Princess Elizabeth is the daughter of Prince Paul, the Prince Regent of Yugoslavia after the assassination of his cousin King Alexander in 1934 and Princess Olga of Greece. She is second cousin to the Prince of Wales, Queen Sophie of Spain and the great great granddaughter of Karageorge, a near-mythic hero who started the first uprising against the Turks in 1804. On her mother’s side she descends from Empress Catherine the Great of Russia. Yet Princess Elizabeth has been a woman without a country for much of her lifetime.
Banished at an early age from Yugoslavia to Kenya with her parents and two brothers, they all lived under British house arrest for three years. From there they went to South Africa for five more years before finally returning to Europe in search of a new home, first to Greece and then Switzerland and Paris. In 1960 she ran away from her home in Paris and went to America, to New York. “I was a princess without a cause or a future” she said, “I needed to find myself and knew if I did not leave I would suffocate”.
She married Howard Oxenberg in 1962 and had 2 daughters, Catherine and Christina. In 1965 she left New York and went to London with the two children. In 1969 she married Neil Balfour and had a son, Nicholas. In 1987 she married Manuel Ulloa, a Peruvian senator. Circumstances led her to cross over Yugoslavia’s border and enter Belgrade, October 1987, the first member of her family to do so since the war despite a national law forbidding entry to anyone of the dynasty. “Before this event, I thought America was all I needed in life and that my path had taken its course.
However, when I set foot in my country, I was tremendously shaken up and cried for 24 hours. I felt like a ghost and it hit me how much I had wandered and how much I had been an outcast. I had been flung out of my country, my childhood, and my very self. I could not even speak my native language. I began to realize for the first time what roots meant.” Nearly fifty years had passed since she was expelled from her country as a child, erased without a trace. Except that her memory lived. While the law banning her entrance was still very much in effect, she nevertheless has returned about thirty times since then. She relearned the language and traveled extensively throughout the country often staying months at a time.
Always warmly received, her presence in Yugoslavia, coupled with the worldwide media coverage she has attracted, has made her very popular with the local people. In 1989 she gained access to secret documents in the Foreign Office files in London that refuted certain trumped up charges the British had invented about her father. These she published in a book in Belgrade in 1990 called “Prince Paul, Britain’s much Maligned Friend”. This book by Neil Balfour was first published in England in 1980 but did not contain this Foreign Office material. Next she created a non-political, not for profit Foundation at end of 1990 called the “Princess Elizabeth Foundation.” She sensed the crucial importance of a vehicle to address the tension brewing just below the surface and she was determined to help. Every year she organized a fund raiser in New York and personally accompanied shipments of medicines and medical supplies to Yugoslavia. One year she organized for a famous heart surgeon, Dr Novick to come and operate on children with severe heart defects.
In 2000 in Belgrade she formed a new foundation called ‘Serbian Foundation’ which is dedicated to promoting young and talented artists from Serbia. In 1992 after the death of her third husband Manuel Ulloa she went to Peru to try to claim her inheritance. She had to escape across the border to Ecuador for fear of being arrested at the main airport. Otherwise she would probably still be languishing in an Andean jail.
She moved to Belgrade in 2002 and now lives there for the time being in a rented apartment. In 2004 in June, she ran for President of Serbia and got 70,000 votes. She came 6th out of 16 contestants. In 2006 she arranged for copies of all of her father’s papers from Columbia University in NYC to be sent to the archive in Belgrade. In 2007, a book called “The Truth about the 27th of March” by Miodrag Jankovic was published and is still on the best seller list. It was accepted as official text in the faculty of Political Science in Belgrade. Prince Paul is now a respected historical personage instead of the traitor he was created by the communists.
She has written four children’s books and to date has sold 50,000 books. She has had 100 book promotions during four years in almost all towns and villages in Serbia. At each event, part of the proceeds goes to the local hospital or kindergarten or playground.