’tis the week of Halloween, you know. What better time to read a good ghost story? Of course, if you’re into the horror genre, you’re bound to have read far more than I. So I’ll give you something of a true ghost story. It’s the story of a young Grand Duchess, murdered alongside her family in 1918, whom continues to haunt us to this day . . .
In other words, it’s the story of Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II. In July 1918, Tsar Nicholas II, his wife, and their five children were massacred by Bolsheviks in the Russian Revolution. Approximately a year and a half later, a young woman was pulled from a canal in Berlin–Anna Anderson, the woman many would come to believe was the Grand Duchess Anastasia.
Peter Kurth met Anna around 1970 and, in Anastasia: The Riddle of Anna Anderson, tells her story in great detail, beginning with her rescue from the Landwehr Canal:
Later on the unknown woman always insisted it was the asylum that ‘broke her’ — not the loss of her family and her country, not even the savage attack on her own life, but the two years she spent in Dalldorf in the company of a dozen spitting, jabbering, incontinent lunatics. Before that, she said, she had been ‘a different person.’
The biography reads like a novel; the details housed within its pages seem to echo once again, “Truth is stranger than fiction.”
Now, lest you be tempted to harangue me with the fact that this is an old book and much has been brought to light since its publication, let me assure you: I read this book knowing full well the outcome. I knew Anastasia’s body had been found missing from her family’s grave; I also knew DNA had proved Anna Anderson a fraud, so I completely expected to find how she might be able to fool so many, for so long. Alas, despite everything I knew, I couldn’t help but believe.
Even if you remain a skeptic, it’s an intriguing read all the same.
I’ve not yet read The Resurrection of the Romanovs: Anastasia, Anna Anderson, and the World’s Greatest Royal Mystery–have you? It may be up next, just to see if it will convince me of the ‘facts’ . . .