Moscow Birds Market - 1995

Dr Mikhail Romanov - alias Misha - handling a Yurlov Crower
photo by Elio Corti

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Mikhail Romanov

Our life is a link of wonderful coincidences. First wonderful event in my life was certainly my birth in 1961 in Russia, in the old city of Nizhny Novgorod. At that time, it carried a Soviet nickname Gorky. Fortunately, I succeeded to live till the return of the original name to my home city, given in 1221. In my childhood, I had multiple interests and hobbies. As a teenager, I used to be keen on the poetry of a Scottish poet Robert Burns. As to the famous surname, I am under obligation to my mother’s second husband for it, but it has no relation to the Russian Royal Family . Nevertheless, this circumstance still engendered further coincidences.

When in 1979 it was time to choose my further life, I came to a Ukrainian village Borki, Kharkiv Region, where the Poultry Research Institute was situated. Its Director, Mrs. Vera Lukyanova, played a great part in my life orientation, and if Biology became my own first choice, three others, Poultry, Genetics, and Learning English, were inspirited by her. Since then, Borki turned out to be a kind of holy gate to the whole world.

As a student, I visited in 1981 the city of St. Petersburg, then carried a Soviet nickname Leningrad, and attended St. Peter and Paul Fortress and its cathedral where almost all Russian Czars were buried. Except Nicholas II who became a victim of the regicide together with all his family in the Urals City of Yekaterinburg...

Having graduated from the Kharkiv State University, I came back to Borki in 1984 to fill a post of Geneticist-Biologist, and then I first learned that Borki - what a coincidence! - was a place of the miraculous rescue for my Czar’s namesakes. On October 17, 1888, the Czar’s train was wrecked near Borki , and neither Alexander III nor his Augustal Family, the future last Russian Emperor Nicholas II among them, suffered from that catastrophe. I studied this story, and my reinvestigation resulted in a journalistic article and a broadcast on Radio Russia in 1991.

Around 1990, I started corresponding with Professor Randall K. Cole, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, who worked shoulder to shoulder with the greatest poultry geneticist of the 20th century, Frederick B. Hutt, as well as my compatriot Professor Alexis Romanoff - one more coincidence - who immigrated to the USA along with his wife Anastasia in the 20’s. Intriguingly, they had the names of two Royal kids that were believed to escape from the regicide...

From Professor Cole I got references to some other eminent scholars of the present. But just before this I had been involved in the correspondence with Loyl Stromberg, an American publisher that became a golden mine of information and acquaintances all around the world for years and years. We personally met each other at the 19th World's Poultry Congress in Amsterdam in 1992.

In 1995 Mr. Stromberg suggested one "very special" Italian friend, Dr. Elio Corti, for further communication. The wonderful meeting with Elio occurred in Moscow in October 1995, when I introduced the Russian world to him and acquainted him with Dr. Irina Moiseyeva. We also attended the Kremlin, Red Square and many other places and bought some pictures and books of Russian Czars including an album The Romanovs and Crimea and a small icon of St. Nicholas II. Two months later, Crimea and Crimean historical Romanovs’ places became my destination by chance.

In the meantime, I was involved in studying poultry genetic resources, my major field of interest. Thanks to Loyl, Elio and other people my contacts are extended to many, many world’s countries. I spent a year (1997-1998) in Germany for a research project on genetic diversity of chicken breeds at DNA level; some of those breeds like the Yurlov Crower have a mysterious destiny. Then, I could visit Elio’s friend Achim Güntherodt and his kind family, and Elio and Achim could visit me.

My next stop was Roslin Institute and Scotland where I have had an opportunity to see the places connected with Robert Burns, and continue my studies on chicken genetics. Here, at Roslin, I learnt about the funeral of the last Russian Czar’s family remains in St. Peter and Paul Fortress, St. Petersburg, exactly 80 years after their murder...

In the Roslin Institute library, there was Professor Hutt’s outstanding Genetics of the Fowl signed by the author’ hand: "Autographed at time of my visit to the PRC  [Poultry Research Centre, later on Roslin Institute]. 13-9-83. Fred B. Hutt."  This book is now a real relic.

Now, I am a visiting research associate in the Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, Michigan State University , to be involved in a project on chicken genome mapping. So, life is going its unusual way and brings me more and more unexpectedness...

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