Nikolai Romanov Prince of Russia: an eventful life
Prince Romanov is one of the most illustrious guests-turned-residents in Saanenland/ Pays-d’Enhaut. Although not a skier, for the last six years he has been the president of the “Eagle Ski Club”. For more than twenty years he has made his home in Rougemont. GSTAADLIFE recently had the opportunity to meet Prince Romanov and find out more about the head of the Romanov family, his life and what led him to Switzerland.
- Prince Romanov, you were born in 1922 as the son of Their Highnesses Prince Roman Petrovich and Princess Praskovia Dmitrievna, née Countess Sheremetev. In what relation to the last tsar, Emperor Nicholas II, does this put you?
- My father and tsar Nicholas II were 2nd cousins. That, in effect, made Nicholas II my uncle.
- Your parents left Russia in 1919 and later married in the south of France where you were born. What were your early years like?
- We lived in Cap d’Antibes on the Côte d’Azur. In the south of France I lived in a completely Russian environment. We had a Russian priest in our church, Russian staff, a Russian nanny and we even lived by the old Russian calendar. I learnt to speak Russian as well as French. At that time all educated Russians spoke French as a second language.
- The family later moved to Italy. What was the reason for that?
- We moved there in 1936, when I was fourteen. The main reason was that schools were so much better there. In Cap d’Antibes we lived in the countryside, far away from everything. In those days we had no car and getting around was difficult. Moving to Rome and living in the city made things a lot easier. Added to this, I at that time desperately wanted to enter the navy. Not being French I couldn’t join the French navy. Being related to the Italian royal family, my grandmother was a sister of the Queen of Italy, I hoped to get into the Italian navy. Fortunately I developed short-sightedness and had to bury all hopes for a naval career, which probably saved my life. The Italian navy was badly hit in the Second World War.
- What did you do instead?
- I completed my classical studies and aimed for an engineering career. If I was not able to enter the navy, I at least wanted to build warships. But because I do not have a mathematical mind, this plan was knocked on the head too. During the German occupation, my family and I had to hide because of our connection with the Italian royal family. This was a very difficult time. Once Italy was out of the war, in 1943, I ended up working in a military organization in Rome and later at the American Embassy.
- After the war you went to Egypt and lived the good life there. By the end of 1950 you decided to return to Europe, and hoped to get a job in Geneva with one of the international organizations that were being built up after the war but you got sidetracked…
- Yes. At a party in Rome I saw a pretty girl in the corner…We got talking and I asked her out the next day and the day after that and again and again. Eventually I asked her to marry me and to my surprise she said yes! Having no job, I quickly found myself one at an exclusive car agent’s. Some years later my brother- in-law died in an accident. I then took over the running of my wife’s family business in Tuscany.
- What kind of business was this?
- It was a large farm, mostly breeding the famous white Chianina cattle. There was also a good production of wine. I ran the business from 1955 till 1980. In the end I got fed up with Italian bureaucracy becoming more tedious every year, and we decided to sell up and leave Italy. By this time our three daughters had all married and were leading their own lives.
- Where did you go after leaving Italy?
- Well, in 1978 we came to Gstaad for the first time. A friend had invited my wife and I to stay in his apartment in Rougemont. We liked it so much we wanted to return. In 1981 we took up residence in Switzerland and rented a place ourselves in Rougemont. In time we were able to buy our own chalet. Originally it was not to be sold to a foreigner. But as, at that time, I was still registered as stateless, having been a refugee from birth, the sale went through!
- What do you like about Switzerland?
- It feels very safe and I know exactly what I am allowed to do and what not.
30 июля 2010
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02 января 2011
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