But what do we know today about those of our compatriots who shared with the army the hardship and adversity of the Russian-Japanese war? Meanwhile, four of them were awarded the highest soldier's award - the Insignia of the Military Order of St. George.
Prince and high school girl
OF THE FOUR women awarded the St. George Cross in 1904 – 1905, Ekaterina Desnitskaya had the most amazing fate.
She was born in 1886, in Lutsk, in the family of a judge. Her father died when the girl was two years old, leaving no daughter with no inheritance, and her family very poor means of livelihood. Mother and children moved to Kiev, closer to relatives. But in 1904, she died too. Of those close to Katya, there was an older brother, Ivan, who studied at St. Petersburg University and was preparing himself for a diplomatic career. A little later, he will become secretary of the Russian Embassy in Beijing ...
Katyusha Desnitskaya, enrolling in a medical school, moved to St. Petersburg, closer to her brother, who took an active part in her fate. But even he could not imagine how abruptly the life of his sister would turn after her move to the capital.
It was during his years of study that a meeting of a young pretty girl with a brilliant life hussar named Chakrabon, the second son of the King of Siam (now Thailand), who is already in Russia for the seventh year, took place.
The life of a prince who graduated from the cadet school and enrolled in one of the elite regiments of the Russian Guard was not much different from the life of golden Petersburg youth — balls, masquerades, theater premieres ... Only on Sundays did he have the right to leave the Embassy of Siam, where he had luxury apartments. The rest of the time, the prince, on a par with other officers of the guard, pulled a strap in regimental attire and at the court of the Russian emperor.
The red-haired beauty, whom he met at one of the receptions in the secular salon of Princess EI Khrapovitskaya, stood out among the imposing and spoiled attention of the capital's ladies, and therefore made an impression on the Siamese prince. That was his first love, fueled by the fact that the subject of his dreams in a short time had to go to war.
It should be noted that Ekaterina Desnitskaya, although she did not reject the courtship of the august persona, did not betray the prince any obligations. And she left for the Manchurian army a simple sister of mercy. At the front, she had to sip full life: she carried the wounded from the battlefield, tied them up right on the front line, accompanied them to field hospitals, assisted in surgical operations, nursed convalescents ... During the war, the brave girl was awarded three combat awards - two medals (in Vladimir and Ann's Ribbons) and the Insignia of the Military Order of Saint George of the 4 degree (soldier’s “St. George’s Cross”). And in the halo of glory returned to the capital.
All the time while the war was going on, Prince Chakrabon fell asleep to the girl with long telegrams and gentle letters. And once, unable to bear the separation, he even filed a petition to the highest name for his shipment to Manchuria.
Naturally, he was denied. The formal reason for such a decision was the fact that Chakrabon was studying at the Academy of the General Staff at that time and had to complete a full course of study. Although, in fact, everyone understood the true reason for the refusal: things were going badly at the front, it wasn’t enough that the Siamese prince wearing a Russian uniform would get off to an advanced crazy Japanese bullet.
But the feelings of the prince took note ...
From the infirmary — to the royal family
AFTER Catherine Desnitskaya’s return to St. Petersburg, their relationship with the Prince of Siam received a rapid development. The prince, who graduated from the Academy of the General Staff and was elevated to the rank of colonel of the Russian army, was preparing to leave home. Where, according to the traditions of the royal family, was supposed to take one of the highest military posts. Before leaving for Bangkok, he paid a visit to the Russian emperor and, along with the best wishes, as demanded by political etiquette, received the Order of St. Andrew the First Called.
Shortly before his visit to the Winter Palace, the Siamese prince made an offer to his beloved and received from Catherine consent to become his wife. So from Russia Chakrabon took away not only military knowledge and the highest order of his beloved country, but also the bride. However, neither his father nor the Russian monarch knew about this.
Formally, the prince did not have to notify them: at that time he was not the heir to the throne (his elder brother inherited the Siamese throne). The choice of life partner was Chakrabon’s private affair. And yet, learn Nicholas II about the amorous affairs of the colonel, the Russian authorities would have enough formal grounds to close the exit from the country for the future Siamese princess.
It is unlikely that Russian intelligence and diplomats missed this dynastic incident. Most likely, the Russian special services simply closed their eyes to the willfulness of the lovers. Or maybe they received the command: “Do not notice!” After all, under a certain scenario, the Siamese throne after a while could be occupied by the son of a pupil of the Russian military academy and a Russian noblewoman ...
