ROMANOV FAMILY IN ODESSA
The City of Odessa, in southern Ukraine, located on the northwest shore of the Black Sea, was founded by a decree of the Empress Catherine the Great in 1794. From 1819 to 1858 Odessa was a free warm water port, a southern “window to the west”. During the 19th century it was the fourth largest city in imperial Russia, after Moscow, St Petersburg and Warsaw.
Odessa was initially introduced to the west via “Battleship Potemkin” – the 1924 silent film directed by Sergei Eisenstein – where the famous “Odessa Steps” were immortalized in the baby carriage scene.
In early June of 1914, a few weeks before the breakout of the First World War, the Romanov family visited Odessa.
From the 1914 diary of Tsar Nicholas II:
“2nd June 2nd. Monday. Slept very well and woke up at 9 o’cl. to a marvelous morning, the sea was like a mirror. I regret that our trip is coming to an end. Had breakfast at 12 o’cl. Before the entrance to Odessa was the brigade of battleships. Docked at one 1/2 o’clock at the quarantine harbor. At 3 o’clock came ashore … Drove to the main train station where the civil authorities and deputations had a reception. From there went to the parade with the children and on the way stopped at the Church of the 4th sharpshooter brigade. The review was held at the plaza in front of the Odessa garrison camp. The troops appeared in a cheerful and brilliant form. It was such joy to see the Odessa Military district again. Returned to the station with the children, where I received the former Shah of Persia, and then drove through the streets to the Odessa port. It was hot. At 8 o’cl. on the yacht there was a big dinner for 90 people. At about 11 o’cl. there was a prayer in the command room; After that said farewell to the officers and crew, and went to the train which left at 11.15. The entire city and the port was illuminated beautifully.”
“[My babushka] loved to talk about the last Russian emperor, Tsar Nikolai the II, ‘Nicki’ as she fondly called him. I always wondered if he ever really visited Odessa riding in a golden carriage, yet at the same time I enjoyed this story and did not really mind much that it might not have really happened. I tell you, Babushka Polya was a great storyteller, just like the Brothers Grimm. There were many stories, some of which were sad and others which simply took my breath away. Like the one about Babushka Polya getting accepted as the only Jewish girl in Odessa, during the time of Tsar Nicki, into a prestigious academy for young ladies. The school was the only one of its kind in Odessa, and there she became fluent in many languages: German, English, French, and later Yiddish and Hebrew. But she never told me about graduating with honors and receiving a solid gold medal.”
Above excerpts are from the book
Below is the famous baby carriage montage on the “Odessa Steps” from Eisenstein’s “Battleship Potemkin”
See additional Romanov family photos in Odessa in this video: