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Anastasia, Grand Duches of RussiaThe mystery surrounding Anastasia's fate after the Russian Revolution in 1918 is one of the biggest mysteries of the 20th Century. Many stories about her and recently the 20th Century Fox movie, entitled Anastasia, have brought the mystery alive again into the 21st Century.

After she was gone a number of people went around claiming to be her. A Polish girl named Franziska Schanzkowska (also known as Anna Anderson) - who, some say, couldn't even speak Russian and didn't look like Anastasia, turned up in Berlin claiming to her. There is even a movie about this woman who had invented a crazy story about how Anastasia had escaped from Yekaterinburg.

The Anastasia case is one of the most complicated of this century. It is tied up in family intrigue, royal politics, state secrets, and disputed bank accounts.

There were four girls, born right after one another in succession to the Imperial couple of Nicholas II and Alexandra. Anastasia, Grand Duches of Russia, the youngest of four children, was born in 1901 at the Farm Palace in Peterhof.

Anastasia had blue eyes, fine light-brown hair (sometimes described as reddish blonde) and a thin, delicate nose like her mother's. People close to the family though she could have become a real beauty when she grew up.

Anastasia was the youngest, most intelligent and most michievous of the tsar's daughters. She was an excellent mimic and enjoyed pranks and practical jokes. Anastasia had a gentle side also. It was she who would spend hours cheering up her younger hemophiliac brother and heir to the Russian throne, Alexei, when he was ill.

Anastasia, Alexander Palace, 1912. Beneath the surface of her royal life full of wealth, prominence, and opulence, you could find a typical preadolescent who misses her father when absent.

Anastasia and her sisters were well liked by all who met them. They preferred not to be called by their formal titles and became embarrassed when they were used.

All the Grand Duchesses had been raised in a strict religious spirit and were taught to treat people with consideration without any show of superiority, without haughtiness. The Emperor was always saying: “The more important the man, the more he should help everyone, and never remind others of his high position. My children should be like that, too.” Adhering to this principle in life himself, he raised them to be kind, gracious and considerate towards everybody. The Empress instilled in them that faith, that strength of spirit and humility, which helped them to endure bravely the hardships of banishment and go through martyrdom. The children literally idolized their parents.

The girls were very close, as was the entire family. They had limited contact with children their own age, and were, therefore, most immature for their ages. Anastasia never had a boyfriend. She was killed at the age of 17.

Extracts from the letters of Anastasia to her father.

Jan.30,1915, p.58
"...I taught Ortino (Tatiana's French Bulldog) to sit up and beg and today I've taught her to give her paw and now she can do it. She is so sweet..."

Apr. 7, 1915, p.64
"...We have just finished dinner. Mother is lying and sisters are sitting nearby. Tatyana is out, of course, as usual. Shvybzik and Ortino are lying in Mother's bed and sleeping. They are such darlings..."

June 24, 1916, p.146
"...Maria and I have just been lying on the grass in front of the balcony... Yesterday the four of us made a fire and jumped over it. It was wonderful..."

Feb.25,1917, p.188
"...I am sitting in a semi-dark room now with Olga and Tatiana (they are ill with measles)... We have breakfast upstairs in our classroom. Only Mother, Maria and me. Very nice..."

Like her sisters, Anastasia spoke Russian, French, and English fluently, but because of their isolation from the outside world, the girls' Russian was somewhat childish. They usually spoke English with mother, who was the granddaughter of the late English Queen Victoria, and Russian with father.

Although her father ruled 1/6th the globe and was one of the wealthiest men of his day, Anastasia and her sisters never had their own room.

Anastasia's roommate, sister Maria.The two eldest, Olga and Tatiana shared one bedroom and the two youngest, Maria and Anastasia shared the one next door. They lived in one side of the Alexander Palace, which isn't so big as palaces go in Russia, there are ONLY around 200 rooms!
The girls' quarters were separate from their parents', who lived downstairs on the main floor and girls lived upstairs with tutors, nurses, doctors and ladies-in-waiting. There were also classrooms, music rooms, playrooms, private dining and sitting rooms, as well as a private little movie theater for Alexei.

The girls were raised relatively simply, bathing in cold water, sleeping on hard camp beds. The beds went with them everywhere; even to Germany when the girls visited their Uncle Ernst. They slept in these same beds until the night they died.

Anastasia, Grand Duches of Russia, 1912

Anastasia, Grand Duches of RussiaAt the time of the abdication Anastasia and her siblings were suffering from measles. While they were confined to their beds the palace was taken over by soldiers. The imperial family were now prisoners. When the children recovered they went outside each day with their parents to walk in the park, where they were harassed and jeered.

The imperial family had little peace during their months of captivity. Once, while sewing, Anastasia leaned repeatedly over a table. As she did so she moved back in forth in front of two colored lamps. Soldiers outside the window saw the lights flicker and thought she was sending signals to some outside accomplice. They burst in and searched the room, but of course found nothing.

Eventually the imperial family was moved to Siberia. Their guards were rude and threatening. Anastasia and her sisters were not permitted to lock their bedroom door at night. Guards even followed the girls into the bathroom.

Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia.

No royal princesses could have been closer than the daughters of Nickolas and Alexandra.

The imperial family lived at Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg for 78 days. At first the Grand Duchesses were forced to sleep on the floor. Everyone ate unpalatable food from the public communist kitchen, and sat at the same table for meals. Most of the time the guards were drunk, wore their hats, smoked, spat and swore. They drew indecent pictures on the walls to taunt the Empress and the girls and stole things from the Emperor. But gradually even they were impressed by the way the Imperial Family endured their misery.

Their last day was July 16, 1918. Late that night, the family was awakened and told to get dressed.
After midnight they were taken to the cellar where, believing they were to be photographed, they stood in two rows.
Anastasia, carrying her dog Jemmy, stood with her sisters, their doctor, and three servants.

Suddenly armed men burst into the room and began firing. Eleven Bolshevik soldiers enter, raise their pistols and fire. The Tsar and his wife die quickly. Their teenage daughters, Anastasia and her sisters, do not. God mercifully spared the parents the agony of seeing their young ones shot and clubbed to death with rifle butts when the bullets failed. Sewn inside their clothes are diamonds, sapphires and other jewels. Meant to be bartered for freedom, the carefully hidden stones now act as bullet-proof vests, deflecting the fire, but to the soldiers it appeared miraculous. Astounded and scared, they kept firing. Tsarevich Alexei was on the floor, groaning but alive, so one soldier shot him in the head.

It was a chaotic scene. The cellar was filled with smoke. Anastasia was seen huddled against the wall, covering her head with her arms. Eventually Tatiana and Maria died. By some accounts, Anastasia was bayoneted many times. There is much confusion about how Anastasia died. Some people refuse to believe that she died at all.

Even the discovery in the 1990's of the families remains outside Ekaterineburg, Russia where they perished has shed little light on her story. Two bodies were missing from the mass grave found in the early 1990's.

According to the late Dr. William Maples, who was invited by the Russian government to help identify the remains, the missing ones were Anastasia and her brother Alexei. It is more likely that the murderers, to hide their crime, buried their bodies apart from the others.

Interesting Fact

The last Grand Duchess of Russia, Olga Romanov.One of the last Grand Duchesses to survive the Revolution was Anastasia's dear aunt Olga, who escaped from Russia during the revolution and moved to Denmark and then to Canada.

She lived out her final years above a barbershop painting and raising her children. She married Colonel Nickolai Koulikovsky and had two sons.

Neighbors were shocked when Queen Elizabeth II of England extended an invitation to the kindly elderly woman to join her for tea during a tour in Canada in 1959.

To the end she remained loyal to the memory of her brother and the rest of her family.

She was buried at the York Cemetery in Toronto, Canada in 1960.

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