- Painting by Herb Leonard
“The funny thing is that Anna Anderson, who claimed to be Anastasia, died very close to where I was playing, an hour or so from there in the 80s. The feeling I got was that Anna Anderson was Anastasia Romanov. She always tried to prove it and a lot of people believed her and some people didn’t want to believe her, because of what that would have meant.” (B-Side, April/May 1994)
“She says ‘no, you’ve got to understand something from this, there’s something here that you’ve got to come to terms with.’ And that night came, as she softly sings the line ’We’ll see how brave you are,’ and that was really about the whole record. That came just about before everything. And whenever I sing that chorus, ‘we’ll see how brave you are,’ it means so many different things to me. It’s part of my self, my spirit self saying to the rest of myself, ‘if you really want a challenge, just deal with yourself.”’ (B-Side, April/May 1994)
Tori was inspired to write “Yes, Anastasia,” Under the Pink’s final song, at the soundcheck for the show she gave in Richmond, Virginia, on September 14, 1992. She had eaten bad sea fruits at a restaurant and felt sick, and she suddenly got inspired to write about Anastasia Romanov, the youngest daughter of Czar Nicholas II of Russia, who was murdered on July 17, 1918 with her whole family and servants by the forces of the Bolshevik secret police.
The grave hiding nine of the eleven bodies was not found until 1979 (and was only excavated in 1991) and rumours concerning a possible survival of Anastasia or other members of the family were fast to spread after their massacre. In 1920, a woman who took the name of Anna Anderson was found in a mental institution in Berlin and, as she refused to give her identity, rumour had it that she was Tatiana (one of the czar’s daughters), but she instead claimed to be Anastasia. Among the numerous women pretending to be Anastasia, Anderson was the only one to be considered seriously by some of the members of the Romanov family and inner circle as well as certain scientists and historians, but the truth about her identity couldn’t be established at the time of her living. Her claims were later disproved by DNA testings in 1994 then 2009. Anderson died in 1984 in Charlottesville, Virginia, near Richmond where Tori played that night.
Tori quite romanticized the way she was inspired to write the song at the time, by telling she didn’t know a lot about Anastasia and hadn’t really read much about her, but was visited by her “ghost.” Now, we all know how Tori considers her songs as living entities with their own identity who come to tap her on the shoulder to be translated in a sonic form. It’s an allegorical way for her to talk about her creative process and inspiration. It’s a way to say, also, she’s an artist at the service of art and creation rather than a self-sufficient Creator able to create anything without taking any inspiration outside of herself. Tori feels humbled by her art and thinks it’s an important thing for artists to feel they’re a part of creation and not Creation itself, in order not to become complete megalomaniacs. It also matches her way to look at life and human condition: her maternal grandfather was of Cherokee descent and Native American spirituality had a great impact on her life and own belief system. She thus believes in the Great Spirit: creation and sacredness is everywhere, in nature and in each one of us, we are all connected to each other, etc.