The Crimea, July 19, 2016
The Crimean sand animation master Xenia Simonova, 31, has completed her work on a new story in sand and presented it for the feast-day of the New Martyrs Elizabeth (Romanova) and Novice Barbara (Yakovleva), reports the Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper.
“The film is devoted to the life and death of the Grand Duchess,” Mrs. Simonova relates. “I conceived the idea for the film and its final scene five years ago, and all this time the future film obtained new details. It occurs with me very seldom when I see concrete scenes of a future film, especially something detailed.
My film definitely originated during my trip to Alapayevsk in 2011: then on the invitation of Metropolitan Kirill of Yekaterinburg and Verkhoturye my husband and I came to Yekaterinburg for “the Royal Days” celebrations. On the last day of our trip, July 18, we went to Alapayevsk where we visited the building of the so-called Napolnaya School – it was there that St. Elizabeth Feodorovna spent the final months of her life under arrest. This is a building and its rooms and classes are diminutive. It was in one of those rooms that St. Elizabeth Feodorovna lived together with the Holy Novice Barbara. Men lived in other rooms – several in each. We were told about the events of that last terrible night: how they were awakened, thrown into a wagon, brought to the thick of the forest and led towards an abandoned mine in the darkness. Although the executioners told them they were just conveying them to a safer place, the captives sensed where and why they were being led.
Next we proceeded to the site of martyrdom of the Grand Duchess and her companions – the Monastery of the New Martyrs of Russia now stands there. All of them (excepting Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich who had been shot in the head) were cast alive into a deep mine near Alapayevsk and then pelted with grenades and stones. However, according to a later expert examination carried out when all the bodies were raised in 1919, nearly all the martyrs died of injuries and starvation after long and terrible agony.
The Grand Duchess along with one of the Grand Dukes did not fall to the bottom but landed on a ledge halfway down the shaft. And from the expert examination we know that St. Elizabeth bandaged the head of fatally injured Duke Ioann Konstantinovich with a piece of her garment. The body of St. Elizabeth was found incorrupt; the fingers of her right hand were folded to make the sign of the cross. There was a bruise (the size of a child’s palm) on the back of her head. An unexploded grenade was found near her.
A special atmosphere reigns in the area around the former mine. The mine itself was filled up: now all that remains of it is a shallow ditch, covered with bright green grass and surrounded by wrought iron fencing. White lilies grow round the fence – they are the symbol of the Hessian Grand Ducal Family. And Ella (Elizabeth), Princess of Hesse-Darmstadt by the Rhine, was descended precisely from this family. These lilies went deep into my soul. That was wonderful (as is everything associated with this great woman) and I decided that white lilies should become the keynote of the planned film.
And there are woods and crystal quiet all around. There are night frosts here even in summer, and pines nod to the wind – silent witnesses of the crime which, it seems, have been forgiven. And the saint forgave too. Before she was pushed into the mine, St. Elizabeth had prayed with the words of Christ: “Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (see Luke 23:34)...
The film was developed in my mind for five years but was created within a record-breaking short term – as soon as I returned from my overseas trip we began its shooting. Most of the film was shot in the “sand animation” technique, while the rest of the film – in the “plastic animation” technique, that is, drawing in liquid sand.
I intend to present this film at a number of film festivals and animation festivals. The movie is accessible for all and I will be happy if the film is of interest and of value to all those who cherish the memory of Her Exellency Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna. I will be grateful if people would spread the film through the media; the movie in high HD-quality is on my official YouTube channel www.youtube.com/simonovatv and is available free for downloading”.