HE.S.T.A.F.T.A. - Scientific Society of Mental Health Professionals


  • Maria Borcsa
  • Katia CharalabakiPsychiatrist, Family Psychotherapist, coordinating director of Family Therapy Unit of Attica Psychiatric Hospital

Ich habe manchmal Heimweh. Ich weiß nur nicht, wonach.
Mascha Kaléko
Sometimes I'm so homesick, I just don't know, after what.
Mascha  Kaléko
**Thesis (MB) - ** In her opening speech, September 2016 at the 9th conference, EFTA-President Maria Borcsa welcomed all colleagues to Greece, to Athens. She said:

«Three years ago the 8th EFTA conference took place in Istanbul. It appears that not only Turkey, but our whole world has changed enormously since then. All Europe has gone through significant transformation in the last three years with terrorism, the so called refugee and the ongoing socio-economic crises as well as the increasing power of right wing political parties legitimized by voters.

It seems as if we are walking on a tightrope. What are we leaning on? Do we think the hardship and poverty of refugees are contagious? Or do we assume that we all are of one human kind and the place and circumstances we are born in are arbitrary?

“When Princess Europa was kidnapped by Zeus in bull’s disguise, her father, Agenor, King of Tyre, sent his sons in search of his lost daughter. One of them Cadimon, sailed to Rhodes, landed in Thrace, and set out to explore the lands destined to assume later the name of his hapless sister. In Delphi he asked the Oracle about his sister’s whereabouts. On that specific point Pythia, true to her habit, was evasive – but she obliged Cadmon with practical advice: “You won’t find her. Better get yourself a cow, follow it and push it forward, don’t allow it to rest; at the spot where it falls from exhaustion, build a town.” (Baumann 2004, p.1). With this myth the sociologist and philosopher Zygmunt Baumann starts his book “Europe–An unfinished adventure”. His conviction might sound paradoxical when he says, referring to the Greek myth: “to seek Europe is to make it”. He argues, I cite:

“Europe is not something you discover; Europe is a mission – something to be made, created, built. And it takes a lot of ingenuity, sense of purpose and hard labour to accomplish that mission. Perhaps a labour that never ends, a challenge always still to be met in full, a prospect forever outstanding” (ibid, p.2).

During the three years of my Presidency of this European Association I often asked myself: what is Europe about – on a small and on a large scale? How can we live the tension of the systemic “both-and”? On the one hand feeling a bond to something we identify ourselves with – a geographical region, a certain language or some collective memories  - every one of you might choose a different point of reference ... on the other hand: having the perception that this joint project we named European Community is worth struggling for.

Is it worth struggling for? Is it worth building a town like the Oracle told?

Beside the requirement of building a town in any sense of the word, a POLIS, – philosophises Aristotle and expands, goes beyond the Oracle - there is a need to do it in a certain manner: with LOGOS, ETHOS and TECHNE. We as human beings are able to reflect, not only about the things around us, but also about ourselves, about  the way  we are thinking, acting and relating.

What can this philosophy tell us today, in a world where our western existence is more and more constituted as being “consumers”, “users”, “likers” and “dislikers”? In a world where we provide so called “services” and where we have so called “clients” but have to deal at the same time with war and death in our neighbourhood and their effects on our respective societies?

The Aristotelian conceptual pillars accompanied us while building the conference, encouraging and legitimizing a shift in our viewpoints and in our whole approach. We wondered about our competency as therapists-citizens: how can we act systemically at different levels, in such difficult times? It seems that we have taken up a relevant issue for many of us, as various presentations during this conference are related to this inquiry».

**Antithesis (KC) - ** Katia Charalabaki, President of  HESTATFA and member of the conference scientific committee, comments:

«Either saying ‘Europa’, or ‘Evropa’, or ‘Eurooppa’, all the terms originate from the Greek word ‘Ευρώπη’. There are two suggestions about the etymology of the word. One is that it has Semitic origin from the Accadian ‘erebu’ ‘erebus’ which means to ‘go down’ (the sun), to sink, to darken, the evening. The second view is that it comes from the synthesis of two Greek words: ‘ευρύς’, which means broad, big, with open horizons and the word ‘όψις’, which means countenance, face, eye.

