Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia

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Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna
Image:Olga alexandrovna.jpg
Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Imperial Russia
Incumbency 1882-1948
Predecessor Olga Konstantinovna of Russia
Spouse Colonel Nikolai Alexandrovich Kulikovsky
Issue Tikhon Nikolaevich Kulikovsky-Romanoff
Juri Nikolaevich Kulikovsky-Romanoff
Royal House Holstein-Gottorp-Romanov
Father Alexander III
Mother Maria Fyodorovna
Born July 13 1882
Died November 24 1960
Image:Romanov Flag.svg
The flag of the House of Romanov

Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia (Russian: О́льга Алекса́ндровна Рома́нова; Olga Alexandrovna Romanova) (June 13, 1882November 24, 1960) was the last Grand Duchess of Imperial Russia under the reign of her elder brother, Czar Nicholas II. Her father was the 19th century reformer of Imperial Russia, Czar Alexander III of Russia; her mother the daughter of Christian IX of Denmark, Maria Fyodorovna, formerly Princess Dagmar of Denmark. Raised at the Gatchina Palace of St. Petersburg, Russia, the young Grand Duchess was closest to her brother, "Misha", Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia.

The Grand Duchess was an accomplished painter and was responsible for the creation of over 2,000 works of art. She was the last direct, remaining heir to the House of Romanov until her death in late 1960. During her incumbency, she was styled Her Imperial Highness (HIH), Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna Romanov of Imperial Russia.

After the downfall of the Romanovs, she, her mother, and other relatives, were imprisoned in the Republic of Crimea. During a political upheaval within the ad interim, revolutionary government, the remaining family escaped to Copenhagen, Denmark. Upon the death of her mother in 1928, the Grand Duchess and her husband, Nikolai Kulikovsky, moved to a farm near Copenhagen. During spring of 1948, the family evacuated to rural Cooksville, Ontario near Toronto, Canada, due to threats from the regime of Josef Stalin in Russia. While she lived in Canada, due to security concerns and for the sake of privacy, she was styled Olga Alexandrovna Kulikovsky. However, her Canadian descendants have revived the Romanov surname and are now addressed as Kulikovsky-Romanoff.


[edit] Early life

Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Imperial Russia at right, Czar Nicholas II (center), and their mother (at left).

Born on June 13, 1882 in Peterhof, Russia, she was the youngest daughter of Tsar Alexander III and his spouse, Empress Maria Fyodorovna, formerly Princess Dagmar of Denmark. Because she was born during her father's reign, she is described as a porphyrogenite child, a Greek term used in the Russian Orthodox Church. The Grand Duchess was raised at Gatchina Palace, within the environs of the Imperial Palaces of St. Petersburg, Russia. The Gatchina was her childhood home and throughout her life the Grand Duchess would reflect on those memories as the "best" time of her life.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> However, Olga Alexandrovna and her siblings were not accustomed to a lavish early lifestyle, as modest, Spartan living and the strictest of discipline was required by their tutors, governesses, and parents. The Gatchina Palace Organization's reference best described the living conditions of the young Romanovs:

The magnificence of the imperial suites did not, however, trickle down to the children's quarters. The Tsar's children slept on a firm bed with a hard, flat pillow and a very narrow mattress. A modest rug covered the floor. Straight-backed wicker chairs, the most ordinary of tables and bookshelves, needlework and toys, made up the only furnishings. A single precious object sat in the beautiful corner (icon corner): a silver-framed icon of the Blessed Mother of God, studded with pearls and other precious stones.[1]
Breakfast in the Children's Room (1898), drawing by the Grand Duchess at the age of 16
Many of these implementations were commenced by the childrens' fraternal grandmother, Marie of Hesse and by Rhine, who also introduced English customs to the Russian court, including the obligatory cold water bath in the morning, oatmeal porridge for breakfast, and an essential fresh air constitutional. The education system by which the Grand Duchess and her siblings were taught was of the highest standards. Royal tutors taught in depth the core subjects, such as the Russian language, Literature, Mathematics, History, and Languages. Although her siblings were taught in the same room, the "Children's" room (above right), her older brother, Nicholas, was being taught a different level of skills. The customary and traditional skills Nicholas was required to learn as Heir Apparent to the Throne were more urgent and necessary to learn than the lessons the other siblings were taught. Physical activities such as Equestrianism were also taught at an early age, eventually making the young Romanovs riding experts.
The Grand Duchess in her early years at the Gatchina Palace in St. Petersburg, Russia
The young Grand Duchess vacationed at Olgino, her estate in the province of Voronezh, southwestern Russia. There she practiced and exemplified her faith, the Russian Orthodox Church, by creating religious icons and blessing the village buildings and people. There she painted and drew many of her original works, later to be sold to neighbors and friends in rural Ontario, Canada. Equestrianism, hiking, and swimming were also main activities at Olgino. The Grand Duchess developed a close relationship with the people of the village, adjacent to her estate, but the relationship withered during the events leading to the Russian Revolution.

