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I'm very glad to see The Last Grand Duchess in print once again. (It was originally published in the mid 1960s). This is the memoir/biography of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, youngest daughter of Tsar Alexander III and sister of Tsar Nicholas II. She lived through and witnessed a tumultuous era in Russian and world history, having been born in 1882 and living until 1960. She was born to enormous wealth in a palace and died in poverty in an apartment above a barber shop. In her final years in Canada Grand Duchess Olga became friends with the author, Ian Vorres, and agreed to allow him to publish her reminiscences. Vorres did an excellent job of preserving the Grand Duchess's voice and opinions while grounding them in as much historical research as possible.
Olga Alexandrovna was not a brilliant or well educated woman. Her voice is that of a woman caught on the wrong side of history who suffered much tragic loss. She is understandably sympathetic to Imperial Russia and blind to its shortcomings. Nevertheless, the reader will find little bitterness in her story.
Olga was an individualist who enjoyed painting and a quiet country life. She endured nearly twenty years of a mockery of a marriage her mother forced her into, then found happiness as the wife of an ordinary Russian officer. Her second marriage caused her to become something of an outcast among her fellow Romanovs in exile, but she willingly gave up their society for the life of a simple country wife and mother, first in Denmark and later in Canada.
The most valuable parts of the book today are Olga's memories of her brother Nicholas, his wife Alexandra, and their five children. Her descriptions of their loving home and family and of her brother and sister-in-law's many kindnesses are a welcome contrast to the many books which depict the last Tsar and Empress as cold and heartless. Even more important are Olga's memories of Rasputin. She must have been among the last people to clearly remember him, and her description of him is vivid and disturbing.
This is an excellent book for any student of Russia and the Romanovs.
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on January 15, 2002
This is one of the finest books I have read from the Romanov treasury. I have a first edition copy that took me almost a year to find and it was worth the wait. Because of Mr. Vorres research and interview skills combined the the story telling of the Grand Duchess, I was unable to put it down. In fact, I am reading it for a second time. There is no better story than that from the one who lives it. Olga was a cut above the others in the Imperial family in that she was devoted to common folk. She is revered and respected for thinking outside the box. A woman ahead of her time and one that refused to abide by the norm. I wish I could have met her in the simplest of circumstances. I recommend this book to those who a truly interested in Romanov history. She does a great justice in defense of her family.
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on December 9, 2001
There are many books written about the Romanovs. Some of these are written by people who knew them as friends or as servants. There are very few books written about the Romanovs with permission of the Romanovs. Ian Vorres befriended the youngest sister of Tsar Nicholas II and was able to, with her permission, write her life story. Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna was fortunate along with her Mother, Empress Maria Fedorovna and her older sister Grand Duchess Xiena Alexandrovna to escape Russia after the revolution. Only a family member could know what it was like to be a Romanov and the joys and tragedies the family experienced. The Grand Duchess gave Vorres detailed information about her early years growing up at Gatchina Palace with her parents, Tsar Alexander III and Tsarina Maria and other private family information. She also has provided information about the family attitude to the fake Anastasia, Anna Anderson. It is truly incomprehensible for an Aunt to not to be able to recognise her neice. Grand Duchess Olga knew that Anderson was not her neice and was indeed a pathetic fraud. It is truly fascinating book which reveals how the mighty Romanovs fell and how few survived. The Grand Duchess explained to Vorres the life she lived after the revolution until her death in 1960. Vorres is basically the scribe of Grand Duchess Olga. I found it very interesting and a rare gem. I would say it is a must for anybody interested in the Romanov dynasty.
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on May 27, 2003
I normally race through books like a speed demon, but this was so enjoyable I read it s-l-o-w-l-y - and several times.
Olga was a woman raised in the lap of luxury in the Russian court but was able and willing to work at hard physical labor on farms in Denmark and Canada for decades without apparent bitterness at what many might consider her "fall" from high status.
At the very end of her life with no income and relatives around her, she accepted an invitation from Russian emigrees and spent her last months on a second-floor apartment in a working-class neighborhood in Toronto.
I have been going through some drastic changes in my life - rather unwillingly - and have spent a lot of time thinking about Olga and how she accepted things that happened.
Was she perfect? No, but I wonder if I could have lived her life with so much courage and acceptance.
I HIGHLY recommend this book.
