It was so very bad, the first beating two years ago, that for a while it looked as though she would lose sight in her left eye. But just as she surprised the burglar that day, Anastasia Neumann surprised her neighbors.
She recovered. Up went the black iron bars on the first and second floors of her Mount Pleasant house in Northwest, and her solitary life resumed. It was no small feat for a woman who at the time was 80, a childless widow who tended her gardens and so minded her privacy that she often ignored the telephone and the doorbell.
Then the man returned about a year ago. This time he came through the basement and broke the door leading to Neumann's first-floor apartment. Her screams brought a neighbor and sent the man scurrying, but Neumann would later say that the burglar and her attacker were the same man.
And then Thursday, someone -- police said "a citizen" -- found the 82-year-old Neumann lying in a rear stairwell, barely alive. Investigators said she had been beaten during an apparent burglary, and about an hour later, she died.
"She had some very significant head wounds," said Sandra Gregg, a spokeswoman for Washington Hospital Center. "She was beaten severely, very severely."
Police said yesterday they would not discuss the case, or the earlier break-ins. Access to the house, on the 2000 block of Park Road NW, was sealed off.
It is the second time in two weeks that an elderly person has been killed in a burglary. On Oct. 24, Soloman Roziner, 81, was beaten to death in his house in the Brightwood Park section. Police said there is no evidence to link the two.
The two cases, however, are similar. Both victims were active people, and each had lost a spouse. Both fled turmoil in Eastern Europe: Roziner the Nazi occupation of Poland, and Neumann the communists in Czechoslovakia.
Recent statistics on crime against the elderly in the District were not available yesterday, but in the past police have said seniors are less likely than the young to be victims.
It is not clear how the earlier assualts changed Neumann. Besides the 1988 beating and Thursday's attack, she had been burglarized at least two more times. One time, a burglar hid behind a curtain and Neumann noticed the shoes. She yelled and he fled.
Neumann's house is the last on a block of elegant houses with columned porches and front parlors. It borders Rock Creek Park, and is surrounded by trees.
Residents said the block has its share of crime: break-ins and car vandalism. Several months ago, the body of a woman, killed elsewhere, was found in nearby woods, but residents said that recently the block had been violence-free.
Neumann and her husband, Matthew, had bought the house in 1954, several years after they emigrated from Czechoslovakia, neighbors said. They ended up on a block where 18 families from the old country settled, all following a Czech general who bought a house there in the early 1950s. They formed a group, Sokol, Czech for falcon, that stressed physical fitness and served as a cultural society.
Matthew Neumann, who worked as a roofer, died six years ago. Tanya worked at Woodward & Lothrop, resuming a sales career she had begun back home.
"She always tried to stay a little behind, and she didn't have many good friends, as far as I know," said a resident, a Czech who knew the couple for 20 years. "We were good friends, but not too close."
Every month, on the first, she would call a niece in Czechoslovakia. It is not clear whether she had a chance to make the call Thursday.