From the Academia to Involuntary Infiltrate

Until June 2011, I was research associate at the Centre d’études européennes of Sciences Po, Paris, but I held appointments at European and non-European universities, and was an international consultant for Unicef.

My work encompasses the fields of European Studies, Political Sociology, Comparative Politics and International Political Economy. My research concentrates on the ways in which political, economic, cultural and social transformations influence the process of democratization and consolidation of democratic institutions in the Member States of the European Union, as well as in transition and developing countries. A particular attention of my research activities is still given to analytical sociology and to mechanisms of institutional change (my website here).

In June 2011, I left the Centre d’études européennes of Sciences Po due to the completion of my association as ‘research associate’. That was a strange period. The period of the ‘Strauss-Kahn Affaire‘. The former IMF chief, candidate to the French Presidency and also a professor at Sciences Po. I knew about Strauss-Kahn’s existence primarily because of a contact from one of the Sciences Po academic assistants, whose request, then blocked, was to conduct with him a joint seminar on post-communist economic transformation. I am still surprised to read, from time to time, that new scandals emerge in the newspaper.

After six years spent in Paris, I decided to go back to Rome and to find a new academic position. I was 36 years old and I thought it was the right moment to build my own family. As I had no job, for the secret services of the Member States of the European Union and for other secret services, I was considered as a ‘free floating’ individual. Once I arrived in Italy, the Italian secret services tried to recruit me first, then tried to sell me to other agencies (especially from post-communist countries or developing countries).

In Italy, a man that introduced himself as one of the best friends of my father, who died when I was 14 years old, approached me. I already had some problems with the secret services because of my work as researcher and assistant professor, my publications on democratization in post-communist countries and my interviews on TV channels against former authoritarian regimes. The French secret services already knew that girls from the Eastern side approached me from time to time, probably to control my research activities or to try to recruit me for their own country, but noone would have expected that the level of harrassment would have reached such a high intensity.

In Rome, I got in contact with the ‘friend of my father’ (Mr Franco) who had apporached me some time ago. The reason was that I was seeing strange movements of people around me and this started to annoy me as I could not have a normal life. The political police and carabinieri were also acquiring doubtful information about my activities by contacting old friends and parents that I did not see since 20 years. I tolerated most of the enquiries, though I found that they were unnecessary and would have exposed me to risks. False rumors about my past were easily spread by people who claimed to know me.

The ‘friend of my father’ was an ex member of the police and of the anti-terrorism, but also of the antimafia and, presumably, of some other agency.

I wanted to start a new life in Rome and finding a new academic position in the university as soon as possible. In order to pay my stay in Rome, I sold the gold I had. Like in the movies. And looked for all possible temporary jobs: barman, waiter, receptionist in hotels, etc. But the money was enough to survive only a couple of months. The money finished soon and I was forced to go back to Sicily, to the hometown of my mother, three months later. This is also the place where my father decided his son had to born, though the entire family and I left the place only 15 days later. When I was four years old, my father decided to go back to Sicily from Northern Italy. I left Sicily again when I acquired the legal age to leave.

For more than 20 years, noone saw me in the island. I only sporadically went to visit my mother for the holidays, and I paid attention that noone noticed me. Unsurprisingly, when my stay prolonged for more time than the necessary, people started to remember me. Locals started to think I was Sicilian and that I certainly spoke the dialect. In reality, I barely understood what they were saying. I mostly tried to understand the meaning of the words by their non verbal communication. In this way, I acquired a new skill: understanding people not from what they say but from the faces they make when they speak. Isolated and with no money to leave, I lived for four years in a room in my mother’s apartment. Forced labor someone might say. Writing a book, a couple of academic articles, some unpaid reports, not to mention baby-sitting and driving around the city. I succeeded to escape prolonged unvoluntarily social service work for elderly and people with handicap.

11 September 2015 was my 41st birthday. I realized this only few weeks ago when friends in Berlin told me that I wasn’t 40 years old, but 41. I was born in 1974, they reminded me and we are in 2015 now. I remained shocked. I lost the count of the time. One year of my life had disappeared, lost, stolen.

During the four years in Sicily, I did nothing the entire day, one could say. Just walking around in the city. I did communicate with the people at the bars, but I tried to avoid any personal relations with the locals (as many manuals would suggest). From time to time, I tried to escape. I reported several times what was wrong in the place and who was doing a double game. My job was done. Between mafia, politics and police, there had always been a noman’s land in Italy where people belonging to different institutions hide themselves. This is no secret to the most.

In theory, I had to remain in Sicily only the necessary time to find the money to leave and to finally go back to my academic life, so the ‘friend of my father’ had told me. But rumors about my presence in the island soon spread and people became always more curious. I also look and talk differently from a typical Sicilian and this did not help my peaceful stay. I have also no sympathy for local politicians. For the Sicilian political police (DIGOS), I was either a communist, a fascist, a nazi, an anarchist, a mafioso, or, if these were not the cases, either a spy from the East or a spy from the West.

After a couple of months, with no money, I changed my clothes. I learned it during my work as consultant for the UNICEF. Adapt to the local environment, if you want to survive! The new clothes, mostly cheap clothes, became and still are the clothes I have now. When I see me in these clothes and I look myself in the mirror, I see another person. Sometimes I smile. I can recognize my face and my eyes, but not the entire man. I learnt to smile even when I don’t want to. I have difficulties in shaking hands.

The local police and the local political authorities became easily nervous with my presence in the city. They saw a man walking with nothing to do the entire day. I was just waiting to go. Day after day. But from Rome, someone had alreay decided that I had to continue to stay there and that I should have ‘contributed’ to the development of the island. This was an offer I could not refuse. In order to convince me to stay, a wave of psychological harrassement and attempts of mind control started. ‘Are you born here, right? Are you Sicilian, then?’, ‘Do you want some Sicilian food, wine, oranges?’, ‘Family, honor are important things in life for you, right?’, ‘And what about God? Are you Catholic, right?’, ‘Not married yet? Maybe homosexual? Need girls?’. I did not respond to these question? ……

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