30.12.2006. ILUSTROVANA POLITIKA
HRH Crown Prince Alexander II Interview for
Ilustrovana Politika weekly,
published on December 30, 2006
you feel the holiday fever?
Oh, yes. It was too warm for
this time of the year, but regardless of all, this is one of the most
beautiful periods of the year. We have just celebrated our patron saint
day, St. Andrew, and we are now looking forward to two Christmases.
While your readers get ready for the New Year’s Eve, we will be in
Athens, celebrating Greek Christmas and exchanging presents. Then we
have Serbian Christmas on January 7. And more presents. My sons will
come to Belgrade for Christmas Eve and Christmas, and then we will all
together go to Kopaonik. I hope there will be enough snow.
What do you find most
enjoying during the holiday season?
Gathering of the family. We will
ski in Kopaonik. The boys snowboard, my wife goes for long walks in
fresh air. She has friends there; they have coffee and listen to the
music. These are nice moments, positive mood. Then we all have roast
lamb for dinner. When it snows, it is beautiful here in Dedinje as well.
It is very peaceful. We always spend Christmas here, and then we go
What effect does cold weather
and approaching of the holidays have on you?
I lived in Brazil and it was
strange to celebrate Christmas in hot weather. We had artificial
Christmas trees with cotton on it, pretending to be snow. Right after
decorating the Christmas tree, we would go to the beach to sun bathe and
swim. They also have Santa Clauses in their traditional outfit and they
sweat a lot in the heat.
I know that your sons tried
to teach you snowboarding. Still without success?
I stay with my two skis.
Recently I visited Slovenia and when we were in Elan ski factory, I
received one pair of beautiful new skis, and I can’t wait to try them.
They are very colourful, just like Christmas spirit. Kopaonik has become
a tradition for our family.
Where will you spend the New
New Year’s we will spend in Athens, with my wife’s parents. They are
wonderful people, but they are very old. They were always in good health
and now we want to give them some more strength and love with our
presence. My wife worries a lot about them. We will spend Serbian New
Year’s in Belgrade, since we have to be back by then because of the
boys. They will be here with friends, but very soon they will have to
return to their business and plans.
Is there any difference for you
between Christmas and New Year’s?
Christmas has a special meaning
because it is a celebration of Christ’s birth, great joy. On the morning
of January 7 we will have the well-wisher here in our home who will sing
and receive gifts. Trees inside and outside are full of lights. On the
Christmas Eve we ignite the Yule log. The priest comes and all in all
that evening is very beautiful. For New Year’s, everyone hopes that the
next year will be better than the last, we have dinner, have fun and
drink Champaign at midnight. It doesn’t really matter whether you are at
home or anywhere else. Good company is what matters.
How did you spend Christmas
when you were a child?
those years my parents would come visit me in Gstad, Switzerland, where
I was in boarding school. My grandmother also used to come often. I have
nicer memories of Christmases in the Alps than in the cities.
We would stay in the Palace Hotel. In those years they had real candles
on Christmas trees, which was quite dangerous. They would revisit me
every year in March. We used to take long walks in the surroundings. The
hotel is still there, but it looks different. Mom and dad always had the
same room, on the corner of the hotel, with the view of the mountains
and woods. My mother was a great skier; she learned to ski in St.
Moritz. My dad also used to ski, but I am afraid that he wasn’t as
talented as my mom. But he had a great sense of humour, we laughed a
Do you go there sometimes?
Yes, sometimes the boys come
with me, if their obligations allow them. In the basement of the hotel
we have cheese fondue, a mixture of several kinds of cheese and a little
garlic that you eat with hot bread and brandy called kirsch,
because it helps digest the cheese. Otherwise, it would turn into a golf
ball in your stomach and you wouldn’t be able to sleep all night. They
used to make it in the times when I was a kid. They also have fondue
bourguignon with meat, but I prefer the one with cheese, which is not
good for my fitness.
What else did you do with your parents for Christmas?
