Of Saints and Servants

MOSCOW: In July 1918, the last Tsar, Nikolai II, his family, three servants and a doctor were executed by a Cheka firing squad in a cellar in the Urals city of Ekaterinburg. Their bodies were then chopped up, covered in quicklime, burnt, buried, dug up, and buried again in an unmarked pit. In the summer of 1998 they were re-buried with honour in Saint Petersburg.

This summer, the Russian Orthodox Church canonized our last Royal family as martyrs. The four servants who died with the Tsar’s family, however, were not canonized. Those four could leave; they could have chosen to go but didn’t. They never asked whether their fate was their Master’s fault. They never expected benefits or rewards. They were faithful until the end and were killed for it.

Our family, all through the Stalin, Khrushchev, and Brezhnev years, also had servants. There were many of them and they carried out different tasks. We never called them servants, however; it was not a polite word. When reading tales as a girl about kings and grandees surrounded by servants, my child’s heart wept at those crimes against equality and justice. No, the people who lived with us, who cooked for us, who walked the baby carriages, washed windows and cleaned fur-coats in summer time were never called “servants.” They had names and would never be asked to carry out dreadful or dangerous tasks.

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