Alessandra Kustermann: “I help women to be reborn”

A Alessandra Kustermann, 68, has no desire to take the long, relaxed retirement time that has just formally arrived. And, in fact, it accelerates in its last creature, a very special house to house women, with their children, who have suffered violence from a man for a long time and now they have decided to get out of all that suffering.

Alessandra Kustermann, 68, gynecologist.

After all, nothing more can be expected from a doctor who has made the border a practice and has always achieved the miracle of matching what he does with what he believes in. Alessandra Kustermann, a tumultuous gynecologist on the women’s side, first primary in the history of the Mangiagalli-Policlinico di Milanohis fateful “reached the age limit” is being played to transform a successful career into a path to open up to others.

“Being primary, I could have worked two more years. But I had the idea of ​​Re-Birth in mind for a long time and there were already people willing to follow me. And then, given the commitment, I felt that I had the energy to follow the project as it deserved, “she explains in her house in Milan where, together with her, her partner and the dog Bella, live the photographs, the stories and the canvases of a lifetime, certainly very dense. “Today I help women to be reborn.”

Workshops to learn a profession

Kustermann immediately reveals what you expect: charisma, grace, flames. And a desire for the future as a girl.

His Re-Birth will rise in the Cascina Carpana, a 19th century complex located between the park of Porto di Mare and the park of Vettabbia -southeast area of ​​Milan- of which the non-profit organization that chair, Svs Dad (Sexual Violence Relief – Donna Aiuta Donna), was awarded the concession for 90 years winning a City Council competition: one will be created here. ten apartments, one and two bedrooms, where women and children will come to live in their new beginning, and then a restaurant, a cafe, an educational kitchen, a grocery store. And, again, a nursery for dogs, an equestrian center, football and basketball courts, a shared garden … And, crucial, the training workshops, where guests can learn a profession and, of course, in two years, they will live in the farmhouse, become financially independent and then leave.

It is called Re-Birth because it will be reborn here, having above all the potential that a life has in itself when it is born. Let’s ask ourselves: why do women end up back with the partner who mistreats them? We stop answering that it’s because they love it. Yes, maybe yes, some, few. But the others, the others have no alternative. How to escape a violent man if they have no home to go to and a job to support themselves? if they have small children? ».

For 26 years, Kustermann has been exercising understanding and respect for women who seek help after their illness, it was in Mangiagalli where he founded the Sexual and Domestic Violence Relief, the first such center to be born in Italy in a public hospital. He says that evil is born with an almost banal outbreak.

Cascina Carpana, on the southern outskirts of Milan, where Re-Nascita, Alessandra Kustermann’s project, will be built.

“Many women stop working after their second child, even here in Lombardy, what do you think ?! After that they fail to re-enter, and that is the first point. The second is this an abusive partner is, at first, a psychological aggressor. Blackmail already begins during pregnancy. You earn less than I do, so you have to quit your job to keep up with your child! I want our child to be well raised and well cared for, do you want to leave him in the hands of the nannies?

“It simply came to our notice then. Over time they are capable of strenuous climbing. Today the kids have had problems, it’s your fault! Keep the house looking like shit! Then the threats, the terror, the beatings in front of the children. I, always, to make her feel inadequate as a woman, incapable as a mother, all always wrong, all always negative … They are so shameless, these violent husbands, who also have lovers, are so willing to endure anything at that moment. Among the violent are successful men, men of power: they give their wives money for shopping and she has to make a ridge if she wants to buy socks.

Violence against women: figures and the effect of the pandemic

Violence against women: figures and the effect of the pandemic

For Alessandra Kustermann, retirement is not the retirement age

In Ri-Nascita, where the volunteer association Casa delle donne maltrattato (Cadmi) will also operate, the women who have decided to react will arrive, endorsing the tear in submission. “It happens when he does something so bad that at that moment they are gone forever. Of course, they are exhausted and annulled: they have to re-learn self-esteem, because they need that, love and, finally, respect. We want be by their side at that time, and if we can make them think confidently of themselves and in the future we will have done a great job.When Re-Birth is ready, I will take care of this full time: I don’t think about it. “Retirement age is like retirement age. It only changes what you take care of.”

Nostalgia, of course, crackles. “The fact that they no longer look like babies hurts me, mind you. Throughout my career, I think they have been followed by at least 30,000 births, but the excitement of a child’s birth has remained. You have no idea how each child has a different face, gives you back the certainty that every human being from the beginning is unique. The other nice thing is that everyone is a little surprised: their eyes are a little swollen, but those born with their eyes open seem to look at them in amazement.

