The ghost of Anna Anderson continues to haunt us

PHOTO: Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna (center) and Anna Anderson (left and right)

Russian historian and author Robert K. Massie coined it best when he wrote: “The mysterious disappearance of the Russian Imperial Family in July 1918 created fertile soil for the sprouting of delusion, fabrication, sham, romance, burlesque, travesty and humbug,” when he referred to the “long, occasionally colourful, frequently pathetic line of claimants and imposters” that has glided and stumbled across the last century.

It was a US lab who confirmed the true identify of one of history’s greatest impostors: Anna Anderson, who claimed to be Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna. Thanks to DNA technology, however, science was able to prove that she was not the youngest daughter of Emperor Nicholas II, but that of a Polish peasant girl Franziska Schanzkowska.

A sample of Anderson’s tissue, part of her intestine removed during her operation in 1979, had been stored at Martha Jefferson Hospital, Charlottesville, Virginia. Anderson’s mitochondrial DNA was extracted from the sample and compared with that of the Romanovs and their relatives. It did not match that of the Duke of Edinburgh or that of the bones [Ekaterinburg Remains], confirming that Anderson was not related to the Romanovs.

The sample, however, matched DNA provided by Karl Maucher, a grandson of Franziska Schanzkowska’s sister, Gertrude (Schanzkowska) Ellerik, indicating that Karl Maucher and Anna Anderson were maternally related and that Anderson was Schanzkowska. Five years after the original testing was done, Dr. Terry Melton of the Department of Anthropology, Pennsylvania State University, stated that the DNA sequence tying Anderson to the Schanzkowski family was “still unique”, though the database of DNA patterns at the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory had grown much larger, leading to “increased confidence that Anderson was indeed Franziska Schanzkowska”.

Similarly, several strands of Anderson’s hair, found inside an envelope in a book that had belonged to Anderson’s husband, Jack Manahan, were also tested. Mitochondrial DNA from the hair matched Anderson’s hospital sample and that of Schanzkowska’s relative Karl Maucher, but not the Romanov remains or living relatives of the Romanovs.

Many of us were relieved that this case had finally been put to rest. It was hoped that science would appease Anna Anderson’s supporters and thus bringing closure to this popular conspiracy theory. It was not to be . . .

PHOTO: this comparison on the side profiles of Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna and Anna Anderson, created by Pierre Gilliard, provide evidence that they were two different women

The claimants

Over the past 30+ years, I have been contacted by Anna Anderson’s supporters who insist that she was the real Anastasia. They argue the same “facts” from books on the subject written by Peter Kurth, Greg King and Penny Wilson, Michel Wartelle among others. In addition there have been numerous imposters claiming to be the children or grandchildren of either Nicholas II or one of his five children. In the 1990s I received a parcel from a man in Vancouver, who claimed that he was the son of Tsesarevich Alexei Nikolaevich. The box was filled with photocopied documents, letters and photographs, the cover letter read: “Mr. Gilbert, I dare you to prove me wrong!”

And if that wasn’t enough: during a lecture which I hosted in Chicago in 1997, an American man showed up insisting that he was the “reincarnation” of Emperor Nicholas II. He even grew a beard and trimmed it to the likeness of that of the Tsar. Still to this day, I receive emails from people who demand a DNA test to prove their “Romanov ancestry”.

Anna Anderson became the subject of films, documentaries and countless books – even in post-Soviet Russia. In 2014, Candidate of Historical Sciences Georgy Nikolaevich Shumkin released his book Кто Вы, госпожа Чайковская? К вопросу о судьбе царской дочери Анастасии Романовой:архивные документы 1920-х годов [Who are you, Mrs. Tchaikovskaya? On the fate of the tsar’s daughter Anastasia Romanova], in which the Ural scientists tries to unravel the mystery of the false daughter of Nicholas II. The book proved so popular, it was reprinted in 2022.

Testimonials by those who personally knew the real Anastasia . . .

Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna – aunt of Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna

Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna cherished her connection to her brother Tsar Nicholas II’s four daughters. She especially took a liking to the youngest of Nicholas’s daughters, her god-daughter Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna. “My favourite god-daughter she was indeed! . . . Anastasia or Shvipsik (“little one”), as I used to call her. . . . She was such a generous child,” recalled Olga.

