Anujka de Poshonja (Anna Pistova, Banat Witch, Anuka Dee), earned the dubious title of The Witch of Vladimirovac, of Panchova, Banat, present-day Siberia. Her murderous crimes were committed over many years, finally ending in 1928 with her arrest at the age of 92. Seriously. 92. It took that long for police and the public to put two and two together and come up with deadly Love Potion No. 9.
Anna’s tragic tale began decades before she went on trial. Blessed with exotic good looks, she was the incredibly beautiful black-haired and dark-eyed daughter of a rich cattleman who hailed from Rumania, and moved to Vladimirovac 80 years prior to her arrest. She was also an intelligent girl and received an excellent education. Her personal villain, a handsome young officer, entered her life when she was just twenty-one. After Anna had fallen hopelessly in love, the infidel cast Anna aside for another woman. Egads. How dare he? Anna, it was believed, forevermore became a pessimist and misanthropist. Seems a bit extreme after one failed romance. I suspect the unlikely explanation for her murderous mind was far too simplistic, but it was as good an explanation as any for her bizarre behavior, and subsequently was forwarded by Anna’s criminal defense lawyer.
Anna sought seclusion after the affair of the heart. She continued her education and, with her mastery of five languages among other academic skills, the intelligent woman devoted herself to medical and chemical studies. Eventually Anna became lucky in love. She married a landowner named Pistova, with whom she had 11 children. As of his mother’s arrest, only one son, a prosperous merchant, survived. Anna outlived 10 of her 11 children and her husband. It’s enough to make one scratch one’s head. A murderous woman, skillful with venomous herbs, who outlived her family. Hmm.
After her husband’s death, Anna built a laboratory onto her house and made what she insisted were remedies for diseases. Some of her herbal potions were probably as effective as Herbal Magic (TM). Anna provided husbands with poisonous remedies, advising the latter to leave the “medications” where their wives could sample them. Although vegetable-based poison is very difficult to detect, Anna also used arsenic in her “remedies,” and the poison was presented before the court to help secure a conviction.
Pistova also claimed to make love potions for women whose husbands were sadly neglectful in and out of the bedroom. For a long time the police regarded the grandmotherly soul as a “harmless herbalist“. Of course in this blog, harmless comes with a warning label that reads harmful. Overall, Anna was proven to have helped 13 married women murder their neglectful husbands, six of whom were wealthy farmers. One wonders how neglectful the rich farmers really were. It seems to me it wouldn’t take a whole lot of motivation to off one’s spouse and inherit a sizeable fortune. These six wives were also arrested and put on trial with Anna.
Anna promoted her own remedies by claiming to ingest her own tonics, insisting they kept her healthy and youthful. Indeed, the elderly woman was considered by the community to look approximately fifty-five years of age, rather than ninety-two or ninety-three. Personally I disagree but keep in mind Anna lived before the era of plastic surgery and botox. She may well have ingested some of her own non-poisonous herbal concoctions, although whether or not these affected her physical appearance is impossible to say. Anna was also diligent about her personal appearance, curling her hair daily and using cosmetics on her unblemished skin.
Pistova’s grave (pun) mistake was the death of Burgomaster Carina of Novoselo, a prominent community member, after he was poisoned by his wife, a remarkably pretty, 29-year-old woman. Carina’s widow was educated in Switzerland. Her husband was 20 years older and, for whatever reason, their married life was distinctly unsatisfactory. Police had reason to suspect that the not-so-grieving widow had something to do with her husband’s demise. Carina’s death caused a public sensation and police took a closer look at the “harmless herbalist. ” When Anjuka was arrested she didn’t help her own cause. Trying to frighten the young police sergeant who arrested her, she stated, “I work with the devil, young man. If you imprison me you’ll remember it to your dying days. Don’t play with the forces of evil.” Carina’s widow was also arrested along with Pistova.
The bodies of Carina and 12 other husbands were exhumed from various burial sites and an analysis made at Belgrade University revealed that in all cases the men died of vegetable poison, sometimes laced with arsenic. Anna’s defence was brilliant: she gave the love potions to neglected wives , and although she explained how to poison their errant spouses, Anna stated she was without full knowledge of how they intended to use it. It was their fault if they overdosed their husbands. Things happen.
Ultimately it was believed that Anna was responsible for the murder of 50 – 60 people’s deaths, mostly men. Her heartbroken tale about her love for the young officer was also used in her defense. That story made headlines more than once during her trial. The court wasn’t moved by Anna’s sorrows. Neither did the jury believe she was ignorant of the dangerous content and intended use of her potions. Anna was blessed with family, beauty and brains. Why it was that this remarkable woman used her skills to kill, rather than heal, has never really been explained. Anna was sentenced to in prison for 15 years, which of course amounted to a death sentence for a woman of 92 or 93; no one was ever quite certain which it was. It must have been that youthful glow Anna radiated from ingesting her herbal remedies.