The Grand Duchess was described as being indifferent to the fine gemstones and expensive jewellery which remains identifiable with the House of Romanov during the reign of both her brother and father. Throughout her early life, the young Romanov amassed a near priceless collection of gems and jewellery, which were soonafter confiscated by the Russian revolutionaries. The fondness between the Grand Duchess and her father were also a defining chapter in the life of the last reigning Romanov, as the two of them along with her brother, Mikhail, held close relationships. Together, the three proved to be camping enthusiasts and would frequently go on hikes within the Gatchina Palace and the area forests.[2] But on November 1, 1894, the Grand Duchess' father, Alexander III of Russia, died at the untimely age of 49. The emotional impact the young Romanov experienced at the age of only 12 was tragic, as the family began to encounter the political ordeal which quickly ensued.

[edit] Painter and philanthropist

Village Church in Autumn (1920), watercolor painting by the Grand Duchess

The Grand Duchess began drawing and painting at a young age, however, it was not until her later teenage years when her artistic abilities began to prosper. She also had a philanthropic side, founding charity programs in the village of Olgino, adjacent to her estate, and improved basic medical and educational options for the local citizenry. She also protected and was the patroness of many charitable organizations and establishments from an early age. She was, for the most part, benefactress to orphanages, hospitals, poorhouses and schools for girls. She gave considerable help to poor, but talented artists, and many destitute Russians sought help from her personally. Her benefaction in rural Olgino sparked many foundations to begin humanitarian support for the poor of the Russian Empire. At Olgino, she subsidized the village school out of her own pocket, established and visited the National Hospital in the village, and continued smaller, but considerable contributions to the most povertous of the regional townships. At the hospital, she learned how to administer medical treatment and proper care of the ill from the local doctor. Through further medical training, the Grand Duchess was able to become a nurse, a capability which would later in life be extremely valuable. The Grand Duchess continued support for the Russian Orthodox Church and the church services held at Olgino. Even at Olgino, she was required to complete her daily educational lessons, which were usually intertwined with drawing or painting.

Apple Blossoms (1935), the Grand Duchess' painting with a consistent medium of flowers and scenery
Even during my geography and arithmetic lessons, I was allowed to sit with a pencil in my hand. I could listen much better when I was drawing corn or wild flowers.[3]
Throughout her life, she created a vast collection of artwork developed in Russia, Denmark, and later Canada, which soon amassed to a collection of over 2,000 pieces. In Russia and Denmark, her preferred art medium, scenery and landscape, continued to be prominently depicted in almost every one of her paintings created in Canada. The Grand Duchess also found her paintings to be a profitable source of income, selling many of her works upon completion in Copenhagen, Denmark. The young Romanov also praised the landscape of her Canadian surroundings, expressing them in a series of letters to her Danish friend, Alexandra Mikhailovna Iskra:
It was a wonderful evening, everything smelled so sweet. In the forests, it smelled just like in Russia with the birch and all kinds of trees in bloom. Then, when we were driving by homes and gardens of some friends, we saw them and got out of the car. What a beautiful garden they have! Lily of the valley, lilac and all kinds of plants scented the air. We walked through the gardens surrounding the house and on the other side we saw a deep ravine all covered with forest. We could see far off into the distance.[4]

[edit] Tsarskoye Selo

The Grand Duchess and her then husband, Duke Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg, in 1901. Their questionable, unconsummated marriage ended in divorce fifteen years later.

