“I have always been interested in Russian history; the tragic story of Czar Nicholas and his family gets me every time. I couldn't resist when I saw this volume for sale for $2 at my library.
My first exposure to the story of Grand Duchess Anastasia was through watching the miniseries starring Amy Irving that was on TV in the '80's. I always wondered if "Anna Anderson" really was the lost princess. Although Anna Anderson has been shown to be an impostor based on DNA evidence, I still was interested in her story. The details of her long story are not glamorous: rather her life story is a tragic telling of loss, brutality, greed, loneliness, mental illness, and abandonment.
When Anna first appeared as a lone waif in a mental hospital in Germany, she immediately became a lightning rod of controversy. Some believed she was Anastasia, others didn't, and still others vacillated between the two opinions. Initially her aunt Grand Duchess Olga supported her and recognized her as her niece. Then, inexplicably, the remnants of the Romanov family closed ranks and no longer acknowledged her. It was then that Anna endeavored to take a trip to America, supported by her distant cousin Xenia, a member of Long Island high society, along with a wealthy member of New York society, Annie Burr Jennings. Both Xenia and Ms. Jennings brought Anna into the public eye, and supported her quest for her identity until they could no longer deal with either their own domestic problems or Anna's growing mental instability. Eventually, Anna was committed to a mental hospital, paid for by Jennings, and summarily shipped back to Germany under guard, locked in her cabin. Upon arrival in Germany, she was deposited in another mental hospital, paid for by Jennings.
For the following 36 years, Anna lived in Germany, either hosted by minor nobility or finally settling into a small village with a tight knit circle of trusted friends. She became a reclusive hoarder, living in squalor with dozens of cats and dogs. In 1968, Anastasia's childhood friend Gleb Bodkin brought her to the US, where she overstayed her visa and eventually married Jack Manahan, a wealthy intellectual with extensive knowledge of the noble families of Europe. Jack became convinced of Anna's authenticity as Anastasia, and considered himself a "Grand Duke in waiting."
Anna's persistent mental illness led to the couple living the lives of eccentrics...the once butler attended immaculate home of Jack Manahan became overrun with garbage, pets, and waste. She died in 1983. Her story ends with the DNA analysis in 1991, showing that she was a Polish factory worker, not the daughter of Nicholas and Alexandra.
This is a tragic lifelong story of a woman who convinced so many she was a princess, but was really a mentally ill victim. Today, her story would have been settled almost immediately, rather than decades later, with DNA analysis, and she would most certainly have benefited from modern medication for mental illness. She was lucky to have had a core of people who cared so much for her.”