Interview with HRH Crown Princess Katherine published in the weekly
magazine in Hungarian “Csaladi Kor” (Family Circle) in Novi Sad, on 23
A PRINCESS AMONG US
Princess Katherine Karadjordjevic has given an interview to “Csaladi Kor”
As it is well known, Karadjordjevic family finally came back home from their exile in London on 17 July 2001, to their ancestral country, and they have resided in Dedinje Palaces since then. At the beginning of 2001 both Houses of Yugoslav Federal Parliament, by great majority of votes, renounced the laws from 1947, by which their entire property was confiscated and they were deprived of their citizenship.
The Royal estate in Dedinje is almost 100 hectares large and it is enclosed with a decorative cast iron fence. Beside the Palaces (The White and the Royal), other objects are here, too, surrounded by tall fir trees: a chapel, a swimming pool, various statues, office buildings, country house, guards’ house etc.
Here I have done my first “Royal” interview. I started for Belgrade in a rather unpleasant weather (that Thursday there was thick fog and ice cold throughout the country), but with great excitement and curiosity. Truth to say, I had had my first contact with royalties long time ago, but this one seemed different. It is one thing to be one of those who shake hands with foreign royal couples, say, during their official state visits, another to talk to a Prince over the phone, and certainly something completely different when all attention of a royal personage is directed to you, let alone if it is the Crown Princess of your own country.
A month ago, actually, I had had a chance to meet the Princess in person at the formal lunch on the occasion of the Royal Family’s Patron Saint Day, St. Andrew the First Called, when Princess Katherine Karadjordjevic was sitting opposite me at the table and when she presented herself as an exceptional host.
Princess Katherine received me at the Old Palace this time, which has been mentioned as the Royal Palace since recently, a large white marble villa with two floors, a loft and a basement. The Palace, surrounded with spacious terraces, also has a church, dedicated to St. Apostle Andrew the First Called, adjacent to it by a stone colonnade. The Palace is on the very edge of a hill, it was built between 1924 and 1929 in Serbian-Byzantine style. The pillars, window and door frames both on the outside and on the inside are decorated with carved marble with motifs of animals and plants.
From the Palace windows one can see a unique view of Kosutnjak, Topcider hill and Avala.
The very place of the interview was the Blue room on the ground floor, decorated in baroque style.
The Princess immediately loosens up a person with her cordiality, directness and radiating smile. We talked over half an hour, first about her charity activities.
- What was Your Royal Highness’s main reason to dedicate yourself so seriously to humanitarian activities?
- Love for people. When I see that I have done something useful, that people are happy because of the aid they got, that their burning problems were made easier to cope with, and when I see smiles on their faces, that makes me happy – replied Princess Katherine.
- How many programs have been fulfilled and which of them would you point out as the most important?
- I don’t count them and I really couldn’t single out any of them, for I see all of them as a mother who makes no difference among her children. The number does not matter, but what those programs mean to those who are deprived and whom we can help.
- In this complex political and economic situation in our country, how does Your Royal Highness see the role, the aim and the possibilities of the Royal Family?
- After the crisis we survived and the years full of conflicts, the country needs a symbol that will represent unity, stability and continuity. We are here for the people, to have their trust. This country is a part of our hearts. My husband has lived in exile for over 50 years, until his longtime dream has come true, to return to his homeland.
From a certain point of view, it is natural to have transitional and unstable conditions in this period of fragile democracy, due to such complex political and very difficult economic situation. We wish to help our country overcome the difficulties as soon as possible. Our country has a lot of politicians, and the members of the Royal Family see themselves above politics. Like in other European constitutional monarchies. When my husband was asked to accept candidacy for the President of Serbia in the recent elections, he refused saying that he wants to unify, and not divide the nation.
- Since the return to the homeland, has Your Royal Highness established contacts with all social groups in the country, for instance with Hungarian national minority?
- I believe I did. Our country is multinational, with various religious communities living in it. I personally know many Hungarians. My husband and I respect them and highly appreciate them for the Hungarians are hardworking people. I was in Hungary, and I liked Budapest very much, especially the Parliament building. It is almost as huge as the Westminster in London. Of course, we visited St. Andrew’s, too. The first session of the then opposition, discussing preparations for our return in the homeland, was held in Budapest and it represented the first breakthrough, followed by sessions in Banja Luka and Athens.
- The readers of “Csaladi Kor” would certainly like to know how you manage to harmonize your numerous duties and your private life?
- Fate has given me an exceptional husband, five extraordinary children and four grandchildren, and a country to love. Could I wish for more than that? Of course, family comes first, but this tormented country and its people come right behind.
I feel chosen to perform my duties, to bring smiles and joy to people. Faith in God and the pleasure I get from people give me the strength to go on with both roles.
A man can live in peace with himself only if he knows exactly what the most important things in his life are.
- What does one day in the life of Your Royal Highness look like?
- The secret is in a well planned timetable. Every day my husband and I get up early and go to bed late. I never have time to be bored. When I was young, my mother taught me never to underestimate my abilities and to always plan more than one thing to do each day, so that I get the most from the daily duties. In fact, most of the time I think a day is too short.
During the interview, Crown Prince Alexander II himself came by, who after a warm greeting asked a few polite questions remembering our earlier meeting, and then excusing himself because of other obligations, continued his way.
Princess Katherine was born in Athens in 1943. She was educated in Athens and Lausanne Switzerland, and studied business at the University of Denver, Colorado, and the University of Dallas, Texas. Princess Katherine was in business for a few years in the United States. Her Royal Highness was previously married and has two children: David and Alison. David is a vice chairman of the Board of an American bank, and Alison is into communications and information technology, and has four children.
Princess Katherine met her second husband, at the time divorced Yugoslav Crown Prince Alexander II at a lunch in Washington in 1984 and they were married in London on September 21, 1985. Their best man was HM King Constantine of the Hellenes (Greece). Princess Katherine Karadjordjevic raised the three sons from her husband’s first marriage, who call her mother since then (Hereditary Prince Peter was three, and the twins, Princes Philip and Alexander only 18 months when their father remarried).
In 1991 Crown Prince Alexander accompanied by HRH Crown Princess Katherine, HRH Hereditary Prince Peter, HRH Prince Philip and HRH Prince Alexander visited Serbia for the first time, and also visited Serbia in 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995 and 2000. They visited Montenegro and Kosovo in 1999, and Bosnia in 2000.
Princess Katherine’s charitable activities have been numerous and especially since the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Her Royal Highness has brought much relief to especially children, the elderly and all those in need regardless of religion or ethnic origin. Princess Katherine is the Patron of various humanitarian organizations including Lifеline Humanitarian Organization, SOS Appeal for Life and United Orthodox Aid. At the beginning of August 2001 The Foundation of Her Royal Highnesses Crown Princess Katherine was established in Belgrade whose task it is to continue and increase humanitarian activities. The Princess travels a lot abroad in order to find donors who would help the Foundation, whose target groups are deprived children, poorly equipped hospitals and other health institutions, all socially endangered categories and refugees. The Foundation also aims to improving conditions in our education system (aid to the best students, student exchange, etc.)
Her Royal Highness speaks Greek, English, French and some Spanish, and she is also studying Serbian (which can be confirmed by this reporter). She enjoys music, reading, and all the activities that regard children. In her free time, which she rarely has, she likes to cook, go to the theatre and her favourite sport is cross-country skiing.
Dr. Tibor Celer