Swiss-born Ethnic Russian, Residing in Georgia
04 October, 2012
Swiss-born Ethnic Russian, Residing in Georgia

 

Interview with Pierre Orloff, Honorary Consul of the Kingdom of Belgium

 

He is not an official representative of the Kingdom of Belgium, nor is he the native citizen. However, it is not obligatory to be the native of the country of which you are only the honorary consul. However, these circumstances make the things much more interesting and challenging. Mr. Pierre Orloff is a really thrilling personality – genetically Russian, born in Switzerland and living in Georgia, representing Belgium. Meet

him together with Georgian Journal.

 

G.J: As far as I know, you are ethnically Russian and have the Swiss citizenship. Please, tell us how you turned up in Switzerland? 
P.O: In spite of the fact that I was born and raised in Switzerland and had the Swiss education, I feel myself 100% Russian. Ethnically and culturally speaking, I am 100% Russian but from the country that does not exist any longer as one century. So, my Russia is not today’s Russia. When the Revolution happened, my father went enlisted in the White Army as a volunteer, trying to save his country from the Bolsheviks. He did not succeed. He was part of the army that was ousted from Russia and he arrived in Switzerland, where I was born later. All the members of our family lived our whole lives protesting against the Soviet rule. My father lived there for 25 years without any citizenship as old Russia did not exist any longer. In those times, you could not obtain the citizenship of the host country as easily as now. It was only after the Second World War that they managed to get the Swiss citizenship. 
When the Perestroika started, I went to what I considered to be my country, to see with my own eyes what it was, because before that I had never been to my country. It was not at all the country that my parents used to tell me about. The people had become different, their mentality is quite different but there is some kind of remnants of the past Russia. We, the members of the immigration, are old fossils, kind of dinosaurs, witnesses of something that has passed a long time ago. We had some hopes but you can not turn the time back, as the history has done its work and things have changed. 
Before the Perestroika started, it was more or less forbidden for the members of the immigration to go to Russia, but after the Perestroika many of them went back and I was one of them, together with my both sons, to whom I transmitted those ideas, that feeling of patriotism of something that does not exist any longer. We all wanted not only to see Russia but also to participate and help the rebirth of our country. The country was so much spoilt by the Soviet rule, which lasted for 75 years. In the immigration, we were bearing principles that were destroyed in Russia by the new ideology. As you know, the Soviet Rule destroyed not only the aristocracy, but also the most important and commendable class of peasants. The main lesson that my father taught me and the same lesson I was teaching my two sons, was just one rule, which is pronounced in French (as the aristocracy of those times spoke in French). The formula, which sounds beautiful, is: noblesse oblige. It means that aristocratic origin obliges you to be humble. It is not so much giving privileges but rather - more obligations. You owe the society and the country something. I always remembered it so strongly that I managed convey it to the third generation immigrants – to my sons. 
G.J: Your story is really interesting. Please, tell us something about your family. Together with the said traditions, has Russian language been also preserved by your sons? 
P.O: Yes. My elder son lives in Moscow and has two children – a boy and a girl. My second son has returned to Switzerland after spending many years in Russia and Georgia! He too has a son and daughter. Perfect, is not it? By the way, my yongest son has married a Georgian woman and every summer they arrive in Georgia on holidays. My grandchildren Feodor and Sofia, Nikolai and Anushka will speak Russian, French and English. 
G.J: What about your own story – what did you see when you first went to Russia and why did not you stay there? 
P.O: At first, I tried to be intermediary between the two different worlds. I am a geologist by profession, but I abandoned geology quite a long time ago. My life is very complicated. (In a good way, I hope). After geology I switched to finance and worked in New York at the Stock Exchange. Then, I engaged in my passion, which are horses. I chose them as my activity and became a trainer for horses. In my family, affection to horses was born centuries ago. During Perestroika e I changed my profile again and tried to be a consultant. During the Soviet rule, the managers of Russian (and Georgian) Soviet enterprises had no direct contact with foreign partners. For example, one of them was Kamaz – enterprise that was producing trucks. They had no idea how to conduct negotiations with foreigners who were their potential clients. They did not know how to communicate because it was all done by the special services of the Soviet Union, and only once in a while they were meeting the foreigners. After the Perestroika, the managers of those big enterprises had to contact directly the foreign clients and partners. I was helping them not only individually but also partially through the United Nations Agency, which is called ILO (International Labor Organization). We organized seminars, etc. Such were my attempts to help, to live and work in Russia, to help the development of the new country. One day, accidentally, at a reception of the United Nations, I was offered a three-month contract in Georgia. I came 20 years ago to Georgia for three months and I am still here (laughs whole-heartedly. Call it a fate!) It was a contract connected with the humanitarian affairs of the United Nations. Georgia was passing through tough times – you had three civil wars almost at the same time. The economy was dying. People needed help from the international community. I was here for organizing this international help. I would have continued to try to reintegrate if not Georgia. My parents used to tell me about Georgia – as it was part of the Russian Empire. It was a beloved place for all Russians. Now Georgia is independent and I am very happy about that. At the same time, it’s still close to us, to our history; almost all Georgians speak Russian, etc. We have a lot in common – culture, science, religion, etc. On the other hand, while being in Russia, I felt myself every day falling apart in pieces; what a terrible thing the Soviet Rule has done – how they have changed – how rude the people have become. I was deeply touched and hurt. But in Georgia it was much easier for me to live here, because I was not taking things so close to my heart as it was not my historic land. And Georgia is such a charming, captivating and beautiful country!!!

