The truth about Prince Alexis d’Anjou-Durassow, Duke of Durazzo

Alexis de Anjou 001His Royal Highness Prince Alexis d’Anjou-Durassow, Duke of Durazzo

In this month of March that we commemorate the One Hundred Anniversary of the Abdication of Nicholas II to the Russian Throne, I cannot stop thinking about a person that, I believe, would have had a significant role in all the controversies still going on, with respect to the true fate of the last Imperial Family of Russia.

Now, let me explain who was  this singular person, who circulated among the aristocratic circles of Madrid during the eighties and early nineties, and  whose fascinating claim was taken very seriously by many; especially by those with links to some of the European Royal houses that lived or came frequently to Spain.

He was charismatic, educated and charming and used to introduce himself as Prince Alexis D’Anjou-Durassow, Duke of Durazzo. According to his narratives, he was direct descendant of Tsar Nicholas II, since her Grandmother was Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna Romanov, third daughter of the last Tsar and therefore he was the Head of the Russian Imperial Family. This statement bought him many problems within his family.

I met Alexis in 1979 after my dear friend Prince Sergei Nazarewicz, whose family originated from the Ukraine, received a Manifesto in which he, Alexis, proclaimed himself Volodar (King) of the Ukraine.

Fascinated by history as I am, and especially about the Russian revolution and its aftermath, I arranged to meet Prince Alexis. I wondered if indeed he was related to the Russian Imperial Family, and especially how his grandmother Maria Nikolaevna had been able to escape from Russia. By that time I had already read the book “The File on the Tsar”, not only in its English version, but also in the Spanish version published in 1978. British journalists Anthony Summers and Tom Mangold suggested -after a long and professional investigation that lasted six years-,that it was possible that the Tsarina Alexandra and her children were able to escape and therefore, did not die in July of 1918.

I had always believed and still do to this day, that Anna Anderson/Anastasia Manahan was the real Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia; whatever the conclusions of the DNA tests as this tests can be fabricated. In fact the 1994 DNA results have since been challenged by many scientists around the world. According to one of her biographers, Peter Kurth, author of Anastasia, the Riddle of Anna Anderson, “The DNA tests that were done in 1994 are no longer accepted as reliable. But aside from that — I knew her too well to accept on faith arbitrary (and actually dubious) tests that contradict every other scrap of evidence that we have. Anyone who knew her (really knew her, I mean) knows that she was not “pretending” anything. Also, though she became increasingly “eccentric” and at the very end suffered from dementia (was it’s Alzheimer’s? — it was never officially diagnosed), there was never a single crack in her personality.”

http://www.forensicmag.com/news/2015/02/dna-evidence-can-be-faked

Our first meeting was at his  home. Alexis lived in a small but elegant apartment in Madrid’s posh barrio de Salamanca, filled with family portraits and Russian memorabilia. Many more meetings followed. Some were dinners at friend’s houses, others were at my own house. I especially recall inviting him and his mother, Princess Olga Beatrice Dolgoruky to several of the dinner parties and equestrian events I organized in those days. When we met, he was known as His Royal Highness Prince Alexis D’Anjou Dolgoruky. He had proclaimed himself Volodar (King) of the Ukraine with the support of members of the Orthodox Church of the Ukraine before the collapse of the Soviet Union.  Both he and his elegant mother, Princess Olga Beatrice were fascinating people and blended perfectly in the high society life of those interesting years in Europe. Both were fluent in several languages, including Russian, but French was their preferred form of communication.

Prince Alexis has a great presence and he was unnaturally formal unless he felt comfortable enough to speak freely and then he was relaxed and candid in his manner.  He was particularly knowledgeable of the ins and outs of all the Royal Families of Europe. He referred to the members of these families by their nicknames and spoke of them with great familiarity.  In those days after his auto-proclamation as Volodar of Ukraine in exile,  he had already divided Madrid society in two, with one half supporting his claims and the other proclaiming him a fraud.

He was always extremely poised and until he felt comfortable enough to speak freely, he was unnaturally formal.  Very knowledgeable of  the ins and outs of all the Royal Families of Europe, he always referred to the members of these families by their nicknames and spoke of them with great familiarity.  In those days after his auto-proclamation as Volodar in exile of the Ukraine, he had already divided Madrid society with a part supporting his claims and others proclaiming him a fraud. The fact is that controversy was a constant companion in his life.

I never believed he was an impostor, not even after the publication of the Spanish edition of his book in Spain in 1982,  “Yo, Alexis bisnieto del Zar.” in which he claimed to be a Romanov. In the book that became an editorial success , Alexis claimed that his grandmother Maria had revealed that she was in reality not Countess Cecilia di Fonso but Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Maria Nicolaievna Romanov, daughter of Tsar Nicholas II.

EARLY YEARS

Alexis was born on 4 May 1946 in Costermansville (now present day Bukavu, Republic of Congo). There has always been a lot of disinformation about his true date of birth. He himself  claimed in his book that he was born on May 6, 1948, although the truth is that he was born on the same day but in 1946.  All his life,  prince Alexis tried to hide the fact that Victor Brimeyer was his real father. This denial came out of shame because his mother was a teenager when she eloped with Brimeyer, an engineer from Luxembourg; a commoner with no royal blood or aristocratic background.  He even persuaded his mother to sign a sworn notarized affidavit in Belgium on the 7th February 1986, stating that though she was married to Victor Brimeyer at the time of his birth, the real father was Prince Basil d’Anjou-Durassow. This was blatantly untrue! Although they never had any contact, Victor Brimeyer haunted prince Alexis’ life.

The reality behind Alexis birth is the that Princess Olga Beatrice who was a beautiful, seductive and  free spirited young woman, had eloped and married Victor Brimeyer when still a  minor and without the consent of her parents in 1945.  Less than a year later and after Alexis’ birth, the  illegal union was legally annulled. After this scandalous affair, the Princess married Prince Basil d’Anjou-Durassow, born in 1887 and fourty years her senior. They were married in Rome on the 15th of April 1947 by the Archbishop of Minsk, Rizi-Rizki who was then living in exile in Italy. This marriage of convenience did not last very long either but it served its purpose as Basil d’Anjou-Durassow acknowledged Alexis as his flesh and blood.

IMG_2647H.R.H. Prince Basil d’Anjou-Durassow, Duke of Durazzo, Head of the Royal House of Anjou-Naples

IMG_2641H.R.H. Princess Olga Beatrice Dolgorouky at the time of her marriage to Prince Basil d’Anjou-Durassow in 1947

Thus, Alexis was brought up as heir to the Royal House of Anjou-Naples, a defunct royal house revived by a royal decree of King Alfonso XIII of Spain in 1911 and ratified in 1916 by Tsar Nicholas II and King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy. This decree  recognized Basil d’ Anjou-Durassow as the Head of the revived royal house .

On his mother’s side he was a Dolgorouky. His great grandfather was General Alexander Dolgorouky, Commander in Chief of the Ukrainian Army with the support of the German Imperial troops in 1918. In fact, it was he who made the arrangements for Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna to be evacuated from Moscow in October of 1918. She was escorted by Ukranian officers during a train ride to Kiev, using fake documents under the name of a Countess Ceclava Czapska. Maria Nikolaevna arrived safe and sound to Ukraine and was a guest in the house of General Alexander Dolgorouky, where she was introduced to his son Nicholas Alexandrovitch and daughter Maria Alexandrovna Dolgourikaya. A few days later they departed to Bucharest, also accompanied by the husband of Maria Alexandrovna Dolgorukya, a Romanian prince named Vladimir Cantacuzene just days before Ataman Simon Petlioura invaded Kiev on January 2nd, 1919, and forced General  Alexander Dolgorouky into exile to Odessa where he was later murdered

Romance flourished between the Prince Nicholas Alexandrovich and Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna. While in Bucharest, living under the protection of Queen Maria of Romania, the couple decided to marry and continue their journey together. Relatives agreed and they were married in the chapel of the Royal Palace of Cotroceni, close to Bucharest on the 20th January 1919 in the presence of King Ferdinand II and Queen Marie of Romania. Days later they traveled to Serbia, under the protection of the King.  In 1920 they received Italian passports, sent from Rome through diplomatic pouch. Those passports provided the fake identities that they would use until the end of their lives.  The documents presented them as Count and Countess Di Fonso, and with those identities they traveled all over the world, had two daughters: Olga Beatrice and Julia Yolanda and were able to buy properties and lead a “normal” life.

300px-Ceclava_CzapskaH.M. Volodar Nicholas Dolgorouki of the Ukraine-Ruthenia and his wife who later claimed to be Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna Romanov, daughter of Tsar Nicholas II.

On the 14th of March 1939, with the compliance of Nazi Germany, Prince Nicholas Dolgorouky, was proclaimed in Hust (Ruthenia),  king (Volodar) of the newly declared independent Ukraine-Ruthenia but the adventure lasted less than a week, when Hungary invaded the territory and annexed it. Prince Nicholas, a rabid anti-soviet had embraced Nazi Germany, (as many Russians and German Royals did in those days), as the last recourse to eradicate the Reds from their beloved homeland. After this failed attempt, the family escaped to Romania and finally settled in the Belgian Congo. It was into this background that Alexis was born in 1946.

Prince Nicolas DolgorukiThe exiled Volodar Nicholas with his wife Maria and their daughters Princesses Olga Beatrice and Julia Yolanda Dolgorouky

Prince Nicholas realized that his eldest daughter Olga Beatrice lacked maternal instincts and he wisely decided to take over the upbringing of the young prince, who was pampered from birth by his loving grandparents. He was named after the Tsarevich and his Godfather was King Carol II of Romania. According to his memoirs, Alexis’ childhood and adolescence were happy and spent in the family home, Villa Ukraine in present day Bukavu. Since he was practically raised by his grandparents he was widely known as Prince Alexis Dolgorouky. He grew up very close to them, who raised him with strict protocol and provided for him the best education. Alexis spoke fluent French, Italian, Russian, Ukrainian, English and Spanish.

Shortly after the annulment of his mother’s marriage to Prince Basil, she married her cousin, Prince Igor Dolgorouky on 6 September 1948 in the Greek Orthodox Church in Albertville, Belgian Congo. This marriage was also short lived as well as the one that followed to Ferdinand Fabry in London on the 7th of September 1950.  Before her 24th birthday, Princess Olga Beatrice had been married four times!

During those years, the family traveled extensively to Italy, Portugal and the French Riviera. Also made frequent trips to the Egypt of King Farouk. The Egyptian royal family was very familiar with the situation of the Romanovs and always kept contact and provided support to its members in exile.  In public and among the royal families they were known as “the Di Fonso family”. After 1960, once the family returned to Europe, prince Alexis was sent to boarding school in France to further his education. He spent the next ten years surrounded by comfort and luxury; vacationing in the best resorts in Europe, but in that period of his life he did not have a close relation with his mother.

IMG_2651H.I.H Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna Romanov and her grandson prince Alexis in Cannes 1960

On the 4th of May 1966, his twentieth birthday, Prince Basil of d’Anjou-Durassow abdicated his rights as Head of the House of Anjou-Naples and Prince Alexis became Duke of Durazzo and Head of the Royal House. That same day, he met Prince Frederick of Saxe-Altenburg who was a loyal supporter of not only Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna (Anna Anderson) but also of Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna who lived in Menaggio (Italy) under the name of Marga Boodts. The day they met, according to Alexis’ memoirs was when Maria Nikolaevna revealed to him her true identity in  his presence and after that meeting he began to be introduced to other members of the family. He met Prince Felix Yussupov, and his wife Irina, as well as Prince Vladimir (Vova) Vladimirovich, the son of Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovitch Romanov and his wife the ballerina Mathilde Kschessinskaa.

IMG_2652Prince Nicholas Dolgorouky with his wife Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna Romanov and sister in law, H.I.H. Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna Romanov at the Eden Roc Hotel in 1958

IMG_2644H.I.H Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna Romanov, Princess Dolgorouky in 1955

Suddenly, at the beginning of 1970, that world of comfort suffered a hard setback. During the last months of 1969, Prince Nicholas Dolgorouky had been attending some private “top-secret” meetings to discuss the “Affaire Anastasia.”  Both Maria Nikolaevna and her husband were very cautious to the point that they did not discuss anything even with their daughters.  On the 19th January 1970, Nicholas Dolgorouky, the ephemeral last Volodar of the Ukraine died in Brussels.  After one of those “secret meetings” and while driving back towards his home, he started feeling ill. He stopped at the house of his daughter Olga Beatrice, who took him to the hospital. After several days hospitalized and in an almost unconscious state, he died. Unfortunately, he was not able to reveal where the meeting had taken place or who had attended that last fatal session. All symptoms showed that he had been poisoned.  The family mourned and felt a tremendous fear.  From that day on, they felt at risk everywhere. In view of the circumstances the next  month Maria decided to make a civil and a dynastic testament. Shortly after she was diagnosed with cancer. She was devastated and she decided to move to Rome to be close to her sister Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, and await for the day she would be called by the Lord.  In her handwritten notarized dynastic will, prince Alexis was made universal heir with the name Romanov-Dolgorouky, but she asked that her dynastic will would only be revealed until ten years after her death.

IMG_2653The last picture of Volodar Nicholas of the Ukraine and his wife, Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna Romanov, taken in Brussels shortly before his death on the 19th January  of 1970

New Years greeting letter from Their Majesties King Michael and Queen Anne of Romania to Prince Nicholas Dolgorouky and his family. Prince Nicholas had died two days before this letter was written. (Marie Stravlo collection- copyrighted)

Grand Duchess Maria died in Rome on the 1st of December 1970 and she was buried at Flaminio Cemetery in Rome. Prince Basil d’Anjou-Durassow, who had been in contact with Alexis throughout his life died in 1971. From that day on, Alexis was alone and he soon made the first of many tactical mistakes.

Tumba Gran Duquesa Maria, RomaThe grave of Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna Romanov in Flaminio Cemetery (Rome)

THE GREEK MISADVENTURE

After the death of his grandmother Maria Nikolaevna, Alexis felt practically lost. Prince Frederick of Saxe-Altenburg tried to introduce him to some of his friends so that he would receive company and economic support. One of the biggest problems was his economic situation that was really precarious. Several members of royal houses of Europe provided to cover his expenses. He knew that he had to respect the “ten year period” before going public as a descendant of the Romanov Dynasty. He made then a series of mistakes that proved to have  very negative repercussions for Alexis’ image.

The first was when he accepted the invitation from the fascist General Stylianos Pattakos to travel to Athens on the 28th of January 1971. The historical background of this case is very important to understand the situation in which Alexis was entangled.  On the 21st of April 1967, Colonel Giorgios Papandreu headed the military coup d’etat that took advantage of the volatile political situation that had arisen from a conflict between King Constantine II and the aging former prime minister, Georgios Papandreu. From the onset, the relationship between King Constantine II and the regime of the colonels was an uneasy one. The king of the Hellenes finally decided to launch his counter-coup on 13 December 1967 but it failed and on the following day he left Greece with the Queen and their children never to return as king.

In early December 1970, there were two factions within the military rulers of the Greek Junta that ruled Greece with an iron fist. One wanted the immediate proclamation of a republic while the other, of which General Pattakos was its leader, was seeking for the restoration of the monarchy with a new dynasty.  On the 21st February of 1971, General Pattakos arranged for Prince Alexis to be registered in the Athens Town Hall as a step to be de iure a Greek national. His presence in Athens, though secret, obviously reached King Constantine II and thus the rest of the royal houses of Europe who were all in favor of the return of King Constantine and democracy to Greece. Prince Alexis’ presence in Greece alienated him with the people he would most need for his future. The poor prince, inadvertently had become a pawn in the power struggle between the two factions of the  Military Junta and he would soon suffer the consequences. This situation caused a fracture between prince Alexis and the royal houses of Greece and Spain, since Queen Sophia was sister of the Greek monarch.

On the 21st March of 1972, Colonel Papadopoulos, the strongman of the Junta, proclaimed himself Regent of Greece with the intent of eventually proclaiming the republic with him as President. Colonel Ioannis Ladas with the pro-monarchist faction in the Junta planned another coup to oust Papadopoulos, assassinate him  and proclaim Alexis as king. The Secret Services discovered the plot and a purge of the army followed. Prince Alexis was “invited” to leave the country which he did on the 20th of July 1972. The Greek adventure ended in failure. It was the first great mistake of Alexis’ life but it would not be his last.  This misadventure was the first excuse that Alexis gave his enemies to start the campaign to discredit him. Unfortunately he would repeat the same mistake again.

