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Siamese Roksolana. How Kateryna Desnytska, a Ukrainian from Volyn, became a princess of Thailand and what tragedy she experienced

Kateryna Desnytska won the heart of the Prince of Siam

She had incredible beauty, a sharp mind, and a kind heart, and so she conquered the Prince of Siam (modern Thailand) in an instant and became a princess herself. We are talking about Kateryna Desnytska, a Ukrainian from Lutsk, born into a large family of the head of the district court, Ivan Stepanovych Desnytskyi. She took a liking to Thai Prince Bhuvanaf Chakrabongse (Chakrabon), and he proposed marriage to the Ukrainian after their first meeting. Their love story resembled a fairy tale, despite their different religions and the royal family's opposition to the union.

However, this tale has a far from fairy tale ending. OBOZ.UA will tell the story of a Ukrainian woman who is called the Siam Roksolana.

Kateryna Desnytska was born in Volyn on April 27 (May 9), 1886. The girl's father died when she was just two years old. The poor widow, Maria Mykhailivna, was left with 12 minor children: four from her first marriage to the brother of the famous Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, six from her late husband's first marriage, and two children together: her eldest son, Ivanko, and daughter, Katrusia.

Siamese Roksolana. How Kateryna Desnytska, a Ukrainian from Volyn, became a princess of Thailand and what tragedy she experienced

In order to survive, Maria Mykhailivna sold all her property and moved with her children to Kyiv, where they could study at prestigious educational institutions. Katrusia was enrolled in the Funduklievska Women's Gymnasium, one of the best at the time.

In 1903, Kateryna became an orphan, so she went to St. Petersburg, where her brother Ivan was studying. There, she lived with her godmother and later enrolled in a nursing course at Empress Maria Feodorovna's hospital.

Siamese Roksolana. How Kateryna Desnytska, a Ukrainian from Volyn, became a princess of Thailand and what tragedy she experienced

Around the same time, King Rama V of Siam, who had thirty-three sons and forty-four daughters, sent his 15-year-old heir, Chakrabon, to St. Petersburg to study, so to speak, as a sign of his strong friendship with the Russian Tsar Nicholas II.

Chakrabon was an intelligent, educated young man who studied in London and adopted European social manners, even taking private choreography lessons.

Siamese Roksolana. How Kateryna Desnytska, a Ukrainian from Volyn, became a princess of Thailand and what tragedy she experienced

According to one version, the prince met Kateryna Desnytska in a social salon where the "golden youth" gathered. There they discussed literature and simply gossiped. Impressed by the Ukrainian woman's erudition and beauty, Chakrabon fell in love with her at first sight. The foreign guest could not take his eyes off the 19-year-old Katrusia dancing a waltz.

"Tell me, mademoiselle, do you like electric fans?" the prince asked Desnytska.

She had no idea what an electric fan was, but she answered "yes" with confidence. Then Chakrabon invited the Ukrainian to travel with him to Siam. "Electric fans will always save you from the heat, ladies," he added, referring to the newfangled fans of the time.

Siamese Roksolana. How Kateryna Desnytska, a Ukrainian from Volyn, became a princess of Thailand and what tragedy she experienced

In his letters to his beloved, Chakrabon wrote sensually: "I need no one but you. If you were with me, everything would be wonderful and nothing could overshadow my happiness."

Chakrabon and Kateryna were secretly married in the Church of the Holy Trinity in Constantinople. The royal family did not recognize this marriage, so Rama V excluded his son from his will. However, the young couple was given a separate palace, Paruskavan. Desnytska became a real hostess in it, introducing Ukrainian motifs into the interior, and later into Thai culture in general.

Siamese Roksolana. How Kateryna Desnytska, a Ukrainian from Volyn, became a princess of Thailand and what tragedy she experienced

Kateryna was loved in the palace and beyond. She was compassionate and curious, engaged in charity work, conducted medical courses, followed the traditions of Thailand at the time, mastered the Thai language and cuisine, but did not forget her roots. On March 28, she became a mother, giving birth to her beloved son, who was named Chula. And even all these facts did not melt the hearts of the elders of the royal family.

Nevertheless, the fame of the beautiful Ukrainian woman, both inside and out, was spreading rapidly across the country. Then the mother-in-law decided to meet her daughter-in-law. She also fell under Katrusia's spell.

Siamese Roksolana. How Kateryna Desnytska, a Ukrainian from Volyn, became a princess of Thailand and what tragedy she experienced

After the death of Rama V, Chakrabon's own brother finally recognized the prince's marriage to a Ukrainian woman, and since he had no children, he appointed him heir to the throne. Desnytska finally received the title of Princess of Siam.

The family traveled a lot: they visited Europe and Kateryna's homeland, including Kyiv. It would seem that nothing would destroy their family happiness. However, fate had other plans.

Siamese Roksolana. How Kateryna Desnytska, a Ukrainian from Volyn, became a princess of Thailand and what tragedy she experienced

Suddenly, Chakrabon announced that he was going to get married again. He had his eye on a distant relative who was only 15 years old. Naturally, Kateryna was not happy with this situation, so she demanded a divorce.

"Understand, my love: Princess Chavalit is my current Sabai (pleasure - ed.), while you will forever remain Sabai Sabai (the highest degree of pleasure - ed.)," the prince assured the Ukrainian woman.

In response, he heard a categorical "no," and Kateryna herself was deprived of the right to raise her son. After the divorce, the former princess lived in Shanghai, where she worked for the Red Cross. Her son did not forgive her for divorcing his father. He blamed his mother and did not want to see her, which was a real tragedy for Desnytska.

Siamese Roksolana. How Kateryna Desnytska, a Ukrainian from Volyn, became a princess of Thailand and what tragedy she experienced

During a sea voyage with his new passion, Prince Chakrabon suddenly fell ill and died. His will did not mention Kateryna, but it was she who brought his body to Bangkok for burial. The Ukrainian woman herself died of a heart attack, although according to one version, she could have been poisoned.

It's a shame to admit that little is known about the Siam Roksolana in Ukraine, while in Thailand her personality is given a lot of attention, her life story and influence on history are told.

It is known that Chula Chakrabon lived a rich life. He received a brilliant education at Cambridge, had a passion for motor racing, and successfully realized himself as a radio commentator and historian. He was the author of the history of his royal dynasty. And his daughter, who was born in a marriage with a British woman, Elizabeth Hunter, wrote a book about her Ukrainian grandmother called Katya and the Prince of Siam.

Earlier, OBOZ.UA wrote about the women who surrounded Roman Shukhevych, the chief commander of the UPA. The most important woman in his life was undoubtedly his wife Natalia.

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