Where Freud Met His Mother

Sigmund Freud, who forever fixed psychoanalysis on the map of human ideas, is still celebrated in his native city. Contrary to what you might assume, it's not Vienna. In fact, it's not even in Austria. It's actually in Czechia.

Sigmund Freud poses for sculptor Oscar Nemon, 1931, in Vienna.
Sigmund Freud poses for sculptor Oscar Nemon in Vienna in 1931. Photo: ASSOCIATED PRESS / East News

Where would we be without Sigmund Freud? We wouldn’t now know about the meaning of slips of the tongue, the convoluted, hidden meaning of dreams, or that we can blame our parents for our faults.

Though the father of modern psychiatry is indelibly connected to his home city of choice, Vienna, this is not where it started. Freud’s life began in a small house in a small town in Czechia that, to this day, commemorates its best-known citizen.

Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis, holding a cigar. Photographed by his son-in-law, Max Halberstadt, c. 1921.
Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis, holding a cigar. Photographed by his son-in-law, Max Halberstadt, c. 1921. Photo: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons


Zámečnicka Street is typical of all central European cities of medieval or early modern origin: a narrow, paved, fairly short, and curvy ravine between two walls of buildings. But one of the few buildings next to it features an unusual prop: a life-sized brass settee, recognizable to everyone now: a psychoanalyst’s bed.

There’s more to psychoanalysis inside the house, or, better – more Freud and Freudism, as every corner is filled with the Zeitgeist of Freudian upbringing. You can meet the famous psychoanalyst himself, eye to eye, thanks to his wax figure. And you can buy a souvenir – say, a mug with Freud saying “your mum” in Czech, or even an action figure.

The interiors, reconstructed in the early 2000s after the city bought the house, are a mix of the genuine bourgeois interiors of the second half of the 19th century (Freud was born in 1856) and a play on the idea of psychoanalysis: the dreams, the drives, the subconscious. The museum is not very busy, the space is tiny (as the Freuds were not very rich), and a sense of peace fills the air.

But that’s not how it always was. Freud was first commemorated on the wall of his birthplace in 1931, upon his 75th birthday, when he was still active in Vienna. The engraving was destroyed by the Germans, who despised him both as a Jew and a modern philosopher. The house itself is a survivor from a larger complex of houses that were demolished at some point in urban development.

Two Freuds in Příbor

But there’s more of Freud in Příbor than in his house. There is a monument that has graced multiple locations in the town before finding its current spot in the center. There’s the Freud Hotel just next to the house, but we can’t tell if interpreting your dreams from the night you spend there is a part of the service.

But the name Freud is prominent in the main square, where the name Jane McAdam Freud is written all over the façade of one of the houses. The artist, who sadly passed in 2022, was the daughter of Lucian Freud, grandson of Sigmund, and a famous painter flirting with surrealism in his work that can easily be interpreted in the light of his grandfather’s work.

Jane McAdam didn’t fall far from the tree: her sculpture and installations refer to Sigmund Freud’s ideas directly and indirectly, and her acquisition of the house in Příbor is just a visible sign here. You can visit an exhibition of part of her work (on appointment) to mark the full of 170 years of the presence of the Freuds in Příbor.

Przemysław Bociąga

is a Polish journalist and essayist based in Warsaw. An anthropologist and art historian by education, he specializes in combining cultural phenomena with compelling narrative. He has authored and co-authored several books covering lifestyle and history. The most recent of them is “Impeccable. The biography of masculine image”. He has contributed to many leading magazines, both in print and online, and teaches cultural anthropology to college students.

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