sensitive, carefully measured, especially in Sperduti Nel Budo and Teresa Raquin." During the war, because her husband was German, she had to leave Italy and return to Germany where she made several films. Later she divorced Vollmoeller; and in 1917 married a Russian émigré, Prince Georges Matchabelli, who, before the Revolution, had been ambassador to Italy. For generations his had been the ruling family of the province of Georgia. It was a real love match.
In 1924* they moved to America where together they founded the well-known perfume business. The Prince was an amateur chemist and had an amazing ability, Norina told me, to smell an "astral" perfume, then duplicate it chemically. I well recall the exquisite scent, Ave Maria, he dedicated to her. It was she who designed the bottle after the Matchabelli crown. The firm was very successful.
But there were inner stirrings in Norina, and a longing for the spiritual life was beginning to make itself felt. She also was developing some alarming kinetic and psychic abilities. Claude Bragdon, the architect and pupil of Ouspensky, helped her a great deal at this time. Then, through her friend, Elizabeth Patterson, she heard of Shri Meher Baba who was shortly to arrive in America.
But Norina scoffed at the idea of a spiritual Master and refused at first to meet Him. She said to Jean Adriel, "How can you worship at the feet of any man, even though he calls himself a 'Master'? Women like ourselves who have had such deep inner experiences need no man to show us the way to God." When Jean told Norina of the phenomenon of tears people shed on meeting Baba, she said, "Well, when your ‘Master' arrives, I must meet him. I, too, would like to weep!"
As soon as Baba's boat touched American shores, she did begin to weep, uncontrollably. Finally, she gave in and drove with her friend Elizabeth to Harmon on the Hudson. Her surrender was immediate and complete. Apparently Baba gave her some exalted inner experiences and a glimpse of past lives with Him. She told me He had said to her, "You have been My mother twice and My father once." She used to say later He told her she had been Joseph, the father of Jesus. He asked her if she would obey Him and she answered Yes, unhesitatingly. He asked her to stand at the bottom of the stairs and ask each one who came down from meeting Him for a monetary contribution. She obeyed 100%. One man gave his last bit — his bus fare back to New York, tied in a kerchief. Another man, head of a Theosophy group, refused indignantly. Baba later pointed out how the poor man gave his all and the so-called spiritual leader refused. (Of course Baba had the first man repaid generously at once). It was Norina's first lesson in obedience, probably a difficult one for a well-known princess. Since Baba does not ordinarily ask for money, it was perhaps a test devised for her benefit.
Now her life began to change. The Prince also met Baba, but could not accept Him in the same way. Baba told him that just before he died, he would experience who Baba is. And this came to pass. He had a beautiful experience of Baba as the Christ just before he passed away (1935). He and Norina had been divorced in 1933, after sixteen years of marriage. Their worlds had grown apart.
Later the perfume corporation was sold, and I believe she spontaneously gave her share to Baba.** Her life revolved around Him more and more and she participated in the Master's many trips to the West. She went to India with the very first group of women in 1933 and also endured the publicity blast. Great capital was made of her title of Princess — actually she had asked Baba if she could give it up, but Baba had said it would be useful in His work.
Her wide acquaintance among the elite of Europe — the avant-garde artists, the aristocrats and intelligentsia, also proved useful, especially in the "film project" which kept going for many years. (Karl Vollmoeller helped on scripts.) Her savoir faire was useful on His many trips through Europe, as she spoke English, German, Russian, Italian and French fluently. In her enthusiasm for Baba, she brought many people to meet Him, some obviously not destined for the path; this led to some amusing encounters. One concerned the Queen of Romania, who was big socially then. The queen sent Baba a telegram "the Queen of Romania is prepared to receive Baba."
*On their Petition for Citizenship it says Norina arrived in America on December 11, 1923. (She had to be in America to star in The Miracle in New York on December 23rd and came on a ship with some of the people associated with that play). Prince Matchabelli arrived later, on December 21, 1923. They both had to renounce their titles of Prince and Princess. - Baba had her keep the title to be useful in His work. webmaster, JK.
**It was used to open the Nasik ashram.