SELF PROCLAIMED VOLODAR OF THE UKRAINE AND THE PUBLICATION OF I, ALEXIS GREAT-GRANDSON OF THE TSAR

From Greece, Alexis flew to Portugal as a guest of his godfather’s widow, Princess Elena of Romania (Magda Elena Lupescu, third wife of King Carol II of Romania).  He lived with her in Estoril for some months, and then decided to move to Madrid in early 1973. Prince Alphonse of Bourbon-Dampierre, cousin of King Juan Carlos of Spain, who was married to General Franco’s granddaughter, Carmen Martinez-Bordiu, had arranged a residence permit for him in Spain.

In November of 1976 an organized movement called the Ukrainian Public Group to Promote Implementation of the Helsinki Accords was established in Kiev and was  formed by poet Mykola Rudenko and nine other persons concerned with the violations of rights in Ukraine. By the end of the decade, of the 33 members of the group, only six were in freedom, the others had either been arrested, granted visas to the West or resigned. Sometime in 1979 concerned by the terrible Soviet repression and with the support of  the Metropolitan of the Carpatho-Ukrainian Orthodox Greek Church in America, Archbishop Ambrosij,  prince Alexis made the second error of his life by auto-proclaiming himself Volodar of the Ukraine following the footsteps of his grand father. His intentions were noble, for he felt that the Ukrainian people should not be alone in their struggle. He wanted to lead them to a free world and help them seek new ways of spotlighting their plight. Also, to support them in their aspirations to regain freedom and independence. Though made with the best of intentions and the welfare of the Ukrainian people in mind, it did not achieve anything but negative publicity. In my opinion he should have returned to the Ukraine immediately after its independence in August 24 of 1991. Then he could have lobbied for the restoration of the monarchy as a unifying force and a national symbol of statehood as the Bagrations did in Georgia at the same time. There, the restoration of a constitutional monarchy is still a possibility.

In 1976, BBC journalists Anthony Summer and Tom Mangold published their bestseller “The File on the Tsar”, after five years of investigations. They traveled extensively and interviewed many people with deep knowledge of the whereabouts of the Imperial Family of Russia, including members of royal houses like Lord Mountbatten, Vladimir Kyrillovich, prince Frederick  of Saxe-Altenburg, and Prince Sigismund of Prussia. They tracked down witnesses and long-lost documents. The search led to Moscow, Tokyo and Washington and their persistence finally paid off when they found at Harvard Houghton Library, a suppressed bulk of documents not included in the  official dossier on the murder of the Imperial Family written by investigator Sokolov in 1924. – Their book “The File on the Tsar” concluded that the public was fed a lie and, that at least, the Romanov women were evacuated “alive” from the Ipatiev House. They did not die at Ekaterinburg, but became pawns in an international power game, involving Lenin, the Kaiser, the British Royal Family and British Intelligence.  Summers and Mangold’s book, published in 1976 confirmed to Alexis what he already knew, but he still had to wait four more years until 1980 to divulge to the world that his grandmother was Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna Romanov. It was then when he started considering publishing his memoirs. He discussed the possibility of the publication of his book with members of the Romanov family and with prince Frederick of Saxe-Altenburg who had been a staunch supporter of the surviving Grand Duchesses. Every one of them, including his mother princess Olga Beatrice and his aunt princess Julia Yolanda tried to persuade Alexis to wait. His Russian Romanov cousins were completely aware of his  existence as well as of his desire to make such a publication. Some of them advised not to publish, others suggested to include some changes, beginning with the title of the book. They did not really want these family secrets revealed because some people that had been involved were still alive. But stubborn as he was, he went ahead with his plan to publish.

On the 16th of January of 1980, prince Alexis granted an interview to Spanish royalist newspaper ABC who was sympathetic to his cause and to the theory of the survival of the Imperial women as per the investigations of Summers & Mangold.  Unfortunately for his cause and under pressure from his enemies, ABC became their voice and turned against him in a savage and cruel way.

H.R.H Prince Michel of Orleans, Count of Evraux and H.R.H Prince Alexis d’Anjou-Durassow who presided the ceremony of the Order of St. Lazarus of Jerusalem at Blois Cathedral in France in 1987

The book was first published in France. As expected, it caused enormous speculation and sensation and opened the door to more controversy and more attacks against the prince. Alexis used the book not only to reveal his grandmothers true identity, but also her dynastic will by which he was appointed by her as Tsarevich or Tsar in waiting and the Head of the Imperial House of Russia. The following year the book was published in Spain, stirring even more controversy, as it was the country where Alexis lived.

H.R.H Prince Alexis d’Anjou-Durassow and H.H Prince Frederick of Saxe-Altenburg in Madrid in 1980

To me, the book despite its gaps, was a re-confirmation of what Grand Duchess Anastasia (Anna Anderson) had told Anthony Summers and Tom Mangold, during her bizarre interview. The authors of the bestselling book: The File on the Tsar say  that she refused to talk, but when they were leaving she exclaimed, “There was no massacre there….but I cannot tell the rest.” So if there was no massacre, then at least the Tsarina and the four grand duchesses survived as the research of Summers and Mangold suggests. This is also maintained by historians such as Marc Ferro, Michel Wartelle and Marie Stravlo who are to this day dedicated to uncovering new evidence that will prove this plausible theory.

We all know the fact that in 1992, the UK-based Forensic Science Service worked with the Russian authorities to try to identify the alleged remains of the Romanovs using forensic techniques. DNA-based sex testing and a DNA profiling technique called ‘short tandem repeat analysis’, which looks at repeated patterns of DNA sequences, proved that the bodies came from a family group. Forensic scientists used mitochondrial DNA analysis, which they use when only minute amounts of DNA are available, or when the DNA samples have been degraded by time, to analyse DNA samples from the bones. These were compared with relatives of the Romanovs, including Prince Phillip (Duke of Edinburgh and husband of Queen Elizabeth II), and the scientists concluded that there was a 99% probability that the skeletons were those of the Romanov family.

In 1993, I personally wrote a letter to prince Alexis encouraging him to also run DNA tests, using his blood and some hair samples that he had from his mother and grandmother. In 1994 he started the procedures. His representative in London, Sir Frank Peters contacted Dr. Pavel Ivanov and Dr. Gill. Alexis choose a laboratory in Madrid and provided the samples; but sadly he became very ill after he submitted the samples and died soon after. I really don’t know what happened to those samples or if they were tested in England. What I know is that in 2004, scientists from the USA argued against the results from the UK Forensic Science Service, based on an analysis of the DNA from the preserved finger of Tsarina Alexandra’s sister, the Grand Duchess Elisabeth Feodorovna. They suggested that the people who handled the alleged bones of the Romanovs in Russia probably contaminated the samples from the grave-site, perhaps intentionally. In any case, I have done some research on DNA and it is known currently that it is possible to fabricate DNA in a lab. That absolutely leaves the door wide open to further investigation in spite of the efforts of the Kremlin and Europe’s Royal Houses to put this historical enigma to bed, once and for all.

Maria-Nicolaevna-RomanovPrince Alexis better than anyone, knew the laws of succession to the Russian Imperial throne, known as the Pauline Laws.  We discussed them many times and I remember telling him that even if his grandmother was Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna, he had no claims to the Imperial throne. He was not happy with my views and he claimed that he did have the rights as Tsar Nicholas II had amended the Pauline Laws in 1906 in view of the ill health of his heir, Tsarevitch Alexei. According to prince Alexis this amendment meant that in the case that the Tsar died without male heirs the throne would go to the eldest surviving female line closest to the last Tsar. Alexis’ interpretation was incorrect since even today, I have never found any documents substantiating this amendment. In any case, in those days it was impossible to know if he was right or not but the reason for my argument was that the Pauline Laws made very clear that a woman descendant could claim her rights to the Throne of Russia only in the absolute absence of male members of the Imperial Family of Russia to succeed. These  laws were implemented by Tsar Paul I in 1797.  This meant that even if the survival of the Grand Duchesses was one day accepted as a historical fact, Alexis could never be the Head of the Russian Imperial Family because there were Romanov princes descended from lateral male lines that would always have more rights than him. He also knew the Act of Abdication of the late Tsar Nicholas II in favor of his brother the Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich and the later resignation of the latter transmitting the rights of the Family to the decision of the Constituent Assembly (Sobranich).

