I interviewed HRH Princess Tatiana (nee Tatiana Blatnik) at the Athens Yacht Club, the venue where she had officially announced her engagement to HRH Prince Nikolaos of Greece and Denmark. She walked in tall, elegant, beautiful and welcomed me with a big, authentic smile! I was stunned by her incredible energy, she has a great sense of humor and immediately “broke the ice”, by starting to “interview” me instead, right on the spot! Unpretentious and dynamic, she then answered all my questions with the essence of a woman, who has lived and travelled all over the world and navigates life with great grace, as well as with the outmost “joie de vivre”.
Tatiana is a sworn fan of a healthy lifestyle and living; she adores Greek cuisine and believes in the fierceness of women’s collaborations. You can tell, from the way she talks about her work, that she is totally dedicated and is hands-on with all her projects. Her genuine enthusiasm about Greece is admirable, as throughout her interview she constantly shed a positive light on every aspect of the country’s beauty (Athens has been her current residence since 2013). Listening to her perspective, while she was temperamentally waving her hands in the air, I couldn’t help but notice that: Tatiana has embraced living in Greece with such warmth that she seems to have assimilated this country’s mannerism and culture.
In the interview below, she speaks with great passion about her husband and her admiration for him, her love for Greece, all of her non-profit collaborations, as well as her future projects.
Q & A
You moved to Greece in 2013. Did you find it easy to adjust?
I was born in Venezuela, then moved to Switzerland and grew up there. I then moved to DC, New York, London and finally Athens. Having lived in so many cities and having been exposed to so many different cultures and nationalities gave me a multicultural viewpoint, something which helped me with my move here. I loved moving to Greece, but it was also a bit difficult, as the loss of anonymity made me feel a little bit uncomfortable at first. Gradually though, I embraced the idea and this was what actually allowed me to see how warm the people were. They were so nice and welcoming, and it was my daily trips to the “manaviko” (grocery store) that, so to speak, allowed me to fall in love with the country. And really, it didn’t take long!
In 2013, due to the crisis, some people were packing up to leave, while we were packing up to come here! Nikolas and I drove all the way here from London; we literally did the whole journey, so it really felt as if we were leaving that life behind and driving to our new one, in Greece. Quite an emotional journey, especially the moment we locked the house in London, dropped the key through the mailbox and said to each other: “All right, here we go!”.
When I moved here, I sort of jumped in and started meeting the right people… All these different individuals and organizations that were flourishing due to the difficulties. It was these very people, who showed me the positive aspects of the country, that inspired me to love it.
So, although we moved to Greece at a time when so many people were deciding to leave, it was a conscious decision, and I haven’t looked back ever since. Building a home here has been a lifelong dream of Nikola’s, and in fact, he has always called Greece “Home”.
You have a passion for natural and healthy living. Is this something you were brought up with or have you cultivated it over the years?
Definitely something I was brought up with! It’s a lifestyle that my mother has always had; she has always been healthy and this was something pretty natural and normal about our family. Growing up, we always had carrot juice and fresh muesli every morning, as well as fresh eggs from the farm we lived at. The pursuit of a healthy lifestyle has always been something constantly present in my life. It’s really part of who I am. But since I moved here, it has become even more real. Before this, there was a lot of talk about being healthy; here in Greece, I feel much heathier about what I put in my body and implement much more of the things that I say: “living seasonally & eating fresh products”.
I love to share this way of living. One of the greatest things (although I don’t know how much he is going to like me saying this…) has been watching Nikola’s taste buds change. We’ve been together and known each other for a long time. When we first met, he had different cravings for… let’s say, Burger King or Coca-Cola, (which I don’t think he has had in ten years) and now, when I ask him: “What would you like to eat?”, he answers “Crunchy vegetables!” To watch someone change like that, I think it’s just incredible, because you actually start craving what your body needs rather than what you think you want.
You have a very loving marriage with HRH Prince Nikolaos. Is there a secret to a happy marriage? Did you instinctively feel he was “The One” when you first met him?