At the age of nineteen, on August 9, 1901, the Grand Duchess married into the famed European aristocracy of the House of Oldenburg, marrying Duke Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg. The matrimony between the two royals was unconsummated, but the union continued and Oldenburg, with his newlywed, was thereafter assigned to live in Tsarskoye Selo, an epic complex of palaces south of St. Petersburg, Russia. The Grand Duchess was very agreeable to the relocation, as her good friend and brother, Nicholas, and his spouse, Alexandra, would be living at the Alexander Palace in close proximity to their own residence. As of 1901, the Grand Duchess was appointed as honorary Commander-in-Chief of the 12th Akhtyrsky Hussar Regiment of the Imperial Russian Forces. The Akhtyrsky Hussar, famous for its coalesced victory over Napoleon Bonaparte at the Battle of Kulm in 1813, is the only Russian force with the right to forever wear the distinguished Brown Doloman uniform.

In the year 1903, she was introduced to Colonel Nikolai Alexandrovich Kulikovsky by her beloved brother, Mikhail ("Misha"), during a royal military review at Pavlovsk. Soonafter, an open love affair between the Grand Duchess and the Army Colonel emanated. The same year, at the age of 22, she confronted her arranged spouse and asked for an immediate divorce. Her brother, Czar Nicholas II, believed the relationship with Kulikovsky to be a fleeting romance and agreed to allow Divorce within seven years. However, Oldenberg appointed Kulikovsky as an aide-de-camp and allowed him to abide in the same residence of the Grand Duchess on the prestigious Sergievskaya street of Tsarskoye Selo. For those who knew, the relationship between Kulikovsky and the Grand Duchess was a guarded secret, especially from the Romanov family patriarchs. However, many influential members of the family were informed of the secret relationship, yet did nothing to show disapproval. In living at Tsarskoye Selo, the Grand Duchess also became very close with her neices and nephew, the daughters and son of her venerated brother, the Czar. She especially took a liking to the youngest of Nicholas' daughters, Anastasia, whom she and other family members called "Shvibzik" (imp), a mischievous child.
Neoclassical architecture of Tsarskoye Selo
The connection between the four daughters and the Grand Duchess was prized even to the point of her taking her neices to parties in St. Petersburg. She was deeply trusted by both the Czar and Czarina, as evidenced by the Grand Duchess' forays with her neices to the parties and engagements throughout the palaces of St. Petersburg. The Czar and Empress were considered overly protective parents and trusted few with the care of their children, the future of Russia.

The Akhtyrsky Hussar Regiment, in the summer of 1914, appeared for an Imperial Review by Czar Nicholas II at the Alexander Palace in Tsarskoye Selo. When World War I erupted the same year, Kulikovsky was commissioned to command the regiment at the frontlines in Southwestern Russia. With the Grand Duchess' prior medical knowledge from the village of Olgino, she signed on as a Sister of Charity with her own regiment in Proskurov, Russia. At the same time, internal tensions in Russia began to mount as the revolutionary call grew louder. During the first year of the war, the Grand Duchess came upon heavy Austrian fire. The Sisters of Charity rarely worked so close to the frontlines and consequently the Grand Duchess was awarded the Order of St. George for heroic actions.

