Rasputin's Daughter - By Robert Alexander
It wasn’t clear who had betrayed me.
As I was dragged through the ransacked halls of the Winter Palace, a silent armed soldier on either side, I wondered who had been spying on me, who had leaked word of my return to the capital. How had these two young militants known to come searching for me at our apartment on Goroxhovaya? Who had ordered them to break down my door, chase me through our rooms, and carry me off?
“Let me loose!” I screamed, after they’d caught up with me in the kitchen. “You can’t do this!”
Only one of the soldiers spoke, the tall one, who was at best only a year or two older than me. He waved a signed and stamped piece of paper right before my face and barked the darkest words that could be said in Russia.
“By order of the Thirteenth Section!”
I fell silent, not simply out of fear but because now it was perfectly clear. There was no escaping the all-powerful Extraordinary Commission of Inquiry for the Investigation of Illegal Acts by Ministers and Other Responsible Persons of the Tsarist Regime. Of course I had nothing to do with politics. But I knew very well why I was of interest to the Thirteenth, which had been charged with the gravest of revolutionary duties, “investigating the activity of the Dark Forces.”
Sandwiched between the two guards, I was led through the palace, which was no longer glowing and regal but filthy, littered with broken furniture, muddy carpets, shredded curtains, and torn portraits. I started crying. Where had all this hatred come from? What poison had killed our love of tsar and country and, far worse, of one another? Were the newspapers right? Could one person have ruined so much? Had Papa really been that almighty?
My eyes darted about for hope—a familiar face, a sympathetic smile, an easy escape. Instead I saw only a whirl of chaos, room after room destroyed by a landslide of rage. As I was dragged into a gallery with dark red walls, I gazed up and saw scores upon scores of portraits of war heroes staring down on me. Finally, the soldiers kicked open a pair of regal doors and shoved me into St. George’s Hall, the main throne room of the tsars, including that of our very last, Nikolai II.
But the silver throne no longer sat upon the dais.
Instead it had been smashed, hacked to pieces and thrown aside, and the royal canopy above it ripped away. Likewise, a red velvet panel with the enormous double-headed eagle had been cut from the wall. At that moment I knew, despite the chaos of these days, that this revolution had been a stunning success: There was no going back, not now or even in the decades or centuries to come. The monarchy was gone from Russia forever.
Without slowing, the two young soldiers pulled me through the vast room with its columns of white marble. There at the far end, just to the side of the ravaged dais, sat a man reading something—a report, I assumed. As we approached, he looked up and rose to his feet. He was dressed in military garb, though I couldn’t tell his rank. The closer we came, the more certain I was that I knew this man with the wavy hair, the narrow puffy eyes, the thin lips. But where had I seen him before?
“Matryona Grigorevna Rasputina?” he asked, his eyes all over me like a painter’s.
I could tell he was searching for family resemblances. And of course he found them, he couldn’t miss, for I had my father’s long dark hair and his sharp blue eyes, broad forehead, and small chin. The man before me made no attempt to cloak his shock and revulsion, and under his disapproving eyes I started to shake.
Though I was on the verge of crying again, I tried to hold myself proudly. Here in the capital I was known by a far less provincial name.
“You may call me Maria.”
He dabbed a pen in an inkpot, wrote something down, and then waved the pen like a scepter at the soldiers. “Leave us.”
Their tight grasp on my upper arms had been like tourniquets; now, released, I felt a sudden rush of pleasure. The boy soldiers turned, not in unison, and sauntered away, leaving me with this strange man. He alone couldn’t represent the much-feared Thirteenth Section, could he?
As I watched, he carefully placed the sheaf of papers he’d been reading in a folder. With a