The Romanovs: The Final Chapter by Massie Robert K

The Romanovs: The Final Chapter by Massie Robert K

Author:Massie, Robert K. [Massie, Robert K.]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Non-Fiction, History, War, Biography, Politics
ISBN: 9780307873866
Publisher: Random House Digital, Inc.
Published: 1995-01-01T07:00:00+00:00

On October 18, 1963, the cover of Life, the nation’s most prominent and widely read weekly magazine, displayed a picture of Nicholas II’s five children. The headline was “THE CASE OF A NEW ANASTASIA: IS A LADY FROM CHICAGO THE TSAR’S DAUGHTER?” Inside, across ten pages, Life excerpted a new book, Anastasia, the Autobiography of the Grand Duchess of Russia, and summarized the life of its author, a woman who called herself Eugenia Smith. For forty years this woman had lived in Illinois, the final seventeen as the permanent guest of a wealthy woman, Mrs. William Emery, whose family owned the Chicago Rawhide Company. Mrs. Emery believed that her house-guest was Grand Duchess Anastasia. She took Mrs. Smith on trips to Europe and always solemnly celebrated her birthday on June 18, Anastasia’s birthday. Mrs. Smith lived with Mrs. Emery from 1945 until June 1963, when, having inherited money from her benefactress, she moved to New York City to help with the publication of her book.

During her years in Illinois, Mrs. Smith received only slight attention from the press and public. She had no support from a local Romanov, but here the fault was her own. When stories appeared, announcing that Grand Duchess Anastasia was living in Elmhurst, Prince Rostislav of Russia, Nicholas II’s nephew, also happened to be living in Chicago. His first wife, Alexandra, had divorced him and married Lawrence Armour, a banker. Mrs. Armour heard that one of her former husband’s relatives was living nearby in Elmhurst, so she phoned and invited Mrs. Smith to lunch. The party, she said, would also include her ex-husband, because Prince Rostislav was eager to see his cousin Anastasia, who had been a childhood playmate. Three times Mrs. Armour issued this invitation; each time Mrs. Smith developed a headache and declined to go, explaining that she was too nervous to see her cousin.

When Eugenia Smith first brought her manuscript to her publisher, Robert Speller & Sons in New York, she did not claim to be Grand Duchess Anastasia. Instead, she said that she had been a friend of the grand duchess, who, before she died in 1920, had entrusted her with personal notes. Soon afterward, Mrs. Smith amended her tale: now she became the grand duchess. She said that she had escaped from Ekaterinburg and Russia to Rumania. In October 1918—three months after the Ekaterinburg massacre—she married a Croatian Catholic, Marijan Smetisko. One child, a daughter, had died in infancy. In 1922, she received her husband’s permission to come to America; her immigration papers that year listed her as Eugenia Smetisko. She landed in New York, stopped briefly in Detroit, and then went to Chicago. Her marriage dissolved a few years later, and she became a salesgirl, a model, a milliner, a lecturer, and a seller of perfume. During World War II, she became a U.S. citizen and worked in a defense plant. After the war, she moved in with Mrs. Emery.

Life presented the story as a mystery, still unsolved, and offered evidence for and against its subject.


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