Recently, when she was nominated for the "Hero of 2003" award, she noticed a high rank official among the invited guests who tried to greet her in English with his strong Russian accent.
She was quite stunned at the time. Today, as the Sri-Lanka's princess Fariida Djin Radja Pahsha Moddaligie claims it herself, Russia continues to surprise her daily even after the day she had tied a knot with this great country.
-Perhaps, this is all because of special energy that I feel in this country. When I used to read Dostoevsky, I could not help but wonder about the great mystery of the Russian soul. Today, while being married to a Russian, I slowly begin to perceive its essence. However, I am still hesitant that I will ever be able to understand it fully.
-Do you really have a good husband?
-Let us hope so. Six years ago, when my future husband Mikhail Bondarenko was courting me, I could pronounce only four words in Russian. Among them, was the word “khalyava”…
-I just remembered a film “Roman Holiday.” It also tells a story of love at first sight between a princess and…
-My husband and I also enjoy the movie. Our “love story” however was happier, even though nobody could have imagined such turn of the events and us getting eventually married. We got acquainted at one of the meetings in London. Back then, I was a student in Oxford University, mastering my skills in International Law. Mikhail had a business meeting in London. We did not say anything great to each other, just a few formal phrases. Our next meeting took place in Cyprus, where I worked as a salesperson in one of the local supermarkets...
-Princess behind the counter?
-As a Russian proverb has it, hunt is better than captivity. I am a Capricorn and my blood is that of ancient conquerors of the Kandi empire of Sri-Lanka. If I decide something, I have to do it despite the consequences. Back then, I wanted independence and pocket money. So I found a job which paid $450 monthly. I worked in a candy department. It was in those times that Mikhail came to visit me in Cyprus. One day he invited me for a dinner.
-Are there any particular rules of courting the princess?
-That was a wonderful date we had, just as several others that followed. Mikhail however appeared disappointed since my girlfriends accompanied me all the time. I had to explain to him that such were the norms of the etiquette. Princesses are not allowed to go on dates without their retinue. He was not shocked a bit. Mikhail proposed to me in a month. I had to return home and think everything over. Upon my arrival however, my parents announced about my wedding with some aristocratic man…. I had to become a wife of a person I have never even met in my life. Parents insisted I marry that man. Seeing no other way of escaping, I hopped on a plane and flew to Mikhail.
-Wasn't this a rather irrational move on your side?
-My mother who is most powerful in the family cannot forgive me for marrying a foreigner. But time passes…Mikhail and I have a young daughter, named Sunita. My mother wishes to see her some day.
-Do you remember your first visit to Moscow?
-Of course. It was on January 28, 1998. It was freezing cold, about -30 degrees Celcius. Streets were covered with ice and snow. I thought that I would turn into Snegurochka myself.
-Have you tried warming up Russian style: with a glass of Vodka and herring?
-Yes, several times. In fact, winter has become my favorite time of year. That is why we are always spending it here in Russia. By the way, our four-year old daughter Sunita prefers Russian cuisine. Her Russian maids got her accustomed to numerous delicious Russian dishes. Once a year, on December 31, we usually drive somewhere to the wilderness and I let my fantasy wild. I cook all the Sri-Lanka’s typical dishes. Guests usually enjoy rice with seafood among other dishes. I should also note however that our New Year’s table is not entirely Sri-Lankan. Our family enjoys Russian sauerkraut very much. It is a wonderful appetizer.
-What are your favorite memories of Russia?
-Finally, you have posed the most traditional Russian question! You probably expect to hear some complementary words?! By the way, this is another fascinating character trait of all Russians. They can leave the country, live abroad for years and still show signs of nostalgia and inner sorrow whenever they hear anything bad about their motherland. What a strange patriotism… This is the richest country with the richest resources, why would anybody want to leave it?
Another interesting phenomenon is the country’s politically-oriented society. Everyone watches television, follows discussions of various politicians in order to criticize them with their neighbors. One more interesting national trait is Russian’s unique infinite trust. Russians often share their personal plans with strangers, invite strangers to their homes. Eastern traditions differ greatly from Russian in that respect. We tend to be extremely cautious when it comes to friendship, business connections or money.
-Were you as cautious when you handed over your family’s jewelry to the Russian OrthodoxChurch in Kostroma?
-Well, it was all done on emotional perception of Kostroma, its churches and the Volga river. I am deeply touched by the fact that one of the famous icons in that church is decorated by precious stones from Ceylon.
-This does not bother you even though you are Catholic?
-My husband is Orthodox and my daughter is Orthodox as well. Our family has been carefully preparing for Sunita’s Christening. We read many spiritual books to her before she participated in the sacred ceremony.
-Before agreeing to be interviewed by our newspaper, you had to ask your husband for permission. Do your eastern roots still prevail? Who is the master of your household?
-My husband is obviously the master. In fact, our family life is a constant search of compromises. We both understand that each of us has a say.
-What did you wish for on a New Year's Eve?
-I asked God to help keep our family and our love together. I am wishing all the best to all the journalists of the “Trud” newspaper.