Both those two perspectives give us the possibility to form two thoughts for the Europe of today. One is that Europe sinks, is in a deep layered crisis – economical, social, political with the rise of the extreme right, refugees, insecurity because of the Islamic terrorism, geopolitical liquidity especially in the Mediterranean area. He himself, the President of the European Commission J. Cl. Junker in his speech some time ago for the ‘State of the Union’ mentioned characteristically that we experience an ‘Existentialist Crisis of the European Union’. Europe is sinking, is falling down, lives in a dark era, in the era of its sunset, this is the first ascertainment deriving from the etymology.

The second one is that we cannot go on whistling carefree, staying inert in the routine of decades, to be stuck on the old easy traditions, but to become ‘Europeans’ with the Greek sense of the word: with big opened eyes, broadminded.

These two aspects are reflected boldly on Greece of today, where a socioeconomic experiment à la Frankestein is taking place since 2009, when the world recession started. How is Greece socioeconomically today? Economic depression (and mental depression as a consequence), unemployment, state dissolution, massive poverty, for some people starvation and house without electricity.

However this Greece, where the last congress of EFTA was convened before a while, is not the exception in the European Union. It is the extreme expression of a general phenomenon, of general unhappiness, difficulties, anger, stress in the whole European Union. Having our meetings in Athens, we were having the opportunity to study thoroughly these phenomena.

How are these phenomena expressed in relation to the object of systemic psychotherapy: Malfunction of families, general anger, general depression, release of envy etc.?

On the other hand, even when people or families do not face directly economic problems (and here some psychotherapists are included) they face a harsh attachment failure in society and in institutions. They experience a collapse of any kind of “holding”, collapse of life relations (with family members, colleagues or friends). As a result, different kind of defenses develop: Some people “run” (from one event to the other, from one group to the other), others resort to introversion, a non clinical (but sometimes clinical) type of depression.

Another important aspect of the situation is the alteration of the (of any) concept of “reason” and “oration” (LOGOS). In the Aristotelian sense LOGOS does not exist as a central element in today’s social life, in politics, in the mass media, in institutions. What dominates (with small exceptions) is incoherence, incongruity, double messages. And this is very often accompanied by aggressiveness, not often being able to be understood (aggressiveness for aggressiveness, or the systemic concept of “pseudohostility”).

And as a natural consequence (but not only as a consequence) in these situations ETHOS and TECHNE are also hardly traumatized. ETHOS because there is no more sincerity and trust, and TECHNE because what dominates in political and social life is a vulgar, dramatic, historical soap opera.

And then the non Aristotelian concept of NOSTALGIA appears. I have not spoken to my colleague (in the same hospital for 25 years) since 2009. And suddenly she calls me, to ask something “trivial”, but finally to share deeper worries and to conclude with a “How is your family? Oh, I remember 15 years ago when we met and …”. Or, my cousin, who works abroad and has not communicated with me for two years, suddenly calls me from a country of Asia saying “What we need now is a psychiatrist, we need you!”. And when I run from group to group I “forget”, “having a good time”, suddenly I “remember” and I nod sadly or tear up. And when I solve crosswords (introversion) I look around our sitting-room and think: “This lamp was my grandmother’s… we bought this dresser at an antique store… oh, for so many years we used to visit antique stores mostly every week…”

“Nostalgia” is not really a Greek word. “Nostos” (return to homeland, what Ulysses was doing traveling for ten years) and “Algos” (pain, distress – this is very well understood by the Germans with the term “Ost-algie”) are Greek words. “Nostalgia” as a term was formed at the end of 17th century in a dissertation on the topic at the University of Basel by scholar Johannes Hofer as a rendering of German “Heim-weh” and referred to mental illness which at the time was considered so dangerous, that could even lead to death. The word “nostalgia” includes quite deeper grief as a concept in relation with the English synonym “home-sickness”.  It was observed in many people who lived perforce away from their homeland (mercenaries, servants etc): they presented serious mental problems (heavy melancholy) because of a fear that they may not be able to return home.

