The Manila House of Romanov
It’s not everyday one meets a Romanov.
Well, according to some DNA results back in 2009, it’s not supposed to be any day at all actually. But on a fine day in June in the City of Manila, I had the grand opportunity of meeting Miss Caty Petersen, the grand daughter of the Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov.
Feel free to log your brain off here. Yep.
But if you decide to continue - first and foremost, you have to take into consideration that this writer, yours truly, lives in The Philippines. And in this archipelago of 7,107 islands floating in the South China Sea – odder things have happened. This is a country so enthrallingly bizarre that grown men name themselves “Baby Boy”, Women will be glad to call themselves, “Peaches”, an armed rebel group will call itself MILF, as a Bishop would be more than happy to be named Cardinal Sin, so heck, why can’t I meet a lady who might possibly call herself a Romanov?
After reading an explosive article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer about Caty Petersen back in May, like others, I was skeptical to say the least. I mean, even though this article spread like wildfire (the newspaper server almost crashed due to the number of hits), it doesn’t change what DNA knows - The Romanovs were all massacred on July 17, 1918 in Yekaterinburg, right?
So when I finally met Mrs. Petersen, I was disappointed to not find a raving lunatic who hears voices inside teacups. Mrs. Petersen is a woman whose life seemed as normal as normal could be. Happily married for 20 years to Steve Petersen, an advertising executive, and a mother of one, her Philippine convent school and Pepperdine University background seemed to dictate a life filled with upper middle class normalcy.
But one fine May day in Moscow back in 2009, things would change. After heading off on a journey to Moscow to discover her grandmother’s Russian roots, she stumbled upon a photo of Czarina Alexandra at Catherine’s Palace. And after showing her mother that picture, her world turned upside down – among with the impressions she had of her late mysterious grandmother, Tasia.
“You found her”, Caty’s mother wailed.
And after finding that photo, like a ball of yarn falling from her grandmother’s lap, all of Tasia’s eccentricities and oddities suddenly made sense. From Grandmother Tasia’s purposeful isolation from other “White Russian” émigrés, her intense fear of other Caucasians like herself, the strange courtly manners, her cryptic false name of Tasia,” being a diminutive of “Anastasia” and her surname, “Knyazhna or Kazzuhina”, the Russian word for Duchess. Her life since the discovery of that photograph suddenly became a movie – perhaps a bad one – with a scriptwriter who should have known that none of this could be possible.
But among all the surreal things I heard that afternoon, the strangest part about this whole encounter was my reaction: I couldn’t dismiss her. She seemed to have an answer for everything that I countered. It’s not that I believed her, the strangest part here was that I could’nt NOT believe her.
I mean – who am I to say this story is true and who am I to say that it is not? I’m not a DNA expert myself nor intimately familiar with this particular event in Russian history.
Besides, the Philippines is a country so wonderfully surreal that sightings of the Virgin Mary are almost a seasonal occurrence. It’s a place where an absurd story like this would seem real, a place where strange stories are so common that it would perhaps be an ideal place for a Romanov (or a Romanov relation) to hide one’s story in a haze of gossip and myths.
But in the end, all I chose to believe is that Caty Petersen is just a simple woman who is earnestly searching for truth in whatever form, an identity and most importantly, a little peace of mind.
Read about Caty’s journey in her published articles HERE
The site for Tasia: www.peacefortasia.com