Quite a few people ask me this and I always want to have a smart answer… But I believe the one thing you can be certain of in life is change. And if you are able to accept that with your life partner, or your husband, along with the fact that they are going to change, as well, that is beautiful. Your marriage is not going to stay the same forever, but you can hold each other’s hand as you change, and allow each other to change together. What I have come to realize is that we’ve been together for a long time and what has kept us together is that we give each other the space and freedom to change along the way.
I didn’t know right from the start… he knew. He saw me and he knew! But I think, somewhere deep down inside me, I knew, too, although I was in another world. I was living in DC, he was living in London. It was a very beautiful courtship, long distance though, he pursued me for a year and a half, with flowers and phone calls… And then, of course, I fell in love! Believe me, our story sounds much nicer coming from him!
You are a member of the Royal Family, a title that certainly comes along with a great deal of responsibilities. Do you find it constraining or restricting at times?
No, it doesn’t. I mean, you asked me before whether I knew Nikolas was the one for me, and I have to say that marrying and being part of the Royal Family is an honor. At the end of the day, though, what I feel is that I’m I married to the man I love!
I feel very honored and I remember coming here to the Yacht Club, where we made our engagement announcement, looking around and thinking: “Oh my God, this is going to be such a responsibility!” But then I thought – if anything – it was an opportunity to do the things that I love and be able to help others.
Naturally, as with any new situation you put yourself in, you have to learn. I think with any wedding and any new family, there are always interesting dynamics. In my case, however – I really have to admit – They are so warm and such a united Family!
What has been your favorite part of writing your book “A Taste of Greece” and which one is your favorite recipe from those recorded?
A Taste of Greece was a very special collaboration because of all the people who worked on it. Other than myself, there was the Publishing House, there was Boroume, there was Diana Far Louis, and then, there were forty other more well-known personalities from all over the world. It was really a joint effort, and actually, Nikola’s photos, featured in the book, added to this being a beautiful project!
I have always loved cooking. I have always been mostly at home and in the kitchen. In fact, one of the things I have always dreamed of doing was to write a cookbook. And then, fast forward, I met the founder of “Boroume”, who wanted to do something quite similar to writing a cookbook, in order to support their institution. So, when we came together, it was just like the idea had finally made sense, and we decided to collaborate.
Recipe wise, I’m a seasonal person. For example, right now I’m craving “Karpouzi Gaspacio” (watermelon gaspacio) and “Horiatiki Gaspacio” (greek salad gaspacio). They are both amazing! In winter, though, one of my favorite dishes is “Kotosoupa Avgolemono” (chicken soup). No doubt, though, “Horiatiki Gaspacio” is one of my favorites. It is the simplicity and quality of the ingredients that make it so special.
You have co-founded ELPIDA Youth and have strongly supported it over the years. Could you tell us more about this institution and what has been achieved so far?
I’m very proud of what ELPIDA Youth has achieved. This branch of ELPIDA Association of Friends of Children with Cancer, was something Marianna Goulandris, Laoura Lalaounis and I co-founded back in the middle of 2015, in the spirit of continuing ELPIDA‘s legacy. We wanted to create an institution for the care and well-being of children. ELPIDA Youth deals with the psychological and emotional issues of children in treatment. It provides a holistic approach of wellbeing out of the hospital’s medical halls.
None of us are health care professionals, but we thought: “what are the other ways that your wellbeing can be impacted?” The first thing that came to mind was the environment. So, we decided to refurbish and renovate the guest house, where the children stay. It has been exactly the same since 1999 and, through ELPIDA Youth”, we raised funds to do the first two floors in 2016. It looks incredible!
The second thing we wanted to do was start a summer camp program for children with cancer. Again, we have raised enough funds and we will be launching it this summer. We will be renting a regular summer camp, at the Corinth Ranch, for one week. There are going to be approximately 100 children, all in the maintenance phase; they have already gone through their treatment in ELPIDA. They will be coming from all over Greece and it will be our pilot program. In May, for the work we’ve done so far, we will be awarded by the “Hellenic Initiative”, a non-profit organization of the Greek Diaspora.