In 1925, Grand Duchess Olga travelled to Berlin to meet Anna Anderson in person. She was met by Pierre Gilliard and his wife who accompanied her to the Mommesen Nursing Home where Anna was being treated for tuberculosis. Olga also said she was dismayed that Anderson spoke only German and showed no sign of knowing either English or Russian, while Anastasia spoke both those languages fluently and was ignorant of German, a language which was never spoken in the Imperial Family.

“My beloved Anastasia was fifteen when I saw her for the last time in the summer of 1916. She would have been twenty-four in 1925. I thought Mrs. Anderson looked much older than that. Of course, one had to make allowances for a very long illness and the general poor condition of her health. All the same, my niece’s features could not possibly have altered out of all recognition. The nose, the mouth, the eyes were all different.”

The Grand Duchess remarked that the interviews were made all the more difficult by Mrs. Anderson’s attitude. She would not answer some of the questions put to her, and looked angry when when those questions were repeated. Some Romanov photos were shown to her, and there was not a flicker of recognition in her eyes. It was obvious that she greatly disliked M. Gilliard and little Anastasia had been devoted to him. The Grand Duchess had brought a small icon of St. Nicholas, the patron saint of the Imperial Family. Mrs. Anderson looked at so indifferently that it was obvious the icon said nothing to her.

“That child was as dear to me as if she were my daughter. The spiritual bond between my dear Anastasia and myself was so strong that neither time nor that ghastly experience could have interfered with it.

But although the Grand Duchess put no credence in Mrs. Anderson’s story, she was deeply sorry for the woman.

“Somehow or other she did not strike me as an out-and-out impostor. Her brusqueness warred against it. A cunning impostor would have done all she could to ingratiate herself with myself. But Mrs. Anderson’s manner would have put anyone off. My own conviction is that it all started with some unscrupulous people who hoped they might lay their hands on at least a share of the fabulous and utterly non-existent Romanov fortune. . . . I had a feeling she was ‘briefed,’ as it were, but far from perfectly. The mistakes she made could not all be attributed to lapses of memory. For instance, she had a scar on one of her fingers and she kept telling everybody that it had been crushed because of a footman shutting the door of a landau too quickly. And at once I remembered the real incident. It was Maria, her elder sister, who got her hand hurt rather badly, and it did not happen in a carriage but on board the Imperial Train. Obviously someone, having heard something of the incident, had passed a garbled version of it to Mrs. Anderson.”

The Grand Duchess spent nearly four days by Anna Anderson’s bed. Hour by hour, Olga went on searching for the least clue to establish the woman’s identity. “I had left Denmark with something of a hope in my heart. As soon as I sat down by that bed in the Mommsen Nursing Home, I knew I was looking at a stranger. I left Berlin with all hope extinguished,” she told her biographer Ian Vorres.

Source: The Last Grand Duchess. Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna. by Ian Vorres. Charles Scribner & Sons (1964)

Charles Sydney Gibbes – tutor to the Imperial Children, including Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna

It was in April 1928, when Charles Sydney Gibbes heard from a friendly journalist about a woman taken very seriously in America as Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna, the youngest daughter of the late Tsar, and even by some members of the Imperial Family. In December 1928, Gibbes wrote from Oxford to Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich in Paris, about his impressions of the claimant:

“In my opinion, there is, unfortunately, no room for doubt that the Grand Duchess Anastasia perished at Ekaterinburg at the same time as the Emperor, the Empress, the Tsarevich, and her three sisters, the Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, and Marie, with Mlle Demidova, and the rest. This fact, of itself, disposes of the claim now made by Mme Tchaikovsky [Anna Anderson]. Additional facts of refutation are now wanting, but the essential point is found in the sad fact of the Grand Duchess’s death . . .

“As soon as the way was open, after the retreat of the Bolshevik Government, I hastened to Ekaterinburg. Nothing beyond vague rumour, however, could be learned. It was not until the following summer, 1919, when a full investigation was made by Mr Sokolov, that the extent and horror of the tragedy was learnt. I visited the clearing in the forest outside Ekaterinburg and saw what had been recovered. Months of toil were involved in pumping out and washing the contents of the deep mine shaft into which the remains from the bonfire had been thrown . . . All who actually took part in the investigation and inspected the remains were obliged to abandon hope that anyone had survived.

