In compliance with the inter- government programme of cooperation in culture, science and technology concluded at the time of the President of France Jacques Chirac’s state visit to Ukraine, the Days of Ukraine’s Culture were held in France in September and October 1999. They were designed to boost Ukrainian-French relations. Toulouse (sister-city of Kyiv), Lille (sister-city of Kharkiv), Marseilles (sister-city of Odesa) and Paris, Lion, towns in the Rhone-Apls region, in Lorraine and Champagne saw performances and exhibitions of 400 Ukrainian artists.

In compliance with the inter-government programme of cooperation in culture, science and technology concluded at the time of the President of France Jacques Chirac’s state visit to Ukraine, the Days of Ukraine’s Culture were held in France in September and October 1999. They were designed to boost Ukrainian-French relations. Toulouse (sister-city of Kyiv), Lille (sister-city of Kharkiv), Marseilles (sister-city of Odesa) and Paris, Lyons, towns in the Rhine-Alps region, in Lorraine and Champagne saw performances and exhibitions of 400 Ukrainian artists. The unveiling of the Days of Ukraine’s culture took place in the Espace Cardin theatre in Paris on September 14. The Ukrainian official delegation was headed by Yuriy Bohutsky, the Minister of Culture. A big show followed the exchange of speeches and greetings. The Kyiv Soloists Chamber Orchestra under M. Hobdych, many individual performers captivated the audience.
. The show over, all those present proceeded to see an exhibition of works of contemporary Ukrainian painters and sculptors. The programme of the Days of Ukraine’s Culture in France was supported by the Ministries of Culture of Ukraine and France and by the embassies of these two countries. Within this programme, new agreements were signed on cultural exchange between Ukrainian and French cities. Ukrainian-French relations go way back in history to the 11th century when one of the daughters of Kyiv Grand Prince Yaroslav, Ann, was married to the then French king. Ukraine and France are about the same size in territory and in population. The first Ukrainian constitution was written in France by Pylyp Orlyk. Ukraine is a multi-ethnic state and in addition to Ukrainian performers and artists, the Ukrainian delegation included representatives of the Jewish, Crimean Tartar, Russian and Armenian communities.
At the exhibition: in the foreground are A. Valiyev's sculptures; in the background are O. Pinchuk's sculptures and O. Chepelyk's “installations”

Yuriy Illenko, film-director, cameraman
.According to the French mass media, the French audiences in Paris and elsewhere appreciated such a multi-ethnic representation. One of the centres of the Ukrainian Arts Festival was the town of Die, known for the white wine, Claret-de-Die, produced there. The Book Salon was a major event of the Festival in Die. The Ukrainian writers Andriy Kurkov and Yevheniya Kononenko were invited to take part. The new magazine, Diagonals. East-West, published in Lyons, was presented at the Book Salon. This issue was entirely devoted to Ukraine. Also, several films with the participation of Ivan Mykolaychuk, a remarkable Ukrainian actor, were shown, including The Shadows of the Forgotten Ancestors. Several participants of the Days of Ukraine’s Culture in France shared their impressions with Heorhiy-Hryhoriy Pylypenko, a Welcome to Ukraine correspondent. Oleksandr Dubovyk, painter Dubovyk’s works can be found in museums of Kyiv, St Petersburg, Moscow, private collections of Europe and America. He works also in monumental format, creates mosaics, tapestry, stained glass.
He has published several books on the theory of art and had many personal exhibitions in Ukraine and abroad. “The general atmosphere of France is so good for art. Wherever you look you recognize something familiar from literature or paintings. I’ve had a lot of exciting meetings. Of the architectural impressions the ones from the Chartre Cathedral are the strongest. The master architect who designed it, had a superb taste, he knew that though the construction would take years to be completed, the final result would be close to what he had actually envisioned in the first place. But I also had a feeling that France has sort of outlived itself.

I mean I could not feel the energy of the nation it used to have in the past. There’s a great taste in everything. The French live in the context of culture. The Parisians are great socializers, their esthetical tastes are superb. Some say they are snobs but even if it is so, their snobbism can be justified. The French look far ahead into the future, they have been contributing to the world culture for centuries. It seems to me that in the French culture of today, and in western culture in general, there’s too much of what appears to be childish. I think that the Russia House run by brothers Gira, is doing a great job in promoting Slavic cultures.” Anatoliy Valiyev, sculptor Valiyev worked for some time in France. His works can be found in museums of Ukraine, in Rotterdam, Holland, and Melbourne, Australia. Valiyev’s monumental and park sculptures can be seen in several towns of Ukraine, Germany and France. “Paris is indeed a major art centre of the world. What a great variety of art works of all trends, by so many artists from so many countries can be seen there! I wish the Days of Ukraine’s Culture in France had been better advertised. About two thousand invitations were issued for the opening ceremony and about 500 people actually turned up. They were greeted by Anatoliy Zlenko, Ukrainian Ambassador to France, and by the minister of culture. Pierre Cardin was among those present and he added significance to the event. In fact, it is largely to his efforts that the Days of Ukraine’s Culture had been held. A wonderful concert was given right after the official ceremony. The art exhibition was an informal occasion, with artists mingling with the public, socializing and sipping champagne late into the night. I invited the proprietress of the hotel where we stayed to visit the exhibition. She did and then brought her friends. The French enjoy all kinds of cultural events.


