The Royal Child-Martyr
Grand Duchess Anastasia
The Lost Princess
By Sammee Klevmoen
Compiled by Father Nektarios Serfes
20 May 2000
Introduction by Father Nektarios Serfes:
A student from Boise State University (located in Boise, Idaho), named Sammee Klevmoen, wanted to have an interview with myself, at my parish office, as she was doing a research project for her English class at the University, on Grand Duchess Anastasia, who was the daughter of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra.
During Sammee's research project, she found the life of Grand Duchess Anastasia very impressive, and had began her interest six years ago. She also found and agreed that Grand Duchess Anastasia was martyred along with the rest of her family members, and friends.
Sammee's interest continued to grow after she saw the carton film produced by Twenty-Century Fox on Anastasia, as she found the film to be inconsistent with the life of the Grand Duchess Anastasia.
After Sammee presented her research project to her English class at the University, she got a 'A'. This indeed was well written and with good remarks and new thoughts to consider that indeed the young Princess, Grand Duchess Anastasia was indeed martyred, along with all her august Royal Family members, and friends, on July 17, 1918, at the Ipatieve house in Ykaterinburg, Russia.
I would now like to humbly present to you: The Lost Princess.
Fr. Demetrios Serfes
The Lost Princess
02 May 2000
On the fateful night of July 17, 1918 the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas Romanov II, and his wife, children and servants were all brutally slaughtered in the basement of the house in which they had been confined for two months. Their only crime: Loving their homeland and God. After the horrendous murder, rumors started surfacing around Europe that the tsar's youngest daughter, Anastasia, had somehow survived and made it out of Russia alive. There were many attempts to clutch at the royal fortune by people claiming to be the missing grand duchess, but so far none have proved to be real.
On June 18, 1901 Tsarina Alexandra gave birth to a bright-eyed baby girl. All of Russia was hoping for a baby boy, an heir to the throne; they were met with another royal daughter. Tsar Nicholas and his wife had three other daughters: Olga (born in 1895), Tatiana (born in 1897), and Marie (born in 1899). In Greg Kingís book, "The Last Empress", it states that a law in Russia, enacted after the reign of Catherine the Great, prevented women from ruling Russia unless "all legitimate male descendants were dead" (152). This meant that if Alexandra did not produce a male heir, the crown of Russia would be handed down to male relatives on Nicholasí side of the family (152). Consequently, Nicholas needed a male heir to carry on the 300-year reign of his family.
In the autumn of 1904, Alexandra gave birth to the long awaited heir to the throne of the largest country in the world; Alexei Nicholaevich Romanov. But after only six weeks, they realized the tsarevich suffered from hemophilia. Every little bump caused Alexei grave pain. He was not allowed to lead a normal, active life. Therefore, he was closest to the sibling nearest him in age: Anastasia. The brother and sister got along marvelously. In fact, all the sisters looked after their little brother - whom they affectionately nicknamed Baby (Atchison) - to make sure he didn't hurt himself or get into too much mischief.
Anastasia and her family were very close to each other. They were constantly writing letters and little notes to each other. Out of them all, I have found that Anastasiaís had the most personality. She was very happy and animated. Here is a copy of a letter she wrote to her father:
My darling sweet dear Papa!!!
I want to see you so much. I have just finished my arithmetic lesson, I think I did quite well. We are going to nursesí school. I am very glad. Today it is rainy and very damp. I am in Tatianaís room, Tatiana and Olga are here. When you see Boba, tell him Iím going to beat him again and that my hands are itching.
Iím trying very hard to breed worms, but Olga says I stink, which isnít true. When you come I am going to bathe in your bath. I hope you havenít forgotten the story I told you during our walk.
I am sitting picking my nose with my left hand. Olga wanted to biff me one, but I escaped her swinish hand. When you come I will meet you at the station. Be happy and healthy.
