The Boat

We will start with this first narrative about foreigners residing in Switzerland using our own story. After all, nothing better than knowing where it comes from, to know who you are and where you are going.

The boat is the narrative construction that emerges from the ships that over the centuries crossed the oceans with my ancestors, between Europe and South America.

The great-grandfather

My great-grandfather emigrated from Switzerland to Brazil twice. The first one we don’t have the documental register. But when he got there, he was with his wife and two daughters. The youngest with 8 years. Some years there and my great-grandmother, already 40 years old, became pregnant again.

They decided to return to Zürich in search of better medical services. Ten years later, there was such hope in Brazil, they emigrated again, taking now, in all, 17 family members. Cousins, mother-in-law, uncles and nephews emigrated all together from the small Switzerland to this huge country. Its name: Brazil.

They bought a large 100-hectare farm on the hillside of “Serra do Mar”, in São José dos Pinhais, near of the Curitiba (a capital city in south of Brazil). The farm was bigger than the downtown city of Zürich. The rest of the family spread throughout the big Brazil.

The eldest daughter of “mr. Jacob” returned to Switzerland and had 3 daughters and 1 son. Jakob never met these grandchildrens. It took 40 years to see this daughter again. 40 years of nostalgia of the firstborn.

The middle daughter married an Italian immigrant and moved to “Pato Branco”, inland of Paraná state. They went to explore and colonize. She had 2 daughters, 1 son and many grandchildren.

My grandmother

My grandmother, the early daughter, was then 8 years old. She was, like any child, light and adapted quickly. In less than a year, she mastered Portuguese with wisdom. My great-grandparents, already old, stayed on the farm for a few more years, then sold everything and moved to Curitiba.

My grandmother, during this period on the farm, grew up and, when they landed in Curitiba, she was already married to a man from Pernambuco (northeast Brazilian state), she lived there and was already the mother of my mother and my uncle and godfather.

Luiz Gonzaga

My grandfather from Pernambuco headed the family.

He took care of everyone. The Swiss were a dish easy for the Brazilian rascal and the man from Pernambuco, slick man, born in the hinterland, was called Luiz Gonzaga, more Brazilian name is impossible, gave shelter against the rascal.

The Swiss money, after the sale of the farm, soon disappeared and started to be counted in coins. It was in my mother’s generation that things got better. My great-grandfather lived a simple life and ended in a small farm. Swiss of everything, had several stumbles and mistakes, but he never let the Brazilian deviations discourage him, he walked straight to the end of life.

My great-grandfather died in the battlefiled of life.

My grandfather from Pernambuco, good at conversation, ended up leaving things softer and helping the old Swiss to have a good end of life.

When Jakob Frederich Heusser passed away, I was 5 to 6 years old, in 1981. The definitive emigration trip to Brazil was around 1935. He was born in 1890, 40 years in the Switzerland and 56 in Brazil.

One life here and another there.

My grandfather from Pernambuco, called Luiz Gonzaga, died in 1985, went to pair with the father-in-law in some sky of all nationalities. A migrant from recession and hunger in Switzerland (and Europe in general) and another one of northeastern Brazilian persistent misery.

They went to colonize the Heaven, one ingenious and another slick, one straight and another a good dancer.

Myself and all the miscelaneous

I am 43 as I write this text. I was born Brazilian, I was born in Brasília, in 1976, I became Swiss in 2014, dual nationality. I was born into a traditional family of Curitiba (does this exists?), formed by people from the world.

On my father’s side of the family, Italians came from the south of Italy (the Bucchi), Germans know where to (the Weigert family) and French southerners (the Alberge family), all of them to work in Brazil from around of the 19th to the 20th centuries.

On my mother’s side, it was a very typical family from Pernambuco. Formed by Portugueses, Indians, slaves. From there came my grandfather, Mr. Luiz Gonzaga, son-in-law of Jacob. Mr. Gonzaga married the youngest daughter of Jakob, Trude, she was born Gertrud (pronounced in Swiss: “Gertrud”).

Trude was Swiss.

Everybody was in Curitiba between 1890 and 1974, everybody went there in search of a better life, escaping from hunger, trying to find peace. They merged into a large temporal-genetic coincidence.

My parents went to Brasília in 1974, in 1976 I was born. The weather was not good, it was the military government, my father says that some people were disapierd durining these period. In 1981 we were back in Curitiba, forced by life.

A family of entrepreneurs does not have time to get rich, because they are always in a new undertaking adventure.

For example, look to me in today’s life, I started a new life in Switzerland, I moved here at the age of 42.

I brought my daughter from Brazil. I came with my 10-year-old stepson and my wife, my mother 70 years old came with my nephew 13 years old.

We are restarting from scratch. We brought 3 bags each, a lot of hope and strength to work.

Grandma Trude was born in 1925. I was born in 1976.

My great-grandfather went to Brazil the first time around 1920, I came to Switzerland in 2018, cycles of 50 and 100 years.

The immigrant.

Today, sitting on my computer, here in Switzerland, I understand Mr. Jacob: to learn a completely new language is difficult. Learn new cultures and habits, new laws at 40 is not easy. To have to start a new career, practically from scratch, is not easy.

What drives the migrant is the dream, not the wealth or peace or ambition. It is the dream that drives the boat that transports us between the continents. It is the dream that moves the compass that points from the Northeast to the south, France to Brazil, Switzerland.