|Auto-portrait by Tsarina Alexandra|
Consider such challenges St. Alexandra faced. After she married to Tsar Nicholas II she moved to the Russian Royal Court in the capital city of St. Petersburg. She happened to be of German descent (of a mostly Anglo-German mix) during the war between Russia and Germany, when the anti-German sentiment in Russia was so high that even the then-capital was officially renamed Petrograd to avoid the German sound. Newspapers hinted bluntly about her being a German spy, to say nothing of court gossip. Interestingly, the public chose to completely forget about her Grandmother who was the famous British Queen Victoria ruling the ally nation of Great Britain!
Another example. St. Alexandra was supposed to produce a male heir to the Russian Throne but kept giving birth to girls, four of them one after another. When the fourth daughter Anastasia was born the most popular Russian newspaper at the time described the event in a front-page article under the title “What a Disappointment!.. A Fourth Girl!” Not really supportive, is it?! Finally, when she gave birth to a son named Alexei, it was found he had incurable blood condition hemophilia. It impaired his blood to clot, which meant that a simple bruise would make him suffer severe pains and might easily kill him. This disease was inherited, and it came down from her German ancestry, so she actually was the cause of his sufferings. How is that for a mother to bear?
But even in areas where it was hard to find fault with her, some ridiculous accusation would still arise. In 1914 next day after the war with Germany broke out she and her three elder daughters went to become hospital nurses. St. Alexandra wanted her daughters to become real nurses, not just appropriate pictures on fashionable magazine covers. She ordered simple uniforms for them, found a doctor who could teach the girls the basics of medical care and wound treatment, and got that doctor to work with the daughters in real operation rooms with severely mutilated soldiers. If they could not assist they would dress wounds. They would even cut soldiers’ nails! One would think you can’t really find fault with that exemplary behavior. Well, there were people who publicly accused Tsarina of seeking cheap popularity, demystifying imperial women, and their “common” association with unclean wounds and men’s bodies. She never said a word back…
You get the idea now, Tsarina Alexandra was not very popular with the Russian media. Understandably, it made her devote most of her time to the family, and after Alexei was born – to him. Of course, there were public accusations of being cold, haughty, snobbish, you name it. By that time she already learnt simply to ignore them but her general health had already taken a hit and she had a lot of back pain for the rest of her life. However, it never affected her work as a nurse. She worked full time herself as a regular nurse in a regular hospital providing an example to her daughters and to all staff.
There God revealed her gift of giving religious consolation to the sick and the dying. Many suffering soldiers reported (and many fellow nurses witnessed) how their pains would ease once St. Alexandra just sat by the bed, holding their hand and praying for them or talking to them about Christ and His Immeasurable Sufferings. She never refused a single request of that kind, sometimes leaving home in the middle of the night on a phone call to console a dying soldier who wished to see her before death. Just like sick Alexei they were all her children and she was able to share with them her unlimited compassion and religious wisdom. In her own words she believed “her responsibility was to be where people were suffering”.
To those who still harbour scorn for the Royal Martyrs I would suggest reading Tsarina’s letters from Siberian imprisonment, after 1917, when they had lost everything and were completely vulnerable to commissars, militant atheists and anti-monarchists. Those letters are published now. Her religious wisdom there takes biblical profundity: “One must always and ever be thankful to God for everything one has, and what one has lost is even better, as it makes one brighter, cleaner. Never complain but hope, for God is so big we can just pray. I keep praying for my Russian Motherland which is crushing terribly at the moment… We are all fine, God thinks about us, locals keep sending us bread, fish, and vegetables secretly. Really, dear, don’t worry about us. My heart is broken only when I think about Russia – what they did to it in just a year! But God let it happen, and then it should be so, to make people see the lies around. It hurts to think that everything we cherished and were proud of got shamelessly destroyed and trampled upon. Only this is good for the soul which must grow and rise above the earthly, mustn’t it? We all need to understand that God is above all, that He wants us to get closer to Him through our sufferings. Love Him as much as you can… Right now the country is dying but with God’s help it will manage, He will show His strength and wisdom, we just need to wait, believe, and pray”.
(From Russian and English-language sources)