Wed, Jan 19, 2011 - Page 17 News List

Duchess Habsburg, a tenant in her own palace
哈布斯堡女公爵 自家城堡當租客

Residents of the southern Polish town of Zywiec pose with Duchess Marie-Christine of Habsburg, center, on her 87th birthday on Dec. 11 last year.

Photo: AFP 照片:法新社

After 60 years in exile in Switzerland, Duchess Marie-Christine von Habsburg, 87, is living out her golden years as a tenant in two rooms of her family’s vast palace in the town of Zywiec, southern Poland.

The property was expropriated by communists after the war, and her family never tried to reclaim it after the 1989 demise of communism.

A member of the House of Habsburg, a dynasty origina-ting in what today is Austria and which reigned over much of Europe from the 15th to the 20th century, she was able to return to the 19th-century palace only after the fall of communism two decades ago. Her family had been driven out by the Nazis during World War II and the communists prevented their return after 1945.

But in 2001, the town of Zywiec offered her life-time use of an apartment in what was once the palace’s games room on the ground floor, allowing her to enjoy the surrounding gardens.

“When the city asked me to return to the palace, I didn’t hesitate for a moment. I sold off my apartment in Switzerland and I’m here. I’m very happy, I’m treated like a queen. A Habsburg, who is completely Polish,” she told AFP, speaking in French.

“My brother lives in Sweden, my sister in Spain, they have their families there and could not come back,” explains the duchess.

Nothing inside the palace now evokes the splendor of its golden days. No antiques, paintings or family memorabilia. Just simple new furniture, some of it in a rustic style, decorates the apartment where the duchess resides with her two cats and is cared for by two social workers.

When World War II erupted in 1939, her father Charles Albert, a Polish army officer, refused to declare himself a German. The family paid a high price for his decision: he was deported by the Nazis to a labor camp and the palace was confiscated.


1. vast adj.

廣大的;廣泛的 (guang3 da4 de5; guang3 fan4 de5)

例: He has read many books on military history, and has a vast knowledge on the subject.


2. splendor n.

輝煌 (hui1 huang2)

例: I wish I were rich, I would love to live in luxury and splendor.


3. confiscate v.

沒收 (mo4 shou1)

例: Knives are not allowed in school, they will be confiscated if found.


But even this did not stop his wife from joining the Polish resistance, while his son joined the Free Polish Army in London.

At the end of the war, Poland’s new communist authorities denied Polish citizenship to the Habsburgs of Zywiec, expelling them from Poland as Austrian aristocrats and nationalizing their property.

But decades later, the people of Zywiec haven’t lost their fondness for the aristocratic family. Each year they publicly celebrate Marie-Christine’s birthday.

“The duchess is our ambassador, she’s a symbol of patriotism, of loyalty to this land and Poland, an example for us all,” Zywiec mayor, Antoni Szlagor told AFP.















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