Welcome to Eirene Cafe

Take off your coat and shoes; we are better off barefoot here. While you are getting comfortable I’ll tell you a short story.


Almost a quarter of the world feels lonely. Nearly one in four people worldwide feel very or fairly lonely. In Italy in 2022, an astonishing 48% of Italians suffered from loneliness. Expats are more at risk of feeling lonely for prolonged periods.


According to John Cacioppo, the founder of social neuroscience, loneliness is precisely the feeling of being disconnected from others, of not belonging to a community, or even worse, the feeling that no one cares about you.

At its core, loneliness has the bitter taste of abandonment.

For a human being, being abandoned is one of the most terrible experiences that can lead to enormous distress. It's interpreted as extreme exposure and vulnerability to predators and signals imminent danger to our most primitive part of the brain: the reptilian brain. This ancient mechanism swiftly switches us into survival mode, flooding our bodies with stress hormones to ensure we behave properly and, ultimately, survive.

Now, most of us don’t live in the savanna, and the only tiger we see is in a picture. But try telling that to your reptilian brain, which doesn’t understand any modern language.

What could possibly go wrong with living for years with a constantly activated sympathetic nervous system? We now know that loneliness is competing with smoking, junk food, and a sedentary lifestyle in the line of serious risk factors for cardiovascular and gastrointestinal issues, mood disorders, and cognitive decline, to name a few.

For one in four of us.


So, what is Eirene Cafe?

A refuge of stories and inspiration, far from the crowd.

A nourishment for kindred souls who appreciate quiet and depth.

A gathering to connect and bond through meaningful conversations.

An antidote to a world that's always buzzing and seemingly indifferent.

Imagine it like a spacious room filled with morning sunshine, where we come together—vulnerable and validating—to talk and listen to each other, surrounded by full bookshelves and coffee cups in an attempt to soothe and uplift our flattened hearts.

Collaboration is an essential part of Eirene Cafe. During the first year of the project, other women were regularly involved and generously contributed their expertise, energy, and time. I'll always be grateful for their enthusiasm, professionalism, and availability.

NOTE: Eirene Cafe doesn’t offer mental health professional help.


What you’ll find here?

A regular virtual connecting point for expat and English-speaking women in general, who may be experiencing loneliness and striving for a sense of belonging. We are based in Milan, so occasionally these meetings take place in person.

Conversations

A space to chat: Those kindred souls who generously support this project can continue the conversation after our virtual gatherings in a private chat. Also, similar to any café, our discussions cover daily life experiences from within and beyond our personal worlds and are open to all subscribers.

Threads to indulge in nurturing exchanges: At the beginning of every month you’ll find a juicy list of questions and prompts at The Cafe. It’s like a 30-day-long journal written by many hands, as we progressively explore the monthly theme.

Nurturing Letters

Weekly content: Thoughtfully researched and crafted writings in the form of long reads.

Regular Gatherings

  • Clarity Pages

    An introspective journaling practice. We tune in almost every Tuesday morning and write our way to better understanding of ourselves and the world.

  • Lit Salon

    An intimate gathering for book lovers and storytellers. We meet monthly on early Sunday evening to explore what our reading choices reveal about us, as they often mirror our state of mind.

Their regular cadence provides a sense of relaxing predictability and safety. A paid subscription grants access to all online initiatives. Our regulars are Clarity Pages and Lit Salon and they both offer excellent opportunities for introspection, exchange and connection.


Who is behind?

Last time I took a profile picture was in 2016. I need an update, I know.

I’m Natasha Nedelkovska, Eirene Cafe’s host. I don’t have much to say about myself except that I’m an expat in my early forties, living in Milan with my family. I’m still in the midst of my flourishing. But I think it’s more accurate if I call it emerging instead—it creates fewer expectations about the outcome.

As an avid reader and book hoarder, it's no surprise that my areas of expertise include many types of communication: from foreign language studies and teaching to branding, design, writing, and photography. I’m about to embark on a long journey this year. I’m finally going to immerse myself in my all-time love: the world of psychology and neuroscience. One day, I will have enough knowledge to confidently say: “Well, it depends”.

Eirene Cafe is part of the process of emerging. It’s an ever-evolving attempt to reach that sweet spot where things just feel right, elegantly balanced by both quantity and quality.

Collaboration is an essential part of Eirene Cafe. During the first year of the project, other women were regularly involved and generously contributed their expertise, energy, and time. I'll always be grateful for their enthusiasm, professionalism, and availability.


Join Eirene Cafe

Eirene Cafe is a community-supported initiative. If you appreciate the effort, believe in its social impact and find it beneficial for your well-being, please consider a free or paid subscription.

Never miss an update—every new post is sent directly to your email inbox. For a spam-free, ad-free reading experience and community features, get the Substack app.

If a paid subscription is not possible right now, and you’d benefit from full access experience, email me at eirene.cafe@gmail.com with details — and I can offer a free month. No questions asked.

Want to contribuite?

Ideas and proactivity are always welcome. Two heads think better than one, and four hands can tend with more grace and strength. Reach out if you prefer your energy to go in creating rather than consuming, if you like writing, and prefer alternatives over mundane, and exception over rule. Eirene Cafe is an act of co-creating, based on volunteering.

E-mail eirene.cafe@gmail.com

Community Guidelines

I know that most people are kind and empathetic, and think twice before saying something that can be hurtful. And when, despite all of our efforts—sometimes even unintentionally—feelings get hurt, we know the majority of us won't hesitate to acknowledge the mishap and apologize.

Yet, group dynamics are complex. Just in case things get heated, I reserve the right to remove anyone who has behaved uncivilly in this space.

Natasha

Subscribe to Eirene Cafe

A quiet virtual refuge. An attempt to break through feelings of loneliness and isolation. Monthly themes. Heartfelt conversations and intimate gatherings. Based in Milan, Italy.

People

An expat in early forties, living in Milan, Italy with my partner and our son. I’m still in the midst of my flourishing. Let's call it emerging instead—it creates fewer expectations about the outcome.