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the teddy bear, shield of Putin’s little victims

Dn its edition of March 15, the newspaper The Parisian headlined the photo of Camilla, a 3.5-year-old Ukrainian girl who, together with her mother, had to leave Irpin, in the suburbs of kyiv, in a hurry, because the deafening noise of the bombs was getting louder and louder. pressing. We imagine somehow the trauma of this emergency departure, in which it will have been necessary to leave behind the father, who remained to fight the Russian invader, and the ” blankie “, too big to fit in the suitcase. Now schooled in Mées, in the Landes, the little girl has found some comfort with a new soft toy to which she clings all day, “like a lifeline”. Far from the explosions, in the company of this rabbit with a cream coat spotted with yellow and blue, Camilla’s nights, haunted by “monsters” who wanted to kill her, calmed down.

The cuddly toy, substitute for the parent caught up in events, a little piece of reassurance in the heart of an ocean of worry

Apparently anecdotal (but in truth not so much), there is therefore a parallel history of the Ukrainian conflict, that of the comforters of children caught up in the war. This vision of the little ones and their rag acolytes shaken by the storms of history has something almost of the visual archetype. In his work Children’s story. From the 1890s to the present day (Passés Composés, 334 pages, 23 euros), Eric Alary recalls the exodus of May 1940, which, faced with the German advance, threw the Belgian, Luxembourg, Dutch and then French populations onto the roads. Fleeing the bombardments there too, the children discover the dead in the ditches along the way, victims of the stukas which machine-gun the columns of refugees from the sky. Some lose their parents.

“Millions of children then find themselves in the middle of a nightmare. (…) The first wave of the exodus, in May, is covered the following month by the luxury magazine Illustration, which publishes a series of photographs. The photos show children with haggard eyes, some of whom have little more than a small poster hanging around their necks as an identity card. We see a little girl alone, sitting on a suitcase and holding a rag doll in her hands. » The cuddly toy, substitute for the parent caught up in events, a small piece of reassurance in the heart of an ocean of anxiety.

Shock counter-image

Because it is innocence, childhood is this standard against which the darkness of tragedies is measured. The Ukrainian authorities have understood this well when, in order to convince NATO leaders to prevent the overflight of their country by Russian fighter planes, they broadcast a video in the form of a lullaby, where a small childish voice says: “If you don’t close the sky, I’m going to die. » We are far from a simple publicity stunt: among the most striking images of this warlike absurdity, there is this mother on a stretcher, holding her bloody belly, evacuated after the bombardment of the Mariupol maternity hospital on March 9 . The pelvis crushed, she will die shortly after her child, whom an emergency caesarean section could not save.

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