The Grand Duchess Elizabeth

Maria Ivanova talks about her 2020 winning work, The Life of Grand Duchess Elizabeth:

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At some point, I learned about a wonderful person who devoted herself completely to serving people.

Princess Elizabeth of Hesse and by Rhine was the granddaughter of the British monarch, Queen Victoria. She came to Russia at the end of the 19th century, to marry the Grand Duke Sergey (Tsar Nicolai’s uncle), becoming Grand Duchess Elizabeth Fedorovna. There she organized a large-scale charitable organisation, one of the most progressive at its time.

Studying the charitable activities of the Grand Duchess, I was amazed at its ambition and scale: dozens of visits every day; hundreds of open foundations and committees; hundreds of thousands of people receiving support; millions raised to help the sick, poor and destitute.

I was surprised to discover how little known Elizabeth Fedorovna was in Russia. Our team began to think about how to tell the story of such a great personality, using contemporary technologies. Our goal was to make Elizaveta Fedorovna Romanova closer and more understandable, to show that her activities did not remain in the past, but are significant today. For many people Elizabeth Feodorovna became a ‘beacon’, as she herself used to say: “My main aim is to alleviate the suffering of the human race and to reveal the divine light to them, to become a beacon of light, God willing.”

In light of our experience in animation and design, we chose the format of ‘multimedia storytelling’. This format, standing between cinema and the press, seemed the best way to immerse the viewer in this very many-faceted biography. We didn’t want to retell her life chronologically, as the goal was to show her development as a person, who, despite all the tragic events, devoted herself to helping others.


Maria story-planning

But it was still a difficult task, as we had no experience, people or means for this. And for me personally, it’s still a mystery how everything came together. Despite everything, there were people who volunteered, not only to collect information, translate into English, fund the online platform, but also throughout the project, help with layout and programming, develop music and write an original soundtrack.

We began studying the life of the princess in the summer of 2018, from the few books available. The most difficult task was to convey her real personality, which is why we chose to narrate with quotes and documentary photographs. It took almost half a year to work on the material, concept and direction, and then another six months for the visual solution, eventually struggling to make it work online. Only by 2020 could we present the English version of this project.


Anna and Maria

We are still surprised at how many different people our project has united around itself. I will list only the main authors who participated in the development during these two years, although there were many more participants!

Concept, Drawing, Animation: Maria Ivanova

Text, Concept: Maria Kotova

Design, Editing, Publishing: Anna Gorovaya

Music: Alexey Logvinov

This again shows how Princess Elizabeth Fedorovna can inspire and motivate to action, and why at she managed to perform so many significant, altruistic acts.

We believe that our project will become the link between the modern audience and the history of Elizabeth Feodorovna, one of the first martyrs of the post-revolutionary Bolshevik regime.

Maria Ivanova, Belarus