History : Jul-Aug 2018
82 JULY/AUGUST 2018 recruited from local factories. As time went on they became familiar and even friendly with their charges. It couldn’t last. The local Bolsheviks replaced Avdeev with Yakov Yurovsky, the man who would orchestrate their murders. He stopped the petty thieving that had gone unpunished by his predecessor, but he instituted a much harsher regime and recruited stricter, more disciplined guards. He maintained a distant but professional relationship with Nicholas and Alexandra, even as he planned their deaths. Nicholas—getting it wrong yet again—even seemed to like him. The Last Days The last civilians to see the Romanovs alive were four women who had been brought in from the town to clean the Ipatiev House. Mariya Staro- dumova, Evdokiya Semenova, Varvara Dryagina, and an unidentified fourth gave the family a small amount of relief from the boredom of their confinement, and one final contact with the out- side world. The testimony of these women has given the most penetrating and humane portrait of the doomed family. Forbidden to speak to the Romanovs, the cleaners nevertheless had the chance to observe them at close quarters. At first, they were struck by the contrast between the tales of the family’s arrogance disseminat- ed by anti-tsarist propaganda and the modest WHA/ALAMY/ACI NICHOLAS II AND ALEXEI REVIEWING TROOPS IN 1915 HERITAGE/SCALA, FLORENCE ANASTASIA, TATIANA, OLGA, AND MARIA AT THE ALEXANDER PALACE, TSARSKOYE SELO, 1917. AFTER A BOUT OF MEASLES, THE SISTERS HAD SHAVED THEIR HEADS, FOLLOWING THE MEDICAL PROCEDURE OF THE TIME.