You were and still have a good reputation as a paediatrician. Did you always know that you wanted to do this profession?

I was encouraged by the excellent lectures of one of our professors. He had a way of filling the students with enthusiasm for his subject. This is why I decided to specialize in paediatric medicine.

 

Do you have a favourite memory from your time as a paediatrician?

I couldn’t choose one particular highlight, since I made many beautiful experiences. Of course, there were sad moments either. In the neurologic department I often had to do with children with disabilities but also with their wonderful parents. These parents were extremely thankful for being accompanied and supported, for example with regard to insurance concerns.

 

You are still very involved in the subject. What do your professional activities include today?

I retired eight years ago but I am still very interested in the subject. Since I was not a surgeon but rather gave “analytical inputs” when working as a doctor, I still was able to engage in some fields after my retirement. Today I accompany colleagues who want to become paediatricians with courses and discussions and I provide them with the latest articles on the subject. I was asked if I wanted to do this ten years ago. At the moment I give a course for eight people in the German speaking part of Switzerland and another one for ten people in Constance, since I am still in touch with people from southern Germany who I got to know during my professional career.

 

Last week you went to Salzburg, Austria, right?

Yes, I was in Salzburg. Twenty years ago, a colleague from the children’s hospital in Salzburg spent one year in Zurich for further education and ever since we have been in touch. Nowadays, that is easy of course, thanks to emails and other technical possibilities. Once a year I travel to Salzburg. There I discuss cases of patients with my colleague, about who he wishes to have a second opinion. Additionally, we attend a seminar with other Austrian colleagues about unsolved diagnoses. I find that very interesting and as far as I can I contribute something to it. I therefore want to stay up to date with regard to the respective literature and I thus read a lot. When I am involved in something of the kind, I feel obliged to be in the picture about the latest questions and findings. Nowadays, a lot of articles are accessible online.

 

One reason why I am still active in my field is because I want to be helpful, but of course it is also good for my grey cells. I do not only have the possibility but also the time to stay involved and I still enjoy it.

 

Do you have other hobbies apart from your medical commitment?

One of my passions is photography; I mostly take pictures in the zoo. I have been to Africa several times but now I rather visit different Swiss and German zoos with my wife. There I take pictures of the animals and then create a calendar which I give to my family and friends. Each calendar has one central theme, for example rare zoo animals. Sometimes I take photos of different kinds of horses or cows, I have also made calendars with monkeys or antelopes only.

 

Have you always been a member of the Boltshauser Club?

My father, Jakob, once was president of the club. I remember how, as a boy, my father took me to a reunion, which took place in Ottoberg. We sat on common benches and there were not many people attending yet, there were about thirty of us. After that I went to reunions with my parents now and then, and later alone, with my wife and my children. I attended almost every reunion, except for when I was abroad.

 

You still have an active position in the Boltshauser Club. How do you feel about the club?

My role is rather a minor one. However, I think it is  a great thing, emotionally and historically. As a Boltshauser and having your roots in Thurgau you feel connected to the region.

 

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You got your PhD in physics at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich but you also did pilot training. Why did you eventually decide to make a career in the field of your studies in physics instead of becoming a pilot?

I had already finished my studies in physics then, and I figured the job as a pilot would become boring to me after a while. Especially the night flights would have become monotonous after some time, I guess. Additionally, I had troubles with my back at the time.

 

You have been the secretary of the Boltshauser Club for many years already. Has anything remarkably changed since you joined the club?

Mainly the international element has changed. Today, members from all over the world can take part, not only those in Switzerland or Europe. This is possible through the new technologies, which we now have access to, like the Internet and Facebook. The information that we used to distribute via letters is nowadays available on Facebook.

 

A few years ago you and your family were invited to the wedding of a Boltshauser in Spain. How did that happen?

We visited him and his girlfriend on our trip to the US in 2011, when he still lived in California. We got to know him via Dick Jones. He invited us and when he came to Switzerland he would visit us at our home. After that, he invited us to his wedding, which took place in Spain, since his wife is from there. As a software engineer, he is able to work from wherever he likes, so he decided to settle down with his wife in Barcelona after the wedding.

 

You often travel on business. Have you had any special experiences on your travels, which you will never forget?

It was last year in Guatemala and we went there to sell machines to a client. I mentioned to him that I thought of Guatemala as a beautiful country and that I had read something about a famous Inca site. The client immediately suggested going there the next day and he promised that he would organise a helicopter flight for us. When he called, the helicopter company said that we were to many, however, and that accordingly we were to heavy for one helicopter. Eventually we went to the site by plane and our client invited us to visit the pyramids. It became a day trip, since flying to the site and back took us 45 minutes each. That was an extraordinary experience, but things like these don’t happen all the time of course.

 

What are your wishes for the future?

Most of all I wish for health. I want to stay healthy and mobile.

 

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Dear Monika,

Was it hard for you to quit this project in the Boltshauser Club, which you were so dedicated to? Which feelings did it induce in you?

When I was asked to take on that responsibility many years ago I was very proud and just thought: WOW! I was still living in Brazil back then. I took the chance and started off highly motivated and well supported by a wonderful team! When my father, Alex, was president, most of the responsibility was on his shoulders. I, on the other hand, wanted to work more as a team, which we accomplished.

 

How does it feel when an era like this one ends?

I feel that the individual is replaceable. When I engaged with finding a successor I mainly turned to young people on Facebook who frequently “liked” the contents of the profile of the Boltshauser Club. Clubs can only exist if young people follow and take care of them. It was great for me to be able to hand over the responsibility for the Boltshauser Club to a competent young successor.

