OTMA – was the acronym the daughters of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia gave themselves; it was taken from the first letters of their Christian names – Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia. Four Grand Duchesses, four beautiful young women whose lives were cut short some 104 years ago. Four girls who had a connection with my grandparents. My grandfather, Paul Voronov, was a naval lieutenant who served on the Imperial yacht, the Standart. My grandmother, Olga Voronov (neé Countess Kleinmichel) was born into an aristocratic Russian family who moved in the same circles as the Romanov family. Many of the Romanov family members attended the wedding of my grandparents.
My grandmother’s family, the Kleinmichels, had historical connections with the wider Romanov family. My great-great grandfather, Count Pyotr Kleinmichel, who served Tsar Nicholas I, was instrumental in rebuilding the Winter Palace after it burnt down, and engineering the train line between Moscow and St Petersburg. You can read through my earlier posts where I wrote about him, as well as my post about the playmates of my grandmother and her sisters; Grand Duke Dmitri Pavlovich Romanov and his sister, Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna.
As a young lady, my grandmother would become friends with OTMA, the four young Grand Duchesses, as well as their brother the Tsarevich Alexei, who was adored by my grandfather. Although her favourite was Tatiana, (I believe my grandmother named my mother after her), my grandmother corresponded with the three older sisters. I have not seen any letters between her and Anastasia, but that does not mean there weren’t any. Not every letter has survived to this day. I know my grandmother destroyed several letters during the Russian Civil War, when she and my grandfather had to keep one step in front of the Bolsheviks.
However, the bulk of the correspondence from and to my grandmother was with the two eldest of the grand duchesses – the O and T from OTMA. Grand Duchess Olga, who was rumoured to have a crush on my grandfather, and Grand Duchess Tatiana. They were beautiful young girls, as can be seen in the postcard (above) which is in my collection.
I am fortunate to have copies of their correspondence, letters and telegrams which detail the lives and thoughts of these young ladies. If you are curious about the letters and diaries which the Grand Duchesses wrote, I highly recommend reading the books by Helen Azar and George Hawkins, which include translations of these texts and are very informative.
The project I am currently working on will also have translations of the correspondence between my grandmother and the two older Grand Duchesses. I have been working on it for a long time and it will take a while longer, but hopefully it will be worth it in the end!