St. Elizabeth, the Grand Duchess of Russia
Orthodox icon of Saint Elizabeth, the Grand- Duchess of Russia. Contemporary icon
Commemorated July 18.
Saint Elizabeth was the older sister of Tsarina Alexandra, and was married to the Grand Duke Sergius, the governor of Moscow. She converted to Orthodoxy from Protestantism of her own free will, and organized women from all levels of society to help the soldiers at the front and in the hospitals.
Grand Duke Sergius was killed by an assassin’s bomb on February 4, 1905, just as Saint Elizabeth was leaving for her workshops. Remarkably, she visited her husband’s killer in prison and urged him to repent.
After this, she began to withdraw from her former social life. She devoted herself to the Convent of Saints Martha and Mary, a community of nuns which focused on worshiping God and also helping the poor. She moved out of the palace into a building she purchased on Ordinka. Women from the nobility, and also from the common people, were attracted to the convent.
Saint Elizabeth nursed sick and wounded soldiers in the hospitals and on the battle front. On Pascha of 1918, the Communists ordered her to leave Moscow, and join the royal family near Ekaterinburg. She left with a novice, Sister Barbara, and an escort of Latvian guards.
After arriving in Ekaterinburg, Saint Elizabeth was denied access to the Tsar’s family. She was placed in a convent, where she was warmly received by the sisters.
At the end of May Saint Elizabeth was moved to nearby Alopaevsk with the Grand Dukes Sergius, John, and Constantine, and the young Count Vladimir Paley. They were all housed in a schoolhouse on the edge of town. Saint Elizabeth was under guard, but was permitted to go to church and work in the garden.
On the night of July 5, they were all taken to a place twelve miles from Alopaevsk, and executed. The Grand Duke Sergius was shot, but the others were thrown down a mineshaft, then grenades were tossed after them. Saint Elizabeth lived for several hours, and could be heard singing hymns.
The bodies of Saint Elizabeth and Saint Barbara were taken to Jerusalem in 1920, and buried in the church of Saint Mary Magdalene.
Reference: O. C. A.