Sunday, January 31, 2010


It's glorious. Even on a normal trip, where we just come to the city for functions or visits, Moscow is beautiful. Majestic. There's something so ancient about it. I wonder sometimes why the Tsars chose to make St. Petersburg the capital. Moscow is the Holy City, the center of our faith.

We left the cars a little away from the Kremlin so that we could enter through the great gate of Kiev on foot. A dozen chanting priests with censers and holy icons walked in front of us. Mama and Alexei rode in an open car, Alexei being still too unwell to walk. It was a clear, sunny day, and banners waved from every window, bells pealed out from every church in a city full of churches.

Russia is beautiful in May. Flowers grow everywhere, and people were throwing them at our feet as we walked through the city. Alexei had to be carried in the church service, and did not stay long at the gala dinner on the evening of May 25th. There were only 700 guests at that one. Here is the menu:

The first Romanov Tsar, Mikhail, is pictured in the center.

There were many things created to celebrate the tercentenary. Postage stamps. A special cross . Papa had them blessed when he could.

There were even samovars, and pictures, and toys that celebrated the Jubilee. But most beautiful of all was Faberge's Tercentenary egg. He made them every Easter for us, but this one was extraordinary. Such perfect pictures and detail.

On May 26th there was another dinner, this time for 2000 nobles. I shall never forget that time in Moscow. It was all the sweeter because I had my secret in my heart, to make it seem all the more glorious and extraordinary. I still think of that week, visiting monasteries and villages around Moscow, as one of the happiest times of my life, marred only by Alexei's ill health.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Hints about my secret

I've never had a secret, not really. It's hard when you live so closely with your family. I can't hide anything from Mashka. We share a room after all! But even Olga and Tatiana can get things out of me if they try, and Alexei—if he's been ill, I'll tell him anything he wants to know just to make him better.

But this is different. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because I'm getting tired of wearing either the same clothes as Mashka, or hand-me-downs from Olga and Tatiana. They're very pretty, of course. But every once in a while I want something that's just mine. Not something, as in an object. I don't care about those very much. I suppose that's because I have only to ask for something and I receive it, if not from Mama and Papa, from one of the maids of honor or other court officials.

We'll soon be taking our trip to Moscow for the biggest festivities of the Jubilee. I'll enjoy everything all the more with this secret in my heart. It's nothing bad, nothing wicked. Not even anything very exciting, in the cold light of day. But it's mine. And I cherish it.
You see, here we are, all dressed the same, and my dress looks as if it wasn't quite made for me!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Jubilee Spring

We stayed in St. Petersburg longer than we planned because poor Tatiana got typhoid! She drank some infected water. She had to have all her hair cut short. I think it looks nice and neat, but she cried. We went back to Tsarskoe Selo so she could recover, which was fine.

Here she is with short hair:

See how lovely she is?

In the spring, though we went on a journey throughout the empire. We took our boat down the Volga to visit the home of the first Romanov monarch, Michail Feodorovich. People were so excited to see us that they wade out in the water in their clothes, up to their waists, to get close to the boat! It was very gratifying.

But all the celebrations tired Mama, who had to stay in bed in our train through some of them so that she would be ready for the trip to Moscow.

It was this year, during the spring, that something extraordinary happened to me. But it's my secret, and I'm not going to talk about it just yet.

Tomorrow I'll tell you about Moscow, which was extraordinary. I'll never forget it as long as I live.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

More Jubilee

Or should that be, More Jubilation? Frankly, there hasn't been much of what I'd really call jubilation here in St. Petersburg. I'm looking forward to going to Moscow soon. I love Moscow. It really feels like Russia there. Much more traditional than St. Petersburg, which is a little snobbish and closed. At least, that's what Olga says. She goes out more than I do, since I'm not yet of age.

I love Moscow so much. I don't have very many pictures, but I can show you a movie of us opening a cathedral there last year.

