Thoughts on Writing
May 3, 2018
Travels by Michael Crichton
May 22, 2018

A Giant Among Men


Part of the story of Eye of the Moon must contain something about my grandfather.

When I was a teenager, I would go out on dates. Part of the protocol of that time was meeting the young lady’s parents. Uniformly, her mother would ask me if I was related to Prince Serge Obolensky.

I would reply, “He’s my grandfather.”

She would answer, “Really?” And get a dreamy look in her eyes. It happened every time, without exception. I would wonder what it was about this man that did that?

I saw him only rarely and then usually at the St. Regis for lunch. The Maître d’, would greet me with great fanfare and recount once again, as he escorted me back to the table, how back in Russia, if it hadn’t been for my grandfather, he wouldn’t be alive now.

When I reached the table, my grandfather would stand up to greet me. His six-foot, three-inch frame would tower over me as he reached down to shake my hand. He was always superbly turned out. He would be dressed in a tailored dark suit, a cream colored dress shirt with French cuffs and small elegant cuff links. He would wear a colorful silk tie and a similar handkerchief in his upper left jacket pocket. He had bright white teeth that blazed against a tanned face when he smiled, which was often. He wore his brown hair combed back and his thin upper lip sported a small military mustache underneath a nose that would have done credit to a tall, incredibly fit, bird of prey. He spoke English with a slightly Russian British accent, having been educated at Oxford, but with a hint of Scottish brogue.

I would say, “Grandpa!”

He would smile and say, “Ivan, how are you?”

But it would come out: “EEEvan! How aaaaarre you?”

And then he would throw his head back and laugh.

Over lunch he would delight me with stories. A tale he would often tell was how in the Tsar’s Chevalier Guards, the sergeants would muster the men, and my grandfather would find himself in the front row. An officer would call for a volunteer for a dangerous mission to step forward. The entire company would take several steps back and leave him out front. He would chuckle and recall that he ended up volunteering for every dangerous mission assigned to the unit. What he found so amusing was that he kept returning successfully until it became a regimental tradition that the officer would call for volunteers and Obolensky.

He was an excellent storyteller, and I would sit listening for hours as he recalled a life full of action, glory, riches, and romance.

He told me that he lived his life on three principles: God, Country, and Family, in that order. He would then laugh his huge laugh.

In a conference room at the Special Operations HQ in Tampa, there is a picture of him for completing one of the most well-executed and successful special ops missions in US military history.

He was the most positive man I have ever met. I think he had to be to survive all that he had experienced. He made me wonder what might happen to any one of us, let alone to the world, if we each had his extraordinary attitude. He was a giant among men.

To give you some idea of who he was, read this article entitled, “A Prince in New York“.

“An aristocrat who became a hotel-keeper, and a Russian cavalryman turned American commando,
Serge Obolensky led a life of contrasts. We salute the dashing society legend who held court
at The St. Regis New York…”


  1. Silvia says:

    Wow, he seems to have had a great personality, knowledge, and good humor as well.

    Thank you for sharing these memories of yours Ivan.

  2. […] to my grandfather, Serge Obolensky, Alice was an expert in Egyptian hieroglyphs. Toward the end of her life, he wrote that she had […]

  3. […] to my grandfather, Serge Obolensky, and contrary to popular belief, aristocratic life in Russia under the Czar was not a life of […]

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