Bones in Bulgaria a Clue
to Anastasia Secret?
By Galina Sabeva

SOFIA, Bulgaria (Reuters) - Weeks before the remains of Nicholas II and his family are due to be buried, a magistrate says he may have the bones of Anastasia, one of two children of the last Russian czar whose fate has been shrouded in mystery. Blagoi Emanuilov, a senior magistrate in the southern town of Karlovo, wants international genetic tests conducted on the bones of a Russian woman who lived in Bulgaria under the name Eleonora Albertova. Emanuilov told Reuters years of research convinced him she was Nicholas' youngest daughter. ``For six years I have been collecting and examining facts and details about Eleonora's life and I can say -- she and Russia's Grand Duchess Anastasia were one and the same person,'' he said. He added that he hoped to send samples of her bones to the United States for DNA tests. He exhumed the bones in 1996 in the remote village of Gabarevo some 140 miles east of Sofia. Anastasia Romanov's fate is unknown despite persistent rumors that she survived when a Bolshevik firing squad executed Russia's imperial family in the basement of a house in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg nearly 80 years ago. Remains of the family were dug up near Yekaterinburg in 1991 but the bones of two of the children, Czarevitch Aleksei and a sister, either Anastasia or Maria, were never found. Extensive DNA tests in Russia, Britain and the United States, including blood samples donated by Britain's Prince Philip, a Romanov relative, identified the bones as those of the imperial family. But the tests failed to agree on whether the missing bones were those of Anastasia or Maria.
The burial will take place in St Petersburg on July 17, the 80th anniversary of the family's execution. Several women during the past eight decades have claimed to be Anastasia. The most famous, and regarded as the most credible, Anna Anderson, was established as a fake by DNA tests carried out after she died in the United States in 1984. Emanuilov's theory clashes with a claim by Yekaterinburg governor Eduard Rossel earlier this year that a local scientist had discovered the missing remains of Aleksei and Anastasia. Eleonora arrived in Gabarevo in 1922 or 1923 after escaping from Bolshevik Russia. Bulgaria is predominantly Eastern Orthodox and has a language similar to Russian. Locals were impressed with the attractive Russian woman, who spoke several languages, played the piano, had refined manners and never revealed her origin. Soon after her arrival other Russians began to settle in. They were obviously from a different background but they had something in common -- they never spoke about their past and even now their local relatives know nothing about their roots. According to Emanuilov, they all shared a sense of adoration and some kind of awe of the tall, slender, blue-eyed Eleonora, as if she was their master. ``There are lots of strange coincidences between her and Anastasia. Her sophistication combined with secretiveness has convinced us Eleonora was actually the czar's daughter.''
Eleonora always wore a scarf around her neck and spoke in a strange voice, which local people believed resulted from a gunshot wound that may have damaged her vocal cords. She is said to have mentioned that she had been shot and had had an operation to remove the bullet. The facial resemblance between Eleonora and Anastasia was also very strong, according to Emanuilov, and Eleonora's year of birth coincided with that of the czar's daughter. A local legend says Eleonora had mentioned that she ``was bathed as a child in a golden bath,'' or that ``the autumn flowers reminded her about her room in the royal palace.'' But Eleonora never openly claimed a link with the Romanovs. She lived with two other Russians, George Zhudin, who some claimed was her brother, and Dr. Peter Alekseev, her husband. Zhudin died of tuberculosis in 1930, 14 years before Eleonora. Emanuilov said he wanted the DNA tests to be carried out in the United States because some anthropologists there believed Anastasia's bones had not been among those found. He said a Bulgarian businessman had promised to pay for tests. He said he was determined to get to the bottom of the Eleonora mystery and wanted the tests made ``in the name of historic truth. There is a chance this might mean the end of Anastasia mystery as well,'' he added.

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