Sunday, November 2, 2014

Berowne's 244

(Also for Three Word Wednesday and ABC Wednesday: "Q" is for "quizless")

Berowne's weekly quiz is quizless this week, because I wanted to tell you the following story.

I wanted to write you about a certain mother-in-law.  I found her life fascinating.  I thought you might find it interesting, too.

Let’s zip back, via time travel, a few hundred years or so to the court of Catherine the Great, Empress of all Russia.
Though she became the Russian Empress, she was from Germany and her actual name was Sophie Friederike Auguste von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg.  No wonder she preferred Catherine.

Among her other activities in Russia, and believe me there were many, she started the first school for women in Russian history.  It was called Smolny.  It was a remarkable institution, pictured above, there on the right, as it looked in the 1700s.
Now, still using our time-travel device, we zip forward to the early 20th century.  Smolny was now firmly established as an institution of learning for young ladies of the Russian nobility.  As the Russians put it, a “school for noble maidens.”  Reason I find this all so interesting is that one of the noble maidens was to become my mother-in-law.

(You knew Berowne would get around to working himself in here somewhere.)

She was a member of the minor nobility because her father was a major general of the Czar’s army.

In the year 1917 she was just seventeen years old, and it was in that year that her pleasant, cosseted life was met with disaster.  She was devastated to learn that her father was assassinated by his own troops and the country was taken over by Soviets and one Vladimir Lenin. 

She and her mother were in great danger just by being there – after all, the revolutionaries slaughtered the entire royal family - so they had to quickly leave the country.  I can only imagine what that 17-year-old girl must have gone through; all she had known was a highly sheltered, almost gossamer, existence.  They struggled desperately to get to Istanbul, then finally, years later, to Paris.

Paris was chock-full of Russian refugees from the revolution; folks whose social position had plummeted - grand dukes working as headwaiters, generals driving taxis.
It’s ironic that back in Russia Lenin, looking around for a suitable headquarters for him and for what was to become the Soviet HQ of the world-wide Russian Revolutionary empire, settled on this famous girls’ school, Smolny.

I have to be honest; after I married into the family I had mother-in-law troubles.  She could, at times, be difficult.  So, it might easily be said, could I.  But then I would remember the incredible life she had led and I would do my best to avoid causing her too many present-day problems.

She has been gone for many years now, but I don’t think she would mind my telling you her remarkable story.

  

23 comments:

Roger Owen Green said...

As always, fascinating personal history.

Berowne said...

As always, a fine comment. Thanx, Rog.

Kathe W. said...

Absolutely fascinating- and weren't you a patient and smart son-in-law to remember her past when she would be irritating you !
Cheers!

Helen said...

Oh how I enjoy your stories!!

Berowne said...

And how I enjoy your comments...

elaine said...

Wow - what a tale well told.

naturgesetz said...

Interesting with respect both to Catherine and to your mother-in-law.

Gail said...

Interesting tales of two lovely ladies.

kaykuala said...

A Tale of Two Countries and the lovely people there. MIL are tolerable as they are as nice. Just getting along was important. Nice tale Berowne!

Hank

Kutamun said...

Your life is like a rabbit warren , Bero ' ...my missus is East European , everything is fine , as long as i remember who is in charge ! Though i wouldnt have it any other way .... Ay Aye Babushka , ay ay

humbird said...

Fascinating story about your mother-in-law. By the way, one of 'activities' of Catherine the Great, was a foundation of my motherland,town of Odessa in 1794 y. Ah, Berowne...it was really nice retro trip... The painting of her - still there....Thanks. x

Shady Gardener said...

How interesting! It is shuddering to think of the circumstances your mother-in-law (and her mother) faced at such a young age.

Altonian said...

Nice one Berowne! Did you know that the name Smolny has been used on quite a few buildings and institutions since the original?

Karen S. said...

Ah yes, the lessons we teach ourselves over the years. Excellent, I believe she's smiling over us all.

ellen b said...

A very remarkable story for sure. I really enjoyed reading about this school and your mother-in-law. My parents of the peasant variety fled Russian into Iran in the early 30's....

Jae Rose said...

I think I would be cranky after an education like that - some women just aren't born to be ladies! Nice piece Berowne...you have an interesting life for sure!

Sheilagh Lee said...

What a lovely tribute to her.

Trubes said...

Queen Victoria's mother comes to mind, therefore, the son in law would be Prince Albert, Victoria's beloved consort ?
Other than that, I give up!

Best wishes,

Di.
Abcw team.

Berowne said...

"Other than that, I give up!" That's okay; it wasn't a quiz this week anyway.

Tess Kincaid said...

Just watched Nicholas and Alexandra on TCM last night...so your post piqued my interest Mr. B...

Trubes said...

I'm even more baffled now, I've totally misread this!
Perhaps you could tell me more, I'm quite a newcomer to 'Berowne's'
world, no doubt I will learn more as time goes on,

Best wishes,
Di..x

Berowne said...

Dear Trubes: I usually do a weekly quiz, JFF (Just For Fun), but occasionally I write a bit about some of the mediocre adventures I've experienced over the past six or seven decades. Thanks for your interest.

Berowne said...

Dear Tess K: "The Exciting World of Nick and Alex" - good film. (BTW, Anastasia did NOT escape.)

 
Blog designed by Blogger Boutique using Christy Skagg's "A Little Bit of That" kit.