Saint Petersburg, Russia
This palace was built for Peter the Great by architect Le Blond. Its park stretched from its terraces to the Baltic. It was passed down to numerous members of the Imperial Family before belonging to my great-grandfather, the Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich, and then to his son, Konstantin Konstantinovich.
I absolutely wanted to visit it, as I possess photos of the exterior and interior of the palace prior to the Revolution. I found the palace in an appalling state. The interior had partly burnt. Nevertheless, the layout of the park as it was on a 19th century watercolour I own remained unchanged. The interior was ravaged.
The palace had been abandoned a few months prior by the army.
A group of young people suddenly erupted into the room, followed by a woman who was the only one to speak something other than Russian. She explained to us that these students had decided to save the palace. Indeed, the palace was on the brink of being sold to Turkish entrepreneurs who wanted to turn it into a casino and maybe even something else. These young people, full of goodwill and passionate about history, tried to do the impossible to alert the authorities and salvage what could be salvaged.
I must say that the idea that my great-grandfather’s dwelling be turned into a Turkish brothel did not appeal to me, but what could I do? At the last moment, Putin, a citizen of Saint Petersburg, saved Strelna. He had it restored at great expenses, gave it back its glory of yesteryear and made it the residence for the official hosts of the Russian State. I will always be grateful towards this statesman, infinitely respectful towards the past of his country, against everything in his own past.