HRH Crown Prince Alexander was very pleased to give an interview to “IKragujevac”, the media portal of Sumadija (a region in Central Serbia). He spoke about the history of the Royal Family, Karadjordjevic’s unbreakable ties with the people of Serbia, our country, and of course Sumadija, the area of Serbia where our dynasty was born, as well as some details that were not so well known to the general public, remembering life in unwanted exile and his first visit to the homeland in 1991, and the final return of the Royal family to Serbia in 2001.
The entire interview that was conducted by the journalist Mr. Mario Badjuk, whom we thank on this occasion, can be found below.
1. Your Royal Highness, what childhood memories do you remember with most affection?
- Although my childhood was marked with very difficult times my family was going through, I was not even two years old when the non-democratic regime in Yugoslavia took away our citizenship and confiscated our entire private property in 1947, my parents, King Peter II and Queen Alexandra, and my grandmother, Queen Maria, made great effort to provide a stable and secure environment, as much as it was possible in such difficult conditions. I have many beautiful and dear memories from this period of my life, it is difficult to single out some of them.
Maybe these are the stories that they told me about my ancestors, about our country, and our history. Every toddler in the world loves to listen to the stories and fairy tales about Kings and Queens, about great heroes, but I had the chance to first hand hear narratives about all these characters that actually existed, and about the events that really happened. There is a photo of me with my grandmother which I am very fond of, we are sitting together, looking at old family albums, this photo always takes me back to those times.
2. When did you understand the importance of your Royal family in the fateful days of Serbia?
- Part of the answer to this I have already given in the previous question. It was at the very early age of my life. The stories that I have mentioned also gave me a very good image of the position of my family and a direction towards which all members of the Karadjordjevic family must go – as our family motto says “From the people, for the people” we always must, no matter what, be in the service of our nation and our homeland.
It is something that is a destiny of each member of Karadjordjevic dynasty, and of every Royal in the constitutional parliamentary monarchy – from our childhood we are taught and directed to always work for our country and for the benefit of our people. It is the path that all my ancestors took, from Karadjordje to my father, and it was the only path I could take.
Even while we were living abroad, in unwanted exile, we were trying to make our contribution whenever possible to help and provide for our people. One of the main efforts of the illegitimate 1947 decision was to separate my family from our nation and our country, but these bonds between Karadjordjevics and Serbia are unbreakable. The dictatorship that ruled our country could never succeed in its intentions, our roots are buried deep into our land and cannot be torn. And when conditions in the country changed and it was possible for us to finally come back to our homeland in 2001, on my 56th birthday, we were able to help and give our contribution even more.
I always like to quote the words of my father, King Peter II, that in the best possible way describe the role of our family in Serbia’s history “For us Karadjordjevics, the Crown was only a mean by which we served to the people, not the goal of personal dynastic rule.”
(Serbian original to be used: “Нама Карађорђевићима Круна је била само средство којим смо служили народу, а не и циљ личне династијске владавине.)
HM Queen Maria and HRH Crown Prince Alexander
3. How much has your work continued the tradition and heritage of your ancestors?
- My ancestors have made a milestone for me to follow, and I always do everything to stay in this direction, to honour their legacy and heritage. I am not saying this as their descendant, but also as a Serb who is deeply cherishing and honouring our tradition and our national bequest – members of the Karadjordjevic dynasty have contributed very much to the people of our homeland.
Of course, the first thing that comes to everybody’s mind is the fighting for liberation, starting from Karadjordje and his heroic soldiers in the First Serbian uprising, who even a great poet and Bishop, Peter Petrovic Njegos called “father of Serbia”, to King Peter I and Alexander I, who went through Albanian Golgotha in World War One together with their troops, and led them back to bring freedom to Serbia and the entire world. But their legacy is much more than just military achievements.
My grandparents, King Alexander I and Queen Maria short after their wedding in 1922 started the “King’s Fund” – a charity organization that helped poor students. All the Kings from my family paid, from their own funds, scholarships to gifted students but also gave contributions to the poor people, it was done by my great grandfather, King Peter I, and continued by my grandfather, King Alexander I, and father, King Peter II. They left many endowments which even today serve for the benefit of the people of Serbia, including hospitals, student dormitories, etc, they were patrons of many humanitarian organizations, such as Red Cross, Circle of Serbian Sisters, etc.
It should also not be forgotten that the founder of the Royal dynasty, Supreme Leader Karadjordje, brought back to Serbia the most educated Serb of that time, Dositej Obradovic, to be the Minister of Education, who also founded The Great School at the beginning of 19th century in Belgrade. Even at the time of war, Karadjordje knew that Serbia needs scholars. And his son, Prince Alexander, founded the education institutions and brought laws that regulated the work of schools.
