Alexei Romanov and his best friend Kolya Derevenko
I was a little boy, just twelve years old. I did not know of the evil in people’s souls. We were living at the Popov house near the Ipatiev house. In the middle of the summer of 1918, I was afraid and worried for Alexei. I wanted to see him and at the same time I am sure he wanted to see me too. Until that sad day of July 17, 1918, my father, Gilliard, Gibbes, and others knew everything, but I knew nothing. Something terrible was going to happen, but I didn’t know what it was… In the last week of July 1918, myself, my father, Gilliard, Gibbes, and others entered the Ipatiev house. There was a terrible scene… The house was in complete chaos; diaries, letters, albums, and other things were strewn all around in the house.. “But where is Ieskela*?” I asked my father, but he stayed silent. Ieskela’s diary was found by a White guard, I think his name was Nemetkin, I am not sure. But Leonid Sednev… I saw him. He cried. His cries were so loud… so loud!
I was confused. “Papa, where is my Ieskela?” – I asked. “They killed him”, he said, and I started to cry. “But how?” – I replied. “They killed the Tsar, the Tsaritsa, and the Grand Duchesses too. They are all dead.” – said my father. “But I don’t understand. Where… where are their bodies?” “We don’t know, maybe we will never find them”.
I then realized brutal life could be… I found Ieskela’s last letter written to me. One sentence in particular in that letter – “I hug you tightly” – made me cry so much. I thought “and I hug you tightly too, my dear friend, my Tsar…”
I was in shock. In the following years, I thought about him. “Why did they kill you? In the USSR, there was no place for my Ieskela. We will be friends forever, my dear Tsesarevich… If I could see you just one more time, then I can die in peace…
Kolya Derevenko in very old age, shortly before his own death.
*In their letters, Alexei and Kolya would refer to each other by their names read backwards – Alexei was “Ieskela”, while Kolya was “Yalok”.
Kolya Derevenko died in 1999 without ever finding out exactly what happened to his best friend Alexei.