"I remember soldiers walking around the streets. That’s all I remember when I was leaving Moscow,” said Anna. “I don’t remember much.” At a lunch near her house in Manhattan, it soon became clear that evasion was a survival technique Anna had honed over the years. Anna’s agent friend Jeff Goldstein insisted on being present, and her cousin Irene sat in, too, a quiet blonde on vacation from school somewhere in Switzerland. Anna’s wrist glistened with an oversize Franck Muller watch, but she looked teenagerly in jeans, a pair of Burberry-plaid Dr. Scholl’s, and a sequin-scattered cowl-neck.
Anna Anisimova—or Anya, as she was known in Russia—was 6 years old in 1991, when the Soviet Union spontaneously combusted, and criminal groups were making a frenzied grab for the formerly state-owned industries in the smoke. Grenades were being lobbed, cars exploded by remote control, and relatives were snatched and held for ransom. “If you had money, you got your family out,” says Andrei Ryabov, scholar-in-residence at the Carnegie Moscow Center.
Anna, her teenage sister, her mother, Galina, and a grandmother settled upstate in Congers, a sleepy lakeside hamlet near where a commodities-broker associate of her father’s had parked his own clan. They had trouble getting into the States with their documents, said Anna. New York public records show that her mother married—then divorced—an American resident. Anna says her parents are currently married to each other. She, her sister, and her mother are all now American citizens.
An aunt and her father’s two brothers eventually joined them in these modest split-levels. Anna learned English in six months, but life in the States was especially hard on her mother: “She had to leave her husband. She had to leave all her friends and life as she knew it. She didn’t speak the language. She was here with two little kids and an elderly mother.” After four years, the Anisimova women pushed on to a top-floor duplex in Fort Lee, New Jersey, now something of a Moscow on the Hudson. Anna was enrolled in private school, Englewood’s Elisabeth Morrow, “but I was a big loser,” she said. “My mom put me into these colorful dresses with these matching scrunchies. It was the worst, and nobody liked me.”
As Anna’s father got richer back in Russia, he would come to see the girls once a month, and they would fly to him in the summers. In April, he was here house-hunting with Anna in the Hamptons, arriving by helicopter and using his cell phone to snap a picture of Rich’s ocean view that he then e-mailed off to somebody. On the evening of our lunch, Anna was boarding a plane for Moscow, where she said she would be seeing him and also checking out the city’s nightclub-and-restaurant circuit. “The women there really dress up,” said Anna. “It’s much more glamorous.”
In 1994, Anna’s mother became business partners with Alex Forkosh, a Mill Basin developer who was born in Ukraine. They called the firm Coral Realty, a name redolent of sunny climes, a better life never far from the water. “My dad went to visit Alex Forkosh in Mill Basin, and he fell in love with this one house,” Anna remembered. “When he likes something, he goes for it,” she said, laughing. Anisimov laid out almost $13 million for a white box at the juncture of two Jamaica Bay waterways. It looked something like an office building, but it was the biggest house in the neighborhood, partly because its owner, a car dealer considered the biggest moneymaker for the Colombo family, had destroyed protected wetlands to expand the property on pilings. An American flag was now snapping on the lawn at half-mast.
“Mill Basin is a place where rich doctors and lawyers from the Russian community buy houses,” says one Russian. “Owning a house there is a mark of distinction, like saying ‘I have a house in Beverly Hills.’ ”
Anna would vroom around the inlet on the back of a Jet Ski. “There are a lot of Italians there. The Capone family,” said Anna casually.
“She doesn’t know anything about the Capones,” Goldstein interjected, checking his watch.
Anna’s club-promoter friend Mike Heller helped her get together with Alex Von Furstenberg to buy his mother’s townhouse. For his services, Heller was awarded a $700,000 broker’s fee.
By 13, Anna was modeling for Elite, but hers were the edgy odd jobs “where they make you look really weird, like with mohawks,” she said. After three years she quit. “I grew up too fast.” The sisters were sharing an enormous apartment on Park Avenue South, and Anna had sleepovers with the likes of Victoria’s Secret model Bekah Jenkins. She very much wanted to be popular, she said, which is why she became a cheerleader at Brooklyn’s Poly Prep. But her friends were mainly older. She became an accomplished truant: “I would call the school and pretend I was the family secretary,” she said. The school’s headmaster allowed her to finish her senior year at home.
Heirs to wealth this significant often become proficient in concealing it. But occasionally, there were glimpses inside the vault. Anna could be a generous friend. Once, she took a roundup of fashion people with her to Hawaii, simply because she’d never been. And everyone remembers Anna’s sweet 16 at the Brooklyn club Rasputin, where the Top-40 pop star Amber sang, and Anna wore this pink-and-blue Christian Dior couture gown that “had come right off Gisele at the shows,” recalls her booker at Elite, Roman Young.
A car would sometimes roll through the Mill Basin gates from Jimmy’s on Kings Highway, bearing bales of Cavalli, Galliano, Chloé, Chanel. “Galina came to my son’s bar mitzvah,” says Dominick Lepore, who owns the label-obsessive shop. “She’s like Audrey Hepburn. Pure European. And the family has such beautiful manners. They are not showy. They are very low-key, very quiet.”
At the time, they had good reason: On April 13, 2000, Vassily Anisimov’s only child from a previous marriage and her husband were murdered in Yekaterinburg. A teacher noticed the couple’s 8-year-old hadn’t been picked up from school and called neighbors, who found the couple bound with duct tape, dead from multiple stab wounds. Audio and video equipment had been left untouched, but a cabinet full of documents had been overturned.
Anna’s half-sister and her husband were considered well-to-do and had a habit of lending friends money. The murderers eventually confessed that they had planned only to rob the couple, but—as Anna’s father recounted the tragic particulars to one source—his terrified daughter started screaming that she was his daughter. And then the intruders panicked. “He was one of the top three businessmen in the Urals, so everybody knew his name,” says the source. “It was like shouting ‘I’m the daughter of a Rockefeller!’ ”
Anna used to lie on her bedroom floor with her ankles crossed, imagining that she was a mermaid. She says she was obsessed with the movie Splash, the fish-out-of-water fantasy about a mermaid with great hair who comes to visit New York and learns English from a TV set in Bloomingdale’s. Her secrets prove hard to keep when she falls in love.
In New York, Anna had been dating Oliver Ripley, a jet-haired financial analyst working the Russia accounts at Louis Dubin’s real-estate company, the Athena Group. More recently, the gossip columns were linking Anna to Eamon Early, variously described as “the hard-living Irish rogue” and a “bad-boy Irish actor.” Anna had Googled herself with her best friend, Katya Lavrova, whose father is Russia’s foreign minister in the U.S. She insisted this liaison with Eamon Early was merely a figment of tabloids’ torrid imagination. “I’ve never even heard of him!” she shrieked. (“Eamon Early is a ‘Page Six’ discovery,” writer Richard Johnson admitted. “I’m not sure what’s going on, whether we’re being hoaxed. Has anyone ever seen this guy in the flesh?”) Instead, it’s a garment-industry executive who’s been squiring her around.
Her mom worries that Anna is losing her Russian, so this fall she is taking private lessons. She can’t envision moving back to Moscow, she said. “I belong here,” she insisted, even if her dad wished he could see more of her in Moscow.
“ ‘If you’re not happy with all the publicity,’ ” she said he told her, “ ‘you can always come back here, and they’ll forget all about you.’ ”