As can be seen, it is a long-lasting tradition, and I would say, it was and is my obligation to follow the path started by my ancestors.
4.How do you see the modernization of Serbia and its role in the world today?
- A lot has been done in recent times on the modernization of Serbia, and it is very important for all of us to constantly work and make every effort possible for our country to be on an equal level with other highly developed countries of Europe and the world. All the tragedies that occurred during the 1990ies have brought Serbia backward and made it very difficult for us to keep up with the western states. I see that the situation is much better now, but we must not stop.
It is of high importance for every country in the world to follow the worldwide modernization and trends, which are, in today’s digital world, occurring much faster than in the past. And it relates to all levels, from international diplomacy and foreign relations to the economy. Serbia needs to constantly follow the trends and maintain its position. And I sincerely believe that finally, the time has come for the people of Serbia to have many benefits and positive contribution from the numerously times stated fact that the geographic position of our country represents “a crossroad and a bridge between the east and the west”. This position has in the past brought many disturbances for our homeland, but now, I think it is a great possibility for prosperity.
5. One beautiful tradition that you have established is the reception for the most successful high school graduates at the White Palace. Your Foundation also worked on providing scholarships for pupils and students. How important is it for modern and contemporary Serbia to have college educated people?
- I would rather say that I have re-established this tradition when we returned to Serbia in 2001 – in one of the previous questions, I have already spoken about the support of my ancestors to the educational system of our country and to the pupils.
Every kind of support for young people is always welcome and much needed. That is why I started my Foundation for Education and Culture after our return to Serbia, to preserve the tradition of my ancestors and to carry out my personal vision – to provide quality education for the youth of Serbia, so they can achieve personal development, successful careers, and personal fulfilment. The Foundation links Serbian educational institutions with reputable international institutions, with the goal to form highly educated well-trained young professionals, connecting Serbian youth to the business community and to the world. But our goal is also to provide the best possible education to young people, so they can come back to Serbia and serve our country and our people in the best possible way – with their knowledge.
As you very well mentioned, one of our main events is the reception for the best high school graduates from Serbia and the Republic of Srpska, which we organize each year at the White Palace. In 2021 it was the jubilee – the 20th time since this event was started. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, we were not able to gather all the students in the Palace, but we organized the conference online, and sent the presents to them, same as we did the year before. I hope that this year the pandemic situation will be better and that I will be able to greet all these wonderful young people and deliver them the presents again personally. Their commitment and enthusiasm truly are an inspiration. And a motive to continue supporting them.
The enthronement of His Holiness the Blessed Serbian Patriarch Mr. Irinej
6. What do you think young people in Serbia should know about you and your family, and it cannot be found in official textbooks?
- A lot was already said in the previous questions. The young should also be open-minded, to know not to believe everything that was written in the history textbooks made during the time of communistic rule but to read and investigate as much as they can to see the real truth. The wale of lies has finally started to be removed, and nothing can suppress the truth. And now, in the 21st century, with all modern technologies, knowledge is only a few clicks away from us. I will just give you one example – for so many decades after 1945 my grandfather King Alexander I was presented as the worst person who ever existed in Yugoslavia. They called him dictator, but I must ask – what kind of dictator re-establishes the Parliament? You must look at the historical context to make conclusions – at the time there was a murder in the Parliament and a sort of extraordinary state in the country needed to be implemented. But when the circumstances allowed it, the parliamentarism was re-established. And this is only one example, out of many more.
And it did not start only after 1945, he was the victim of slanders even during his life because members of that extremist ideology saw him as the strong barrier against their goals. But nowadays, it is not hard to find for example, what the two greatest geniuses of our people – Nikola Tesla and Mihailo Pupin – said about King Alexander I, defending him from the lies. When people like them say something so great about him, then all the stories that the other side made up become very questionable, so I do not say something stronger. In a letter that Tesla sent to the editor of the New York Times, dated October 19th, 1934, among other things, our great scientist wrote: “…Alexander will live long in the memory of his people, a heroic figure of imposing stature, both the Washington and Lincoln of Yugoslavia: like Washington an able and intrepid General who freed his country from oppression; like Lincoln a wise and patriotic leader who suffered martyrdom.” And in a telegram of condolences, that he sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, Tesla referred to King Alexander I as “genius, heroic and patriotic ruler”.
There are also many false stories about my father – for example, that he fled the country and “runaway” to England at the beginning of World War II, but it is not true – he did the same as every other Royal in Europe. When their countries fell under Nazi occupation, the Royal families were evacuated to London, as free and safe territory, so they do not fall into Hitler’s hands, and that they could continue to support the fight for freedom. People do not know that Hitler was targeting my father, on 6 April 1941, the bombs were directly falling on the Royal Palace as well. The leader of Nazi Germany was frustrated that Yugoslavia led by King Peter II threw away the Tripartite Pact and stood with the Allies on the side of the free world. And in England, my father met with many world leaders and worked with them to support the fight of the people of Yugoslavia against Nazi oppression. He was the youngest head of state who addressed the US Congress.
The young need to always strive towards the truth and fight for it. History cannot be changed, only dictators try to alter it, but the truth always finds its way. Negative propaganda committed much damage to the people of Serbia and to my family. That is why I started a project of gathering old documentation related to our nation’s history and my family, that was kept hidden for so long, that show the real side of the story. Many people who lived during the time of the Kingdom are long gone, and they cannot tell the truth, but the memory they left to their offspring, together with the old documentation, will enable that what happened is not forgotten. And I am very happy to be able to soon present these records to the public and contribute to securing the real story about our past is secured.
So we do not speak only about the negative side of the story and lies, I would like to encourage the young to also learn more about the role of the Royal family, and all the obligations and procedures that this position carries. It can be very interesting for them to find out something new. I already spoke about our duty to serve the people, but we also have a duty towards our family, to honour our code. And it is always the obligation of the Head of the Royal House that the family rulebook, which was made first during the time of King Peter I and King Alexander I, is honoured. It is a duty passed on from father to son, same as the Crown was during the time of monarchy passed from King to his heir who is first in line of succession, which is also part of our family code, this duty was passed to me from my father King Peter II.
And finally, the young should always have in mind how strong the connection between the people of Serbia and Karadjordjevics is. I said a lot about it in previous answers, but I need to point out that the love and support of the people mean so much to me, and that positive energy gives me strength as well, it rejuvenates me.
When we first came to our homeland in 1991, and when I saw hundreds of thousands of people welcoming us and felt the positive energy and love they had for Karadjordjevics, I was sure in what I was feeling in my heart for so long – that we are all one great family.
And it was even more increased when we finally, after all those decades of exile, came home in 2001. I need to tell you a little secret, I had some doubts what to expect, we were all questioning how the people felt about us although we were all so well received when we came for the first time, but I didn’t know until our final return how the people really felt. But when we finally settled down on our Serbian soil and had the chance to every day feel the energy, love and devotion to me and my family, I knew I was home, and I knew that communistic propaganda was in vain, nothing can destroy the love of the people. And to quote my great-grandfather, King Peter I: “Without the love of the people, the thrones of this world are weak”.
7. Although the time of the pandemic was difficult for everyone, you and your wife the Crown Princess did not stop with the humanitarian work, for whom was it primarily intended?
- The focus of the humanitarian work is on supporting Healthcare, Social Welfare, and Education Systems in Serbia and the Republic of Srpska. During the pandemic, of course, the primary goal was to help our doctors, true heroes of our time, in their fight against Covid-19. But the other categories were not forgotten, and a lot of donations went to children without parental care, schools, old persons’ homes, etc.
We also never forget our countrymen who are in unimaginable conditions living, struggling, and trying to survive in our holy land, Kosovo and Metohija. Their well-being is always in our minds, and they are constantly in our prayers. Each year packages and packages of help are being sent to our people and numerous projects were realized in Kosovo by my wife’s Foundation, to make the lives and living conditions of the people better.
The activities in the humanitarian field have always been very important to the Royal family Karadjordjevic. Inspired by my ancestors who did the same in the past, my wife, Crown Princess Katherine, has dedicated her life to helping others and providing support to the people of Serbia and the Republic of Srpska, providing aid to all the people who need it, regardless of their gender, religion, race, age, or ethnicity.
The work of my wife’s Foundation in Serbia started in 2001, but it was not the start of her devotion to helping our people, because even while we were in exile, she found a way to send the necessary help to our people during the 1990ies. Large amounts of humanitarian aid came directly to the thousands of people and especially orphans that were inflicted by the terrible war. One of our first projects together was the donation of Isolation, a Sterile room for haematology patients to University Children’s Hospital Tiršova, 30 years ago. This carries a lot of symbolism in it because the hospital in Tirsova was built by my grandmother, HM Queen Maria.
My wife opened offices of Lifeline Humanitarian Organization in Chicago, New York, Toronto, London, and Athens, that all work under her patronage. The Hard work and efforts of all those wonderful people who have been supporting and helping the work of Lifeline offices for over 25 years now, have made a tremendous positive impact for the people of Serbia and the Republic of Srpska and made a difference in their lives. And after our arrival in Serbia, these offices abroad joined forces with Foundation in Belgrade, for the good of the people.
