Jat Airways New Review, February 2006.
Serbian Princess With A Big Heart
Serbian Princess With A Big Heart
We live this life to help. God gave us one hand to help ourselves and the other one to help others. We did not come into this world only for ourselves, but also for others whom we can help…
Crown Princess Katherine Karadjordjevic
HRH Crown Princess Katherine was born in Athens on 13 November 1943 the daughter of Robert and Anna Batis. Princess Katherine was educated in Greece (Athens) and Switzerland (Lausanne) and she studied business at the University of Denver (Colorado), and the University of Dallas (Texas). Princess Katherine has travelled extensively and has lived in Australia, Africa and the United States. Her Royal Highness speaks Greek, English, French and Serbian. Princess Katherine enjoys music, reading, and all the activities that are connected to children. The Princess likes cooking, theatre and cross-country skiing.
Princess Katherine addressing at the great humanitarian event in aid of reconstruction of St. Luka Health Centre in Smederevo. Pittsburgh May 2005
Princess Katherine met HRH Crown Prince Alexander in Washington DC in 1984 and. They married in London on 21 September 1985. Their best man was HM King Constantine of the Hellenes, and the witness was HRH Prince Tomislav of Yugoslavia, the uncle of Crown Prince Alexander. They have three sons: Peter, Philip and Alexander.
How does Your Royal Highness remember the time prior to the arrival in Serbia, and how does Your Royal Highness feel now when You live in the fatherland of the Karadjordjevićs?
- We have been living in Serbia for four and half years, but I came here for the first time many years ago. I have visited Bosnia and Montenegro and I went to Kosovo to bring help. I was always close to our people, especially when they were in need. My husband used to say when we lived abroad that we were refugees, but we always had to have close links with our people, to be there for them and to help them when they needed us the most. That is what we are doing.
How do You see the situation in the country now?
- There has been a noticeable difference in the country since 5 October 2000. We have democracy now and that is new for our country after so many decades. The market economy is new and foreigners should note that we are in the process of transition and there are great business opportunities. Transition is always difficult and we have to work together. That is important. We need better organisation, better public relations and better marketing. Our people have to cooperate. When my husband and I travel across the country, we see where and how our people live. People in hospitals, orphanages, refugee camps have a very difficult life. They need help immediately. It is very difficult to achieve it all. People are tired of waiting. It is a problem, which my husband and I work on improving. We work on providing help and instilling hope for a better future. That is why we are building bridges of hope. People have to know what the real situation is; they cannot live in uncertainty. There is a lot of poverty, unemployment and suffering. We are very concerned about our people.
What are You asked about Serbia when You are abroad?
- Sadly, there has been some negative foreign media about our country. Our national image is not very good and the international community do not always understand the reality of the situation and the Serbian way of thinking. They do not understand how proud our people are, how strong they are and the incredible tolerance they have. Pride and tolerance have their limits.
I hope, as time goes on, that people abroad will better understand us. When my husband and I travel abroad, we lobby and explain what our people are going through and what their needs are. We need investors to come to our country, it is important for people to survive and for the country to have a strong economy. Our young people after graduation desperately look for jobs but hardly ever find one. That is the reason why they leave the country and go abroad. There are also the elderly who need good health care and medicines. Generally, our country needs more concrete help from abroad.
What does our Diaspora feel about the situation in Serbia?
- Our Diaspora loves the homeland, but they do not always know how exactly to help. That is why we need to improve communications. They are like brothers and sisters to us. They have relatives and friends here; they listen about the situation here and feel very sad. The Diaspora should come more often to Serbia to see, to feel what we feel. That is what my husband and I have been working on for years – to make people living abroad come back and help. It is very important that we have help from our Diaspora. We are very grateful to those who have already helped, but we need more support. That is why we show them a humanitarian documentary at the meetings so that they can understand what are the conditions in our hospitals, in our refugee camps, in our old people’s homes. We also explain to them how difficult it is, that we need medical equipment, that our hospitals need more medicines and that we need more food and warm clothing for refugees especially in the winter. When we were recently in Australia, we felt how concerned the Diaspora was about the homeland. Though far away, they feel it and want to help. They were very pleased to hear about my Foundation at home and that Lifeline Humanitarian Organization has offices in Toronto, New York, Chicago, London and Athens. I hope that our young people who went abroad will come home. It is very difficult to expect them to come back with their families if there are no employment opportunities. That is why it is crucial to improve the situation, attract investors and to continue urgently with reforms. It is difficult when parents with three or four children do not have enough money to make a living. Unfortunately, that has been going on for years and we must work every day to change this situation. On the other hand, some people here wait for the government to do something. The government cannot do it all so we have to work together, help and have ideas how to make people’s lives better. It is not an automatic process.
How are young Princes doing? Will they come back here?
- Peter, Philip and Alexander are now working to gain job experience to be able to come back and use their experience and knowledge. That has always been our plan. They love our country and our people, because they listened when they very young how their father and I talked to people telling them about our country. They join us visiting people, give presents when we call on orphans and hospitals. The boys are wonderful young men and they are very proud of their father’s accomplishments, because he is a man with lots of qualities, integrity and he is a great father.
