Tucked into the cover of the 1965 Women’s Institute scrapbook, lent by Anna Blomfield, were some photos of people and horses, with this note:
Mr Korolkoff lived in the Wye, Lower Rads End, and wintered the horses in the Falcon Barn, and exercised the horses in the field that belonged to the Mund, when the Jennings family lived there. Many local children were taught to ride by them.
In August 2016, Mike Protzenko wrote to say:
“I do have information about the individual that is in the photograph under the Georges Korolkoff heading, in the picture the man on the left with daggers was Ivan Sopilniak. He was part of a troupe that was in Paris 1925, that General Shkuro started. My father Sergei Protzenko came from Bulgaria to Paris with him and 3 other Kuban Cossacks. They performed in Paris, England, Scotland and Ireland.
After the tour was over they returned to Paris and formed new troupes, 2 troupes came to the United States from the original group. A troupe joined the 101 Ranch Wild West Show that was headed by, Prince Andronikov and Georgian Prince, and General Savitsky a Cossack that was part of the Tsar’s Imperial guard. Part of troupe was Afansee Boulanoff, in the ships manifest the SS Berengaria his name is spelled (Boulanoff Atanaszi), the arrived on March 26, 1926.
My father Sergei Protzenko and Alexander Melnikoff a Don Cossack, formed another troupe that toured New York, “Maddison Square Gardens”, Cleveland Ohio, and Philadelphia Pennsylvania. The came to the US on the SS France May 12, 1926. They also had a contract with MGM Studio’s to be part of a movie The Cossack in 1928.”
Thanks very much, Mike! So the photo shows Ivan Sopilniak, Alec Boulanoff, “George’s Swiss benefactor”, and Georges Korolkoff. Now we only have to identify the mysterious chap in the suit.
Alec Boulanoff or Afansee Boulanoff or Afanasse Boulanoff or Afanase Boulinof
It was a nostalgic occasion for 74-year-old Afansee Boulanoff when he went with the Eversholt branch of the Royal British Legion to see Tom Arnold’s Robinson Crusoe on Ice at Wembley Pool this week. For, several years after the last war, Mr Boulanoff — or Alec as he is known in the village — worked with Tom Arnold’s circus as a trick horse rider. It was a familiar pastime for him, because he is a Don Cossack from Russia, and was an accomplished rider by the time he was five years old. Now he has retired, and lives in a caravan behind the Red Lion at Whits End.And his popularity with the villagers was shown by his election to the Royal British Legion — even though he never served in the British forces. Alec was born on the Don, in the heart of Cossack country. He went to school on a horse, and there learnt how to fight with lance and sabre. “It was a great place in those days. All the time there was music, everybody played sport and rode horses.” In 1914 he volunteered for the Eighth Cossack Regiment, and fought against the Germans. When the Bolshevik Revolution broke out in 1917 Alec went home, and later joined the White Russian Army. After a spell of fighting he was captured by the Bolsheviks.“The Red Army commissar told me that if I Joined them I would be I forgiven. If I refused I would be sent to I the mines in Siberia. So I joined them.”. He was sent off to fight the Poles, and rose to the rank of Squadron Commander in the Red Army before he deserted, and crossed over the border into Germany. Later, he moved to France and joined the Cossacks, who were billed as The Show of 1,000 Thrills and Infinite Variety. “We had a very successful tour in America, and when we got to Chicago we took on the cowboys in a contest of equestrian skill. “They were quite good but not up to our standards. We beat them by 32 points to 18,” he said.After Chicago, Alec crossed the border illegally into Mexico — but after a few months there he was betrayed by a woman. “It was jealousy about love,” he said. He was deported back to America and spent a month in San Antonio jail before being deported to France. After that he ran a Cossack troupe with a partner, and rode in Billy Smart’s and Chipperfield Circus — appearing at Olympia many times. His beloved Arab stallion, Caid, died at Eversholt in 1957. “Caid died at the age of 27 — he was a wonderful horse. Little children have come right up to him and he would do nothing,” said Alex.He is now a naturalised Briton, and has no knowledge of what happened to his family in Russia. But he still regards the Russian people as wonderful. “The hospitality was terrific there. If you were ever lost or late, the people in the nearest house would always put you up and refuse any payment,” he said. “I have lost my love of Russia though. “If you told me now I could go back, I would do so and put flowers on my father’s grave. But I would not stay there, I would return to this country.”
