On April 23-May 10, 2010, Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, Head of the Imperial House of the Romanovs, made a visit to the United States, to the West Coast and Hawaiian Islands.
This pilgrimage by Her Imperial Highness took place at the invitation of His Eminence Archbishop Kyrill of San Francisco and Western America, with the blessing of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia. Her Highness was escorted on her trip by members of her Chancery from Moscow and the Dean of the Diocese of Australia and New Zealand of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, Mitred Protopriest Michael Protopopoff.
On April 23, Her Imperial Highness traveled from Madrid to San Francisco. At the airport, she was greeted by Archbishop Kyrill, Fr Michael and representatives of Russian and American society.
On April 24, the Head of the Romanov Dynasty, along with Archbishop Kyrill, visited the Church of St Tikhon of Zadonsk at the premises founded by St John of Shanghai and San Francisco, the devoted spiritual father of the former Heads of the Imperial Dynasty in exile, Grand Duke and Titular Emperor of Russia Kyrill Vladimirovich and Grand Duke Vladimir Kyrillovich.
The Grand Duchess venerated the holy icons and relics of the church, visited the cell of St John and conversed with the former residents of the Orphanage of St Tikhon of Zadonsk.
At 5 pm, Her Imperial Highness arrived at the Cathedral of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow,” where Vladyka Kyrill, His Grace Bishop Theodosius and a host of clergymen of the Western American Diocese performed a moleben before the relics of St John of Shanghai and San Francisco the Miracle-worker. The Grand Duchess then venerated the holy relics of the righteous man of God. Vladyka Kyrill gave Maria Vladimirovna an icon of St John containing a portion of his holy relics. During all-night vigil that followed, after the polyeleos, Archbishop Kyrill gave the Grand Duchess the First Order of St John of Shanghai and San Francisco for Her Highness’ “earnest efforts and spiritual podvigi for the benefit of the Church and Fatherland.”
On April 25, the Head of the House of Romanovs prayed during Divine Liturgy in the Cathedral of the Mother of God “Joy of All Who Sorrow” and partook of the Holy Mysteries of Christ.
Vladyka Archbishop Kyrill welcomed Her Highness and gave an profound sermon on the services of the Russian Imperial Dynasty in exile to the Church and Fatherland, and to the special spiritual friendship between the August Parents of the Grand Duchess and St John of Shanghai and San Fransisco.
At the end of Divine Liturgy, the Head of the Russian Imperial House granted the medal of the Imperial Order of St Anna to Archbishop Kyrill (Second Order), to His Grace Bishop Theodosius (Third Order), and the Consul General of the Russian Federation on the West Coast of the United States, VN Vinokurov (Third Order), and medals of St Anna to: Protopriest Stefan Pavlenko (a descendant of Field Marshall MI Golenishchev-Kutuzov, Prince of Smolensk); Protopriest Peter Pererkrestov; Mrs LV Vinokurova, the wife of the Consul General; the head of the Cadets Union Mr SV Danich; Administrator of the Western American Diocese, Mr Peter Karakozov; Mrs E Hattenberger-Smith; Mrs I. Herzen; Mrs E Olhovsky; Mrs Tatiana Pavlenko, and Mrs N. Fisher.
Afterwards, in the Cathedral hall, an official reception was held in honor of Her Imperial Highness. At the beginning of the trapeza, the Cathedral Choir, under the direction of Vladimir Krassovsky, sang the Paschal troparion, “God Save the Tsar” and other church music. In the afternoon, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna was taken on a tour of San Francisco and the historic sites of this magnificent city.
On April 26, Her Highness went to the Serbian Orthodox Cemetery of San Francisco, where thousands of Russian refugees were laid to rest. A litiya was performed for the repose of the August Ancestors of the Grand Duchess at the cemetery chapel by Archbishop Kyrill: Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich; Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna; Titular Emperor Kirill Vladimirovich; Titular Empress Victoria Feodorovna; Grand Duke Vladimir Kirillovich and all the Orthodox Christians who laid down their lives abroad for the Faith, the Tsar and the Fatherland. After the litya, the Head of the House of Romanovs honored the memory of the first Consul of Russia on the West Coast of America, A. Vyvodtsev and his wife, E. Vyvodtseva; the Russian Cadets; the St George Cavalrymen; His Imperial Highness Prince of the Imperial Blood VasiliyAleksandrovich and his morganatic wife, nee Princess N.A. Golitsyna; the Cossacks and the victims of the Lienz Betrayal.
