Character Portraits 3 & 4: Dr. Polak and his partner Sonja

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At 71 years old, Dr. Polak is still fighting the good fight like he was still a 20 year-old human rights activist. Besides his work as a psychiatrist, he has been fighting the “hypocritical” war on drugs for over 40 years. He travels the world and speaks at symposiums on that and other human rights topics. If there is one thing that defines Dr. Polak, it is his belief in people’s right to choose how they live (and end) their life. 15 years ago, Mrs. L came to him requesting his aid in helping her die with dignity. He tried treating for 14 years until it became clear to him that death for Mrs. L is her ‘happy ending’. As a trained psychiatrist, Dr. Polak tried to keep an emotional distance so as not to be devastated by the inevitable loss but try as he might, he could not deny the strong bond he developed with Mrs. L over the years. 

 

 

Sonja, wife of Dr. Polak for over 20 years. Sonja is a renowned journalist. She and Dr. Polak wrote an article together in the early 90s in support of the first euthanasia case in the Netherlands performed by Boudewijn Chabot. Back then, euthanasia was considered a big taboo in the country and Sonja and Dr. Polak were among the first champions for its legalization. Sonja happens to be a cancer survivor and knows a thing or two about fear of dying. When her cancer first appeared, Dr. Polak had a hard time dealing with it. It’s not as easy when the person facing death is someone you love. Dr. Polak and Sonja travel the world together and spend most of their free time with each other but choose to live in separate homes. They have an arrangement that the Dutch call LAT (living apart together). One of the most interesting developments in I’M NOT AFRAID is how Mrs. L’s lifelong journey with loneliness affects Sonja and Dr. Polak’s living arrangements. Will they decide to move in together after Mrs. L’s death?

 

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