Anyway, Ekaterina and Chakrabon arrived in Bangkok by husband and wife. Their marriage took place in Constantinople, where the young were married in one of the Orthodox churches. Orthodoxy, the Siamese prince, who previously practiced Buddhism, accepted during his studies in Russia. And this fact can also be interpreted in favor of the version of the long-term plans of Russian diplomacy and special services regarding Chakrabon.
Honeymoon young spent in Egypt. To prepare the ground for the appearance of his wife in front of his parents, the prince went to Bangkok alone. For three weeks he did not get out of the celebrations and official ceremonies on the occasion of his return. And then he confessed to the king that he married a Russian noblewoman.
To say that the king was angry was to say nothing. The prince was deprived of content, the father-king announced him a boycott. Instead of a position in the military elite of Siam, Chakrabon was appointed head of the military school, which completely corresponded to neither his knowledge nor his outstanding organizational skills. But the prince stoically endured disgrace.
Together with his wife, they settled in Paruskavan Palace, where they lived modestly, alone, but happily. And gradually the ice in the relationship between father and son melted. To a large extent, this was facilitated by tact, endurance and wisdom shown by Princess Paruskavan, as Katenka Desnitskaya was named after the palace in which the young couple lived.
And when 28 March 1908 was born, Catherine and Chakrabon had a son, Chula - the first grandson of the King of Siam - the princess was showered with truly fabulous gifts. Grandma Queen didn’t literally move away from the baby, sending several sets of luxurious national Thai clothes to her daughter-in-law as a gift, which meant her recognition as a member of the royal family. The grandfather was more restrained in expressing emotions: he took the grandson into his arms, but met his mother only two years later ...
Ekaterina Ivanovna was already fluent in Thai and English by that time. Prior to that, in the Russian gymnasium, she mastered French and German. The audience of Princess Paruskavan with the king meant complete approval of the choice of the son. After that, Chakrabon was appointed immediately to several government posts and became the special representative of the monarch in diplomatic affairs. A few months later, in October 1910, the king, who ruled the country of 42, passed away. His place was taken by the eldest son, and Chakrabon, according to dynastic traditions, became the heir to the throne.
From princesses — in exile
The following year, Prince Chakrabon and his wife traveled along the Trans-Siberian Railway and appeared in St. Petersburg. While her husband was engaged in diplomatic affairs, including negotiations with Nicholas II, Ekaterina Ivanovna, as a private person, visited her relatives in Kiev.
Soon after the return of the heir to the throne, the news of the start of World War I reached Bangkok. A few years later, a message came about the February Revolution.
Prince Chula, who later became a literary writer and historian, the author of extensive research on the time of the reign of Catherine II, wrote in his memoirs: “The health of the mother deteriorated, she was almost in a broken condition. Under normal circumstances, parents would take another trip to Europe, but there was a war. Therefore, my father suggested that my mother go to Japan and Canada, and she went there at the beginning of 1918. ” Why the mother was "in a broken state", the prince delicately kept silent. We will not go into details, and we note only that in the summer of 1919, when Ekaterina Ivanovna was no longer in Bangkok, her husband, Prince Chakrabon, signed official papers about the divorce of his Russian wife ...
Desnitskaya did not return to post-revolutionary Russia, settled for some time in Shanghai. Where a year later received a telegram about the death of the former spouse from pneumonia. Live Chakrabon for four more years - you could become King of Siam (after the death of your elder brother), and the former nurse of the Russian army and the cavalier lady of the Order of Saint George - the queen of this eastern country ...
Ekaterina Ivanovna Desnitskaya lived a long life, having outlived her first husband by forty years. For a time she was engaged in charity work among poor Russian immigrants. Then she married an American engineer named Harry Clinton and moved with him to Paris.
She constantly corresponded with her son, with whom she was joined by warm and tender feelings. Chula, a few years after the death of his father who was considered the heir to the throne, did not become king. In the end, he went to study in England, where he became addicted to motor sports and became a professional racer.
Catherine Desnitskaya died in France in 1960 year. At the end of the last century 80 in Britain, the book of Princess Nariza Chakrabon, daughter of Prince Chula, was published in the UK, in which a young woman told the world about the extraordinary fate of her Russian grandmother ...
"And this damn shell ..."
Except for Catherine Desnitskaya during the Russo-Japanese War 1904 – 1905, three more Russian women were awarded the Insignia of the Military Order of St. George. One of them - Kharitina Evstafevna Korotkevich (by the maiden name Verkhozina) - received him posthumously.
