The Kindiakovs continued...
Alexander Levovich Kindiakov, was a much loved figure in Kathleen’s life. He was a considerable influence – Kathleen spent a lot of time with him, often sitting in front of him on his horse, moving around the estates, and learning about farming and her family culture. As soon as she was able she rode her own pony beside him.
Alexander was a kind man, and very proud of his family. He became guardian to two of his sister’s daughters, after his sister died in childbirth. It is said these two girls became the heroines of Goncharov’s novel The Precipice.
In 1834 Alexander married Emilie Constradt, who in her turn brought some property to the family as part of her dowry. At this time, the French language was the language of the major families in Russia. Many of the aristocrats did not speak Russian, it was considered to be the language of uneducated peasants.
The family were very wealthy in assets, with several properties, inherited over some generations. However, after Czar Alexander II introduced an ‘Act of Liberation’ abolishing serfdom in 1861, times became difficult. Now landholders such as the Kindiakovs could not rely on free labour, but had to pay their workers. At the same time these peasants were very dependent on their landlords, who usually provided housing and food for their families. Their freedom didn’t always mean personal liberty as they were heavily burdened with mortgages and taxes.
Emilie married into this family bringing large properties, but was forced to live with her husband’s parents. This was not a happy experience for her, as she was forced to defer to their wishes while living in their home. She gradually learnt to dislike Kindiakovka, and had many bad memories of her life there.
This unhappy living situation placed a lot of stress on her marriage to Alexander. When their daughter Sophie was born and was old enough to travel, Emilie spent as much as possible of her time abroad. It was difficult for Alexander to finance her travels and daily expenses abroad, as the family, although asset rich, were very short of day to day cash. This meant borrowing extensively and mortgaging their properties. Some of these debts were eventually passed on to Kathleen as she grew up and in her turn became responsible.
Emilie was very possessive of her one and only child, Sophie. This child was her whole life, an obsession. She wanted Sophie to become a proper young lady, European style, and to make a good marriage.
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An Irish Woman in Czarist Russia
by Jean Lombard