CAPTAIN PETER SARANDINAKI
My name is Captain Peter Sarandinaki, and I am the President and founder of the group called SEARCH Foundation, Inc. My great-grandfather was Lieutenant General Sergey Nikolaevich Rozanov, who was Admiral Alexander Kolchak’s Military Commander of the Amur Region of Russia until January 1920.
General Rozanov’s daughter, Anna Sergeyevna Rozanov-Naryshkin was my grandmother and, remembered in detail her father’s critical mission. He was in charge of the White Russian troops that liberated Ekaterinburg from the Reds six days after the Romanov Imperial Family and their faithful servants were murdered under the darkness of the early morning on 17 July, 1918. My grandfather, Colonel Kiril Mihailovich Naryshkin, was the General’s adjutant. When the Whites entered Ekaterinburg they found that the Ipatiev House, where the Imperial Family were imprisoned, was fenced in by a tall wooden palisade secured by locked gates. Rozanov gave the order to break down the fence, and he together with Naryshkin, were among the first to enter the Ipatiev House and see what horrific events took place in that house.
On 30 July, 1918, a forensic investigation (see Sokolov, p 8) was started by the Whites to learn the fate of the Imperial Family and their faithful servants. The White Army General Staff first, appointed Alexander Nametkin and then, Ivan Sergeyev to conduct the investigation, but they proved to be untrustworthy and lacked the enthusiasm necessary to conduct the task. They were soon dismissed by the White Army General Staff and, General Rozanov’s trusted friend from Penza, a criminal investigator by profession, Nikolai Alexeyevich Sokolov, had just crossed the Urals into White occupied territory. He was known to be an extremely honest, incisive and excellent investigator. In September of 1918, Rozanov recommended him to the Ministry of Justice of the Provisional Siberian Government as the man most qualified to investigate the murder of the Imperial family. General Rozanov wrote the following to the Minister of Justice:
“In view of the aforementioned (where he describes N. Sokolov’s experience and character), I feel morally obligated to request that you (the Minister of Justice) extend all possible cooperation from your part, to having Mr. Sokolov appointed to the available position of Criminal Investigator.”
On November 5, 1918 the Deputy Minister of Justice, A. P. Morozov, assigned Nikolai Sokolov as Criminal Investigator for Special Purposes of the Omsk Regional Court.
Almost a century later, this letter written by Rozanov to the Minister of Justice on behalf of Sokolov, was given to me by Investigator Willie Korte, who’s team found this letter in the Kolchack Archives in Prague.
In February 1919 (Sokolov, p 9), Nikolai Sokolov was appointed by Kolchak as Chief Investigator and began the search in the Four Brothers Mine area by way of the “Open Shaft”.
His investigation led to a painstaking search that lasted until the Red Army re-occupied Ekaterinburg in July 1919. Sokolov collected items he considered as forensic evidence of the murders and secured them in a military box to preserve their integrity. With his precious collection, Sokolov traveled East, across Siberia and eventually escaped out of Russia to Harbin, China. He then traveled to Japan where he met up with my grandparents, Kiril and Anna Naryshkin who were already there. Sokolov, Naryshkin and their wives left Japan for Italy on a ship called Andre le Bon, where the four shared a cabin. Unfortunately, the ship, Andre le Bon only took them as far as Colombo. There, they needed to wait for another ship that took them to Venice. During the journey, the “Sokolov Box” was kept under my grandmother’s bunk and was always guarded by one of them. After arriving in Venice, my grandmother was sent ahead to France. However Sokolov, his wife and my grandfather, Kiril Naryshkin went to see Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich (the Tsar’s uncle) with Sokolov’s box, but he refused to accept the contents, because he believed that the contents would upset the Emperor’s mother, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, who preferred to believe that her son was alive. Later Sokolov tried to give “the Box” to King GeorgeV of England, who was Nikolai II’s first cousin, but he, too, refused to accept custody of the box. My grandmother, Anna Sergeevna, wrote, “As far as I know, the “Box” was hidden – apparently in a safe. Three people always had to know of its whereabouts – General Mikhail Konstantinovich Deterikhs, my father and one other who I do not know.” Until recently, the whereabouts of the “Sokolov Box” was unknown and it remained a mystery. However, in the early 1990’s, I discovered that the “Box” and its contents were in the possession of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. I passed this information on to Russian investigator Vladimir Soloviev who traveled to the church in Brussels, Belgium where the “Box” is kept. To this date, the Church has not made the “Box” available for examination by forensic scientists.
As an eleven-year old boy, I learned of my family history from the many stories my grandmother used to tell me. She had an unusual life. As a 17-year old girl, she bravely accompanied her mother and sister across Russia on horseback, camel, carriage, etc. to join her father, who was with the White Army in Siberia. Later, her father became military governor of Vladivostok and the immense Amur Region that formed Russia’s Far East and the gateway to the Pacific. She loved to tell how she had rowed around Vladivostok Harbor, seeing American Naval ships with their guns pointed at the Japanese Ships. She witnessed much during the chaotic times, but the one story that left the strongest impression on me, was the story of the “Sokolov Box”. While guarding the “Box”, she confessed to me how she had once opened it, and saw the Empress’s severed, well-manicured finger. This made a deep and lasting impression on my young mind, and perhaps explains why I am determined to find the truth today, just as the forensic investigator, Nikolai Sokolov, who was my great-grandfather’s friend, had attempted to accomplish almost ninety years ago.
Sokolov, N. I. Ubiistvo Tsarskoi Sem’i (1996) Volume 1, Terra Publ. Moscow, pp 400