Pauline Gebl - French milliner and Russian wife of the disgraced Decembrist

Polina Gebl (Praskovya Annenkova)

Polina Gebl was the wife of a Decembrist and a woman with a capital letter. As the classic said, "there are women in Russian villages", but it turned out that there are real women in France. She fell in love with a Russian nobleman and, leaving everything behind, went to Siberia for him, like many wives of the Decembrists. But the story of Polina Gebl and her husband, the Decembrist Annenkov, can be called the most poetic. This fabulous, all-conquering love became not only the topic of conversation in the high society salons of that time, but also the plot for Alexander Dumas's novel "The Fencing Teacher" and AD Shaporin's opera "The Decembrists" (its first edition was called "Pauline Geble").

Pauline Geble was born on March 10, 1800 in Lorraine, in the Champagne castle, into an aristocratic family, which during the French Revolution was deprived of both social and material privileges. Only in 1802, not without the help of friends, Pauline's father Georges Geble was recruited into the Napoleonic army, which allowed his family to live in relative prosperity for several years. But soon he died in Spain and the Goble family was again left without a livelihood.

Polina and her sister had to earn their living by needlework. And when Polina was 17 years old, she entered a saleswoman in a fashion house in Paris. In 1823 she accepted the offer of the Dumansy trading house and went to work in Russia.

Ivan Alexandrovich Annenkov is a lieutenant of the Cavalry Regiment, a brilliant officer, the only heir to the largest fortune in Russia and a modest employee of a trading house. They could not help but meet. The Dumansy fashion house, where Polina worked, was located next to the house of Anna Ivanovna Annenkova, who loved to shop and often visited this store. Ivan Alekseevich often accompanied his mother. Polina immediately drew attention to a tall, slender, blue-eyed and very courteous officer. Ivan Annenkov also noticed a beautiful and well-mannered French woman and often went to the store, though without his mother.

Soon Ivan confessed his love to Polina and invited her to secretly get married. Why secret? Because he knew perfectly well that his mother would never consent to an unequal marriage. Polina also realized this and, despite the fact that she was madly in love with Ivan, rejected the offer to become his wife. But she did not refuse to meet. Soon Polina became pregnant and Annenkov made another attempt to persuade her to get married. He even found a priest and witnesses, but his beloved, apparently having her own ideas about the will of her parents, again refused him.

Shortly before the Decembrist uprising, Ivan unexpectedly confessed to Polina that events were coming soon, for his participation in which he would most likely be sent to Siberia. On that day, Pauline vowed to him that she would follow him everywhere. In early December 1825, Ivan Alexandrovich returned to St. Petersburg, and on December 14, a famous uprising took place on Senate Square. As a member of the Northern Society, Annenkov was arrested on December 19 and sent to Vyborg, and then to the Peter and Paul Fortress. Soon he was convicted of the II category and sentenced to 20 years of hard labor (later the term was reduced to 15 years).

Upon learning that her beloved was imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress, she paid the non-commissioned officer 200 rubles and sent him a medallion with a note: "I will go with you to Siberia."

Soon she wrote a petition addressed to the emperor.

“Your Majesty, let the mother fall at the feet of Your Majesty and ask as a favor for permission to share the exile of her common-law spouse. I completely sacrifice myself to the person without whom I can no longer live. This is my most ardent desire. I would be his legal wife in the eyes of the church and before the law if I wanted to break the rules of conscience. We are united by inseparable bonds. His love was enough for me. Please, sir, graciously allow me to share his exile. I will give up my fatherland and am ready to fully obey your laws. "

Her application was accepted. Nicholas I, touched by her devotion to the convicted criminal, allowed Polina to go to Siberia and ordered to issue a travel allowance, but he forbade taking the child with him.

Having said goodbye to her daughter, whom she left with Anna Ivanovna Annenkova, Polina went after her beloved in December.

