Shine Shine My Star

Chapter 1

<p>Late June 1918, Yekaterinburg, Russia</p>

<p>It was warm and sunny outside in the Urals which bisect Europe and Asia, but inside the Ipatiev house on the outskirts of the city it was humid and stuffy with the odor of fried food and boiled cabbage hanging in the air. The only sounds were the heavy boots of soldiers on the wooden floors and the tick of a clock on a wooden table in the parlor as the five Romanov siblings sat on the worn, horse-hair stuffed couch and read books. Their mother Alexandra sat in her wheelchair while her loyal maid Anna expertly fixed her hair, the once-bright red-gold now totally gray around her thin, pallid face.</p>

<p>Nicholas sat in a chair opposite and smoked a cigarette while slowly making his way through the Bible, the baby blue trousers and coarse white peasant shirt loose on his thin frame. It was hard to believe the thin little man was the former czar of Russia, his stooped shoulders, gray thinning hair and dull blue eyes that of someone who had given up and accepted his lot. He looked at his wife and sighed as Alexandra resembled a much older woman, instead of the regal, beautiful empress she had been only a year earlier. Their children had grown thin and pale in captivity as well, the girls having lost their hair due to the measles a year before and their hair now barely to their shoulders. Alexei sat in between Olga and Tatiana and his arms and legs were like skinny white sticks, his light brown hair in need of a cut and his blue eyes sad and ringed by dark circles.</p>

<p>There was a knock on the door and one of the soldiers answered it. Three young men in Bolshevik uniforms stood on the doorstep as the soldier immediately came to attention. "Where is Comrade Yurovsky, we have orders from Comrade Lenin", said the tall blond officer.</p>

<p>"Right this way, comrades", said the soldier as he led them inside. The three officers barely glanced their way as they were escorted to the Commander's office. Yurovsky sat behind his plain oak desk in the tiny office, the ugly little man in his uniform with a pair of glasses perched on his big nose and his swarthy face dominated by bushy black brows and beady dark eyes. "What has Comrade Lenin said?", he asked.</p>

<p>The blond officer handed him an official document with Lenin's seal as Yurovsky read it. "I see. Popov, tell the brats to pack their things and follow the officers. And make sure they don't take any valuables", he ordered.</p>

<p>The three officers and soldiers entered the parlor and the family looked at them with fear. "You Romanov brats, pack your things and follow the officers", ordered the soldier.</p>

<p>"Where are you taking our children?", demanded Nicholas.</p>

<p>"None of your business, citizen Romanov. You will follow Comrade Lenin's orders", he barked.</p>

<p>Alexandra started to cry and tried to reach for her children but the soldier forced them upstairs. "Woman, where is your dignity? We are following orders", sneered the tall, blue-eyed officer.</p>

<p>"May God have mercy on you", she said piously as she reached for the plain wooden rosary under her blouse.</p>

<p>"He has forsaken you, you German whore. And we can kill you right now if you get in the way", growled the brown-eyes officer.</p>

<p>The soldier stood in the doorway of their room and watched as they packed their things. "Girl, why do you need those?", he demanded as Tatiana packed her medical textbooks and a photo album.</p>

<p>"In case I need to treat my siblings and the pictures have sentimental value", she replied with a proud look.</p>

<p>"Wipe that look off your face, you Romanov whore. You are carrying them, no use wasting men to carry a slut princess' things", he sneered.</p>

<p>Tatiana's face was flushed with embarrassment as the siblings finished packing their things and the soldier led them downstairs. The officers waited impatiently as they embraced their parents to bid them goodbye. Both Nicholas and Alexandra appeared to age even more in those few moments as they watched their children being hustled out the door towards an army truck outside and forced to sit in the back under a tarp.</p>

<p>The girls made sure their skirts were tucked underneath them and Alexei was comfortable as the truck's engine rumbled to life and pulled away from the house. Dirt from the road filtered into the back from the narrow opening between the floor of the truck and the tarp as they tried to keep the dirt away from their eyes and mouths. The stink of diesel and the dust from the road filled the hot stuffy air inside the truck and it made it difficult for them to breath as they coughed and gasped.</p>

<p>It seemed an eternity until the truck stopped and the tarp was lifted as the girls slid off the truck with rubbery legs before they helped Alexei. "Get on board", ordered the blond officer as he pointed to an old wooden boxcar on a nearby railroad track.</p>

<p>The siblings looked dubiously at the boxcar attached to a small locomotive, the boxcar made of worn wood with a red hammer and sickle painted on the side. "Go on", snarled the brown-eyed officer as he reached for his pistol.</p>

<p>They hastily scrambled aboard the boxcar followed by the officers as the train lurched forward under them. Inside there was two straw mattress topped by old horse blankets and two pillows, the one window high up near the ceiling and all they could see was a sliver of sky and the tops of trees as the train hurried past as the motion of the train made the wooden planks vibrated beneath them.</p>

<p>"Are we going to Moscow?", asked Alexei.</p>

<p>"Shut up, Romanov spawn. We get there when we get there", snarled the blond officer as the boy cowered in fear.</p>

<p>Olga glared at the officer and stood up to face him. "He is only a boy and he asked a legitimate question", she said coldly.</p>

<p>The officer gave a dry chuckle and reached into his trouser pocket for a box of cigarettes and a matchbook. He lit a cigarette and took a drag before he deigned to answer her, the stink of strong tobacco enough to make most people gag. "You are prisoners of the Soviet, citizeness Romanov. Unless you want to be thrown off and eaten by wolves, shut up", he growled.</p>

<p>The train made it's way through the countryside as the sky outside darkened later in the evening and the outside turned black. The air inside grew cold and the siblings huddled on one of the mattresses with the blanket over them for warmth while the officers played cards and smoked, an occasional curse word coming from them as the girls winced. "You brats are too soft, all that German and English blood has made you soft", sneered the blue-eyed officer.</p>

<p>"The Germans and English are fierce people, unlike you Bolshevik scum", said Anastasia defiantly.</p>

<p>"Shut up, you Romanov slut. We know plenty of brothels which would pay good money for a princess pussy", he snarled as Anastasia cried.</p>

<p>"Nastya, don't provoke them", chided Tatiana.</p>

<p>"They are godless Bolsheviks, they don't have an ounce of decency in them so don't provoke them", said Maria as she gave the officers a look.</p>

<p>"I like a woman with fire, I thought all royal bitches were icy. If you don't shut up, I'll sell you into a Turkish brothel where those filthy bastards willl pay a lot of money", threatened the blue-eyed officer as the siblings clung together in fear.</p>