Baba Anujka: The Witch of Vladimirovac
She was known by many names: the Banat Witch, The Witch of Vladimirovac, Little Mother Anjuschka, Anna Pistova, Anujka de Poshtonja, Anyuka Dee or Anuica di Piștonea, all depending on the English translations of her Serbo-Croatian name. But in reality, she was born Ana Drakšin or Draxin (Anglicized) and was known commonly by all as Baba Anujka (Grandmother Annie).
Behind the façade of the sweet old lady, there was a terrible secret. Baba Anujka was the first and the most prolific of the former Yugoslavia’s serial killers, and probably also among the world’s most prolific.
Ana was born in 1838 (1836, according to her testimony) in Romania to a rich cattleman family. They moved to a small town named Vladimirovac (currently Serbia), in 1849. She went to a private school in Pančevo, mixing with children from other rich families; a luxury that was not afforded to other women at the time. Ana studied chemistry and spoke five languages.
At the age of 20, Ana fell in love with an Austrian military officer that broke her heart and gave her syphilis. It was this event perhaps that made Ana a misanthropist, devoting all her life and time to the study of medicine and chemistry.
Years later she would go on to marry a much older man, a landowner by the name of Pistov, and thus she became Ana di Pištonja. Out of 11 children, only one survived to adulthood. Her husband died after 20 years of marriage. She continued to pursue her chemistry studies after his death.
Baba Anujka was an accomplished herbalist and a chemist, and she had a reputation as a healer, or a witch, according to different accounts. She had her lab set up in one of the bedrooms of her house. It is said that she practised witchcraft, a trade that was not uncommon at a time when witch doctors had legally registered shops and paid taxes for practising witchcraft. Her son kept an accounting book with all their customers.
For over 50 years, Baba Anujka sold a mixture of concoctions and medicines that she made in her lab. Some of them were ‘love potions’ and some others were known as ‘magic water’ or, in some cases, ‘the devil’s water’ or ‘bitter water’ (“bijana vodica”).
Some of these she sold to soldiers, which would make them ill enough to escape the military services. But her speciality was the ‘magical water’ and ‘love potions’. These contained small quantities of plant toxins, mixed with mercury and arsenic. They were especially popular with married women who had problems at home.
When a woman came to Baba Anujka for one of these potions, she would ask her clients things along the lines of ‘how heavy or how big is the problem?’, which translated for ‘how heavy is the person or how much does he weight’? Based on this information, she would prepare her ‘magical water’, and was able to predict, with a surprising degree of accuracy, the day when the person for whom her water was intended would die. According to the confession of many, people died in the greatest agony.
The fact that she always dosed the amount of poison exactly according to the body weight of the person to whom the poison was intended speaks volumes of her skill in poisoning.
According to witness accounts, there was a ritual involved in the process before she could hand over her magical water. Her clients were tasked with bringing one black hen and one white hen, a bag of ashes, tricia, basil and incense. In the mysterious silence of her dark room and in the smoke of the incense, she would scatter the ashes around her, whispering some mysterious words. In the end, she would prepare a bottle filled with clean water. Finally, she would take a small bell and ring it three times. This would signify that the “deal with the devil” was done.
Baba Anujka charged her clients between 2,000 and 10,000 Yugoslav dinars, which was a lot of money at the time. She also reportedly sold herbal remedies, charms and talismans.
Baba Anujka had many accomplices, especially the families of her victims, since they themselves ordered the deaths of their loved ones, and generally refused investigations and autopsies; so their deaths remain a mystery.
Her two potions became so popular that by 1920 Ana di Pištonja hired an agent named Ljubina Malenkov, who helped to locate clients and get them into her house. Ljubina and other associates would go around Banat villages and look for places where there was discord and disease and recommend a Baba Anujka “Devil’s Water” that could solve all their problems.
The word spread across Banat to the farthest corners of the region, so people came from all over for advice. Anujka treated people for insanity, dementia and other ailments, and depending on the assessment, she looked to extract as much money as possible from the clientele.
Other accomplices include Danica Stojić (or Stajić), Olga Sturza, and the couple Sima and Sofija Momirov, who were later accused of poisoning Nikola Momirov and his 16-year-old granddaughter.
Trials and Conviction
Baba Anujka is said to have killed between 50 to 150 people, mostly men. The police from Požarevac received an anonymous letter accusing grandmother Anujka of various crimes.
She was first arrested in 1914 but was acquitted. She would be arrested again on 15th May 1928, at the age of 90.
She often imagined that she was not doing any bad deed, but that she was helping people in need. She claimed that she knew medicine better than any doctor and that every medicine she gave helped. “I am a benefactor to the poor and ignorant world,” she said.
Although Baba Anujka denied her crimes and pretended to be unconcerned about hearing the embarrassing questions during the trial, in the end, she was sentenced to 15 years in prison, and her co-conspirators, Stana and Sofija Momirov, were given prison sentences of life.
The Granny Killer Baba Anujka spent 8 years in prison before being released on compassionate grounds due to old age. She died at the age of one hundred from senile dementia.
If you are interested in the case of the Yugoslavian serial killer Baba Anujka, UnknownMisandry has a collection of articles from the case translated into English.
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