Tuesday, September 22, 2009
The End of The Romanovs by Helen Rappaport
On the surface, Yurovsky might have imagined the service to have gone without incident, but there had in fact been profound and telling differences this time around, the significance of which Storozhev quickly noticed. The Imperial Family had not participated in the responses in the sung liturgy, as all Russins normally did. More disturbing still had been the fact that when, as part of the service, Deacon Buimirov had come to recite the traditional prayer for the dead- 'With the saints give rest, O Christ, to the soul of your servant where there is neither pain, nor sorrow, nor suffering but life everlasting'- instinct had prompted him to sing it instead, upon which the Romanovs had all silently fallen to their knees. Storozhev had sensed, in that moment, the great spiritual comfort it had given them to share that particular prayer together. The same profound religious unity of the family was manifested again at the end of the service when Storozhev came to recite the prayer to the Mother of God, in which suffering man begs her to support him in the midst of sorrow and give him the strength with dignity to carry the cross of suffering sent down from heaven by God.
At the end of the service Yurovsky allowed the Tsar and Tsaritsa to be given the sacramental bread from Storozhev as they and their servants all came forward to kiss the cross. As he turned to leave, the Romanov girls took the opportunity of their close proximity to whisper a covert thank-you to Storozhev. He noticed that there were tears in their eyes.
As he went into the commandant's office to change out of his vestments, Storozhev let out a deep sigh; overhearing him, Yurovsky laughed and asked him why. The priest made some trivial excuse about feelin unwell, to which Yutovsky jokingly responded that he should keep his windows closed so he didn't get a chill. Then his voice dropped and his tone suddenly changed: "Well, they've said their prayers and unburdened themselves', such unexpected words, said, so it seemed to Storozhev, in utter seriousness. Thrown by the commandant's remark, he responded that he who believed in God's will always found his faith fortified through prayer. 'I have never discounted the power of religion', responded Yurovsky tartly, looking the priest straight in the eye, 'and say this to you in all honesty.' It was an extraordinary remark to come from the mouth of such a man; Storozhev responded by telling Yurovsky how grateful he was that the family had been allowed this opportunity to pray. 'But why should we prevent them?' Yutovsky said cuttingly.
Yurovsky knew only too well that what had just taken place was effectively the Romanovs' last rites, their panikhida. Perhaps somewhere deep inside the mind of this hardened Bolshevik and Jewish apostate the power of his own religious roots had stirred him, reminding him of long-forgotten moments of family prayer around the Friday night table and the profound significance to his own Jewish race of the mourners' Kaddish - the prayers for the dead.