We have lots of ceremonies like this, even more in the Jubilee year. There's a lot to tell, so I'll save some of it for tomorrow.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Jubilee

It's been 300 years of Romanov rule in Russia.We started celebrating right away in the New Year, after coming back from Spala in Poland. After a short while at Tsarskoe Selo, where we feel most at home, we had to go to St. Petersburg and stay at the Winter Palace. It's all right in the winter, but there isn't much of a garden to play in.

Everything started with a very long church service in the Cathedral of Our Lady of Kazan. It's a beautiful church, and it was full to the brim. Everyone was standing shoulder to shoulder, and when it was time to kneel, you could see people having to apologize to each other as they bumped elbows and knees. I wasn't supposed to be paying attention, but it struck me as rather funny. Here is the famous icon of The Lady of Kazan:

In the middle of the service, I noticed Papa looking up at the ceiling and I didn't know why. Then Alexei looked, and I had to do the same. It was the most wonderful thing! Two white doves were floating over their heads, like a message from God. It was wonderful. Perhaps he was blessing our family for 300 years of rule.

After that, we had lots of receptions and parties at the Winter Palace. I especially enjoyed watching from above. Everyone came in traditional, national dress. Even Mama was wearing the kokoshnik, a traditional headdress. We wore simple white gowns with the order of Catherine the Great. Madame Zanotti gave us the diamond stars to pin on the red ribbons right before we went to greet the guests.

Greeting the guests was tedious, I have to say. We stood for hours. But there were so many people who came to pay their respects, I really don't mind. It seems very little to endure. I only felt sorry for Mama, who tires very easily. Alexei didn't stand with us. He was carried through the crowd, since he hadn't completely recovered from his last illness, and went back to his room completely exhausted. As for me, I could stand for hours, if only I was allowed to jump up and down every once in a while! Here's what the throne room looks like at the Winter Palace:

I'll tell you more about the jubilee tomorrow!

An adorable video

This was when I was about six and Alexei was three. We were playing on the Standart. I must say, we're a very attractive family!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

What I want most

Probably you think I couldn't want anything in the world, being a grand duchess and living in splendid palaces and on yachts. But there are some things I wish for.

1. I wish Alexei could be cured. Recently he was sick again, and it was horrible. He curled up in a little ball, his hip swollen from the inside and so painful. He could hardly open his eyes the pain was so terrible. At times like that I don't even try to make him speak, let alone laugh. We all kneel and pray. Mama stays with him around the clock and has to be reminded to eat.

2. I wish I could have more friends. I love my sisters. Mashka and I are inseparable. But sometimes I really wonder what it's like out in the world, the real world, where the peasants live and where people are concerned about money. How do the children learn? Do they have tutors like ours?

3. I wish I could be kissed—a real kiss—before my sixteenth birthday. Then I would beat Olga.

4. I wish I didn't always have to wear hand-me-down clothes. They're lovely, certainly, but sometimes I think Mama and Papa dress us all the same because then they can think of us as one. But then, we are in our way. OTMA. I wouldn't want to give that up.

5. A puppy of my own. Tatiana has Ortino, Alexei has Joy. I'd love to have a puppy to love me best.

So now you probably think I am the most selfish girl ever. With all those wishes granted, life would be perfect. And nothing can be perfect, except for God. That is what Mama says. So I guess I'll just be content with the way things are.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Love and my sisters

You'd better believe that love is a frequent topic of conversation among four girls, who at this minute are ages 13, 14, 17 and 18. As I said before, there's talk of Olga marrying. But she doesn't want to marry a foreign prince because she doesn't want to leave Russia. But that doesn't mean she doesn't have her romances.

First of all, we're surrounded by the elite guards of the empire, the Composites, who are representatives of the principal regiments: The Semyonovsky, the Preobrezhansky, the Ismaelovsky, plus the Cossacks. Wherever we go, they go. And there are officers always more than willing to dance and listen to music.