Boulanoff, Afanasse; Russia; Don Cossack Rider; The Wye, Rads End, Eversholt, near Bletchley, Buckinghamshire. 18 September, 1952.
That is probably his naturalisation application, although the strange website for the London Gazette prevents me confirming this at the moment.
My mother’s sister was married to Georges Doudine who was the same age as Georges Korolkoff and a member of his trick riding troupe, Les Cossaques Djiguites.Georges Doudine and Georges Korolkoff must have known each other well over many years. My aunt writes of going to see them in London (ie GK and Cicely) in order to have lunch, sign contracts etc. In one letter she mentions she has “buried the hatchet with Bibi for the sake of our husbands”; maybe Bibi was Cecily’s pet name? Georges Korolkoff lived in Cambridge Square in the Paddington area of London and later moved to The Wye at Eversholt, an address which is in my aunt’s diary in the early 1940’s.I don’t know anything about Georges Korolkoff’s origins. I can only tell you about my uncle who was born in Kiev, South Russia, now Ukraine in 1902. He fought against the Bolsheviks, left Russia in about 1920, joined the French Foreign Legion in Constantinople and then got French citizenship. He spent some years in Paris which may be where he met Georges Korolkoff, or they may have known each other before, or even been related (see later). They had lost their family and everything they owned and, like many other White Russian emigres, fell back on their horse riding skills to make a living. Georges Korolkoff was the leader of the troupe and they toured extensively and raised money for Russian aid charities. I know a few people who saw them perform.My aunt had a riding school at Upper Austin Lodge, Eynsford, and she and Georges Doudine were married in 1940. Sadly Georges Doudine died in 1948 and I learned of their life together through her letters. Like many in the equestrian business at that time, Georges Doudine was declared bankrupt when he died and the documents pertaining to that start to refer to him as Georges Nicolivitch Korolkoff Doudine, whereas previously his passport and French Foreign Legion papers showed his name as just Georges Nicolivitch Doudine. Obviously he “frenchified” his Russian name when he joined the Legion and lived in France and that possibly explains why Georges Korolkoff’s name is also spelt the French way.
Ann from Canada – yet another contributor, thank you! – confirms that Cecily’s pet name was “Baby” which maybe mutated into Bibi in a Ukrainian – French – English accent!
The Korolkoff Troupe
From the web on Korolkoff’s Cossacks
Jack Edelman, who arrived here recently from England, said that he was working out plans to bring Les Cosaques Djigoutes, Cossack troupe [unreadable] by Captain Korolkoff, to the United States early in 1949. The 20-man entourage, which appeared in England and numerous European countries prior to the war, is being reorganised, and Edelman expects to present them as a grandstand feature at fairs in this country. For a number of years the Cossack troupe has been a feature at the international horse show at Olympia in London. Edelman was made troupe representative in this country just prior to his journey to the states.
Ralph Hutchings from Chislehurst lived in Village Way after the war and remembers ‘The Cossacks’ performing in Croydon Road Rec. in 1945/46. He writes:“With regard to The Cossacks – I remember quite clearly that they seemed to have quite small horses, I think that they wore furry hats (the Cossacks not their horses) and were otherwise a bit drab. Four to six lanes were marked out about 150/200 yards long and they raced to a finishing line. For one race, two or three white objects were laid along the lanes at intervals and the riders had lances and had to collect the objects by spearing them. Another race was similar but the objects to be speared were hanging from wooden poles along the line. The highlight was a race, without the lances, when they slid sideways from their horses then under the belly for a moment and up the other side – all at full gallop. It was just as we had seen the Red Indians at the flicks!”
Cecily continued to live at The Wye after Georges’s death. She remarried James Burnes in Q4 1966. Terry Hawkes tells that Cecily met James on a train and that he was eccentric to the extent of having been arrested in Woburn Sands for standing in the road and directing the traffic, pretending to be a policeman! Cecily died, still living at The Wye, in Q1 1997. She was born (according to her death registration) 30 August 1912.