Hailing originally from the United States, Carla Rosen-Vascher has made her home in Luxembourg for an impressive span of over 18 years. Her current role as an outreach Communication Officer at the Luxembourg Centre for Logistics & Supply Chain Management at the University of Luxembourg underscores her impactful presence.
However, it’s her intriguing personal journey that truly sets her apart. With a diverse background, Carla Rosen-Vascher has lent her expertise to various domains, including marketing at Henkel, a significant role in the film industry where she produced the latest film of Orson Welles, and even a stint in acting during her formative years. Notably, she also was managing the residence of the US ambassador in Paris during visits of Bill Clinton And Boris Yeltsin.
COVID in Luxembourg and the role of the Luxembourg Centre for Logistics and Supply Chain Management
Carla, you were already working in the Luxembourg Centre for Logistics and Supply Chain Management at the University of Luxembourg with the outbreak of COVID so it was kind of hard time to manage, especially for Luxembourgish government and I knew that the center did a lot of things to support the government in that. Could you elaborate a little bit, tell us a few things about that?
Carla: Yes of course. And thank you so much Tetyana for inviting me to be your guest today. I’m so happy to be here on Radio Ara. The Luxembourg Center for Logistics and Supply Chain Management played an integral part in the COVID-19 task force formed by the Luxembourg government. Very smartly to combat the COVID pandemic crisis in 2020. And our director Professor Benny Mantin was actually the head of Research Luxembourg and headed the specific logistics and supply chain effort within the COVID task force.
So the best example to give in terms of our active participation was together with list the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology as well as the National Research Fund of Luxembourg (FNR, Fonds National de la Recherche), there was a work group formed to create what we call a National Control Tower specifically for the healthcare supply chain. So to help the hospitals in Luxembourg source necessary protective equipment of course, but also all sorts of hospital equipment which was in shortage and in peril in terms of care for the patients in the hospitals.
So this National Control Tower was launched just recently and is helping the Luxembourgish hospitals facilitate their sourcing of necessary equipment and helping save lives in hospitals.
Tetyana: That’s great that the university could help.
Carla: Yes and also I wanted to add that our students from the center also volunteered from the beginning during the pandemic and actually went into the hospitals and helped the supply chain managers in the hospitals work out ways to better source this equipment for the patients.
Last film of Orson Wells “The other side of the wind”
Tetyana: Wow, that’s great. And well, COVID was really a dramatic experience for a lot of us and now from the drama in real life to fiction. And I know that you were one of the producers of the last film of Orson Wells. Could you tell us a little bit more about how did it happen?
Carla: So, thank you for asking. This is my hobby and life passion. I grew up in a film and theater family, so I say that it’s in my DNA. And I’ve been producing films for the past ten years or so. The biggest success that we’ve had is, as you kindly said, were able to finish the last unfinished film by Orson Wells, the great Orson Wells, which is called The Other Side of the Wind. And actually, this film was left unfinished in the 1970s for lack of financing, and my partner actually negotiated the rights to the remaining material and built out the film with the help of people who had worked with Orson and were on set with him. So it was a labor of love for those people. I was one of the executive producers, I helped raise funding to pay for mostly post production work in finishing the film.
And I had the privilege of working with actually very well known people who were associated with Orson or who came in as a matter of passion to help finish the film. So were lucky to collaborate with Netflix, who purchased the rights to the film, and it’s on all Netflix platforms for those who want to see it. So that was an incredible experience, especially the premieres at the Venice and New York film festivals in 2018.
Tetyana: But how did you come to this idea to finish the unfinished film? How did you know that? Well, there is something like that, right?
Carla: Well, I will not claim credit at all for that. That was my partner’s doing. But I came into the company at the time when he was starting this project. So it was the main reason, actually, that I came in to join this startup film production company because, as I said, I have a history of film in my family. My late aunt, Anne Revere, was a very famous actress who was blacklisted in the early 50s, but she won an Academy Award for the film National Velvet. And I feel very passionate about film history. And so that was the main reason that I actually joined this startup production company.
Tetyana: So you said “wow, it’s a great idea” I’ll join, or you took some time to think about it?
Carla: I was quite spontaneous, I would say, about it. And it didn’t involve too large a commitment at the time, so I didn’t really hesitate, I would say.
Tetyana: How hard was it, to negotiate with Netflix?