Those were the times of the
first cinema in Gstad, and that was a big attraction. We used to see
films together, and I would be sitting between my parents. Around that
time they introduced electric galleries, as they used to call them. The
hotel must have imported them from America. They had an electronic rifle
that you would use to shoot at the bear-shaped target. The bear was
making a lot of noise. As a child I used to spend a lot of time at those
venues. I also liked to play ping-pong. Mom and dad couldn’t get me away
from the table to go to lunch.
How long were these Christmas
Around ten days. I would always
cry at the time of their departure. My father was also very sad at those
moments, since all that was happening just several years after the war,
after he was expelled from the country. He was only 17 when that
happened. He used to tell me about Yugoslavia and that made him sad.
That is why I tried to give my sons a real home in London and make their
Christmases happier than mine were. My wife, Princess Katherine,
contributed a lot to this. Usually we would decorate the room with
Christmas balls and angels, and on the walls we would put the Christmas
cards that we received that year. The boys had the task to climb the
ladder and decorate the tree, and sometimes they would talk so much that
they would forget to decorate the bottom part. They loved sprinklers as
Completely different from
My parents didn’t have a home,
and that is one of the horrible consequences of exile. My father always
hoped that he would be able to return to his homeland, but that never
happened. My parents wanted to protect me from constant moving by
putting me in the boarding school for eight years. They lived in Paris,
in southern France, in Rome… as if they were in an infinite circle. Sad.
What did you get for
Christmas from them?
I liked model aeroplanes the
most. I wasn’t very tidy, and I left the glue all over the place. The
kit would include the colours as well, to paint these little planes, but
beside them, I used to paint everything else, from clothes to furniture.
I really liked those model planes, which were a new thing at those
times. Sometimes my father would help me assemble them. My sons liked
You are the only child. Do
you miss having a brother or sister?
Yes, I do, but I never asked my
parents why I don’t have sister of brother. My mother never spoke to me
about it, but in her book I read that she had had a miscarriage. It’s a
pity. I have school friends who live around the world now. Some of them
came to Belgrade last year for my birthday; one from Hong Kong, another
one from Iran, the third from England, and the fourth from Geneva.
Christmases have changed when
you left your parents’ home?
Mother of my sons and I went to
South America. Later I spent Christmases with Katherine in Greece –
Athens is beautiful at that time of the year. We have many friends
there. I have spent some Christmases with Prince Tomislav’s in-laws in
Germany, and German Christmases have a lot of music and peculiar
ceremonial cakes and sweets.
Have your Christmas habits
changed when you moved to London?
We have always had turkey for
supper, and then I thought I’d join the Save the Turkeys Association… I
am joking, but the holiday season is the season of real massacre of
turkeys, especially for Thanksgiving in the US. At that time we have
switched to duck and roast pork. The British have a very tasty Christmas
pudding. They pour brandy over and ignite it! Oh! It tastes perfect.
But, you have to be careful not to catch fire and end up roasted for
Are you happy now? Do you
I am very happy. You know, my
father has told me a lot about this palace, and described everything.
When I arrived to Serbia just a few days after October 5 2000, President
Koštunica told me that
I had to see the Royal Compound. I told him that the purpose of my visit
was to congratulate him and the people for the democratic revolution and
the future of the country that had just started, and that I would visit
the Palace some other time. On that occasion I visited Niš,
Kragujevac and Kraljevo. In December I came
back, and it was then that I set my foot in the Palace for the first
time. It was shocking. I tried to visit it in 1992, but they wouldn’t
allow me. All other members of the family were allowed to visit it
except for me. Divide and conquer. I worked against the regime and they
quarantined me. That is why the visit in 2000 was fantastic; the beauty
of the complex becharmed me. My wife asked me in which palace would we
stay, and I said, in the Royal Palace, because that is where my father
lived. Then she asked which room we will use as our bedroom. I know that
as well, I replied, my father described it to me. I found it right away.
You did not have any
photographs of those rooms before 2000?