[edit] The Fall of the House of Romanov

Photograph of the Russian Imperial Family, 1913. Left to right, seated: Grand Duchess Marie Nicholaevna; Tsaritsa Alexandra Feodorovna; Tsarevitch Alexei Nicholaevitch; Tsar Nicholas II; Grand Duchess Anastasia Nicholaevna Standing: Grand Duchess Olga (named after Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna), and the Grand Duchess Tatiana
In 1916, Czar Nicholas II officially annulled the marriage between Duke Peter Alexandrovich of Oldenburg and the Grand Duchess, allowing her to marry Colonel Nikolai Alexandrovich Kulikovsky on November 14, 1916, in the Church of St. Nicholas in Kiev (present-day capital of the Ukraine). Among those in attendance were Dowager Empress Maria Fyodorovna, her older sister, Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna of Russia, her sister's husband, Grand Duke Alexander "Sandro", the officers of the Akhtyrsky Regiment, and the Sisters of Charity from the hospital in Kiev founded by the Grand Duchess. When Russian revolutionaries began to gather the family of Czar Nicholas II in contained locations, the Dowager Empress, the Grand Duchess Xenia, and the Grand Duchess Olga were also imprisoned, but in a different locale, the Crimea. On February 12, 1917, her first child and son, Tikhon Nikolaevich Kulikovsky was born into the world as a royal prisoner under the Provisional government of Russia. He was named after the local, venerated Saint near the Grand Duchess' estate at Olgino, Tihon of Zadonsk. Due to the communications blackout the entirety of Russia began to experience and because of the material censorship the Grand Duchess was exposed to, little was known of the fate of her brother and family. Nicholas, Alexandra, and their children, were originally held at their official residence, the Alexander Palace, but fearing a counter-revolution, the Provisional government under Alexander Fyodorovich Kerensky relocated the Imperial Family to Tobolsk, Siberia.
Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia (left), Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna (center), and Grand Duchess Tatiana Nikolaevna of Russia (right); at a Russian beach, 1914
While in the Crimea, the Grand Duchess' family had been condemned to death by the Sevastopol and Yalta revolutionary councils. During a mild political upheaval between the two factions, the Central Power of Germany advanced on the Crimea, but upon arrival in November of 1918, the German forces were informed of their nation's loss of the war. Shortly after the brief German occupation of the Crimea, the loyalist White Army temporarily restored the area to an intermediate level of safety, allowing the Grand Duchess and her family to escape. George V of England sent the warship HMS Marlborough to retrieve his aunt, the Dowager Empress Maria Fyodorovna and the Grand Duchesses from the unstable Crimea. An agreement was made between the Dowager Empress and George V to evacuate all Russian citizens who wished to go abroad. The communications blackout the family had experienced at the Crimea was relieved by the English sailors aboard the Marlborough. The Grand Duchess was told of her older brother's confirmed assassination and the assumed deaths of her sister-in-law, neices, and nephew. The fate of her childhood confidant and brother, "Misha", Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia, the one-time unofficial Emperor of Imperial Russia, was also uncertain. It was unknown to the Grand Duchess at the time, but the Grand Duke had been assassinated by the Cheka in Perm Krai, Russia on June 12, 1918, motivated by fears of a Romanov return to power.
Grand Duchess Olga with her husband, Nikolai, and her new-born son, Tihon, at the Crimea, 1917

The Grand Duchess Olga and her husband, Colonel Kulikovsky, refused to leave Russia at that time. The two decided to leave for the Kuban, then still free of Bolsheviks, to the large Cossack village of Novominskaya, where Timofei Yatchik, bodyguard of the Dowager Empress, was from. In a rented farmhouse around the Spring of 1919, their second son, Juri Nikolaevich Kulikovsky (also spelled Guri), was born. Named after one of the Grand Duchess' close friends during World War I, Gury Panayev, a proclaimed battle hero who had fallen in 1914 serving in the Akhtyrsky Regiment. Soon after the birth of her second son, inner circles of the monarchist White Army approached the Grand Duchess with offers to officially coronate her as Empress of Imperial Russia, however, she declined. With the Grand Duchess Olga being the last Heir Apparent to the Imperial Throne in Russia, she immediately became targeted by the expedient Red Army. The family set out on what would be their last journey through Russia; they escaped to Rostov-on-Don, taking refuge in the residence of the Danish Consul, Thomas Nikolaevich Schutte, who informed them of the Dowager Empress' safe arrival in Denmark. After a brief stay with the Danish consul, the family then escaped to the island of Büyükada in the Dardanelles Strait near Istanbul, Turkey. Evacuating next to Belgrade in the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs where she was visited by Regent Alexander Karageorgevich, later to become Alexander I of Yugoslavia. The Regent recommended that the Grand Duchess and her family permanently live on one of the royal estates of the former Austro-Hungarian territory, while the Dowager Empress immediately summoned her daughter to live on her royal estate in Denmark. The Grand Duchess immediately complied and the family relocated once again to Denmark. Sadly, the Dowager Empress, Maria Fyodorovna, died there on October 13, 1928.

