Chapter 1: The Little Grand Duchesses
"Girls! Come here!" frantically called Miss Eager, darting about the Alexander Palace
I heard her voice, but was much too busy to answer her. It was 1901, and I was five.
Listen now as my early childhood memories unfold.
My little sisters, Tatiana and Maria, were distracting me by shouting and running about the playroom. Tatiana, who was almost four at the time, was frolicking and singing, "I'm the princess! You are my servants!" Little Maria toddled around, babbling as babies do.
I sat quietly in my favorite chair, a wooden rocking chair with a cozy red cushion. My young mind was caught up in the pages of a picture book, when suddenly, the doors burst open.
There stood Miss Eager, bearing a smile so large that even my little sisters stopped what they were doing and looked up at our nurse.
"Grand Duchesses," she announced. "I have great news. Your presence is requested in your mother's bedroom immediately. Come, let's go."
Our nurse carried Maria in her strong arms, while Tatya and I followed in her footsteps, out of the nursery and into the hall.
Tatiana turned her head to me. "I think it's good news," she said. "Like a party!"
"Or maybe Mama bought us new toys!" I exclaimed exuberantly.
Miss Eager led us down the palace corridors to Mama's bedroom. We girls gazed at our mother in the bed and Papa standing to the side, looking disappointed yet bearing a smile. Mama looked beautiful as she held... a baby!
"What's THAT? asked Tatiana, pointing to the baby in Mama's arms.
Mama laughed and smiled, two things I rarely saw her do.
"Olga, Tatiana, Mashka, meet Baby Anastasia, your new sister!"
Wow! It couldn't be true! Another sister!
Mama lifted Anastasia up so that we could all see her. Anastasia had soft brown hair and large grey eyes, unlike my own blonde hair and sapphire eyes.
We were all full of wonder, as though we had never seen a baby before. Maria and Tatiana were so happy and gleeful, but I was the only one to notice Papa in the corner.
"Papa, what's wrong, Papa?" I asked, walking over to him. He hoisted me up off the ground into the air, kissing my head and holding me close.
"Nothing, dear Olgasha-"
" I know something's wrong," I remarked.
He sighed. I hated to see my darling Papa sad. "I want a son. I love you girls, you are my everything, but I want an heir. A boy."
I looked deeply into his eyes. "It will be good, Papa. You will have a son someday."
He put me back on the floor gently, and I ran over toward Tatiana. Both of us smiled at each other.
"A sister! A sister!" we cheered, hugging each other tightly.
"She's cute!" noted Tatiana.
"So small," I replied.
"Baby!" shouted Maria.
A few minutes later, Miss Eager led us back to the playroom. I was so excited and thoughtful that I couldn't concentrate on my storybook.
Even then, I was Olga the introvert. Olga the contemplative.
From then on, I spent all my time in thought. I wondered and wondered about Anastasia and what a great sister she'd be.
That day, my life went from good to great. Our family was filled with so much joy and happiness. We were so happy. Everything was perfect.
This chapter of my life may seem insignificant, but it is perhaps one of the best things that ever occurred to me. It opened up a new period in my life; it began what I would remember as the best days I'd ever experience.