After the cemetery visit, the Grand Duchess visited the Old “Joy of All Who Sorrow” Cathedral, where, together with Archbishop Kyrill and the Deputy Rector of the church, Hieromonk James (Corazza), she venerated the mantle of St John of Shanghai and San Francisco, as well as a reliquary which contains the Honorable and Life-Giving Cross of the Lord, and the holy relics of Her Highness’ heavenly intercessor, St Mary Magdalene, Equal-to-the-Apostles. Fr James then told Her Imperial Highness about the Cathedral’s history.
In his opening greeting, Mr Vinokurov noted the achievements of the Grand Duchess in benefit of the Fatherland, and noted her important help to the government of the Russian Federation, and the restoration of the historic legacy of public life, patriotic education and the defense of national interests of contemporary Russia throughout the world.
On April 27, Her Highness visited the Lycee of St John of Shanghai and San Francisco, where the students performed a concert. Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna then proceeded to the Memorial Church of the Royal Martyrs, then visited the Russian Cultural Center, where she spoke with the little kindergarteners and viewed the museum, library and offices of Russkaya Zhizn [Russian Life] and the Congress of Russian Americans.
Her Highness then visited the headquarters of the Cadet Union and the Veteran’s Society, where she viewed its museum. The Lady’s Society of the Cadet Union offered a luncheon in honor of the Grand Duchess’ visit.
That evening, the Head of the House of the Romanovs visited the Scout House and met with scouts of all ages, and with representatives of the Cossacks’ Union. The Scouts hosted a formal reception in honor of the Grand Duchess, attended by Archbishop Kyrill, Bishop Theodosius and other important guests.
On April 28, the Head of the House of Romanovs was escorted by Archbishop Kyrill, Bishop Theodosius and Mr Vinogradov to Fort Ross—a Russian settlement dating back to 1812. Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna herself raised the Russian flag and shot the ceremonial cannon. Then, at the Chapel of the Holy Trinity at Fort Ross, the Paschal troparion was sung, and thereupon, at the cemetery, “Eternal Memory” to those Russians who participated in the settlement of California. On the way back, driving along the Pacific coast, Her Highness was able to see the local fauna, including seals basking off the coast.
On April 29, Her Imperial Highness visited Napa Valley, took the “Napa Valley Wine Train” and visited one of the finest vineyards in California, Far Niente, owned by Jeremy Nickel. That evening, a member of the High Council of the Russian Imperial Union-Order, Mr George Kumansky and his wife, Mrs Liliya Kumansky, the President of the League of Russian American Women, hosted a dinner in honor of the Grand Duchess. Among the guests were Archbishop Kyrill and the clergymen of the Western American Diocese, and Mr and Mrs Vinokurov.
On April 30, the Head of the Romanov House, joined by Archbishop Kyrill, Bishop Theodosius, the clergymen of the Diocese and her assistants took a cruise in San Francisco Bay on the yacht Nehemiah. Upon their return, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna traveled through the downtown area on the historic San Francisco cable car.
That evening, Mrs Hattenberger-Smith and her daughter hosted a reception for Her Highness, the new Knights of St Anne, which was attended by Archbishop Kyrill, Bishop Theodosius, Mr and Mrs Vinokurov, Mr and Mrs Kumansky and other members of Russian and American society.
On May 1, Her Highness, Archbishop Kyrill and the Diocesan clergy visited Holy Trinity Cathedral (Orthodox Church in America). Its Rector, Protopriest John Takahashi told the Grand Duchess of the history of the Cathedral, which was the church of Holy Patriarch Tikhon when he was still the Ruling Bishop of the American flock. The Grand Duchess venerated the Cathedral’s relics and holy items, including the panaghia of St Philip, Metropolitan of Moscow, and a revered icon of St Nicholas the Miracle-worker, and venerated the vestments of St Tikhon.