Carla: Actually, I did not do that personally, so I prefer not to comment. But I have to commend Netflix for their passion about film history as well. They have helped finish other historic films and they’ve made films about the history of Hollywood, and it’s something that they really care about.
When I met people from Netflix, fortunately for me, I was so impressed by, well, their intelligence. I mean, they’re a group of incredibly smart people who could be doing anything else, but they’re working there out of passion. They’re really passionate about what they do. So it’s very inspiring.
Hair mouse for Bill Clinton and vodka for Boris Yeltsin
Tetyana: I know that you also worked as a manager of the residence of the US ambassador in Paris, and while you worked there, there was a visit of Bill Clinton and Boris Yeltsin there. How was that? How did you feel at that time?
Carla: Well, you’re never supposed to say this, but it was the best day of my life. After my marriage, of course. But, yes, I had the incredible good fortune of being there at the right time, like a lot of things in life. So I happened to be the residence manager when President Clinton came to Paris for a summit meeting with President Yeltsin at the time and for these presidential visits.
Basically, almost the entire White House travels to the location to support the President. So we had this incredible group of people, of course, at the time with President Clinton’s staff, and I was fortunate in a way, because Ambassador Pamela Harriman, who was Mr. Clinton’s ambassador in Paris, unfortunately passed away a few months before the visit. And of course, she would have been the one to welcome the President. But because they had confidence in me, the Deputy Chief of Mission asked me to greet the President.
That was an incredible privilege and pleasure, I have to say, because he was the most gracious, the most lovely, just a joy to meet and talk to. He was very appreciative of all the work that had been done, and especially since the passing of Ambassador Herriman, who was a good friend of his. He thanked us for carrying on and remembering her every day. And I had the greatest personal opportunity to share with him that I had been his delegate at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. So he thought that was terrific, of course, totally personal, side comment. And hours later, when he left, he gathered everyone to thank us and say goodbye, and he repeated to the deputy that I had been his delegate. And I thought, after all that happened, the meeting with President Yeltsin, other meetings, that he had lunch at the Élysée Palace, he had the kindness to repeat that to the deputy.
So it was touching, but it was also all Bill Clinton. I mean, he just loves people and he was so just a joy to have.
Tetyana: Could you remember some unusual things that happened? I don’t know, as a manager you needed to order something which you didn’t do normally or some kind of experience like that.
Carla: Well, two things happened, and you have to be on your toes all the time for this type of thing. It’s like being on the radio, right, working in television. So someone of the staff came to me and said, it’s Bruce Lindsay’s birthday. Bruce Lindsay was a close senior advisor to the President, so we want to throw him a surprise birthday party. So I had to pull, know, cake, balloons, decorations, all sorts of things in the dining room and of course, keep it a surprise from Mr. Lindsay. And it turned out super well. He was surprised, he was happy, everyone was happy, but it was quite a lot of stress pulling that together.
The other anecdote is just a bit silly, but it is very touching. The President had two valets, a very kind Filipino gentleman, and one of them came to me in my office and said, miss Carla, would you happen to have any hair mousse? And I said, as a matter of fact, I do, because I had a very small room upstairs in case I needed to sleep over or be there extremely early in the morning to greet visitors. So I did have hair mousse. So I can say that President Clinton used my hair mousse.
Tetyana: Why did he need it?
Carla: They forgot to bring hair mousse from Washington. So instead of going out to buy some, I just supplied the bottle that I had, and they set up their ironing board in my office to iron his shirts. And just like a regular it was very quaint and charming and.
Tetyana: And on the side of Boris Yeltsin? Did they have any interesting ideas?
Carla: Well, so were, of course, privileged to host not only President Clinton, but President Yeltsin. We had to keep a distance from President Yeltsin, and I guess it’s okay to say this now, we had to keep vodka stocked at a certain temperature, and I don’t remember what the temperature was, but yeah, it was quite theatrical, I would say.
Tetyana: Okay. But at least you have good memories…
Carla: And well, yes, absolutely. It’s so much work. Of course, you prepare several weeks ahead for this type of visit, and everything has to be perfect. I mean, you have no choice. But then when it happens, it’s very rewarding. You can’t believe that these people are really there doing an important summit meeting, and pulling it off and having really good ambience as well, of course, which is the most important thing.
Moving to Luxembourg from US
Tetyana: I have a question which I think makes a lot of people curious. How did you come to Luxembourg?
