Olga Zavarova and Ekaterina Polesova
Olga Zavarova and Ekaterina Polesova were neighboring wealthy property owners in the Orel province of Russia who could not get along. For the years, the ladies wrangled; arguing over petty matters fuelled more by their dislike of each other than anything of real substance. However, in June 1829, things came to a head when dislike turned into outright enmity and Olga Zavarova and Ekaterina Polesova finally and literally crossed swords.
Precisely who challenged who is unknown. Nor is the event that acted as a catalyst and sparked the violence. All that is known is that the ladies armed themselves with their husband’s sabers and made for the appointed place. The venue was one thing the ladies could agree on, and they selected a birch grove near their properties for the duel. Accompanying the ladies were their daughter’s governesses who they had appointed as seconds. As a consequence, there was no choice but to bring along both Olga and Ekaterina’s fourteen-year-old daughters who were forced to watch their mothers fight.
The Code Duello required that seconds gave potential combatants the chance to settle their differences without violence before the duel began. So, the governesses dutifully asked their mistresses to make up. However, such as the pitched hatred of Olga and Ekaterina for each other that nothing short of bloodshed would do. They were so geared up for a fight that they turned on their seconds and threatened them with violence if they tried to interfere again! The duel was quick, brutal and fatal to both parties. Olga struck Ekaterina in the stomach, a wound that proved fatal a day later. However, Olga died instantly when the wounded Ekaterina killed her with a single blow to her head.
The enmity between the two families sadly did not end with the deaths of Olga and Ekaterina. For in June 1834, the ladies’ two daughters, Alexandra Zararova and Anna Polesova met again in the same place, to re-enact for themselves the events they had witnessed six years earlier as fourteen-year-old girls. The two young ladies employed the same governesses as their seconds and also selected sabers as their weapon of choice. This time, the outcome was clean and decisive as Alexandra killed Anna outright, thus redeeming her dead mother Olga’s reputation.
While the Zararova and Polesova duels were fuelled by deep hatred, other duels occurred between semi-naked society ladies disputing the arrangement of flowers.