What happens to a language when war breaks out on its territory? How do families do when what you speak immediately links you to one side or the other? This week, “Le Temps” examines how in Ukraine, Kosovo, the former Yugoslavia and Ireland, language, an intimate object, has become a political object. Or, sometimes, the key to appeasement, as in South Tyrol, a former Austrian territory attached to Italy, an example of a compromise that succeeded.
“Russian is my mother tongue and now that of my attacker. I avoid speaking about it in public. The disarray of Nataliya, a retiree originally from Odessa and a refugee in Geneva, reflects the extent of the fracture that occurred on February 24 when Russia attacked Ukraine. In a predominantly bilingual country, the choice of Russian or Ukrainian, already highly political since the annexation of Crimea, has turned into a real power struggle, going so far as to interfere with much more crucial issues, among which the independence of Ukraine.