When on 3 January 1918 the SS Ecuador moored in San Francisco, a group of curious journalists were waiting, in eager anticipation, for Mr. and Mrs. Vladimir Baranovsky. They had not come in vain. The couple gave a lengthy interview which was carried by most newspapers across the United States. They took the initiative with a long statement and at the start of questioning laughingly dismissed the story of a Tatiana escape, saying that the Princess was alive and well in Tobolsk with the rest of the Imperial family.
Vladimir Baranovsky stated that Alexander Kerensky, the deposed leader of Russia, was safe in Finland and would emerge from his hiding place to take up the reins of the Russian Government once again. Baranovsky and his wife Mary knew the leader very well, having been among the last to see him, in the apartment of his parents. Kerensky was now married to Vladimir’s sister after divorcing his previous wife, Olga, Vladimir’s cousin. “At the psychological moment Kerensky will re-appear”, said Baranovsky.”He is a strong man, the strongest in all Russia. It is known in Russia that Lenin and Trotsky are paid German agents and their fall is certain. He said that he had come to the United States to study government operation of railroads with the intention of applying this knowledge to the reconstruction of Russia’s ‘demoralized’ transportation system. His wife would assist him in his investigations throughout the country.
Mrs. Baranovsky, according to the press articles “one of Petrograd’s acknowledged beauties who speaks with equal ease English, French and Russian”, spoke at length about Alexander Kerensky, laying to rest the rumors of his imprisonment. “He has been recuperating in Finland”, she said, “and he will come back when the hour strikes”. She claimed to be in constant touch with him. “It was in my sister in-law’s home that he took refuge when the Bolsheviks ordered his arrest,” she said. “He was sick, shattered with the strain. He flung himself upon the couch and covered his face with his hands. He poured out his hopes and fears to me. ‘If only I could get some rest,’ he lamented to me.”
Throughout this press conference, Rear-Admiral Bosse was at their side but did not speak. After the press conference, they checked into the Palace Hotel. As noted in the San Francisco Chronicle of 4 January 1918: “Vladimir Baranovsky, Russian railway engineer who is a brother (sic) of the deposed Russian leader, is a guest at the Palace, with Mrs. Baranovsky. Other guests at the Palace include Rear-Admiral T. Bosse of the Russian Navy, retired…”
During the five months thereafter, the two continued on their campaign trail, closely followed by the press. But first Moussia had to be admitted to a clinic because of the kidney illness she had picked up during the long journey from St. Petersburg. On 28th April 1918, the San Francisco Examiner reported:
“Mme. Baranovsky, who was a patient at one of the sanatoriums for the past several weeks, has been taken to her home and is fast recuperating. Mr. Baranovsky is the brother-in-law of the former leader, Kerensky. Mme. Baranovsky is a particularly handsome young woman and from her striking resemblance to one of the daughters of the former czar of Russia, was mistaken for the Grand Duchess Tatiana. Mr. and Mrs. Baranovsky were frequently seen about town with admiral Bosse, with whom they crossed the Pacific. This officer was at the head of the Russian Navy and was the friend and advisor of the czar for years, and this fact exaggerated the rumour of the attractive young woman’s identity. She, however, merely smiles at the idea and says very complimentary things about the young daughter of the czar whom she knows very well.”
They were regularly mentioned in the society columns, often together with Mr. and Mrs. George Romanovsky, the Acting Russian Consul in San Francisco. In May, Moussia was in the news again. There were strong rumours that Kerensky was about to arrive in New York, on a steamer from Sweden. She said she was going to New York for a month to be there when he arrived. When asked how she knew that he was on his way, she said: “I have no direct word from him, I merely have – well, information.”
(to be continued)