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“The name of Olga we chose as it has already been several times in our family and is an ancient Russian name,” Emperor Nicholas II of Russia wrote to Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

I am Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia. To differentiate from Olga Constantinovna, my aunt, and Olga Nikolaevna, my niece, I am referred to as Olga A. I was born on 1/13 June 1882 in Petergof, Saint Petersburg, Russia to Emperor Alexander III (Alexander (“Sasha”) Alexandrovich) and his wife, Empress Maria (“Minnie”) Feodorovna, formerly Princess Dagmar of Denmark. I am the youngest child in my family. There are five before me: Nicholas (“Nicky”) born on 6/18 May 1868, Alexander born on 26 May/7 June 1869, George (“Georgie”) born on 27 April/9 May 1871, Xenia (“Xenny”) born on 25 March/6 April 1875, and Michael (“Misha,” “Floppy”) born on 22 November/4 December 1878.

“My father was everything to me. Immersed in work as he was, he always spared that daily half-hour. Once, my father showed me a very old album full of most exciting pen and ink sketches of an imaginary city called Mopsopolis, inhabited by Mopses. He showed it to me in secret, and I was thrilled to have him share his own childhood secrets with me.”

My brief childhood was wonderful. Papa doted on Misha and me. Mama, the newly crowned Empress, was more interested in organizing official functions. Elizabeth (“Nana”) Franklin, my nanny, became Misha’s and my surrogate mother. Papa called me “Badger” because I loved burrowing myself in mounds of earth and snow. Everyone else called “Baby” because I am the youngest. I was 12 when he died and Nicky became Emperor on 20 October/1 November 1894. Georgie, now the Tsesarevich and heir apparent to the throne, died on 28 June /10 July 1899 in Abastumani, Georgia. I suffered greatly at both losses. Mama, now Dowager Empress at only 47, had hoped Nicky would serve as a father figure for Misha and me, but our older brother could never take the place of our beloved father. With Xenia’s marriage to a cousin, Grand Duke Alexander (“Sandro”) Mikhailovich on 25 July/6 August 1894, I became my widowed mother’s companion, which was trying because she has always been reserved and formal. She paraded me around society like a caged animal whereas Papa took me on hikes in the forests surrounding Gatchina Palace. I accepted a marriage proposal from a distant cousin to escape her while still being able to stay in Russia.

“Children are children no more! I am sure you won’t BELIEVE what has happened. Olga is engaged to PETYA and BOTH are very happy. I had to consent, but it was all done so quickly and unexpectedly that I still cannot believe it; but PETYA is nice, I like him, and God willing, they will be happy. Don’t talk about it yet, except to Alix of course, your agitated Mama.”

“Though today is not the 1st of April I cannot believe Olga is actually ENGAGED to Petya. They were probably both drunk yesterday, and today don’t remember all they said to each other. What does Misha think? And how did Nana [Franklin] take it? We both laughed so much reading your note that we have not recovered yet. Petya has just rushed in and told us everything. Now we shall have to believe it. But let’s hope everything is for the best–I am sure they will be very happy but it all seems rather queer.”

Duke Peter (“Petya”) Alexandrovich of Oldenburg was handsome, sophisticated, and “not interested in ladies” to put it delicately. I was completely naive of this when I, at 19, married him on 9/22 August 1901. Our “marriage” was never consummated. I spent our wedding night (and many other nights) crying because he was gambling. Petya had been kind and considerate towards me; however, I had longed for love, a normal marriage, and children. The family that I sought was found in Nicky's. On 14 November/26 November 1894, he married Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine, who became Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. They have five children: Olga (“Olya”) born 3/15 November 1895, Tatiana (“Tanya”) born 29 May/10 June 1897, Maria (“Marie,” “Mashka”) born 14/26 June 1899, Anastasia (“Shvipsik,” “Nastya”) born 5/18 June 1901, and Alexei (another “Baby,” “Alyosha”) born 30 July/12 August 1904. I am particularly close to Olya, my namesake, and Shvipsik, my god-daughter. Since Alix hates parties, I took it upon myself to escort my excited nieces to Saint Petersburg and parties that I organized for them at my house.

“I was very fond of all my brother’s children but perhaps most of the eldest, Olga. The two of us were soul mates. She resembled me in character, and that was perhaps why we understood each other so well. It often happened that I was able to tell her how she was thinking in one or the other specific situation, and that always took her by surprise. ‘How do you know that?’ she would ask with blushing cheeks. I would then laugh and tell her that it was because I knew that she was thinking along the same lines as I did myself, and that was why I could read her thoughts.”

“My favorite god-daughter she was indeed! I liked her fearlessness. She never whimpered or cried, even when hurt. She was a fearful tomboy. Goodness only knows which of the young cousins had taught her how to climb trees, but climb them she did even when she was quite small. It was not generally known that she had a weak back and the doctors ordered massage. Anastasia or ‘Shvipsik,’ as I used to call her, hated what she labeled ‘fuss.’ A hospital nurse, Tatiana Gromova, used to come to the palace twice a week, and my naughty little niece would hide in a cupboard or under her bed, just to put off the massage by another five minutes or so. I suppose the doctors were right about the defective muscle, but nobody, seeing Anastasia at play, would have believed it, so quick and energetic she was. And what a bundle of mischief!”

