The great Belgian poet-philosopher, Maurice Materlinck, once wrote that every great sorrow brings us unexpected gifts to enrich our life. Only the majority of us are too weak and cowardly to receive these gifts, and our sorrows leave us bereft and impoverished.
It is, therefore, a special privilege to present today to our readers a woman who was suddenly thrust from the heights of wealth, position and world grandeur to the very depths of privation and poverty, and who yet refused to despair. She was one of the few among us ready to receive the unexpected gifts her sorrow brought her, and with the help of them she has built for herself a new life, a life of creative work, of rich human contacts, of usefulness and happiness.
This woman is Princess Catherine Radziwill. Her moving and fascinating story can be read in her interesting book “It Really Happened,” a human story full of power and sincerity. Beautiful, rich, feted, a member of the gorgeous Russian court, she found herself through the fortunes of war and revolution penniless in the slums of New York. Yet, with a rare courage, with the indomitable power of her personality, she carved out for herself a career as writer and lecturer, and today she has found not the dead peace of resignation but the living peace of inmost satisfaction.
THE GIFT OF TALK
One meets her in her cozy apartment, full of books, flowers, pictures, on the hearth her house-deity, a delightful white porcelain rabbit that sits there with a mien of occult wisdom and to whom Princess Radziwill talks as to a dear friend. And if anyone possesses the gift of talk, then it is surely she. With charm, grace, vivacity and real insight, she touches on the most varied subjects, shedding on each a brilliant and often surprising light. European politics are interesting her immensely and she follows events there with profound understanding. Conditions in Germany are moving her deeply, and she is relentless in her condemnation.
“That Germans can accept and endure the Hitler-regime,” she declares, “proves once and for all that they have never been really civilized. They were learned, yes, I grant that, but mere learning and mere technical knowledge does not constitute civilization. Without tolerance, civilization is impossible.”
And with the brilliant vivacity so characteristic of her she adds:
“For the Jews, you know, Hitler is a blessing. For there are people â€”I do not speak of professional anti-Semites; they are beyond the paleâ€”who do not know Jews and have an atavistic distrust and dislike of anything strange. But seeing to what moral depth and degradation a regime of intolerance can lead, they will be ashamed of their distrust and dislike and tear it out of their very heart as a dangerous and poisonous growth. The sympathy of the entire worldâ€”that is the gift that Hitler has given to the Jews.”
Then she speaks of her work. She is preparing for Fall publication a biography of Empress Frederickâ€”a woman, Princess Radziwill says smilinglyâ€”as misunderstood, defamed and hated as the Jews, as unjustly insulted and persecuted. And finally she praises America which has taught her that true happiness is only to be found in personal effort, in constant endeavor, in living with and for one’s fellow-men.
And when one leaves her, one takes away a deep and lasting impression. The impression of one who was once a great princess and enjoyed life, and who is now a great woman who has mastered life.