Nastenka was appointed a lady of waiting in 1910. She acted as a sort of unofficial governess to the four grand duchesses. The Empress, the Grand Duchesses, and the courtiers loved her for her kindness, affability, meekness, simplicity and openness in communication.
The Sweet Angel
Life at Court
Countess Anastasia Vasilyevna Hendrikova, who was nicknamed “Nastenka,” was the daughter of Count Vassili Alexandrovich Hendrikov, Grand Master of Ceremonies of the Imperial Court, and his wife, Princess Sophia Petrovna Gagarine. She was a descendant of the sister of Catherine I of Russia, the wife of Peter the Great. Although Anastasia Vasilievna born to the nobility, she was very simple in her way of life from early youth, she dressed very modestly, even old-fashioned and, unlike most noble girls, never participated in balls and entertainments.
Nastenka was appointed a lady of waiting in 1910. She acted as a sort of unofficial governess to the four grand duchesses. The Empress, the Grand Duchesses, and the courtiers loved her for her kindness, affability, meekness, simplicity and openness in communication. She didn’t believe in Rasputin’s saintliness, but this was no impediment to her service at court. Alexandra gently tried to persuade her of Rasputin’s merits, but dropped the topic permanently when it became obvious that Hendrikova disagreed.
Revolution & Exile
Hendrikova’s sister, nicknamed “Inotchka,” was ill with tuberculosis. “The two sisters were all the world to each other,” wrote her fellow lady in waiting, Baroness Sophie von Buxhoeveden, recalling how Hendrikova’s “dark eyes glowed” when she heard news about her sister. “And it was from Inotchka’s bedside that Nastenka had rushed back to Tsarskoe Selo on the news of the revolution to join the empress in her danger.” A few hours after she arrived at the Alexander Palace, the former Imperial residence became a prison for all who voluntarily wished to remain in it. That evening, she wrote in her diary: “Thank God, I managed to arrive on time to be with them.” Her presence was a great support for the royal prisoners. Always happy, meek, smiling, she cheered everyone up.
Hendrikova followed the family into exile, going with them first to Tobolsk and later to Ekaterinburg, even though she was worried about her own family. Before leaving, she wrote in her diary: “I cannot leave here without thanking God for that wonderful peace and power that He sent me and supported me for all these almost five months of arrest. I close my eyes, give myself completely, without questions or murmurings into the hands of God with confidence and love.” When Baroness Sophie Buxhoeveden met Nastenka Hendrikova in Tobolsk, she said of her: “Nastenka said openly to me that she had a premonition that all our days were numbered. She, personally, had gone through much sorrow that year. She was passionately devoted to the Empress, and the long months of captivity had tried her to the utmost and had developed intensely the religious side of her nature. Indeed she now lived an entirely spiritual life, and had so fixed her thoughts on approaching death that it had no terror for her. She was very pretty and looked younger than her twenty-eight years, but she welcomed the thought of death, so weary had she become of life and so much detached from earthly interests. I felt her drifting away to higher planes.”
On 4 September 1918, Hendrikova and Schneider were taken from their prison cell and led to the prison office along with Aleksei Volkov, a sixty-year-old valet in the household of the Tsar. They were joined by eight other prisoners, including the chambermaid from the house where Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia had lived. They had an escort of twenty-two guards, none of them Russian. Volkov, who later escaped, recalled that when he asked a guard where they were being taken, he was told they were being taken “to the house of arrest.” Hendrikova, who had been in the washroom, asked a guard the same question when she came out. She was told they were being taken “to the central prison.” Hendrikova asked him, “and from there?” The guard replied, “Well! to Moscow.” Hendrikova repeated this conversation to her fellow prisoners and made the sign of the cross with her fingers. Volkov took her gesture to mean “they will not shoot us.”
The sailor at the prison office door kept checking the front door that led to the street to make sure no one was there. After a while another sailor said, “Let’s go.” They lined the prisoners up in the street in rows of two, the men in front and the women in back. The group walked all the way to the edge of town and onto the Simbirsk road. Volkov asked another prisoner where the central prison was and was told they had long passed it. Volkov realized they were being taken into the woods to be shot. Volkov broke from the group and ran for his life at the first opportunity. A bullet whizzed past his ear. Behind him he heard gunshots as the other prisoners in the group, among them Hendrikova, were shot and killed. The ‘brave’ Red Guards did not waste a single bullet for the murder of the young woman. They shattered her skull with their rifle butts.
The bodies of Hendrikova and Schneider were recovered by the Whites in May 1919, and were reburied in the Yegoshikha Cemetery. However, their graves were destroyed when the Bolsheviks regained control of the city.
Baroness Sophie Buxhoeveden, Left Behind: Fourteen Months in Siberia during the Revolution, December 1917-February 1919.
Alexei Volkov, Memories of Alexei Volkov, Personal Valet to Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna 1910-1918.