Love, which wasn’t daunted by difficulties
Nikolay came of the noble family. He was the son of Count Peter Sheremet’ev and Varvara, Princess Cherkasskaya. Nikolay was christened on the 1st of June in the famous Fountain House in St. Petersburg in the St. Varvara Church. Nikolay got a brilliant house education, which was completed by the four-year journey abroad.
Praskov’ya was born when the young Count was 17 years old in the family of blacksmiths in Yaroslavl’ Uyezd. Parasha got education at the serf theatre of Sheremet’ev. The words of many songs tell us about the meeting of Nikolay and Parasha. There is a legend that their first meeting happened in the surroundings of Voshchazhnikovo Village, which was the part of the Sheremet’evs’ lands from 1706 to 1917. Later, N. Sheremet’ev founded a chapel on the place of their meeting, but, unfortunately, it was destroyed. By his order the church was built in the village in 1805.
So, the young Parasha became Praskov’ya very soon. She was accommodated in the outhouse where actresses lived. In that way her girlish life changed. But nobody could suppose that the Count’s attention to the serf girl would turn into real passion and long relations. She liked singing very mush; she loved Nikolay and prayed. What about? We can only conjecture.
Praskov’yaperformed 50 opera parts on the stage of the theatre. In 1788 Nikolay Sheremet’ev and Praskov’ya began to live together in the Sheremet’ev Palace. That action was misunderstood to their contemporaries.
Nikolay inherited the Fountain House after his father’s death, and in 1795 they moved to St. Petersburg. Once Pavel I attended one of the home concerts in the Fountain House and presented Zhemchugova a precious stone.
In 1798 Praskov’ya got freedom, 3 years later her relatives became free, too. Her father became the Moscow merchant of the first guild. Only in February, 1801 they married in Moscow in the parish of the Church of Simeon Stolpnich (it is situated in Povarskaya Street). On the 3rd of February in 1803 their son Dmitry was born. He was named in honour to Dmitry Rostovskoy, whose portrait, together with her father’s portrait, Praskov’ya kept in her room.
Praskov’ya died from tuberculosis when their son Dmitry was 3 weeks old. There was another version of her death. M. Pilyaev wrote in his book “Forgotten Past of St. Petersburg Surroundings”: “…this virtuous woman died from poison – she was poisoned by house-serfs after the childbirth.” But this version wasn’t proved.
Before the death Praskov’ya asked Tat’yana Shlikova, her friend and a former dancer at the Sheremet’ev’s theatre, not to leave her son. And Tat’yana kept her promise given to Praskov’ya. She devoted all her life to Dmitry’s education.
Praskov’ya was buried in the Lavra of Alexander Nevsky. The verses on her tombstone were full of grief and sorrow.
N. Sheremet’ev wrote in the letter to his sister – Countess V. Razumovskaya (1803 February, 26) that his loss was exorbitant, he lost a wife and a friend.
After the death of Praskov’ya Nikolay Sheremet’ev devoted his life to the charity as his wife wanted. According to the will of Prascov’ya, he gave poor brides and craftsmen the part of his capital. He also found a Staropriimny House in Moscow.
Here is a brief note “About Foundation of the Staropriimny House in
Nikolay Sheremet’ev died on the 2nd of January in 1809 in the
house of Countess Potiomkina. His own house was being decorated for the holiday
in honour of Prussian King’s visit at that moment.
Grand opening of the Staropriimny House happened in a year after the death of Nikolay Sheremet’ev. It is written in the Russian bibliographic dictionary that “during the first 60 years of existence Staropriimny House in Moscow helped much poor people: 50000 people got medical treatment there, several tens of thousands of people got grants, and besides, several tens of thousands of poor brides got trousseau, moreover, from 100 to 170 aged people lived in the almshouse annually”. (1911, page 165)
After the death of Nikolay Sheremet’ev his son Dmitry headed the Staropriimny House. He was a Maecenas, a military man, a countcillor of State. Dmitry died in 1871. His son wrote: “He died at that time when he was passing his parlour from the sofa to the writing-table – he fell and died on the spot.”
Since 1923 Staropriimny House became the Sclifosovsky First-Aid Institute and then it was a scientific-research center “Medical Museum”.
It is interesting that Anna Ahmatova, the famous Russian poetess, lived in the Fountain House for 30 years and once she even saw a silhouette of the serf actress and the hostess of the palace.
The last shelter of Anna Ahmatova was the Sklifasovsky First-Aid Institute (the very Staropriimny House in Moscow) where she died. In 1925 Pavel Sheremet’ev, the great-grandson of Nikolay and Praskov’ya, a curator of the museum “Ostankino”, wrote with sorrow about human ingratitude in his poem “A Trip to Baden-Baden”.
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