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The Two Marias: Background for My New Project

As I write this newsletter, I am preparing to head back up to Portland to visit family. I am looking forward to a brief reprieve from the desert heat and the opportunity to get back onto the water!

It has been a busy month. As I mentioned last month, the Audible version of Thrown to the Wind has been released. I still have a few promo codes for a free copy of the audiobook available, if anyone is interested in taking a listen, in exchange for an honest review. If you are interested, let me know by replying to this email or emailing

In researching my story about two Marias: Maria Nikolaevna Romanova and Novice Maria Krokhaleva from the Novo-Tikhinsky Monastery, I have uncovered some interesting things, I thought I’d share with you this month. Firstly, it is important to note that while in the West we use the term convent to refer to a monastic facility for women, in Russia they seem to use the term monastery to refer to such institutions for either men or women.

The Novo-Tikhinsky Monastery was the oldest and one of the largest monasteries in Russia. It dates to the late 18th century. It started as an almshouse at the cemetery church. The church was consecrated in the name of the Most Holy Theotokos. This Tikhin icon of the Mother of God, which is one of three icons believed to have been painted by her contemporary, the Apostle and Evangelist Luke, and as such is held in the greatest honor. The icon is said to be responsible for a great many miracles. Several copies of this icon have been made and one of them was housed in this church in Ekaterinburg.

The Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God,

by tradition believed to have been painted

by Luke the Evangelist

In 1809, the small community of nuns formed around this church and almshouse. It grew over the century and by the time of the Russian Revolution one thousand nuns were living and working here with eighteen workshops, almshouse, orphanage, and parochial school. They had a significant role to play during the Royal family’s imprisonment in the Ipatiev House in Ekateringburg. From the time of their arrival, Mother Superior Magdalena (Dosmanova) led the nuns in daily prayer for the Romanov family.

Then during the spring and summer of 1918, novices Maria Krokhaleva and Antionia Trikina, with the blessing of Mother Superior Magdalena, delivered food to the Ipatiev House for the Royal family.

The Tikhvin Icon of the Mother of God, XV century

In June, Ivan Ivanovich Sidorov arrived in Ekaterinburg with letters, money and an icon for the Royal family, sent by Peter and Zinaida Tolstoy, who were friends of the Imperial family. He first went to Bishop Grigory (Yatskovsky), who then sent him to the nuns at Novo-Tikhinsky, likely because he knew of their food deliveries.

Ivan visited the icon shop on the pretense of ordering an icon to be made and was greeted in by novice Antonia. She brought him to Mother Augustine, who ran the icon-painting workshop, and where novice Maria Krokhaleva was apprenticing. Nun Augustine sent him to Dr. Derevenko, the Imperial physician who frequented the Ipatiev House to attend to the ailing Alexei. Dr. Derevenko had been known to smuggle in letters for the Romanovs during his visits but had recently been denied admittance.

A plan was devised to start smuggling in notes with the food the novices brought from the monastery. Some sources claim the notes were baked into the bread, and others say they were hidden under the cream lids. Some sources say that the Commander of the Ipatiev guards, Avdeev, had intercepted the notes and made copies of them, before replacing them and sending them into the family. Presumably, he was trying to gather intelligence on the many rescue attempts that were being made to free the Romanovs. He also seems to have copied the responses that came back out.

Dr. Ivonov Derevenko

It is unclear whether Avdeev managed to obtain any useful information or to thwart any rescue attempts. In any event, Commandant Avdeev was replaced on the 4th of July 1918 in favor of Yakov Yurovsky and a whole new set of guards, who it was thought would not be so friendly with the Romanovs.

This is probably a good place to stop, but I will be sharing more fun research facts with you over the next few weeks and months.

A recommendation from my summer reading

I just finished a book aimed at middle grade readers with a STEM theme by Marsha Tufft. The title is Putney Hicks Inventor Adventures: The Sea Turtle Spy Project. In it the author introduces the problem of the nesting sea turtles on the 14-mile Hilton Head beachfront. Apparently, the hatchlings are drawn to the brightest light, which is supposed to be the moon reflecting off the water, but with all the beach properties now lining the nesting ground, the baby turtles are now heading toward porch lights instead becoming disoriented. As a result they are not reaching the sea and are being eaten by predators in larger numbers.

It is rare to find good STEM focused books for kids that are interesting and readable. I learned a lot about the plight of the turtles. This would be a great book for middle grade teachers and homeschoolers to add to their libraries for supplemental reading assignments. The middle grade protagonist demonstrates applied physics in an engaging and entertaining manner. Highly recommended!

The story problem is introduced by Amber Kuehn, Director of the Sea Turtle Patrol Hilton Head Island volunteer group. It made me think of the turtles hatching out on our beach outside of Puerto Penasco, Mexico. I know we have sea turtles that nest there, which is why people are not supposed to drive ATVs and other vehicles on the beach except for launching boats, but I have noticed more people doing this lately. I never thought about the solar lights people stick in the sand off the back porches. Something to think about!

As always, if you have any comments or book recommendations, I welcome them all! Just reply to this email.

Take care and I’ll connect with you again in two weeks!

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