Analía Kalinec spent the day before her fortieth birthday sitting in a judicial mediation against her father. It was October 2019, and they hadn’t seen each other in 10 years. Analía’s father, Eduardo Kalinec, was trying to cut her out of his will. Blinded by “activism”, he claimed, his daughter had been spreading lies about him.
Analía was having none of it. “If you think I look ‘changed’,” she told Eduardo, “then think about how it must have felt to find out that my father was a torturer.”
A family man with four daughters, Eduardo was in the police when the military junta seized power in a coup on March 24, 1976. But he was a long way from being a servant of the law.
Survivors’ testimonies that came to light in court after the dictatorship showed he was part of a group of police, gendarmerie and military officers that committed barbaric human rights violations. They operated in a circuit of three clandestine detention centers in Buenos Aires known as Atlético, Banco and Olimpo. They held victims in captivity, sometimes for months, and brutally tortured them, in many cases before murdering them.
Victims and colleagues alike gave him a special nickname: Doctor K.
The trials were not the first hint of Eduardo’s involvement in crimes against humanity. Survivor testimonies compiled by rights watchdog Amnesty International in 1979 placed “Doctor K” in the detention centers, part of a special unit preparing detainees for “transfer”. Called by their code numbers, they were told to leave their clothes behind: where they were going, they wouldn’t need them.
The term was a euphemism: they would be injected with a sedative and thrown into the river, alive but unconscious, in the death flights.
According to judges, Doctor K committed 161 crimes including violent kidnapping, threatening, torture, and murder between 1976 and 1979.
Facing the truth about her father took time. “When my father was arrested in 2005, I just didn’t understand what was going on,” Analía told The Herald. She had a religious upbringing with her three sisters and sensitive mother, and holds memories of happy childhood vacations on the beach. Her father always worked and, at this point, had just become the loving grandfather of her first child.
“Daddy is in jail, but don’t be scared,” said her mother when she called to deliver the news. She said it was for ‘political reasons’.
Analía, her sisters and her mother visited Kalinec in the Marcos Paz penitentiary frequently. Eduardo said he was a victim who had done nothing wrong. They believed him.
In 2003, President Néstor Kirchner annulled laws stopping trials for dictatorship-era rights abuses during the 1990s, blocking survivors and families’ demands for justice. Until then, Analía, like many Argentines, was unaware of what happened between 1976 and 1983. It was generally assumed that it had been a war between two equal forces, not state terrorism. In many cases, Argentines learned of the military’s crimes for the first time when the trials were reopened.
A 2006 entry from a diary she kept for her son Gino reads: “Grandpa was active during the military process and is implicated – I don’t know where, how, nor why.” A relative had emailed her the files after he got arrested, but she couldn’t bring herself to read them..
Then, in 2008, his case went to trial. Analía approached the files of his case for the first time. Survivors of the centers described him as a “ruthless” torturer.
“That’s when I realized.” Sickened by the testimonies, she questioned her father’s version for the first time.
She cried as she read. “I felt the presence of my father in the events that were described: I saw him there, during the torture, oblivious towards the victim’s pain,” she wrote in her book.
Analía remembered something her father said when he was arrested in 2005: “this is what happens when you don’t do the job right”. Back then, she had wondered what he meant by “doing the job right”.
After reading the testimonies, she wrote an open letter to Eduardo and the rest of her family. “I’m asking you to be sincere, to question yourself,” she wrote then. “I’m asking you to acknowledge your own history.”
This letter marked the first rupture with her family.
Analía went on to become an activist, creating a network for other people whose family members had committed atrocities for the dictatorship. She called it Historias Desobendientes (Disobedient Stories).
“At first, I wouldn’t talk about this with anyone besides my family,” she told The Herald. “But, afterward, the image of the ideal father broke, and I started to see that he had indeed been capable of those crimes.”
In 2008, when he was 4, Gino helped to “out” her at his kindergarten. Once, he said that his grandfather was in jail “because he had killed many people”. Analía was called in to discuss her son’s words by the school’s director and contacted by other mothers from the class. “He helped me to start talking about it in other social groups,” a process which helped her beat the shame she felt, she said. Withher cheerful, attentive disposition, people could not believe she was the daughter of a torturer.
In 2010, Eduardo was sentenced to life imprisonment for illegal deprivation of liberty, torture, and murder. He has never expressed remorse for his actions, and has always remained silent about the crimes during the dictatorship.
“As long as he refuses to share the information he has about the disappeared and their abducted children, I’m not interested in a judiciary mediation,” Analía would later write to the judges in his case against her.
As she learnt the true story of the 1976-1983 period, she began to wonder where the rest of the torturer’s relatives were. “I started to think that there must be others going through the same,” she said.
One day in 2016, she decided to open a Facebook page called Disobedient Stories, aiming to connect with other relatives of torturers across Argentina. They advocated for what they saw as an ethical responsibility: to testifyagainst their torturer relatives with the information they bore.
Her public statements triggered an angry reaction in her family, even involving one of her sisters telling her to “stay away from the family” and “shut [her] mouth”.
Eduardo later attempted to disinherit Analía, accusing her of an “incoherent wave of human-rightsy conscience” and a “fundamentalist disdain, aiming to make money from everything she despises.”
At an appeals court hearing in February 2020, with her father watching from jail via video link, Analía told judges why she believed he shouldn’t be granted a permit to access temporary releases from jail.
“He still wants to eliminate those who think differently,” she said. “Your honor, I do believe that, if my father had an electric shock baton today, he would use it on me.”
The courtroom stood in absolute silence. She was referring to the picana or electric cattle prod, one of the dictatorship’s most widely-used torture implements, and one Eduardo himself had used.
She never saw Eduardo again.
Today, Historias Desobedientes has branches in Chile, Brazil, Spain, El Salvador, Uruguay and Paraguay. “There are torturers everywhere, and they have families,” Analía said. She wrote a book, also called Historias Desobedientes, based on her diaries, court files, letters, and her family archives.
She believes her story would not have been possible without the trials against Argentina’s dictators. “It was crucial that the trials were public – that made people like me, who lived under ignorance, see what happened.”
“We, the relatives of torturers, are breaking a huge mandate,” she told the Herald. “We’re pariahs within our own families, and we’re constantly being questioned in other social spheres”.
“In the social imaginary, people think just like their parents,” she said. Since 2008, she has woken up every single day ready to prove the doubters wrong.