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Burial Ends Exile for Many Romanovs

July 18, 1998

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) _ They had heard the stories for decades, stories of pain and death and exile. For many, Russia was a place of bloodshed and horror.

That was put to rest Friday for descendants of the Romanov dynasty. Eight decades after their parents and grandparents fled the Bolshevik Revolution, about 60 Romanovs returned to Russia to take part in the burial of their forebear _ Nicholas II, Russia’s last Romanov czar.

``I’m very proud of Russia, and I’m very proud of my family,″ said Rostislav Romanov, a 58-year-old banker based in London. ``It means the unfinished business is ended and we can go forward.″

Many of the clan expressed gratitude to President Boris Yeltsin for changing his mind at the last minute and attending the burial service, lending the gravity of his office to the event.

``When the Russian president went in and bowed over to the grave, it was a very great day for Russian history,″ said Paul Ilyinsky, the mayor of Palm Beach, Fla., whose father was the czar’s first cousin. ``We pour our hearts out to him and thank him because he made the occasion a historical event by being there.″

The fate of the last czar and his family has haunted the Romanovs ever since they disappeared in 1918.

Rostislav, whose mother was 17 when she fled the Bolsheviks, said he made a decision to honor her pain by not visiting Russia until the czar was about to be buried. And now he’s looking forward to more trips here with his children.

``It’s closure,″ he said after the service. ``And a beginning.″

Some of his cousins have been visiting Russia ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union. But even for them, the burial _ of the czar, his wife and three of their children _ means the family’s exile is officially over, that they can leave the past in peace.

Nicholas Romanov, the head of the Romanov Family Association, said he would like the family to get to know contemporary Russia better, and start concentrating on current projects, like charity work.

``Today was a moment of satisfaction, and even content,″ he said. ``We’ve done our duty. Russia has done its duty. The president has done his duty as a president and, as he himself said, as a man.″

``We’ve laid them to rest forever.″

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