ATHENS – While critics are lamenting the lack of philanthropists aiding Greece during a crushing economic crisis, Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia – born in Greece with the surname Batis and educated in the United States – is showing how it’s done.
In a whirlwind tour of Greece, including an orphanage and children’s hospitals and overseeing charity events to raise money for the country’s most disadvantaged, she brought formidable revenue-raising skills with a gracious charm and humility belying her high station.
“My mother said we have two hands, one for giving,” she said to The National Herald in an interview, pausing in between stops of talking to doctors, potential benefactors and government officials and visiting children and people in need.
While promoting an anti-smoking campaign aimed at the young in a country which has one of the highest rates of smoking in Europe, she was also raising money for trauma units and to help train doctors to help save lives. “Greece needs desperately to train doctors for trauma. Doctors need to deal with trauma,” she said.
The goal is to provide critical classes for 1,000 doctors at a time when Greece, during a crushing economic crisis and harsh austerity measures, is cutting back on even basic health care and runs short of supplies and essential medical equipment. It will cost 500,000 euros, she said.
She’s also raising funds to provide hygiene products for hospitals and to fund children’s cancer-treating programs and through her organization Lifeline, which has branches in Athens, Chicago, Toronto, London and New York, gave a refrigerator for storing bone marrow.
She’s reaching out to the Diaspora as well, and will be feted March 19 at the New York City Center as part of the opening night gala of the famed Martha Graham Dance Company’s event, Celebrating the Graham/Greek Connection.
That will feature the world premiere of Echo, a new work from renowned choreographer Andonis Foniadakis, a new production of the Graham company’s masterpiece Greek legend Clytemnestra and a performance of Panorama, starring visiting students from the Greek National State School of Dancer.
There will be a gala dinner honoring a small number of leaders of Greek heritage around the world, her among them, who are making an impact through significant efforts to lift humanity with art, business or philanthropy.
She’s done plenty of that already, beginning in Serbia during its embattled years and now in her homeland where she’s become a ubiquitous sight in the halls of power and money.
Again referring to her mother: “She said she would like us to be good examples. The Greek people in America need to be the good example too,” she said, urging them to help, including the young, who she said have been overlooked for their capacity for compassion and to raise money.
Already, she said, young Greeks and Philhellenes, through charity galas in London, raised 200,000 euros to help Greece. “There is no reason why in the United States that young people couldn’t come together for a black tie event,” she said, and appeal to benefactors to help.
“We need the young people to show the way forward … and give back to the country,” she said, something she said she learned from her mother as well as a young person herself.
“She didn’t know there would be a title behind my name but titles don’t make people. She raised me to be humble and give of myself. This is the biggest gift a parent can give a child,” she said.
“We need to bring injections from abroad,” she said. “Our focus must come from making America a good example,” she added. She’s been one herself in Greece in recent months.
FOR THE CHILDREN
In December 2013, Lifeline Hellas organized for the 8th consecutive year the traditional Christmas humanitarian dinner under the auspices and the presence of TRH Crown Prince Alexander and Princess Katherine in aid of the Sikiaridio Foundation.
The evening was dedicated to heart surgeon Afksendyios Kalangos who was honored by Lifeline Hellas for his scientific humanitarian action, giving life to children in need by offering his service in operations.
The President of Lifeline Hellas, Dr. Zissis Boukouvalas thanked the attendees for their support while Prince Alexander spoke about the importance of giving. Dr. Alkistis Prinou Boukouvala thanked the sponsors and referred to the humanitarian work of Lifeline Hellas announcing the donation of baby milk to the families in need
Another humanitarian event was held in Thessaloniki, at the Met Hotel, under the patronage and the presence of Prince Alexander and Princess. The purpose was to support the Melissa Orphanage for Girls and the Association of Friends of Children with Cancer, called Storgi.
The Princess, along with members of the board of Lifeline Hellas visited the orphanages St. Anna and Christodoulio, where gifts were handed out to the children, including candies from the companies KAYAK and Le Chocolat, and athletic shoes donated by Puma.
Princess Katherine, who the last four years, through the Lifeline Hellas and Lifeline UK Humanitarian Organizations, helps children’s hospitals and foundations in Greece, offered to the Orphanage St. Anna a professional laundry, a professional dryer, a kitchen and heating oil. She also offered for the renewed hall of Christodoulio an electrical switch board, a dining room and a television.
A critical area where the Greek government could help without needing money,, she said, is to change laws that tax charitable donations instead of providing deductions for them, which has frustrated and limited contributions from Greek-Americans and others in the Diaspora.
“I’d like Americans, if they can give $5, $10, or $100, to remember there are children who are victims of the economic crisis,” in Greece, she added. She said she saw much suffering during Serbia’s deadly conflict.
“I’ve seen a lot (of suffering) but I never expected to see it in my own country of Greece,” she said. She has, but is doing something about it, which seems like a good example indeed, if only others will follow.