The publication of the book  made him two new powerful enemies: The Romanoff Family Association and Grand Duke Vladimir Kryllovich Romanov who also lived in Spain and claimed to be the Head of the Family, a claim that was not accepted by either Alexis or the Romanoff Family Association who never recognized the title of Grand Duke that was used by Vladimir until his death.

The book was the excuse his enemies had to go to work together in an effort to totally discredit him through the press in a smear campaign that included disinformation, slander and lies. A campaign that reminded me of the dirty antics used against Grand Duchess Anastasia by her enemies during the longest running court case in German history to date. He was called an impostor and anything that could hurt him was published: Victor Brimeyer, about his mother’s many marriages and the Greek episode, all had negative impact.  He was even accused of name appropriation in the French courts by Grand Duke Vladimir when Alexis’ book was published in France. This case was won by Alexis and it was a sweat victory, when Vladimir was condemned to pay Alexis for the damages.

During the following years prince Alexis maintained his dignity and kept fighting to prove  the truth. He had been told by his grandmother Maria Nikolaevna, that the Vatican had helped them during the negotiations to obtain their liberation. It was also the Vatican who provided some protection during their lives in exile. It was necessary for his cause to find some documents that would proof such divine intervention. The person with more experience and contacts was undoubtedly prince Frederick of Saxe-Altenburg, and he asked him to do so. During 1982 the old German prince started his investigation with even more interest and desire to discover the whole truth. As I mentioned before, he had been in contact with all three sisters, Grand Duchesses Olga, Maria and Anastasia during many years. He focused then all his attention in a place full of secrets: The Vatican.

In conversations with high ranking members of the Holy See, Prince Frederick managed to get bits and pieces of a fascinating story. Prince Alexis told me that he used to inform him on the progress. He contacted somebody that would provide excellent information; somebody from the very inner circle of Pope Pius XII: Mother Pascalina Lehnert, the nun that was the governess to the Pope for over forty years. She had been his shadow; knew everybody and everything that was going on at the Vatican. The information that she provided was mesmerizing.

It was at that same time that Alexis asked for help from another friend, Fray Fernando Lamas, a friar living in Rome at the Monastery of Saint Giovanni Decollato. Fray Lamas also visited Mother Pascalina and gathered new information from her. After that first interview with the nun, he wrote a long dossier to Prince Alexis with every detail of the meeting. Now he knew who helped his grandmother, and about the meetings of Maria and Olga Nikolaevna with Pope Pius XII. He also knew about the existence of documents in the Vatican archives, some of which he was able to acquire and include in the new edition of his book that would be published in Italy.

On November 13, 1983 during a trip to Vienna, Austria, Mother Pascalina died. The next day the news was reported around the world and on the 15 of November, the most important newspapers in Rome published with headlines the statements made by Pascalina about the survival of the Romanov women and the news was picked up by the world press. Alexis was delighted but most of Europe’s royal houses were upset by the leak of what they considered a family secret and a discreet campaign of damage control was launched.

It was during this turmoil in the press that I received a phone call that politely suggested that my social standing could suffer if I would continue my acquaintance with prince Alexis. Unfortunately, being young and insecure, I ceased my contact with the prince, something that to this day I regret wholeheartedly as had I continued my acquaintance with him, I have no doubt that I would have had the opportunity to investigate further and would have had access to a treasure cove of important documents and testimonies that supported prince Alexis’ claims.

I now know, thanks to the excellent investigations of journalist and author, Marie Stravlo, that most of those documents, contained in seven bulky folders, were handled by Prince Alexis in November of 1993 to the Russian Ambassador in Madrid, to be considered by the special commission conformed in Russia. The same special commission that was investigating the murder of the Imperial Family and had requested the DNA tests of the alleged bones of the Romanovs discovered in 1991. As I mentioned before, I encouraged Prince Alexis to perform DNA tests of himself and his mother (who at that time was still alive) and his grandmother.  He had a representative in London, who contacted Dr. Gill and Dr. Ivanov who were at the Aldermaston Institute. There exist documents and testimonies about such actions.

THE SERBIAN FIASCO

On the 9th February of 1992 in a contortion of the Yugoslav political scene, the Spanish conservative daily ABC reported that a Serbian delegation headed by Milan Babic, president of the Autonomous Serbian Republic of Krajina, a territory in Croatia with a strong Serbian majority and by Vojislav Seselj, president of the Serbian Radical Party and commander-in-chief of the Chetnik guerilla forces, was due to visit Spain momentarily to meet with Alexis d’Anjou-Durassow, to offer him the throne of Serbia! The visitors were members of a Serbian extremist faction.

With the exception of Babic and Seselj the delegation was made up by people known for their extreme nationalism and aspirations for “Great Serbia”, or the incorporation to Serbia of all the territories of the former Yugoslav republic with a Serbian majority. Thus a Serbia which would include a good part of Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo. Further, Milan Babic and Vojslav Seselj opposed the UN peace plan for Yugoslavia and the presence of the “Blue Berets” in territories with a Serb majority in Croatia.

Rade Atic, publisher of the Yugoslav opposition magazine “ON” and a member of the delegation, said that the purpose of the visit to Spain “was to offer the Serbian crown to  Prince Alexis d’Anjou.” According to the magazine’s article of the 10th January of 1992, “there has been much well-founded excitement generated in Serbian circles in the last few weeks on the subject of Prince Alexis II Nemanitch Romanov Dolgorouky, Grand Master of the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem.”  Well-founded because “Prince Alexis is undoubtedly the descendant of the glorious Serbian Tsar as well as of the famous royal family Nemanitch”. For Mr Rade Atic and Mr Borivoje Borovic, after two months of research which included the examination of many documents, genealogical tables and correspondence, had come to the irrevocable conclusion that Prince Alexis II is the descendant of glorious Hrebeljanovic Nemanitch and great grandson of Nikolaj II Tsar of Russia. In another part of the article the magazine stated that, “the Serbian connection comes through two marriages. The first, was that of Jelisaveta, daughter of Dragutin Nemanitch, with Etien Kotormanic. Their granddaughter, also named Jelisaveta, married Louis I d’Anjou, King of Hungary. The father of Prince Alexis II is a direct descendant of that marriage. The other connection comes through the great grandmother of Prince Alexis II, Princess Cleopatra Dabic Kotromanic, who was the descendant of Prince John, married to Maria, daughter of Tsar Lazar.” Further along the article, we learn that “many Serbs want” Prince Alexis II to accept the crown and that Serbia will soon become a monarchy. Prince Alexis II, however “will accept only under the condition that it reflects the will of all Serbian people including the Serbs who are now in Bosnia, Croatia,Slovenia etc.”

Alexis confirmed that he had been in touch for the last six months with Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic who favored a restoration of the monarchy. He recognized that there was a wide difference of opinion between Milosevic, who accepted a UN role, and Babic, who did not. Milosevic allegedly told Alexis that he would like to make use of him in some way in an effort to find an honorable “way out” but that he was, in the final analysis, responsible for the war. Once again he was used as a pawn in a power struggle but he did not realize it and the only reason I can think for this terrible judgement mistake is that he was by then so disenchanted with his life of a prince without a country that he decided to play along. This mistake would destroy the little credibility that he had and his reputation with the other European royal houses left beyond repair.

Two days later, on the 11th of February 1992 in a private ceremony that took place in the Parador Nacional de Monte Perdido in Bielsa (Aragon), Alexis solemnly accepted the crown of Serbia. According to ABC,  in his acceptance speech he made an allusion to God and referred to a “Great Serbia” which would include all the territories of the former Republic of Yugoslavia.  He also stated that his heart bleeds for the suffering of the Serbian people and made reference to several of his ancestors among which were the Serbian Nemanitchs, Serbian Tsar Lazar his great grandfather twice removed and Tsar Nicholas II of Russia his great grandfather. He promised to undertake to assume his obligations as “Prestolonaslednik and Great Voivod of Greater Serbia and of all Serbian lands.” The Spanish paper concluded that Alexis in reality was accepting the crown of a huge nonexistent Serbia whose borders he claims were those of 1918.

