Early Childhood

"The voice of reason is quiet, but it does not rest until it has not made itself heard" (Sigmund Freud.)

My path to psychoanalysis began in my early childhood, avant la lettre. Born less than 3 years after the end of the war, like so many of my generation, I experienced a web of anger, pain, fear, thirst for adventure, joie de vivre, and a desire to discover my family of origin, which led to my deeply felt confusion about the silence and lies of many of my loved ones : psychological phenomena which are cognitively incomprehensible to a child, but which can be grasped intuitively as being fenced off by questioning and knowledge taboos.

Deciphering these prohibitions of knowledge and making them accessible to me intellectually and emotionally was the origin of my interest in psychoanalytic psychotherapy

Born into a family that had only come into existence because of my birth that was undesirable on all sides - my mother was engaged to a Jewish US army officer when she became pregnant by a fellow Innsbruck student, she refused an abortion that had already been planned and married my future father to the horror of her brothers - I grew up in my first six formative years in the middle of a bomb-destroyed Tyrolean town, and in the house of my widowed Italian-Marran grandmother, I experienced the most diverse groups of people in and around this house in Wörgler Bahnhofstrasse:

Communists who escaped the scaffold at the last minute, social democrats who had been liberated from the Dachau concentration camp, Nazi perpetrators who had been imprisoned in the Kufstein fortress for a few months in 1945, former fellow travelers who referred to Hitler as “Adolf dem Ersten”, and people of both sexes, liberated from the Wörgl Nazi-camp for being “first degree half-breeds”, desperate war invalids who stooped for cigarette butts in the streets, there were representatives of the French occupying power in their attractive uniforms, bitterly poor East Prussian refugee families in the barracks of the former Nazi camp, pretty young women in self-made costumes looking for a suitable candidate for marriage.

The Wörgl Jews were robbed, expelled or murdered, including my mother's best friend. Now there was want and need for almost everyone who somehow had to endure each other ... We kept chickens and rabbits in our yard, the tenants, some of whom were billeted during the war, crowded into the smallest of spaces, and there was one in the house shoemaking, the scented leather pieces of which were my favorite toys, there was Italian operas and literature at home, and dashing brass band music in front of our windows with the blinds down. Italian was a kind of secret language between me and my grandmother, who, as a descendant of Trentino irredentists, hated the “tedeschi” – Italian term for German- as passionately as it should be for the Calvi family and who had been very pleased about the German defeat.

At my birth, my grandmother`s mother Irina had triumphantly come from the province of Brescia, three generations of Italian women - my great-grandmother, grandmother and mother - stumbled elegantly through the bomb ruins, with me as the fourth generation in the stroller.

In the course of my early childhood, I became part of a group of farmers and railway children who were allowed to roam freely in the city, fields and forests. Our favorite playgrounds were the Wörgl train station and the sawmill of my relatives-in-law. My one-eyed father took my mother and me on motorcycle excursions to Bavaria and over the Brenner, the three of us on a wobbly bike, all without helmets, protective suits and glasses, I hidden under my mother's wide coat, my legs drawn up, the contraband body hidden.

There was no television, no telephone, hardly ever radio, no car, no running water in the apartment, no washing machine and no heating. Books and records were prohibitively expensive, newspapers were read in my father's school workplace. The neighboring peasant women distilled schnapps to calm their husbands and the black market dominated.

Of the 8 rooms in our apartment, only 4 were used: the kitchen, where everyone washed in a bowl and gathered to eat, my parents' bedroom, my room and a shared room for grandmother and uncle. The other rooms were for show and remained unused, all rooms were freezing cold for most of the time.

The pictures of Hitler had already been removed from Tyrolean walls in the spring of 1945 shortly before the invasion of the American Liberation Army: the bright spot was not transformed back into a corner of God, as in many households, because of our lack of any religious denomination, but hidden under pompous family photos that were supposed to reflect an ideal pre-war world.

Later I was to find out that some maternal family members were missing from these portraits: three great aunts and a great uncle, whose existences were deleted and whose names were no longer mentioned.

Decades later my own understanding of a torn family, partly silent about its own history of origin, began, about which education and prosperity had not given them more insight into what it had become. And after I had distanced myself for a long time from my original family, my compassion for them and my desire for reconciliation grew during my psychoanalytic training and life experience.

Both together, knowledge and non-judgmental empathy are also indispensable prerequisites for working with people in my professional life.