The Lifeline Humanitarian Organization was founded in 1993 by the Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia as part of an international effort to address the tragic situation in the former Yugoslavia, which was afflicted by conflict and sanctions. The goal of Lifeline is to reduce and relieve the suffering of physically and mentally disabled children, orphans, the elderly as well as to improve medical facilities in the country. Impact Wealth speaks to Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine who have devoted their lives to improve the quality of life for their people, and in the process transformed the image of Serbia through their numerous royal humanitarian projects in the works.
What are some of the charities you are involved in?
– Crown Prince Alexander: The motto of the Royal family of Serbia is “From the people, for the people” and it is the duty of every member of the Karadjordjevic family to be in the service of the people of Serbia and the Republic of Srpska, to provide help and support wherever is needed. It is an important tradition, set up by my ancestors, my great-grandfather, King Peter I, my grandparents, King Alexander I and Queen Maria, as well as my father King Peter II. Even today, after so many decades have passed, their endowments are still standing and serving the people. They have set a path for us, and we are following in their footsteps.
My wife devoted her life to helping our people, and with the kind support of many great benefactors from our diaspora, as well as our many foreign friends, she managed to provide significant help to our people. Your readers might not know that, after World War Two, a non-democratic communistic regime seized power in Yugoslavia, confiscated the entire private property of my family and others, and removed our citizenship. I was not even two years old when they declared me an enemy of state no 2, since my father was, of course, enemy number 1. I was quite a dangerous baby, one might say. It was impossible for us to live in our country, but my wife was determined to help even though we were not physically in Serbia.
The first Lifeline office was established by my wife in Chicago in 1993. Crown Princess wanted to provide aid to people who were suffering from the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, and she felt the willingness of the Serbian diaspora to help their homeland. Immediately after the opening of the first Lifeline office, donors, friends, and supporters showed that they have not forgotten our people, and necessary aid was distributed where it was most needed.
After the democratic changes in Yugoslavia, it finally became possible for us to return in 2001, and immediately after that, my wife established the Crown Princess Katherine Foundation in Belgrade, Serbia. The mission is to help those in need, regardless of religion or ethnic origin. The goal of the Foundation is to improve the lives of vulnerable categories of people throughout Serbia and the Republic of Srpska. In more than 20 years since its establishment, it works tirelessly in providing aid to healthcare, social welfare, and the educational system of Serbia.
Together with the Lifeline Humanitarian Organization in Chicago, New York, Toronto, London, and Athens, my wife, and her Foundation have made it possible for many hospitals, homes for children, schools, and other institutions to be renovated, also necessary medical equipment to be delivered, then providing computer equipment for IT classes, desks, chairs, and whiteboards for classrooms, equipping school libraries with books and providing pupils with school supplies… Also, annual events are being organized for several vulnerable groups such as children without parental care, children with disabilities, children, and adolescents with problems, as well as refugees, the elderly, and people with difficulties in intellectual development, to assist them and provide aid according to their needs. Also, there have been a lot of activities in the field of medical education of doctors in Serbia, connecting them with top-rated medical professionals and institutions worldwide, all for the people of Serbia to have the best possible healthcare.
How would you like your legacy to be remembered?
– Crown Princess Katherine: We would like that it is remembered that we have made a difference, a positive move forward in the lives of the people. Because for everything you do, there is no greater prize than knowing that we have made a positive impact on someone’s life, and when you see an honest smile on the face of a person you have helped.
This is a life journey, I was set on it by my parents, who were great humanitarians and philanthropists in Greece. At that early age, they taught me that there is no greatest joy in life than the joy of giving and I learned by their own example. I am so grateful to them; I wish all the parents would give such an example to their children. I could see that my parents were the happiest when they were doing something for those in need, and I can say that there is no greatest pleasure than knowing you have made a difference in someone’s life and that you have changed it for the better.
I got even more inspiration when I met and married my husband Crown Prince Alexander. He is my King as well, and I respect and admire him tremendously. Meeting him was an answer to my prayers. Seeing the great love he has for his nation inspired me to focus on humanitarian activities and on the people we admire and respect, the same nation I fell in love with immediately. I am grateful to him for giving me the opportunity to help our people. As my husband already said, it is our duty, to always be there for the people of Serbia and the Republic of Srpska. And the people know how we feel for them and return their love to us.
I also must say that it is not only our legacy, but also the legacy of all the wonderful people who have so generously helped us and supported us in following our life mission of assisting and providing for those in need. Only with the great help and devotion of the supporters of the Lifeline Humanitarian Organization and my Foundation in Belgrade, all the good work that we have done was made possible.
I believe it is too early to talk about legacies, since there are still so many people who need our help and support, and our work cannot and does not stop. Our people need us.
What are some of your biggest achievements for the country?
