Jun 18, 2012

Anastasia Romanov



Today, June 18th, 2012 would have been the 111th birthday of one of the most fascinating women of recent history – Anastasia Romanov.

To celebrate her birthday, Sourcebooks has kindly offered to give away a copy of The Last Romanov by Dora Levy Mossanen. The giveaway is open to all residents of Canada and the U.S. To enter, read the following biography and leave your thoughts. The most poignant comment, the one that touches my heart the most, will win the book. 



The story of Anastasia Romanov is one of the most heart-wrenching stories ever told; it is about the horrific fate that she and her family suffered during the Bolshevik Revolution. To this day, the tragedy still resurrects doubt as to what exactly happened to the young Grand Duchess of Russia.


Anastasia Romanov

Anastasia was born into great wealth and privilege in the late spring of 1901. She came into the world amid the opulence of a vast palace in St. Petersburg, Russia. She was the youngest of four daughters born to Nicholas II and his wife Aleksandra.


Nicholas                                Aleksandra

After four daughters, at long last, several later, a son, the future heir to the throne of Russia, was born to the handsome couple.  

Vigorous and energetic, Anastasia was well loved as a child. She and her siblings were close-knit and spent all their time together. Despite their royal status, the children were not overly pampered or spoiled. In fact, they adhered to strict royal protocols and faced a rigid daily schedule for their schooling and meals. They spent their evenings together with Nicholas reading to them. Sometimes their aunt organized small balls to help the children prepare them for their future responsibilities.


Anastasia as a young child

Always rambunctious and active, Anastasia did not enjoy the confines of the school room. Science and numbers and figures confounded her. Spelling and grammar bored her and seemed to difficult to master. The drudgery of school work competed with her desire for fun and pranks and frolic. She preferred the outdoors where she could escape to hide in a tree or play. She possessed a strong competitive spirit to the point where she would not hesitate to do anything to win, even if it meant cheating or harming an opponent.


Small Anastasia was a cheerful child with a great sense of humor. A tomboy at heart! She loved her brother Alexy and they often entered into great acts of mischief together.


Anastasia and Alexei

Ever the spirited one, Anastasia indulged her fondness for chocolate and her favourite Pomeranian named Shvibzik. As she became older, she even began to secretly smoke and spent entire days reading novels.

One day, Aleksandra met a man named Grigory Rasputin. From that day onward, he was integrated into their daily lives. Anastasia was especially enchanted with the principled, elderly man. To him she confided her secrets, the yearnings of her heart. Their friendship was one of mutual trust and great respect. So all encompassing was their relationship, that her tutor complained about Rasputin to the Tsar and Tsarina. The tutor was fired and Rasputin’s standing in the family remained.


Grigory Rasputin

Meanwhile, rumours and gossip about the family’s strange relationship with Rasputin spread through the realm. Tsar Nicholas’ siblings voiced the greatest displeasure. Reluctantly, Nicholas sent Rasputin away to put a little distance between them. Unfortunately, shortly thereafter, Rasputin was murdered. Poor Anastasia grieved long and hard at the death of her good friend and mentor.

World War I brought many changes into their lives. Their beautiful palace became a hospital for the wounded. Aleksandra and her eldest daughters tended the injured in the infirmary. Maria and Anastasia, too young for such hard work, read or wrote letters on the soldiers’ behalf, entertaining them as best as they could with games or books.


The Romanov Children

In early 1917, Anastasia and her siblings contracted measles, and it was while they were convalescing that the first of the family’s troubles began. Nicholas was away from home. The masses in Russia were revolting. Rebels had surrounded the palace. A fearful Aleksandra kept the truth from her children, explaining the armed soldiers outside as mere military exercises.

One month later, Aleksandra received the news that her husband had abdicated the throne. The rebels took the Romanov family into custody. When Nicholas returned home the family were constrained in their home, unable to leave for any reason. Outside the palace gates, whenever the public caught a glimpse of the imprisoned royals, they shouted nasty insults to the royals. Despite all the turmoil, the Romanovs strove to maintain as normal a life as possible.


