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Ilany Kogan on the psychoanalytic treatment of refugees and the unfinished mourning of the Romanians after 1989

Ilany Kogan in dialogue with Dorin-Liviu Bîtfoi at Gradiva Podcast, on the psychoanalytic treatment of refugees and the unfinished mourning of the Romanians after 1989

Of course, I realized that refugees have to have a place for living, and to have food... and I think that the management of their basic needs is extremely important.

But, when we talk about psychic treatment, I think is not enough to focus on their symptoms. Because then it can be a temporary recovery, but not a complete one. A more complete one - not totally complete, but a more complete one will be if we try to elaborate with these patients the relationships with primary objects in their lives. Which actually determined them how to perceive the trauma. 
Ilany Kogan

Ilany Kogan psychoanalysis refugees mourning Romanians 1989

[Pentru versiunea în limba română, vă rugăm să daţi click aici]

The interview was occasioned by the arrival of Ilany Kogan in Bucharest to attend the 10th edition of the International Summer School of the Generation Foundation, August 29 - September 2, 2019.


  • 06:20 Ilany Kogan shows how her interest in the transgenerational traumas of the descendants of Holocaust survivors dates back to the time when she was a supervisee, at the Israel Psychoanalytic Institute, with Professor Hillel Klein, himself a Holocaust survivor. Circumstances from Ilany Kogan's own biography complete this painting.
  • 08:53 Ilany Kogan shows how her work and writings are relevant not only to the children of Holocaust survivors, but also to those people around the world, refugees or emigrants, who have suffered traumas, violence or genocide. In Romania she has learned how important it is for Romanians to elaborate their mourning and suffering after 1989.
  • 10:01 Psychoanalyst Ilany Kogan evokes her supervision of the clinical work of psychotherapists with refugees at Eppendorf University Hospital - Hamburg. The importance of countertransference analysis for the evolution of therapy is illustrated by two cases, Fatma from Kosovo and Wumba from Africa.
  • 14:24 About the cultural differences and the specific difficulties in the psychoanalytic treatment of refugees.
  • 16:56 On the role of the supervisor in the psychoanalytic treatment of refugees.
  • 18:46 Psychoanalysis can help treat traumatized refugees.
  • 20:55 Ilany Kogan talks about her first Romanian patient, and a sui generis psychoanalytic therapy, as well as about the experience of her own emigration from Romania.
  • 24:37 On the unfinished or unresolved grief of the Romanians after 1989. The importance of notorious Freudian theory from Totem and Taboo on the murder of the tribal father, taken over by the psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Vamık Volkan in the Romanian context: although they wanted his death, the tyrant Nicolae Ceausescu exerts a great force of narcissistic attraction on the Romanians.
  • 29:52 Ilany Kogan talks about her return to Romania after 1989, thus completing her own mourning cycle.

See also What Is Psychoanalysis?

Biographical note

Ilany Kogan, born in Bucharest, Romania, emigrated to Israel when she was 12 years old. She trained in psychology, social sciences, English literature, clinical psychology, psychotherapy and psychoanalysis in Israel, were she is currently an active Training and Supervisory Analyst in the Israel Psychoanalytic Society.

Ilany Kogan psychoanalysis Holocaust trauma

She has worked extensively with Holocaust survivors’ offspring,and has published and presented many papers and several books on this topic. They focus on the transmission of trauma from Holocaust survivors to the following generations, and describe her approach to the understanding and treatment of these patients. The books were translated into several languages, as they are relevant to many countries in which the population has experienced persecution and trauma. Her research on the Holocaust also includes an exploration of the second generation of the perpetrators in Germany, and the impact of Nazi education on several generations. In 2003 Ilany Kogan has received the Elise M. Hayman Award for her study of the Holocaust and Genocide. In 2016 she was the recipient of Sigourney Award.

Related topics of research and activity are in the field of clinical, research and educational work on Migration and Trauma. Ilany Kogan has supervised the work of the staff at the Refugee Clinic of the Eppendorf University Hospital, Hamburg, Germany. Since 1997 she supervises several groups of senior analysts in Munich and Aachen, focusing on the topics of “Trauma” and “Migration from the Psychoanalytic Perspective”. Two of the Munich groups have published books on this topic which were co-edited by Ilany Kogan.

Ilany teaches and supervises internationally in countries such as Israel, Germany, Romania, Turkey, Croatia and Brazil. She has directed several research and training programs worldwide, such as establishing the “Lebovici Center for the Treatment of the Child and Adolescent” in Bucharest and teaching and supervising the Turkish Psychoanalytic Study Group in Istanbul and Psychotherapy Institute in Izmir. Her work shows her efforts to apply psychoanalytic theory and technique to ethno-culturally and professionally diverse populations, and to create new avenues for the development of psychoanalysis in various countries in the world.

Lately Ilany Kogan has focused on a psychoanalytic approach to creativity as manifested in literature and the performing arts, stemming from the belief that the psychoanalytic exploration of works of art leads to a richer and fuller understanding of each individual’s internal reality.

Recommended readings

You may also be interested in Ilany Kogan: Psychoanalysis in the shadow of terror - Dealing with anxiety in a period of crisis

Soundtrack: Albinoni, Concerto for 2 Oboes in F Major Opus 9, no 3, performed by the Advent Chamber Orchestra, Pandora Records

Photo: James Beheshti on Unsplash


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