The Naval Hospital of Piraeus is situated at a prestigious seafront location, the boarder between Freattida bay and the natural harbor of Zea. However, when the renovated neo-classical style mansion housing the Naval Hospital was fist bought, it used to be the home of a Russian Hospital. In order to understand why such a hospital was inaugurated in Piraeus, one should inquire the identity of its owner.
In 1867 and at the age of sixteen, Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna of Russia, a member of the Romanov dynasty, married King George I of Greece, thus becoming Queen Olga of the Hellenes. Olga remained nostalgic for Russia. She often visited Russian ships docked in Piraeus, invited the Russian seamen to the royal palace and became involved in charity, founding hospitals and help centers.
In 1897 Queen Olga, with her personal funds and the financial assistance of her cousin, the Tsar, purchased a building in Freattida, one of the most beautiful coastal areas in Piraeus. The building was restructured and in 1902 the “Russian Hospital” of Piraeus was inaugurated by the Greek royal family. Although aimed primarily at treating Russian seamen, the Hospital was open to local residents and all seamen visiting Greece, free of charge. A church of St Olga was built within the Hospital, in honor of the Queen.
In 1924, and while the Greek royal family was in exile, the Hospital was converted into a medical institution for the Hellenic Navy and renamed Naval Hospital of Piraeus. It operated regularly until 1981 when due to earthquake damages, the building was unsuitable for use.
A few years later, in 1985, the Hellenic Navy General Staff took initiative to renovate and reopen the Hospital and since 2000 the “Naval Hospital” of Piraeus has been operating annexed to the “Naval Hospital” of Athens.
Queen Olga had the Russian Hospital of Piraeus built in memory of her daughter, Duchess Alexandra, who died in Moscow in 1891, at the age of 21. The Queen’s desire was that her late daughter wouldn’t be forgotten and the Hospital should be named “Hospital of Duchess Alexandra”. No such thing happened though and the Hospital became – and remained – known as “Russian Hospital” of Piraeus.
As a child, Duchess Alexandra spent a summer in a “Ziller Neighbourhood” residence, on the slopes of Kastella. Following Alexandra’s death, the square where that residence was located bore her name and has been known as “Alexandra’s Square” ever since. Her mother’s wish was thus partially fulfilled.