Three dates are coincident: faithful to the Empress life-cossack Kirill Polyakov died on the 15th of September 1934. On the same day, but in 1950 countess Zinaida Mengden passed away, having never set up her own family and having devoted her whole life to serving Maria Feodorovna. In 2006, on the 15th of September, an exhibition was opened at Assistens Cemetery in Copenhagen, dedicated to Russian emigrants, the so called Small Court of Empress Maria Feodorovna. Kirill Poliyakov and Zinaida Mengden were both part of the Small Court.
These three dates can be seen as a mere coincidence for us, modern Western people. However, according to the Orthodox church canons the date of death has a special meaning. On this date the living ones recall the dead and their life in church prayers. Let us too commemorate Kirill Poliyakov and Zinaida Mengden.
Zinaida Mengden was born the youngest among other five brothers and sisters in St. Petersburg. Her father was general-major in Alexander II's suite. Her sister Evgenia was 19 years older than Zinaida. The family was in close contact with the Imperial house, judging by the fact that Tsar Alexander II and Maria Feodorovna, who at that time was crown princess, became Zinaida's godfather and godmother. In 1904 Zinaida received a title "Dame d'honneur de la Ville" (honored lady of the town). The title had already been awarded to her elder sister serving Maria Feodorovna.
Being "honored lady of the town" meant being at Alexandra Feodorovna's or Maria Feodorovna's disposal at some special occasions. During important ceremonies or celebrations, when the Empress was to be accompanied, the honored ladies followed Her Majesty.
Zinaida's first service was at little Tsarevich Alexey's christening, Nikolay II's son. It happened in Peterhof, where the Empress selected a court lady from honored ladies of the town. In 1912 Zinaida Mengden was awarded this title.
A lot of doleful events happening in Russia in those times did not bypass Zinaida's family. The war between Russia and Japan started in 1904. News from the front was unfortunate. A lot of soldiers and officers were killed, many of them being killed at Tsusimsk-battle defeat.
Internal political conflict in January-February 1905 brought another negative effect, which put an end to amusements or mere thoughts of a peaceful life.
Death of the relatives in the Mengdens family aggravated the situation: in 1910 Zinaida's mother died; her father had died several years earlier.
It was in this period, the 19th of January 1912, that Zinaida received an invitation to meet Widowed Empress Maria Feodorovna. The Empress gave her a hearty welcome, they spoke a lot about Zinaida's family.
"Do you want to stay by me?" asked the Empress.
"I would wish this to happen, Your Majesty, but I'm afraid I will not be able to manage it".
"I am sure you will," answered the Empress and for a start asked Zinaida to follow Her the coming Sunday to the church.
Zinaida Mengden left Maria Feodorovna's room in complete stupefaction. She remembered the words, which another older court lady had said: "Congratulations and good luck. You should understand that FROM NOW ON YOU DO NOT HAVE YOUR OWN LIFE." However, it did not frighten Zinaida.
When Zinaida was a young girl, she liked to spend time in different amusements and entertainments, but a series of misfortunes and ordeals made her mature and made her ready to take more difficult tasks in life. These tasks, on one hand, demanded great responsibility from her throughout all her life, on the other hand, they granted her a lot of joyful and exciting experiences. Nobody could predict at that time that her service for the Empress would lead to such hard challenges and finally to life and death in Denmark.
Day after day, year after year, followed Zinaida her Empress, and she experienced Empress's understanding, wisdom, generosity and strength again and again. Together they pulled through the year of 1917, Tsar Nicholas II's abdication, the Empresses children's and grandchildren's murder. Then there came insults and privations of confinement in the Crimea, trip to Maria Feodorovna's motherland, new everyday life in Denmark and frightening news from Russia. Zinaida Mengden, having come to Denmark penniless, sent money to her sister Evgeniya, who lived in poverty in St. Petersburg.
All this would have become absolutely unbearable, if the Empress with Her usual consideration wouldn't have helped Zinaida to open a small shop in Copenhagen with dresses, perfume, cosmetics and soaps from Paris. Having coordinated the issue with the Danish authorities and having received the required permission, Zinaida was allocated a room at Bergensgade for the shop, where she arranged sales twice a week. The room was given to her by two friendly ladies, who hosted former commandant of "Polarstar", rear-admiral duke Nicholas Viazemskiy. The goods were delivered by Duke Felix Jusupov and his wife Irina, Maria Feodorovna's grandchild. Felix and Irina owned a big atelier in Paris called "Irfe".
The Empress was highly interested in this little business and inquired daily about its status. After Maria Feodorovna's death Zinaida kept the shop, which helped her survive in Denmark. In the end of 1930s she wrote memoirs, which were published in a form of a little book. From this
book we can learn about the life of this Russian lady, who joined her life with Maria Feodorovna's life forever.