31 March 2010
INTERVIEW WITH HRH CROWN PRINCESS KATHERINE
Prestige Magazine New York
A humble servant
Although her royal title brings considerable privilege, HRH Crown Princess
Katherine of the Republic of Serbia forgoes any regal airs for a life fulfilled
by helping those in need.
By Chris M. Junior
Week's winter edition always manages to heat up the patronage at New York's
finer establishments. The early afternoon buzz inside Le Cirque this day,
though, has more to do with something that isn't part of the midtown Manhattan
hotspot's specially priced menu. HRH Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia is on
her way to Le Cirque for a luncheon in her honour, and a small crowd gathers in
front of the restaurant's host station to welcome her.
"She should be here any minute," one of the greeters announces with a hint of
anticipation in her voice.
Shortly before 1 p.m., a black Lincoln Town Car pulls up, and out steps the
princess. Anyone expecting to catch a glimpse of a glitzy royal followed by an
entourage as she makes a grand entrance into a restaurant known for its famous
clientele sees something entirely different: a smartly dressed woman exiting the
car alone, with absolutely no fanfare, carrying a boutique shopping bag.
Once inside Le Cirque, the smiling princess spends several minutes shaking
hands with her welcoming party and posing for pictures before working her way
through the main dining room to where the luncheon is taking place.
Crown Princess Katherine takes the opportunity during the event to speak
about her life in philanthropy, specifically that week's Princes Ball MardiGras
Masquerade Gala, a fundraiser benefiting her Lifeline Humanitarian Organization.
As she addresses the room from behind a microphone-free podium, the princess
references her husband of nearly 25 years, HRH Crown Prince Alexander II, the
son of the late King Peter II of Yugoslavia. In the process, Crown Princess
Katherine manages to say a great deal about her own personality, putting her
low-key arrival at Le Cirque 30 minutes earlier into perspective.
She describes Crown Prince Alexander II as a modest person - one who doesn't
walk around wearing a coronet. Neither does Crown Princess Katherine, whose
down-to-earth nature and positive outlook are perfectly suited for charitable
work. She's always been helping those in need. It's something that's part of her
DNA: the then Katherine Batis was raised as a philanthropist in her native
"Every time my parents were talking, they were talking about what they could
do for other people," Crown Princess Katherine says of her childhood.
Growing up, whenever the future princess would go to the movies with her
mother, they never left the house without bags of clothing for the needy street
merchants in Greece - one for the woman whose husband could use something to
wear, another for the person with a newborn grandchild.
"They were so heavy, those bags," Crown Princess Katherine recalls.
"Sometimes it was raining; sometimes it was cold. I used to say to my mother,
'The movie is going to start and we are late.' And she'd say, 'You know what?
We'll enjoy it better because when you give first, you'll enjoy it so much
"That was the oxygen: You felt that if you weren't giving, you would not have
oxygen to breathe," she adds. "It was part of your life."
Persistence and unselfishness, Crown Princess Katherine says, have played a
huge role through the years in her philanthropic work.
I think that people don't understand that the more examples you have of positive
results, the more energy you have and the more will and enthusiasm you have to
do more," she says. Crown Princess Katherine then shares a touching story she
often relates to illustrate her point about the significance of positive
results. There was a time she visited an orphanage in Serbia, and a young boy
asked her to come to his room. There, the child picked up his pillow to reveal a
candy bar. Something clicked with the princess - she recalled giving a candy bar
to the boy a few months prior. When she asked if that was the same candy bar,
the boy answered yes, adding that her prior visit was the best day of his life.
"So this boy kept the candy bar under his pillow and didn't want to eat it
because my visit meant more to him," Crown Princess Katherine says. "When I'm in
bed in the morning and I get up early, I think of him. I wonder, 'What happens
if I didn't get out of bed that morning? What if I hadn't visited that boy?' I
think that's very important."
The Lifeline Humanitarian Organization (www.lifelineaid.org) has been an
important part of Crown Princess Katherine's philanthropic life since she
founded it in 1993 to assist people who were afflicted by the conflict and
sanctions in the former Yugoslavia. A fully registered charity with headquarters
in Serbia and offices in Greece, England, Canada, Illinois and New York, LHO has
through the years provided incubators, ambulances and other equipment to medical
centers throughout the Republic of Serbia.
Among the organization's recent achievements has been the acquisition of a
digital, mobile mammography unit through a grant from the Stavros Niarchos
Foundation. This unit is used to provide breast cancer screenings for women
throughout Serbia, where breast cancer is the leading cause of premature death
The princess describes Serbia as having "a fragile economy and a fragile
democracy," and interested business investors should expect to encounter
Serbians "who are ready to be devoted workers and give 100 percent."
"The people of Serbia are very clever people, very capable and very talented
people," she adds. "They re very eager to work; they're thirsty because they
lost so many years because of the war. They want to grow, have jobs and a normal
life. They're in the middle of Europe, yet they don't live like the Europeans."
addition to Greece, she has lived in Australia, Africa and the United States.
But since July 2001, The Royal Palace in Belgrade, Serbia, has been home for
Crown Princess Katherine and the entire Royal Family of Serbia (www.royal.rs):
Crown Prince Alexander II along with Hereditary Prince Peter, Prince Philip and
The three brothers are Crown Prince Alexander lI’s children from his previous
marriage; they played a major part in the Princes Ball Mardi Gras Masquerade
Gala held at Cipriani Le Specialita in New York. Regarding the Manhattan setting
for this particular Lifeline Humanitarian Organization fundraiser, Crown
Princess Katherine says, "I found there is a lot of sensitivity among people and
a lot of feelings here in New York. People have been exposed to many things.
They're very aware of what's happening around the world. New Yorkers are people
who are really with it. They're awake, curious, interested and very generous. I
felt that here in New York is where opportunity is." After more than three hours
of conversation and photos at Le Cirque, the princess is ready to leave the
restaurant. Her departure is as understated as her arrival, only there's no car
waiting to whisk her away.
And that boutique shopping bag she came with? Turns out she used it to carry
promotional materials about the royal family and her philanthropic work, and
each kit was distributed at the well-received luncheon. No wonder she had a
content look on her face as she made her way through the courtyard.