[edit] Danish residency and exodus

Knuds-Minde Farm, Denmark, 1930s

The Grand Duchess and her family left the Royal Estate of her late mother, moving to Knuds-Minde Farm, several miles outside of Copenhagen, Denmark. Her farm-estate became the center of the Russian monarchist community in Denmark and the place of visitation for many Russian emigrants. She maintained a high level of correspondence with officers of the Equipage of the Guard, escorts, cuirassiers, members of the Akhtyrsky Regiment, Rifles of the Imperial Family, and the Danish monarchy, her cousins. She began to sell her collection of art from her childhood in Russia, with exhibition auctions in Copenhagen, London, Paris, and Berlin. A portion of the net income the Grand Duchess received from the auctions were donated to various Russian charities.

On April 9, 1940, neutral Denmark was invaded by Nazi Germany and consequently became an occupied country throughout World War II. Food shortages, communication censorship, and transportation closures resulted in a large group of impoverished Danes. Her sons, Tikhon and Juri, served as officers in the Danish Army before Denmark was invaded, and because of this the two Romanovs were imprisoned in a more liberal form of concentration camp.
Royal Danish Guard (1935). The Grand Duchess' painting of a patrolling guard in the Royal Danish Forces
The Romanovs luck changed for the better on May 5, 1945, when Nazi Germany surrendered to The Netherlands, Denmark, and Northern Germany. When the economic condition of Denmark refused to improve, General Pyotr Krasnov wrote to the Grand Duchess, detailing the wretched conditions affecting poor citizens of Russia and Russian immigrants living in Denmark. She immediately corresponded with Prince Axel of Denmark concerning the economic struggle of Russia and he promised to send aid to the poor of Russia, especially the Cossacks.

Stalin-controlled Russia proved to be a dangerous neighbor to the Romanov family as a letter was sent to the Danish government accusing the Grand Duchess and a Danish Catholic bishop of conspiracy against the new Soviet government. When Soviet troops built up near the border of Denmark and the possibility of an assassination-attempt against the Romanovs grew, the Grand Duchess decided to evacuate the family to a farm in rural Campbellville, Ontario, Canada.

[edit] The interview with Anna Anderson

Anna Anderson
In 1920, Anna Anderson, later known as Anastasia Manahan, jumped into the icy waters of the Landwehr Canal in Berlin, Germany in an assumed suicidal attempt. There she claimed that she was Olga's godchild, Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia. While the details remain sketchy and at the very least controversial, the 20-year old asserted she was in Berlin to inform Princess Irene of Hesse and by Rhine (sister of Empress Alexandra and cousin of Czar Nicholas II) of her survival. Shortly after, Anderson was released from a Berlin area mental hospital, and was sent a series of questions from the son of Princess Irene, Sigismund, that only the real Anastasia could possibly know. Oddly, Anderson answered every question correctly and gained reserved support from relatives of the Romanov family, while others influential to the case strongly opposed Anderson's claim. Finally, in 1925, after many forensic experts, Romanov family friends, tutors, and doctors made clear their conflicting opinions, Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna travelled in secrecy to interview for herself the recently hospitalized Anderson.
The Grand Duchess (left) and her niece, Anastasia
After initial acceptance of Anderson as her niece, the Grand Duchess and Anastasia's former childhood tutor, Pierre Gilliard, denounced her as a fraud. However, prior to the Grand Duchess' visit, many letters were exchanged between the two women and in some way Anderson somewhat convinced her self-proclaimed aunt that she was in fact, Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia. The Grand Duchess even sent two gifts to Anderson at the Berlin hospital: a personal family album and a knitted shawl. Even though the Grand Duchess and many who personally knew Anastasia disbelieved Anderson's claims, others with close relationships to her heralded that Anderson was in absolute fact, Grand Duchess Anastasia, continually fueling the conspiracy of Anastasia's presumed assassination or possible escape.