Carla: Well, thank you for that question. I give the true answer, which I don’t like to give, because I’m a very independent person. I followed my husband because he was offered a very interesting position here. But I had the good fortune of being almost better prepared than he was for the country and the culture, because I grew up bilingual, speaking French as well as English in New York, and I also spoke German. So I felt comfortable almost right away.
And the one point of adaptation was I was from big city, right, Manhattan, and I had lived in Dusseldorf, in Paris, and I found myself then living in a small village, pastoral village. Very beautiful, historic, but not the big city. I would say that was the biggest point of adaptation, but I succeeded, so I’m really proud of that.
Tetyana: How long did the adaptation take?
Carla: Well, I would say a few months, to be perfectly honest. And for me personally, it was my first house because I grew up in an apartment, I’d always lived in apartments. And so it was for me personally, adapting to taking care of a house and also living in this more pastoral environment, which I now appreciate so much. And the quality of life is extraordinary. So I miss the city, but I would rather visit than live there at this point, so I’m lucky.
Tetyana: Carla, you live in Luxembourg now more than 18 years, and do you have some life hacks for newcomers, for people who just came to Luxembourg?
Carla: I think people who are now just coming are quite fortunate, actually, because it’s always been a multinational, multicultural melting pot, because it’s a small country, because Luxembourgers are very open minded and have benefited from immigration. But I think it’s even more so now, an incredibly active patchwork of cultures and languages.
I think that in addition to being tolerant and open, there’s this strong willingness to grow. So immigrants are welcomed and beloved because they’re bringing a richness to the country, which I think is very unusual, actually. And I think people can expect a unique balance of kind of old fashioned civilization. So this quaintness of having rural countryside very close to the capital city, as well as cutting edge business and innovation, so having the balance between the two is unique. I don’t know of any other country, maybe Switzerland, but it’s also a very smart balance between business and social support.
So people immigrating are really lucky to benefit from support from various government organizations, from the government of Luxembourg, but also expatriate organizations. I think that it’s easy to find support and also get support in a more efficient way than in other larger countries.
Tetyana: Do you have some advices, well, do that and don’t do that when you just came to Luxembourg?
Carla: Sure. What I thought of first of all is I think the most important thing, and it worked for me, is to respect the history of the country. So even though we’re going to be welcomed, we’re going to integrate, we still must respect the history and the language.
And I think what really helps is to learn some words of Luxembourgish, which is the national language, such as “moyen”, the common greeting, mostly in the morning and during the day, and “merci,” which is the same word as in French for thank you. And just using a few expressions of Luxembourgish will get you much goodwill. I personally learned the language because I was tired of not understanding and not being able to communicate to Luxembourgs in their native language. And it really makes a difference in terms of communal integration. Even if we make mistakes, they’re incredibly tolerant of mistakes as well, which is really nice.
I think it’s really important also to embrace the local culture. So even though it’s a very small country, regionally, there are differences in culture and language. So, for instance, in my region of the Moselle, which is very beautiful, sort of southeast of the capital city, we have wineries all along the Mosell River, which host wine festivals. So I think it’s really important to participate in this local culture of wine festivals.
We also have cherry picking groups when it’s the season. And I think it’s important to get to know these places. And in other regions, of course, there are other things that are important. And I think it’s important to in fact, choose your residential region according to what culture, what language you feel attracted to. So again, as an example, in my region of the Moselle, it’s quite a Germanic culture because we’re on the border with Germany and thanks to my German and kind of the way I was brought up, that suits me very well.
So I think other regions, like the north, is very pastoral, very beautiful, and it’s quieter and very historic. So I think it’s important to take a look at the differences in the regions. And if you’re lucky enough to have family with, especially young children, I think it’s really important to enroll your children in local schools. So the Luxembourgish schools, because that’s really the best way to integrate rapidly and meet other parents and meet people. So I did not have that advantage. But Luxembourg puts family first, so there are a lot of advantages for families, there’s a lot of infrastructure and I think also to have the children learn. Luxembourg ish which is of course easier at a small age, right? This feeds into the quality of life and the social equity that we have in the country and it reflects this respect.
Tetyana: Do you have Luxembourgish friends?
Carla: Yes, actually we have a lot of Luxembourgish friends.
Tetyana: How did you manage to get them? Because a lot of expats, they say, well, I never saw a Luxembourgish person. I don’t know where to meet them.
