An extraordinary tale indeed for you today. And a tale with a dog in it, which is always a bonus. Almost as good as a dog with a tail on it.
This tale comes from a land which can steal the heart: from Mother Russia at a savage time indeed. It concerns a small spaniel who had the misfortune to be born into the years of Russian revolution, and in particular that bloodiest of years, 1918.
You will all know the story of the Romanovs. Nicholas and Alexandra, who had by that time shed their titles of Tsar and Tsarina; Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia and Alexei. All were summarily shot at Yekaterinburg, by Bolsheviks.
Did you know the name of the house they died in? In Russian it is Дом Особого Назначения: the House Of Special Purpose.
Around midnight on July 16 1918, the Romanovs’ doctor was instructed to ask them to wake and dress on the pretext that they were being moved. But once they had done so they were herded into a basement room and shot. Those who succeeded in protecting themselves fem the hail of bullets were speared or bayonetted to death.
Amidst this profoundly shocking event – the waves of which reverberate even to this day across time – it seems quite incredible that a very small dog might have escaped the fate of his family.
Yet, the dog appealed to the soldiers and they looked after him, it is said, for a few short days.
Eventually the area fell to the White army and the dog was found, starving, traumatised: but alive. Its name was Joy. It had belonged to Alexei Romanov.
To Joy’s great fortune a soldier from the British Expeditionary Forces came upon him, and Paul Pavel Rodzianko adopted him, sailing with him from Vladivostok home again.
Paul lived in Windsor, where I work. he brought Joy to an English house to live out his days in peace, and when he died, he buried him there beneath the lawn.
These days things are so different. Boris Yeltsin had the House of Special Purpose demolished in 1977, and these days Joy’s Windsor house is an opthalmic centre and his grave long since covered over.
Though, for years, the inscription above his resting place read:”Here Lies Joy”.
It is good, is it not, to find peace at last?
With thanks to Margaret Kirby, Manager of Heritage and Arts in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, for this gem. You can read more about Joy here.