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Living Link to European History : Exiled Princess Finds Peace in Monastic Life

April 09, 1988|MARCIA DUNN | Associated Press

Even though she has stepped down as abbess of the monastery, Mother Alexandra's work goes on. She is overseeing construction of a complex to that will make room for more activities and the growing number of women who are drawn to the cluster of redwood buildings on the hill.

She said that her royal background has helped her cope with the austerity of monastic life: Two-hour prayer sessions three times a day, black habits that reveal only the hands and face, renunciation of the temporal world and all its trappings.

"As a royal person you have to be very disciplined," she said. "From the beginning of your life, you are a public person. You belong to the country. Your own personal amusement does not play any part. Your duty comes first.

"From that point of view. . . . I've watched the other sisters. The struggles they have I don't. For me, it isn't difficult."

What is difficult for her is dealing with the strangers who periodically show up at the monastery hoping for a glimpse of a real-life princess.

"It's my cross I have to bear," she said.

Romanians come bearing gifts and mementos for their dear domnitza , or princess, who is the last surviving child of King Ferdinand and Queen Marie and a great-granddaughter of England's Queen Victoria and Czar Alexander II of Russia.

She graciously receives the pilgrims, Romanian-Americans yearning for what once was and will never be again.

"It belongs to their past, as it does to mine," she said. "They tell me, 'For us, you are a living page out of history.' "

To her sisters in spirit, she is just another nun.

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