FDR wanted to buy Livadia Palace in final days of WWII

PHOTO: FDR arriving at Livadia Palace in February 1945

On 22nd April 2017, a bust of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945), the 32nd President of the United States commonly known as FDR, was unveiled in Yalta, Crimea on a street named in his honour.

Back in the 1960s, one of Yalta’s oldest streets was named after Franklin D. Roosevelt. The city authorities decided to commemorate the 32nd US president’s participation in the 1945 Yalta Conference of the “Big Three” leaders of the anti-Hitler coalition.

Roosevelt impressed by Crimea

The 1945 Yalta Conference was held in the Palace of Livadia, the former residence of Emperor Nicholas II and his family, situated on the southern coast of Crimea, overlooking the Black Sea.

It was at Livadia Palace, where the largest group of the US delegation was housed. The reason for the decision to accommodate the American delegation in the Livadia Palace was because of the physical condition of the US leader who had been bound to a wheelchair after contracting polio in 1921.

The palace left a great impression on the American leader. In fact, according to a transcript of a conversation with Stalin in February 1945, Roosevelt said that he felt very well in Livadia and stated that when he would no longer be president, he would like to ask the Soviet government to sell Livadia to him. He noted that he was fond of breeding trees and would plant lots of them in the hills around the palace’s vicinity.

“Roosevelt’s personal apartment was located on the ground floor and he could move around by himself, quite easily. It should be noted however that a slight lapse in security was permitted as the delegation and its leader were accommodated where the sessions were being held. Though the frontline was far away, security measures during the conference were unprecedentedly tight,” says Dmitry Blintsov, a research fellow at the Livadia Palace museum’s exhibition department.

PHOTO: Churchill, FDR and Stalin pose for photos in the Italian Courtyard of Livadia Palace, February 1945

The Livadia Palace and its picturesque park impressed the US leader so much that he asked Stalin, in earnest or not, to sell it to him. The transcript of Roosevelt’s personal meeting with Stalin of February 4, 1945 puts it as follows:

“Roosevelt says he feels very well in Livadia. When he is no longer president, he would like to ask the Soviet government to sell Livadia to him. He is fond of gardening. He would plant lots of trees in the hills around Livadia.”

Roosevelt arrived in Yalta accompanied by his daughter Anna. Winston Churchill’s daughter, Sarah, and one of the daughters of US Ambassador to Russia Averell Harriman, Kathleen, were also there. “I think their daughters provided psychological support to their fathers after the long and heated political debates so far away from their homes,” the historian suggests.

Nevertheless, despite the positive impressions from Livadia, upon returning home Roosevelt said that he had been shocked to see the devastation that the German Nazi forces had inflicted on Crimea.

“During my stay in Yalta, I saw the kind of reckless, senseless fury, the terrible destruction that comes out of German militarism… And even the humblest of the homes of Yalta were not spared… I had read about Warsaw and Lidice and Rotterdam and Coventry—but I saw Sevastopol and Yalta! And I know that there is not room enough on earth for both German militarism and Christian decency” – said FDR, in his address to Congress, 1945.

© Paul Gilbert. 24 October 2022