G.J: You are a rarely interesting person – A Russian emigrant born in Switzerland who lives in Georgia and represents the Kingdom of Belgium. Why Belgium?
P.O: I have quite a few contacts with Belgium and I have a lot of friends there. When over 20 years ago I first went to Russia, Moscow, I got acquainted with its social life, and among others, with the ambassadors of the Kingdom of Belgium. They were very nice people and we used to meet each other at certain occasions in Moscow. At that time, the ambassador of Belgium in Moscow was also accredited as an ambassador of Belgium to Georgia. He told me that their government was considering opening the honorary consulate in Georgia. He told me: ‘Would you like to be our man, as you live there and we know that we can rely on you?’ As you know, the honorary consul doesn’t have to be a citizen of the country he is representing. I said: ‘why not?’ I had lived in Georgia for 10 years already. But when it was decided to open the consulate here, I was already retired, I did not have the office any more, nor did I have any secretary. They said: “It does not matter. You can open it in your own apartment’. Before that, as I told you, I was involved in the humanitarian work and then I opened the Swiss company SGS Georgia. SGS in Geneva is the world leader in the business of controlling and inspecting commercial goods, giving certifications of quality to goods and skills. At the time of opening a Consulate, my first wife had passed away. And I was happily living with my second wife. She is called Tamara and she is a wonderful person with whom it is a blessing to live. She is a Georgian patriot, with Russian cultural background. 
G.J: How would you comment on these terrible jail events that took place lately in Georgia?
P.O: Speaking personally, as I am not the official representative of the Kingdom of Belgium, it’s a shame, of course. It’s a shame for the ruling party of Georgia to have admitted it only now. For years, everybody knew about that. You are a Georgian and I understand your feelings very well. I am not a Georgian but I also want to cry when I think about these events. It’s horrible, horrible, horrible!
G.J: Which is your favorite place in Georgia?
P.O: O. let me think. I love your mountains. But yes, there is one place where my soul, my mind and my eyes feel happy, where I feel like I’m in the Heaven. It is Davit Gareji Monastery compound. I used to take all my relatives there 20 years ago when a lot of Georgians did not know anything about it. I still go there. These valleys, the silence, the eagle flying in the sky, the cells of the monks, who used to live on the cliffs, everything is so impressive. One man told me a long time ago: ‘Three-time pilgrimage in Davit Gareji equals one-time pilgrimage to Jerusalem’. It is beautiful and it has a very profound spiritual essence as well. I love a lot of places in Georgia. I am not very fond of the seaside, because I love sea and I know many more beautiful sea resorts and sea beaches than in Georgia – in Turkey, in France, in Italy. I have been to the Georgian sea but I was disappointed. There is not enough comfort; there are not enough sandy beaches. Abkhazia was better. I was there several times before the fall of Sokhumi. Then I was in charge of the humanitarian aid from the United Nations, and I went there but I was so busy there working that I hardly had any time to see the beaches. I have not seen Gagra or any other place. I have not seen Batumi recently but they say it is very beautiful. As for holidays, I like my new apartment, the comfort is there, and we have nice balconies, so it’s like having a holiday every day. When I can take holiday, I have three favorite destinations: the first is Italy. I love that country since my young years. I was very happy when I could show to my wife this country last year – we saw Rome, then Naples, Toscana. But I love Belgium too, and Switzerland of course. 
G.J: How do you assess the elections, how were they held? 
P.O: Elections were held quite normally. One can say that there were no evident infringements.
G.J: What is your opinion about the observers - how well did they play their role?
P.O: Apparently well. But I can really answer only after I have read their final reports.
G.J: The international community says that this is one big step to the democracy. Do you agree? 
P:O: It is one first big step towards democracy, indeed. But mainly due to the restraint and fair play of the opposition.

 

 

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