11 May 2014

The Tsesarevich George of Russia visits St. Petersburg, May 6-10, 2014

The Tsesarevich George of Russia visits St. Petersburg, May 6-10, 2014

On May 6-10, 2014, H.I.H. the Heir, Tsesarevich, and Grand Duke George of Russia was in Russia on business. His Imperial Highness arrived in St. Petersburg from Brussels to sign the legal documents creating the Russian Imperial Foundation for Cancer Research. The Grand Duke also took part in ceremonies marking the 69th anniversary of the victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945.

Having arrived in the Northern Capital on May 6—the Feast of the Great Martyr George the Victory-Bearer, the Grand Duke’s patron saint—His Imperial Highness went immediately from the airport to the St. Petersburg Children’s Hospice. The Grand Duke was accompanied by the Director of the Hospice, Archpriest Alexander Tkachenko, and members of H.I.H.’s Chancellery. Fr. Alexander gave the Grand Duke a tour of the in-patient facility, describing for him the most important aspects and issues connected with the palliative care offered at the Hospice.

The Tsesarevich spoke with the young patients at the Hospice and their parents, presenting flowers and gifts, and with the medical staff. He also visited the intensive care unit and the ward with patients who are confined to their beds. One of the young girls presented the Grand Duke with a small clay angel figure that she had made herself. His Imperial Highness said that he was deeply touched by this gift, by the amiability of the patients, and by the loving and attentive care the staff was offering to the patients of the Hospice.

The Children’s Hospice had attracted the attention of the Tsesarevich by its extensive efforts to help gravely and terminally ill children and their families. The Grand Duke noted that he was very impressed by the medical technology in the Hospice, the comfortable accommodations for the patients, and the unique methods being offered for palliative care. According to the Grand Duke, “the main goal of the Imperial House of Romanoff today is to care for our countrymen who are in need. People facing cancer and other serious diseases are the most vulnerable, therefore aid to them is of paramount importance.”

At the end of the Grand Duke’s visit to the Hospice, Fr. Alexander Tkachenko and other clergy of the St. Petersburg eparchy served a moleben (an intercessory prayer service) in the Hospice’s chapel of St. Luke (Voino-Iasenetskii) to the Great Martyr St. George the Victory-Bearer.

“This visit will forever remain in our hearts,” Father Alexander said, as he presented the Grand Duke an icon of Christ the Savior. “We are very touched by the attention that you, Your Highness, have paid to the children and their parents and to our entire institution.” In response the Grand Duke expressed his hope for every success in the vitally important work the Hospice is doing, and he voiced his deep appreciation to the staff for all their efforts. On instructions from his mother, the Head of the Russian Imperial House, H.I.H. the Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, Grand Duke George awarded a number of employees of the Hospice with the Imperial medal “Anniversary of the Nation’s Victory, 1613-2013,” which was established to mark the ending of the Time of Troubles in 1613.

On May 7, Grand Duke George of Russia signed the documents creating the Russian Imperial Foundation for Cancer Research. There are presently no foundations of this sort in Russia. The Foundation’s goal is to promote the work of up-and-coming researchers, allocate funds to researchers who are already well-established in their fields, and help research institutions to expand and serve the needs of their patients. His Imperial Highness had this to say about the establishment of the Foundation: “I have always wanted to help as many people in need as I possibly can. By promoting research, the Foundation will be able to ease the suffering of many people. We will help to support the work of researchers who know exactly what their ill and suffering patients need.”

Archpriest Alexander Tkachenko was named the General Director of the Imperial Foundation. Fr. Alexander is the Director of the St. Petersburg Children’s Hospice and the founder of the children’s palliative care movement in Russia. “I thank His Imperial Highness for his trust in me, and I hope to justify that trust,” said Fr. Alexander. “The Children’s Hospice also collaborates with many research scientists, oncologists, and psychologists, who can offer help likewise to the Foundation. Palliative care is not only a promising area of research, but it is also an acute problem. In Russia, there are an estimated 41,000 seriously and terminally ill children in desperate need of our help. Many of them have cancer. Therefore the attention to this problem given by the Imperial House of Romanoff deserves the thanks and appreciation of all the people of Russia.”

Having always shown a keen interest and genuine concern for his fellow countrymen, Grand Duke George supports a number of charitable and social programs in Russia. In the anniversary year of 2013—the 400th anniversary of the House of Romanoff—the Heir and Tsesarevich founded in London the “Russian Imperial Foundation for Cancer Research.”

That same day, the Tsesarevich venerated the tombs of his royal ancestors in the mausoleum of the House of Romanoff in the Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral in the Ss. Peter and Paul Fortress. The Grand Duke was greeted at the entrance to the cathedral by Archimandrite Alexander (Fedorov) and other members of the clergy. Before the memorial service (Litya) began, His Imperial Highness laid flowers at the grave of his grandmother, Grand Duchess Leonida Georgievna, whose 100th birthday will take place this year. Archimandrite Alexander (Fedorov) and the other clergy of the Ss. Peter and Paul Cathedral offered the memorial service in memory of His Holiness Patriarch Filaret (Romanoff), and all the sovereigns of the House of Romanoff, from Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich to Grand Duke Wladimir Kirillovich, and their spouses. “It is a great honor for us today to offer these prayers together with you, Your Highness,” said Archimandrite Alexander. “We always commemorate your deceased ancestors at Liturgy, and we pray for the health of your mother and for your health, as the current Heir of the Russian Imperial House.”

To mark the visit of the Heir and Tsesarevich to the Family Mausoleum, and to mark the Grand Duke’s nameday, Archimandrite Alexander presented His Imperial Highness with an icon of his patron saint—the Holy Great Martyr George the Victory-Bearer. Members of various civil organizations in attendance at the memorial service then offered their congratulations to the Grand Duke on his nameday, wishing him “many good and blessed years,” as is the custom. The cathedral’s choir then sang the anthem of the Russian Empire, “God save the Tsar.”

Later, Grand Duke George of Russia visited the Raisa Gorbachev Research Institute for Oncology, Hematology, and Transplantation, meeting with its Director, Dr. Boris Vladimirovich Afanasiev, MD, and other medical staff of the Institute, which is mostly made up of young researchers.

Dr. Afanasiev led His Imperial Highness on a tour of all the floors of the Institute, describing for him the history and needs of the research institute. The Institute performs around 300 transplants each year. It is considered one of the top ten institutes of its kind in the world and pursues active collaboration with similar research facilities around the globe. However, the Institute lacks sufficient space for laboratories, and low wages force doctors and especially younger researchers to take additional half- or full-time positions to supplement their income.

The Grand Duke spoke of the newly-founded Russian Imperial Foundation for Cancer Research, and announced a competition for a grant from the Russian Imperial Foundation, which will be awarded in St. Petersburg later this fall. His Imperial Highness encouraged the researchers at the Institute to submit proposals for funding to support their research projects.

Grand Duke toured the laboratories, spoke with the staff and with donors, and offered his encouragement to the patients he met.

On May 8, on the eve of the celebrations of the Victory Day, Grand Duke George of Russia attended a number of events in the village of Kobona, the end point in the Road of Life—the ice road across the frozen Lake Ladoga, which provided the only access to the besieged city of Leningrad during the 900-day siege during World War II. The Grand Duke attended a service in the Church of St. Nicholas the Wonder-Worker, which, during the siege, had served as an evacuation hospital on the Road of Life. The Divine Liturgy was served the His Grace Bishop Mstislav of Tikhvin and Lodeinoye Polye.

Later, the Tsesarevich, together with Bishop Mstislav, the inhabitants of the village of Kobona, and employees of “Metrostroi” (the construction company for the city’s metro system), accompanied by motorcyclists who had participated in the “Candle of Memory” motocross, which was organized by Archpriest Viacheslav Kharinov, went to a nearby mass grave—the burial place of many soldiers and civilians who defended Leningrad and died in battles fighting to keep open the Road of Life. Bishop Mstislav served a memorial service (Litya), after which the Grand Duke and the clergy laid flowers on the monument. Everyone present left a flower or a candle at the site of this mass grave to commemorate the defenders of the city.

The Heir and Tsesarevich gave a speech in which he paid tribute to the memory of all those who died in battle against the Fascist invaders. He thanked the veterans and villagers of Kobona—the descendants of those who fought to defend their homeland—for their bravery. His Imperial Highness said he was very happy to have this opportunity to commemorate the dead and to thank the living.

In his speech welcoming the Grand Duke and all those present, Bishop Mstislav said: “Today you, Your Highness, are visiting a special place. It is a place drenched in the blood of more than 600,000 people. So many people died on the Road of Life before reaching the life-saving ‘Big Land’—an area unoccupied by the Nazis. We thank you for praying with us, and we thank God for giving us the strength to return to the traditions of our homeland. We pray today not only for the repose of the dead and for the health of these living defenders of the Fatherland, but also for the future of our country. May the Lord enlighten everyone to see the fatherly care and love of the House of Romanoff for Russia. May we return with open hearts to the historical path of our homeland.”

The celebrations moved to the nearby New Canal, where a new monument was dedicated by the Grand Duke and Bishop Mstislav, called the “Cargo Truck.” The monument consists of an original and fully restored lorry, one of many that were used to evacuate people from the besieged city of Leningrad and to bring back essential goods to the city. It was raised from the bottom of Lake Ladoga on March 6, 2014, by a group of divers led by Sergei Sklianin and was fully restored for the 69th anniversary of Victory Day. The monument was consecrated by Hegumen Pakhomii (Tregulov), rector of Holy Trinity Martirievo-Zelenetsky Monastery, with which the Church of St. Nicholas the Wonder-Worker in the village of Kobona is affiliated.

Following the dedication ceremony, a genuine village festival took place at the site of the new monument. The Grand Duke took part in all the festivities: he joined everyone in sampling the typical soldier’s kasha and tea from an authentic field kitchen, he drank with veterans the “frontline ration of 100 grams of vodka,” and he took every opportunity to talk with all those present.

On May 9—Victory Day—the Tsesarevich honored the memory of the soldiers and civilians of Leningrad who lost their lives in the battle against the Nazis, visiting the Piskariovskoe Memorial Cemetery. He laid flowers at the monument to “Mother Russia” in eternal memory of the defenders of the city on the Neva. He also visited the Eternal Flame, which burns on the upper terrace of the Piskariovskoe Memorial Cemetery, and bowed his head in memory of all the victims of the Great Patriotic War.

“My heart is filled with gratitude to those who liberated the world from Nazism, and who sacrificed their lives so that the beautiful Northern Capital of Russia might be saved,” the Grand Duke said. “It is terrible to think that today, in our sisterland, Ukraine, whose sons and daughters sacrificed their lives for our common homeland, the government is under the control of nationalists, whose actions are aggressive and whose slogans contain threats against their countrymen and against the citizens of surrounding countries, against the clergy and faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church, and contain a streak of anti-Semitism redolent of the Nazis. Blood has already been spilt by this regime. May the people of Ukraine turn their gaze here, to these sad hills of mass graves of those who, like them, gave their lives in the common cause, and not allow hatred, xenophobia, and violence to reign over them.”

His Imperial Highness walked through the pathways of the cemetery, where 420,000 inhabitants of Leningrad who died of hunger, the cold, and artillery bombardment, and more than 70,000 soldiers, have their final resting place in these mass graves. The Grand Duke was accompanied by the Director of the Imperial Foundation for Cancer Research, the head of the St. Petersburg Children’s Hospice, Archpriest Alexander Tkachenko, by members of H.I.H.’s Chancellery, and by officers of the Russian army—descendants of the heroic defenders of the city. His Imperial Highness took the opportunity to speak with the residents of St. Petersburg, many of whom had come to the cemetery on Victory Day to pay tribute to and mourn these fallen heroes.

After visiting the Piskarievskoe Cemetery, the Grand Duke met with benefactors and discussed with them ways to expand the work of the Russian Imperial Foundation for Cancer Research. That evening, the Grand Duke attended the ballet The Fountain of Bakhchisarai at the Mariinsky Theater.

On May 10, the Grand Duke toured the Fabergé exhibit at the Shuvalov Palace. Later that same day, His Imperial Highness, the Heir, Tsesarevich, and Grand Duke George of Russia departed St. Petersburg for Brussels.

2014-05-06. Archpriest Alexander Tkachenko discussing the work being done at the Hospice with the Tsesarevich

2014-05-06. The Tsesarevich meeting with patients and their parents

2014-05-06. In the intensive care ward at the Hospice

2014-05-06. Moleben service in the Chapel of St. Luke

2014-05-06. Fr. Alexander Tkachenko presenting an icon of the Savior to the Grand Duke

2014-05-06. Presenting Imperial Medals to the medical staff

2014-05-06. With the medical staff at the Hospice

2014-05-07. The Grand Duke, after signing the legal documents creating the Imperial Foundation for Cancer Research

2014-05-07. In the Romanoff Mausoleum

2014-05-07. Archimandrite Alexander presenting an icon of St. George to the Tsesarevich

2014-05-07. His Imperial Highness meeting with Boris Vladimirovich Afanasiev

2014-05-07. The Grand Duke meeting with patients

2014-05-07. The Grand Duke meeting with patients

2014-05-07. The Grand Duke meets with medical researchers

2014-05-07. A photo taken to mark the beginning of the collaboration between the Imperial Cancer Foundation and the Hospice

2014-05-08. Bishop Mstislav giving his sermon

2014-05-08. Bishop Mstislav giving an Easter egg to the Grand Duke

2014-05-08. On the way to the mass graves

2014-05-08. Memorial service (Litya) for the defenders of the homeland and the victims of the blockade of Leningrad

2014-05-08. The Grand Duke delivers a speech

2014-05-08. The Grand Duke and a Victory Banner

2014-05-08. Sampling the soldier’s kasha

2014-05-09. The Grand Duke at the Piskarievskoe Cemetery

2014-05-09. At the memorial to the Victims of the Blockade of Leningrad

2014-05-09. Walking along the pathways of the cemetery

2014-05-09. At the Eternal Flame

2014-05-09. In the Imperial Box at the Mariinsky Theater

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