Mashka already has a huge crush on a guard. She made him a shirt! If that doesn't speak of love, I don't know what does. And Tatiana—well, there are many, many young guards who are in love with her, but she stays aloof. I'm not sure what she's waiting for. Olga told us once that she had a real kiss, in the garden, with someone from the Preobrezhansky regiment. I remember him: he used to come often to the soirees that Anya would have for us, with musicians. I loved the balalaika orchestra.

As for me—because I'm still in short skirts, they don't really think of me that way. But I sometimes find myself dreaming of a pair of kind eyes staring into mine. And I love to dance as much as anyone! Here is a little film of us dancing on the Standart last June. You can see that I am just as good as my sisters, and I like to think I have even a little more spirit:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Baby pictures

Well, so not all baby, but me when I was younger. I guess I was a rascal—everyone says so. But really, it's Alyosha who gets away with things because he's a boy. I love him anyway, as you can see!

I had my share of babying by my sisters, though. Especially Mashka, who was so little when I was born that I think she thought I was a doll. Mama breast-fed all of us, which wasn't the thing to do—so Olga tells me. She sometimes knows things the rest of us don't.

Look at me here: pretty cute! My hair was very blonde when I was small, but it's darkened some now.

This wasn't very long ago, a few years, when we put on a little play in our lovely theater at the Alexander Palace. I always play the comic parts.

So, who could resist me? I'm afraid I'm at that awkward age now, not quite an adult, no longer a little girl. I can't wait until it's over, and I can wear long skirts like Olga and Tatiana. Sigh.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Doctors and other questions

With Alexei's illness and Mama's fragile health, doctors are a part of our everyday life. Dr. Botkin is our family doctor, and he cares mostly for Mama. The rest of us are in excellent health, except for the usual childhood illnesses, and when one of us gets them they go around all of us like a forest fire. Then we have nurses and Mama caring for us night and day.

Tatiana got typhoid a year or so ago and had to have her hair cut short, but she's fine now.

Alexei's doctor is Dr. Derevenko. He's practically a member of the family, he's here so often. He has a young son, Kolya, who Mama allows to play with Alexei, because he understands Alexei's illness and won't be too rough with him.

The only picture I have is of Dr. Botkin. I wish I had one of Kolya, he is a sweet boy.

Now I wonder what people really want to know about us? I could go on and on like this for days and days, telling stories and talking about my family. But what do you want to know? Please tell me!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Jewels and baubles

I've been told by a friend of mine—someone I'll tell you about later—that people think we run around dressed in jewels all day. Well, that's not at all true, and we wouldn't like it if we did! I have some official jewelry, but I almost never wear it. Madame Zanotti takes care of all the jewels for my mother and my sisters. When I turn 16 and come of age, I'll receive a pearl and diamond necklace, like Olga and Tatiana have already. And we wear pearls for our official portraits. Like this one:

When Mama attends state functions, she has to wear jewels that are very heavy. She says the crown gives her a headache. These are some of her crowns and jewels:

There is a portrait of Mama all dressed up that I like very much as well. She is beautiful. I only wish she were not so unhappy. She only smiles when Alexei is well and Papa is by her, or when Father Grigory comes to visit.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A contest!

It's my favorite thing. I like to play games, especially when I win. But this one would be unfair for me to enter because I already know all the answers.

It's simple: Starting February 1, there will be a daily question related to my family's life. If you answer correctly, you get a point. At the end (March 2nd), the person with the most points will win a signed copy of Anastasia's Secret.

All you have to do is give your answer in an email to:
Anastasia's Secret Contest 

After all, you don't want other people seeing your answers! I'll remind everyone when the contest starts, don't worry.

