“Ukraine’s children are being sacrificed by a renewed inhumanity”

The war in Ukraine has accelerated the drama with refugee children, traumatized, victims, orphans … Author of a very rich children’s history* Historian Eric Alary marvels at the dramatic fate of young Ukrainians captured in the war, as in Vinnytsia, during the Russian strike on July 14, which particularly killed Lisa, 4 years old, along with 22 other victims. Maintenance.

Marianne: In your study of the history of children, war seemed to be an old chapter, whereas we in France have gone through the era of the “children of happiness” and are still living through the “child king”. But the war in Ukraine sheds a harsh light on the tragedies and traumas experienced by these refugee children, traumatized, sometimes orphaned. So we reread your pages about the wounds of the last century, at ” children who have experienced hunger, cold, exile, seen death take the face of absence or of a corpse How do you observe this tragedy?

Eric Alary: Very clearly, for many of our contemporaries, war is distant, referring to the history of the last century, to an earlier time and removes us from the risk of suffering from weapons, scarcity and other burdens. The “children of happiness” from the post-war boom and the “child kings” of our time lived in a very normal form of ruthlessness, free and profited from democracy.

However, the tragedy in Ukraine once again throws us into the abyss, the dead and wounded, but also the one with the successive and massive emigrations, separations and postponements, and this depending on the development of the fighting. In fact, the current war – a few hours by car from our daily lives – has something to raise many buried concerns. Children, women and the elderly, not to mention the disabled, are the first victims of this war.

What are the direct consequences of the war for these children?

As in 14-18, as during the war in Spain, World War II and the war in the former Yugoslavia, to speak only of the most important wars on the continent, families are separated and forced to flee in emergencies, to leave their toys, photo albums , friends, schools, etc. Alas, in Ukraine, with more modern weapons, the war is being waged as it was almost a century ago. She sacrifices children in the name of the renewed inhumanity. It is always a matter of getting politicians to give in by sacrificing civilian lives, especially the lives of children, which affects conscience and understanding. Children are constantly victims of wars and they cannot defend themselves. How many children lost since the beginning of the Russian attack? For the record, in June 1940, nearly 90,000 children were declared lost in France, according to a figure given by the French Red Cross.

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Moreover, the war in Ukraine lasts over time, prolonging the suffering of children, making it impossible to cure the first physical and mental traumas. When do the exiled children return home? Will they find their room, their classmates, their teacher, their father? What a regression for our humanity, this new war … But the same can be said about the war in Syria, about the conflicts in the Middle East in general. The child has been taken more into consideration by public policies in France, but also in Ukraine, for decades. The war wiped out all this work for children in this democratic country who want to join the European Union. A generation of Ukrainian children are being sacrificed on the altar for imperialist ambitions from another age, or what we thought were from another age.

In a certain way you write, “the child remains the one who does not speak”. How do you interpret this silence?

Etymologically, the child is “the one who does not yet speak” (infans, a term that appears in the tenth century). For centuries, the child had nothing to say. He was “a mouth to feed” and cheap labor. The authoritarian father then dominated families, and intra-family hierarchies were firmly established. Children’s silence has been heavy for centuries and centuries. Then, in the 20th century, more attention was paid to the child, often after major crises such as the two world wars, but also thanks to the work of doctors and psychologists; pediatrics has emerged in the medical world and has become essential. The view of children will change both among parents and among politicians in the various republics. The child was eventually considered to be protected, but also to be brought up (often “being trained”). Hence the central role of the Republican school.

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But the child was also perceived as the future citizen to be trained, the future soldier living in a democracy. Today, the child talks during meals and can discuss more freely with his parents and adults in general. He can also talk too much, that is, no longer respect the educational rules that allow his life in society. Nowadays, parents are sometimes overwhelmed by their child’s taking power ‘in the home. Child psychiatrists and GPs help many parents understand why the child dominates them. It is undoubtedly the fruit of a growing freedom for the child in families in the name of happiness and freedom.

The contemporary notion of the “child of the law” is swept away, swept away by the drama. Is he not always destined to be betrayed?

In fact, the child victim for adults or other children (one can think of bullying at school) is a figure from the 20th century, a tabloid press quite often. It takes a drama to create headlines for politicians to seize the topic of childhood in order to be protected from making “legal children”. Some think about the rights of children in their families. Should the child have the right to file a complaint for a beating given by his parents? This question divides society.

But not so long ago, the child could get a whip without it touching many people. Napoleon’s civil law punished so many children with the right to paternal correction. The “child of justice” is a child who can be defended by society. Too often, unfortunately, the social services and the police intervene too late because children who are victims of abuse or heinous crimes, of sexual abuse, remain silent. Adults prefer to turn their backs. They dare not speak.

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International law developed children’s rights after World War II in several phases. The rights of the child exist in France like so many human rights. The child is considered to have the same rights as men and women. In principle, the child is an identified being, with his own identity and no longer a materialized being. But there is still a lot to do in the 21st century in the field of child welfare (ASE). Police and gendarmes have now been creating specialized antennas since the 2000s to receive words from child victims. The child has never been so protected by the laws, and yet it is still the victim of atrocities, crimes, and abuse. These evils seem to be constant; the threats to children are arguably more, more insidious and more sophisticated when it comes to the internet. So yes, parents and politicians must constantly take care of the child’s well-being. This is not the least of the requirements of a state governed by the rule of law.

* “The children’s story, from 1890 to today”. Previously composed editions, 332 pages, 23 euros

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