The personal life of celebrities is always of particular interest to the public. The head of Sberbank German Gref and his family are no exception. His wife, Yana, is a non-public and busy person. She rarely attends social events, devoting all her time to her family, raising children, and working on her own educational project. Soon the couple will be celebrating their 20th wedding anniversary. The media refers to Yana Gref as a role model of a wife and a caring mother.

German Gref wife

Discrepancies invisible to the naked eye

The marriage of the reformist minister came as a surprise to many people. Journalists from business and entertainment magazines wanted to know who Yana Gref was as soon as possible. To the surprise of many, the biography of the lady chosen by the head of MEDT was full of blank spots. Today, the Internet only finds scattered information about the banker’s wife. She was previously married, and by the time she met German Gref, she had been raising a five-year-old son from her first marriage.

Such secrecy is easy to explain. There was so much press coverage of the minister’s wedding that it might have discouraged the couple from discussing their marriage with journalists. Over the years, the interest in the couple has diminished. Yana Gref has turned out to be a role model wife — she dresses modestly, does not like to be in public and rarely ever gives interviews. The young woman only made an exception for Forbes magazine, where she spoke about her work.

The Khoroshkola Grammar School was founded with private investors’ money and the Gref family’s personal funds. In an interview, Yana describes her project as a non-profit since the investment will take a very long time to pay off. Even the high tuition fees do not solve the problem: the overhead costs are much higher than the income, so the school is not profitable. However, the couple does not regret the expenses and hopes that the experimental education system will become the basis for the future reform of school education in the whole country.

Brief biography

Yana Gref (maiden name Golovina) was born on 5 August 1975. It is a mystery as to where her parents lived at the time. Most of the publications say that Yana’s hometown was Gelendzhik, but a number of publications say that Gref’s wife was born in Estonia. There is no publicly available documentary evidence to support this, nor is there any information about the young woman’s early years, education, and social circle.

Yana Gref is an educated economist who has never enjoyed working in that field. It is known that her first marriage was to someone called Alexei Glumov, who lived in the Krasnodar region at the time. In 1997, the family had a son, and the couple broke up. After the divorce, Yana moved to Moscow, where she took up design. Her first clients were friends and acquaintances, but the business closed due to the lack of orders, having completed only a few projects.

In 2004, Yana Golovina married German Gref but did not become a housewife. First, she opened a gifted studio and tried selling art objects. However, neither of these businesses brought much income. After the birth of a daughter, Yana fully focused on her family and returned to work only in 2013, when the “Khoroshkola” — a school she founded, announced the enrolment of its first students.

The big wedding

Many people remember German Gref’s sensational marriage. At the time, the minister’s personal life was the subject of intense debate in the tabloids, which is why journalists of all stripes were eager to attend the wedding. According to the official version, the marriage registration was to occur on 30 April 2004 at the Wedding Palace on the English Embankment in St. Petersburg.

A crowd of paparazzi gathered outside the main registry office at the appointed time, but they waited in vain. The minister, who did not want any extra attention, performed the ceremony in the Throne Room of Peterhof Palace. Afterward, the guests went to the K-2 residence on Kamenny Island to celebrate the event. Disappointed journalists wrote a lot of unflattering things about the wedding at the museum. In fact, there was no party at the palace, and the registration ceremony took no more than an hour. Nevertheless, the head of the MEDT then had to give a long explanation in the State Duma about the “too lavish” celebration.

The Head of Sberbank of Russia

German Gref is an extraordinary person. The top manager started his career in the St. Petersburg mayor’s office, worked in the government, and headed the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade. Among his merits are the elimination of the country’s foreign debt, the reform of the tax system, the creation of a stabilization fund, and the fight against natural monopolies. Such large-scale transformations demanded full commitment, and for many years the manager worked with no days off or holidays.

By 2007, the Russian economy had stabilized, and GDP had reached the highest levels of the past decades. The head of the MEDT felt that the situation no longer required his close attention, and when the government was in the reorganization process, he submitted his resignation. In November of the same year, it became known about German Gref’s new workplace. The news of the former minister taking over as the CEO of Sberbank appeared in every tabloid.

Analyzing the publications of that period, it is clear that family is one of German Gref’s priorities. An interview he gave to Forbes magazine in 2011 fully supports this. The banker confessed that, apart from accumulated fatigue, a major reason for leaving the government was the need to earn more money. In 2007 the banker’s eldest daughter had just turned one year old, the couple was expecting their second child, and the minister was no longer happy with the rigid work schedule. The salary was also unsatisfactory — during the conversation, the top manager said that, at the time, his income did not allow him to provide a decent living for his family.

Already being the head of Sberbank, Gref described working in the government as the hardest period of his life. Every reform idea had to be defended during hours-long meetings, which often took place on Saturdays. After his resignation, the former minister could go on holiday for the first time in many years. Undoubtedly, he went on holiday with his family.

However, the first few years at the bank were no less stressful. The top manager set out to bring the financial institution to the leading position in terms of technological development and was overworked to achieve that. The result surpassed all expectations — within a few years, Sberbank had left private banks far behind and taken the leading position in the industry. Today, Gref is focused on building the country’s largest fintech company, bringing together dozens of consumer services.

Yana Gref’s school

The private grammar school Khoroshkola was founded in 2013. German Gref is known for criticizing Russian education and supports the transition from standardized programs to personalized education. The top manager is convinced that schools should graduate young people not only educated but also focused on development. The effectiveness of this approach is demonstrated by the success of Khoroshkola, where the curriculum is tailored individually for each student.

Yana Gref recalls that she came up with the idea of setting up her own educational institution when she was looking for a kindergarten for her eldest son. When both of her daughters were old enough, the wife of the head of Sberbank finally decided to implement her own project. The first stage was opening a kindergarten and primary school that worked according to the system of Evgeniy Shuleshko, a Soviet educator who developed the practice of peer education for children aged 5 to 11.

The design of the gymnasium building was based on global trends in school architecture. The school is located in the Wellton Park residential estate in the Khoroshevo-Mnevniki district. Everything is needed for comfortable and productive lessons inside: well-equipped classrooms and laboratories, a sports center and a swimming pool, a canteen and even a theatre. The experimental curriculum aims to develop the skills that will enable a graduate to build a successful career.

Homework is replaced with a deadline system. Each task has to be completed by a certain deadline — such an approach encourages children to be responsible and manage their time. Gref’s children also study at Khoroshkola, but no one makes any exceptions for them. When one of the daughters did not cope with the tasks, she had to sacrifice her own holidays to catch up on the program correctly.

“I believe that through our work, we are contributing to the development of national education. This is an investment that children will return to us in the future through their work and the right attitude to life,” says Yana Gref.

The work of Yana Gref

In addition to her work at school, Yana Gref devotes a lot of time to bringing up her children. Not an easy task, considering there are three kids in the family already. The youngest son is eight years old; he attends a primary school — the Khoroshevo gymnasium, which celebrated its opening in the autumn of 2022. Despite his busy schedule, German Gref always has breakfast with his family and participates in Sunday family lunches. The spouses spend holidays with their children, celebrate Christmas, visit theatres, and put much effort into their education projects.

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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