My father and fitness and ruling

Papa, the tsar, is a fitness buff. He walks. He runs. He rides his bicycle. He had his bathroom in the Alexander Palace designed so that his bathtub is really an indoor pool. Once in a great while we get to bathe in it. It's splendid! There are two servants whose only job is to look after it. There is a huge fireplace in it too, as well as a bar for doing chin-ups. Here's a picture:

Papa works very hard as well, and is always in meetings and consulting with his ministers, especially Count Witte. But we all know that deep down, he did not want to be tsar.

He acceeded to the throne seven years before I was born, when my uncle, his brother, Alexander III died of kidney failure. Uncle Alexander was young—not yet 50. Papa, I have heard some of the maids of honor say when they thought I wasn't listening, was not well prepared to be tsar.

Here he is the year he became tsar, which was the same year he was engaged to Mama and they married:

He and Mama are very in love still. He calls her Sunny, because she always smiled when they first met. Now, as I said, she doesn't smile very much, because of Alexei.

I love my papa. He is a very handsome man. See him here in his full formal dress:

He doesn't pay much attention to me though, except when I'm clowning around or doing amateur theatricals. He only listens to Mama or Olga. Olga is very like him in the way she looks. She can go and visit him in his study, and talks about politics and such.

Two years ago, Olga, Tatiana and Papa were at the opera in Kiev, and the prime minister, Piotr Stolypin, was there too. Suddenly an assassin shot Stolypin twice, right in front of my family. He was in the stalls, Papa, Olga and Tatiana were in a box. He was mortally wounded, but he stood and said, "I am happy to die for the tsar," and made the sign of the cross to my Papa. I was only 10, but I remember all that my sisters told me. Papa was distraught. He stayed at Stolypin's bedside. He died four days after being shot.

That was like Papa. He is very loyal to those who agree with him, but he can get very cross with people who don't. He doesn't get along with his mother—but that's too complicated to get into here. I'll save it for another time.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My mother the tsaritsa

She is first of all my mother—our mother. Queen Victoria of England is her grandmother, and she was brought up there. You'd think she was comfortable in splendid palaces and at grand state occasions, but she's really very shy. She would much rather stay at home and goes to events only when she absolutely must.

I think she's very beautiful, but she almost never smiles. I think that's partly because of all the worry she has about Alexei. Here she is in court dress:

In official pictures she always looks as if she is being tortured a little, I think. I try to catch her at lighter moments with my Kodak camera, but it's very difficult. Here's another formal one, with Alexei when he was two. Her face looks softer, but she's still sad.

She loves her mauve boudoir at the Alexander Palace, and we often spend time with her there. You can see why in this picture, that shows me and Mama in front of the tall windows:

I wish I could make my mother not be sad. I do the best I can, but it's difficult. If Alexei were all cured, perhaps that would help. I'd like that too.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

White Flower Day

I mentioned that we sell paper flowers when we're in Livadia to raise money. We go through the streets of Livadia with our tall posts stuck with the flowers we've made and collection boxes. Lots of other people do the same thing, but we sell our flowers fastest. I heard that some think it's good luck to have a flower made by one of the grand duchesses. Here we are getting ready to go:

Charity work is very important to us all, especially Mama. She often endows hospitals and homes for the poor with money from her own fortune. We visit them when we travel, and Mama and her best friend, Anna Vyrubova, sometimes make special trips to see these institutions. People cry when they see us and are very thankful. I know I should be more enthusiastic about visiting hospitals and such, but seeing people suffer makes me very sad. I don't like to be sad, I like to be gay and to have fun.

But soon I will be too old for pranks and such anymore, so I suppose I should get used to doing the things a grand duchess is supposed to do.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

We love animals

All of us. Mama, Papa, Alexei and all my sisters. We've had so many pets. Once a man came from Siberia with a pet sable, who was so beautiful we wanted to keep him. But once the man went away, the sable ran wild and messed all over the place. We gave him back. Dogs and cats were our pets from then on.

Alexei has a beautiful spaniel, called Joy. Here she is:

She is very sweet. She doesn't mess indoors very much, and when she does we clean it up quickly. She loves Alexei. When Alexei is ill, she stays in his room and mopes. Even when we offer her treats she won't touch them until Alexei is better and can give them to her himself.

