Anna's-versary: 'Anastasia' Manahan recalled 25 years after death
A quarter century after her death, a Charlottesville woman lives on in the minds of those who believe her story, that she was the Russian princess Anastasia, who somehow survived the slaughter that claimed the rest of the royal family during the Bolshevik Revolution.
Since Anna Anderson Manahan's February 12, 1984 death, however, the story of the surviving princess has been dealt a series of blows that simultaneously bolstered the view of doubters.
"They just don't know," asserts long-time Manahan friend Robert Crouch. "If they could have seen the things I've seen, known the people I've known, and analyzed all the information, then they wouldn't be so doubtful."
On Valentine's Day, Crouch, who teaches high school German and history in Front Royal, knelt beside the University of Virgina Cemetery tombstone for Anna and her husband, Jack Manahan, who died in 1990.
Laying flowers exactly 25 years after the day of Anna's funeral, Crouch, 47, recalled how the elderly couple befriended him in the summer of 1983 when he was a college student taking summer school classes at UVA.
"We hit it off right away," says Crouch. "I was interested in history, and Jack's house was a history gold mine."
A day earlier, Crouch revealed in an interview by WINA radio talk show host Coy Barefoot that he helped push for the DNA testing that ironically helped topple his friend's claim.
Such testing, conducted in 1994 on hair strands (obtained from a Chapel Hill book dealer) and stomach tissue (obtained from Martha Jefferson Hospital) seemed to say that Anna was really Franziska Schanzkowska, a mentally troubled factory worker and beet farmer who disappeared from Poland around the time Anna was pulled from a Berlin canal in an apparent suicide attempt.
Despite the DNA findings and the last year's declaration by a Russian governor that all members of the royal family have now been identified from bone shards, Crouch and others–- including Vermont author Peter Kurth–- remain fervent in the belief that Anna Manahan was who she said she was: a princess who somehow survived the Bolshevik execution of her family in 1918.