Shortly after the end of the First World War, the Russian Bolsheviks announced the death of Tsar Nicolas Romanov and his family, bringing an end to the Russian revolution and the beginning of Vladimir Lenin’s reign. For decades afterwards, rumors spread across the globe that Anastasia, the youngest Romanov daughter had somehow escaped her family’s fate, and was still out there somewhere, living under a fake identity for her own safety. Despite how unlikely this scenario would have been, the experiences of one Haney resident from long ago had him halfway convinced that the Russian princess was still alive, and that he had helped in saving her.
A newspaper article from 1981 tells the story of John George Bruce, a former British navy man who was living out his golden years in the Haney area. In the autumn of 1918, Bruce was stationed on a ship named the Agamemnon, and was chosen for a highly secret, potentially dangerous mission as his crew were passing through Sevanstopol. In the middle of the night, Bruce and a group of only three other men rowed ashore in a rowboat where they met a mysterious group of darkly-dressed men, who instructed the four sailors to take a young girl and an older woman back to the Agamemnon with them. Bruce doesn’t recall what became of the two women, but does recall how newspaper headlines that following Christmas announced the death of the Romanovs, and the escape of one of the daughters, Anastasia.
The whereabouts of Anastasia were a reason for global curiosity for decades after the execution of the Tsar. One of the many women who claimed to be Anastasia Romanov, called Anna Anderson, was never confirmed nor denied in her lifetime, but put on a very convincing performance. Despite never revealing any details on how she escaped, Anna Anderson was able to convince surviving Romanov relatives with her detailed knowledge of their family.
Anderson was disproven as Anastasia Romanov on multiple accounts. Once ten years after her death when her DNA was compared to that of the recently unearthed Romanov remains to which the results were not a match, and again in 2007 when the remains of the actual Anastasia were discovered and confirmed. Anna Anderson’s true identity today is recognized as the Polish-born Franziska Schanzkowska.
With that, we can safely say that the young girl that John George Bruce retrieved from the shores of Sevanstopol was not the Russian Duchess. Despite this confirmation, a question remains – if not Anastasia, who was that mystery girl?
This blog post was researched and written by Camryn Page, SFU.