A place full of joy

Today Alessandra Kustermann supervises once a week, as a volunteer, the help center for sexual and domestic violence and the family counseling center he founded in Mangiagalli, «A place that is a marvel, where in the reform we have left the floors of the Liberty era and all their colors. It is a place full of joy, full of light, full of pregnant women doing yoga, mindfulness … ». Kustermann arrived in Mangiagalli, where the whole hospital was there to applaud her on the day of farewell (and, as a gift, the money raised for her rebirth). ask for respect for women. .

I decided I would do medicine at 15 years old. I told everyone that I wanted to study, have children, be a doctor, I didn’t want to give up anything. My father, who was a very serious man for whom what you start has to end, told me: you will never get it! To prove him wrong, I did the second and third classical high school together and then I finished high school at 17. That is to challenge him. A madness, a crazy effort, but I was happy, I was an ass ache!

“So I enrolled in Medicine and at the age of 20 I decided to get married. Drama for my dad! Then you were 21 and he had to give his consent, so he says to me, Ah, I give you consent, but I know you won’t finish Medicine! At the age of 22, in 1975, while still studying, my daughter Viola was born and less than a year after the birth of the second, Pietro, I graduated and won the challenge.

Alessandra Kustermann: “Power is needed to bring about change”

The pregnancy of the second child is crucial to mark the path of the very young doctor. “Unfortunately, I had a pathological pregnancy with Pietro and therefore I was in the hospital for several months. And there I realized that expectant mothers were treated like fools. I told the doctors: my son is not moving, just a touch today, I am worried; it was 79, it was just the dawn of the ultrasound … What do you want to understand ?, they replied. No one listened to me.

One day a doctor said to me: Kustermann, go, don’t read the obstetrics and gynecology book! But I was preparing for the exam, they just didn’t want to understand that I was studying medicine. Until one evening, after giving me dinner, they ended abruptly: the baby is in fetal distress, we do a cesarean right away! Pietro was about to die in the womb. The thing was, I said I wasn’t moving, but I wasn’t listening. You know the terrible feeling that a woman is worthless, that her word doesn’t matter. At that point I decided I was going to be a gynecologist, because I wanted to change the way I treated women. Today no one would dare not hear a patient’s word.

Of the power he had, of the power he has, he says, “It helps to bring about the changes you believe in.” Being by the side of women, he is said to be tough and protective, combative and empatheticanimator of lively debates, but always able to build relationships beyond any ideology.

Alessandra Kustermann: “Law 194 worked”

“I defend in every way, as we know, the law 194 of abortion, but I respect conscientious objectors and I understand the reasons, as long as their objection is genuine. But if it’s a convenient solution, I can’t tolerate it. When there was the 194 referendum even my mother, who was a Catholic, supported itor saying: I do not deny another woman the right to decide. That law worked. Today, there are 70,000 abortions a year, compared to 250,000 in 83, the year with the first serious data. Before, 500 thousand: aborted women did the same and died for it, but now we have forgotten. I must say that among the young doctors who come to Mangiagalli, the non-objectors are today the absolute majority. It’s something new, from the last two or three years.

As for numbers of violence, however, there is no redemption. “Violence against women is still terrible. The number of feminicides has been the same for 15 years and indeed I have the impression that there are increasing cases in which men take revenge by killing their children. In terms of sexual violence, we are the center of reference for all violence in Milan and its province, therefore any hospital, any police station sends the victims to Mangiagalli. About 500 a year. Of course, the number of women reporting has increased.

“Sexual violence related to parties and drug use has also increased, although the most common rape drug is still alcohol. Boys and girls drink, we already know that. When I go to school the boys say, look, there is no valid sexual consent when a girl is drunk. I to the girls I say: girls, be careful, come home all together, never leave the last sun.

Between hippotherapy and circus school

By the end of 2023 Cascina Carpana will be ready and ready to break into the lives of women who, at this time, cannot even imagine a new and light existence.

“There will be loose farm animals. Many children in the courtyard and in our circus school, the children of the farmhouse and those who will come from outside, because Re-Birth will be a place open to everyone. In the large kitchen the lunches of the restaurant will be prepared, which if it is not starring, we are close, because I would like the invited women to learn to work in luxury catering, for their future. They will have a bed and breakfast to accommodate travelers. The amateur sports association CampaCavallo will be in charge of hippotherapy and the horses will keep their children company. They will also learn a trade in design and cabinetmaking workshops. I have already applied for collaboration at the European Institute of Design, in Naba, at the Polytechnic School of Design.

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Kustermann calls for reinforcements, civil society responds: “Carlo Ratti (the famous architect-engineer-urbanist who teaches at MIT in Boston, ed) has offered to carry out the project to renovate the farmhouse, he said the SDA of Bocconi University, whose teachers will do home economics courses for women of rebirth … “(If you want to donate: retedeldono.it/it/progetti/svs-dad-onlus/svs- woman-helps-woman).

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