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this day in history 1928

Anastasia Tschaikovsky arrives in the US

On February 6, 1928, a woman calling herself Anastasia Tschaikovsky and claiming to be the youngest daughter of the murdered czar of Russia arrives in New York City. Between 1918 and 1928, more than half a dozen other women had come forward claiming to be a lost heir to the Romanov fortune, so some reporters were understandingly skeptical of Tschaikovsky's claims. Nevertheless, she was treated as a celebrity during her stay in New York. Registering for one hotel during her visit, she used the name Anna Anderson, which later became her permanent alias. During this time, numerous Romanov relatives and acquaintances interviewed her, and many were impressed by both her resemblance to Anastasia and her knowledge of the small details of the Romanov's family life. Such recognition would not only win her access to whatever Romanov riches remained outside the USSR but would make her a formidable political pawn of czarist exiles who still hoped to overthrow Russia's communist leaders.

The Grand Duke of Hesse, Alexandra's brother and Anastasia's uncle, was a major critic of this effort, and he hired a private investigator to determine her true identity. The investigator announced that she was in fact Franziska Schanzkowska, a Polish-German factory worker from Pomerania who had disappeared in 1920. Schanzkowska had a history of mental instability. These findings were published in German newspapers but were not proved definitively. Anna Anderson continued her fight for recognition, losing several court cases as the decades passed. She died in 1984. In 1991, Russian amateur investigators, using a recently released government report on the Romanov execution, found what they thought to be the Romanov burial site. Russian authorities took over and exhumed human remains.

Could Anastasia have escaped and resurfaced as Anna Anderson? In 1994, American and English scientists sought to answer this question once and for all. Using a tissue sample of Anderson's recovered from a Virginia hospital, the English team compared her mtDNA with that of the Romanovs. They came to the decisive conclusion: Anna Anderson was not a Romanov. Later, the scientists compared her mtDNA with that of Karl Maucher, a great nephew of Franziska Schanzkowska. The DNA was a match, finally proving the theory put forth by a German investigator in the 1920s. One of the great mysteries of the 20th century was solved.

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