Monday, May 11, 2020

An interview with Grand Duke George of Russia

Grand Duke George of Russia, the son, and heir of Grand Duchess Maria, recently accepted my request for an interview.  He was in Moscow when quarantine began and has remained there, conducting business and working with his charities.    Just a note of thanks to His Imperial Highness for agreeing to the interview and for providing me with several photographs.

The 39-year-old Grand Duke travels often to Russia and runs the Brussels-based Romanoff and Partners firm, which promotes business between Russia and European countries.  Unfortunately, the firm has not been as active as the Grand Duke would like.   

Yes, the firm still exists although it is not easy nowadays to work as a lobbyist for Russia in the EU because of the sanctions that have affected the relationship between Russia and the European countries. I have taken this as an opportunity to bring some changes to the company and start new projects.  I have been for a few years the honorary president of the Belgian Luxembourgish Chamber of Commerce with Russia with who I am actively participating and I have also been able to concentrate on charitable activities.  I was recently appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Food Bank Rus, the first food bank ever created in Russia

Where are you staying in Moscow during the quarantine?

I am normally between Brussels and Moscow., although recently I have found myself to be in Moscow more than Brussels. I have a flat in the centre of Moscow.    The beginning of the COVID 19 crisis caught me in Moscow so I decided to stay and go through the isolation period right here!

How has the Russian government responded to the COVID 19?  What are the rules for the lockdown?  What is open, what is closed.  Are you able to get food deliveries, go shopping, go for walks outside?

In Russia, the pandemic started later than in Europe and in the USA.  This gave the government the time to analyse what was going on in other countries that have been affected.  Quarantine rules are more or less the same as in other countries. We cannot leave our homes without asking for permission.  However we are allowed to go shopping for supplies of food or the pharmacy or to visit your doctor, so currently, the only shops that are open would be pharmacies. supermarkets and post offices.  People in Moscow are accustomed to purchasing online and collection points have been set up across the city.  There has been a large increase in food delivery services.

What have you been doing during the quarantine?  Are you able to keep in touch with your company, as well as your charities?  Is there a particular charity that you would like to talk about that you are involved within Russia?

During the quarantine I have tried to keep myself as busy as possible, remotely keeping in touch with my colleagues.  I have been monitoring the activities of my charitable associations and following their progress.

At the beginning of the pandemic through the Russian Imperial Foundation, we were able to send masks and gloves to the Russian Community in Milan, as well as making a donation to the San Raffaele Hospital that has been the most affected by the crisis.

In Russia, we work through a charity that I chair called Food Bank Rus.   Food Bank Rus is the first food bank in Russia and it has been working in the front lines during this pandemic, as it delivers food to people in need.  The Foundation operates thanks to the cooperation of major cooperations such as  Pepsico and Unilever - so that the food is distributed throughout the country.

I am truly grateful to the volunteers and people that are helping out working round the clock to help those in need.

How are you passing the time?  What have you been reading?  What about TV or movies?

 I suppose like everyone during this quarantine I have kept myself busy and been able to catch up on a lot of backlog reading, as well as delving into Netflix like everyone else. I always have a good supply of Russian classics close by Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Pushkin… recently I reread the Master and The Margarita [byMikhail Bulgakov]. I have just finished several books by international writers:  Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari before tackling his 21 Lessons for the 21st Century. The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton is always a classic and Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises reminds me of Spain.

 For lighter entertainment, I have a couple of Lee Child's  Jack Reacher novels that are always fun and entertaining to read.

How were you able to celebrate the Orthodox Holy Week and Easter celebrations and services?

We followed the Easter services through Russian TV and social media and kept in contact with the family. I am always in contact with members of the clergy here in Moscow.

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

In normal circumstances, I would have probably answered this question differently but I have learned that thanks to technology, it is possible to have a normal life even in quarantine.  As I said I was able to work, watch movies, read, order goods online, have food delivered, and even celebrate a friend's birthday over a webcam.  I have not suffered nor am I affected that much by the restrictions. My only hope is that we will be able at a certain point to go to the sea, and get back to diving which is one of my passions.

