On the morning of February 24, the day the war started, I went to work as usual. That day, I was giving a class on aesthetics. When I entered the auditorium, I gasped. For the first time in fifteen years, I was unable to teach.
Obviously, none of the students present knew about it. Most of them, alas, do not read any independent media. “Dear students, today is a terrible day”, I started. I told them, in fairly general terms, what I knew.
Then I started my course in aesthetics in art. I showed in particular the Guernica by Picasso [qui représente le bombardement du village basque du même nom par la légion Condor pendant la guerre d’Espagne, en 1937]. In the first four rows, my students were in tears.
This class was my swan song, but I didn’t know it yet. During the break, many students came to see me. Some took me in their arms, others expressed their concern. Among them, a young girl had family in Ivano-Frankivsk [dans l’ouest de l’Ukraine]where operations were taking place, and his relatives had been evacuated.
The students asked me to set aside some time at the end of the lesson to answer their questions about the history of Russian-Ukrainian relations. It was for some the first time in their existence that they wondered about this relationship. I said a few words about the events of 2014 and the following years, raised the question of whether Russia had objective reasons to fear NATO aggression, spoke of the alleged desire of Westerners to conquer our country.
At one point, in the back of the room, some started to get agitated. A burly man had appeared behind them on the stairs. He looked like a security guard, but he wasn’t (I know them all). Standing with his arms crossed over his large stomach, he looked at me, shaking his head in disapproval. Under his gaze, I summarized the lesson that had just passed. I never saw him again. Even today, I don’t know who he was. But it all started with him.
“University is out of politics”
My next class with the same group was the following week. Between the two, I slept very badly, I struggled between despair, grief, guilt, fear, and tears. I was seized with stammering, dizziness. In a terrible state, I began by apologizing to my students for this lesson, which might not be as good as usual.
During the break I got a call from the doy