On July 18 (N.S.), 1918, the day after the murder of the Russian Imperial family, the sister of the Empress, Grand Duchess Elizaveta Feodorovna, and other relatives of theirs, including the brothers, Princes Igor, Konstantin and Ioann Konstantinovich, were likewise killed by communist henchmen in Alpaevsk in the Ural Mountains area. On June 15, 2017, two sisters, granddaughters of Prince Ioann, visited Holy Trinity Monastery for the first time.
These two sisters, Nobile Nicoletta Farace de Grundland and Nobile Fiammetta Farace de Zanelli, are daughters of the late Princess Ekaterina of Russia, one of the two children of Prince Ioann and his wife, Princess Elena Petrovna of Serbia. Since their father was a diplomat in service of the government of Italy, they were born and raised in different countries around the world. Nicoletta eventually married and settled in Montevideo, Uruguay, where her mother lived her last years and reposed in 2007. The other sister, Fiammetta, lives in Long Island, New York. She is the mother of the well-known actor, Sebastian Arcelus, who has performed on Broadway and on television.
The two sisters were close to their aunt, Princess Vera, who lived the last part of her life near New York City and who bequeathed to the Museum of Russian History at Holy Trinity Monastery, many articles belonging to her branch of the Romanov family, the Konstantovichi. It was the wish of the community for many years that these two sisters would visit the monastery and view these important relics of Russia’s glorious and tragic imperial family. Igumen Theophylact, during his trips to Argentina, made the acquaintance of Nicoletta and also Princess Ekaterina, and was overjoyed at their arrival finally.
A long and thorough view of the museum and especially the Konstantinovichi collection was provided by the museum’s curator, Michael Perekrestov. Nicoletta and Fiammetta were impressed with Michael’s knowledge of the items and the care and honor with which the relics are preserved. Portraits, letters, photographs, family items, such as a Faberge family tree, sparked the interest and admiration of the two sisters. They had long wanted to view or review these family artifacts and were especially satisfied that they are in the right place and are being preserved for future generations. Quite poignant and sad was their viewing of the results of the investigation of the massacre of the Romanovs, which took place on July 17 and 18, 1918.
After a thorough and exhaustive view of the museum, Fr. Theophylact provided a view of the monastery’s main church and grounds. The sisters were impressed with the beauty of the cathedral and the grounds. Fiammetta, an accomplished photographer, kept remarking on the possibility of some very good photographs of the grounds.
Later on, a delicious “Russian” tea was provided by the monastery’s abbot, Archimandrite Luke with the assistance of Archimandrite Nectarios. The sisters were touched by the attention. Fr. Luke spoke of the activities of the monastery and the need for the preservation of our history, including our relationship to Russia’s history and especially its ties to the monarchy. Even though the sisters are half Italian, they very much honor and treasure their ties to Russia’s monarchical past. What was special to them was with their personal knowledge of so many events and family ties, they were able to see the live and material objects of that past, in an environment where not only is this past zealously being preserved but still is very much of its present.
After expressing their gratitude for such a warm welcome, the granddaughters of the New Martyr Ioann Konstantinovich were delighted by a brief visit to the St. Elizabeth Skete on their way out, where besides chatting with the nuns, they were able to visit with the recently acquired alpacas. Fiammetta expressed her desire to take them home with her. What they did take home with them, after profusely expressing their gratitude to all, was the warmest memories of their long anticipated visit to our monastery and acquaintance with a long treasured family past.
It is hoped that the Farace Romanov sisters, Nicoletta and Fiammetta, will once again visit us and bring their children and grandchildren to see the visible and much treasured artifacts of their Russian ancestry.