“Only a few, of course, were able to form an opinion under these conditions which presented all the facts of the case. There were, however, plenty of interested persons who had nothing but rumour and garbled accounts to build upon. Among these the most extraordinary tales were circulated. Various Pretenders actually appeared while I was still in Siberia. Not being obsessed by any great faith in themselves, these people’s courage quickly failed and they were easily confuted and exposed.

“The first legends concerning the Imperial children were in circulation as early as 1917 while we were still all living together in Tobolsk. At the end of that year the Daily Graphic printed a fantastic paragraph stating that the Grand Duchess Tatiana, one of the Tsar’s daughters, had gone to America, etc., etc.; she was then actually sitting with me in a drawing-room in Tobolsk reading the news of herself. If such things happened in creditable newspapers in 1917, while they were still alive, what could not happen with credulous people after they were dead?

“I have not had the advantage of seeing Mme Tchaikovsky in person but her photographs failed to invoke in me the slightest belief in her story, however much I wish that it were true. The evidence supplied by Mons. Bischoff is one of irrefutable force to anyone who has intimately known the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna. There is one point, however, in which I can speak with paramount knowledge and authority. Mme Tchaikovsky has affirmed that I limp. Had I been dead, it might have been difficult to prove, but being yet alive and happily in full possession of both my legs, I am able to demonstrate that I limp only in the imagination of Mme Tchaikovsky.”

Source: The House of Special Purpose: An Intimate Portrait of the Last Days of the Russian Imperial Family. Compiled from the Papers of their English Tutor Charles Sydney Gibbes by J. C. Trewin (1975)

For the record . . .

Emperor Nicholas II, his wife Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, their four daughters Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia Nikolaevna, and their only son and heir to the Russian throne Tsesarevich and Grand Duke Alexei Nikolaevich were ALL brutally murdered by the Bolsheviks in the basement of the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg on 17th July 1918.

There were NO survivors! There were NEVER any sons and daughters born to any member of the Imperial Family, let alone any grandchildren. Surely, it is time to let these Holy Martyrs rest in peace.

© Paul Gilbert. 11 March 2023

Queen Elizabeth II receives Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, 1959

PHOTO: Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, wearing the plain blue and white cotton dress and little blue straw hat, which she picked out specially for Queen Elizabeth II’s luncheon on the Royal Yacht Britannia, in June 1959

During her years in exile in Canada from1948 to 1960, the youngest sister of Russia’s last tsar Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna (1882-1960), maintained contact with European royalty and aristocracy. She dined with earls, countesses, duchesses, and princesses when they visited Canada, and received gifts from Finland, Denmark, and Japan on her name day and at Easter and Christmas.

In the 1950s, Olga lived in in Cooksville, Ontario[1]. Although She lived modestly, her tiny five room house on Camilla Road was the setting for visits from Olga’s British royal relatives. Among those were Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent[2] who visited Olga’s home between her royal engagements during her Canadian tour in August 1954, and Louis and Edwina Mountbatten[3], who on an official tour of Canada in August 1959, flew from Ottawa to see their cousin[4].

On the morning of 29th June 1959, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh sailed into Toronto harbour onboard HMY Britannia as part of their Canadian tour.

During their 2-day visit to Toronto, Her Majesty would be hosting a luncheon on HMY Britannia, and requested the presence of the the now widowed[5] Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna – her first cousin twice removed and a first cousin once removed, respectively[6] – and her elder son, Tikhon Kulikovsky [1917-1993].

PHOTO: HMY Britannia docked in Toronto Harbout, 29th June 1959

Olga’s neighbours in Cooksville were much excited about the impending royal visit. Olga complained to her biographer Ian Vorres, “They were at me morning, noon, and night, urging that I should buy a new frock . . .they do not see that I am far too old to start buying new clothes.”[7]

After endless argument and persuasion, Olga agreed to go to a dress shop in Toronto. Once there, however, she insisted on being given full liberty of choice. She picked out a plain blue and white cotton dress for $30 dollars. A friend who accompanied her suggested a little blue straw hat and one of two accessories. As it so happened, the dress was on sale, and Olga, feeling very happy about saving money on the purchase, agreed.