Evidently Alexis never traveled to Belgrade to sit on the Serbian throne! After this fiasco, he had no chance whatsoever to be accepted into the “Royal Club,” as all its members  rallied in support of His Royal Highness Prince Alexander Karageorgevic  and looked aghast at the pantomime. They had done the same during his Greek ill-fated adventure.

PRINCE ALEXIS’ OBSESSION WITH BEING ADOPTED

To try and analyze the psyche of another human being is a mission better left to professionals. In my limited understanding, I must suppose that Alexis’ obsession with being adopted by different father figures came from the lack of having that figure in his otherwise happy childhood. He hardly ever saw his “official” father, prince Basil d’Anjou-Durassow, who was of a similar age as his grandfather Nicholas Dolgorouky. Indeed,  prince Dolgorouky was the most positive male influence during his growing up years.

Adoption by Prince Nicholas Louise d’Anjou-Durassow

On the 1st November of 1979, Alexis was adopted by his cousin Prince Nicholas Louis d’Anjou-Durassow. The document states that “the undersigned Nicholas Louis Durassow, Prince d’Anjou Durassow, by these presents adopts his well-beloved cousin H.R.H. Don Alexis Dolgorouki d’Anjou-Durassow, prince d’Anjou-Durassow, Duke of Durazzo, stateless and under the protection of the Spanish state with identity document N.93.315, born in Bukavu, 4 May 1948, only son of my deceased Cousin and head of our family Prince Basil d’Anjou- Durassow, Duke of Durazzo (1887-1971).” The document concludes that Nicholas Louise authorizes his adopted son and heir as of the date, to style himself in Spain using the traditional and complete form of the name as recognized by King Alfonso XIII: “Durassow d’Anjou-Durazzo”.

One would ask why would prince Alexis need his cousin to adopt him? Why was he craving for such a recognition that he did not need? I can only speculate that the reply lays in the insecurity that he felt due to the fact he knew that his biological father was Victor Brimeyer and this was something totally traumatic and unacceptable to him.

Request of adoption to Prince Frederick of Saxe-Altenburg

In 1982 prince Alexis asked Prince Frederick of Saxe-Altenburg to adopt him with the excuse of obtaining German nationality. The German prince not only declined the request, but also gave serious advise to him concerning his responsibilities and his behavior. Prince Frederick came from a German royal family with strong connections with all the royal houses of Europe. He was loved, respected and considered a scholar in royal genealogy and European History. His dealings with Alexis were causing concern to some of his friends and relatives. Prince Alexis did not like nor understood his refusal and their relationship was hurt but after a short rift, they went back to their old warm relationship.

Adoption by Prince Bruce Alphonse of Bourbon-Condé

On the 3rd of February of 1984, Prince Bruce Alphonse of Bourbon-Condé, who three months later married Princess Olga Beatrice, officially adopted Alexis and authorized him to use the name of Bourbon-Condé. This is probably one of the most bizarre episodes in Alexis’ tragic life and unheard of in royal circles where the members of the different royal families only uses the surname of the father. From that day onward he would style himself as Prince Alexis d’Anjou Bourbon-Condé and Romanov-Dolgoruky, Duke of Durazzo.

Her Royal Highness Princess Olga Beatrice Dolgorouky with her son Prince Alexis d’Anjou-Durassow, Duke of Durazzo at the time of her marriage to Prince Bruce Alphonse of Bourbon-Condé.

EPILOGUE

Princess Olga Beatrice died on the 18th of May 1994 and was buried in San Sebastian (Spain). Her demise was another big blow for Prince Alexis. Despite their cold relationship during many years, when she became the widow of prince Bruce Bourbon-Condé, she moved to Madrid to be close to her son. They lived in the same building and kept a close contact. Mother and son were starting to grow a bond when she was diagnosed with cancer. After her death, Prince Alexis became ill and very depressed. His few loyal friends tried to distract him.  He was unable to work or carry out any political activities. His only goal was to demonstrate who he really was using scientific evidence. He never knew what happened with all the documents that he sent to Russia in November of 1993, to be studied by the commission. He had big hopes on the DNA testing, but his condition worsened; by the end of 1994 he was very weak. Forgotten by his Ukrainian supporters and ostracized by the European Royal Families and Madrid society, he died in great solitude on the 27th of January 1995 at the Hospital de la Princesa in Madrid supposedly from a double brain tumor. Some friends and acquaintances attributed his passing to pneumonia, others said it was a heart attack and many believed he was the victim of systematic poisoning.  Before he died he was able to make a testament by which he appointed Regent of the Neapolitan Royal House of d’Anjou-Durazzo and Lieutenant Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of the Ecumenical Knights of Malta O.S.J, his aide Emilio Lobera, Baron of Lobera. To this day Emilio Lobera is active in his mission to preserve the legacy of this tragic twentieth century prince, who during the course of his life never really found an identity with which he identified and felt at ease.

In my opinion, Alexis should have only been known as prince Alexis d’Anjou-Durassow, Duke of Durazzo. I know for a fact that this was the advice he received from some of his influential friends in Spain which he did not follow.  Sadly for him, he was not very good at heeding advice.

Had the Ukrainian people  decided the return of the monarchy, as was his pretension, at that time he could have changed his name to Dolgorouky (his mother’s name).  When his grandfather, Prince Nicholas Dolgorouky  died in 1970 he passed the rights to the throne of Ukraine to Alexis. After that day, he started to be known as Alexis d’Anjou-Dolgorouky which could be acceptable, especially in Spain where everyone, by law, uses both parents surnames.

The later addition of Romanov to his name, was in my view another judgement mistake, though it had been his grandmother’s will that he do so. It is unheard of in royal families to do such a thing because as I previously mentioned, all members of royal families only use their dynastic family name!

The cherry on the pie which discredited him further and gave his enemies the argument that he was an impostor suffering from folie de grandeurwas when he added to the long list of dynastic names,  Bourbon-Condé.

One can understand that being legitimate is essential for a member of any royal family but prince Alexis, though genetically the son of Victor Brimeyer, was not illegitimate. It is vital to understand this. He had been recognized by his official father, prince Basil d’Anjou-Durassow as his son and heir. On his mother side he was a member of the House of Dolgoroukov, an old Russian princely family that was a cadet branch of the Obolenskys. Sadly for prince Alexis, the shadow of Brimeyer would haunt him all his life and in my opinion it is the cause behind this absurd obsession of adding dynastic names to d’Anjou-Durassow as part of his quest for the recognition he so much craved.

The smear campaign against  prince Alexis continued well after his death and sadly with the advent of the World Wide Web his enemies made sure that his name would remain in the mud for generations to come by publishing different negative articles with the knowledge that he could no longer defend himself. I think that for history’s sake, it would be good to set the record straight through further scientific investigation and leaving aside personal feelings as he is no longer a threat to anyone’s interests.

In spite of the controversy that followed most of his decisions, Alexis had a kind nature and was a refined man of aristocratic manners. Highly cultured and with a great sense of humour, he was also very stubborn as Taurus are and in his own way quite a rebel. A true gentleman in the most ample concept of the word. With the perspective of time, I feel honoured to have been able to share some time with him and regret my erred decision not to have continued my acquaintance with him which could have very well ended in sincere friendship. May his soul rest in peace.

H.R.H Prince Alexis d’Anjou-Durassow ( Madrid 1985)

CONCLUSIONS

After many years of study and talks with specialists on the this fascinating mystery, I have come to the conclusion that the fate of the Romanovs could very well be included in a book titled One hundred years of deceit. I still ask myself why isn’t the truth allowed to resurface as all the main characters in this drama are deceased? Why is it still necessary to maintain the charade of the Ekaterinburg  murders?

I am convinced that the grand duchesses and the tsarina survived Ekaterinburg. I am now also certain that prince Alexis was not an impostor but a victim as was Anna Anderson/Anastasia Manahan (Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikoliaevna).

I have just found out that prince Alexis suffered the same hereditary malady as the tsarevitch, Alexei Nikolaevich: hemophilia. For some reason he hid this from everyone  with the exception of just very close friends. This is further proof of his Romanov connection.

