Saturday, March 13, 2010


It has happened as Sasha said it would. We are now at war with Germany. Mama's brother, the grand duke of Hesse, is against us, but we side with England. Sasha tried to explain the reasons to me.

"Did Germany invade Russia or England?" I asked him.

"No, but they didn't have to."

"Why not?"

"Because first of all, Russia, England and France are allies, and Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy are allies." He waited. I knew he was trying to confuse me, to prove that I couldn't understand.

"So that means of one of either of the three does something to the other camp, the two allies must join in."

He looked a little surprised that I could comprehend that much, but he tried to hide it. But I've come to know his expressions. "True, but none of those countries' territory has been invaded."

Irritating! Why won't he just tell me? "So the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand—that is the cause?"

"Now why would a Serbian killing the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne cause Russia and Germany to declare war on each other?" I could see the smile tugging at the corners of his mouth. The freckles nearby always twitched, so he couldn't fool me.

"Because," I said, knowing that now he would really be shocked at how much I knew, what I'd been able to pick up by listening in when nobody noticed me, "Serbia and Russia are allies."

He clapped, slowly, in a manner I found disrespectful in the extreme. "That doesn't explain England and France."

"You asked only about Russia!" I stamped my foot. "Why can't you just tell me what you know? This isn't like the day you showed me the poor camp. I can't very well go to the front, or sit at the councils where the generals decide what to do."

"No." He looked down at the grass and picked a wild daisy, which he handed to me. "Friends? I'm not trying to be mean. I just want you to understand."

I took the daisy. I didn't want to admit that the whole thing was still very obscure to me.

"Germany invaded Belgium. Belgium is neutral. We are pledged—as are France and England—to protect the neutrality of Belgium. Germany knew that this would provoke us and we would have to act."

"Now what did Belgium have to do with any of this in the first place?" My irritation was giving way to complete exasperation.

"It's the final piece of the puzzle. France mobilized to protect itself. England had to enter the war when Belgium's neutrality was compromised. Germany entered Belgium to attack France. So you see, it's like a game of dominoes. Only one piece need be unbalanced to make the whole structure of Europe fall to pieces." Sasha flicked his fingers at an imaginary domino castle.

I understood after that, but it all seemed so very far away and unreal. No battles had yet been fought, but everywhere the cry of war resounded.

"And what about you, Sasha?" I couldn't ask him directly if he would go and fight.

He smiled a closed-lipped half-smile. "I shall do as I am ordered, whatever that is."

I fought to resist the urge to throw my arms around his neck and beg him to leave the guards so he would be safe. But I couldn't have said it, or done such a thing. We said our goodbyes. I didn't see him again for several months.

1 comment:

  1. I was in Russia years ago. I have to say I have always been totally mesmerized by the Romanoffs.
    Russia at first sight to a Texas Gal was overwhelming, I have to say my first stop was Moscow, i was intimidated. after 2 weeks when I got to St. Petersburg I was at home. Beautiful and fasinating country.