Tatiana has a French bulldog called Ortino. Ortino has a lot of character. We tease him, I'm afraid, but he is devoted to Tatiana. Here he is, with Tatiana:

Mama's dog is a little mean and rather nippy. He chases people's feet and bites them. I don't like him much, but Mama does. His name is Wolf. Here are some of us all together, with my little cousins. Mama is holding Wolf.

I love our pets. They are part of our family, just like the rest of us.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Love, love, love going to the Crimea for our vacation! Even before Papa had the new palace built for Mama it was our favorite place. It wasn't so much the building—which was dark and old—but the beautiful scenery, and the swimming in the sea. We had ladders that went down and spent hours and hours bathing there.

Olga had her sixteenth birthday at Livadia in November. It's still mild at that time of year, compared to St. Petersburg.

The new palace makes it even more wonderful to be there. It's made of granite that was quarried in the Crimea, and it's full of light and air. Great tall windows give us views of the sea, which is sometimes so blue it hurts to look at it. Mama is always happier there, because we're far away from most of our official duties.

But we do a lot of charity work anyway, selling paper flowers we make ourselves to raise money for local hospitals. And we have dances and invite the officers. Olga and Tatiana flirt a lot. I'm afraid Mashka is going to fall in love any minute, as you see in this picture:

I only hope it's not with one of them!

Sunday, January 10, 2010


I've often wondered what happens to other people when they travel. Wherever we go, we're in one of our homes.

The Winter Palace

In St. Petersburg, it's the Winter Palace. We don't like it there all that much, it's very big and formal. And dark. It doesn't feel much like home, so we only go there when we have a state occasion. It was built in the days of Peter the Great, who first made this part of Russia the capital instead of Moscow.

This is us at the Winter Palace at the opening of the Duma years ago. I was only 5:

Our Train

Mama and Papa always bring us everywhere. We have our own train. Zhilik tells us that the trains in Russia are a much wider gauge than the trains in Europe, so a train car can be almost like a room. Our train has bedrooms for all of us, a dining room, a parlor, a study for Papa and a boudoir for Mama, plus rooms for all the maids of honor and guards who accompany us.

Here's Alexei and Papa with the generals on our train:


Peterhof is a little outside of St. Petersburg, and we're often there in the summer. It has fabulous gardens and fountains. We love to play in them. I was born in Peterhof.

This is a picture of Olga and Tatiana in front of the palace:

That's probably enough pictures for the moment. I'll save Livadia for tomorrow. It's my favorite place to be. It's where we go for the summer holidays in the Crimea.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Me, rollerskating

Just a quick note on a busy day! Here's me on the Standart making everybody rollerskate!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Alexei. Alyosha. Baby. The tsarevich.

My little brother, the only boy of all of us, was born three years after I was, and he is the darling of the family. Not just because he is ill—more about that in a moment—but because he is the most wonderful creature ever, with such a spirit, such insight...

I think his illness makes him more sensitive than most people. He cannot stand to see suffering in any creature, and cries when a guard kicks a dog or if he sees a bird with a broken wing.

When he is ill, everything stops in the house. Mama doesn't sleep, but stays by his side, only eating if Tatiana brings her something. We all creep in and sit with him. I play the balalaika for him if he can stand it. Sometimes he is curled up in pain, not even able to straighten out his legs because there is bleeding that makes his joints swell. We pray and pray, and so far, every time, he has gotten well again.

While he is recovering—then it's my job to cajole him into getting strong so he can get out of bed. The kitchen makes him all sorts of delicacies to taste, and we go in and eat anything he doesn't want, or even what he does, just to make him want it more. Normally we only eat at mealtimes, and we have the same thing over and over again. Mama once tried to change the menu for tea and it caused such an uproar she gave up in the end.