I hope that some of the historians that are dedicating their lives to investigating the theory of the survival of the Imperial family and very specially, my friend Marie Stravlo, will soon publish a detailed account of the fate of the four beautiful grand duchesses. I know for a fact that she has interviewed people all over the world with amazing stories and connections to the truth, and has thousands of documents to support the real version of what really happened in Ekaterinburg in 1918.

And to conclude this article, let us go back to the Pauline Laws and to who is the Head of the Russian Imperial Family in 2017. After the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II in favour of his brother Grand Duke Michael who was proclaimed “Emperor Michael II,” to Russian troops and in cities throughout Russia, the new Emperor deferred to the will of the people and acknowledged the Provisional Government as the de facto executive, but neither abdicated nor refused to accept the throne. In his statement he said:

“Inspired, in common with the whole people, by the belief that the welfare of our country must be set above everything else, I have taken the firm decision to assume the supreme power only if and when our great people, having elected by universal suffrage a Constituent Assembly to determine the form of government and lay down the fundamental law of the new Russian State, invest me with such power.
Calling upon them the blessing of God, I therefore request all the citizens of the Russian Empire to submit to the Provisional Government, established and invested with full authority by the Duma, until such time as the Constituent Assembly, elected within the shortest possible time by universal, direct, equal and secret suffrage, shall manifest the will of the people by deciding upon the new form of government.”

As I have mentioned, the Pauline Laws  provide for succession by both male and female dynasts and they establish male-preference primogeniture.  This means that succession to the throne (or headship of the dynasty) passes by primogeniture to the senior male dynast.  At the death of the last male dynast, the succession passes to the female dynast most closely related to the last emperor.

For nearly two centuries, from the accession of Emperor Paul I in 1796 to the death of Grand Duke Vladimir in 1992, male dynasts held the throne or headship of the dynasty, based on primogeniture.  Due to the numerous non-dynastic marriages that occurred after the Revolution of 1917, the male dynasts of the Imperial House grew smaller in number as the years passed and finally died out in 1992.  The last living male dynasts were Prince Vassily of Russia who died in 1989 and Grand Duke Vladimir Kyrillovitch who died in 1992.

According to the Russian Legitimist Organization, as there are no male dynasts, the succession to the headship of the dynasty has passed to Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna.  She is the surviving female dynast most closely related to the last emperor, Tsar Nicholas II (or Michael II), but The Romanoff Family Association is not in agreement with this point of view or this interpretation of the Pauline Laws.

http://www.russianlegitimist.org/

http://www.romanovfamily.org/

I attended the same school in Madrid that Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna went to, and have had the honour of knowing her since those days. I was invited to the baptism of her son and heir, Grand Duke George. I only have praise for her and her work on behalf of the monarchy in Russia. In March 2013, her claim was recognized by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Kirill I, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia and this has drawn further supporters among Russians to her cause and the possibility of the restoration of the monrchy. In an interview, the patriarch firmly rejected the claims of the other Romanov descendants and stated, “Today, none of those persons who are descendants of the Romanovs are pretenders to the Russian throne. But in the person of Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna and her son, George, the succession of the Romanovs is preserved — no longer to the Russian Imperial throne, but to history itself.”

http://www.imperialhouse.ru/en/

 

 

 

 

Pope Francis’ war against the Vatican traditionalists and the Catholic branch of the Order of Malta

What started out as a fight over staffing of the Catholic branch of the Order of Malta, has escalated into a public battle between His Holiness Pope Francis and the ultra conservative Vatican forces who oppose his progressive policies.

The  dispute began when British born Grand Master Mathew Festing sacked Grand Chancellor Albrecht von Boeselager who was accused of allowing the distribution of condoms to the poor in Burma. Von Boeselager protested that his dismissal was deeply unfair, a complaint that resulted in Pope Francis launching an investigation that was considered unacceptable to the Grand Chancellor who considered it meddling by the Pope in the Order’s internal affairs and refused any cooperation with the Pope’s commission of enquiry which in his opinion had no jurisdiction over the Order.

PA-20196555-800x500His Holiness Pope Francis and the former Grand Master of the Catholic branch of the Order of Malta, Mathew Festing

The Vatican reacted to the challenge with barely concealed anger, saying that the Pope had every right to intervene in the affairs of the Order because as leader of the Catholic Church, he was its spiritual head. The row between the Vatican and the Grand Master has ended with his forced humiliating resignation and the appointment of a papal delegate that will govern the Order until a new Grand Master, supposedly with progressive views more in tune with those of His Holiness is appointed.

Immediately after the resignation of the Grand Master, the Pope announced that all “disciplinary procedures” against Mr von Boeselager were immediately scrapped and his suspension from the Order, which had been decreed by Mr Festing, was annulled and he was reinstated as Grand Chancellor by the Sovereign Council, the governing body of the Order.

cvlmlt39_gran-ospedaliere-albrecht-freiherr-von-boeselagerThe Grand Chancellor, Albrecht von Boeselager

The New York Times has published that, “Conservatives have denounced what they call an illegal annexation of the Order and a purging by the a power- obsessed Pontiff, while liberal observers saw the whole episode as resulting from an act of subterfuge by the Pope’s most public critic within the Vatican hierarchy, the American cardinal Raymond Burke.”

The confrontation was viewed as a microcosm of the battle within the Vatican between conservatives and liberals, as Pope Francis upsets hardliners with his more compassionate stance on many important matters such as divorce, homosexuality, inter-religious dialogue, multi-culturism  etc.

The new political climate with the election of Trump as President of the United States and the rise of far-right populists in Europe have emboldened ultra conservatives in the Vatican who sense that the Pope could be vulnerable.

It is known that Pope Francis is critical of the paraphernalia surrounding the Knights of the Order and has, when he was cardinal in Argentina, a series of run-ins with the Argentinian Knights because of their display of wealth and their lack of charitable activities that in those days were limited to a charitable ball.

The resignation of the Grand Master has delighted the Pope’s followers around the world who support his compassionate approach as it has showed that conniving conservatives cannot push His Holiness around.

The Lieutenant Grand Master of The Sovereign Order of the Ecumenical Knights of Malta, Baron of Lobera has made a statement after the resignation of Mathew Festing:  “We are glad that the unfortunate and regrettable dispute that the Catholic branch of the Order of Malta has had with His Holiness Pope Francis has been solved with the resignation of the Grand Master.  Our branch has nothing to do with this dispute and we are totally supportive of  His Holiness’ view point in this dispute.
We are purely  a humanitarian organization  with members of both genders, all religions and many different cultures serving the common good. We support fully the Declaration of the Vatican Council II, entitled Nostra Eatate, on the relations of the Church with non-Christian religions, one of the milestones in the propitiation of inter-religious dialogue, which spread through the Secretariat for non-Christians, instituted by H.H. Pope Paul VI in 1964, and continued with the Pontifical Council for the interreligious dialogue created by H.H. Pope Juan Pablo II in 1988 with the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus. This policy is now followed by H.H Pope Francis”.

The Ecumenical branch of the Order of Malta moved to Russia and placed itself under the protection of the Tsars when the Order was exiled from Malta after Napoleon’s invasion of the island.

183760_4559811113049_850026826_nThe Lieutenant Grand Master of the Sovereign Order of the Ecumenical Knights of Malta O.S.J, Baron of Lobera

 

Why we must save Civil Society organizations that are under attack by goverments.

It is of great concern that governments around the world and even governments in democratic countries are threatening Civil Society Organizations such as Avaaz, Greenpeace and others by passing draconian laws to limit their influence and punitive measures against them and their followers.

One of the main organizations under attack is Avaaz—meaning “voice” in several European, Middle Eastern and Asian languages—launched in 2007 with a simple democratic mission: organize citizens of all nations to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want and since then has exploded to become the globe’s largest and most powerful online activist network and governments don’t like this at all as Avaaz empowers millions of people from all walks of life to take action on pressing global, regional and national issues, from corruption and poverty to conflict and climate change.

So Avaaz and other Civil Society Organizations are under grave threat as Governments worldwide are passing ‘gag laws’, prohibiting protest and intimidating or closing down organisations in the biggest crackdown on civil society in a generation.

India-gag-lawIndia gag laws!

