Lili Dehn in 1914.
August 9, 1888|
|Died||October 8, 1963
|Spouse(s)||Karl von Dehn|
|Parents||Ismail Selim Bek Smolsky and Catherine Horvat.|
Lili Dehn, or Lili von Dehn, born Yulia Alexandrovna Smolskaia, (Russian: ЮЛИЯ АЛЕКСАНДРОВНА фон ДЕН) (July 27 (O.S.)/August 9, 1888 (N.S.) - October 8, 1963), was the wife of a Russian naval officer and a friend to Tsarina Alexandra.
Dehn was born on her family's southern Russian estate, Revovka, a home of her ancestor General Mikhail Kutuzov, the victor of Napoleon during the 1812 invasion of Russia. Her parents were Ismail Selim Bek Smolsky and Catherine Horvat. Both sides of her family had a long history in Russia, according to her memoirs. Her parents divorced when she was eleven and her mother later remarried. Her maternal grandmother helped to raise her.
She was educated by tutors at home and wrote that she understood very little Russian as a child because her family spoke French. As a young girl, she enjoyed listening to folk stories of old Russia told by her maternal grandmother and her childhood nurse. "The peasants at Revovka were extremely superstitious, and they believed implicitly in witches and warlocks," wrote Dehn. Later, she had an English governess. She loved her childhood estate and, whenever she went to visit an uncle in Livadiya, took a bit of dirt with her from Revovka to remind her of home.
Marriage and friendship with the Tsarina
Dehn married 1907 in Yalta, Carl Alexander "Joachimovitch" Akimovich von Dehn (1877–1932), a Russian naval officer whose family originally came from Tallinn, Estonia, from Finland and from Sweden. Dehn was an officer on the imperial yacht, Standart, and was a favorite with the imperial children. The Tsarina took an interest in Dehn's new wife and befriended her following the marriage.
The Tsarina was the godmother for the Dehns' son, Alexander Leonide, who was born on August 9, 1908, and nicknamed "Titi." Dehn wrote that Titi was baptized Lutheran, which was required by her husband's family to maintain an inheritance. Alexandra remained disturbed that her godchild had had a Lutheran baptism and insisted seven years later that the child must be rebaptized in the Russian Orthodox Church. The Dehns complied with her request.
Dehn was skeptical about the holiness of the starets Grigori Rasputin and the Tsarina's reliance upon him, but wrote that Rasputin once prayed over her own son, Titi, when the child was dangerously ill and the boy made a quick recovery.
World War I and Revolution
She was with the imperial family during the outbreak of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and helped nurse the imperial children and the Tsarina's friend, Anna Vyrubova, who was also Dehn's distant cousin, through an outbreak of measles. She witnessed the Tsar's abdication and the family's imprisonment by the new provisional government. Dehn left the palace and persuaded the government to place her under house arrest in her own home because her son Titi was dangerously ill.
Dehn escaped Russia aboard the ship SS Kherson with her mother and son Titi via Turkey and Greece. They eventually reached England. The family first settled in England, where the von Dehns had two more children, Ekaterina, or Katharina, or Catherine, in December 1919 and Maria Olga, or Marie, in April 1923. They later moved to a family estate, Holowiesk, in eastern Poland. Her husband died in 1932 and her daughter Catherine died in 1937. After World War II broke out, she was forced to emigrate again and ended in Caracas, Venezuela, where her daughter Maria, who spoke seven languages, later worked as an interpreter for the Venezuelan government.
In the early 1950s, Dehn visited Anna Anderson, who claimed to be the rescued Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia. Dehn said she recognized Anderson as Anastasia. "What can I say after having known her?" Dehn said after the meeting. "I certainly cannot be mistaken about her identity." Dehn died in 1963.
Her son, Alexander, died in 1974 and her daughter Maria died in February 2007. Both left children and grandchildren. Today her daughter Maria's two children and four grandchildren live in the United States.
- "Genealogy of the von Dehn family". genealogy.com. Retrieved February 26, 2007.
- Dehn, Lili (1922). "The Real Tsaritsa". alexanderpalace.org. Retrieved February 26, 2007.
- Alexander von Dehn (1966). "Memoirs of Alexander Leonid von Dehn". private memoirs. Retrieved February 26, 2007.
- LaCrosse Tribune (2007). "Obituary for Maria Olga Happe". February 7, 2007 edition of the "LaCrosse Tribune (LaCrosse, Wisconsin)". Retrieved February 26, 2007.
- Kurth, Peter, Anastasia: The Riddle of Anna Anderson, Back Bay Books, 1983, p. 289