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"Survivors include...": The Sergei Tolstoy Story

Scrolling through The Washington Post's archives one day last year, I stumbled across the 1999 obituary of Vera Tolstoy, granddaughter of the "War and Peace" novelist Leo Tolstoy.

When she died at 96, she was among the last survivors of the vast Russian family to have met her famous grandfather.

In the obituary, one line in particular stuck with me for several days: "Survivors include her son, Sergei Tolstoy, of Washington."

I couldn't help but wonder whether this man, who would have been the novelist's great-grandson, was still alive, and if indeed he was, did he still live in the area.

My quest began as most stories do these days with a quick google search. I followed that up by going through The Post's archives again, and also searching some other newspaper's archives for any mentions of him.

Then, a hit.

An address in Foggy Bottom listed the resident as Count Sergei Tolstoy. But the phone number connected to it led to a voicemail box that was not working.

After more searching, I found another number, this time in Florida.

"Oui, Oui, Oui?" A gravelly voice on the line answered.

"Is this Sergei Tolstoy, great-grandson of Leo Tolstoy?" I asked.

"Yes, but who is this?"

And that's how my story, that appeared in this past Saturday's Style section, started.

By T. Rees Shapiro  |  June 29, 2010; 12:27 PM ET
Categories:  Washington DC-area people  | Tags: Anna Karenina, Count Sergei Tolstoy, Leo Tolstoy, Russia, Serge Tolstoy, Sergei Tolstoy, Spy, War and Peace  
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