The Unfading Light Of Charity. Grand Duchess Olga

It should be pointed out, however, that it was not in the Grand Duchess's character to frequent sophisticated receptions very often. She was obliged to attend them very rarely, more out of courtesy. When this occurred, she said these receptions were 'something from another world. Once, however, in September, 1954, one such 'high-class' visit helped the Grand Duchess boost her image in the eyes of certain naive people in her entourage:

"Marina, the Duchess of Kent (the daughter of Helen Vladimirovna), came to visit us. She was really beautiful and very nice. She called to say she wanted to come Saturday, September 4, at 10:30 am. Before she arrived, Tihon and Agneta cleaned up our house (which I was really glad of, since I know I do let things go at times!). A lot of policemen showed up and posted themselves behind the bushes, in the fields and in our garden. My children were so happy with her visit. They jumped around her, poured her a glass of wine and didn't let us speak together, but she really wanted to.

She said that Xenia was fine and I know that Xenia really likes Marina and is glad when Marina visits her. So, we were very glad and our closest neighbours were also very glad and admired her beauty. Other people's opinions of me have gone up. Since this visit, when I go walking past gardens of ladies I don't know, they call me into their yards and ask me questions about my relationship with people of high birth. A store owner Tve been dealing with for three years said to me, 'You must feel very proud that a real duchess visited you' Tihon laughed so hard and was glad and made up all kinds of replies which I didn't use!!"

Portrait of Tihon, Son of Great Duchess Olga Alexandrovna
Portrait of Tihon, Son of
Great Duchess Olga Alexandrovna
Pond 1950
Pond. 1950

To be sure, some naive Canadians could not imagine that living among them was the Grand Duchess, the porphyrogenite child of the Emperor of Russia, Alexander III and sister of the last Tsar of Russia, Nicholas II. Thus, through her birth, Grand Duchess Olga was in no way inferior to an English duchess who was at the very most a great grand-daughter of Emperor Alexander II. Grand Duchess Olga's humility was nonetheless so great and so natural that people considered her an equal. Only those closest to her, as well as Russian emigre's, understood the true picture, however. Precisely because of her dislike for worldly dinner parties and receptions, Grand Duchess Olga preferred to send her paintings to Denmark rather than exhibit them in Canada, since local custom would have required her first of all to create a certain favourable publicity around her name and this would have taken away from her creativity:

Pansies. 1928
Pansies. 1928
"I've started to paint quite a bit. I've really got the desire. What gave me the impetus was a letter from Denmark I received from one of those young people from City who asked me to send over some paintings. It's difficult to do that here. It would be really strange to give an exhibit or do something like that here: invitations would have to be sent to a number of ladies, a sizeable luncheon planned, the 'future exhibit' discussed and then something would actually have to be done... I can't do that. It would somehow be too silly. Gury assures me that everyone does it and that it's the only way to launch any type of business,", — explained the Grand Duchess.

Grand Duchess Olga nonetheless won recognition as a painter on both sides of the Atlantic. Although she herself did not like to frequent Canadian high society, people the world over sought her out and would invite her to their hospitable homes in order to express their appreciation and give their respect. Sometimes this resulted in serendipitous occurrences: some people who thought they weren't acquainted with the Grand Duchess before their visit discovered they had mutual acquaintances! It was on these occasions that her younger son Gury loved to repeat, "Haven't I always said that Denmark was big, but the world is small?"

Yes, indeed, the bonds of love and artistic creation linked the Russian Grand Duchess and the grand-daughter of the King of Denmark with the entire world! The running of a private farm did not turn out as it did in Denmark, so the Grand Duchess soon exchanged it for a small house in Cooksville, a Toronto suburb. It was here that relatives would visit the Grand Duchess: Her Highness Princess Vera Constantinovna, His Highness Prince Vassily Alexandrovich, Marina, the Duchess of Kent and Lord Mountbatten with his wife. Even Queen Elizabeth II invited the Grand Duchess and her son Tihon Nikolaevich to lunch with her aboard the royal yacht Britannia.

In 1951, former officers from across Canada and the United States gathered at the home of Grand Duchess Olga to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Akhtyrsky Regiment. It was upon that occasion the Grand Duchess became Patroness of the Association of Russian Cadets of Toronto.

Memorial to the Last of Great Duchess, Toronto, Canada
Memorial to the Last of
Great Duchess, Toronto, Canada
The Grand Duchess passed away on November 24, 1960, and was laid to rest in the Russian cemetery in North York (now part of Toronto), beside her beloved husband Nicholas Alexandrovich who had passed away two years before her.

The idea for the creation of the Russian Relief Program in the name of Grand Duchess Olga rose nonetheless from the destiny of this humble but very Great Lady. The Christian beginnings of rendering help to one's neighbour, inculcated by the Grand Duchess in her eldest son, Tihon Nicholaevich, have been the source of inspiration for our work. These high ideals are what guide us now and will do so forever.

Mrs. Olga Nikolaievna Kulikovsky-Romanoff Daughter-in-law of Grand Duchess Olga President of The Russian Relief Program in the name of Grand Duchess Olga
Mrs. Olga Nikolaievna
The Ekaterinburg exhibition (July 15 to September 15, 2004) follows the smaller commemorative exhibit held in November, 2001, at the Russian Ambassador's Residence in Washington, D.C., to mark the tenth anniversary of the Fund's activities, as well as the Moscow exhibition in October, 2002, to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the birth of the Grand Duchess.

The opening of the current exhibition in Ekaterinburg was carefully planned to coincide with the Days of Remembrance and Homage to the Tsar held every year at this time in Ekaterinburg. Thousands of Russians faithful to the Orthodox religion make an annual pilgrimage to the Church on the Blood, a shrine to the Tsar and his family who were assassinated on that site during the night of July 16-17, 1918.
Mrs. Olga Nikolaievna Kulikovsky-Romanoff
Daughter-in-law of Grand Duchess Olga
President of The Russian Relief Program
in the name of Grand Duchess Olga

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