Amanda Madru

AMANDA MADRU is from Western Massachusetts. She developed an interest in Russian imperial history after visiting a local book sale, where she happened upon an old volume on the life and times of Grigori Rasputin. This book contained photographs of the teen aged daughters of Emperor Nicholas II,  and Amanda was intrigued by the four striking young women close to her own age, who met an untimely and tragic fate a century ago.

Several years later, she discovered the Alexander Palace Forum, and her foray into research began. Initially, her focus was solely on the last imperial family, but countless hours of independent study would broaden her horizons, and she started learning about royal portraiture, the genealogy of the royal and imperial dynasties of Europe, Russian rulers from Catherine the Great to Nicholas II. With an academic background in Women’s Studies, however, she is especially well-versed in the history of the lesser-known wives and daughters of the tsars.

A writer by trade, Amanda holds a B.A. in English and an M.F.A in creative nonfiction. In addition to authoring articles for, she has since assisted author Helen Azar with work on 1913 Diary of Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna,   Romanov Family Yearbook and Maria Romanov: Third Daughter of the Last Tsar.


Please contact her via email at



Molly Thatcher at The Hermitage

MOLLY THATCHER grew up in a small village in Berkshire, England. She first became interested in Romanov history through her maternal Grandmother, who had worked as an Au Pair to an exiled Russian noble family in Switzerland. Her grandma remained close with the family and later brought Molly’s mother back to visit the Russian Émigré community.

This personal family connection motivated Molly to explore Romanov history and read any available books on the Romanov family or the Russian nobility. Since then, her interests have expanded to include other areas of Russian history and Russian literature. Her special interest is the influence of Russian Literature on British Modernism and she plans to write her dissertation on this subject. She is also currently in the process of learning Russian.

In July 2018 she travelled to the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg to complete an internship program. While there,  she met Helen Azar and became her intern; working as a digital editor for her website redesign and contributing writing to her blog and upcoming book- “Maria Romanov: Third Daughter of the Last Tsar, Her Diaries and Letters”.

While in St Petersburg, she was able to further pursue her love of Russian history and the Romanovs- travelling to Tsarskoe Selo and exploring St Petersburg. Some particular highlights were being able to wander the grounds of the Alexander Palace and visit the Romanov tombs at the Peter and Paul Fortress.

Molly is currently in her second year at the University of Exeter and is studying an English Literature BA. She also currently volunteers at Pushkin House in London- a centre for Russian Culture.

You can contact Molly through her book-related Instagram account @bookish_existence or by email at


IN THE STEPS OF THE ROMANOVS TOUR 2020: St. Petersburg and Moscow

IN THE STEPS OF THE ROMANOVS TOUR 2020: St. Petersburg and Moscow

(Preliminary info and expressions of interest)

IN THE STEPS OF ROMANOVS GROUP at Feodorovsky Cathedral, July 2018
Feodorovsky Cathedral circa 2013

1. Tentative time for tour is October 2020. Duration is either 9 days or 14 days. I want to be able to offer an option of only St. Petersburg or St. Petersburg plus Moscow and GARF visit.  Group members will all meet in St. Petersburg.

2. The group will be limited to 10-12 people.

3.  I will make all land arrangements, as well as serving as translator and guide.  Participants will buy their own plane tickets

4. I chose Hotel Ekaterina in Tsarskoe Selo for several reasons. First of all, the location – it is part of the Catherine Palace complex! You can’t get any better than that. Having stayed there more than once, I can vouch that it is a wonderful place with wonderful helpful staff. Your room includes all you can eat, delicious breakfast buffet, complete with cold cuts, blini, hot food and amazing fancy lattes, cafe au lait and the like. When you look out of your window, you see the palace. One of the best parts is that the hotel is owned by the Tsarskoe Selo museum, so your money goes back into the museum, including the Alexander Palace!  Depending on whether you want your own room or will share, the cost for 9 nights will range from USD$700-500 per person. For what you get, it is an incredible deal, less than $100 per night! This, I believe, will be the most expensive chunk of the land package. Since we are doing this without a third party agency, we can also be flexible enough to customise it a bit for individuals, as I mentioned, if you just want to do the StP part and skip Moscow, etc., it will cost you less.

5. Hotel in Moscow TBA but the cost will probably be approximately $500USD for 5 nights, for individual rooms. If you join us for the Moscow leg of the tour, it would include a visit to GARF, which will cost a bit extra, but no more than $70, depending on how many people do it.

6. I am going to put together a different version of the book which will cover just the St Petersburg and Moscow parts of “In the Steps of the Romanovs“,  especially for this tour. The participants will each get a free electronic copy of the book, and will have an option to purchase  a hard copy on

Above is just a very general description for now, and I would like to get some early expressions of interest and thoughts/suggestions. We have over a year to plan this.  Again, I can’t say what the currency exchange will be in 2020, but I don’t think it will be that different, so this should at least give you a general idea. In order for me to figure out a more detailed cost breakdown, I need to know whether you will want to share a room or have your own, whether you will do just St Petersburg part or also Moscow, etc.  So please, email me and let me know as many details as possible!

