Irina Belotelkin, nee Roudakoff, was born in Elisavetgrad, Ukraine (alternatively: Yelisavetgrad, now Kirovohrad or Kirovograd) to the Russian noblesse ancienne as recorded in the imperial registers of Tver. A morganatic descendant of Catherine the Great, she was a student at the Mariinsky Noble Ladies' Institute, Novocherkassk, Russia (former capital of the Don Cossacks). She was orphaned at the time of the Russian Civil War after her father, General Paul Roudakoff, was fatally wounded in battle; 5 days later her mother died of typhus.
Her surviving brother, Paul Roudakoff, was at school in the elite Corps des Pages, and was evacuated to the banks of the Nile in Egypt with the entire Corps by their patron, King George V of England who took responsibility for the school after the assassination of his cousins. (King George V was a first cousin to both Czar Nicholas II, and his Empress, Czarina Alexandra.)
Still unaware of her parents' death, and after witnessing her two sisters' deaths from starvation, the young Irina, then 8 years old, made her way over 1,000 kilometers, alone and through many privations (which forever shaped her core character), to Moscow and the Estonian embassy there, with whom her Estonian uncle Volodya Blonsky had made arrangements.
After a year in Moscow, and appeals to the Estonian consul, Irina was aided in a dramatic escape from the Soviet Union, to her aunt Anna Blonsky Lassburg (1882–1940) and her husband Doctor Genrick Lassburg in Tallinn, Estonia. Eventually, after in 1929, traveling through Ellis Island and admitted as a student, of voice studies, she joined her brother who—having been located in Egypt by the efforts of the International Red Cross—had settled, in 1923, in the United States. She was reunited with her Aunt Lucy (Olga) and Grandmother Natalia Blonsky (who had arrived earlier, in 1909, to New York from Constantinople (now Istanbul)).
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