– Crown Prince Alexander: I would like to say that I hope we have managed to contribute to the good name and image of the people of Serbia and of our country in the international community. For me, Serbia is the most beautiful place in the world, and we have so many good, talented people, who have enormous potential. Our people have so much contributed to the entire world but without much-deserved credit. Negative propaganda has done its part, too long we were “the bad boys” or “the usual suspects” for everything bad. It is something that upsets me very much. That is why we used and still are using every possible opportunity to speak in the international media, but also to our many friends abroad, to spread the good word about the people of Serbia and about our homeland. Everybody on the globe must know that, and I think we have managed to break stereotypes and show the world how great our homeland is. Also, thanks to our connections, some very important international companies came to Serbia, that created much needed jobs for our people.
– Crown Princess Katherine: A donation even to the smallest school or an ambulance in some distant village, makes a difference. It is not the size of the donation that is only important, but also how much good it brings.
Among various medical equipment, such as mammography machines, ultrasounds, and sequencers for testing cancer genes, the most important was a digital mobile mammography unit donated thirteen years ago to Clinical center Niš, thanks to the generosity of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, worth $700.000. During this period, over 160,000 women have been examined thanks to this mobile unit. I will share a story about how important this machine is – several years ago, a lady came to the Palace, and was among the people to have a palace tour. I welcomed her and asked her: “Did you enjoy the tour, how do you like the Palace”, and she said to me: “I already had a tour several times in the past, I came only to see you, to thank you personally. The mobile mammography machine that you donated came to my village, I went for an examination, and they found out I had breast cancer. It was caught on time, and I am a healthy woman now, thanks to you! You saved my life! And I felt the need to hug you and thank you for saving my life.” Experiences like this are priceless, they show that the effort is worthy it.
I am also very proud that we have opened the first center for palliative care in Serbia, thanks to the great support of our friend Doctor Elaine Laycock from the United Kingdom. We started this, and palliative care is improving now in Serbia, it is on a much better level than it was 10 years ago. Also, as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic started, we focused our projects to help doctors and nurses who are risking their lives to save the lives of others. We provided them with necessary protective equipment, also ambulances and other necessary devices needed for health care.
We also have a very successful Serbian Diaspora Medical Conference, which was held in Belgrade for the 12th time this year. Medicine is a science that has new findings and new achievements every day, and the exchange of knowledge and experiences in every area of health care is of high importance for doctors and, most importantly, the well-being of their patients. This conference, which more and more doctors from all over the world are joining every year making it possible for our doctors to exchange valuable knowledge, but also to create friendship.
I would also like to tell you about this beautiful tradition my husband has set. As we often say – every kind of support for young people is always welcome and much needed. That is why he started his Foundation for Education and Culture after our return to Serbia, to preserve the tradition of his ancestors and to carry out his personal vision – to provide quality education for the youth of Serbia, so they can achieve personal development, successful careers, and personal fulfilment. The Foundation links Serbian educational institutions with reputable international institutions, with the goal to form highly educated well-trained young professionals, connecting Serbian youth to the business community and to the world. The goal is also to provide the best possible education for young people, so they can come back to Serbia and serve our country and our people in the best possible way – with their knowledge.
One of the main events is a reception for the best high school graduates from the 600 high schools in Serbia and the Republic of Srpska, which we organize every year at the White Palace when we give them a certificate for their academic achievement, they come with their proud parents. In 2021 it was the jubilee – the 20th time since this event started. Unfortunately, because of the pandemic, we were not able to gather the students in the Palace, we organized the conference online, and sent the presents to them, the same as we did the year before. We hope that next year the situation will be better and that my husband and I will be able to greet all these wonderful young people and deliver presents to them again personally. Their commitment and enthusiasm truly are an inspiration as well as a motive to continue supporting them.
What projects are you currently working on?
– Crown Princess Katherine: When the war in Ukraine started, we focused part of our activities in helping women and children refugees from this country. Together with our dear friends, Mr. Edward Wayne and his wife Tatjana Trickovic, and their Humanitarian Organization “The bridge of life” we have managed to deliver ambulances, food, incubators, wheelchairs, and much more directly to the people inflicted by this terrible war. We are working on future projects on how to help those who are suffering in Ukraine.
What are some of the humanitarian projects that Lifeline has championed?
– Crown Princess Katherine: A lot has already been said, but I would also like to mention the project “Children Helping Children” – it was started with the goal to teach children at an early age to provide for those who are in need, and less fortunate. That way, when they learn the importance of helping in the best possible way, by their own example, they will continue sharing the joy of giving when they become adults. We are teaching the children to be good and carrying people, and by setting them on the path of charity when they are young, we want to create a better future for the entire world.
What are some of the goals you have set forth in Serbia that you are working towards?
– Crown Prince Alexander: Our goal is for the people of Serbia to have the best possible conditions for themselves and their families to achieve their full potential. We are a nation of great hearts and of great wisdom. We have so many good, talented people, who have enormous potential. Our people have so much contributed to the entire world – everybody heard about Nikola Tesla, Milutin Milankovic, Mihailo Pupin… Let’s not forget Mileva Maric Einstein, whose contribution to Albert Einstein’s work was very significant. It would take days and days to mention all the names of great Serbian people who gave so much to the world. There are a lot more jewels like this within our people. Great ideas, great intelligence, and a huge potential for the world.
Our wish is also that our people, with everything they have to offer, also work for the good of our country. We are all united in creating Serbia a better place for all future generations.