She was born in 1882 in the village of Pesterevo, Sychevsky volost, Kurgan district, in the family of Pomorians and schismatics. When she was not even six years old, her mother died. The capricious girl could not get along with her stepmother and left for ten years “to the people” - she went to work. She worked as a nurse, dishwasher in the station buffet. There, at Vargashi station, I met a peasant boyfriend, Yakov Korotkevich, and after some time married him.
Cloudless family life did not last long: Jacob was drafted into the army and sent to Port Arthur. For half a year the young woman patiently led the household, receiving rare letters from her betrothed, and then decided to move closer to him. As soon as Kharitina settled in a rented apartment in the town of Talen, where the military unit was stationed, the Russian-Japanese war began.
And here there was an unusual story. Violating all the canons of female behavior, Kharitina showed up at the regimental location and told her husband that she wanted to be with him. And he wants to enter the service not as a sister of mercy, but as a soldier in a combat unit. Discouraged, Jacob reported about this request of his wife to the company commander, and he, as required by the statutes, at the command of the battalion and regimental superiors.
That has long been judged and ryadili, but as a result, the order of the commander of the 13 th East-Siberian regiment Kharitina Korotkevich was enlisted in the staff of a military unit. The battalion commander, Captain Gusakovsky, was obliged to give her uniforms and weapon, and the recruit himself - in every possible way to hide his gender and respond to the name Khariton.
Before the regiment came to the front line, “Private Khariton Korotkevich” mastered all the front-line and rifle techniques, learned to shoot well, and was allowed to serve. And in her spare time ... she was washing her husband and his comrades, sewing loose buttons on their tunic jackets, and when she got her leave in the city, she would go shopping, buying co-workers with tobacco and soap.
When the Siberians saddled the Dogustan and Segushan passes on the Liaodong Peninsula, the 7-I company of the regiment, where Korotkevich's husband and wife served, took up a position on Uglovoy Mountain. In the fierce battles with the Japanese 6 August 1904, Jacob was seriously wounded and evacuated to the hospital. Kharitina, with the permission of the regimental authorities, took care of her husband for three weeks, and only when the immediate danger of his life had passed, did she return to the company’s location.
By this time, the regimental units held defenses on Mount High, which held a special place in the defense system of Port Arthur. Fierce fighting in a key position flared up at the end of September 1904.
Combat Captain Gusakovsky, imbued with sincere respect for the brave woman and who wanted to protect her from the dangers that lay in wait for each soldier in the trenches, appointed Kharitina as his messenger. And although henceforth her duties included only the delivery of reports, Korotkevich continued to participate in shootouts, carried the wounded out of the battlefield.
October 3 Japanese began another assault on Russian positions. After repelling the attack, Captain Gusakovsky compiled a report on the losses and ammunition consumption, including in it a request for the allocation of a reserve and replenishment of ammunition. Kharitina was to deliver it to the regiment headquarters.
As soon as the officer put the last point, as the shelling of the height of the Japanese artillery began. As soon as Korotkevich ran out of the dugout, a large-caliber shell exploded on the parapet. Fragments killed a dozen soldiers, and Kharitin as well.
In the evening they were buried in a mass grave in the same place, on Mount High. And the next day, Captain Gusakovsky, barely recovering from a severe concussion, wrote a presentation on Private Khariton (Kharitina) Karatkevich to Soldier Georgy 4 degree ...
Through the war and years
MORE TWO courageous women who received the Insignia of the Military Order of St. George in the Russian-Japanese War, became Vera Voskresenskaya and Praskovya Nesterova. Alas, only minimal information was preserved about them.
About Vera Voskresenskaya it is known only that she came from a noble family, the award was awarded in 1904 year. After the end of hostilities in Manchuria, she returned to Russia; she passed the First World War as a sister of mercy. Then her tracks are lost. According to some reports, she lived to a very old age and in 1966, 93 died at the age of 13 years in her native Saratov, where she was buried in one of the city cemeteries.
About Praskovya Nesterova know a little more. She was the sister of mercy of the Evgenievskaya community, also took part in the Russian-Japanese war and was awarded the Insignia of the Military Order of Saint George in 1904 year. Then, as a nurse, three more wars took place - the First World War, the Civil War and the Great Patriotic War. And after that, she did not leave her profession: until 80, she worked at the Sverdlov Hospital on Starorusskaya Street in St. Petersburg. In the 1974 year, when Praskovye Andreevna turned 90 years, she wanted to award her with the Order of Lenin for a long hard work. She refused to accept the award ...
This courageous and surprisingly modest woman ended her earthly journey when she was ninety-six years old in a nursing home.