By M.P. Pellicer | Stranger Than Fiction Stories
The Romanovs were executed July, 1918. The Russian royal family were: Tsar Nicholas II, the Tsarina, Alexandra Feodorovna, and their five children, Alexi, Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia. In the aftermath of the massacre, there was a cloud of mystery and speculation, and the horror of the family's last few days were kept from the press. There was also doubt if the youngest, Anastasia and Alexei had been killed, and instead were spared.
After being moved from house to house, by May 1918, the royal family was sent to Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg which was under Bolshevik control. They called it “The House of Special Purposes”. It was owned by Yakov Yurovsky, a dedicated Marxist and Bolshevik with close links to the Cheka — the secret police force run by the revolutionaries. The Romanovs spent their last 78 days there.
European newspapers reported that Anastasia had somehow escaped the fate that befell her family in the cellar of the House of Special Purpose.
The Russian government would not acknowledge the whole family had been shot until 1926, fueling the hopes that not all the royal family were executed.
The most legendary claimant to being a survivor, was a woman who appeared in 1920 saying she was Anastasia. Her name was Anna Anderson, and she was only one of many who claimed to be the last Grand Duchess.
It all started February 1920, when a young woman with no identification was pulled from the Landwehr Canal in Berlin. Without anything on her person to lend a clue as to who she was or where she came from, the authorities nicknamed her "Madame Unknown" and took her to Dalldorf Asylum. The mystery deepened when she refused to speak the first six months at the asylum. She had scars all over her body, and when finally she spoke, she had a Russian accent.
According to the book A Romanov Fantasy (2007), there was another inmate named Clara Peuthert who had been admitted in 1921, after accusing her neighbors of stealing her money. Prior to World War One she'd lived in Russia.
Clara would say to Anna, "Your face is familiar to me, you do not come from ordinary circles." Anna would put her finger to her lips in a shushing motion.
In October of that year, Clara showed Madame Unknown a newspaper headlined: "The Truth about the Murder of the Tsar." It featured a portrait of the Grand Duchess with the caption: 'Is One of the Daughters Alive?'
Clara then went on to tell others that Madame Unknown was Tatiana, even after she was released in January 1922, despite she had little resemblance to any of the Romanov daughters.
Exiles from the Russian court came to the asylum to see the supposed Grand Duchess. Some were convinced she was Tatiana, others were at least intrigued, however Baroness Sophie Buxhoeveden, a lady-in-waiting to Tsarina Alexandra declared, "she's too short for Tatiana." It was after this that Madame Unknown specified she didn't say she was Tatiana, eventually intimating she was Anastasia, and taking the name of Anna Anderson.
She was eventually released from the Dalldorf Asylum, and went on to meet many of the acquaintances and relatives of the Romanov family. She spent the next few years living in the homes of her supporters, because there were many she convinced of her secret identity.
During these years Lenin refused to confirm the Romonov family had been killed; only that Tsar Nicholas II had been executed. This left the fate of the rest of family in limbo, officially that is.
Despite her supporters, immediate family of the Romanovs who met Anna were convinced that she was not Anastasia.
Both aunts, Princess Irene of Prussia and Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna met with Anna, and both came to the conclusion she was not Anastasia.
The Dowager Empress refused to meet with Anna, but as painful as it was, she believed the reports that her son and the entire family had been executed. This included her granddaughter Anastasia.
There were other telltale signs that Anna Anderson was not Anastasia. She didn't know how to speak English, French or Russian all which the real Anastasia knew how to converse in fluently.
In 1927, the Grand Duke of Hesse, Tsarina Alexandra's brother, completed an investigation that identified Anna as a factory worker from Poland named Franziska Schanzkowska. Despite the proof provided, others continued to support her in Germany and the United States. She was in and out of mental hospitals until she married John Manahan in the United States.
The 1956, movie Anastasia based on Anna's life earned Ingrid Bergman an Academy Award.
In 1979, under the guise of scientific research, geologists located three skulls in the area of Yekaterinburg, however the topic was still delicate and they were reburied until 1990. Yeltsin agreed to a recovery of the remains. Investigators found nine skeletons in one grave. DNA from the Romanov bones were compared with that from Prince Philip, and were found to be a match.
They had the bones of Nicholas II, Alexandra, his wife and three of the children. After the bones were assembled it was found that two bodies were missing, those of Alexis and one of his sisters.
They also recovered the remains of three servants and the family doctor.
Anderson died on February, 12, 1984.
In 1992, locks of Anna's hair were found in an envelope in a bookstore in Chapel Hill. It was inside a book once owned by Anna's husband which she had sold. A dealer going through the book caught an envelope with 'Anastasia's Hair' written on the outside. He sold it to Susan Burkhart for $20. Six strands were examined at Penn State. It was concluded the owner of the hair could not be related to the Tsarina.
Then another source of Anna's DNA was found with a tissue sample kept at Martha Jefferson Hospital, which was retained due to a routine surgery she underwent there. The sample was sent to the British scientist who had tested the Romanov bones.
A blood sample was taken from Karel Maucher a relative of Franziska Schanzkowska.
In 1994, his results were that Anna Anderson was not Anastasia, and there was a 100% match to Karel Maucher.
It was revealed that Anna's real identity was Franziska Schanzkowska as proven in 1927.
In 1998, the royal remains were interred in Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg where Russia's tsars had historically been laid to rest.
In 2007, Sergei Plotnikov, an amateur historian came upon a small hollow covered with nettles. He belonged to a group who would spend their summer weekends looking for the lost Romanovs. He, along with a companion, started to dig and found bone fragments which included a piece of pelvis and a skull. By the size they could tell it came from a child. In total 44 different fragments were found. They also found pieces of Japanese ceramic bottles - used to carry sulfuric acid poured on the Romanovs' corpses.
Archaeologists confirmed they belonged to Prince Alexei and Princess Anastasia.
The site was six miles north of Yekaterinburg where the other bodies were discovered. It appeared to match the location described in the memoirs of Yurovsky, the Bolshevik executioner in charge of the Romanovs’ captivity. He described where the bodies of nine victims were doused with sulfuric acid and buried along a road, and Alexei’s body and one of his sister’s bodies was burned and left in a pit nearby.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer