19 August 2013

The Head of the Russian Imperial House, H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, and H.I.H. the Heir, Tsesarevich and Grand Duke George of Russia, visit the Principality of Monaco and Nice (France), August 16-19, 2013

The Head of the Russian Imperial House, H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, and H.I.H. the Heir, Tsesarevich and Grand Duke George of Russia, visit the Principality of Monaco and Nice (France), August 16-19, 2013

From August 16-19, 2013, the Head of the Russian Imperial House, H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, and H.I.H., the Heir, Tsesarevich, and Grand Duke George of Russia, were in the Principality of Monaco to participate in the annual charity auction “L'Etincelle-2013,” which this year was dedicated to the 400th anniversary of the ending of the Time of Troubles, the reestablishment of the Russia state, and the ascension to the throne of the House of Romanoff.

On August 17, 2013, Grand Duchess Maria of Russia and Tsesarevich Grand Duke George of Russia went to the Cathedral of St. Nicholas in Nice. Their Imperial Highnesses were met on the porch at the entrance of the cathedral by the rector, Archpriest Nikolai Ozolin, by the General Consul of the Russian Federation in Marseille, Vladimir Pozdniakov, and by representatives of the Russian community in Nice.

After an intercessory prayer service, or moleben, and after venerating the icons and relics in the cathedral, the Grand Duchess awarded the Imperial Medal “Anniversary of the Nation’s Victory, 1613-2013” to Fr. Nicholas.


Then Archpriest Nikolai Ozolinrecounted for the Grand Duchess the history of the cathedral and of the chapel next to it. In April 1865, in a villa located in Bermond Parkin Nice, the Heir to the Russian Imperial throne, Grand Duke Nicholas Alexandrovich, the son of Emperor Alexander II, died from a serious illness. Later that same year, the Russian poet, Prince P. A. Viazemskii, who was with the Grand Duke at the time of his death, wrote a poem dedicated to him entitled “Evening at the Seashore” and a booklet entitled “The Villa Bermond,” which contained a description of the last days of the Tsesarevich, and which proposed the purchasing of the villa by the Russian government for the purpose of erecting a church in the Tsarevich’s honor. Two years later, Emperor Alexander II did just that, and on March 14, 1867, a new chapel on the site was built. The city of Nice renamed a nearby street “Boulevard Tzar?witch” in memory of the Heir to the Russian throne. Later, by 1913, the new St. Nicholas Cathedral had been erected next to the chapel. In December 1912, a bust of Tsesarevich Nicholas Alexandrovich was unveiledin the garden next to the new cathedral. Grand Duchess Maria of Russia and Grand Duke George of Russia laid flowers at the base of this monument. Later, Their Imperial Highnesses and their party went to the chapel, where a memorial service, or panikhida, was offered for the souls of His Holiness Patriarch Filaret (Romanoff) and all the Heads of the House of Romanoff and their spouses, from Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich to WladimirKirillovich, as well as for all their countrymen who departed this life in foreign lands and in exile.


After the memorial service, Fr. Nicholas gave a moving speech about the significance of the Romanoff dynasty for Russia and noting the sincere joy that the Orthodox residents of Nice feel about the arrival in Nice of the Head of the Russian Imperial House and her Heir on this special anniversary year for both the dynasty and the cathedral. Everyone then went to the Museum of the Russian community in Nice, which is located in the lower level of the cathedral. There, a luncheon was served, and the Grand Duchess and the Tsesarevich met and warmly chatted with parishioners and members of the Russian community in the south of France, as well as with the Press.

After a short walking tour of Nice, Grand Duchess Maria of Russia and Tsesarevich George of Russia returned to Monte Carlo, where she took part in a working dinner with the organizers of the upcoming charity event. Several charitable projects were discussed, in addition to the one being held on the next day. Attending this meeting were: Eduard Taran, the President of RATM Holding Company; Margarita Lieva, the Managing Partner of the “Russian Business Club”; Oleg Bliudov, the Executive Director of the Charity Foundation “ZhIVI [Live]”; and members of H.I.H.’s Chancellery.

On the next day, August 18, H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria of Russia and H.I.H. Grand Duke George of Russia arrived at the Monte Carlo Sporting Club for the charity event “L’Etincelle-2013,” the patron of which this year was the Head of the Russian Imperial House. The Grand Duchess and the Heir were accompanied by the Director of H.I.H.’s Chancellery, Alexander Zakatov; the advisor to the Chancellery for Inter-regional and International Relations, Prince VadimLopukhin; the Master of Heraldry in H.I.H.’s Chancellery, Stanislaw Dumin; the advisor to H.I.H.’s Chancellery for Relations with Public Organizations and Offices of the Government, Kirill Nemirovich-Danchenko; the advisor on international relations to the Head of Russian Imperial House, CyrilleBoulay; and by the Chair of the Russian Nobility Association, Prince Grigorii Gagarin.

Gathered on this day were more than 300 guests from Russia, Ukraine, France, Monaco, Italy, the Czech Republic, and the United States—public figures, representatives of art and culture, European nobles, diplomats, and members of the business community. The organizers of “L’Etincelle-2013” were: the charity foundation “ZhIVI,” which assists children suffering from severe and rare diseases; RATM Holding Company; the Business Club “RDK”; and the Foundation for the Support and Development of the Igor Zelensky Ballet. The producer for the project was Andrei Fomin. The organizers said that they wanted to draw public attention to the revival of Russian national traditions of philanthropy and assistance to children with serious illnesses. Their main goal was for participants in this event is to one day see the creation of a national association of philanthropic foundations and the adoption of a law creating a Day of Philanthropy in Russia.