The Grand Duchess then visited the High School of SS Cyrill and Methodius, where she attended the school prayer, heard a concert and spoke with each one of the students.
At Los Angeles Airport, Her Imperial Highness and His Eminence were greeted by Mitred Protopriest Alexander Lebedeff, Rector of Holy Transfiguration Cathedral and Rector of Holy Dormition Community, Priest Peter Shashkoff.
On May 2, the Head of the Russian Imperial House prayed during Divine Liturgy at Transfiguration Cathedral and communed of the Holy Gifts. During the service, Archbishop Kyrill elevated Fr Peter to the rank of Protopriest. Fr Alexander welcomed Her Imperial Highness, noting the great spiritual and historic significance of the first visit by the Head of the House of Romanovs to the West Coast.
At the end of Divine Liturgy, the Grand Duchess awarded the Imperial Order of St Anne to Mr I.Yu. Podvalov, then shared a repast with the clergymen and parishioners. Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna was warmly greeted by the Diocese’ elder clergyman, Protopresbyter Konstantin Tivetsky.
That evening, Her Highness, Archbishop Kyril and the clergymen of the Diocese attended the annual Russian Spring Ball. Its organizers, Count PA Konovnitsyn, the historian PH Grebelsky, Mrs T.Ya. Samarskaya and others warmly greeted their important guests. During the event, the Third Medal of St Anna was awarded to Count Konovnitsyn and his family, the eldest member of which (unable to attend in person due to illness) had been the last Page of Titular Emperor Kirill Vladimirovich.
On May 3, the Grand Duchess toured Los Angeles, visited Beverly Hills, where the Police Chief showed Her Highness their security systems, and visited Santa Monica and Malibu.
That evening, Archbishop Kyrill hosted a farewell dinner for Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna at the Russian restaurant “Kristall.”
In a touching farewell speech, His Eminence said that although the dinner, in accordance with protocol, is called a “farewell” dinner, in fact, he and all the participants of Her Highness’ visit do not bid farewell but, on the contrary, join her at the start of a great voyage which, by God’s mercy and the prayers of St John, new achievements will be reached through the joint efforts of the Russian Imperial House and the Russian Orthodox Church.
On May 4, continuing the pilgrimage, Her Highness departed for the Hawaiian Islands and arrived that evening in Honolulu. There she was warmly greeted by His Royal Highness Prince David Kaumuali’i Kawananaoka, who hosted a formal dinner in honor of the Grand Duchess, at which traditional Hawaiian dances and songs were performed.
The next morning, Her Imperial Highness visited the Church of the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God and venerated the renowned myrrh-streaming Icon of the Mother of God. The Rector of the Church, Priest Anatole Lyovin, and the owner of the miraculous icon, Nectarios Yanson, told the Grand Duchess about the history of this icon and of the parish, and gave Her Highness a vial containing the myrrh that came from the icon on the eve of her visit.
On May 5, the Grand Duchess visited the War Memorial of Pearl Harbor, and venerated the site where many thousands of soldiers, including members of the Russian emigration, met their death.
That day, a special visit to the Royal Palace was arranged for Her Highness. Later, in an official ceremony in the throne room, Her Royal Highness Princess Kapiolani Kawananaoka, now Marquise Marignoli, presented a bronze bust of the ancestor of Her Highness Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna, Russian Emperor Alexander II the Emancipator, to the Palace Museum. This bust was brought to the Hawaiian Islands from St Petersburg by the Royal Ambassador in 1884. The Grand Duchess expressed joy that the bust of her ancestor, as a symbol of dynastic bonds, was returned to the Palace in her presence.
After the ceremony, Princess Abigail Kawananaoka hosted a luncheon in honor of the Grand Duchess, at which other members of the Hawaiian Royal Family were in attendance.
The next two days, Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna visited the sights of the Hawaiian Islands. On the evening of May 8, Her Imperial Highness returned to San Francisco. The next day the Grand Duchess, her flight back to Madrid having being cancelled because of the Iceland volcano, spent the day with her retinue and members of the Imperial Union-Order on an excursion through San Francisco and Sausalito. Mrs Olhovsky then hosted a private dinner for Her Highness at her home.
On May 10, Her Imperial Highness Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna departed for Madrid.