My little brother is a blessing. But he is also spoiled. When he was very small Mama let him do anything he wanted. Once at a state dinner, he crawled under the table and stole a lady's shoe. When Mama told him to give it back, he did—but with a big strawberry in the toe!

And then there was a time he ordered a whole regiment of guards (who must obey him because he is the tsarevich) to march into the sea. Their boots were ruined. What I've done is nothing like as mischievous, but we all forgive him, because he is the baby. Alyosha. Alexei. The tsarevich.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Now it's Marie's turn

Marie is my best friend, and the sweetest of my sisters. Mama and Papa call us "the little pair". Of course, Olga and Tatiana are "the big pair". Marie and I are never apart, but she is much nicer and calmer than I am. She doesn't torment our tutors or play nasty tricks, and she doesn't complain about wearing hand-me-downs.

My sister Marie is good at drawing. Perhaps that's because she has such big eyes! We tell each other stories when we go to bed at night. Mine are full of dragons and knights, and ancient legends. Hers are full of young officers passing secret messages to imprisoned princesses. I think she's going to fall in love soon.

I feel a little bad about Marie though. She's so wonderful and kind to me that she'll go along with anything I suggest, even when it gets her in trouble. I made her roller skate with me (and all the officers on the yacht too) on the deck of the Standart, Papa's yacht.

No picture of Marie can really capture who she was, but this is one of my favorites:

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Oh, what to say about my sister Tatiana! She is my mother's favorite, perhaps because she looks most like her. She is very beautiful, and very capable. Tatiana always knows everything.

Once, when I was small, I threw a snowball at her. It wasn't an ordinary snowball. I thought I'd be funny and put a stone in the middle of it. I didn't know it would really hurt her. She had a concussion, but she was all right. I had to fetch her things for weeks afterwards. I didn't mind though, I felt so terrible.

Tatiana is always the one who organizes everything. When we used to have games together she was the one who picked the teams and decided the rules. Of course, I would always change them or ignore them and she'd get cross. But then I'd make her laugh.

This is Tatiana looking very spiritual:

We look like opposites. She has very dark hair, where mine is lighter. And she is very thin where I tend to be plump. (Mama says I'll grow out of it...)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


I have three older sisters, but Olga is the one I want to talk about today. She's very grown-up. Olga is 18 now and Tatiana, who I'll talk about next, is 16. Tatiana came of age this year. This is what it means when we come of age: We have a huge party. And I mean HUGE! Papa said 3,000 people came to Olga's and almost as many to Tatiana's. Marie and I watched everyone come in and the grand promenade in the ballroom at the Winter Palace, but no one could see us because we were up above, looking down from a balcony. The diamonds and other jewels sparkled so that I could hardly watch for long.

We don't have many jewels ourselves, but we each get a diamond and pearl necklace when we come of age. Mama buys one jewel a year for each of us, so there's not too big a drain on the state funds, she says. She's very thrifty. I wear clothes that went through all three of my sisters, unlesss they're too tattered, or unless we're all dressed for a photograph and wearing the same thing.

Marie and I—well, it was my idea really—had some fun at Tatiana's ball. We dropped peas on the heads of people who passed underneath us in their finery. It was hilarious to see them look up, wondering what had happened. Trina caught us though, and we had to stop.

Anyway, this is Olga.

She's very lively and fun. Mama and Papa want her to marry soon, and they've been talking about suitors. Only one is coming to visit though, Prince Carol of Romania. Olga tells us all secretly that she doesn't want to get married, though, because that would mean she has to leave Russia.

Since she's come of age she wears long gowns and doesn't have to do lessons. That's what I'm looking forward to, but it's still four years away for me. Boring!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Rasputin and my bedroom

Now you mustn't be horrified! I just had both of those subjects to talk about. First the easy one: I wanted to show you a picture of my bedroom, the one I share with Marie, at Tsarskoe. But I never took any myself—rooms are terribly difficult to photograph. Here I have a painting that was done, and a photograph from when Marie and I were both infants. You can see the bassinettes.