I would like to emphasize that this idea would not have been realized without the precious help of the amazing women backing up this project. There are twenty five girls behind ELPIDA Youth that work so hard. Women united that get things done!
What about your involvement with the Bodossaki Foundation and more specifically, their programs “Safe Home” and “Thought for Food”?
It was wonderful when the Bodassaki Foundation decided to start a program for the unaccompanied refugee children and I have been happy to lend them my support for this specific Safe Home program. The program’s aim is to build and provide shelter for these children – to create the best possible “home away from home” for them. Most recently, the Bodassaki Foundation launched Thought for food, which, in essence, supports Greece through agriculture, and I definitely believe in that project, so the moment I heard about it, I was more than eager to support it!
You have also co-founded TRIA ETC company. Could you tell us about it?
TRIA ETC was co-founded by Christina Filiagouridou, Elina Sbokou and myself. And I have to say that working with all these amazing women makes me feel very lucky! What I love most about TRIA ETC is that I got to travel the country from Zagorohoria to Metsovo, Soufli, Naxos and elsewhere. We have really travelled all over the country, we have met many artisans, mainly women, and we have commissioned them to make a limited number of items. We have also commissioned Sofia Kokosalaki, who has made two designs for us; she does the design and then, we get the silk from Soufli. With TRIA ETC, different collaborations are constantly being initiated, bringing people together from all over Greece, mostly women. Check our new website, it is up and I love it!
The shirt I’m wearing today, as well as the Kokosalaki scarf, are my favorite TRIA ETC items at the moment. They all tell a story, a Greek story! And I believe shopping and buying something that has a meaning behind it is very important. My favorite choice for a gift, would be… A cook book, food or something artisanal. I promise you, this has always been my life path… I’ve always bought gifts that are either local or traditional; as well as items that have a personalized “meaning”. So, for example, if I know it’s for Aliki (Tatiana’s work colleague) I’ll probably give her some delicious herbal infusions that I know she loves; to you, instead, I would give an amazing pair of leather sandals made by Greek artisans; and for you Anna, (our interview photographer), a very cool, handmade strap for your camera! Whatever the gift, it must have been made by a woman and it must tell a story!
Your husband, HRH Prince Nikolaos, has a very creative side, as he has recently picked up photography professionally. Was it Greece that also inspired him?
He has always loved being behind the camera lens, but it was not until we moved to Greece in 2013 that he decided to pick it up professionally. He couldn’t believe the light, he was shocked; every day he was like: “Have you seen it?!” and I was like: “I know, I’ve seen it, it’s beautiful! Now, what do you want for dinner?!”
He is really good and he has really got a good eye and he captures it beautifully. Photographer… isn’t that a greek word meaning “to write the light?” Isn’t that beautiful? (I looked at her surprised that I hadn’t thought about this before… and told her so.) To which she replied laughing: “Well, I’m so glad I taught you Greek today!”
So, because of Nikolaos involvement, I started thinking how Greece can inspire people. And actually, due to the various difficulties, the economic and poltical situation in Greece, the cost of living, which is quite low, quite a few international artists have come to set up their studios here. This is something that also happened in Berlin, over two decades ago. Creativity flourishes because people need to express themselves in some way. Over the years, I’ve seen how many people come to Greece and they get so inspired, just by being in this country. I don’t know whether it is the light, the energy, the food. It’s probably everything together!
Could you share any of your future projects or plans with us?
I’m actually very excited talking about “Horiatiki Gazpacho”…! We are having a collaboration with the Belvedere Hotel, in Mykonos, which is going to be featuring three signature dishes in the menu of the hotel’s new restaurant, called THEA. The menu has been created by the executive chef, Nikos Zervos, and inspired by recipes from A Taste of Greece. One of the dishes is the “Horiatiki Gazpacho”! All ingredients are local and seasonal – Pure Greek food at its best! Part of the proceeds from each each dish is going to be donated to Boroume.
I’m really excited about continuing to do the things that I love, which is supporting people, promoting Greece and Greek food – it all comes full circle!
Photo Credit: Anna Tagkalou