My last trip to Nice brought it back to me one more time – Kievites are one cool crowd, a nation within a nation, people whose passion and creativity touch people from other cultures leaving rich legacies and numerous followers.
Take Serge Lifar, for example. Born in Kyiv in 1905, he moved to France as a teenager to become one of the greatest male ballet dancers of the 20th century. He made his debut in Monaco as part of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes where he became the principal dancer. In 1929, at the age of 24, he was offered a position as director of Paris Opera thus becoming the youngest director in the theatre’s history. His 30-year directorship led to the rebirth of French ballet and the creation of a number of successful productions, among them Icare (1935) with costumes and décor by Picasso. During the German occupation of France, Lifar is credited for saving Jewish ballet dancers from concentration camps. A dancer, director, choreographer, writer and art collector, Serge Lifar made an important contribution to the French culture.
Another Kievite, Leo Mirkine, came to Nice in 1919 at the age of nine. A graduate in architecture, he decided to work in cinema by becoming a photographer. Together with his son Yves, he created the most successful photography business on the French Riviera. His photographs witnessed the glamour of the Cannes film Festival and its stars of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s - Brigitte Bardot, Princess Grace, Alain Delon, Jean Cocteau and many others. Mirkine took photos on the sets of such well-known films as Fanfan la Tulipe by Christian Jaque, Un carnet de bal by Julien Duvivier, J'accuse by Abel Gance, Les Diaboliques by Henri-Georges Clouzot, Et Dieu... créa la Femme by Roger Vadim and Le Testament d'Orphée by Jean Cocteau.
And, finally, anyone who ever visited Cote d’Azur has heard of Sophie Antipolis, a technology park located close to Nice and Antibes. Often referred to as the French Silicon Valley, it houses companies in electronics, computing, pharmacology and biotechnology, several institutions of higher learning, etc. With its focus on the “human factor” of an international community, Sophia Antipolis became a landmark in the area of scientific research and innovation. Where is the Kyiv connection, you ask? It is in the name. The science and technology part was named after Sophie Glikman-Toumarkine, the Kyiv-born wife of French Senator Pierre Laffitte, the founder of the park. It turns out that behind some very successful French men stands a Kievite.