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French Spring: Frédéric Panier (interview)


Mutual cultural influence of France and Ukraine, according to Frédéric Panier, sourcing agent at Link Company and French resident in Odessa.


Which part of Odessa reminds you of your hometown and why?

I am from Lyon, City of Light, which is very different from Odessa. Capital of the Gauls, it is located between Rhône and Saône, two rivers that meet in this crossroads city.

Did any of your family or friends come to see you in Odessa?

Three friends came to visit me in Odessa, one from Prague, the other two from France. Everyone greatly enjoyed his stay in Odessa. One of my cousins ​​wants to come to Odessa soon, as soon as the health situation returns to normal.

What advice would you give to your compatriots who are planning to come to Odessa for the first time?

The best advice we can give is to take a one-way ticket, and stay here as I decided. Although this is not possible for everyone who visited me, some would be tempted by an expatriation here. Odessa has a point to make for anyone looking for an experience out of the ordinary. The best advice we can give is to come and discover Odessa and the Odessites outside the summer period, because the city is then overwhelmed by tourists, and loses part of its soul.

What is the most interesting thing about your job?

As an entrepreneur and industrial sourcing professional, I was looking by settling in Ukraine to understand the business environment in order to best advise my French and foreign clients.

Do you think French culture influences Ukrainian culture and how? Can we still see this influence today?

I don’t think that French culture has a real impact on Ukrainian culture as it could have been in the 19th century for example. However, there is a sincere interest in learning about French culture. For example, I am surprised to see that my Russian teachers at Polytechnic University know French cinema and literature very well.

What do you think is the image of the French for the Ukrainians? In general, what representation do the French have in Ukraine?

This question is very French, our compatriots always being very concerned about the image that we convey abroad. But I think that on this first point, the question should be put directly to the Ukrainians. For the second question, I think that the Odessites are more Francophiles than most of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe where I was able to live and work (but not enough French-speaking as their Moldovan neighbour can be for example).

What can Ukrainians learn from the French? What can the French learn from the Ukrainians?

This is a very subjective question. Learning from each other should be a goal for everyone like me who wants to open up new horizons. The various trips and meetings I have made during these 24 years of expatriation have all brought me an open mind and a new outlook on who I am, especially as a French person. My expatriation in Ukraine is no exception to this rule.

Imagine that you have to show characteristic elements of French culture (a book, a film, a song, a painting, an actor, a gastronomic specialty, architecture or a monument). What would you choose?

As an ambassador for the city of Lyon, I would recommend a visit to the museum of the Institut Lumière, where the first cinematograph was created. To continue on this subject, I think that the films and actors of the new wave are a good showcase for French cinema. From a culinary point of view, I will recommend excellence, with the recipe for the poulet de Bresse aux morilles by Paul Bocuse (3 Michelin stars from 1965 to his recent death). The paintings of Eugène Delacroix, “Liberty Leading the People”, and “The origin of the world” of Courbet well characterizes the rebellious side of the French. From a literary point of view I would recommend “Courrier Sud” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, aviator, writer and engineer with an incredible career. From an architectural point of view, I will recommend the masterful work of Bartholdi, the Statue of Liberty, a nice present, very symbolic, from France to the USA.

Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix, 1830
A topless woman, the French symbol of Liberty, is leading Parisians under the tricolor banner during the July revolution of 1830

This interview is part of a joint-project of Alliance Française and The Odessa Journal, with the purpose to highlight the mutual cultural influence of France and Ukraine, on the occasion of the French Spring Festival.