A big squeeze to your hand and face. Thinking of you. Love you always, everywhere
Anastasia(Maylunas and Mironenko 377)
In this letter to her father, dated 8 May 1913, Anastasiaís comic personality shines through. All the girls loved their parents dearly. They always addressed them as "My dear, darling Mama," or "My darling Papa". Nicholas and Alexandra were extremely affectionate towards one another as well. Alexandraís beginnings of letters to "Nicky" were very eloquent and filled with love. One letter starts off "My love of loves, my very own One,". She usually signed her letters "Wify" or "Sunny" (Maylunas and Mironenko 404-405)
I recently had an interview with a local priest, Father Nektarios Serfes, who is very learned about and devoted to the subject of the Imperial Family. He has told me many great stories about the grand duchess and her family life. One comment he made I particularly remember. It was in regards to the girls sewing jewels into their corsets. Alexandra had told them to "take care of their friends" in case they were forced to move from one imprisonment to another. This turned out to be the case in the early morning of July 17. Father Serfes also told me of the deep love the family had for one another and for God. He, as well as many other Orthodox Christians, believes the Romanovs were martyred the night they were slaughtered in Ekaterinburg at the Ipatiev House, or "House of Special Purpose" (Brewster 56).
After the murders, rumors started surfacing all through Europe that the tsarevich and his sister Anastasia had escaped alive. Many people claimed to be the lost royal children to try to get a part of some fortune that was stashed away by Nicholas before he abdicated. One of the most famous Anastasia claimants was Anna Anderson. Interestingly, though, there was never any proof that such a bank account existed.
In 1920 a young woman was pulled out of the Landwehr Canal in Berlin, the obvious result of a failed suicide attempt. When they took her to a local hospital she refused to give her identity. About a year and a half later, after she had been institutionalized in a mental hospital in Berlin, she declared herself the missing Russian princess. Many people rallied behind her because the myth of a princess found after all the turmoil from years past was just too irresistible. One of Andersonís biggest supporters was the son of Dr. Eugene Botkin - family doctor to the Romanovs who was also murdered with them at the Ipatiev House. Gleb Botkin, Dr. Botkinís son, helped to feed Anderson little tidbits about the royal court so as to make people think she was the rightful heir to the Romanov fortune (Godl). After Father Serfes and I sat down and talked about some different possibilities for whether Anderson was Anastasia, I finally came to the conclusion I do not believe that Anderson was the grand duchess. There are many reasons why the father, and many other people, feels that Anderson was not of Romanov blood.
First of all, after the Bolsheviks (the party taking over the government) murdered the family, they loaded the bodies on trucks and drove them to a unused mine to be buried. Along the way, they took the body of Alexandraís lady-in-waiting and Alexei and burned them on the side of the road. After that, they buried the rest of the family in a mass grave in the mine and drove over it a couple of times to cover up any signs of the grave.
The next day they had to go back and dig up the family and re-bury them because it had rained all night. Father Serfes told me something interesting about the rain that night. He said as soon as the murder of the Imperial Family began, the skies opened up and started weeping. As a result of the downpour there were arms, legs and other parts visible above the grass (King 367).
Father Serfes posed this question to me: donít you think If they had to re-bury the family that was so important to kill, they would know exactly how many bodies were there? I donít know about anybody else, but if I was in charge of killing the most powerful family in Russia and the success of my political party depended on it, I would make very sure that none of the family would be alive to threaten that position.
Also, it has been suggested by Father Serfes that Marie, and not Anastasia, was missing from the grave. If that is so, then Anna Andersonís whole claim to the Romanov fortune is blown right out of the water. When the Imperial Family was laid to rest in the Cathedral of Ss. Peter and Paul in Saint Petersburg on July 17, 1998, it was televised on CNN. Father Serfes was watching the broadcast and one of the coffins clearly had the name "Anastasia" written on the side. There are still two places reserved in the tomb as a final resting place for Marie and Alexei.