When the bombing started on
April 6, 1941, the government wanted to move the Royal Family as quickly
as possible to Athens. They left without practically anything, in a
small plane, leaving the photographs behind in Belgrade, among many
other things. And then the stories about gold bars and Swiss bank
accounts started to proliferate! That would have been fantastic! Only if
it were true! Actually, the communists lived here like kings. I hope
that this country and people are heading towards a better future, and
that the whole nation will be as one. I hope it to be a country in which
people respect each other, and where a few idiots will not ruin our
present and future in the prime time news. I am proud to be orthodox,
but everyone should be able to exercise his or her faith or to be an
atheist. The beauty lies in the differences. And long lasting peace. For
us in Serbia, World War II has ended on October 5, 2000. We were hurt
with bombing, criminal bombing. This is the new beginning. We can not
afford to lose lives again and to work to our damage.
Are you satisfied with what
you have done?
I feel good about bringing some
investors to Serbia, I have also established the Foundation that fosters
education, that delivers scholarships, and I also feel good for having
helped improve the image of Serbia abroad.
What are your plans in the
hope that we will have the new government after the elections. I don’t
take sides, but whoever wins, I hope to help him bring more investors,
because opening of new jobs is what we need the most. We need several
thousand foreign investors. I dream of Serbia in the united Europe, not
as an isolated country. This is not political thinking, this is normal
thinking. If we don’t join the Union, we will be like an isolated island
in the Pacific with the turbulent ocean around us.
What about monarchy in
I travel quite a lot around the
country and people ask me the same question. I tell them that monarchy
would be good for the future of the country, because the head of state
would be neutral, while the democratically elected Prime Minister and
his cabinet would have a time limited mandate to run the country. That
gives stability. I think that our politicians understand how it
functions, and that it functions well in many countries. I believe that
the time in front of us will bring new information and knowledge to the
people, and that if public discussions are organized, they will
understand it as well. Citizens have the right to know and get answers
to their questions. We have been living in democracy for six years now,
but we still have a lot to do. Perhaps everything could have been done
faster, but we shouldn’t be impatient. People are in the first place.
What about future of your
sons? Would they like to move here and live in Serbia?
Yes they would. But just as our
scholars, who are learning how things work abroad, they are acquiring
experience. Education, job, experience, and then return to the country
to share the knowledge back home. My sons come here often. Peter is
trying to find his place in the market with the job he thought of in the
area of graphic design. He has some clients already, but at the moment
he is negotiating with some new ones. Big names, I can’t tell yet. He is
constantly travelling between London and Spain. Philip graduated and is
having job interviews now. He is in finances, and with God’s help one of
those interviews is going to be successful. All these interviews were
different. He was surprised when he was asked to do a math test for a
job in the bank! I would like him to help us in our Career Centre here
in Belgrade, where we train graduates how to present themselves to the
employers, how to prepare the CV… Alexander is in California, he wants
to get a master degree in communications and media and is studying a
lot. He called and asked me whether I could buy him a larger desk and
Apple computer, since his university uses only those. They would all
love to do something in Serbia, but are afraid that they would receive
too much media attention. Last year a magazine published that they
published ads to find wives, which was completely opposite of what they
were saying. They didn’t like it at all and they think that serious
business requires concentration, not scandals.
Would you like to be a
Oh, I am too young for that! I’m
joking, why not? My wife is a grandmother, a wonderful grandmother, and
her daughter’s sons visit us often. My sons are free to be with whomever
they want; they are very friendly, not stiff, so let’s wait and see.
Perhaps they surprise us one day with some nice girl.
When will the whole
Karadjordjević family get together for a dinner?
That would be nice, I am all for
it, but everyone has to understand that there is tradition and family
rules, just as in a country. There is the head of family and rules that
have to be respected. I would never contradict my father, neither would
he contradict his, King Alexander, and that’s how things go. Discipline.
I learned discipline in school, in the army and later working all my
life. That is an important foundation. My sons have finished schools,
are acquiring experience, are doing useful things. Conversation is
always useful. It was good that we went to the memorial service to
Prince Paul; princess Elisabeth was there, Prince Alexander, Princess
Linda, her children. Wonderful opportunity. But you also have to be
careful when choosing people you are surrounded with. And with
information they feed you with. It is very important to know that. All
of us at dinner – that is a wonderful dream.