Tuesday, April 28, 2020

An interview with Crown Prince Leka

@Crown Prince Leka

I met Crown Prince Leka of Albania in January when we were both guests at HM Margareta, Custodian of the Crown's 30th anniversary of her first visit to Romania in January 1990.   The Crown Prince and I chatted several times during the weekend celebrations.

Crown Prince Leka succeeded as head of the Royal House of Albania on November 30, 2011, following the death of his father, King Leka I.   The Crown Prince was born on March 28, 1982, in Johannesburg, South Africa, where his parents then resided.  The 38-year-old Crown Prince is the only child of King Leka I and his Australian-born wife, Susan Cullen-Ward.   He also has American ancestry, which he enjoys talking about, as his paternal grandmother, Queen Geraldine,  the wife of King Zog, was half-American.  She was born Countess Géraldine Apponyi de Nagy-Appony.  Her father was a Hungarian count and her mother was born Gladys Virginia Steuart, the daughter of Virginia-born John Henry Steuart, an American diplomat.

Crown Prince Leka married Elia Zaharia, an Albanian actress, on October 8, 2016.   They live in Tirana.

How are you and Her Royal Highness the Crown Princess doing during this quarantine?  What is the situation in Albania and what is the government doing in regards to quarantine, social distancing. Are stores open? 

We are certainly living in unprecedented times; Albania has not escaped the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic with a number of people taken ill. This has been especially difficult as Albania has not recovered from the November 29th earthquake which caused much damage, with hundreds of families still homeless.

The Albanian government and local authorities were quick to act by implementing strict regulations that have been successful in limiting the spread of the pandemic. Our citizens have heeded the call to respect social distancing, quarantine for the elderly, and regulated hours of movement for the general population through online platforms. As a result, the situation is currently under control with some business activities reopening piecemeal.

We are living through a time of great uncertainty and both my wife and I are concerned about the social implications that the coronavirus will have for people suffering from depression, anxiety, and other social problems. So we are keeping a watchful eye.

This is also a time to show solidarity as many countries are suffering the consequences of this terrible disease and great loss. I am proud that Albania is doing its part by sending our neighbour Italy medical personal and doctors. And I am grateful to all the countries who have donated medical equipment to our hospitals in turn. 

I presume you and your wife are in your home in Tirana.  Are you able to go out to shop, go for walks?

We are at home and respect the necessity of self-isolation. Both Elia and I have limited our movements and meetings to an absolute minimum. We are maximizing the use of Skype and Zoom to communicate and have online meetings. We only go out when it is absolutely necessary.

We are fortunate to have a beautiful garden, which is currently blossoming with the start of spring. Most mornings we are out in the fresh air and soaking up the Sun. We live in the dead centre of Tirana, so the lack of cars has improved the air quality tremendously which is positive.

Are you keeping in touch with government officials, as well as your own charities as well as the Albanian people?

Our contact with the government depends on the day to day issues and work-related tasks. Due to the coronavirus, there are no protocol events or receptions happening.

Our focus at the moment has been with the Queen Geraldine Foundation. We have been successful in using the extra free time for administrative purposes; we have just approved a memorandum with partner organisations to identify and to build 15 new homes for earthquake victims. So I am very excited to see the results the months ahead will have.

We are coordinating with our regional volunteers so to help families with food during the pandemic. We plan to deliver 2 tons of clothing to families in need as soon as the COVID-19 restrictions are withdrawn. We are doing our best under the circumstances.

How are both of you keeping busy – any favorite TV show or movie that you have watched?  What good books have you read while inside?  Do you have a garden or backyard where you and the Crown Princess can relax outside – are parks open for people to walk while maintaining social distancing.

 I have restarted my excises routine in an attempt to stay fit, although Elia and I do enjoy watching the odd film or series on Netflix. Elia is following the series called the “Outlander”, whilst I am muddling between “Suits”, “The Blacklist” and a mixture of documentary and historical epic chronicles.

I have restarted my curiosity in philosophy, so I am currently reading “The Critique of pure reason”, by Immanuel Kant, after finishing a book by Robert Wilton, “The Spider of Sarajevo”. Whereas Elia is reading a book by the Albanian author Kadare and she is continuing with her painting.

Do you have any pets?

I have five boxer dogs which are my pride and joy, I absolutely love them and they are full of life and good fun. It is somewhat of a tradition in our family to have boxers.

What is the first thing you and the Crown Princess want to do when quarantine is lifted?

I asked Elia that exact question yesterday; there is nothing in particular which I could point directly too, except for the notion of freedom, simply being able to go out without the underlying concern of the virus is now a luxury which we do not have...

How did you spend the Easter Holidays?  Has the Crown Princess had to postpone any acting jobs because of the virus?

The first five photos were taken exclusively for this interview

Elia continues her work at the National Theatre; currently, the theatre is working online and now opening a new YouTube channel.

For Easter, we watched the midnight church service live and lit the candles for good fortune. Elia’s father sent us boiled red Easter eggs so to take part in the traditional egg-breaking contest. Our family's religious diversity and harmony allow us to enjoy the pleasantries and traditions of our respective faiths together. 

with permission of HRH Crown Prince Leka

I offer my sincere thanks to His Royal Highness for taking the time to answer my questions.   


Robert said...

I am really enjoying these lockdown interviews with Crown Prince Alexander, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna and now Crown Prince Leka. Thank you for making the most of these strange times to bring us these.

Lance Bernadotte Miller said...

Enjoyed the comments of HRH Crown Prine Leka. Pleased that he has given us a glimpse into his very normal life even in these distressing times. Honoured that he was born in South Africa, descended of the Stuarts and have had the opportunity to meet and speak to him a few times. Glod bless till we meet again. Lance, Baron of Haliburton et Lambden.