I liked our room. We had all our things, and although we shared, you can see there were screens for privacy.

Now, Father Grigory was never in our room, although people have said some awful things about him. He is a holy man, a starets. He's not a priest, but he is very wise, and Mama says she can see God in his eyes. God is very important to Mama, even though she was brought up a Lutheran. She converted before she married Papa, and no one is more devout than she is.

I love God too, but I don't much like going to church. It's so long! I make up games and try to make Marie laugh. I get in trouble with Trina, our governess. Dear Trina, she is so patient with me.

But Father Grigory: here's what happened when Alexei was very sick, at our Polish estate in Spala. The doctors thought for sure he would die. His pain was horrible to see. He was all curled up in a ball of agony. We sat with him and prayed over him. The doctors tried this and that and nothing worked. Then Mama sent for Grigory Rasputin. He did not come because he was thousands of miles away, in his home in Siberia, but he sent the message that Mama should not let the doctors trouble Alexei, and he would get well.

She sent all the doctors away, and Alexei did get well. He has not been so bad since. So Mama thinks him a saint. I don't know what I think, except that he smells, and he has eyes that can be frightening. Here is a picture of Grigory. I didn't take it. I was afraid he'd break my camera!

You see what I mean about his eyes? They're a piercing blue, like the sky over the steppes.

Must go!
Mama just told me tha Father Grigory is coming to visit today. He's a strange fellow. Mama thinks he cured Alexei when he almost died, so we're very nice to him. I think he's a little creepy. He never washes and he's from Siberia. More later!

My morning

It's early yet. Marie isn't up. We share a bedroom. Olga and Tatiana share one too. Only Alexei has his own, and his own playroom. But we all go to each other's rooms anyway.

My bed is hard and I'm not allowed a pillow. Mama says it's to promote good posture and prevent laziness. That's not too bad, but I really wish I didn't have to take a cold shower in the morning. Brrr! Especially in winter. It gets so cold here.

I don't mind when we're at Livadia, but that's a different story.

Today will start with breakfast. The four of us have it together. Alexei usually breakfasts with Mama, in her boudoir. He's well at the moment so he'll probably do so today. When he's sick, everything changes.

We'll have lessons later, with Pierre Gilliard and Mr. Gibbes. Sometimes I'm not very nice to them, especially Mr. Gibbes. Zhilik is a good sort, though, but I hate French. I'd rather just speak Russian. Since Mama was raised in England we speak English a lot, which isn't too bad.

I hear Marie stirring. I'd better go.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Two months until I share my secret

Perhaps you believe me, perhaps you don't. I don't much care either way. But If you do, and you want to know how it feels to be brought back to life so long after...Well, enough about that.

I'm a princess. A grand duchess. But I don't feel much like one most of the time. I just feel like me. Shall I tell you what that feels like? It feels like being a girl, and a younger sister. The only one I'm older than is Alexei, and he's ill most of the time.

I'm not allowed to have friends outside my family, except in big groups. We sometimes dance with the officers. Now, in 1913, the Jubilee year, there's lots of dancing. We'll travel to Moscow and Livadia in the Crimea, all the places I love to go. Thousands of people will cheer.

Do you want to know what my favorite room looks like? Here's a picture. I took it myself with my Kodak camera:

It's called The Mountain Room. We have a slide built right into a room at the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoe Selo. I like it there better than at the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg.

Alexei has to be very careful because he has hemophilia, a disease that makes him bleed inside with the slightest bump. But he can be mischievous anyway. We all take care of him, me and my sisters: Olga, Tatiana, and Maria.

This year is the beginning of my secret, a special thing that only I know. I've never kept anything from my sisters before, so it's hard.

If you follow me, I'll let you in on lots of things we do in our palace, and show you what my life is like before—before everything starts going wrong.

So follow me! I promise you won't be sorry.