Elizabeth the Grand Duchess of Russia was born October 20, 1864. She was the granddaughter of Queen Victoria of England and sister to Empress Alexandra of Russia. She was married to Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich, who was assassinated by a man who threw a bomb into the Kremlin. St. Elizabeth responded to this with prayer, fasting and Christian compassion. She visited the man in prison, calmly confronting him with the horror of his deed and attempted to lead him to a place of repentance. She then took the monastic vows and established the women’s monastery of SS Mary and Martha in Moscow. It soon grew to a community of nearly 100 nuns. The Duchess devoted her wealth to establishing a hospital where the sisters and she served. They gave shelter to the orphans and homeless in Moscow. The hospital was a training station for Red Cross nurses in World War I.
She worked tirelessly for the sick, the poor and the afflicted, while maintaining the full monastic schedule and services as Abbess of the monastery.
In 1918, the communists arrested Abbess Elizabeth and Sister Barbara. She was told they were taking her to be with the Royal family, but she was not allowed to see them until that terrible night in July. They were all taken to a 200 foot deep mine shaft and thrown in. Only Grand Duke Sergei Mikhailovich was shot. St. Elizabeth landed on a ledge just 50 feet from the top of the mine. She lived for days. The peasants in the area could hear her singing Psalms and the funeral service for her relatives dying around her. She had bound up the wounds of Grand Duke John. But, at last, through starvation and loss of blood, she too succumbed to the sleep of death, to join the choirs in Heaven. Despite grenades lobbied into the mine, her body was found intact, with an icon of Christ on her chest. Her remains were first taken to Irkutsk, then to Peking where they remained a long time. They were then transferred from Shanghai to Palestine. In 1920 the bodies of St. Elizabeth and St. Barbara were received in Jerusalem. The crypt below the church of St. Mary Magdalene was the final resting place for her body.