Since 1918 many women have presented themselves as the missing Anastasia (or another sister). However only Anna Anderson and Eugenia Smith gathered substantial support. Thank you to True Crimes and Curiosities for much of the information .
The princesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia
Alexander Palace, 1916
Olga, Alexei, Anastasia and Tatiana
Under house arrest in Tsarskoe Selo, 1917
Last known photo of the Romanov siblings
A] In 1920 Anna Anderson tried to commit suicide and was sent to a mental health centre in Berlin. One of the patients took her for the Grand Duchess and later this legend was supported by Russian immigrants. Two years later Anna started believing that she was in fact the real Grand Duchess Anastasia. In 1928 she moved to the USA and lived off Russian princess Xenia Georgievna, who was actually distantly related to the Romanovs. However, after failing to prove herself, Anna returned to Germany.
Those who had known Anastasia personally said Anna Anderson was an imposter, but most ordinary people believed her. So the Tsarina of Russia’s brother Ernest Louis, Grand Duke of Hesse, hired a private investigator in 1927 to find out who she really was - Franziska Schanzkowska, a Polish factory worker suffering from mental illness
For 20 years Anna struggled to get her name recognised by the European courts, but failed. In 1968 she moved back to the USA where she married a wealthy man. Anderson died there in 1984 and post-mortem DNA tests finally disproved her claim of being a Romanov. As they did for every other claimant mentioned here.
I saw the film Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna (1986) decades ago.
B] Eugenia Smith (1899-1997) was born Eugenia Smetisko. According to her naturalisation papers, Eugenia was born and raised in 1899 in Bukovina, an artist & writer who emigrated to the USA in 1929. In Chicago in 1963 she presented a book to a publisher which she said was a manuscript given to her by the Grand Duchess Anastasia herself. Doubting her tale, the publisher asked her to take a lie detector test, which Smith failed. So she then changed her statement, instead claiming to be the Grand Duchess Anastasia.
In her book, Autobiography of HIH Anastasia Nicholaevna of Russia, Smith adopted 1901 as her birth date, same as the Grand Duchess, and changed her birthplace to St Petersburg. Her autobiography recounted her life in the Imperial family and how she escaped execution by the Bolsheviks. And her many art works depicted scenes of her Russian childhood in the Imperial family.
Eugenia was a popular society woman when LIFE magazine featured her claims in an Oct 1963 story. LIFE pointed out that she had failed to convince: a) anthropologists (who compared her features to Anastasia’s), b) a handwriting analyst (comparing the two women’s handwriting) and c) a cousin-childhood playmate of Anastasia. Eugenia died in 1997 in Rhode Island. Because cremation is forbidden in Orthodoxy, Eugenia Smith was buried in Orthodox manner in the Holy Trinity Orthodox Monastery in New York.
L to R: Anna Anderson, Eugenia Smith & Eleonora Kruger
True Crimes and Curiosities
C] Eleonora Kruger originally did not claim to be royalty, yet she had apparently written letters to the British King George V asking for help. She first claimed she was Anastasia, then a merchant’s daughter, and then Anastasia again. Her changing claims led to her being institutionalised in a mental hospital in Kazan on the Volga River, where she eventually died.
D] Marga Boodts first appeared in France just post-WW2. She claimed to be Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna of Russia, first daughter of Tsar Nicholas II and was considered to be one of the most successful claimants to the Romanov family. Having said she miraculously escaped the execution of the Romanov family, Marga collected money from the public to prove her cause. But in court she was arrested for fraud.
Marga appeared in court again in 1950, this time denying any knowledge of her previous fraudulent activities. She could convince Nikolaus, the Hereditary Grand Duke of Oldenburg and Wilhelm of her claim; he supported her financially until their death. Only when Anna Anderson became famous did Boodts make her claim public - she did everything in her power to destroy Anderson’s credibility. And of course she wrote a book (unpublished) to tell the story of her family.
Boodts lived in solitude for the rest of her life in Italy, dying in 1976.
E] Ceclava Czapska was first noticed in 1919 in Romania where she was taken under the protection of Queen Marie of Romania. And it was there that Ceclava Czapska married Russian Prince Nicolas Dolgoruky, son of General Alexander Dolgoruky, and started claiming to be the Grand Duchess Maria of Russia. She said all members of the royal family, with the exception of her dad Nicholas II and the servants, escaped from being executed. Ceclava died in 1970 in Rome.
F] The last woman to declare that she was Anastasia was Natalya Bilikhodze, apparently the heiress to a fabulous Georgian fortune, was aged nearly 101. Supporters proved via a video press conference that Mrs Bilikhodze would visit Russia in 2002 when her real identity would be acknowledged and the Romanov fortune would then be handed over to her. But it turned out that Bilikhodze had actually died back in 2000; the press conference video had simply been recorded years prior.
The canonisation of the dead Romanovs in Nov 1981 showed the Orthodox Church made them saints on the belief that they were all totally and irrevocably murdered.
In 1991, the Tsar, his wife and 3 of their daughters were found in the woods outside Yekaterinburg. An exhaustive post mortem examination confirmed that they were the Romanovs. The family was buried in in a vault in Saints Peter and Paul Cathedral, St Petersburg.
This did not end the rumours because one of the four daughter might have still been alive. Then in 2007 the fourth daughter and the son were found partially cremated near Yekaterinburg. It was never verified if the fourth sister was Maria or Anastasia, but ALL the girls had been proven by DNA testing to be part of the royal family.