[edit] The End of Imperial Russia

The Last Grand Duchess, her later years in Canada

When the farm became a hassle for the aging Romanov and her husband, the family moved to Cooksville, Ontario, Canada, a small suburb of Toronto. Neighbors and visitors to the region took interest in the rumors of the Last Romanov living in Canada, and visited her often. Foreign dignitaries and royal family members also frequently visited the Kulikovsky-Romanoffs in Cooksville. Such visitors included Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, the daughter of Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia who evacuated to Athens, Greece before the Revolution. Other notable guests included Princess Tatiana Konstantinovna of Russia, His Highness Prince Vassily Alexandrovich, Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, and his wife, Edwina Mountbatten, Countess Mountbatten of Burma. One of the more grander visitations occurred when Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and Charles, Prince of Wales visited the Grand Duchess, her husband, and sons. The Queen later invited the Kulikovsky-Romanoff family to vacation aboard HMY Britannia, the Royal Yacht. In 1951, former officers and members of the famed Akhtyrsky Regiment gathered at the home of the Grand Duchess to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Royal Regiment. Thereafter, she became the patroness of the Association of Russian Cadets of Toronto.

When her husband died in 1958, she moved to an apartment above a hairdressing salon in Toronto where she died on November 24, 1960, at the age of 78. The Grand Duchess is interred next to her husband in York Cemetery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The funeral for the last Grand Duchess of Russia was attended by numerous Russian immigrants to Canada who arranged a dignified guard of honor. Newspapers described her death as The End of Imperial Russia and the entirety of the Romanov family gathered to pay their respects to the last Grand Duchess.

[edit] Legacy

The Russian Orthodox monument to memorialize the last Grand Duchess of Imperial Russia in York Cemetery, Toronto.

Long before the Grand Duchess died, her philanthropic tradition, which began at her estate in Olgino, sparked the birth of numerous humanitarian missions. Through agreements with her relatives, the monarchs of neighboring countries, she was able to provide support for thousands of Russian refugees fleeing the conflict of the Russian revolution, World War I, and eventually World War II. Her level of benefaction surpassed the contributing attempts of her ancestors, but the tradition to contribute was passed to her descendants. The Russian Relief Program was founded in honor of the late Grand Duchess, organized by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The Program has written agreements with many of Europe's monarchies to continue a high level of contribution to the poor of Russia and the outerlying Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The Grand Duchess, Olga Alexandrovna Romanov, was presumably the most notable and powerful of Russia's great benefactors, with a legacy of philanthropy that continues to this day.

[edit] Family members

[edit] Siblings—the children of Alexander III and Maria Fyodorovna

The father and mother of the Grand Duchess Olga: Alexander III of Russia and Maria Fyodorovna.
  • Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna of Russia (1875-1960), the first daughter of the family and wife of Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich Romanov, a grandson of Nicholas I of Russia. Her family, with seven children, resided in England and ensured the Romanovs' namesake's survival through a long line of grandchildren and great-grandchildren who live in England to this day.
  • Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia (1878-1918), the fourth and last son of the family. Mikhail ("Misha") was the childhood confidant of Grand Duchess Olga and remained so until his death. Mikhail, upon the abdication of his older brother, Nicholas, unofficially became the Czar of Imperial Russia, but never ruled. On June 12, 1918, he was assassinated along with his secretary by the Cheka in Perm Krai, Russia.
  • Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia (1882-1960)

[edit] Grandparents of the Grand Duchess

[edit] See also

[edit] References

[edit] Notes


[edit] External links

ca:Olga de Rússia (duquessa d'Oldenburg)

de:Olga Alexandrowna Romanowa es:Olga Aleksándrovna Romanov fr:Olga Alexandrovna nl:Olga Aleksandrovna van Rusland pl:Olga Aleksandrówna Romanowa Kulikowska fi:Ksenia Alexandrovna Romanova

Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna of Russia

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