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Grandmother Eugenia

Grandmother Evgenia Leonidovna Alexeieva at age 8 in Voronezh and at 53 with her only grandson aged 3.5 months in Suna (Verbania).

Born in St. Petersburg in 1890, at 24 she meets 26-year old Mario Floriani in 1914 near Lausanne, where she had been residing for some time studying for her Baccalauréat which would have enabled her to teach French in Russia. In June 1916 she leaves Odessa on a steamship bound for France eventually to reach her Italian fiancé, thus fortuituously avoiding any involvement in the October Revolution of the following year.

Below, her daughter Vera and son Alessandro, both names with Russian motivations: "Viera" means faith and Alessandro is in homage to her maternal uncle Aleksandr Deshayes, who took over the responsibilities of head of family upon the death of her father Leonid.

At bottom, on the balcony of her apartment in Suna at age 76, with devoted spinster daughter Vera and her grandson's fiancée.

Note her still rich hair, a genetic trait that she passed on thereby preventing her father's and husband's premature baldnesses to affect the family progeny .




The Alexeieff (Алексеев) Family

According to a story - or legend? - told me by Aunt Vera, the Alexeieff family name has a very romantic origin: it seems that in the XV°-XVI° century a Prince Alexei refused a marriage combined by his powerful family because he was in love with another woman whom he married. He was therefore disinherited, and founded his own Alexeieff line.

Mementoes of Old Russia

My grandmother did not bring along many souvenirs from her native Russia, those few include some religious images and other miscellaneous items.

Icon of Our Lady of Kazan (painted wood in silver frame, 12cm x 16 cm) - Travel tryptich (painted leather in silver frame, 7.5 cm x 21.5cm)
The icon at left was an 1887 marriage gift to my great grandmother Elisaveta, dating presumably from 1840-1850. The tryptich at right served as a foldable, portable set of 3 icons to bring along on journeys away from home, and shows:
  • Left: 8 Saints, top inscriptions mentioning S. Nikolai (St. Nicholas), S. Vasili (St. Basil), S. Ioans (St. John), S. Aleksandr (St. Alexander)
  • Center: Virgin Mary and Child
  • Right: Nativity Scene, from left Virgin Mary, Child, St. Joseph and angels

Also a silver-plated copper samovar to prepare tea - but never used in that capacity - eventually gracing a corner of my parents' living room in the photo at right.

Below, an old Polish postcard - obtained from a painting - showing a galloping troika (three-horse team) pursued by a pack of wolves in the snow-covered steppe, sent on November 2, 1931 by grandmother to her son away at college in Genoa:

Józef Chelmonski (1849-1914): Napad wilków (Wolves attack)

Home poker session with friends

The two side horses of a troika trio were trained to run with their heads slightly bent outwards, to be on the lookout for any wild animals stalking their sleighs while cruising the steppes.

Old Russian Money

Still in my possession are some old pre-Revolution banknotes and a coin:

1 Ruble (1898)
1 Kopek (1911)

5 Rubles (1909)

10 Rubles (1909)

100 Rubles (1910),
the recto showing a portrait of Empress Catherine the Great.
Much cheaper the aspect and material of the post-Revolution (1920) 500-Ruble bill

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