I would say that if you do all of it at the highest level, you will probably need approximately $3,000USD. If you do it on a budget, you will be able to get away with less than $2,000USD, plus of course your flight (which can be obtained quite reasonably if you plan in advance). But please don’t quote me on it yet, because as we all know, until reservations are made and deposits paid, nothing is ever guaranteed!

Please let me know what your budget is for the land part of the tour and which dates work best for you in October of 2020. Based on this I can come up with more detailed itinerary and cost.

Please email me at

Thank you!


Below are some photos of the Romanov places we expect to visit in St. Petersburg and Moscow when we follow in the steps of the Romanovs:


Feodorovsky Gorodok


Feodorovsky Gorodok

Feodorovsky Gorodok
Feodorovsky Infirmary



Feodorovsky Infirmary
Feodorovsky Infirmary
Feodorovsky Infirmary
Feodorovsky Infirmary – the Yellow Annex
Inside the Feodorovsky Infirmary
Feodorovsky Infirmary
Feodorovsky Gorodok


Feodorovsky Infirmary – the Yellow Annex
In front of the Feodorovsky Infirmary

Entrance of Feodorovsky Infirmary
Members of IN THE STEPS OF THE ROMANOVS: Laura, Leslie, Mary and Rosie

Natural water spring in Alexander Park

Canal in Alexander Park
Canal in Alexander Park

Alexander Park alley


The White Tower, Alexander Park
The White Tower

Kitchen garden, Alexander park
Back of Alexander Palace

Outside of Semi-circular Hall,, Alexander Palace
Alexander Palace


I made the above video in summer of 2005, when I lived in Tsarskoe Selo and worked at the museum there. The cathedral was just being restored!


Grand entrance to Feodorovsky Cathedral
IN THE STEPS OF THE ROMANOVS members Jessie, Leslie, and others



Imperial entrance to Feodorovsky Cathedral
In front of the Imperial entrance to Feodorovsky Cathedral

Alexander Park

Alexander Park




Alexander Park


Alexander Park
Children’s Island and playhouse

Our filmmaker Jessie
Children’s Island and play house




Kitchen garden, back of Alexander Palace
Kitchen garden, Alexander Palace


Kitchen garden, Alexander park
Kayaking on the canal in Alexander Park
Kayaking in Alexander Park

Anna Vyrubova‘s house
IN THE STEPS OF THE ROMANOVS group at Anna Vyrubova’s house
Alexander Palace
IN THE STEPS OF THE ROMANOVS members inside the Alexander Palace during renovations. July 2018


Courtyard of Catherine Palace
Courtyard of Catherine Palace
Today this is Hotel Ekaterina where IN THE STEPS OF THE ROMANOVS group will be staying








Courtyard of Catherine Palace
Main entrance, Catherine Palace
Main gate, Catherine Palace


Znamenie church and Imperial Lyceum


IN THE STEPS OF THE ROMANOVS group outside of “Znamenie” church



IN T HE STEPS OF THE ROMANOVS members Ben, Laura and Kelly



Palace infirmary on Gospitalnaya Street, where Olga, Tatiana and Allexandra worked as nurses

Courtyard of Palace Infirmary



Courtyard of the Palace Inifrmary




Alexandrovsky train station, from where the Romanovs left Tsarskoe Selo for the last time
Alexandrovsky train station today
Memorial at Alexandrovsky station to honour the Romanovs



Palace Square during declaration of war, St Petersburg

Palace Square, the Romanovs on the day the war was declared, St Petersburg: Laura, Mary, Theodore, Kelly and Jess
Winter Palace

Balcony of Winter Palace


The In the Steps of the Romanovs group in the courtyard of Rasputin’s apartment on Gorokhovaya St. July 2018
Stairs leading down the back exit of Rasputin’s apartment in St. Petersburg. Felix Yusupov came to get him via these stairs on 16 December, 1916, the night Rasputin was murdered.
Yusupov Palace where Rasputin was murdered
Faberge museum, St Petersburg

Neva embankment, St Petersburg


Gatchina, Silver Lake

Gatchina Palace
Gatchina Palace
Jessie and I




Main entrance, Peterhof Palace




Farm Palace- Peterhof
Mary and I

Lower Dacha, Peterhof

Ruins of the Lower Dacha in Peterhof (destroyed during WWII)

Cross marks the spot of the room where Alexei was born in the Lower Dacha



Iverskaya church outside of Kremlin, Moscow.
Inside Marfo-Mariinsky convent


Inside Marfo-Mariinsky convent

Grand Duchess Elisabeth’s sitting room in Marfo-Mariinsky convent


Inside Marfo-Mariinsky convent


Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, Moscow


GARF – State Archive of Russian Federation

GARF episode of the IN THE STEPS OF THE ROMANOVS July 2018 trip:




What exactly is “Giant Steps” the game that is so often mentioned in the Romanov diaries and letters?  A number of swings with harnesses are secured to a pole by long ropes, and everyone swings around, taking giant strides.


Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia playing on Giant Steps


Anastasia to Nicholas II:  “31 May, 1916. Tsarskoe Selo… These days Maria and I swing on giant steps a lot. We are almost never nauseous, [although] we fell a bunch of times already, but so far have not hurt ourselves…”


Tatiana, Anastasia and Nicholas II on Giant Steps


Giant Steps swing


Nicholas II to Maria:  “Imperial Headquarters, 13 June, 1916… Alexei, Nagorny and Muravnukin are on the giant steps or we play a sort of hide-and-seek…”&nbsp

Alexei on the Giant Steps at Stavka

The Romanov family even built  a make-shift Giant Steps swing for Alexei in the backyard of Governor’s mansion in Tobolsk, obviously it was one of their favourite activities.

Alexei swinging on the Giants Steps in the backyard of the Governor’s mansion in Tobolsk
Apparently, “Giant Steps” is still relatively popular in modern Russia:






Viktor Prolubschikov of Pokrovskoe, who claims to be Grigori Rasputin’s illegitimate grandson and Laurance Solofioff of France, a recognised great-granddaughter of Rasputin.


In Grigori Rasputin‘s native village of Pokrovskoe, in Tyumen region, lives a scruffy looking man  with long white hair and beard, who practices the old Siberian tradition of healing by laying on of hands. His hometown and skills are not the only things Viktor Prolubschikov  claims to have in common with the infamous starets, who was once referred to as “Our Friend” by the last  Tsar of Russia,  Nicholas II and Tsaritsa Alexandra Feodorovna.  Rasputin, he claims, is none other than his grandfather, by a woman who once worked as the former’s housekeeper, possibly Akilina Loptinskaya.

It is known that Rasputin was not a model husband to Praskovia Dubrovina, his legal spouse, and was not beyond various dalliances on the side, any of which may have resulted in illegitimate offspring. Hence this claim is not completely unreasonable. Nevertheless, the final word belongs to science.

Which is why the popular Russian talk show, “Let Them Talk” decided to do just that. The show’s producers organised an in-person meeting between Laurance Solofioff, Rasputin’s acknowledged great-granddaughter through his daughter Matriona (Maria), and her alleged half-uncle, in their studio.

Above: Lauraance Solofioff, Rasputin’s great-granddaughter, traveled to Moscow from France to meet her alleged half uncle.

DNA samples were obtained from the two alleged relatives in advance, and the result was to be announced on the show.

But of course the result was not going to announced until the end of the show, so meanwhile, each participant is asked about their backgrounda.

Laurance shares her family tree and history.  Her grandmother Matriona was one of Rasputin’s two daughters, who settled in France after the revolution, and had two daughters of her own: Tatiana and Maria.  Laurance is one of Tatiana’s three children.

Laurance even demonstrated her gold locket with the image of a double headed eagle – the symbol of imperial Russia.

Viktor told stories of his life in Pokrovskoe and of Raspintin-esque healing abilities – he even demonstrated how he uses his hands to perform these rituals.

Later in the show, another acknowledged Rasputin descendant came into the studio.  Her name is Valerie Eo-Theron, and she is a great-great-granddaughter of Rasputin, through her father, who is Laurance’s brother.

Valerie Eo-Theron,  great-great-granddaughter of Grigori Rasputin
Theron’s great-granddaughter is Matriona Rasputina, daughter of the infamous starets

The DNA result was finally announced, but we still do not have our answer because it was…  inclusive. It showed a 22% chance that Solofioff and Prolubschikov are related, and may share a common ancestor. According to the DNA expert, this result does not prove or refute the relation, and needs additional,, more thorough investigation. So stay tuned!

Grigori Rasputin – world famous starets and friend of Russia’s last Tsar






Rostov Veliky (The Great)
From the 1913 diary of Nicholas II:

22 May. Wednesday. All night we stood [in a train] at a small station Kozmodemyansk. At 10 o’cl arrived in Rostov. Alix was very tired and besides that she came down with angina, hence she was lying down all day. After the welcome drove in an automobile with the children to the ancient city of Rostov-Veliky. Visited Uspensky cathedral, heard the famous ringing of bells, walked to the White chambers and the princely towers through the Kremlin walls, looking at the inner churches on the way.

Hear the bells of Uspensky Cathedral below – the same bells Nicholas and his children would have heard that day!

The White Chamber as it looks in July of 2018.
The White Chamber in Rostov Kremlin, as seen by the Romanov family in 1913
White Chamber in July of 2018