The French actor with a Russian passport exchanged bohemian Paris for cosy Minsk for a couple of days
On the evening of July 21st the flight with the 66-year-old actor on board landed at Minsk National Airport. Naturally, the celebrity passenger did not remain unnoticed, the legend of French cinema was recognised on visa inspection. However, entrance visas into the country were not needed, as he is a citizen of the Russian Federation. While the actor diligently smiled at journalists and showed them his passport with the entry stamp, the Belarusian Ambassador to France, Pavel Latushko, explained the purpose of his visit, “His plans include discussion of shooting the film Normandy-Niemen; which filmmakers from Belarus, France and Russia are currently working on. In addition, Gérard, having farming and restaurant businesses of his own, wished to familiarise himself with the agriculture of the country and visit one of our agro-towns, which he has heard a lot about.”
Gérard Depardieu signs autographs for employees at the Ozeritsky-Agro agricultural enterprise
At the beginning of July, on the eve of Independence Day, Gérard Depardieu visited the Belarusian embassy in Paris. Speaking to Mr. Latushko, the actor discussed the importance Belarus gives to the economy and agriculture. In response, the Ambassador invited the legendary actor to see Belarusian agro-tourist projects. Depardieu accepted the invitation and decided to visit immediately. Plans were organised in record time.
The two day programme was very informative: on the evening of his arrival, the actor had time to visit a performance by the State Academic National Orchestra named after Zhinovich, to taste our draniki and cranberry liqueur (“It’s a real treat! We do not have things like this in France!” the actor said). He also enjoyed a Belarusian fruit drink and asked for a bottle or two to take back with him.
On the following day, the actor went to the Smolevichsi District to a commercial dairy farm belonging to the agricultural enterprise Ozeritsky-Agro. The actor took a child-like pleasure in the farm, showing interest in production technology, enquiring about bull-calves and cows and felt hay and got himself dirty. “Belarus reminds me of a little Switzerland: the same pure open fields, small cottages and a very good infrastructure. Even the agricultural technology is similar. I have noticed that Belarus has all the resources to become a cheese making country. Taking into account the large quantity of milk that you have, and the desire to learn, you only lack the relevant specialists. If you choose French experts you are bound to be successful.”
Depardieu appears to know a lot about Belarus, having previously heard and read much about it. And now he has seen it with his own eyes, “I have heard about the beauty of Belarusian landscapes, they are really incredible! All of Europe knows about the high level of your agriculture. I have never seen such technological farms, even in the Russian city of Saransk where I have a home. It is obvious that the President pays much attention to the development of agriculture.”
Mr. Depardieu was asked whether he had thought about transferring part of his business to Belarus. “It would not be profitable for me as a producer of wine: Belarusian conditions are not suitable for the cultivation of grapes. But the country has everything necessary for a high quality of life: a beautiful environment, tranquillity, natural milk, tasty meat and beautiful women, what else is necessary for a peaceful old age? I’ll probably consider your offer when I’m older.”
While the actor was speaking, workers on the farm queued up for his autograph. It was easy to see how pleased they were to meet the well-known visitor. Such famous celebrities have never been here. Olga Shimanovich, the head of staff at the commercial dairy farm at Zadomlya, did not hide her emotions, “We did not know that it would be Depardieu who would come. We were just told that a delegation of important guests would arrive today. We were not surprised: we receive visitors practically every month. When we saw the actor we didn’t recognise him at first. He appeared very pleasant, and kind and happily gave autographs to everyone!”
The President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, met with the famous French actor and restaurateur Gérard Depardieu on July 22nd. Mr. Lukashenko and Gérard Depardieu met in informal surroundings and discussed the themes of supporting agriculture in the modern world and the development of technology to cultivate ecologically safe foodstuffs. They also touched upon possible areas of co-operation between Belarus and France in the field of culture and art.
The Head of State arranged a short excursion for Depardieu to the official Residence of the President of Belarus, Ozerny in Ostroshitsky Gorodok. He was shown some examples of Belarusian agricultural machinery and trained in the skills of manual mowing.
By Yuliana Leonovich