I found a copy of The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander at a Goodwill store at the end of this summer. I’ve enjoyed reading other history books like 1453 (Siege of Constantinople that changed it to Istanbul) so I was looking forward to learning about the last days of the Russian Czars (Nikolai and Aleksandra, and their five children) during the Bolshevik Revolution. This was a detailed account of the last days of the royal family in their exile, as told by their kitchen boy, Makhail Semyonov. Nearly 80 years after the incident, this kitchen boy told his secrets on his deathbed in an audio recording to his granddaughter. At the time of the exile, he had only been working for the family for around a month, and he was exiled with the family to The House of Special Purpose in Serbia. Patrolled by guards day and night, those in the house were not allowed to leave without permission from the Soviets. As the kitchen boy, he was not considered to be a relevant piece of the family, so the Soviets were unsuspecting of him. This overlooked helper was allowed out of the house for errands, some for everyday use, and some errands were in secret, passing messages from the Czar which build hope to save the Czar and his family. Not only did the irrelevance of his position allow him out of the house, but it saved him from being exterminated with the Czars and the rest of the staff in the house. He was the sole survivor from the House of Special Purpose, and the last person to see the Czar family in their last moments before their assassinations.
So far, I’m about halfway through. It is slow going, but enjoyable- it’s like hearing a secret. The lowly kitchen boy was such an important part to the mysterious crime that happened in 1918. I like how he remembers little details, like what they ate, and the little problems and victories the family had in their exile. He talked about how the Czar gained his wisdom much too late in life, while the son, the heir, gained his wisdom too early. If the Czar had planned better, the revolution could have possibly been thwarted. If the son was older, he could have had more insight to save the throne. Time was a disadvantage.