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"I grew through detours"

The doctor and Africa activist Christine Wallner learned the hard way how painful experiences can become sources of strength that can be tapped. Now she has settled in - and it is no longer so important whether it is Vienna or Tanzania.

It has to go on and on

Take a break, relax, just let five be a day - these are concepts that don't seem to appear in Christine Wallner's vocabulary. And certainly not in her biography. “I've always been one who looks to the future,” she says. “I was one of those children who could only survive through performance. You can never get rid of that completely. Until I make my peace with it - I have to get very old! ”I sit with the 76-year-old doctor in her apartment in Vienna-Hernals and stealthily look at the slip of paper with my interview questions. "Retired?" It said on the first line. And underneath: “Relax?” Well, yes.

If faces could hug, Christine Wallner would have such a “hugging face”. It exudes openness and warmth - quite apart from the fact that you would more likely attribute her to 56 than 76 years. But what it certainly does not radiate is “retirement”. I don't even need to start with that. Well i guess. Then we talk about life. About the detours, about falling, picking up, muddling on. Because give up? Certainly not. It is well known that you only give up letters. One last check of the slip of paper, then I put it away. Christine Wallner, stands there, ex-wife of the former casino boss Leo Wallner, two children together, Cornelia and Clemens. But that was 35 years ago. Today Wallner makes an independent impression. A definition as "woman of ..." no longer does justice to her.

About law to medicine

When the children were big enough, she followed the path of her heart: the long-awaited medical studies, work in the hospital, her own practice. She had completed her first degree, law, as a good daughter. “Actually, it was terrible,” she says, “I never want to set foot in a courtroom again!” At that time, she would have simply done unreflective disciplinary work, for the sake of her father, who cried every successful exam. Today she would like to sell her studies so that a few more children can have a future in Africa. Money was there after the divorce too. It wasn't important to her (“I don't need much”), but it gave the children a secure basis for a good education and gave them some time to deepen their medical studies and quench their thirst for knowledge at the age of five.

Roll up your sleeves and tackle it

Help, heal, above all: don't just stand by where something is needed. Roll up your sleeves, tackle it. In Africa she covered huts with clay, she says. She used her artistic potential and built a Masai-style lodge at a reasonable price. In general: she is a master at making something out of little. So let's talk about Africa. In the third phase of her life, the black continent becomes Christine Wallner's center of life. The now 63-year-old packs her doctor's bag and moves to Tanzania. She becomes "Mama Alama", the white healer (also the title of her autobiography, published in 2014). She sells her house in Vienna - good start-up capital for the hospital that is to be built here in the land of the Meru and Maasai people. From the makeshift blanket under a huge mulberry tree - the symbol of your organization Africa Amini Alama - where Wallner looks after her first patients, a stately (and now state) hospital with 60 doctors, nurses and carers has grown over the years Government was handed over.

The children as a source of strength

Motherhood changed her - from the ground up. To this day, Wallner sees it as the greatest, decisive source of strength in her life. Having and raising children was easy for her: It was about pure love, empathy and encouraging young beings to become responsible people. “That was my thing and it stayed with me all my life. Schools, orphanages, happy children in the Africa-Amini-Alama projects: That was the better option for me than a second husband and many more children of my own. ”She was also denied this second option because of an autoimmune disease that was almost lifelong. “That cost me a lot of strength and time, but it helped me to develop an infinite amount of depth and trust in God. Of course, I regretted and complained - but in the end I accepted it as my fate and was ready to go my way anyway without making too many compromises. Live full of joy - whatever comes out of it - and leave everything open. "

"I had secretly made a pact with God," says Wallner. “I do what you want, but you have to make me understand what you want. About the disease? Please don't let that get so bad that I can never pursue my goal. ”And it was like that. There were better times, there were worse times, but at least they were there - and had been for a long time. “I'm happy about that and take it with a sense of humor that brings the lack of lightness into life.” Wallner noticed how deeply rooted her will to live was especially when she was dead. An infinity in eight seconds. “That's when I saw him, and I saw the extremely exciting staging of this film, which we call 'Life'. Although it wasn't that bad to be dead, my decision was clear: I want to keep going! I woke up in the intensive care unit and thought to myself: I have to get out of there - quickly. ”Two days later she presented her autobiography to a large audience. What was going through your head? "It's good that I'm here."

Daughter Cornelia Wallner-Frisee is also a doctor with body and soul and is now in charge of the “Africa Amini Alama” development project (freely translated: “I believe in Africa”) in Tanzania, East Africa.

Life's work of mother and daughter

Wallner: “I was lucky to have a daughter by my side and to know that she would continue my life's work. Schools grew, guests came, and their words and looks confirmed my decision: Yes, it was right to go on living and not have to give up my dream too early. ”It was a wonderful experience, hand in hand with her daughter on the joint Africa project to see their grandchildren grow up - and to observe how naturally African and European cultures flow together in them. A feeling of satisfaction and gratitude began to set in. That was new. Christine Wallner wore the short but hapless love affair with an African with humor - after all, her mother once said: “A Jew or African won't come into my house!” So ​​this rebellion was also ticked off. Meanwhile, Africa Amini Alama's projects grew. “People who visited us there could laugh, enjoy nature and help make changes - if they wanted to. It was nice to have so many with us. I secretly sensed that it was time to let go again. It was a challenge, but only one of many. ”In 2020 Christine Wallner handed over the work to her daughter in Africa. In her heart she remains connected to the project.

What's next? Maybe some kind of retirement after all? “I'm learning a whole new dimension: connectedness is enough, it doesn't always have to be doing that that counts. I can imagine that my life can now let in all the unlived things that I still need: a lot of time for myself, a little time for others and spontaneity. In any case, I am sure of one thing: The sadness of a life not lived - it will never exist! "

Help with your donation

One project of the “Africa Amini Alama” initiative is the establishment and maintenance of three English-speaking primary schools and one secondary school for children from poor families. For the completion of the Pamoja Secondary School in Maasailand in Tanzania, a high school boarding school building is still missing, in which 80 students can be accommodated. The RELAX Guide has already supported this great project. You can find out how you can help with a donation here.

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