Upon Polina's arrival in Chita, the military, sent by the commandant Leparsky, took her to an apartment prepared for her. The next day, the commandant visited her himself, saying that he had received an order from His Majesty regarding her wedding with the prisoner Annenkov. This is how Polina describes in her "Memoirs" her first meeting with Annenkov after a long separation:

“Only on the third day of my arrival did they bring Ivan Alexandrovich to me. It is impossible to describe our first date, the insane joy that we indulged in after a long separation, forgetting all the grief and the terrible situation in which we were. I threw myself on my knees and kissed his chains. "

Ivan Alexandrovich Annenkov

The wedding of Polina and Ivan took place on April 4, 1828. For the time of the wedding, they removed the iron from Annenkov and immediately after the end of the ceremony they put it on again and took him back to prison.

So, Polina, having twice refused to marry the richest groom in Moscow, became the wife of a convict. She was happy, having connected fate with her beloved, and proudly bore a new name - Praskovya Yegorovna Annenkova.

In March 1829, the Annenkovs had a second daughter, who was named after their grandmother Anna.

In 1830, Ivan was transferred to the Petrovsky plant, and now the couple began to see each other much more often. Polina bought a small house and got a housekeeping. A year later, a son, Vladimir, was born in the Annenkov family (in total, Polina gave birth 18 times, but only six children survived).

In 1839, Ivan Alexandrovich, at the request of his mother, was allowed to enter the civil service, which somewhat eased the financial situation of a large family. Two years later, the Annenkov family was allowed to move to Tobolsk, where they lived for 15 years until the amnesty of 1856. After the amnesty, the family moved to Nizhny Novgorod. Soon the city was visited by Alexander Dumas, who was traveling in Russia. The Governor of Nizhny Novgorod arranged an evening in honor of the famous writer, warning in advance that a surprise awaited him.

In his book Travel Impressions. In Russia "Dumas wrote:

“Before I had time to take my place, the door opened, and the footman reported: 'Count and Countess Annenkov.' Those two names made me flinch, evoking a vague memory in me. “Alexandre Dumas, ” Governor Muravyov addressed them. Then, turning to me, he said: "The Count and Countess of the Annenkovs, the hero and heroine of your novel" The Fencing Teacher "." A cry of surprise escaped me, and I found myself in the arms of the spouses. "

A few days later, Dumas arrived at the Annenkovs' house. For several hours of communication with the aged prototypes of his heroes, he learned a lot of interesting things about the Siberian life of the Decembrists: about 30 years of severe ordeals, hard labor and humiliation, about the wedding of Ivan and Polina in the Mikhailo-Arkhangelsk prison church, about the death of children and about the unquenchable love of these elderly people. He learned that it was love and loyalty that helped them overcome all the trials that fell to their lot.

The Annenkovs lived in Nizhny Novgorod for almost 20 more years. Ivan Alexandrovich served as an official under the governor, was a member of the committee for improving the life of peasants, participated in the preparation of reforms, worked in the zemstvo and was elected to the magistrates.

For five consecutive terms, the Nizhny Novgorod nobility elected Ivan Alexandrovich Annenkov as their leader. Polina was also involved in social activities, she was elected a trustee of the Nizhny Novgorod women's Mariinsky school, and then, at the request of MI Semevsky, the publisher of Russkaya Starina, wrote her memoirs.

Never having mastered the written Russian language, she dictated them to her eldest daughter Olga. For the first time her memoirs were published in 1888, then they were reprinted several times.

But the main thing in her life was always her husband - her beloved Ivan Alexandrovich. Until her last days, she looked after him like a child, and until her death she did not remove from her hand the bracelet cast by Nikolai Bestuzhev from her husband's shackles.

Polina died in 1876. Ivan Alexandrovich was very upset by the death of his wife. “After the death of my grandmother, my grandfather fell into a painful state and the last time of his life suffered from black melancholy, ” recalled the granddaughter of the Annenkovs, MV Bryzgalova. A year and four months after Polina's death, her husband died. He was buried in the Nizhny Novgorod Holy Cross Convent, next to his wife, who loved him so dearly all her life and who was his most faithful and devoted friend.