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The Lost Guard

March 2023
1min read

This trio, with their finely waxed mustaches, may look like performers in a Sigmund Romberg operetta, but in fact, in the last days of the 1917 Russian Revolution, they were all that stood between Nicholas II, the last czar of Russia, and the fury of the people. The photo of the czar’s guards came to us from Erdman Heinrich Schlender, of St. Joseph, Michigan, and in the accompanying letter he explains why it is a treasured family memento: “Father and Mother arrived in America with two baby boys, one of whom was me. The guard on the right was our mother’s brother, Heinrich Zindler.

“My grandfather was one of many Germans invited to Russia as farmers, but the Russians were never convinced it was a good idea. Soon there were squabbles. Heinrich was discontented with rural life in Russia, and the next thing the family knew he was a personal guard for Czar Nicholas. I called an American cousin who assured me that Heinrich escaped death—how we don’t know—and another relative told me that the last they knew of Heinrich, he survived the Revolution and emigrated to Minnesota, where he married and had five children. What is so disconcerting is that we never heard from him.”

Schlender ends with a cry on behalf of all of us who find frustratingly inscrutable treasures among the papers left by deceased family members: “We should have asked more questions while all the relatives were living.”


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