ILUSTROVANA POLITIKA, 16. June 2007
INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK: PRINCE ALEXANDER AND PRINCESS KATHERINE KARADJORDJEVIC
Birds are returning to the White
More than 300,000 Euros were raised at a charity dinner in Paris, for the
maternity wards in Serbia. This is just a tiny fraction of what the Crown Prince
and his wife are doing for the ill, pregnant, the students, children, elderly,
refugees in our country
What makes you most proud of your wife?
- I am very proud that she is so good to our people, so caring, and so
motherly, always willing to help them.
Do you sometimes feel neglected because she gives more attention to the
people than to you?
- Oh no, she is an example of how a woman in our country can advance. If we
want our country to be respected, women must have the same opportunities as men.
They are not here just to clean and vacuum homes, but to be an equal part of the
society. Perhaps we should have more women ministers.
When your wife is in a bad mood or concerned, how do you help her?
- She works a lot, and of course fatigue catches up with her. That is why I
often tell her at night: "And now it's time to turn yourself off" to which she
replies: "Yes, but at the other end of the planet, the people are still awake!"
That is exhausting. However, we get refreshed by humour. Katherine has a good
sense of humour. Sometimes during the day she does something funny and then we
laugh about it in the evening.
What did you like and what did you not like lately about our health
- There is a huge improvement in all areas but we are far from the standards
in the western countries of the European Union. We have good doctors and nurses,
but they, besides the new equipment, also need good training. We were in
hospitals with appalling toilets, which is something we inherited from the past.
We must learn to do something for ourselves, not to expect that someone else
will finish the job. Hospital managers also need training in managing their
institutions. That is important.
Your wife is currently mostly dealing with maternity wards and neonatal
- During the 1990s, for women it was difficult to make a decision to give
birth, because they didn't know if they would have a job, and how the family
would be supported. By the time it was all over, these women were already at a
mature age when they opted to have children. Then the conclusion was that it was
hard to have a full term pregnancy, while the number of babies who died or were
born prematurely was the highest in Europe. That is why we have started to buy
the most sophisticated incubators, to organise charity dinners like the one in
Paris or last year in Athens.
Are there any other categories of people whom you would like to help?
- Cancer! We have a huge problem with this illness, a huge number of lung
tumours. That is not talked about very much, and it is crucial to establish
diagnosis in the early stage. In Subotica, there are many women with breast
cancer; we need information regarding the forming of the illness. Another thing
is birth defect. My wife founded a Centre for studying this tragedy at the
Clinical Centre in Nis. I asked the doctors to gather all the data from the
patients who come for treatment, where they are from, what they eat, drink, etc.
It is important that we have these statistics. There still are many taboos that
are not talked about. The West does not want to accept its guilt for the
criminal bombing of the people, that also influenced illnesses. Here is an
example. When we entered the Royal Compound lizards were everywhere. Then I
realised that there were no birds in the park, not a single one. That's strange,
I thought. I visited Bishop Lavrentije later on, we walked by the Drina river
and he told me that during the bombing of Bosnia countless numbers of bird
flocks few to Serbia. When the bombs were falling around the Palace, the birds
flew away and only now, 8 years after the bombing, for the first time I see and
hear the birds coming back. Now they are not afraid anymore and they feel that
this is a healthy area for living.
You are turning to diabetes as well?
- We initiated a program "Diabetes in pregnancy", my wife founded a Centre
dealing with the issue. An educational program would be a big thing for
diabetes, showing every morning on TV what and how to eat, with patients and
doctors talking about their experiences. In Serbia people eat a lot of meat, and
I like it. And bread. But, we must be more moderate in consuming that, as well
as alcohol. We have good doctors in the field but we need more contemporary
methods in treating the illness. Worldwide, there is a huge advancement in
research which would enable the pancreas to get going again and start producing
insulin. I think we are on the verge of a huge breakthrough.
You are also helping athletes, especially tennis players ever since you
founded the Royal Tennis Club which was promoted by Novak Djokovic?
- Tennis is now a passion in Serbia and not just a hobby. We will have the
Olympic Games in Beijing and our media have nothing on the subject, our team
does not have a mascot and we need to think about that, about sponsors, about
achieving the best possible results over there. I wish I could help, but in the
past I was not allowed to.
The last 2 weeks have been especially tiresome for you?
-We've done so many things: five of our doctors went to America for a month
to be trained in new methods of cancer treatment, we were visited by the famous
Dr. Hirsh with 7 of his colleagues who spent two weeks transferring their
oncology knowledge, we gathered a lot of money for the Children Hospital at
Tirsova Street, we brought Dr. Kalangos who performed some delicate surgeries,
and now he will take our doctors to Geneva where they will adopt the latest
methods in children heart surgery. We got electronic beds for the most serious
patients, each bed costs 14,000 Dollars. We organised a charity dinner in Paris
and the aid of Mrs. Denise Hale to the St. Sava hospital in Belgrade. We donated
several delivery beds for the maternity wards in Serbia and that is just a part
of what we have done in 2 weeks. And that's just when it comes to medicine
Was the Paris dinner your most successful event so far?
- I do not have the official data, but more than 300,000 euros were
collected. It was not the most successful donors' dinner, because last year in
one night in Athens we collected more than one million Euros. We have a lot of
ideas and enthusiasm, I am proud of my "Lifeline" Foundation and the way it
Was there a reason for founding it?
- I created it when I first came to Serbia with my husband in 1991. My
husband told me one day: I don't know if we will ever return to the country, but
I want to help the people and be with them when they need help the most. That
got to me. I started to think of a way it could be done. I registered my
Foundation in America, United Kingdom, Greece, Canada and it started working in
1993. For me the nicest thing is to wake up in the morning and remember that I
had changed someone's life for the better a day before. That is why we are
helping the sick, children, refugees, senior citizen centres, orphanages,
students, scientists. And mechanics. It is important that the mechanics in our
hospitals know how to maintain the expensive equipment that we got. It has been
enough of isolation. My husband is our connection to the West, our contacts are
limitless and we are trying to connect Serbia to the world.
How do you check where your aid is going to, and how is the donations
taken care of?
- Because of all the things that happened, many have lost faith and the
desire to help, especially among our Diaspora. We convince them that every bit
of aid will go to those for whom it was intended. Sometimes I see in hospitals a
lot of the equipment I have forgotten about, and my heart is full.
Any objections to the doctors?
- I don't think they laugh a lot, they do not understand that patients need a
good atmosphere. Doctors and nurses are heroes, but they must think more about
the positive energy in hospitals. It is not enough to just change the bed
sheets, the bandages, or to give medicine. What about the feelings of the
patients? They need to be told every once in a while: "You are looking well
today". A smile does not cost a penny, but it helps a great deal.
Do you remember your first visit to the doctor and the hospital when you
were a child?
- My mother had always prepared me for whatever would happen later on,
including going to the hospital. In those years, there were small private
clinics in which my parents' friends used to work, the people that I also knew.
Have you used any traditional medicines, tea, herbs...?
- My parents often used wraps, tea or rubbing alcohol on the back and similar
things, natural. The medicines and clinics - only when we were really sick. From
them, I learned that a man should not be a splenetic and should not be chasing
after illnesses because they will then come. If you get ill, you will know. You
should not talk about it a lot, you should be living the life, and God will give
you the strength. In Serbia, unfortunately, everyone gives medical therapy on
his or her own, and I do not like that, because this is basically a healthy
nation. We must take care of hygiene, exercises, proper eating, that is the most