Tamara Štajner Popović
Tamara Štajner Popović died in Belgrade on 4 October 2012. She was only 64. She had been President of the Belgrade Psychoanalytical Society and Associate Director for Outreach of the IPA-EPF Psychoanalytical Institute for Eastern Europe (PIEE).
We first met Tamara at the second East European Psychoanalytic Seminar in Belgrade in the fall of 1990. Tamara, eager for her and her group to have contact with the entire psychoanalytic world, was delighted that the IPA’s newly organized East European Committee, chaired by Han Groen Prakken and John Kafka, participated in the seminar. Tamara’s deep friendship with Han Groen Prakken dated from 1987, the beginning of the modern development of psychoanalysis in Eastern Europe. At that time, in Belgrade, Professor Vojin Matić, who was trained in Vienna, had analysed Tamara.
Besides her central work in Belgrade and from the very beginning, Tamara’s original thinking played a big part in inventing ways to start analytic training in East European locations where it had to begin anew. Her sharp intelligence, her knowledge of local conditions, her bluntness and flexibility when and where needed, her profound respect for the essential quality of psychoanalysis and her great courage permitted her to navigate the stormy waters of Eastern Europe after 1989. Tamara and her group strove to develop psychoanalysis during Milošević's regime while they, as political and personal opponents, were in great danger. Many abroad did not understand this and even mistakenly considered the group contaminated by the regime and kept it isolated. It took tremendous courage to continue psychoanalytic education during the painful civil war that Tamara had predicted when we met her in 1990.
She was not only a brilliant and inventive thinker but also a skilled organizer. In the 1990s, the EPF appointed her to its East European Committee. From 2002 until her death, she was an Associate Director of the PIEE. Her contribution to the PIEE’s work has always been of major importance. She organized more than 25 schools, constantly rethinking and improving the formula and taking care of all details. Just a week before her death, she chaired a meeting of the organizers of the PIEE Summer School.
As Co-Chair for Europe of the IPA International New Groups Committee, she soon realized that the new European Study Groups needed a more solid and integrated support; she therefore fought for them to receive financial help and succeeded in making a start with a meeting of all Sponsoring Committees active in Eastern Europe.
She always respected and represented the point of view of East Europeans and helped others to understand it. She worked hard to involve more and more easterners in responsible roles so that they could become active protagonists of their own growth.
It is impossible to describe here all she did, how important she was for the PIEE. Her inside knowledge, outspoken ideas and unquestionable dedication to psychoanalysis and to the East European cause were critical for the success of the PIEE.
Tamara’s unique personality was right for a stormy time – intense, visionary, with an unbelievable capacity for dedicated focused work covering all details, yet flexible and, when needed, uncompromising.
Tamara’s death closes a very important chapter of the development of psychoanalysis in Eastern Europe and in the history of the PIEE. Her work will bear fruit for decades to come.
Paolo Fonda and John Kafka