When I was about 16, I met Marty Gordon, at the annual Fourth of July picnic. Marty, who was in his late 80s’, told me that his father had been a circus strong man, capable of lifting elephants and crossing Niagara Falls by his teeth. Before the circus, he had been abandoned as a baby at a synagogue, escaped the Czar’s army and later built a railroad system for Ecuador while establishing one of the largest grocery store franchises in America. He showed me his family’s photo albums, and sure enough, there were photos of his father suspended above the raging waterfall, portraits of him with tigers draped over each arm, and images of him charging through the South American rainforest. What the Gordon family taught me is this: life is odd, and for some, life is an untamable oddity. The boundaries between life and legend aren’t always clear.
When I met Anastasia, she had just chased a goat out of her home, where she is a temporary caretaker at the Moon-Randolph Homestead, a historic cluster of buildings in the Montana foothills. She told me, nonchalantly, that she was a Russian princess stripped from her heritage. She had come to this big red house surrounded by treeless hills to write a book about her story. “The grand duchess title is on my driver’s license and green card,” she insisted in a heavy Russian accent- trying to provide proof of a fantastic and royal life. She offered so many details in our short conversation, that I no longer knew how and what to believe. But really, it didn’t matter. I’d like to believe in lives that are legendary.
WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO YOU?
It’s important to me that I write my book, sort of to get even with people- which I shouldn’t do, but I would like to. To maybe contact my two daughters, the one daughter which is not mine, which was exchanged in the hospital without my permission without my knowledge and the other daughter which was lied to.
WHAT IS YOUR BOOK ABOUT?
It is about my life and what happened, and how I found out who I am. And how stupid I reacted when a nun and a priest told me who I am and I didn’t believe them.
WHAT DID THEY TELL YOU?
I am the real Romanov princess.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A PRINCESS?
To me, it means that most of us get assassinated. Of course, I didn’t want anything to do with that, and so I walked out on Princess Iliana- I feel sorry about it and I wished I wouldn’t have done so. When she told me who I am, I said “if you think I believe that kind of crap, you have another thing coming” and I walked out. She had a heart attack, was revived in the hospital, when to Romania came back, fell and died. After this, I knew that she told me the truth and she was dead, and nobody else would tell me more information. However, I found some more information on my own, through legal suits.
WHAT LESSON ARE YOU LEARNING?
That everybody must stand up immediately when they find out something is wrong, they have to fight, they can’t just pay off and hope it goes away. Everyone has to stand up and say NO! I think this is wrong.
TELL ME ABOUT A MOMENT OF CLARITY IN YOUR LIFE.
When I went down the court steps in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Mr. Schweizer said to me, “we all know that you are the real Romanov, but we have the wills and we get the money.”