Our sons and I are also very impressed and emotional when we see how my husband feels being at home. The first day in the Royal Palace was very emotional for my husband. He sat on a chair and asked himself if his father, King Peter II, had sat there. On the first night when we went to bed, he said: “Father, do you see me? I hope you are proud of me that I’m finally at home to help our people?” King Peter always wanted his son to come back home and help the people. I believe that my husband is a God’s gift to our people.
How does the Princess’s day look like?
- People ask how we live and spend our day. Every morning at 6 am, we are up and ready to start work and at night, we go to bed late. Our day is always full of activities. People from abroad, who want to help, come to the Palace and my husband and I explain to them how they can join the activities. The most important thing is to work hard with all our humanitarian projects and to continue to make a difference in every sector. My principle has always been to help everyone regardless of religion or ethnic origin. My husband and I find this crucial as well as respecting human rights and democratic principles.
One of the latest projects is the creation of the Ultrasound Centre in the Clinical Centre of Serbia, as an Affiliation Centre of the Thomas Jefferson’s Institute from Philadelphia. This project is for the whole of Serbia, since Belgrade is not the whole of Serbia. We provided 30 ultra-sound machines. We want to help our babies and mothers. Our country has a high mortality of newborn babies and that is why we need incubators. On 1 December 2005, in Athens, we organised a humanitarian event to improve our neonatal departments and to purchase additional equipment. Every hospital in Serbia has at least one incubator from us.
The other project is a scholarship for graduate studies abroad. That will be for the best students who speak foreign languages. We also want to establish an MBA programme here, an NGO MBA, for young people who want to become managers. It is very important for our country to have managers because of new business practice here and help foreign investors who are looking for managers. It is crucial that we have top class professionals. Our young people are very clever, talented and have great potential.
You are often in the company of children, You visit them and they visit You. Which one of all meetings with children has left a trace in your memory?
- I often think about a boy in an orphanage who invited me to his room and showed me a bar of chocolate under his pillow. I asked him isn’t that the chocolate bar I gave you several months ago when I visited you. He said, “Yes it is and that was the best day of my life when you came to visit me and I did not want to eat it so I could remember that day”. Such situations provoke a wave of emotion and are energy for me and seem like charging batteries to go on. I think about that boy often, I think about how he smiled and how happy he was when he saw me. I want to work hard, because I believe there is a chance to improve our people’s life. This is a big opportunity for me and a blessing. I want to meet with people, build bridges of hope and advance their lives for the better.
Who is helping most in Your humanitarian activities?
- My Foundation sends projects to the Lifeline offices abroad to New York, Toronto, London, Chicago and Athens. Then, they look into those projects, talk to other people of good will who want to help the Princess Katherine Foundation to secure aid. For example, requests are numerous for new ambulances and hospital equipment. It is not always easy, but people abroad know we work hard and well, that we are very concerned and they want to support our efforts. Our close friends are those who help us the most. We should understand our Diaspora, because people in the Diaspora have a responsibility for their families and relatives in the homeland. They work hard abroad, send help back home. That is why it is often hard to get help from Diaspora. This is also why we often seek help from our friends because they know how much we love and care for our people, they know my husband and I have been working to help our country for many years. I am proud to say that in January Lifeline had two superb events, one in Athens and the other in Toronto to help the neonatal centres. The event in Athens raised over Euros€655.000. The Athens dinner was organized by “Lifeline” Hellas Humanitarian Organization and the National Bank of Greece at the Megaron Mela
How do You plan to use the money?
We need the funds to be able to improve our neonatal centres. We are desperate for more incubators and equipment. We have four important neo-natal centres in Serbia – in Novi Sad, Niš, Kragujevac and Belgrade. Mothers must know if they have a premature baby that they will get excellent help in our neo-natal centres.
Why have You chosen Athens?
- The people in Greece are like our brothers and sisters. They love our people very much and they are concerned. When there was conflict in the former Yugoslavia I was on Greek TV and I said: “Please, help immediately, people need you, you are close, you are like brothers and sisters…” Greeks saw on TV how sad and concerned I was. I was very proud and happy because they helped us immediately. Lorries with humanitarian aid started coming... My husband Alexander and I often travel to Greece and other European countries looking for help and we always meet with people who are ready to help.
Who was on the invitation list for the event in Athens?
- A princess gives, a princess does not take. It is a heart that makes a Princess, not a crown. A Princess is a woman who lives to give and help others. That is how I understand what a Princess is. I am certain that it is a gift from God and a blessing from my parents to help others. God gives energy to those who wish to help others. I like to help, but I don’t like promising something that may not come true.
Finally, what is the philosophy of Princess Katherine and what is Her Royal Highness’s message to the people?
- My message is that we all need to have love for each other. Families should work together and people should respect each other. Young people should show respect to their parents, the elder people, go to universities, they should study well, be positive about the future and have hope. People should know that there are many abroad who have love for us, but we have to have better organisation and planning. We have to be more united, and like my husband always says: “Only through Unity will the Serbs Survive”. My life philosophy is that we should always try to do the best we can and to remember the following:
People who are selfish, difficult and different,