Fanny Pollarolo, the Chilean psychiatrist who took care of the mental health of hundreds of victims of political repression in the midst of the military dictatorship

Fanny Pollarolo is a Chilean psychiatrist and politician born in 1935 who contributed to the fight for human rights and feminist mobilization in the years of resistance to the civic-military dictatorship. She was the first professional in her family; After graduating as a medical surgeon in 1961 at the University of Chile School of Medicine, she opted for the specialty of psychiatry, always focused on the search for knowledge, her vocation for people and social justice.

In her years as a university student, she was recognized for being an activist in the progressive youth political movements of the time and later, after the coup and back from Argentina – where she was in exile between 1973 and 1974 – she participated as a medical specialist collaborating with the Vicaría de la Solidaridad and in the Foundation for the social help of Christian churches (FASIC), where he played a fundamental role taking responsibility for the medical program to support mental health for victims of the civil-military repression between 1980 and 1986.

At the same time, she was part of the group for the Protection of Children Damaged by States of Emergency (PIDEE), the National Commission of Torture and actively participated in women’s demonstrations for the return to democracy, being one of the architects of the movement feminine social “Women for life” founded in 1983, a political action group that gave rise to large peaceful mobilizations that demanded social justice and greater equality between men and women.

For this, in a new Unforgettable Women, the weekly special where we highlight the important feats of Chilean women in history and the present, we make visible the impact of Fanny Pollarolo, who provided emotional and psychological help to hundreds of victims of political persecution, tortured and exiled, also fulfilling a role active in the generation of support networks and labor reintegration for these people.

“I think I chose medicine because it integrates two things that I felt very strongly in my adolescence, which was knowing, asking myself, finding answers, in a way research, knowledge, let’s call it that, with which that knowledge would serve, with reducing injustice and later I realized that psychiatry was what would allow me to help another to explore together a knowledge that was very important, “he said in the program” Conversations against forgetting. “

Likewise, she had a long history of political participation in positions of popular representation in the positions of deputy and senator as a militant of left-wing parties, after renouncing her membership in the Communist party, joining the ranks of the Concertación back to democracy, at which time he definitively signed for the Socialist Party.

She began her career as an academic at the clinical hospitals of the University of Chile and the Catholic University, institutions from which she was dismissed and exiled from the country, settling in Argentina during the first years of the military dictatorship, despite this experience and having already been detained in various opportunities, the doctor never feared the consequences that her political activism could bring, as reported by Radio Universidad de Chile, Pollarolo was a clandestine informant for the communist party as well as a distinguished feminist activist, on the contrary, she has always mobilized for the causes that since girl was passionate about it.

And although Fanny was always characterized by her righteous spirit, one of her female references was the Nobel laureate Marie Curie, whom she admired for the scientific work she carried out with her husband and in the company and constant presence of her daughters.

In this sense, and in an interview with Radio Universidad de Chile, she expressed her concern about the use of public space to demand women’s rights, stating that, “in the street, one feels that she can somehow contribute to the complaint, to win and make a small scratch on the dictatorship. In the street something very important happened, which was that you were with many people and experiencing a very close, very rich, very fraternal relationship, there you shook hands, you helped each other. There was a thing of affectivity, which repaired the pain, repaired the anger, the grief ”.

Placed in this context, in 1983, Sebastián Acevedo, father of two disappeared detainees, immolates himself for the acts of disappearance committed by the CNI, quickly a group of women reacts to this act through a public statement entitled “Today and no Tomorrow ”, a public statement that gave rise to the“ Women for Life ”movement, a feminist articulation to which Pollarolo was invited by journalists María Olivia Monckeberg and Mónica González. This organic feminist was born “by a call to male politics that this has to end, this is barbarism, this cannot continue and this is urgent”,

To which he adds, “the beautiful thing, the significant thing is that it starts from women and is happening, not everything has to be programmed and planned based on very clear and predefined criteria, the important thing is how, what is emerging from this and this took place in the tone of friendship, unity was horizontal, there I learned that leaderships can and should be perfectly shared, that was an experience that we recognized in this collective task of women ”.

The movement was made up of women from various professions, political positions and cultural heritage, opponents of the Pinochet regime and its main activities were focused on the peaceful demonstration in the streets with the aim of promoting the need to establish a legal system that respects equality between men and women and free from any manifestation of repudiation and discrimination of gender and social class, in addition to establishing basic levels of social dignity such as access to housing and health. Public interventions were considered urgent for Fanny Pollarolo, since “it was not possible that women did not give a sign of unity”.

The prominent doctor, feminist, politician and fighter for Human Rights, served in parliament until 2002, the year in which she was unable to be reelected as a deputy for the communes of Calama, María Elena, Ollagüe and San Pedro de Atacama. She is currently close to her 87th birthday on March 7, 2022.

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Fanny Pollarolo, the Chilean psychiatrist who took care of the mental health of hundreds of victims of political repression in the midst of the military dictatorship