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The home of her childhood was wantonly destroyed

My grandmother’s family’s first country home was destroyed by fire. After that the Kleinmichel family spent their summers at Ivnia in the Koursk region. The family lived in Moscow during the other three seasons but, as summer approached, the children would begin to dream of the journey to Ivnia. Ivnia is located in the Kursk district of Russia, which lies south-west of Moscow, close to the border with Ukraine. Nowadays it would take between 6 and 7 hours to get to Kursk from Moscow. My grandmother tells the story of their annual journey like this:

This journey could warrant the term of migration, perhaps; for, besides our parents, my brother, my three sisters and myself, there were our three governesses, our Russian teacher, Mrs Monton and Jessie, two tutors for my brother, a Russian and a Swiss, a doctor, two dressmakers and part of the servants; and always, there was the bustle and excitement of many people travelling that is so thrilling to a child.

The family travelled by train for the first part of their journey. When they reached the station closest to Ivnia, they transferred to carriages, each pulled by four horses harnessed side by side. My grandmother continues the story:

Usually it would be close upon sunset when we started on these drives, and darkness gathered quickly; but about four miles from Ivnia, where, atop of a hill, a windmill reaches its long arms up to the dark sky, we would be met by several men on horseback carrying burning torches. Keeping in line with our carriages, they would accompany us at a gallop, holding the long torches, the butt ends resting on their stirrups, in outstretched hands.

Their first sight of Ivnia would have been similar to the photo on the left above. The photo on the right shows the back of the house. Similarly to Potchep, the family’s first home, Ivnia was reportedly designed by the famous Italian architect, Rastrelli. Rastrelli, was one of the Baroque architects of the 18th century, who was responsible for designing buildings such as the Catherine Palace, an extension to the Peterhof Palace, the Winter Palace (alongside other architects) and the Smolny Convent and Cathedral. Ivnia smaller than Potchep, with only sixty five rooms.

In 1914 my grandmother made her last trip to Ivnia. It was here she learned her brother’s regiment had been called back and war was possible. Thinking only of returning to her husband as soon as she could, she spent forty minutes at Ivnia, not even taking the time to visit her favourite places on the estate.

Four years later she discovered that the Soviets had presented Ivnia to Trotsky who, after a short time there, found it too far from Moscow. He took all the furniture from Ivnia to his new residence. Later Ivnia became the quarters for Bolshevik troops who, in my grandmother’s words, “amused themselves by shooting down the stucco ornaments from the ceilings and poking holes with their bayonets in the floors.”

There is a website which has contemporary photos of Ivnia. It appears that not much of the main building survives.

Alex

Alex de Fircks is a writer of memoir and short fiction. She blogs about family, moments in time, memories and travel. Alex is passionate about history, genealogy and family stories.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Elise McCune

    Thanks, Alex, for a wonderful post. You bring to life the journey of your forebears to Ivnia.

    1. Alex

      Thank you Elise for reading! I’m happy I brought it to life for you.

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