ER,  Germany,  Russia,  Western Europe

Anna Anderson-  The Fake Anastasia

Anastasia Romanov on the left; Anna Anderson on the right

News of the execution of the Romanov family in 1918 rocked the world.  (For more on this please see this post: )  However, in the face of this devastation people tried to keep the faith that someone may have made it out.  European newspaper ran stories that one or more of the Romanov children had escaped.  The one name that kept coming up was Anastasia Romanov.  However, there was no proof.  Only hope.

Then in 1920, a young woman was fished out of a the water after jumping off a bridge in Berlin.  Her suicide attempt failed and the young woman had no identification and refused to tell her rescuers her name.  She was taken to a mental institution, Dalldorf Asylum, where she remained for two more years.  For the first six months, the strange young woman would not speak at all.  Medical staff noted she had given birth to at least one child and had strange scars that looked like gunshot wounds.  This was right after World War I, so it would not have been unusual for her to have gotten caught in a firefight somewhere.  Eventually, the she began to talk and had a strange Russian accent and haughty demeanor.  Another Dalldorf patient, Clara Peuthert, believed the woman was a member of the Russian royal family after seeing a picture of them in the newspaper.  Upon Clara’s release, she  went to high Russian expatriates to beg them to see this strange young woman she believed was the Grand Duchess Tatiana.

At first, the young woman treated these new visitors with the same disdain she had treated everyone else.  She would even hide under the covers rather than talk to them.  They pushed pictures of the Romanovs at her and she would shy away, despite naming them to the nurses after they left.  A former lady in waiting visited and informed her she was too short to be Tatiana.  The strange woman actually replied saying, “I never said I was Tatiana.”  At this point there was a frenzy to find out who she was.  If she would say who she was, then perhaps she would indicate who she wasn’t.  Presented with a list of the Romanov daughters, she crossed out all of them but one.  Anastasia.

The woman who claimed to be Anastasia called herself Anna Tchaīkovsky after the man who she claimed rescued her.  She claimed that she and her sisters had jewels sewn into their corsets, which caused the bullets to not fully pierce her skin.  Then the soldiers tried to kill them with bayonets, but they were dull.  She was wounded but survived and played dead.  The soldier who came to take away the bodies took pity on her and saved her.  His name was Alexander Tchaīkovsky, and the two had a son together.  Eventually she came to Berlin to see family, but they refused to see her and that’s why she tried to kill herself.

It’s a far fetched tale, but there was some evidence in Anna’s favor.  Anna and Anastasia both spoke French, English and German.  Anna said she could understand Russian but would not speak it because it was the language of her family’s murderers.  This was taken as a sign she did not speak Russian and was a fraud by some investigators.  The two women had the same foot deformity as well.  There were details that Anna told of court life and of family members that were not common knowledge, such as a companion who drew humorous drawings of animals for her.  A handwriting expert said they identical handwriting.  There was no definitive proof.  However, this was enough for some Romanov relatives and Anna bounced from castle to castle living on the largess of her supposed relatives.  She was kept away from the larger prize of the remaining Romanov fortune.

It was only a matter of time before it came to trial.  For 32 years, the remaining Romanov family fought against Anna’s claim in German court.  They claimed that Anna was really a Polish factory worker named Franziska Schanzkowska. No proof either way was produced.  In 1970, the German Supreme Court ended the case ruling for no one.  They did not prove Anna was or was not Anastasia.  Anna eventually moved to the United States after marrying an American professor John Manahan.  They lived an eccentric life in Charlottesville, VA, where they had a sprawling home with cats, dogs and piles of garbage.  Anna died of pneumonia in 1984.

However, fate took a hand, as the remains of three Romanov daughters were found in a mass grave in 1991.  These were verified as Romanov by conducting DNA tests comparing the DNA of the skeletons to DNA from the blood donated from members of the British family who were related to the Romanovs.  Another DNA tests was performed as well.  DNA from a section of intestine removed from a prior surgery on Anna was compared to the DNA from the skeletons.  There was no match.  Anna was not a Romanov.  However, all of this is hotly debated.  There are those who claim Anna’s DNA was doctored.  Even the Russian Orthodox Church believes the skeletons found in the mass grave were not the Romanovs and refuses to treat them as royal remains.  Perhaps we will never know.