It isn’t just repressive regimes like Egypt that kick out Avaaz staff and those of other Civil Society Organizations. In India, the biggest democracy in the world, Avaaz has been vilified and harassed by the government. In Spain Avaazers could be fined up to 600,000 euros just for participating in a peaceful protest. In Israel a draft law threatens to label brave human rights organisations as “foreign agents”, and cut off their international funds. And in Uganda a government body can dissolve any group it doesn’t like!

Over 60 countries now have laws that inhibit non-governmental groups.

Human rights organisations and campaign groups are facing their biggest crackdown in a generation as a wave of countries pass restrictive laws and curtail activity. Almost half the world’s states have implemented controls that affect tens of thousands of organisations across the globe.

Over the past three years, more than 60 countries have passed or drafted laws that curtail the activity of non-governmental and civil society organisations. Ninety-six countries have taken steps to inhibit NGOs from operating at full capacity, in what the Carnegie Endowment calls a “viral-like spread of new laws” under which international aid groups and their local partners are vilified, harassed, closed down and sometimes expelled.

James Savage, of Amnesty International, says: “This global wave of restrictions has a rapidity and breadth to its spread we’ve not seen before, that arguably represents a seismic shift and closing down of human rights space not seen in a generation.

“There are new pieces of legislation almost every week – on foreign funding, restrictions in registration or association, anti-protest laws, gagging laws. And, unquestionably, this is going to intensify in the coming two to three years. You can visibly watch the space shrinking.”

Among countries that have recently cracked down on NGO and civil society activity are:

India The government labelled the environmental NGO Greenpeace as “anti-national”, blocking its bank accounts, deporting foreign workers and preventing local staff from travelling abroad. Licences for more than 13,000 organisations have been revoked for alleged violations of a law on foreign funding.

China Under a new law, NGOs will be required to register with the police and obtain approval to carry out activities, and submit annual activity plans and budgets to a supervisory unit.

.Russia “Undesirable” international NGOs can be shut down. In July, the Washington-based National Endowment for Democracy became the first organisation to be banned under the new law.

192017_police_violently_disperse_a_spontaneous_protest_in_moscow_february_2014-1Russian Security Forces attacking peaceful demonstrators in Moscu.

Egypt Sweeping new legislation on “terrorist entities” could encompass human rights and civil society organisations. NGOs are already required to register with the government.

Uganda A government-appointed board will have power to reject or dissolve NGOs and civil society organisations. Harsh penalties – including imprisonment – await individuals who violate a law enacted in April.

Cambodia A new law requires registration and annual reports to be filed with the government. NGOs can be disbanded if their activities “jeopardise peace, stability and public order or harm the national security, national unity, culture and traditions of Cambodian society”.

Tom Carothers, of the Carnegie Endowment, says: “Big countries that have been the drivers of this crackdown have continued to lead the way – and smaller countries are following their lead.” Restrictive measures are both formal, in the form of legislation, and informal – harassment, intimidation, demonisation, bureaucratic burdens. “Just counting NGO laws doesn’t quite give you the full picture.”

The causes of increasing restrictions are complex, say organisations that monitor civil society activity, but broadly fall into three categories.

First is the shift in political power away from the west, the main source of funding for domestic civil society groups and the base for most big international NGOs. At the end of the cold war, the US and other western countries stepped in to assist newly democratising countries and burgeoning grassroots organisations.

But, more recently, many governments in the developing and post-communist world have pushed back against what they see as western interference. “This is the end of the post-cold war period in which [the west] felt that liberal democracy and western concepts of human rights were spreading around the world, to a period in which there’s a relativisation of political values and the questioning of a common narrative,” says Carothers.

Second, governments have woken up to the power of civil society – particularly after pro-democracy uprisings in former communist states and the revolutionary wave that swept through the Middle East.

“In most countries where leaders don’t allow a lot of pluralism or democracy, they’ve learned to tame opposition political parties,” Carothers says. “But the deepest fear of repressive governments is that they wake up in the morning, open the shutters of the presidential palace, and look out to find 100,000 citizens in the square saying ‘enough!’. That’s scary and uncontrollable,” particularly, Carothers adds, when coupled with technological skill in harnessing the power of social media to organise and spread messages.

The third cause of the NGO crackdown is the proliferation of counter-terrorism measures – often promoted by the west – that sweep civil society organisations into their embrace, either inadvertently or deliberately. Legitimate measures to curb funding of and money-laundering by terrorist organisations often have a debilitating effect on NGOs.

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This is affecting civil society in the west itself, and has consequences around the world, say campaigners. Savage says states such as the UK and US that have been supportive of NGOs and been human rights defenders are, because of the practices they are introducing in their own states, undermining their ability to have positive influence and push back at restrictions that are “much graver” in places such as Russia and Egypt. “That’s a very worrying new trend,” he says.

High-profile global organisations with strong reputations, such as Amnesty International, have greater protection from the worst effects of the crackdown – although Greenpeace was targeted in India, and Save The Children was temporarily expelled from Pakistan.

But, according to Poonam Joshi of the Fund for Global Human Rights, the effect on domestic NGOs and civil society groups can be paralysing. “You see organisations go very quiet, no one wants to rock the boat. And many face a new bureaucratic burden that affects their operational capacity.”

In response, the UN has appointed Maina Kiai as a special rapporteur to focus on freedom of expression and assembly. The EU organised a global forum of more than 200 civil society participants last December. Development branches of western governments, foundations and global NGOs are training and advising local groups on how to respond to new restrictions. Amnesty International has identified defending NGOs and human rights campaigners as one of its five strategic goals, and will launch a global campaign next year.

But reversing the trend is challenging. “Once laws come in, it’s very difficult to repeal them,” says Joshi. “This is an uphill struggle, but a critical one.”

The new assault on NGOs has intensified principally in countries such as China, Russia and central Asia, where notions of democracy range from primitive to non-existent. But, worryingly, an array of democracies or semi-democracies have joined the list including Spain, Israel, India, Ecuador and Hungary.

I raise my voice to help Avaaz by donating so that they can get a team of the best international pro-democracy lawyers. They already have a small but efficient team but this crackdown by governments is a declaration of war against free speech. It isn’t just repressive regimes like Egypt that kick out Avaaz staff. In India, the biggest democracy in the world, Avaaz has been vilified and harassed by the government. In Spain Avaazers could be fined up to 600,000 euros just for participating in a peaceful protest. In Israel a draft law threatens to label brave human rights organisations as “foreign agents”, and cut off their international funds. And in Uganda a government body can dissolve any group it doesn’t like!

We already know that having a top legal team works. For example,  when the South African government tried to censor Avaaz’s campaign against the lion bone trade, they took them to court and won a landmark free speech case that set a standard for the whole country. And with enough support, they with us, can together:

  • Expand the Avaaz legal team to have top class representation where Avaaz is under attack
  • Hire lawyers to challenge Hungarian officials’ abuse of EU or international law.
  • Build a data base of the best pro-democracy lawyers in the world and bring them together to form the Avaaz pro-democracy law group
  • Develop legal challenges and lawsuits to take on the rogues whenever they come after us.

This last decade has seen a surge of people power with the Arab Springs, massive anti corruption protests in India, Brazil and Spain, and people raising their voices and taking to the streets in droves. These regressive laws show our strength. We can’t now let governments crush an informed and organised citizenship, it is a crucial pillar of democracy and we must defend it.

rtx1iikeProtesting against the gag law in Spain which a panel of United Nation human rights experts and the Human Rights Watch advocacy group have both condemned the law. (Associated Press).

There are moments where risking everything is necessary to preserve the very core of what Avaaz has worked so hard to create. That’s what they did when taking on powerful media barons in England and government cronies in Canada. That’s what they are poised to do now in India and Spain if they can raise the funds. It’s what they can do everywhere for us, Civil Society.

PLEASE DONATE GENEROUSLY because we need to be able to be heard. Democracy is under fire with multinational companies controlling the world economy and the governments of the world who in turn want to control us by preventing we speak out.

I suggest that for all of those who have yet not read our latest novel, The Twilight of the Fourth World you do so and maybe all of us together with organizations such as Aavaz can prevent things getting worst.

 

The disgraceful attitude of the Six wealthiest Muslim nations towards the refugees.

exilioThousands of refugees escaping the war in Syria, Libya and other countries of the region.