The film by 20th Century Fox released in 1997, Anastasia, is a childrenís cartoon based loosely on the myth of Anastasiaís escape from Russia. After studying up on the Romanovís, I found the story presented by Fox to very inaccurate. The Dowager Empress was never with the family when the palace was taken over after Nicholas abdicated his thrown in March of 1917. Even after Anna Anderson turned up and claimed to be the lost Grand Duchess, her own "grandmother" would not go meet her.
Father Serfes wrote to Don Bluth, the producer of the movie, and asked him many questions concerning the film and the family. The reply given by another producer, Gary Gold, was quite frank and honest with him. The reply states that the movie company was not out to create a documentary on the life of Anastasia Romanov and was merely meant to give a little bit of hope. The animated movie was based largely on various myths and legends surrounding the Grand Duchess Anastasia. Even though the movie was gravely inaccurate, except for names and such, I believe there was no real harm done by making the movie, despite the misrepresentations. I believe the intended audience was young children and Fox tailored the story of the young duchess to help children get a feel for the stories surrounding Anastasia. I also believe the producers had in mind that if children were really interested in learning more about the Romanov family and Anastasia, this movie might provide somewhere to start on an intriguing and engaging story.
At earlier points in this essay, I have mentioned the Romanovís great love of God. They were brought up as Orthodox Christians and were very steadfast in their faith. When I was talking with Father Serfes, he mentioned the fact that Anna Anderson did not believe in God and was not religious at the end of her life. I asked him if he thought, through the whole turmoil surrounding their captivity and execution, that it was possible Anderson could have renounced her faith. He simply replied "No". He went on to say that the Romanovís had such great love for God that he couldnít see how Anastasia would do such a thing. Even when they were imprisoned in their own palace and finally in the Ipatiev House, they sang hymns, read the Bible and prayed together (Atchison). They were a very devout family, and they were canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia in 1981. Father Serfes makes another very valid point: why would someone so devoted to their religion, turn their back on it in a mere whim? That just does not balance the equation.
As I have been studying more and more on the life of Anastasia and her family, I find myself being pulled into this seemingly never ending saga. I envy the love the family shared with one another that is so evident in the letters they were constantly writing to each other. I have also discovered a want to know the Romanovs. They seemed like the kind of people you wouldnít know were royalty if they walked up to you on the street and started talking to you. Alexandra and her two eldest daughters had devoted themselves unselfishly as nurses in the middle of the First World War. The younger children did all they could to help people in need. This shows their love for humanity and their fellow man in general. Father Serfes has even heard stories of the girls sending their weekly allowance to some poor children they met while waiting for their train at a depot. They were an unselfish and affectionate family who dearly loved each other and their homeland.
Works Cited Atchison, Bob. Alexander Palace Time Machine. 18 Feb. 2000
URL : http://www.alexanderpalace.org/palace/mainpage.html
Anastasia. Dir. Don Bluth. 20th Century Fox, 1997.
Brewster, Hugh. Anastasiaís Album. New York: Hyperion, 1996
Godl, John. Anastasia: The Unmasking of Anna Anderson. 15 Feb. 2000
URL : http://www.serfes.org/royal/annaanderson.htm
King, Greg. The Last Empress: The Life and Times of Alexandra Feodorovna, Tsarina of Russia. New York: Carol Publishg Group, 1994.
Maylunas, Andrei and Sergei Mironenko. A Lifelong Passion. New York: Doubleday, 1997.
Serfes, Father Demetrios. Personal Interview. 18 Feb. 2000
Home Page. 10 Feb. 2000. http://www.serfes.org/royal/index.htm.
I would like to humbly thank Sammee Klevmoen for the above writing - Fr. Demetrios Serfes.
Holy Child Martyr Grand Duchess Anastasia,
Pray Unto God For Us!
Glory Be To God For All Things!
b a c k - t o p e-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org. 5-28-2000