Traditional Christmas reception for children without parental care
8. Which Royal family in the world do you maintain the best contacts with?
- I have very good connections with all of them, we are all not only friends but also connected with family relations. My grandmother, Queen Maria, was the great-granddaughter of the Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. Through this line, the Karadjordjevics are relatives of all the current ruling Royal Houses of Europe, including British Queen Elizabeth II, who is also my godmother, she baptized me together with her father King George VI, then the current King of Sweden Carl Gustav XVI, the Monarch of Spain Felipe VI, etc. My mother, Queen Alexandra, I have family connections with the current Queen of Denmark Margarita, as well as with the late Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II.
I maintain contacts with many of them, only recently I sent a personal, handwritten letter to Queen Elizabeth for her platinum jubilee as monarch. I am very proud that many of European Royals were my guests at the Royal Palace in Belgrade, among them Prince of Wales, Charles, already mentioned King and Queen of Sweden, as well as their daughter, Crown Princess Victoria, Queen Sofia of Spain, Prince Albert of Monaco, members of the Romanian Royal dynasty, including late HM King Mihai, King Simeon and Queen Margarita of the Bulgarians, King Constantine of Greece, Crown Prince Haakon of Norway…
I am always very happy when they come to Serbia, it is always an opportunity to show them what great people we have and how beautiful our country is.
9. What would you say to the world about the current war between Russia and Ukraine?
- When this terrible conflict started, I issued a statement which I strongly stand by today as well. With great disturbance and sadness, I have been following the news about the conflict in Ukraine. I want to send my appeal to all parties included, to all world leaders, to find a peaceful solution for this terrible conflict. War is never a good option, it only brings death, destruction, pain, and suffering to innocent people, and I am deeply worried for the future of the entire society if this conflict continues.
There is no issue that cannot be resolved with open talks; the negotiating table is always the only proper place to resolve conflicts. When guns start to speak, humanity suffers. I wish and pray to see all parties included in this conflict to sit down and find a peaceful solution.
The People of Serbia know very well how much terror conflicts like this bring, we have suffered a lot in the past. And no one should suffer like that anymore. The world that we all live in, needs peace desperately!
10. How often do you visit Oplenac?
- Unfortunately, not as often as I would love to, but I cherish every moment I spend there. It is where my roots are, where the history of my family started.
Both my grandfather and father used to take every possible moment to go to Oplenac, to “refill their batteries” there, as we would say in modern-day language. It is very interesting to read old diaries of King’s adjutant, where you can see the inscription “The King decided suddenly to go to Oplenac. Arrangements were made in a rush.” I too love to go there, sit in my great-grandfather’s house, walk around the beautiful parks surrounding the church. But what I love even more are the people, who always welcome us there with an open heart, always have a kind word or a family remembrance to my ancestors. That is something priceless.
HM King Carl XVI Gustav and HM Queen Silvia of Sweden, HRH Crown Prince Alexander and HRH Crown Princess Katherine
11. How would you describe the beauty of Sumadija?
- I lived in many countries, I visited a great number of them, but I will say without any doubt, there is no place like Serbia, and Sumadija is its jewel. There is nothing like the morning in this part of Serbia when the sun starts bating the forests and meadows with its beams… We have a beautiful country, and the entire world must know that, and we Serbs, need to be aware of the treasure we have. One needs to travel around, to see all great places around the world, but before everything else, to know what beauty we have here, in our own homeland.
From the stories I heard from my grandmother and father, that were mentioned at the beginning of this interview, I kept dreaming of coming here and being able to see the land of my ancestors. And when this long-lasting dream finally came true, although never being in Serbia, I knew I was home. There is something in our blood that makes this strong connection with our Topola, Sumadija, and entire Serbia, that is like a magnet to us. We can not be separated from this land.
12. Can you describe to us what your day looks like, when you don’t have a lot of obligations?
- Day without obligations, does that really exist (laughter). Each person must find time to relax and “catch a breath” as we would say. I usually read the news, I like to be in touch with everything that is going on in the world, to be well informed. And now, with modern technologies, it is much easier than ever. Also, I very much appreciate when my wife and I take each other’s hand and have a walk around the park within the Royal Complex in Belgrade. I always like to imagine that, on those same paths, my ancestors walked when they needed to renovate energy and clear their heads.
13. What is your message to the readers of our portal?
- I would like to send them most sincere greetings from my wife and me, with wishes for, before all, good health and progress in every aspect of their lives. Also, to love our country, respect their loved ones and their neighbours, to build unity and support each other. It is the only way to have good lives and to give positive contribution not only to our country, but to entire world.
Although this was very detailed interview, and I enjoyed having the chance to say so much about my family, it is impossible to cover all the topics, so I would like to invite all your readers who are interested to know more about my family and our activities to visit our website – www.royalfamily.org – and my social media profiles, where they can find much more information and also, get in touch, send us their questions, suggestions, and be involved in our activities, I always like to hear what people have to say. Our country needs us all to work together, for the better future of all of us.
Novak Djokovic and the Royal couple