In the 1950s, the youngest daughter of Emperor Alexander III, Olga, lived in a Canadian village near Toronto, was engaged in gardening and painted postcards for sale. She died in 1960 – as the last great princess from the Romanov dynasty. Shortly before her death, she told the journalist Ian Vorres in detail about her biography: about a difficult relationship with her mother, marriage to a “commoner”, revolution and life abroad.
Grand Duchess Olga was born in 1882 as the youngest and only porphyrogenic daughter of Alexander III (children who were born to the ruling emperors – after their accession to the throne – were called porphyritic). According to the memoirs of Olga Alexandrovna, recorded by Ian Vorres, she always had a very warm relationship with her father. The Emperor, no matter how busy he was, always found half an hour a day to stay with his youngest daughter. But her relationship with her mother was cool and formal. Maria Fedorovna, according to Olga, remained the queen, even entering the nursery.
“In essence, the nanny made me go into Mom ’s rooms. When I came to her, I always felt at ease. I tried my best to behave properly. I couldn’t make myself speak to Mom naturally. She was terribly afraid that someone can cross the boundaries of etiquette and decency. ”
Emperor Alexander III with his wife Maria Fedorovna and children: Nicholas, George, Xenia, Michael and Olga.
Alexander III died when Olga was 12 years old.
At 19, she was married to the 33-year-old Duke Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg. The clan of the dukes of Oldenburg was of German origin, however, it has long settled in Russia, and many of its representatives, thanks to the close relationship with the Romanov dynasty, even bore the title of Imperial Highness. Olga Alexandrovna did not feel any sympathy for Pyotr Aleksandrovich, in addition, rumors were circulating in St. Petersburg about his homosexual inclinations. The only thing that made her put up with the marriage imposed on her was that thanks to him, unlike many girls from the royal family, she could stay in Russia.
According to Olga Alexandrovna, they lived under the same roof for 15 years with the Duke of Oldenburg, but never entered into an intimate relationship. They respected appearances and occasionally appeared together in public, but the rest of the time, each lived his own life without interfering in the affairs of the other.
At 22, Olga Alexandrovna (after marriage received the title of Grand Duchess) fell in love with officer Nikolai Kulikovsky, which she immediately informed her husband. He did not agree to a divorce, but he soon appointed Kulikovsky as his adjutant and settled his own house so that she and Olga could see each other without hindrance.
This strange marriage lasted until 1916. In the end, Olga Alexandrovna decided that she would no longer tolerate this state of things: she wanted to have a family, children and the ability not to hide her relationship with her lover. In 1916, she won the right to leave her husband (since they and the Duke of Oldenburg were not in full marital relations, the Holy Synod declared the marriage invalid).
Going to inform her mother about the upcoming wedding with an obscene officer, Olga Alexandrovna was preparing for a scandal – however, the Dowager Empress did not object:
“She met this news quite calmly and said she understood me. For me it was a kind of shock.”
Perhaps Maria Fedorovna was able to enter the position of her daughter, because at that moment she herself was in love with a person below her status: for some time she was in a relationship with Prince George Shervashidze, who, although he belonged to the Georgian nobility, was still unconventional a couple for the emperor’s widow.
Be that as it may, in 1916 Olga Alexandrovna married Nikolai Kulikovsky.
The marriage with the “commoner” subsequently played into the hands of the sister of the last emperor in the arm: after the October Revolution, “citizen Kulikovskaya”, unlike other members of the royal family, did not begin to be taken into custody. “ I could not imagine before that being married to a noble person is so beneficial, ” the grand duchess was astonished.
In the summer of 1917 – between the two revolutions – the first-born of Olga and Nikolai Kulikovsky, named Tikhon, was born. In 1919, their second son, Guri, was born. During the Civil War, spouses with two small children in their arms had to wander around in search of a safe place. Finally, in 1920, they decided to leave Russia: after Maria Fedorovna and Ksenia, Olga Aleksandrovna’s elder sister, they left for Denmark.
At first, all of them, as relatives, lived in the royal residence Amalienborg in Copenhagen. However, the Danish king Christian X, who was the nephew of Maria Fedorovna, disliked her aunt, so that the situation in the palace was becoming more tense. The situation was aggravated by the fact that the widow of Alexander III habitually lived in a big way, kept a large staff of courtiers and provided generous financial assistance to almost everyone who turned to her – which was a problem for the modest budget of the royal family of Denmark. Christian hinted to Maria Fedorovna that she could have paid for her expenses herself if she had sold the jewelry that she had managed to export from Russia. She, however, flatly refused to part with what reminded her of past times. She kept her jewelry, worth a fortune, in a casket under the bed,
In the end, her nephew, the English king George V, came to the aid of Maria Fedorovna, who appointed her an annual rent of ten thousand pounds. After that, the former empress, together with her daughters and their families, moved to the Wiedere palace near Copenhagen. Initially, the palace belonged to Maria Fedorovna and her two sisters, but they ceded their shares in the property of the former Russian empress.
In 1928, Maria Fyodorovna died. Olga and Ksenia sold the Videre Palace, which passed to them, and also the contents of the jewelry box. Olga Alexandrovna bought a farm called Knudsminde near Copenhagen for her share of the proceeds.
The 1930s, the Kulikovsky family lived the life of peaceful farmers: they raised horses, cows, pigs and poultry. Olga Alexandrovna remembered her youthful passion for painting and began to paint paintings and postcards for sale.
Drawings by Olga Alexandrovna.
Everything changed in the 1940s, after the occupation of Denmark by Hitler troops and their subsequent invasion of the USSR. Some Russian emigrants living in Europe considered Hitler a lesser evil than the Bolsheviks and decided to join the Nazi army. They perceived the daughter of the Russian emperor as a symbol of hope for the revival of “former Russia” – therefore, the Knudsminde farm became a place of pilgrimage for the Russians who stood under the Nazi banners. Olga Alexandrovna received them – considering, in her words, that she could not refuse compatriots hospitality. In this way, she turned against herself and the Danes, who hated the German occupiers, and the Soviet government. After the war ended, the USSR began to demand from Denmark the extradition of “accomplices of the enemies of the people”, therefore, in 1948, 66-year-old Olga Kulikovskaya moved to Canada with her children and grandchildren.
At the other end of the world, the Kulikovskis again engaged in animal husbandry – however, not for long. In Canada, things didn’t go as well as in Denmark, it was difficult to find good workers in a new place, the children decided to build a career in the city, and Olga and her husband already lacked the health to do the hard farming work themselves. In 1952, they sold the farm and settled in a small house near Toronto.
Olga Alexandrovna spent her last years as a simple village resident – although her modest and ascetic life was sometimes interrupted by meetings with relatives of royal blood. So, in 1959, Olga Alexandrovna was visited by the English Queen Elizabeth II and her husband, Prince Philip, who arrived in Canada on a visit.
In 1958, Nikolai Kulikovsky died. Olga Alexandrovna survived him for two years, died at the age of 78 and was buried in the York cemetery in Toronto.