The right answers to the questions of life
He is a womanizer. He drives a car, works as a psychologist and has a family. Nothing special one would say. It is! Georg Fraberger was born without arms and legs. The reason why he was born this way has never become clear. His secret for his positive attitude towards life with a serious disability? One must not only look at the physical part of a person or at the intellectual capabilities. The soul of a person is decisive.
Susanne Lindl and Georg Fraberger
Georg Fraberger is 41. His parents are of the generation of the sixties, which makes them open minded. Despite his disability, his parents always stimulated him in whatever he wished to do in his life and have always been proud of him. At the age of 15 he got his first electric wheelchair. His mother was happy with it. He didn't need to be pushed in a normal wheelchair anymore, so now he could go his own way much easier. Not much later, he had three of such wheelchairs for different purposes. Although his family life was a warm bath, in society he discovered his disability posed several problems.
'As a child, I felt like I had a separate role. Austria was a conservative society at that time, also in the way how the non-disabled looked at people with a disability. The last 15 years, this has been changing. They don't stare that much at me anymore. I sometimes used to get angry about that. Nowadays, my children are the ones who get angry when people stare at me. I then tell them people stare at every great person.' Georg Fraberger is married and has four children. The way he met his wife is a nice story in itself.
'My main challenge in life as far as my disability was concerned, was to find a woman. I was always in love, already at school. The girl liked me too, but when she told her parents about my disability they didn't think it smart for her to start a relationship with me. That is why I had the theory that men have problems in finding a woman and that a woman can choose whoever she wants to. Now, i am aware that women have the same problems in love, maybe even more. That made my disability more normal for me when it comes to love. I met my wife through the internet. In the beginning, I only showed my face when we had contact by webcam. One day, she said she wanted to meet me in person. I said "well, then there is something I have to tell you and I showed my body and my wheelchair. It didn't scare her. It was love at first sight.'
The importance of the soul
At the age of 17, it was clear to Georg he wanted to become a psychologist. 'It had always been clear I wanted to work. Becoming a psychologist was not easy, because of the conservative climate in Austria, but at that time any job would be hard to reach. At least, as a psychologist I could work in a hospital.'
Georg works in the General University Hospital in Vienna. There he sees people with a disability who find it difficult to live with that. His aim in his therapy with them is to make the disability more normal. With some of his patients he succeeds. With others he does not. What he tries to tell them is that they have to develop their disability. Most do not have the courage to go to the limit. He does. 'I drive a car. I do have a family. Practically none of my schoolmates do have a family. What makes me taking new steps in life is that I don't only look at my physical or intellectual condition, but also at my soul. My soul helps me letting me be who I am. I am a sportive person without the body. I am a rich man without money. I am a womanizer with only one woman. In the beginning, I thought that my brain could take away my physical problems. Now I know that should I get a stroke and lose my brain too, I still would have my soul.'
The greater part of his patients, 80%, do not have a disability. I ask Georg how they react when they see him for the first time. 'Let us say that 70% reacts normally and that 30% overreacts.' Here is where his former colleague Susanne Lindl, who also joined the interview, gets in for the first time. Susanne: 'People say "wow, look at his wheelchair" or "wow, he has four children" or "he has such a cool attitude". They idealize him.'
Georg is the first one to minimize this picture people have of him. 'Yes, I am a happy man. I get so much love from people. That is what I appreciate most about my life. What is less is that my life is so expensive. I have an adjusted car, an adjusted home. I need assistance at home. One gets assistance depending on the level of disability. There are seven levels. The assistance starts at level three. As far as accessibility in Austria is concerned, this should improve. There has been progress in the past years. It looks like accessibility improves when I stop doing things. At school, there was no elevator. There is now. Since I have been driving my own car, the busses are getting adjusted.
'Sometimes it looks easy how I deal with my disability. I just try to give the right answers to the questions of life.'
'Real freedom is only in your head'
Susanne worked as an assistant of Georg for half a year. Those six months finally made her accept her own disability. She can not move both her arms and knees well, due to the fact the nerves in her brain don't make contact with her muscles. She has had this from birth. Although she always has had a strong will, it was not easy for her to accept her physical condition.
'At the age of 19, I did psychotherapy. I travelled to India all alone to challenge myself. The problem was my family had more difficulty accepting my disability than I had. My mother found it hard to cope with. My father thought I should get a job in a social work place. I married and got a daughter. It took some time before my mother understood that I would get a child and what that meant. I divorced and lived on my own with my child for a couple of years. Now, I live together with a man who has almost grown-up kids. The only help I have is in the household.
The six months with Georg made I have finally accepted my disability. I am aware it is not the disability itself that is important in life. Real freedom is only in your head. I have learned to deal with emotions and am better able to help others (Susanne is now working with children at the emergency call). People are coping with helplessness. I recognize it from my own youth. As a child I was angry, because I needed help. Now, I know that everybody needs help in some way. I am grateful for that knowledge which makes me ahead of other people.'
The favourite song of Georg is not a real surprise, him being a womanizer: Beyoncé with Irreplaceable. Susanne would like to hear Gipsy Kings with Soy.
Copy right interview: Johan Peters, May 22nd - ...