White Flower Day Returns to Livadia
by Paul Gilbert

A poster announcing this years' White Flower Day at Livadia

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On May 8th, the beautiful Livadia Palace, situated near Yalta in the Crimea was the setting for the White Flower Day. The tradition of this charitable sale originated in the early twentieth century by the last Empress of Russia, Alexandra Feodorona.

Beginning in 1911, the whole community took part including members of the Imperial family and the nobility who were vacationing at their palaces in the region, and the local townsfolk. They flocked in numbers to contribute to the good deeds by buying bouquets of white daisies, paying what they could whether it was a few kopecks or hundreds of rubles. Each donation helped alleviate the suffering of those in need. The grand duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Maria, Anastasia, and their little brother Alexis eagerly assisted their mother at the open stalls.

The noble cause was reinstituted in 2005, and has since been held annually on the second Sunday after Easter. The event is held at the Church of the Exaltation at Livadia Palace. Money collected in this year's auction will be spent on new equipment and the training of nurses at a new retirement home to be opened in the territory of the Yalta City Hospital, as well as helping the poor and sick to fight tuberculosis.

The symbol of this holiday is the white daisy, which today is distributed to all who make a donation. The people of Yalta took an active interest in the event, including the local women who donated their baked goods, handicrafts and flowers, while local school children donated their drawings, and handicrafts made of white flowers.

by Paul Gilbert @ Royal Russia
10 May, 2011

The grand duchesses Tatiana, Maria, Olga, Anastasia, along with their little brother Alexei in the Italian courtyard of Livadia Palace posing
for photographs before heading out on the streets of the Livadia estate, and further, into the city to collect funds to fight TB.

"The climate of the Crimea was ideal for tubercular patients, and from her early married life the Empress had taken the deepest interest in the many hospitals and sanitoria which nestled among the hills, some of them almost within the confines of the Imperial estate. One of the first duties laid on me when I first visited the Crimea was to spend hours at a time visiting, inspecting and reporting on the condition of buildings, nursing and care of patients. The Empress, out of her own private fortune, built and equipped new and improved hospitals.

One of each summer's activities, when the family visited the Crimea, was a bazaar or other entertainment for the benefit of the care of those patients too poor to pay for the best food and nursing. I remember four great bazaars organized and managed by the Empress--the first held in 1911 and the others in 1912, 1913 and 1914. From the opening day the Empress always presided over her own table, disposing of fine needlework, embroidery and art objects with energy and enthusiasm. The crowds at her booth were enormous, the people pressing forward almost frenziedly to touch her hand, her sleeve, her dress. The great mass of the Russian people loved and were loyal to their sovereigns. No one who knew them at all can ever forget that.

In connection with the Empress’s care for the tuberculosis patients in the Crimea there was one day every summer known as White Flower Day, and on that day every member of society, unless she had a very good excuse, went out into the towns and sold white flowers for the benefit of the hospitals. It was a day especially delightful to the Empress and, as they grew old enough to participate in such duties, to all the young Grand Duchesses. The Empress and her daughters worked very hard on White Flower Day, spending practically the whole day driving and walking, mingling with the crowd and vending their flowers as enthusiastically as though their fortunes depended on selling them all. Of course they always did sell them all. The crowds surged around them eager and proud to buy a flower from their full baskets. But the buyers were no whit happier than the sellers, that I can say with assurance.”

from Memories of the Russian Court
by Anna Viroubova, 1923

The grand duchesses lending a hand at one of the stalls selling crafts that they made with their own hands, the funds raised going to help those stricken with tuberculosis.