Heiress a driven lifesaver
THE heroism of a daredevil Brisbane heiress who saved a former Russian president from Stalin and the Nazis is the rollicking tale shared by Australian biographer Susanna de Vries in her latest book.
Destined to be 83-year-old de Vries' last book about Australian women, the colourful story of Nell Tritton is her swansong, she says.
She stumbled across the story, hidden away in the Tritton's family history, while valuing paintings at Nell's childhood home, Elderslie.
Nell, an heiress to the Brisbane Tritton furniture fortune, married ex-Russian prime minister Alexander Kerensky in 1939. In 1940.
She courageously saved him from Stalin and the Nazis using her champion rally car driver skills during a harrowing journey on a cross-country escape.
"Nell lived an amazing life in Paris," de Vries says.
"She was in danger of assassination by Stalin, along with Kerensky, but died on April 11, 1946, aged 49 in Brisbane. She is buried at Dutton Park Cemetery in South Brisbane."
Nell drove the couple away from Paris as the Germans invaded, with Kerensky on Stalin's hit list.
They eventually reached safety in the US, but with Nell's life shortened by kidney failure aggravated by poor drinking water on their journey, they returned to Brisbane and Elderslie in 1945.
Tragically, Nell's kidney damage started in childhood after drinking water from the lead-lined water tank at their previous home.
In 1946, as Nell lay dying tended by her mother at Elderslie, Kerensky would stalk the verandas with a revolver to protect himself and Nell from Stalin's assassins.
"After Nell's death, Kerensky spent eight more months at Elderslie as he could not get a passage back to America," de Vries says.
"It was the end of the war, and the troops were going home.
"He returned to America and was made a professor of Russian history at Stamford University. Kerensky died in New York in 1970."
The grand colonial verandas of Elderslie homestead, now at Pullenvale, were to host the book launch for Nell, The Australian Heiress who Saved her Husband from Stalin & the Nazis.
Now the paperback will be available from Amazon, Book Depository and Kobo. Published by Pirgos Press, the illustrated book retails for $34.95.