I met Nicholas (“God Apollo,” “Kukushkin”) Alexandrovich Kulikovsky, a Blue Cuirassier Guards officer and friend of Misha’s, in April 1903. It was love at first sight. I asked Petya for an annulment. Instead, he appointed Kukushkin as a personal aide-de-camp until he thought an annulment would be appropriate. Our romance was a kept secret and we did not act on it, but at least we were able to see each other. The Great War changed that. I — along with Alix, Olya, and Tanya — became a nurse. Mashka and Shvipsik were too young to do so, but they had their own infirmary where they visited the wounded soldiers. Shvipsik even had a military hospital train named after her. Kukushkin transferred to my regiment, the 12th Akhtyrsky Hussars, that was stationed on the frontlines in Southwestern Russia. I followed them. General Baron Karl Gustave Mannerheim, who later became President of Finland, awarded me the Medal of Saint George, 4th Class for bravery. I refused to wear it out of modesty until my regiment begged me.

“Do tell me once upon a time what you really think. I had no time to speak with you and only spoke to Alix, who seemed strongly against it all for your sake and also for the children’s I think […] [Don’t] you think that to finish with the divorce now during the war while all eyes and minds are occupied elsewhere–and such a small thing would be lost in all the greater things–would be better? If you don’t think so I’ll say no more–but don’t you?”

“My darling Olga, You have my permission and all my blessing for your upcoming wedding. May N. K. be worthy of you, dear, and may he give you all you deserve and expect from him! […] God bless you darling Olga! I shall think of you and pray for you more than ever. […] I hug you lovingly. Your old brother, Nicky.”

Kukushkin and I were allowed to marry in 1916 following my annulment from Petya. Only Mama, Sandro, four Akhtyrsky Regiment officers, and two nurses from the hospital in Kiev were able to attend our wedding on 14/27 November. Nicky sent a telegram that morning saying, “Today I congratulate you on your marriage. You deserve to be happy.” During the Revolution, we lived in Kiev and the Crimea. We managed to escape the persecution of our family — unlike Nicky, his family, and Misha, who had only been called back from exile for marrying the twice-divorced common mother of his son to help with the war — traveling all across Europe. There was another trying period of time where I once again became Mama’s companion and secretary despite being a married woman and mother in Denmark before my family eventually settled in Canada in 1948.

“It is really terrible how I miss you all. I would love to show Tikhon in all his appearances. He is the sweetest in his bath in the morning when he wakes up. He is always happy and smiling. Most of his smiles go to the ceiling, with which he has a very good relationship. He talks with it a lot in a language only understandable to them. Together with Nikolai, we sing him different soldiers’ songs. He is delighted. Just now he fell asleep listening to the old march of the Chasseur regiment.”

My remaining days were spent raising my sons, Tikhon (“Tisha”) born 12/25 August 1917 and Guri (“Yura”) born 10/23 April 1919, and painting while being bombarded with Romanov pretenders. Anna Anderson, who claimed to be Shvipsik, being the most famous. Every one of them wanted to speak to “dear Aunt Olga.” My neighbors would ask me if I am a princess and I would tell them that I certainly am not; I am a Russian Grand Duchess! Royalty, including Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburg in 1959, visiting the area would always pay me a visit. I also very much appreciated and accepted the kindness of those around me. Kukushkin died on 29 July/11 August 1958 and I died on 11/24 November 1960 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I unknowingly outlived my sister, Xenia, only by a few months. My Canadian descendants have revived the Romanov surname and are now addressed Kulikovsky-Romanoff. One of them wrote,

“Being a deeply religious person, the Grand Duchess perceived the beauty of nature as being divinely inspired creation. Prayer and attending church provided her with the strength not only to overcome the new difficulties befallen her, but also to continue with her drawing. These feelings of gratefulness to God pervaded not only the icons created by the Grand Duchess, but also her portraits and still life paintings.”

In the What-If? storyline. . .

Our family survived to become a constitutional monarchy. The succession changed to include women again. That does not worry me because many would have to die, God forbid, for me to become Empress. I spend my days raising my children — my husband and I welcomed our third child and only daughter, Nadezhda (“Nadya”), on 13/26 July 1922 — while the majority of my nieces and nephews have started families of their own.

My Novels:

The Romanovs - One Last Dance
Zone : History

My Reference Books:

Writer's Block
The Craft Faire
Through the Lens

My Blog:

My Salons:

Mashkas Tea Room

My Friends:

Anastasia Nikolaievna
Marie Nikolaievna
Christopher of Greece
Aleksandra Feodrovna
Princess Irina Alexandrovna
Olga Nikolayevna

My Favorite Reads:

The Most Happy
SG Atlantis
Poisoned Crown
Seldom a Single Wave: Tales of the Viking Age
The Lost Age
The Raven's Fountain
Stories in the Now

My Pandas:

Loved this detailed look at names!
Jul 14, 2019 01:28 am

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