Last week I attended the launch of 50 Amazing Swiss Immigrants, the latest book by the core team that created 50 Amazing Swiss Women. The launch was hosted by the State Secretariat for Migration in Bern, the capital city of Switzerland, and was incredibly moving. A number of the people who are featured in the book attended the launch, and the pride and gratitude in the air was palpable.
I’ve always been impressed by the courage of immigrants. Going to another country, leaving everything familiar behind, often not knowing the language or the culture of the new country, takes an immense amount of courage. And 50 Amazing Swiss Immigrants features fifty enormously brave men and women.
The book dedicates each two-page spread to a summary of a person’s life and an illustration created by Swiss illustrator Mireille Lachausse. It includes stories of well-known Swiss immigrants, such as Audrey Hepburn, Otto Frank, Charlie Chaplin, Tina Turner, and Albert and Mileva Einstein. And it includes stories of lesser-known Swiss immigrants, such as Ernesto Ricou, who, after leaving Portugal, founded the smallest museum in Switzerland and Heeja Brodtbeck-Kim, who gave up her pop star life in Korea to become a yodeling sensation in Switzerland.
The stories are a peek into the lives of diverse immigrants, some contemporary, some from days gone by, and cover a wide range of native countries. A fair amount come from Switzerland’s neighboring countries—France, Germany, and Italy—but the book also features those who have come from the US, Great Britain, Iran, Botswana, Algeria, and Eritrea.
At the beginning of each profile is a subtitle featuring each person’s accomplishments. Okbaab Tesfamariam’s reads, The Immigrant Who Shares Knowledge. Lavinia Heisenberg’s, The Immigrant Who Studies Gravity. Jérôme Aké Béda’s, The Immigrant Who Knows Fine Wine. Susan M. Tiberghien’s, The Immigrant Who Connects People Through Writing.
I too am an immigrant. After all, I left my home country and now live in another. I suppose my subtitle would be, The Immigrant Who Writes Picture Books. At least I hope it would be. That’s a subtitle I would be proud of.
But I digress. Let me wrap up by telling you about my very favorite part of 50 Amazing Swiss Immigrants.
At the end of each profile, there is a quote that sums up the heart of each person. Together, they are as inspirational and as wise as any word of the day calendar. “Kindness has no nationality, neither does racism.” “Nothing is easy, but everything is possible.” “To build up a future, you have to know the past.” “The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.” “When no one else believes in you, you always have the option to simply believe in yourself.”
And with those wise words, dear reader, I send you off for the rest of your day. Wishing you all the best.