That summer, the rebels decided to transfer the family to Tobolsk in Siberia. The family wished their servants farewell. After being herded into a train, the family was swept away from their beloved Saint Petersburg. Life in Tobolsk was restricted and boring. There was nothing to entertain the children. Soldiers surrounded them at all times. Even so, nothing could restrict the antics of the spirited Anastasia.


Picture of Maria with Anastasia sticking out her tongue at photographer

A year passed. Aleksandra and Maria accompanied Nicholas to Moscow for his trial. Anastasia and her other sisters remained at home to care for their Aleksey who was ill again. Upon their arrival, they were searched and all valuables were confiscated. While they waited for the trial, Aleksandra wrote to her children and asked them to hide the family medicine (a code name for jewels). Anastasia and her sisters sewed them into their clothing.

Thereafter, Anastasia, her sisters, and Aleksey were sent to Yekaterinburg in well-guarded, closed carriages, to join their parents. 

Photo of Anastasia on train to Yekaterinburg.
This is the last known picture of Anastasia before her death

There, they were held under even stricter confinement. They were not allowed outdoors and were not even permitted to open a window. Ever the free spirit, and longing for the outdoors, a frustrated Anastasia dared to swing open a window. A sentry witnessed her act and fired at her, closely missing her.   

The family began to show the first signs of stress at their severe treatment. Rumour of an alleged plot to rescue the Tsar began to circulate. This spurred the rebels into action. On the night of 17 July, sentries woke up the unsuspecting family and herded them all into the cellar. The made the family sit on the chairs. The girls took their hand-bags with them, and Anastasia even took Jimmy, her dog. Then the firing began.

After it was done, many believe that Anastasia, Maria and Tatiana were still alive – the jewels sewn in their dresses had saved their lives – and the soldiers had to finish the wounded girls off by hitting them hard with bayonet caps and butt-stocks. The murderers then gathered the bodies, wrapped them in bed sheets, and brought them to the outskirts of the village of Ganina Yama to be buried. The murderers wanted to keep their burial place a secret, but villagers noticed the grim cavalcade. The Red Army chased the peasants away, menacing them with guns. At the burial site, the killers went to work again. This time, to cover their tracks and any evidence that could identify the members of the Romanov family, they disfigured their victim’s faces with sulfuric acid, knives, and butt-stocks. Villagers heard the shell explosions at the ominous location. Others found some jewels that presumably belonged to the Tsar’s family, left behind by executioners eager to cover up their horrific crime.

Later, a crime investigators questioned the locals and ordered the burial site excavated, but the command was countermanded.  

Rumors that one of the Tsar’s daughters had managed to escape and stay alive began circulating. Homes, inns, hotels, barns, trains, and farms were searched, but to no avail.

In 1991, 70 years after the tragic event, excavations at the suspected burial site commenced. It did not take long to discover the bodies. They had been buried at little more than one meter in depth. Most of the bodies were identified, but that of Anastasia could not be verified. This gave credence to the rumours that she may have survived the killing. But if this was true, what happened to Anastasia? Where was the illusive, spirited young woman? Had she truly survived, living a quiet, unnoticed life somewhere in an obscure village, town, or country?

In the aftermath of the murders, many “Anastasias” have come forward to lay claim to her name and title. DNA tests have since disproved their claims. The truth will perhaps never be known. Wherever she is, I hope that Anastasia has the peace that eluded her in the last days she spent on earth.


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14 comments:

A.E Rothschild said...

Whenever I think of Anastasia, the first thing that comes to mind is always the impostors. And why is that? It is because the life of a young, innocent woman , barely more than a girl, has just been defiled by human greed. It is so sad that so many self-seekers have just desecrated her memory by trying to impersonate her. In a way, however, this has caused the story of Anastasia to remain unforgettable.And a sullied reputation, is after all, better than none.