On the day of the luncheon, all of Olga’s neighbours gathered on Camilla Road to see her off that memorable morning. “All this fuss, just to go see Lizzie and Philip!” she said.

Katherine Keiler-Mackay, wife of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Lieutenant Colonel John Keiler-MacKay, had different concerns than Olga’s wardrobe. She told Patricia Phenix that prior to the luncheon, “[Olga] looked nervous . . .We were all afraid the Queen might overlook her and she might be hurt.”[8]

Keiler-Mackay need not have worried. Although there were 50 persons invited, Grand Duchess Olga was personally and warmly welcomed by the Queen, who personally escorted her to the head table.

She enjoyed lunching with the Queen, but we will never know what the royal cousins talked about that day. Was the subject of the failure and betrayal by Elizabeth’s grandfather King George V’s withdrawing asylum to the Imperial Family in 1917 ever brought up? Or the brutal murder of her brother and his family by the Bolsheviks in July 1918? Given the setting and festive mood of the event, it is hardly likely, however, we will never know.

Upon the death of Olga’s sister Grand Duchess Xenia in May 1960, a telegram of condolence was sent to Olga by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Paintings by Olga are today part of the collections of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

It is interesting to note, that in later years, Olga recalled her meeting Prince Philip, the future Duke of Edinburgh (1921-2021) during a visit of Queen Olga of Greece, who left her own exile in Italy to see her god-daughter Olga and the Dowager Empress at Hvidore, Denmark. The Greek Queen brought Prince Philip, her six-year-old grandson along. “I remember young Philip as a wide-eyed youngster, with blue eyes sparkling with humour and mischief. Even then, when a mere child, he possessed a mind of his own, though he seemed rather subdued in the presence of my mother. I served him tea and cookies, which vanished in a split second. I could never have imagined then that this lovely child would one day be the consort of the Queen of England.”[9]


[1] Cooksville, Ontario, a suburb of Toronto (now amalgamated into the city of Mississauga). Olga’s house on Camilla Road, has survived to the present day

[2] Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark (1906-1968), later Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, was a Greek princess by birth and a British princess by marriage. She was a daughter of Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark and Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia [both first cousins of Emperor Nicholas II], and a granddaughter of King George I and Queen Olga of Greece. Princess Marina married Prince George, Duke of Kent, fourth son of King George V and Queen Mary, in 1934. They had three children: Prince Edward, Princess Alexandra, and the current Prince Michael of Kent (born 1942).

[3] Louis Francis Albert Victor Nicholas Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma (1900-1979). was a maternal uncle of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and a second cousin of King George VI.

[4] This would be Grand Duchess Olga’s last royal visit, she died in Toronto the following year on 24th November 1960. She was interred next to her husband, in York Cemetery, Toronto, on 30th November 1960

[5] Nikolai Kulikovsky died on 11th August 1958. When Olga married Nikolai (a commoner) in 1916, she was forced to renounce all rights to the Russian throne as well as those of her descendants.

[6] Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna was a cousin of the Queen’s grandfather, King George V.

[7] Vorres, Ian. The Last Grand Duchess, [Charles Scribners and Sons, New York] 1964., pg. 208-209

[8] Phenix, Patricia. Olga Romanov: Russia’s Last Grand Duchess [Penguin Books, Toronto] 1999, p. 239

[9] Vorres, Ian. The Last Grand Duchess, [Charles Scribners and Sons, New York] 1964., pg. 171

© Paul Gilbert. 9 September 2022

2 new Romanov titles coming this fall

I have not offered any new book titles through my AMAZON Bookshopspecializing in books on the life, reign and era of Nicholas II – since April. My cancer diagnosis in April, surgery in May, and chemo treatment since, pretty much brought my work to a grinding halt.

Despite the side effects from the chemo – which on some days leaves me very tired and drained of energy – I am pleased to say, that I am now slowly returning to my writing.

Pending no further health setbacks, I plan on publishing 2 NEW titles in September [with additional titles planned for the remaining months of this year]: one on Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, the other on Anna Vyrubova. Both titles will be available exclusively through AMAZON.

An annoucement will be made here on my blog, my Facebook page, and to those who subscribe to my bi-weekly news updates (by e-mail), when these titles are available.