Zoloti Klyuchi (“Golden Keys”) trio.


Vasyl Vovkun in Paris.

My visit to Volodymyr Bezimensky, a physician of Serge Lifar, the famous dancer, was a memorable occasion. In his collection he has a cast of the dancer’s foot made by Aristide Maillole, a distinguished French sculptor. Bezimensky lives outside Paris, and being at his house, breathing the fresh forest air, enjoying the conversation, I keenly realized what it means to live in style and enjoy life to the full. France is a country where culture permeates all spheres of life, and the achievements of French culture are known all over the globe.” Vasyl Vovkun, theatre director Mr Vovkun is a theatre director at the Ukrainian Centre of Cultural Initiatives and an art director of the Art Veles Agency. “From the window of the plane France looked so much like Ukraine. Of all of the events I took part in, the ones in the town of Die I think were the most interesting. Members of our delegation lived not in a hotel but in local people’s homes.

Sculptor Anatoliy Valiyev, Pierre Cardin and works of Ukrainian modern art.
There are few young people in that town though, and I was somewhat upset by the fact that a number of distinguished Ukrainian artists, performers and film and theatre directors had to show their achievements in such a small place. We brought with us films directed by Kira Muratova and Yuriy Illenko, a play by the Left-Bank Theatre from Kyiv, also several popular singers came along. It seems to me that the French have lost touch with the folk culture. Our Zoloti Klyuchi (“Golden Keys”) trio was a great success.After the shows and performances we kept talking, discussing the events of the day with the audiences and visitors. The French regard us as being good-natured, patient and docile, but such an impression has been formed because of Russia. Our pop group Dead Rooster played at a discotheque and was well received.
The discotheque was very much like ours: there was a fight, some criminal looking characters. In Paris I went to the Louvre to the Egyptian collection. Ancient Egypt is one of the primary sources of our civilization. Mona Lisa keeps smiling her enigmatic smile, and Paris itself exploits eroticism too much. When I climbed the Eiffel Tower, I felt the romantic period of my life had come to an end... I saw a wedding procession, the newlyweds wore clothes designed to look as though made centuries ago. They threw grain and candies into the crowd, all very elegant and beautiful. In the history of France it was so wise to give priority to culture. Ukraine had quite a different history, not very conducive to elite culture. And I’ve also realized that we, Ukrainians, are very talented, not artificial, we have not been appreciated yet.” Yuriy Illenko, film director In addition to being a film director, Mr Illenko has written screen plays; he was the cameraman with director Paradzhanov in filming The Shadows of the Forgotten Ancestors, that collected more awards than any other Ukrainian film; he is an Academician of the Academy of Arts of Ukraine.
“The epoch of great geographical discoveries goes on - the world continues to discover Ukraine that stayed in the shadow of the Soviet Union for such a long time and now has emerged into the sun. All the events of the Days of Ukraine’s Culture gathered big audiences. I’ve brought home an unusual souvenir from France - a scorpion. I was bitten by this creature when I was in the bathroom there. The doctor I had to see, prescribed some antibiotics. When I complained that now, because of it (it’s considered bad to drink alcohol while you’re taking antibiotics) I would not be able to drink wine, he was so surprised. What, he said, how can one live without wine?.. As a sort of compensation for the bitten foot, I left an imprint of my other foot in front of an imposing cinema house, Pestel. Now, I feed my French scorpion with Ukrainian flies. In spite of the unfortunate bite, I felt inspired. I’m working now at my new movie, Ave Maria, and once in a while I recall a very inspiring sight: there were queues to the box offices of a big cinema house, right next door to my hotel in Monmartre. 12 films were shown at the same time in different halls, and the queues, at ten o’clock in the morning on Sunday, were excellent evidence of the fact that the art of cinema is still popular.
Oleksandr Dubovyk, painter, in Paris.
There was no queue to a “sexodrom” of entertainment close by. And what people like most in cinema - it’s films about love.” Mariya Mykolaychuk, singer She is a member of the Zoloti Klyuchi trio. We performed in a little town at the foot of the Alps. The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful, it seems you’re in a fairy-tale. The air is really salubrious. I remembered our Carpathian Mountains, there is some similarity, but in France everything is so well kept, so clean. And the people are civil, well-behaved, courteous. Even without knowing the French language, I could get myself understood. You can communicate straight from heart to heart. I invited the family in whose house I lived to come to Kyiv. We were taken to see a chateaux, a sort of a castle in the mountains. Even the furniture there was old, original. And a balcony over a precipice - an unforgettable sight. I felt I could fly, I was so overwhelmed. Though I’ve been to Paris four times I can’t stop being impressed by Paris architecture. There are not so many trees and parks in Paris as there are in Kyiv, so, people compensate this lack of greenery by growing plants on the balconies, terraces, roofs, some places look like miniature forests. Naturally, we were not only enjoying the sights, we were also giving concerts. I saw people of different ages in the audience. Almost every song was greeted with long ovation. We even sang some French songs, about love, of course, we gave several classes of Ukrainian singing to those who wanted them, and during our last performance the audience sang together with us. I believe a folk song is a sort of a link with the cosmos, it can be understood without any translation.