“My Soul is Young”: An Encounter with Dr. Gerhard Freilinger

“My Soul is Young”: An Encounter with Dr. Gerhard Freilinger

Gerhard Freilinger is not your average doctor. He has led a life that is immediately enviable, but at the same time, one that has called for a great deal of courage. Having lived through wars and being exposed with the effects of conflict – both tangible and intangible – Dr. Freilinger has seen every side of both guns and operating tables in a whirlwind that has spanned seven decades. Nareg Seferian caught up with the man at the Kurdistan Regional Government representation in Vienna.

“I was born in Upper Austria, in Linz [in 1927]. I became a soldier at the age of fifteen,” Dr. Freilinger recalls. But his military career during the Second World War did not last long, as he ended up as a prisoner of war in Yugoslavia at just 17 years old. “I was in very, very bad condition after two and a half years of prison in Yugoslavia. I came home in 1946, very heavily damaged. My soul was sick, my heart was sick.”

Interested in being a doctor at a young age, Dr. Freilinger recalls how, at 12, he told his parents, “I would like to see this hospital [in Linz], but not only the operating room.” This was surprising to a family of lawyers. It was during his recovery in Salzburg, which took more than a year, where he decided to take on medicine as a profession. He finished with his schooling and then studied medicine at Innsbruck, followed by a fellowship in the United States. Notably, he ended up working in the field of plastic and reconstructive surgery, helping people deal with the physical scars of war. Continue reading