The Ukrainian Institute, Ukraine’s cultural diplomacy institution under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, has opened its Representative Office in France. On 9 November, First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska, the Secretary of State for European affairs Laurence Boone, Minister of Culture of France Rima Abdul Malak, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Emine Dzhaparova, Director General of the Ukrainian Institute Volodymyr Sheiko, President of the Institut français Eva Nguyen Binh, Deputy Mayor of Paris for Culture Carine Rolland, and President of the Association of the Ukrainian Institute in France Iryna Dmytryshyn delivered speeches at the opening ceremony in Paris.
“If you ask many Europeans what they know about Ukraine not from the news, but from the sphere of culture, from books, which of our classical artists, writers, it is likely to be a difficult question. It is sad that the world is starting to learn more about Ukrainian culture and our contribution to the world only because of the Russian attack. But it is good that the process of discovery is happening. Because our culture proves: we exist, we have always been and will be. No matter how much the empire wanted, and still wants, to appropriate us again.” – First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska.
"The opening of the Representative Office of the Ukrainian Institute under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in France is very important. This country is one of our key allies in the EU and NATO. A country whose heart cannot be won by stories about the economy or energy. The keys to French hearts are culture and art. For all the stories about your country, they will tell you only one thing: "Show your artists." With the opening of the Ukrainian Institute in Paris, this is exactly what we will do. And Ukraine has something and someone to show from its rich culture," – Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, Dmytro Kuleba.
“In opening its Paris branch, the Ukrainian Institute shows the importance of the cultural ties between France and Ukraine. We strongly support the pivotal role it will play in fostering resilient societies, especially during challenging times,” said Alex Soros, Chair of the Open Society Foundations. “Recovery efforts in Ukraine must consider art and culture, both to preserve its heritage and to secure a lasting presence at the heart of the European cultural landscape.”
The establishment of the Representative Office of the Ukrainian Institute in France underscores the strategic significance of cultural collaboration between the two countries. France has always been an important partner for Ukraine, particularly in matters of national security and European integration. Yet, the French public has limited knowledge of Ukrainian culture and history, often viewing them through a Russian perspective.
In March 2022, a group of Ukrainian volunteers launched the cultural project Printemps Ukrainien (French for “Ukrainian Spring“) in France, seeking to introduce Ukrainian culture to the French audience. The project resulted in 96 cultural events that attracted over 40,000 visitors. Printemps Ukrainien was initiated by Olha Sahaidak, representative of the Ukrainian Institute in France, in partnership with the Embassy of Ukraine in France, with the support of DOFA and USAID. In 2023, the project evolved into a permanent institution – the Ukrainian Institute in France.
“The world’s unprecedented attention to Ukraine opens up new opportunities for cultural diplomacy between Ukraine and France. Mutual understanding, awareness, and cooperation between the two cultures strengthens the European project and makes our societies better informed and more resilient. To provide more opportunities for Ukrainian and international culture makers, we are opening Ukrainian Institute offices in key partner countries in close cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ukrainian Embassies,” comments Volodymyr Sheiko, Director General of the Ukrainian Institute.
The mission of the Ukrainian Institute in France is to promote Ukrainian culture abroad, foster curiosity in its exploration, and generate demand for Ukrainian cultural offerings. This is achieved by presenting Ukrainian culture as a significant and integral part of European culture, as well as encouraging France’s active participation in supporting Ukrainian culture, including restoration and renovation of cultural heritage sites. The team of the Ukrainian Institute will work in La Gaîté Lyrique, a cultural platform in Paris designed to respond to the cultural, social, democratic and climate emergency and invite people to shift from ideas to action.
The Ukrainian Institute is grateful for significant institutional support in France: from the French Ministry of Culture, the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, the Institut français, the French Embassy in Ukraine, the City of Paris and La Gaîté Lyrique.
The opening event took place at the La Gaîté Lyrique cultural centre and came to a close with a concert by Jamala, the Crimean Tatar singer, performing the best hits from her concert programme. The concert was attended by the heads of ministries and state institutions of France and Ukraine, donors, cultural figures from both countries, media and representatives of the diaspora. The opening ceremony was hosted by Elisabeth Quin, a well-known French journalist, TV presenter and the face of ARTE, European public service channel dedicated to culture.
The opening of the Representative Office of the Ukrainian Institute in France was made possible thanks to our partners: Open Society Foundations, International Renaissance Foundation, the French Ministry of Culture, the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, the Institut français, the French Embassy in Ukraine, the City of Paris and La Gaîté Lyrique, as well as thanks to the support of the Embassy of Ukraine in France and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. The Ukrainian Institute in France will become the second foreign representative office of the Institute after the opening of the first one in March 2023 in Berlin, Germany.