Anna Anderson Manahan

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Anna Anderson Manahan was a Charlottesville resident who claimed she was Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov, the youngest daughter of Russian Tsar Nicholas II. It is generally believed by the scientific community that Anna was actually Franziska Schanzkowska, a Polish factory worker who disappeared at the same time that Anna began making her claims in 1920.

Left: A Photograph of Grand Duchess Anastasia Right: A Photograph of Anna Anderson Manahan


Pre-Anastasia Claims

If Anna Anderson is Franziska Schanzkowska, then she was born in Kashubian Village in Poland in 1896, one of several children raised on her family's farm. At 18, she moved to Berlin and began working in an ammunitions factory. She fell in love with a German soldier, but the combination of his death in combat and an explosion at her job that both injured her and killed her coworker, her mental health took a turn for the worst, and she was declared legally insane and institutionalized.[1]

In 1917, Schanzkowska was moved to an internment camp where many Russian POW's were being held; it is believed that this is where she learned to speak Russian. Schanzkowska was last heard from in February of 1920, when she sent a family member a birthday card.

Suicide Attempt and Anastasia Claims

In late February 1920, Berlin police rescued a woman from the Landwehr Canal, which she had jumped into in what was likely a suicide attempt. The woman did not answer their questions, and she was taken as "Miss Unknown" to the Dalldorf Mental Asylum, where she remained quiet and did not tell anyone who she was. It was not until late 1921 that she began to claim she was a Romanov, after having seen a newspaper article discussing the whereabouts of the missing royal family (the fact that they had been assassinated in 1918 was not revealed to the public until 1926, and the location of the bodies was a secret until 1991.) [2]

Another woman in the Asylum began spreading the word that the Grand Duchess Anastasia was inside, leading Russian exiles and Romanov relatives to pay her visits, with some of them believing her claims to royalty, although others remained skeptical. One of the most notable reasons for their disbelief was her refusal to speak Russian; when asked questions in Russian she would respond in German. In 1922, she checked herself out of the Asylum and began going by "Anna Anderson" or "Anna Tchaikosvky" (this last name being that of the soldier she claimed had saved her the night of the Romanov family's assassination.)[3] For the next few decades, Anderson lived with wealthy Europeans who believed her and supported her financially. In 1927, a private investigator found someone who identified Anderson as Franziska Schanzkowska, but her family members chose to drop the claim given her wealthy backers.[1]

In 1938, Anderson filed for the right to be recognized as Grand Duchess Anastasia, though the case would take decades to make its way through the German court system. It was not decided until 1970, and even then it was not truly decided - the court ruled that there was not enough evidence to prove Anderson's identity one way or another. By then, though, Anderson had moved on.

Life in Charlottesville

Anna Anderson arrived in the United States in 1968, and moved to Charlottesville just before her six-month visitor visa was about to expire. There, she met and very quickly married Jack Manahan, a wealthy Charlottesville native who believed her claim to be Anastasia.[4] She was around 20 years his senior at the time, and they quickly became known as local eccentrics.[3]

Anna and Jack in their home

The Manahans lived in his longtime home on University Circle, which gained a reputation for its generally filthy appearance. The couple owned several dogs and over a dozen cats; they routinely drove around Charlottesville with multiple dogs in the car with them at any given time. Locals referred to her as "Annie Apple", though her husband always referred to her as Anastasia. They were fined $1750 in 1978 for "rat harborage," in relation to the awful condition of their home. The marriage did not appear to be a happy one, as Anna regularly could be heard screaming at him, though Jack brushed this off as a sign of her being Russian.

In 1983, city officials discovered the two were suffering from Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and a judge appointed a legal guardian for Anna, as it was found that Jack could not provide the care necessary to maintain her health (she was, at this point, around 87 years old). That guardian decided to have Anna committed to the psychiatric ward at Blue Ridge Hospital.

On November 29, 1983, Jack abducted Anna from the hospital. The couple was missing for three days, at which point they were found living out of their station wagon in Amherst, Virginia. The car had broken down and locals had called the police after becoming suspicious of Jack's repeated visits to a diner nearby. He claimed that he took her because he feared she would never be allowed out of the psychiatric ward.[4]

Anna spent her remaining months in Martha Jefferson Hospital, where she died of pneumonia on February 12, 1984. Her death certificate recorded her father as Tsar Nicholas II.[2]


Seven years after her death, DNA testing confirmed that several bodies found in the Russian wilderness were those of the Romanovs. Two of the children, however, were still missing, which caused Anna Anderson Manahan's story to be retold worldwide.

In 1994, the DNA of Prince Philip of Edinburgh (wife of Queen Elizabeth II) was compared to Anna's DNA from an intestinal biopsy that was preserved from a surgery she had in the 1970s. The DNA did not match the royal family's meaning she was not Anastasia Romanov. Further testing on her DNA returned a 98.5% likelihood that she was related to the Schanzkowska family, leading the vast majority of genealogists and scientists to conclude that she was Franziska Schanzkowska.

In 2007, though, two more bodies, one girl and one boy, were found nearby, and subsequent DNA testing revealed that they were the remaining Romanovs.[1]

Brand Portrait

Anna's Portrait by Frances Brand

While she lived in Charlottesville, Anna and Jack were painted by Frances Brand as part of her "Firsts" series.[5]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Web. ANASTASIA: THE MYSTERY RESOLVED, Rebecca J. Fowler, October 6, 1994, retrieved November 26, 2023.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Web. The Russian Imposter: Franziska Anna Schanzkowska, Sofia Perez, April 10, 2023, retrieved November 26, 2023.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Web. Anna Anderson, retrieved November 26, 2023.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Web. Jack & Anna: Remembering the czar of Charlottesville eccentrics, William Tucker Jr., July 5, 2007, retrieved November 26, 2023.
  5. Web. Frances Brand’s “Firsts” Collection, Ineke La Fleur