The quality of mercy
Princess Katherine of Serbia is a monarch in a radically-changed and ever-changing world but she carries one old-fashioned habit that still resonates: she cares not only for her subjects but for all people in need and she uses her position and connections to help in any way she can.
“At a young age I asked my mother, ‘What do you want me to be when I grow up?’ she remembers. “And she said, ‘I want you to be a good example.”
It doesn’t take riches to set a good example: it just takes honor and a care and concern for others.
As Eleni Kostopoulos reports in this issue on the Princess, “For the last three years, (the Princess’) Lifeline Humanitarian Organization’s Athens office has refocused its efforts on the financial recovery of Greece. Princess Katherine stressed the importance of not only reaching out to the victims her native country’s citizens but also working to prevent closures of essential establishments.
“The people of Greece have been so amazing and charitable to Serbia over the years, and now it’s their turn to receive the help they need from us,” says the Princess.
Kostopoulos reports, “Her organization has raised funds for various institutions, including Together for Children (“Mazi Gia to Paidi”), a non-profit aimed at offering assistance to more than 10,000 children and young people in need, particularly to those facing social exclusion, domestic violence, mental or physical disabilities and other challenging circumstances.”
The BBC reports the financial crisis in Greece has hit the bedrock of Greek society the most: families and children.
“One morning a few weeks before Christmas a kindergarten teacher in Athens found a note about one of her four-year-old pupils. ‘I will not be coming to pick up Anna today because I cannot afford to look after her,’ it read. ‘Please take good care of her. Sorry. Her mother.
‘In the last two months Father Antonios, a young Orthodox priest who runs a youth centre for the city’s poor, has found four children on his doorstep – including a baby just days old. Another charity was approached by a couple whose twin babies were in hospital being treated for malnutrition, because the mother herself was malnourished and unable to breastfeed.
‘One woman driven by poverty to give up her child was Maria, a single mother who lost her job and was unemployed for more than a year.
‘Every night I cry alone at home, but what can I do? It hurt my heart, but I didn’t have a choice,” she says.
‘She spent her days looking for work, sometimes well into the evening and that often meant leaving eight-year-old Anastasia alone for hours at a time. The two of them lived on food handouts from the church. Maria lost 25kg.
‘In the end she decided to put Anastasia into foster care with a charity called SOS Children’s Villages.
“’I can suffer through it but why should she have to?’ she asks.’”
It’s shocking to hear in this holiday season the level of desperation for families and particularly children in a country that has endured so much throughout its history.