Little did I know that 33 years ago, when I was handed the French flag at the opening of the European Championships in figure skating in Sarajevo, that flag would be mine to carry for life
I was born in Belgrade, but lived around the former Yugoslavia, spending the last years of our Yugoslav life in Sarajevo. It was in 1992 that I left the city that was under siege with my sister, and I wandered Europe seeking a place to stay. From Croatia to Czechia, from one refugee centre to another, we didn’t feel welcome anywhere, until we arrived in France.
The first thing they told us upon arrival was “You girls have to go to school, you need to continue your education“, which was exactly what our parents told us when we’d left home.
And that was it – despite not having with us the diplomas to prove which grade we were in (“we trust you”), despite not speaking French (“you will learn”), before we knew it we were quoting Voltaire and eating roquefort at the end of a meal as though we’d never known sarma.
And while our country was falling apart, along with everything we loved, we both plunged ourselves into our studies. I was good at maths and languages. I studied engineering and literature, but somehow ended up working in business intelligence and loving it.
I also loved living in Paris, and still do. But when, 19 years after my arrival, I heard that a French chamber was opening in Belgrade, that seemed like an opportunity not to be missed.
I’m very lucky to have been working at the Chamber from the start and to have been able to build it up from scratch. That was difficult, as I was working alone, but it also gave me incredible freedom in creating.
My job is very interesting: I work both for our members, for whom we organise events, advocacy, PR, etc., and for French companies in France that are interested in the Serbian market, for whom we carry out market research studies, identify clients and suppliers, or even open factories…
We may not be the biggest chamber today in terms of numbers (my fellow Frenchmen are still shy when it comes to the Serbian market), but we organise the most events and are the friendliest community – completely subjectively speaking, of course. One member told me some time ago that the CCIFS is the perfect combination of business and hedonism – so there you have it, the best definition of the French chamber ever, and precisely what make us different from everybody else.
The past couple of years proved particularly successful for the CCIFS. We had some major French companies launching operations in Serbia, as well as president Macron’s visit and ever more members joining us. But then the Coronavirus pandemic came and stopped us all in our tracks. Not for long though: like every crisis, this one is also an opportunity for something new to emerge, and we did that – digital transformation everywhere, new formats, new events, a new us.
I believe 2021 will be an extremely exciting year. I know we will be able to restart and capitalise on what we acquired before the pandemic and combine both old and new tools. I’m looking forward to it.
In conclusion: embrace the unpredictable! Life has a way of taking you to places you never dreamed of, despite all the plans you might have made, so better fasten your seatbelt and take the ride. And you never know, you might get lucky and end up somewhere like Paris.