Maria Volkonsky

Maria Volkonsky

When Maria - beautiful, highly cultivated, daughter of famous general Raevski married prince Volkosnkii her family was thrilled. Although they came from a rich, well known family and close to the tsar family themselves, the fact of their daughter marrying wealthy prince was very honorable and alluring. She was set to live in splendor in one of the magnificent palaces. 

Twenty-one year-old Maria was married only for year when her husband was arrested. She wrote to her husband: “One thing I can assure you of: what ever your fate I will share it.” Her family was very upset and objectected to her decision to follow her husband into exile, pleading to consider her infant son. The Tsar prohibited the taking of any children along. “My son is happy, but my husband is not and he needs me”. In her defense, she never expected that it would be separation for ever. However, after her long trip to Siberia and not long before she finally reached her husband, Maria was presented with the document that she had to sign. Maria had to renounce all her rights, titles, possessions and acknowledge the understanding that she would never be allowed to return, even upon death of her husband. That was one way ticket, journey of no return. She signed it and so did the rest of those women. With a flash of her pan, this young woman left everything and everybody except her husband behind.

When she saw her husband at last she knelt on the filthy floor and kissed his chains. Then came long years of brutal reality. However her spirit never was broken for long. She learned how to perform basic chores, negotiated with prison’s guards to allow wives to deliver food and clothing to their husbands, pleaded with authorities to ease conditions, maintained contact with families back home for many prisoners and supported other wives that followed their husbands. Many years later, under her influence a theater and concert hall were opened in Siberia. She became involved in the local hospital: reorganized staff, introduced measured of hygiene and helped to open new a wing. Maria was well respected and adored by the community in which she lived.

Unfortunately, her marriage to Sergey was not perfect, with time they drifted apart. As Maria stayed strong and active, Sergey let himself go. He lost interest in life, did not take care himself and eventually turned into eccentric old farmer. Biographers find a lot of indication of Maria having a long lasting romance with another Decembrist, however there is no proof that it went beyond of friendship. Even when all those marriage troubles took place, divorce was never discussed. Maria and Sergey stayed together until her death.


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