Beautiful Russian: Tamara Kondratievova

Murder on the train

Beautiful, young, but pugnacious – Tamara was exactly like this. She died in tragic circumstances on the train from Lublin to Krakow. To this day, it has not been possible to explain what happened during that unfortunate trip.

The Ziemia Lubelska daily of 20 March 1906 posted a disturbing note in its “City Chronicle” column, titled “Murder on a Train”. The author reported: “The news reaching the residents of the city of Lublin has it that the daughter of a former Lieutenant-Colonel of the Ryazan Infantry Regiment Mr. Mensen, Mrs. Kondratievova, who settled in our city quite a long time ago, was murdered while on a railway journey in a Western country, and her body was found near a park”.

The rumours that reached Lublin’s citizens were true. Mrs. Tamara Kondratievova, wife of a Russian banker and industrialist, was murdered in rather mysterious circumstances. She was probably knifed on the train and her body was then dumped on a square by the station in Cracow.

Was she headed for Cracow? Or maybe she was going for the waters, to one of the-then fashionable spas, maybe to Baden-Baden, or maybe to Krynica? This the people did not know. Tamara’s body was brought to Lublin and buried in the cemetery on Lipowa Street. A sandstone column was erected on her grave, representing a broken tree trunk. Attached to the column was a small, oval photograph of a woman with a shapely head on a slender, uncovered neck, a round face with big, mysterious eyes and hair tied in a large bun in line with fashion.

No doubt she was a beautiful and intriguing person. Not only those who knew her stopped by her grave for many years thereafter , but also all inhabitants of Lublin who were moved by her mysterious death. Speculations about the murder over Tamara’s grave could be compiled into a great novel of manners about people of those times entangled in politics, passion, hazard, financial and honorary matters.

Tamara, a young married woman, an extremely temperamental person with unpredictable whims and ignoring the proprieties, cheating on her husband with an ambitious young officer desirous of a rapid career, became a burden to both those men at a certain point in time. Her husband was unable to control her fancies, and for the ambitious officer his protracting and well-known affair with a capricious and eccentric married woman was becoming an obstacle to his career. In Lublin, in the inter-war years, two versions of her death were known to the public. Some people believed she fell victim to a knifer hired by her lover, while others suspected she was killed by a thug commissioned by her jealous and humiliated husband.

She could not have travelled alone. Ladies of her station were nornally accompanied by servants. However, the knifer somehow found her alone in a railway compartment, killed her and managed take her body out of the train. Did he have an accomplice? Also this question remains unanswered. Gossips pointed at Lublin’s thug, Marian Marczyk, who – as many Lubliners believed – had been allegedly hired to kill Tamara. A few years later, in the turmoil of war, Marczyk himself was killed. An unknown perpetrator shot him three times. The photograph of the pretty woman was still to be seen on the grave column in the 1960s, and on the sixtieth anniversary of Tamara Kondratievova’s death bells were ringing in the Lublin Orthodox church.

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