THANK YOU to all of you who support my work in keeping the memory of the Imperial Family and the history of Imperial Russia alive!

Paperback. 148 pages

This book is a tribute to one of the most beloved and respected members of the Russian Imperial Family: Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna (1882-1960).

The first part explores her Russian, Danish and Canadian years respectively; the second part explores her love of painting – Olga painted more than 2,000 in her life; the third is about her work and dedication as a nurse during WWI; the fourth is an interview with her daughter-in-law Olga Kulikovsky-Romanoff (1926-2020), who shares her husband Tikhon’s anecdotes and details about his mother: the Grand Duchess of Russia.

Richly illustrated with more than 100 black and white photos

Paperback. 172 pages

Anna Alexandrovna Vyrubova (née Taneyeva), was born on 16th July 1884. She is most famous as the lady-in-waiting, the best friend and confidante of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna. She also become one of Grigorii Rasputin’s (1869-1916) most influential advocates.

This new book features 7 chapters, including a synopsis of Vyrubova’s memoirs – published in the 1920s; her home in Tsarskoye Selo; an interview with Anna in 1917; her life in exile in Finland; efforts to have her canonized, among others.

Vyrubova died in exile on 20th July 1964, at the age of 80. She was buried in the Orthodox section of Hietaniemi cemetery in Helsinki.

Illustrated with more than 60 black and white photographs

© Paul Gilbert. 31 August 2022

OBITUARY – Olga Nikolaevna Kulikovsky-Romanov (1926-2020)


Olga Nikolaevna Kulikovsky-Romanov (1926-2020)

It is with a deep sense of sadness for me to announce that Mrs. Olga Kulikovsky-Romanov died yesterday (1st May 2020) at the age of 94.

In 1986 she married Tikhon Nikolaevich Kulikovsky (1917-1993) – the son of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna (1882-1960) and Colonel N.A. Kulikovsky (1881-1958).

Olga Kulikovsky’s father, Nikolai Nikolaevich Pupynin was a hereditary nobleman of the Tambov province, a military Cossack officer of the Imperial and White armies, and participant in the famous Ice campaign.

Her mother, Nina Konradovna Kopernitskaya was an artist and sculptor, educated in Warsaw and Munich. From 1920, the family was in exile: first in Yugoslavia, after World War II in Venezuela.

Olga Kulikovsky (nee Pupynina) graduated from the Mariinsky Don Institute of Noble Maidens (Smolny branch), who were evacuated from Novocherkassk during the Civil War to Bila Tserkva, Yugoslavia. During the Second World War, she was interned in Germany (Stuttgart), where she worked in a factory and survived the barbaric bombing of civilians by British and American aircraft. Subsequently, she moved to South America, received a medical, commercial, architectural education, and learned seven languages. After moving to Canada, she worked as a translator in government agencies.


Olga Nikolaevna Kulikovsky-Romanov praying at Ganina Yama in July 2018

Over the years Olga Kulikovsky participated in public activities in Russia, transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church some shrines preserved in the Kulikovsky family associated with the Holy Royal Passion-Bearers, she did a lot to popularize the artistic work of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna.

Mrs. Kulikovsky was the founder and chairman of the HIH Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna Memorial Fund since its foundation in 1991. With her passing, a new chapter begins for the charitable organization.

Undoubtedly, the Fund in the name of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna will continue to serve Russia, whose activities will become a worthy testimony to the memory of the Grand Duchess and her daughter-in-law.

In recent years, Mrs. Kulikovsky had been working on her book, “A Quarter Century of Russia’s Service.” This monumental work is dedicated to her 25 years of active and often difficult work of the Fund in Russia and abroad. Unfortunately, she never managed to see this publication come to fruition. [Her book is published in Russian/English, and is only available in Russia.]

It is important to add, that despite her age, she worked tirelessly to help clear the name of Russia’s much slandered Tsar and his family.

The cause of death has not yet been specified. She was found dead at her home in Balashikha, Moscow Region, where she lived. She will be buried with her husband Tikhon, and her mother-in-law at York Cemetery in Toronto, Canada.

Memory Eternal! Вечная Память!

© Paul Gilbert. 2 May 2020