Sikorsky Russky Vityaz (Le Grand)

In 1980, Gretchen Haskin, daughter-in-law of Henry Haskin, the printer of Rescuing the Czar, published a book under the title An Imperial Affair. It is a very well written novel, a real thriller. The main protagonist is George S. Romanovsky, the Russian Vice Consul in San Francisco from December 1918 until 1924, we know him already from earlier articles.

She devised a story which builds on Rescuing the Czar. In Haskin’s book it is Romanovsky who is sent from San Francisco to Ekaterinburg in Siberia, to rescue the Imperial family. He travels under the false name of  Konstantin Petrovich Syvarotka, a slight spelling variation of the Syvorotka we know already. He leaves San Francisco in June, 1918, on the Japanese ship Nippon Maru. After an eventful train ride from Vladivostok during which Syvorotka contracts typhus, he reaches Ekaterinburg. He manages, ill as he is, to rescue the Czar and his family from Ipatiev House via an underground tunnel and brings them to a lake from where they are picked up by a four-engined Sikorsky bi-plane which takes them to Archangel. From there, the party, the sick Romanovsky included, is taken to England by warship. Finally, when he returns to San Francisco, Romanovsky realises that he has lost his wife to someone else.

It is clear from Part I of the book, Revolution, that Haskin has had access to personal details of George Romanovsky, including his friendship with Moussia and Vladimir Baranovsky. They must have told George everything about society life in Petrograd before the Revolution (Romanovsky had left there in 1910) and about the events of 1917. In the book they figure as Vladimir Illyitch Baronovsky and his wife Natalia Petrovna Baronovsky, the second a of Baranovsky having been changed to o which makes me think of the Baroness B.. In the novel, the wife of the real George Romanovsky, Goldie, is called Daisy. Poor Daisy is pictured as a rather dumb and helpless creature, who gets worked up when the parrot which she got from Natalia as a present, refuses to talk.

In the book, there are some details which have a ring of authenticity:

“The end of the month saw the arrival of another couple, old friends who had fled Russia through the east. Natalia Petrovna Baronovsky bore a striking resemblance to the Czar’s eldest daughter, and she had learned to make the most of this, moving swiftly and easily into good society. For reasons uncertain to Romanovsky, she took to Daisy immediately. She taught her how to dress and give parties, helped her with her French, and then paraded her around town like a pet poodle. Vladimir Illyitch went to work at the consulate as chancellor and through connections in Siberia provided Washington with a steady flow of political and military information.”

I would very much like to be in contact with both Gretchen Haskin and Shay NcNeal (see previous article). We could compare notes. It looks as if together we have the information to solve various puzzles.

It is now time to return to the real Vladimir. Did he go back to Russia soon after his escape from there? Why? And when? Could the adventures of “George Romanovsky” in An Imperial Affair be inspired by a trip made by Vladimir Baranovsky?

(to be continued)

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