Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Ella buried in Jerusalem

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 February 2, 1921

The bodies of Grand Duchess Elisabeth of Russia and her maid, Varara Yakoleva, known as Sister Barbara,  were privately buried earlier in a crypt in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Gethsemane,  reports the New York Times.

The ceremony was officiated by the Greek Patriarch.   The Church of St Mary Magdalene was built in 1888 by Emperor Alexander III and his brothers to honor their mother, Empress Marie Alexandrovna, who was born Princess Marie of Hesse and By Rhine.

In 1884,  Alexander's brother, Grand Duke Serge married Princess Elisabeth of Hesse and By Rhine, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria.  She was widowed in 1905  when her husband was assassinated by Ivan Kalyavev who tossed a bomb into Serge's carriage. The bomb exploded in the Grand Duke's lap.  He was killed instantly.

After her husband's death, Grand Duchess Elisabeth, who had converted from the Lutheran faith to Russian Orthodox in 1891, found a calling in helping others.   In 1909, she sold her magnificent jewel collection and used the proceeds to start a new convent of Saint Martha and St. Mary.  She became the convent's abbess.

Unlike other Orthodox convents, Ell and her nuns worked with the poor and orphans in the Moscow area.  She also visited slums.  The Moscow-based convent also included a hospital and an orphanage.

The Grand Duchess' youngest sister, Alix, was married to Sergei's nephew,  Nicholas II.  On July 16/17, 1918, Nicholas and Alexandra, their five children, and several retainers were murdered by the Bolsheviks in Ekaterinburg. 

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In early 1918 Ella was arrested by the Cheka on the orders of Vladimir Lenin.  She was sent to Perm, then Ekaterinburg, and finally to Alapayevsk in May, where she was joined by her maid and several members of the Imperial family, Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich, Princes Ioann, Konstantin & Igor Konstantinovich, and Prince Vladimir Paley.

During the evening of July 17, the prisoners were taken to an abandoned mine where they were beaten by the Cheka and thrown down into the pit.  The Cheka then tossed hand grenades into the mine.

White Army soldiers found the bodies on October 8, 1918.  It was then discovered that Ella had died of wounds from her fall into the mine. As the Red Army advanced toward the area, the White Soldiers took the remains to Peking, China, and interred into the Russian Orthodox Mission's cemetery.   Arrangements were made to take the remains of Grand Duchess Elizabeth and Sister Barbara to Jerusalem for internment in the Church of St Mary Magdalene.

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