Not since the II World War have we seen this dramatic images of thousand and thousands of people trying by all means to escape the civil war that we, the West have created in Iraq, Libya and Syria. The images move even the most cold-hearted as these poor people of all social backgrounds leave their countries with nothing and in the hope of reaching safety.

We have successfully changed the regimes of terrible dictators in Iraq and Libya to replace them by a civil war. In fact both these states can be considered failed states. In Syria, Assad still manages to hold on to part of his power thanks to the Russians and Chinese but at a terrible human cost as Syria is in the midst of a bloody civil war with no end in sight.

So these circumstances have created a refuge crisis. Europe has been accused of not doing enough and of reacting late to the crisis but having said this we have accepted close to 400.000 refuges to date. Europe has also been accused of preferring Christian refugees to Muslim ones and though the followers of both religions are victims of this tragedy, it is my opinion that the Christians should be accepted first in order to protect them from the radicals in the countries where they are escaping from.

refSyrian refugees in Hungary

The governments of the  less wealthy Muslim countries such as the Kingdoms of Morocco and Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Tunisia have behaved themselves with incredible generosity in this crisis and all have accepted large numbers of refugees though their resources have been put to the limit. Bravo for them but the question now is why the 6 wealthiest Muslim countries (Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Bahrein, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates)  do not feel any empathy for these hundreds of thousands of people who follow their religion and that in need of desperate finding a place to restart their lives? Why are they not moved by images like the following one?

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ADDS IDENTIFICATION OF CHILD   A paramilitary police officer carries the lifeless body of Aylan Kurdi, 3, after a number of migrants died and a smaller number were reported missing after boats carrying them to the Greek island of Kos capsized, near the Turkish resort of Bodrum early Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015. The family ó Abdullah, his wife Rehan and their two boys, 3-year-old Aylan and 5-year-old Galip ó embarked on the perilous boat journey only after their bid to move to Canada was rejected. The tides also washed up the bodies of Rehan and Galip on Turkey's Bodrum peninsula Wednesday, Abdullah survived the tragedy. (AP Photo/DHA) TURKEY OUT
A paramilitary police officer carries the lifeless body of Aylan Kurdi, 3, after a number of migrants died and a smaller number were reported missing after boats carrying them to the Greek island of Kos capsized, near the Turkish resort of Bodrum early Wednesday, Sept. 2, 2015. The family ó Abdullah, his wife Rehan and their two boys, 3-year-old Aylan and 5-year-old Galip ó embarked on the perilous boat journey only after their bid to move to Canada was rejected. The tides also washed up the bodies of Rehan and Galip on Turkey’s Bodrum peninsula Wednesday, Abdullah survived the tragedy. (AP Photo/DHA) TURKEY OUT

This six countries have not offered to resettle a single refugee and I find this outstanding as it goes against the teachings of their Holy book. So why Europe is criticized for taking only close to 400.000 refugess these 6 wealthy Muslim countries so far  have practically not even been rebuked for their uncharitable attitude toward this terrible suffering.

According to the Washington Post:

“That’s a shocking figure, given these countries’ relative proximity to Syria, as well as the incredible resources at their disposal. As Sultan Sooud al-Qassemi, a Dubai-based political commentator, observes, these countries include some of the Arab world’s largest military budgets, its highest standards of living, as well as a lengthy history — especially in the case of the United Arab Emirates — of welcoming immigrants from other Arab nations and turning them into citizens.

Moreover, these countries aren’t totally innocent bystanders. To varying degrees, elements within Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the U.A.E. and Kuwait have invested in the Syrian conflict, playing a conspicuous role in funding and arming a constellation of rebel and Islamist factions fighting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

None of these countries are signatories of the United Nations’ 1951 Refugee Convention, which defines what a refugee is and lays out their rights, as well as the obligations of states to safeguard them. For a Syrian to enter these countries, they would have to apply for a visa, which, in the current circumstances, is rarely granted. According to the BBC, the only Arab countries where a Syrian can travel without a visa are Algeria, Mauritania, Sudan and Yemen — hardly choice or practical destinations.

A spokesman for UNHCR, the U.N.’s refugee agency, told Bloomberg that there are roughly 500,000 Syrians living in Saudi Arabia, though they are not classified as refugees and it isn’t clear when the majority of them arrived in the country.

Like European countries, Saudi Arabia and its neighbors also have fears over new arrivals taking jobs from citizens, and may also invoke concerns about security and terrorism. But the current gulf aid outlay for Syrian refugees, which amounts to collective donations under $1 billion (the United States has given four times that sum), seems short — and is made all the more galling when you consider the vast sums Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. poured into this year’s war effort in Yemen, an intervention some consider a strategic blunder.

As Bobby Ghosh, managing editor of the news site Quartz, points out, the gulf states in theory have a far greater ability to deal with large numbers of arrivals than Syria’s more immediate and poorer neighbors, Lebanon and Jordan:

The region has the capacity to quickly build housing for the refugees. The giant construction companies that have built the gleaming towers of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Riyadh should be contracted to create shelters for the influx. Saudi Arabia has plenty of expertise at managing large numbers of arrivals: It receives an annual surge of millions of Hajj pilgrims to Mecca. There’s no reason all this knowhow can’t be put to humanitarian use.

No reason other than either indifference or a total lack of political will. In social media, many are calling for action. The Arabic hashtag #Welcoming_Syria’s_refugees_is_a_Gulf_duty was tweeted more than 33,000 times in the past week, according to the BBC.”

I could not agree more with this point of view.

As the columnist Qassemi writes: “The Gulf must realize that now is the time to change their policy regarding accepting refugees from the Syria crisis. It is the moral, ethical and responsible step to take.”

 

Disenchanted youth and why they should be taught to be MOTIVATED!

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I just found some days ago that the thirteen year old son of someone I love very much is smoking hashish. Smoking at that age is obviously not healthy because the the body is not physically developed and it is definitely harmful for his health but what worries me most is that mentally at that age one is not developed enough to understand what is to be under the influence of a substance even if it is not strong and socially acceptable.

Please do not take me wrong. I am a believer that drugs should be legal and controlled and sold by the government as not only it would mean an end to the mafias that now control this profitable market but it would also mean revenue for the government and a control on quality etc.  There is no doubt in my mind that this is the best way forward. But let us go back to my friends son. When she told me I realized how confused and worried she was and I asked her why as I tried to reassure her that it was most certainly just  a passing phase of rebellion. She confided in me that the fact that he was smoking was though disturbing, not what worried her. Her grave concern came after her son told her that he did not like this world and the injustice in it!

Why would a young teenager  with a solid good education and a loving family feel so disturbed by the world around him  and have no motivation to do anything about it? This made me think and think until I came to the conclusion that today’s youth have grown in a technological world with values very different to ours and as they grow many of them see that truly the world is not a just place and they realize they have nothing to look forward or at least this is what they feel. So what can we do to help them?

My sister Charis and I have written a lovely novel, The Twilight of the Fourth World which is an epic fantasy full of beautiful messages directed mainly to the young of the world but also to all of us adults, that still have their youngster alive in them.  Everybody with help can start seeing the glass half full instead of half empty.

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I have decided to write an e-book that will be distributed at a small cost world wide recounting a story that will inspire and motivate the young of the world. I will write it and dedicate it to my friend’s son and hopefully I can help him find his way. I agree with him that the world is not a fair place and that their is much ugliness around us, but there is also much beauty. it has never been fair. It was not fair in our time or in our parents time. That is the way of the world but we can do things to make the world a better place and one of them is not complaining.

We must all start by practicing gratitude and counting all our blessings. There is always someone that is in a worst place than ours  and therefore everything is relative. How about inspiring those youths that feel lost and disenchanted to become volunteers in their free time and help those less fortunate than them? Giving and helping others is a most enriching experience that makes one  feel very satisfied and enriched. The feeling of being needed!

I hope that I will succeed in my endeavor. I will definitely will put everything I have into achieving this goal and I Invite all my readers to make suggestions and participate in this beautiful project with suggestions, ideas and even personal experiences and stories.

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A teenager should be happy and discovering all the wonderful things that the Universe has to offer. It is a period of discovery and joy and should never be one of sadness and depression.

Thank You!

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