How do we, today, in Greece, Europe, USA, all over the world, expect to “return to our homelands, the lamp of our grandmother, the antique stores, our cousins and our colleagues?”

And, of course, one may comment that the above are only partial types of “Nostalgia” (even if they bear a lot of “Algos”, pain), since they contain nostalgia for LOGOS, ETHOS and TECHNE and not only for material needs, food or electricity.»

**Synthesis (MB and KC) - ** So, what kind of changes should we, psychotherapists, do in our work and in our lives, on the basis of those dangerous and painful situations? What changes our institutions (including EFTA and other associations) must make, to respond to the destabilization processes and to the alarm that now and some years rings? We think that we need more and deeper reflection, communication, dialogue, focusing on difficult issues of our work and of our life, facing bureaucracy and caring about democracy…  It looks as if we need more POLIS, more aspiration and ability to build “towns”. Cities, where the citizens realize that the new meaning of “Algos”,  the nostalgic pain we feel and face, turns out to be a longing for humanity . A longing we certainly share with many people all over the globe, including refugees and people in exile, sitting in front of us, having “Heim-weh”.

We may notice that in this present time, even in the sorrowful Greece of today, one can experience creativity and joy as in the 9th congress of EFTA in Athens. On the other hand, we may think that many of the new phenomena in our life now had warnings years before, as we observed them in our institutions, without being able to give them meaning. The synthesis may be to go back and forward in time,  to reflect and give meaning to past and present and future, to personal and social experiences:  To transform nostalgia into creativity, building inner and interpersonal dialogues, transactions and practices as philosophers, writers and intellectuals have taught us.

_Emigranten-Monolog _

Ich hatte einst ein schönes Vaterland - so sang schon der Flüchtling Heine. Das seine stand am Rheine, das meine auf märkischem Sand. Wir alle hatten einst ein (siehe oben!). Das fraß die Pest, das ist im Sturm zerstoben. O Röslein auf der Heide, dich brach die Kraftdurchfreude. Die Nachtigallen wurden stumm, sahn sich nach sicherm Wohnsitz um, und nur die Geier schreien hoch über Gräberreihen. Das wird nie wieder, wie es war, wenn es auch anders wird. Auch wenn das liebe Glöcklein tönt, auch wenn kein Schwert mehr klirrt. Mir ist zuweilen so, als ob das Herz in mir zerbrach. Ich habe manchmal Heimweh. Ich weiß nur nicht, wonach. Mascha Kaléko

Emigrant’s Monologue

I have one, a beautiful fatherland! So sang already the refugee Heine. That was his stand on the Rhine. That is my own, on yellowing sand. We all had one once! (see above). It was devoured by the plague, scattered in a storm. O little rose of the heath land. The strength of love tore you like that. The nightingales are turning numb, they saw it in at the safest abode. And only the vultures scream well above the grave lines.

It will never be the same, whatever was, whenever it will be different than it is. Even if the tiny bell of love will ring, even if the swords cling no more. I feel sometimes as though that heart in me, is shattered into pieces. Sometimes I'm so homesick, I just don't know, after what.... Mascha  Kaléko


Bauman, Z. Europe: An Unfinished Adventure. Polity Press, 2004.

Kaléko, M. Emigranten-Monolog (1945). In: Verse für Zeitgenossen, Reinbek/

Hamburg 1978, S. 53.

See also: https://wn.com/betrifft_erster_schnee_heinrich_heine

Kaléko, M. "'No matter where I travel, I come to Nowhereland' - The Poetry of Mascha Kaléko." Translated and introduced by Andreas Nolte. Burlington/VT: The University of Vermont, 2010

Read the next article:

ARTICLE 3/ ISSUE 9, October 2016

The journey from the ''lost homeland'' to the discovery of a new self¨: Family therapy as a safe place of processing, treating and healing the intergenerational transmission of trauma of being a refugee, from the perspective of men

Elisavet Barbaliou, Psychologist–Psychotherapist, Family Therapist, Systemic Psychotherapy and Research Centre
Next >


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