The Kindiakovs were an old family of service gentry, well known from the sixteenth century; a family proud to breed their own horses and dogs, and grow grapes and make their own wine. Horses from the Kindiakovka stables served in the Czar’s army. Grandfather Alexander served in the Czar’s army under Nicholas I in the Polish campaign, where some of his relatives were lost. He resigned his commission in 1831, and we have a copy of his letter to the Czar asking for his release. It lists the many campaigns and achievements of his service.
The nearest town to Kindiakovka was Simbirsk, a port on the River Volga, and the Kindiakov family had an impressive town house there. The Simbirsk of Kathleen’s childhood was a town typical of the old Russia, picturesque and interesting. It is situated south of Nizhny Novgorod and Kazan, on a steep hill overlooking the Volga. In the 19th century when Kathleen was growing up, the town was surrounded by forest and steppe. It was a busy port, approximately eleven hours by ferry travelling south from Kazan, and 600 kilometres east of Moscow. It boasted one of the largest bridges in Russia. Simbirsk was first built on the site of the old northern town by Boyar Petrovo in 1640. The clay ramparts on which the old fortified walls stood are still to be seen straggling west at a considerable distance from the town.
Simbirsk’s many domes, spires and minarets gave the place a picturesque and oriental appearance. The town had once been inhabited by Tartars. The Kindiakovs, as well as many of the princely and noble families in the central and lower Volga provinces, claimed to be their descendants.
Part of the town was destroyed by fire in 1864 (the year of Kathleen’s birth) but the archives, the cathedral and the old water tower were saved by her Grandfather Alexander Kindiakov.
An Irish Woman in Czarist Russia
by Jean Lombard