Can you tell me more about your business connections in Russia and the importance of business deals and arrangements between Russia and Europe?

As I mentioned previously being the honorary member of the Chamber of Commerce we strive to develop a working relationship and business opportunities for foreign investments.  Of course, the neighbourly climate has not made our work any easier although I strongly believe that an open dialogue and good relations between Europe and Russia are fundamental for the economic stability of the region particularly now and after the crisis of Coronavirus.  Russia has a lot of investment possibilities for those who are ready to take a leap.
all photos courtesy of HIH Grand Duke George of Russia. The dog is Zhong, a Japanese Chin.

Tell me more about the charitable work of the Imperial foundation which has ties to the Russian food bank, Rus.   (

The work we do through our Foundation is important for the Communities.  The Russian Imperial Foundation (  is a charity that aims to help Russia on several playing fields.  We have a programme for children affected by oncological diseases, we help hospices, we cooperate with authorities to have Russian researchers to go to the USA to study, we help autistic and non-inclusive children to be treated, we have an emergency relief fund that we use internationally to support other charities abroad such as COVID relief in Milam or the earthquake relief in Albania.

In Luxembourg, we have financed studies on colorectal cancer and genome correlations.  We have sponsored a Romanoff exhibit in the USA, and we are currently working on several new projects.  We are constantly growing and trying to keep a very efficient approach so as to be responsive and fast in the process of evaluating a project, release the funds, and make the follow-up.

Food Bank Rus is a charity that I have come chairman recently.  It is a good bank where we organise food collections to be given to people in need.  We have several programmes such as the baskets of kindness in which can buy extra food at the supermarkets to be donated, or the single mother project which helps mothers in distress.  We are expanding fast, which for a country as big as Russia. it is not simple.  We are grateful to be able to count on multinational corporations such as Kentucky Fried Chicken and Kellog's, as well as the large supermarket chains,  as our partners as they are responding positively to our projects.

The food bank is currently very active thanks to volunteers in Moscow and in many areas of Russia to help people with restricted mobility who otherwise would not have had access to food.  Recently the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin and endorsed and approved of the activities of  Food Bank Rus.

Do you have any favorite restaurants in Moscow?

I love traditional Russian and Georgian food, but Moscow being a major capital city has an enormous variety of restaurants, such as the  Peshi seafood restaurant, the Beluga restaurant in the National Hotel, or the Pushkin cafe, which is a typical option.

If someone was coming to Moscow for the first time, what would you recommend as the top five things to see.

Moscow is full of history with interesting places to see.  The Kremlin of course but also the many museums and the very beautiful Moscova cruise.  The Moscow subway and its grandeur is also something that surprises foreigners.

Your fourth cousin, Prince Aimone of Savoy-Aosta has lived in Russia since 2000 as he is the President of Pirelli.  Are you in contact with him?

[Prince Aimone and his wife, Princess Olga, are descendants of Grand Duchess Olga Constantinova of Russia, who was the consort of King George I of the Hellenes.  Aimone's paternal grandmother, Princess Irene of Greece and Denmark, and Princess Olga's father were first cousins.]  

We know each other and we are in touch.  We exchange messages to know how we are doing during this quarantine.  We were planning to see each other in March, but given the self-isolation restrictions, we had to postpone the meeting.  I'm looking forward to seeing him and talk about several charity projects that we could partner considering as he was recently appointed Ambassador of the Order of Malta to Russia.

I met His Imperial Highness in 2011 in Bucharest when we were among the guests at King Michael of Romania's 90th birthday celebrations.  


Anastasie said...

Thanks for this interview. To my knowledge the Grand Duke is not (yet) married and does not have any children. If the situation remains unchanged, who is next in the line of "succession" ?

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

Mot likely, the leiningens, descendants of Wladimir's older sister, Grand Duchess Maria. her grandson, Karl Emich and his wife converted to Orthodoxy and claims to be the Tsar with the support of a dubious party

John said...

what will happen if George does not make an Equal marriage?