On the stage behind the veteran, Rima Alexandrovna leaned to her right and began to chortle with her assistant, Tatyana. The hall soon swelled into a cacophony, as though the veteran were not there. And, for fifteen minutes! When he finished his inaudible speech, the applause crescendoed—the loudest of the day.
From my book: The room had become a free-for-all for teachers, students—and for Rima Alexandrovna. I felt sorry for the veteran. I couldn’t imagine what he was thinking. What had begun as a formal ceremony in honor of a momentous historical event had no heart. I felt a deep emptiness. The director’s adherence to formal Soviet decorum dissolved to reveal the school’s pokazukha, a hollow respect for the old man—for the Revolution itself. Before dismissing the assembly, she presented him with a red carnation. Students burst out of their chairs. Rima Alexandrovna gathered the staff for a photograph. She placed the veteran and guests in front, put herself in the center of the middle row, her assistants on either side.
She placed the starjour [probationary teacher] directly behind her at the top. At the top, an observer, not a member of the collective. That was me.
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