May 24, 2012
This is part II of a three part article. Part one is found here.
At first light, the train stands in Tula. The conductor pours boiling water into my tea glass. "Visiting relatives?" he asks.
I nod as I take my first sip of the wonderful railways brew. Ninety five years have passed since my grand father, to escape the Bolsheviks, loaded his wife and children on a horse cart and drove south to meet the advancing White Army.
"Visiting relatives is good," The conductor takes his own tea and we go to the platform where I offer a Prima cigarette, the cheapest smoke in Russia. We watch the sun rise over the far, undulating horizon. The train begins to move and my heart beats faster. In twenty minutes my family's history will come full circle.
Two people are on the sunlit platform. Marina Zherzdeva and her husband Vasiliy. Marina is a historian specializing on the Bobrinskys. She hugs me like a long lost brother-
Two hundred and fifty years ago, almost to the day, Empress Katherine II, also known as The Great gave birth to a child out of wedlock. She named him Alexey Bobrinsky Though having him raised in foster care, Kathrine was very fond of the boy and made sure he got the best education, gave him land and had an impressive residence built for him in Bogorodittzk. After she died, Emperor Paul acknowledged Alexey Bobrinsky as his brother and gave him the title of count (Graf).
Alexey was very interested in science, especially astronomy and put together an impressive scientific library. His descendants distinguished themselves in government service, developing modern agricultural methods, the emancipation of the serfs and building the Russian railway system. They always maintained close links to the Imperial family.
In 1920 Count Vladimir Alexeyevich Bobrinsky, his wife Maria and children Georgiy, Natalia, Julia and Sophia, under fire from the Bolsheviks left Russia from the port of Tuapse.
What happened to the Bobrinsky family after that, is mostly unknown in Russia. In two days, I will be reading a paper bringing up to date a conference of historians.
We enter the city of Bogoroditzk. Vasiliy turns the car into a driveway and stops. "Look to the right," he says.
I look down the wide street that descends to a lake. Beyond the lake, like a jewel in a forest. rises the Bobrinsky palace where my mother, Julia, was born.
"Welcome home," Marina says. Now, letīs have breakfast, you look like you need a vodka.
Historian Marina Zherzdeva
Comment on this article here!