatiana, the most robust of all the children, was much better. But Olga still seemed very under par.

There was now a new palace commandant – Pavel Korovichenko – who was introduced to the family on 21 March by Kerensky when he arrived on an inspection. Before leaving that day, Kerensky announced that Anna Vyrubova was to be removed. The stigma of her previous close association with Rasputin was still bringing with it accusations of her being involved in 'political plots' against the new regime. Her presence at the palace, it was felt, served only to inflame revolutionary hatred of the imperial family. To lose Anna was a disaster for an emotionally drained Alexandra, but even worse was Kerensky's decision to take her other close friend Lili Dehn away too. Before Lili left Alexandra hung a small icon round her neck as a blessing and Tatiana rushed in with a small leather photograph case containing photos of her parents – taken from her own bedside table. 'If Kerensky is going to take you away from us, you shall at least have Papa and Mama to console you', she said, and then she turned to Anna and begged for 'a last memory' of her as a keepsake. Anna gave her the only thing she had – her wedding ring.

Lili was still wearing her nurse's uniform when she and Anna were taken out to the waiting cars. Alexandra and Olga seemed calm and impassive as they left, but Tatiana was openly sobbing – 'this the girl whom history had since described as "proud and reserved"', but on this occasion, as Lili remembered, 'ma[king] no secret of her grief'. Both women were heartbroken to be so unjustly and forcibly removed after so many years of loyal service to the family; Anna, still weak both from the measles and the injuries sustained in her accident, could barely walk, even with the help of crutches. As their car drove away in the rain, Anna could just make out 'a group of white-clad figures crowded close to the nursery windows' watching them go. From Tsarskoe Selo the two women were taken to the Palace of Justice in Petrograd; here after being held for two days in a freezing cold room with little food Lili was allowed to go home to her sick son Titi. But Anna was transferred to the notorious Trubetskoy Bastion of the Peter and Paul Fortress where she was held for interrogation and not released until July.

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Excerpted from The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport. Copyright © 2014 by Helen Rappaport. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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