Carla: Well, I mean, our neighbors, we have an incredible number of nationalities. Like all these villages and towns, there are 43 nationalities in our town commune, which is the second smallest commune in the country. It is called Waldbredimus, but despite the size, we have 43 nationalities, but all of our immediate neighbors are Luxembourgish, and we’ve become friends with them just by sharing life, helping each other out. There’s a neighbor open house day that you have to participate in and go to each other’s houses.
But I think it’s mostly participating in communal life and showing that you care about the community. So there’s that. And also, of course, through work. I met a lot of my Luxembourgish friends through work. But as I said, even if you’re a stay at home mom, if your children are enrolled in Luxembourgish schools, you’re going to meet parents, of course, hopefully at least half Luxembourgish.
And as I said, participating in activities such as even just a wine festival, it’s very convivial. So you can chat with the wine growers, of course, but also with other participants in the festival. So I think there are many ways you can also volunteer for the Red Cross.
Tetyana: That’s also a great idea!
Carla: Yeah, volunteer for worthy organizations. So we have the very strong Red Cross organization, we have very strong foundation against cancer and we also have a lot of animal shelters because people here care a lot about animals. I do too, I’m just waiting to get a dog or a cat but I have a friend who met quite a few Luxembourgers volunteering at the animal shelter in Gasperisch I believe is the biggest one.
Tetyana: That’s really great. Do you know some hidden gems in Luxembourg? Some places to recommend that not quite obvious and not well known.
Carla: I would say. Well, personally. Other people know restaurants and bars. Most people know this already. But I like “Mama Shelter” restaurant in Kirschberg.
Kirchberg is a business district in Luxembourg city, where a lot of offices of banks and big companies are located. It stands out through its modern architecture.
It’s really excellent quality food. And there’s a restaurant and there’s a rooftop bar. And then of course, there’s Bazar, which a lot of people know already. Excellent food also, and kind of happening places. And we like to actually visit Wineries again.
Coming back to the Moselle area, there are tours that are offered. And there’s a special winery that’s not very well known, but really high quality is Alice Hartman in Wormeldange. And it’s really a pleasure because it’s quite small. So you can just stop by and get to know the manager and have a tasting and meet people through that as well. So that’s an important part of the patrimony. I don’t go to bars, so I couldn’t really tell you about that.
Moselle Valley is a beautiful region in the south-east of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg formed by Moselle river with its picturesque wine slopes and vineyards.
Tetyana: Do you have a favorite museum in Luxembourg?
Carla: I actually like Villa Vauban quite a lot. I think it’s very beautiful. So that’s right in the center of town, in the park. And I love Mudam (Museum of Modern Art) in Kirschberg, the contemporary art museum, mostly for the architecture.
Tetyana: When, for example, friends of yours coming to visit, where will you bring them? What do you show them?
Carla: Yes, that’s a really good question. So I like to do the tour of the Grand Duce Palace in the summer. Obviously, that’s right in town, the Casemates. So the historic passageway under the old fortress in town, that’s very interesting. We also brought family to Vianden Castle. And of course, Clairvaux up north is very worthy not just for the castle, but for the museum there.
Tetyana: The exhibition “The Family of man”.
Carla: Yes, exactly. And, yes, we have always brought people to Mudam since it was built. And I think in town also, the Casino is a very interesting place for contemporary art. And I personally just love Old Town. So even if it’s not nice weather, I mean, it’s worth walking around there and seeing the historic buildings and walking along the Corniche to see the valley. Just a very beautiful setting, I think.
Tetyana: Speaking about the weather, do you like it in Luxembourg?
Carla: I like it right now.
Tetyana: Now it’s sunny.
Carla: Well, it’s a funny anecdote. When we first moved here and I got to know people, they were going away all the time. So, of course, those who can afford it, but they were going away every school holiday. And we know now that there are quite a lot of school holidays and breaks during the year. And I thought, My goodness, why do they go away every single school break? And after the first year of the weather, I realized that’s why they’re going in search of the sun. I think.
My husband has a really good saying about the weather. He says, listen, if the weather were as good as California’s here, we would be totally overrun and it would no longer be livable. So I’d rather keep it livable. High quality of life and deal with the volatile weather, I like to say, because it’s changing all the time.
So I have gotten used to it, and I appreciate it, especially when it rains for the garden and the parks and the green areas of which we’re blessed to have so many in Luxembourg. And so now, instead of complaining, I’m grateful for the rain.
Tetyana: Dear Carla, thank you very much for this very positive interview. Carla: Thank you, Tetyana. It was a pleasure speaking with you.