Before the event began, Grand Duchess Maria of Russia and Tsesarevich George of Russia met with His Grace Bishop Nestor of Korsun, who specially traveled to Nice to participate in this charitable project. Present also at this meeting were the Vice-Chair of the Department of Relations between Church and Society of the Moscow Patriarchate, Deacon Roman Bogdasarov; the rector of St. Nicholas Cathedral in Nice, Archpriest Nikolai Ozolin; and the rector of the Church of St. Nicholas the Wonderworker in Bari (Italy), Fr. Andrei Boitsov.

After the conclusion of the meeting, an investiture ceremony took place, during which the Grand Duchess awarded the Imperial Medal “Anniversary of the Nation’s Victory 1613-2013” to several leading Russian philanthropists. At this same time, the Imperial Medal “Commemoration of the 400th Anniversary of the House of Romanoff” was awarded to His Grace, Bishop Nestor.

After the investiture ceremony, the President of the Russian Association of Merchants and Industrialists, Alexander Dudarenko, discussed with the Grand Duchess the exhibition display “Purveyors of the Court of His Imperial Majesty,” and described the activities of his Association, which is striving to revive the traditions of Russian entrepreneurship and philanthropy. Those present also viewed the photo exhibition “Philanthropy and Charity under the Patronage of the House of Romanoff,” which was assembled by the Foundation “The Revival of our Cultural Inheritance.”

Officially, the charity event was held to celebrate the “400th anniversary of the House of Romanoff,” but the Head of the Russian Imperial House, H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, and Tsesarevich George of Russia emphasized during their remarks at the opening of the event, that “it is more appropriate to speak of the great anniversary of the national victory over the Time of Troubles rather than the anniversary of the dynasty.” The Grand Duchess stated in her official greeting to the participants that “the manifestation of private and public initiatives aimed at the revival and strengthening of traditional spirituality, culture, and philanthropy is the best possibleway to perpetuate the memory of the glorious events and heroes of past epochs. I wish all here at ‘L’Etincelle’—all the artists, philanthropists, and representatives of businesses and social organizations—God’s help in all their efforts and a noble burning desire to help the needy and to support Russia’s great cultural inheritance.”

The program for the event opened with a performance of several stars of the ballet. It was not by chance. It was, after all, here in Monaco in 1911 that Sergei Diaghilev founded the “Russian Ballet,” under the sponsorship of Prince Albert I of Monaco. Here some of the greatest talents have danced: Anna Pavlova, Tamara Karsavina, Vaslav Nijinsky, George Balanchine, Serge Lifar and, later, Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

On this occasion, some of the world’s most famous ballet stars performed, dancers who are defining the modern look of ballet today: Manuel Legris; Patrick de Bana; Lucia Lacarra and Marlon Dino; the principal dancer of the Royal Ballet in London, Sergei Polunin, and Kristina Shapran;Natalia Somova; Alexander Omelchenko; and Xenia Ryzhkova.

After the ballet program, there followed a presentation by the “ZhIVI” Foundationof items to be sold at the charity auction, which included items of the sort traditionally sold at auctions as well a number of unique items, such as, for example, a helicopter trip to the North Pole or a private visit to the studio of the artist Marc Quinn. But the tone of the charity auction was set not by the works of famous artists and jewelers, but by the stunning sincerity evident in the drawing by the 14-year-old boy, MaksimNikulin from Novosibirsk. A scene of bright, sunny colors against the background of a cloudless blue sky was drawn by this gravely ill boy. For eight years, Maksim, his parents, and his doctors had fought to cure his cancer. Years of chemotherapy, surgeries, and rigorous rehabilitation—it seemed after all this that his illness was cured. Maksimeven began playing sports, especially hockey and soccer. But the cancer returned. His doctors determined that only a bone marrow transplant could save him, but this is an enormously expensive procedure. The auction for Maksim’s picture began at 1000 Euros but was purchased by Xenia Sukhinova for ten times that amount. The emotional mood that pervaded the auction was demonstrated when it was later learned that the operation Maksim needs costs not 10,000 euros, but 20,000 euros, and someone else came up with the extra sum.

At the end of the auction, a copy of the Filermskaya Icon of the Mother of God, in an ornate case, which had been acquired by the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the holding company “Siberia Cement,” Oleg Sharykin, was presented to the Grand Duchess on behalf of the Board. The Grand Duchess thanked those who had made this extraordinary gift to her, but expressed her strong wish that this icon, which is so dear to her heart, remain in Nice, at the Cathedral of St. Nicholas. His Grace Bishop Nestor of Korsun gave his blessing to this gift and thanked Her Imperial Highness.

One of the items that had not previously been announced for sale at the auction, a silver clip for business cards owned by the Tsesarevich George of Russia, was purchased by Karina Marchenko for 10,000 euros.

Despite the variety of items on offer, or perhaps because of it, the auction, which was conducted by the Distinguished Artist of Russia, Igor Vernik, was a success, raising 300,000 euros. All of the proceeds from the auction will go to funding the various programs of the Russian Imperial Foundation for Cancer Research, which was founded by Tsesarevich George of Russia (and who is the Foundation’s patron), as well as programs of the Foundation “ZhIVI” that help children with serious illnesses.

On the next day, the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, the Head of the Russian Imperial House, H.I.H. Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, and H.I.H. the Heir, Tsesarevich, and Grand Duke George of Russia, departed for Madrid.

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