I had the privilege of knowing Princess Obolensky thanks to my grandparents, Abbie and Rees Taprell. Princess Obolensky was a rare individual that made a huge impact on my life. She was forever young in thought and interest, always eager to engage in conversation and discussion.
Her story and therefore the story of the park dedicated to her is fascinating.
Princess Tania Obolensky was born in Moscow in 1913, the daughter of Princess Elizabeth Obolensky, a descendant of Prince Rurikovichi, the first reigning prince of Russia. The family’s life, as part of the Russian nobility, came to an abrupt end with the Bolshevik revolution in 1917. Her parents were imprisoned but later released by the White Army. Out of Russia they fled arriving in Bulgaria and then moving on to Yugoslavia where her father died in 1927.
After being tutored in various schools across Europe Princess Tania finally left Europe for Canada. Of all the places in Canada, she settled on the Bow Ranch near Cochrane. Ranching life became her blood. On the ranch she raised Aberdeen cattle, horses, Persian lambs and hogs. Not content to sit behind a manager’s desk she was out on the range supervising and working with fellow ranch hands. She admitted that she was a lousy roper and her favorite piece of equipment to operate was a power binder.
Curiously, considering her ranching life or maybe because of it, Princess Obolenksy developed an interest in cosmetics. In an interview by the Lethbridge Herald in 1948 she commented that she was never interested in cosmetics until she discovered what they did for her. Eager to tell other women about these products she rose in the ranks from a local salesperson to the Western Manager of Beauty Counselors of Canada, a “dominion-wide” cosmetics company. When asked by the Lethbridge Herald about the “new look” she thought it more flattering to women but not so flattering to pocketbooks!
In 1952, Princess Tania opened a very successful clothing and gift shop called La Boutique in downtown Calgary. This allowed her to return to Europe on buying expeditions bringing back the latest in European fashion, accessories and small furnishings. La Boutique quickly became not only the fashion centre but also the social hub of Calgary. If you wanted to find out what was going “down” in Calgary you went to La Boutique.
Eventually Princess Tania retired. From her small apartment in Rideau Towers she overlooked the Elbow River and the mountains to the west that she so loved. Until the day she died, Princess Obolensky retained a regal elegance and, of course, her milky satiny skin!
Longstanding friends of the Princess enabled the dedication of the Princess Obolensky Park in 1984 – a wonderful tribute to a remarkable life lived.
Formed in 2004, S2G+ Preservation Society collaborates to enhance the environment and natural history of the lower Elbow River, its valley and contiguous bench lands from the Glenmore Dam to Fort Calgary.