The Winter Palace lay on the embankment of the Neva River. Built on a monumental scale to reflect the might and power of Imperial Russia. The capital itself had often lived on the edge of the empire—bordering into Scandinavia—as Peter the Great once chose it as his window to the West. It was here that the Tsar Nicholas Romanov and his family ruled over the Russian people.
Lesya was a beautiful, young girl working as a personal servant to the House Romanov; an honor she was blessed to have. The hours were long, but she and her family were well taken care of. And she had even been privileged enough to travel the empire wide: Moscow, Tsaritsyn, even the Balkans once. All at the Romanovs side.
“Hurry along now, child.” The older servant Ms. Sharonova said and sent her out of the kitchen.
The halls were wide and seemed to go on forever, the tall arching walls looking down. They always made her feel so small and insignificant. She moved as fast as she could without running. Her small shoes hitting the hard marble floor in a series of rhythmic clicks as she hurried across the palace. In her hand she balanced a silver plater with a jug of water on top.
“The Austro-Hungarians mobilise as we speak, Your Majesty. The people demand we unsheathe the sword on Serbia’s behalf.” Sazonov declared. The Foreign Minister was a bald man of around 55. His unpretentious beard the mirror opposite of the European autocracy.
“And what about the Germans, cousin?” The Grand Duke questioned, adorned in ceremonial medals and a pristine uniform as he looked across the hall to the Tsar.
“What about them?” The Tsar answered, distantly, gazing out of the window. His figure unassuming, dressed in a spotless, but plain uniform.
Lesya entered the room quietly without the men noticing and approached the Tsar. She bowed before him and placed the jug of water on the table beside him.
“The Germans,” Sazonov continued. “And the Austro Hungarians, take our kindness for a weakness. They have always done this. We give them loaf of bread, and they take the farm, Your Majesty.”
“It is time we take a stand.” The Grand Duke added. “Nicky, we must show strength in this.”
The Tsar placed his hand on the ridge of his nose. The two men stood there silently.
“Is partial mobilisation good enough?” He asked after a long pause. “And I‘ll reach out to Willy.”
The Grand Duke nodded “Yes, Your Majesty.”
“We will show strength and determination.” The Tsar announced. “But we will not be the aggressor here.”
He raised his hand again, this time to end the meeting. The two men bowed in response and reversed out the door.
Nicholas II closed his eyes, leaned back, and took a deep breath.
“The world has gone mad.” He sighed.
She was still kneeling in front of him. “Stand up, girl.” he laughed. “I want to see your face when I speak to you.”
She looked up at him and he smiled tenderly in return. His wrinkles showing his age and weariness.
“Is the family well?” he asked with heartfelt interest, and she nodded back in her usual shy manners. “Good.”
Nicolas had seen it all during his reign as Tsar. Riots, wars, famines, and assassination attempts.
“This talk of war makes me tired, Lesya.” He stretched and rubbed his neck. “Would you be so kind and fetch my little boy?”
“Yes, Your Majesty.”
Lesya reversed out the room. Rhythmic clicks echoed as she hurried through the palace. The tall arching walls looking down at her.
They always made her feel so small and insignificant.