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Anastasia Akleksandrovna Shirinskaya, the Russian legend of northern Africa

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Anastasia Akleksandrovna Shirinskaya-Manstain

Anastasia Akleksandrovna Shirinskaya-Manstain was called the angel of Russian squadron. Ms. Shirinskaya was the oldest member of Russian community in Tunisia, a witness of the tragic exodus and death of the Russian Imperial Navy in Northern Africa. It is mostly thanks to her efforts that two Russian Orthodox cathedrals are functioning in Tunisia, and the memory of Russian sailors, who came to Tunisia decades ago, was carefully preserved and respected. She was awarded the Order of Friendship in 2003 and titled the Commander of the Order of Merit for Culture of Tunisia. Among other awards are the orders of Russia, Tunisia and France. Tunisians called her the gem of Bizerte or just "our Babu". Ms. Shirinskaya became a tutor for many of Tunisians. She got the title of "The grandmother of Russian Navy" and was always honored aboard when Russian ships entered the sea port of Bizerta.

The destiny of Anastasia Akleksandrovna Shirinskaya-Manstain is the destny first wave of Russian emigration. Ms. Shirinskaya was born in Russia in 1912. She was only eight years old, when she came to Tunisia in 1920 together with her parents and compatriots, who left the Crimea together with the troops of Baron Wrangel. Her father, Aleksander Manstein was the commander of torpedo boat "Zharky". France recognized the Soviet Russian in 1924 and the ships were destroyed. Russian sailors and officers were offered to accept the French citizenship, however Anastasia's father refused. The family lived hard of emigrants. Ms. Shirinskaya lived all her life in Bizerta, working as a teacher of mathematics at a local school. She used to say that although she lived in Tunisia, she had remained loyal to Russia all her life. Shirinskaya devoted he her life to preserving Russian culture in Africa. She was always remembered as a charitable helper to Russian citizens staying in Africa She put efforts to preserve the memory of the last Imperial squadron, spending her own savings to take care of Russian cemetery and churches. Ms. Shirinskaya lived for about 70 years with Nansen passport prohibiting her to leave Tunisia without a special permission. She rejected all her life the citizenship of any other country, and in 1997 she was granted the citizenship of the Russian Federation and was able to visit Russia and see her home estate.

Anastasia Akleksandrovna Shirinskaya wrote a book of memories titled "Bizerta. The last harbor". The book was published in French and Russian. In 2006 the Bizerta authorities gave the name of Anastasia Akleksandrovna Shirinskaya to the city street, where the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is located. A documentary "Anastasia" was made in Russia in 2008. It tells about the tragic events of 1912, when the squadron of 33 Russian naval ships with 6 thousands on board had to leave Russia. The documentary is available in French and Russian.

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