This article was written by Carol.
Anastasia was the youngest daughter and fourth child of the last Emperor and Empress of Russia, Nicholas and Alexandra. She was born on 18 June 1901 (O.S. 5 June). Nicholas is said to have been so distraught at the birth of another daughter, rather than the longed-for heir, that he had to go for a long walk before he could visit his newborn daughter. She was named for the 4th-century martyr, St. Anastasia and Nicholas pardoned several political prisoners in honour of her birth.
Anastasia is generally described as a willful, stubborn but lively and a mischievous child. She was chubby, with blond hair and blue eyes. She was somewhat of a tomboy who liked to climb trees and one time hid a rock in a snowball causing injury to her sister. She was closest with her sister Maria, and they were called “the Little Pair” in comparison to her sisters Olga and Tatania who were “the Big Pair”. She was known to have a sharp and witty tongue and enjoyed performing in theatricals.
During the war, Anastasia and Maria visited wounded soldiers and tried to lift their spirits. One of the soldiers claimed she had “a laugh like a squirrel.” Then in February 1917, Anastasia and her family were placed under house arrest. Anastasia was only 17 when she was killed along with her family by the Bolsheviks in July 1918.
Anastasia is best known for what transpired after her death. The unending mystery of the remainder of the 20th century was whether or not Anastasia had survived the massacre that killed her family. Several claimants came forth claiming to be Anastasia. The most well known was a woman who went by the name Anna Anderson. Her attempt to be acknowledged as Anastasia became the longest court case in German history and was finally closed in 1970 when the court declared that her claim could neither be proved or disproved. Anna Anderson first appeared in a Berlin psychiatric hospital in the early 1920’s. Despite several Romanov relatives, including her aunt the Grand Duchess Olga and the children’s tutor Pierre Gilliard, declaring her to be an imposter, Anna was able to gain support for her claim and was able to live the rest of her life at the expense of well-wishers. In 1927, Empress Alexandra’s brother hired a private detective who claimed that the woman was a Polish factory worker named Franziska Schanzkowska. Franziska’s siblings, however, did not affirmatively identify her. She died in 1984 still claiming to be the Russian Grand Duchess.
Anna Anderson’s story prompted several films, notably the 1956 movie Anastasia. Ingrid Bergman won an academy award for her performance in the title role.
In 1991, the Romanov family grave was discovered but missing was the son, Alexei and one daughter. For awhile this renewed the mystery of Anastasia. In 2007, the final two bodies were discovered in a separate grave. DNA-testing proved that Nicholas and Alexandra and their five children had been found. The DNA of Anna Anderson matched the grand-nephew of Franziska Schanzkowska.
In 2000, Anastasia, along with her family, was canonised as a passion-bearer of the Russian Orthodox Church.