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On this day: Russia in a click

Anna Vyrubova (L) Empress Alexandra (R) Anna Vyrubova (L) Empress Alexandra (R)

15 January

On January 15, 1915 Anna Vyrubova, the lady-in-waiting and closest friend of Empress Alexandra, was caught in a serious train accident and was literally brought back to life by Grigory Rasputin, known as the Holy Devil of the Russian imperial court, who was rumored to have been involved with Vyrubova. Recovering from the accident, Vyrubova became Rasputin’s most determined advocate and a mediator between him and the Romanovs.

On January 15, 1915 Vyrubova headed out from the Tsarskoye Selo, the grand royal residence, to the capital. Within six-mile of St. Petersburg, the engine suddenly stopped, trucks behind her crashed into her car, causing her car to turn over. Before she lost consciousness, Vyrubova heard her bones crack, locked between the two pieces of metal; her waist was twisted round, almost dismembering her, and she was bleeding to death. Vyrubova almost choked on the blood coming out of her mouth. The last falling iron rod literally nailed Vyrubova to the ground.

As she came back to her senses after fainting, Vyrubova was transported to the warm forester’s hut, to keep her away from the chill – the temperatures that day had fallen as low as -4 F (-20 C). The doctor, who arrived four hours later, quickly examining Vyrubova’s, claimed that “She is dying. Don’t bother her.” Another doctor was also positive about her impending death, and didn’t even do anything to relieve her pain, so, Vyrubova, still alive, had nothing to do, but cry and pray.

Once Vyrubova was delivered to the Tsarskoye Selo, Empress Alexandra, who had arrived to the site shortly after the accident, stayed by her beloved friend’s side, patting and consoling her. Vyrubova, now quite sure she’d pass away any minute, asked for the last confession. All the people who witnessed her turmoil, did nothing but wait – throughout the night, Vyrubova’s injuries were not even bandaged. Constantly losing consciousness, Vyrubova called out for Rasputin, the Romanovs’ renowned healer and magician.

Upon his arrival, Rasputin rushed into the room, and, without greeting anyone, including the royal couple, took Vyrubova by hand. His face dimmed, and eyes, usually of light green, suddenly turned white. Vyrubova moaned and slightly moved on the bed, as Rasputin straightened up quickly and declared, “She’ll be well!” He flinched, but when Vyrubova’s father rushed up to give him a hand, Rasputin pushed him away and moved to the other room stumbling. On his way out, he confessed he started feeling weakness and tingling, and was soaking wet with sweat.

Anna Vyrubova survived the accident, generally believed to have been healed by Rasputin’s supernatural abilities. Not surprisingly, Vyrubova was more than grateful to the man who had saved her life. For the rest of her life she treated him as saint and guardian angel, fervently opposing all Rasputin’s enemies and cutting off all who slandered him.

When discussing Vyrubova’s relationship with Rasputin, her admiration of him was most of the time reprimanded, if not despised: she was often presented as passive and completely subdued by Rasputin, as Vladimir Purishkevich, the political figure of the time, recalled, “Vyrubova would give Rasputin a pickle, he would bite off it and then return to her, and she would finish the pickle with the air of piety and joy.”

Vyrubova’s figure is not as popular as Rasputin, though she was as big a part of the royal family as he was. Vyrubova was arrested several times for “bluffing her way” into the royal family, and she deeply regretted that her pure intentions and true love for the Empress had been questioned and she had to be surrounded by such slander. Very religious all her life, Vyrubova secretly left Russia in the late 1920s and spent the rest of her life as a nun in Finland where she died in 1964 at the age of 80.