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on December 9, 2004
Honestly, I had trouble putting that book down at night, but we all have to get some sleep ;o) Reading that book is like reliving the splendor of Imperial Russia , and at the same time, going through the lives of those who left Russia during the Revolution in unimaginable conditions... in fact, we could say the worst conditions possible. As I gathered, Olga's life was no piece of cake to say the very least. What is also fascinating about that book is Olga's demystification of Raspoutine and Mrs. Anderson. She sets the record straight about those two, once and for all. I won't tell you about the rest of her life... you have to read the book, and believe me, it it a fascinating one!
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on May 12, 2002
This is a wonderful book, written in direct cooperation with the Grand Duchess herself. Born into the purple as the daughter of a Tsar, Olga Alexandrovna ended her life as she had always sought to live it - simply, and with family. Her insights, and the author's, are a wonderful portal to an era of an almost-mythical past. Though this new edition has many errors, I think it's due to sloppy editing of computer scans. I hope that next time around, these errors will be fixed.
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on November 4, 2003
Grand Duchess Olga Alexandra was nothing short of a amazing woman and this book is great in showing that. From her childhood days spent in her father's study to the Revolution to her days in Canada, this books gives vivid details of everything. Ian Vorres put this memoir together beautifully. A must have for all Romanov fans!
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on September 24, 2006
I have been looking for this book forever and because it was out of print I had to go to the library every time I wanted to read it, which was often. The only copy I could find was $200. This book really tells the truth to what it was like as a person in the Imperial family. This puts an end to a lot of rumors flying around about Rasputin and Anna Anderson. This was told from a trusted person, someone that Olga trusted to put the truth about her family out there. It is beautiful and compassionate and a fabulous historical read.
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on August 14, 2013
Grand Duchess Olga was the last child of Tsar Alexander III and his wife Marie Federovna (nee Dagmar, a Danish princess). Her siblings were her brother the last Tsar, Nicholas II; her brother Michael (who was assassinated in Perm in 1918); her sister Xenia (pronounced Zhenya) who escaped in 1918 and wound up in England where she died. Olga had another brother, George, who died in his early 20's. After Olga and her husband and sons escaped Russia, they lived in Denmark and eventually were settled in Canada. This is where the author connected with her and eventually convinced her to participate in this book. The author's writing style is quite good and flows beautifully. He intersperses historical and biographical data within her commentary so this book reads in chronological order. The author also asks provocative questions of Olga, when necessary, so you see that he was not so much in awe of her. This is good because one gets more of a balanced bio. Her memory served her well and the book is a very interesting read. Olga offers commentary on her life, living conditions both before and after the downfall of the autocracy, on people, and more. She offers insight into the last Empress, Alexandra (her brother's wife) and also very interesting comments on Rasputin. Now that the some of the archives have been opened in the past 10-20 years, we now know more about how Alexandra so influenced her husband that she, essentially, was the person responsible for the downfall of the Romanovs. Also, we now know how much Rasputin had influenced Alexandra. All of this was not known at the time that Olga provided her commentary on these 2 individuals - she saw them one way, when in fact, they were totally the opposite. Lastly, after reading this, I honestly don't think that Olga was dealing-with-a-full-deck. She did have a nervous breakdown when in England before the first World War and I get the sense that she never fully recovered. She did some really stupid things re: her possessions and money which ultimately led her to live, and die, in real poverty. And I wondered where her 2 sons where towards the end of her life. Could they not take her in and have her at least die with some dignity? Doesn't say much for her mother skills. Olga wound up living her last days upstairs from a grocery store in a poor section of Toronto by the good graces of a Russian emigre and his wife. In any event, if you are a fan of reading about the Romanovs or Russian history, this book is one for your library.
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on May 27, 2003
I normally race through books like a speed demon, but this was so enjoyable I read it s-l-o-w-l-y - and several times.
Olga was a woman raised in the lap of luxury in the Russian court but was able and willing to work at hard physical labor on farms in Denmark and Canada for decades without apparent bitterness at what many might consider her "fall" from high status.
At the very end of her life with no income and relatives around her, she accepted an invitation from Russian emigrees and spent her last months on a second-floor apartment in a working-class neighborhood in Toronto.
I have been going through some drastic changes in my life - rather unwillingly - and have spent a lot of time thinking about Olga and how she accepted things that happened.
Was she perfect? No, but I wonder if I could have lived her life with so much courage and acceptance.
I HIGHLY recommend this book.
11 comment|5 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse