PHOTO: Anna (right) with her mother and son Ivan in 1916
NOTE: the publication of this article has been met with both great interest and some skepticism. As Anna “Anyuta” Vasilievna Kuzminykh (1890-1954), did not leave any paper trail, which documented her brief period in the Ipatiev House, there is much to her story which allows for speculation, therefore, her story – as told through her niece and historian many years later, should be taken with a cautionary view – PG
Thanks to the research of a Russian historian, we now have a better understanding of the fate of Anna Vasilievna Kuzminykh (1890-1954), one of the lesser known servants in the Ipatiev House, during the summer of 1918.
According to the Kambarka (Udmurt Republic in Russia) historian and archivist Razif Mirzayanov, shortly before the murder of the Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg, the Tsar ordered Anna Kuzminykh, to leave the Ipatiev House, and thereby saved her life.
“I learned about the fate of Anna Kuzminykh in 1999, from her niece Zoya Grigoryevna Zhizhina” – says Mirzayanov. Anna herself was no longer alive by that time – she had died in 1954. The historian added, that Anna had not told anyone about her brief period as a servant in the Ipatiev House, during the summer of 1918, except for her niece Zoya Grigoryevna.
Anna was born on 9th February 1890, in the village of Kambarsky Zavod (now Kambarka), into the family of a local tailor Vasily Michkov. She married Yegor Kuzminykh, when the First World War broke out, who was ordered to the Front in 1914. Following the February 1917 Revolution, Anna left Kambarka the following year to work in Ekaterinburg, leaving behind her young son Ivan and mother. By some miracle, Anna was able to get a job at the Ipatiev House, the mansion requisitioned by the Bolsheviks and renamed the “House of Special Purpose”, where Emperor Nicholas II and his family were held under house arrest from April to July 1918. Anna was entrusted with the care of two cows, which provided milk for the prisoners.
PHOTO: in 2017, Razif Mirzayanov, Chairman of the Society of Historians and Archivists of the Kambarsky District, was awarded a medal in honour for his research on the Romanov’s
THE TSAR CALLED HER ANYUTA
One day, after having milked one of the cows, Anna went up to the house with a full bucket of milk, only to be rebuffed by the Empress herself: “Anna, once again, you milked both cows in one bucket. The milk will turn sour!” “What are you talking about,” Anna replied, “this bucket is from one cow that gives so much milk.” After straining the milk, Anna returned to the barn to milk the second cow. Then, pouring flour into a bucket for a mash to feed the cattle, she heard someone’s footsteps enter the barn.
Looking around, Anna saw Nicholas II and Alexandra Feodorovna standing before her. “Now I understand why cows are milked in buckets,” said Nicholas. One of the cows reached out to him with her muzzle, which was covered in flour, the Tsar gently stroked the animal. “Don’t you feel sorry, Anyuta, for using so much flour?” he asked the servant. “Yes, there is a lot of it, but it will be enough for a long time,” she replied briskly. From then on, the Tsar called her Anyuta.
Since there were few servants, Anna also had to work in the kitchen, helping the cook to prepare and serve meals, says Mirzayanov. She later recalled that the guards present in the dining room during lunch, often helped themselves to the food prepared for the Imperial Family.
PHOTO: the house in Kambarka, where Anna lived with her family. Her descendants still live here
THANKED FOR HER WORK AND ORDERED TO LEAVE
“On a hot summer day in early July 1918, a search was conducted in the Ipatiev House,” Razif Mirzayanov continues his story. A band of Chekist thugs examined the personal belongings of the Imperial Family, even roughly leafing through books and rummaging through linens. The captives and their faithful servants stood in silence while they carried out their work. Anna stood frightened in the doorway of the room where the Tsar knelt before a kiot with icons and prayed. He never turned around or stood up while the search was going on. One of the Chekists, while turning out suitcases, cursed and swore filthy obscenities at the Tsar. In one of the suitcases, the Chekist found a long black lace shawl. Turning it in his dirty hands, he angrily threw it to Anna and shouted: “Take it, it will come in handy for you, while you are still young!”
This black lace shawl was kept for a long time in the Kuzmin family: Anna’s daughter-in-law sometimes wore it to church, and many parishioners noted it’s beautiful workmanship, none even suspecting that it had once belonged to one of the female members of the Imperial Family.
After the search, the guards in the house were completely changed – and this detail of Anna’s story is also confirmed by historians. On 4th July 1918, Yakov Yurovsky was appointed commandant of the “House of Special Purpose”, instead of Alexander Dmitrievich Avdeev (1887-1947), the first commandant of the Ipatiev House, who was considered unreliable.
Shortly thereafter, the Tsar approached Anyuta, he thanked her for her work, and told her that his children had fallen in love with her, – says Razif Mirzayanov. He then told her to leave the Ipatiev House and never come back. He ave Anna a souvenir photo on a passe-partout, which depicted the Imperial Family, taken in 1913. With tears in her eyes, Anyuta said goodbye to the Imperial Family and left, concealing the photo and black lace shawl.
A few days later, on the night of 16/17 July, the Bolsheviks woke the Imperial Family in the middle of the night and ordered them to dress and go downstairs. The Emperor and Empress with their five children, along with four retainers: the doctor, the cook, the valet and the maid went to the basement of the house. At the request of Alexandra Fedorovna, two chairs were brought for her and her ailing son, the rest stood along the wall. Then Yurovsky brought in a firing squad, read out the verdict and gave the command to shoot every one – there were no survivors of the regicide.
PHOTO: the Emperor presented Anna with a copy of this famous photograph – taken in 1913 – as a keepsake. The Russian caption “Царь назыбал ее Анютой” translated reads “The Tsar called her Anyuta”.
COOKED “ROYAL DISHES”
There is no evidence to suggest that the Imperial Family could have guessed their captors plans to murder them in such a violent manner that fateful night, however, Anna Vasilyevna was sure that it was thanks to Nicholas II’s request that she leave the Ipatiev House that saved her life.
“After leaving the Ipatiev House, and her conversation with the Emperor, Anna went home. Her husband who had been a German prisoner of war, returned home to Russia, some 11 years after leaving for the front. Soon they had another son, Sergei, who then participated in the Great Patriotic War,” – says Razif Mirzayanov.
Subsequently, Anna Vasilievna often recalled her life in Ekaterinburg, but only her niece Zoya knew the details of her story. She didn’t keep any records, as it it was too dangerous during the Bolshevik and Soviet years. Zoya, however, remembered how Anna Vasilievna came to visit her with unusual dishes – for example, fried pike stuffed with grains and onions. “Such a dish was prepared for the Tsar’s table,” she said. The photograph of the Imperial Family – gifted by the Emperor – Anna carefully kept in a chest, but after her death, the picture was placed on a chest of drawers, and in 1970 it disappeared.
© Paul Gilbert. 9 October 2022