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French Spring: Jean-Pierre Albarelli (interview)


The cultural influence of France and Ukraine, according to Jean-Pierre Albarelli, Honorary Commander of French National Police.


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

First of all, I don’t live in Odessa but 75 km inland – in Oblast – but I travel regularly to Odessa.

Please indicate where you are from?

I was born in Nice and the part of Odessa that reminds me of my hometown is “la promenade sante”, which runs along the beaches a bit like the Promenade des Anglais, a famous place to walk in Nice … with fewer cars and trees in addition.

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

My brother and his wife came to see me and we visited Odessa on several occasions. Likewise, my childhood friend and his wife traveled from Nice to Odessa to come and visit me.

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

Apart from the recommendations on safety, which are valid for most of the big cities, I would advise to come in spring because the nature is very beautiful there and the fruits tasty.

I would add that we must keep in mind that several traditions differ from ours – such as, among other things, not shaking hands with the ladies or drinking hard liquor “dry”.

What’s the most interesting thing about your job?

The most interesting thing in my work has been to get to know my Ukrainian colleagues, their professionalism, their difficulties, their ability to adapt and to try to bring them my experience to enrich theirs according to the mandate approved by the European Commission and the Ukrainian Government.

Meeting of EUBAM (European Mission). Odessa. 2007

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

French culture has long influenced Ukrainian culture – especially in Odessa – on the one hand by the presence of the 19th century of important personalities such as the Duke of Richelieu, the Count of Langeron, architects. This influence has left behind the names of streets, beaches and a certain art of living comparable to that of the South of France.

The twinning of Odessa with Marseille as well as the presence of a branch of the Alliance Française, shows that there is today a common desire to maintain these links and this influence, in particular on the cultural level through the “French Spring”.

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

In my opinion, the image of the French which dominates among the Ukrainians is that of people attached to Freedom, but relatively disciplined and respectful of the Laws.

The French, for their part, have the image of a country where, on the one hand, women are very beautiful and, on the other hand, or despite certain difficulties, development opportunities will be offered if the problems of the absence of a state rights are settled as quickly as possible.

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

The French can learn a certain pragmatism from the Ukrainians. Ukrainians can learn from the French a certain sense of claim and legitimacy and the fight against abuse of power.

What story that happened in Odessa and in connection with the culture and the French language do you prefer?

The anecdote according to which Odessa would come from “enough water” the first name for the city proposed to Catherine II, and which, taking into account the sufficient quantity of sea water for a port but the lack of drinking water would have been pronounced backwards and would have remained in history. (Importance of the French language at the time, even if it is a legend).

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 (not the Eiffel Tower) or a monument). What would you choose?

Characteristic elements of French culture:

“The Plague” (“La Peste” by Albert Camus)
Vincent, François, Paul and the Others” (VincentFrançois, Paul et les autres – French film directed by Claude Sautet)
The Luncheon on the Grass (Le Déjeuner sur l’herbe painting by Édouard Manet)
Le France a French song by Michel Sardou
Jean Gabin (acteur)
Cassoulet de Castelnaudary, traditions of Périgord
Cathar castles (in French châteaux cathares) or Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild

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.