Evie said...

I love the story of Anastasia. The devastation that surrounds it is not something that leaves you quickly! The idea that she just 'disappeared' is one of the mysteries that, despite the fact that you know it will never be solved, you keep going back to it. What we know of Anastasia and the Romanovs shows that they were a lovely family that did not deserve the fate that met them. It's a shame that we will never know what really happened to their free-spirited daughter.

-Evie

ilove2shop said...

I doubt those women were Anastasia because
1)The royal family was well recognized so there was no way another girl could take her place and they would not have tried to save just her
2)Even if the firing the bayonet didn't kill her which they probably would have, the mutilation would have alerted her captors of her being alive and they would have finished of the job.

Angel Gamble said...

Reading this story always leaves my heart bleeding just a little.To comprehend how a group of people could harm someone else especially children in such a way is something I will never comprehend. However, I loved reading about the children's personalities.Especially Anastasia's.I hope that they found some comfort in being together when their tragic fate transpired. Even though this wonderful family is no more. I believe free and wild spirits such as Anastasia's will always live on.
thank you for sharing their story.
-angel

htcsc78 said...

I feel so sad to know that these men were so cruel to Anastasia and her family! I wish she would've had a happily ever after! Does this book go into details of if there ever was a girl that did pass any DNA results? I remember something being said about that on a history channel documentry. I just wish I could find more on her real story! Her life is a mystery, so sad and tragic!

Mirella said...

To my recollection, the book does not go into detail about DNA checks against any claims. I'm not sure DNA Analysis was very sophisticated then, if at all. I think this is why the story continues to fascinate us all long into the future.

Taeg112 said...

I read that in 2007, a grave was discovered 70 meters away from the original Romanov grave. After being excavated, the remains of two bodies were found inside. The results of DNA testing showed the remains were those of Anastasia and Alexei Romanov. This was very sad news for me because I had always secretly hoped they had escaped the firing.

Mirella said...

Oh, that's so sad. Well, at least the truth is known now and all those imposters will stop coming forward. Can't believe people can be so heartless as to try to cash in on such a horrific tragedy.

Dalek Thay said...

Anastasia Romanov did NOT survive. She was shot, stabbed and then clubbed on the back of the head. Her remains were found in 1991 and identified in 2009.

Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanov

18 July 1901 - 17 July 1918

lefe tefe said...

This was very well written. I was fascinated by the 1997 adaptation of Anastasia by Disney but little did I knew, Anastasia was a real person. I've also seen documentaries about the Romanov family on National Geographic. This incremented my interest on Anastasia and her family. Came across this blog and was mesmerized by the account of her life as told by the blogger. There may be many information found prior to her survival but I'd like to think that she went through a lot of grief and horrifying events. If she really survived, I hope to God she found solace in her heart.

lefe tefe said...

Hi Mirella, blown away by this post. I was fascinated by the 1997 adaptation of Anastasia by Disney, little did I knew that the protagonist was a real person. Years passed I've done a lot of readings about Anastasia and the Romanov family and I have to say this post on your blog pretty much sums it up.Anastasia went through a lot of grief and horrifying experiences that is beyond my imagination. Apparently I like to believe that prior to her mysterious survival/disappearance, Anastasia found solace in her heart to peacefully mourn the deaths of her family and to forgive the animals who murdered them. Repose en Paix Anastasia.

Mirella Sichirollo Patzer said...

Anastasia's story will continue to fascinate me. I too pray that she rests in peace.

leah malfoy said...

The story of Anastasia always makes me heart broken and curious heart broken because the girl had her life ahead of her she so little and seeing how cruel the world was at that age !I'm also realty curios about Anna Anderson I'm mean yeah I know it couldn't possibly be Anastasia I researched them both for months I realised Anna wasn't Anastasia but I'm still always curious

May Anastasia rest in peace

Madelein Bowman said...

Disney did make Anastasia Fox did