 

Is there any wish that you want to fulfil for yourself, now that you have more time?

(Laughs) My wish has always been to be able to do more work for charity in social services. Furthermore, I have more time for photographing and reading now, as well as for trips, hikes and visits with my husband. I enjoy having half a day at my disposal. My wish therefore has been fulfilled. However, I do not want to state that I have plenty more time now than I had before. I only have a little bit more time.

 

Not only the members of the Boltshauser family know about yours and Daniels commitment as missionaries in Brazil. Have you kept in touch with your friends in South America?

Yes, with many of them! Daniel and I had to divide the Whatsapp-numbers between each other. These are mostly former homeless boys, co-workers of ours and other friends. Brazil is our second home. Since Brazilians prefer talking to texting, the conversations with them help me to maintain my Portuguese skills.

 

Are you and Daniel planning on visiting Brazil again?

Yes, probably next year. 2020 will be our 20-year anniversary of returning to Switzerland after we lived 17 years in Brazil.

 

I got to know you as a very happy person. What do you think is the key to happiness?

To me, happiness means having my family, being close to God, cultivating good relationships and having animals around me. Our dog always wags its tail, no matter if I am happy or sad. This makes me feel good. Happiness is like a fire in your heart that cannot be extinguished, not even by a stroke of fate or by health problems.

 

Which goals are you pursuing now?

I want to stay flexible. Like a tree, which has strong roots but still is able to move its crown.

 

How do you wish the Boltshauser Club’s future to be like?

Similar to my personal goals. As a Club we have strong roots. We have an impressive history. However, nowadays it is important to stay flexible in order to be able to attract the younger family members as well.

Moreover, there is this secret wish of mine. I hope that it will be fulfilled: My Grandfather Heinrich lived in Manila for a while. His first wife there was American. One day, she wanted to visit her sick father but when the ship arrived in the US she could not be found, and she has been missing ever since. Who knows what happened back then. That is a secret, about which I would like to find out more.

Monika Bertschi-Boltshauser (former president), Flawil 2019

 

Did you ever visit Switzerland before you knew about your Swiss Boltshauser family?

I don’t know how old I was when I found out I was Swiss, but I was very proud of it. I first visited Switzerland in 1959, when I was about 24 years old. I went to Zurich and visited my grandfather’s (Jacob Boltshauser) sister. I did not know any Boltshausers when I first went there, as Jacob’s sister also was not called Boltshauser anymore, as well as the rest of her family. I remember talking to one cousin who always said he would like to come to the US some time. Unfortunately, it never worked out and he actually started crying a little because he really wanted to come here.

 

What did you think about this country first? Do you believe that there are any major differences between Switzerland and the United States?

There are some differences, but they are nice differences. I am very much impressed, and most Americans are, by all the different languages that most of your population speaks. In America we are very lazy when it comes to languages. Do you know the joke about languages?

 

Do you know how you call person who speaks three or more languages? They’re called polyglots.

And how do you call a person who speaks two languages? That’s a bilingual.

Now do you know what you call a person that speaks only one language? They’re called Americans.

(Laughs)

 

Americans joke about that because most of us speak just one language.

However, I don’t see too many differences. I feel at reunions people are very much like me, except they speak a different language.

 

When and why did the Boltshausers immigrate to the US?

It was my grandfather Jacob who came to America at the end of the 19th century. I believe his father was a shoemaker and his family did not have enough money for his education, so he left for the United States. He was about 17 or 18 years old when he went to New York with an uncle who left him there all on his own. Somehow he came to California then, and I would say he probably came by train. Back then people thought that there were more opportunities in California. Jacob made some good money over here and prospered very well. He eventually married a woman who was raised in Sweden. Jacob went back to Switzerland twice, by train and by ship. I have tried to hunt for other people with the name of Boltshauser who immigrated to the US, but I didn’t find any. Jacob is the only one I know of.

 

When you found out about the Boltshauser Club, Internet did not exist yet. How did you first get in touch?

In 1985 my son spent half a year at a College in Oxford, England. He was going to travel around as well, so Alicia and I met him in Zurich. We were staying in a hotel and I told the manager that we were doing research on my Swiss roots. When asked him if he knew anyone of the name Boltshauser, he said that he did not know, but that it might be a name of a small town. He gave me the telephone book and there I found Boltshausen. The manager told us that it was located about 50 km from Zurich. So we drove up there and in the region of Weinfelden we saw a little road with a sign that said Boltshausen. We got really excited as we went into Boltshausen. We saw that there was Ottoberg up above and we were looking for a place where we could meet people. So we went into a restaurant and luckily its owner spoke English. He showed us all around town that day and he told us that the Boltshausers held reunions in his restaurant every four or five years. After our visit, the restaurant owner told the Boltshausers about us, and that’s how we got involved.

 

You have your own Boltshauser reunions in California. How often do you meet?

We never had any reunions until I came back from Switzerland in about 1988. I had a reunion at my house because everyone wanted to hear about how I went to Boltshausen. So we had a big party at my home and after that some other people thought that it was fun to do. Since then we’ve been getting together every four or five years and we usually have it at a person’s home. In September we had a reunion in a little town close to San Jose. We get together when somebody feels like doing it at their home, but mostly we have a party when someone from Switzerland visits.

 

How would you describe your relationship to the Boltshauser Club and to your Swiss roots?

Most Americans are very proud of their heritage. There even are Swiss American clubs. Alicia and I have loved the get-togethers you have in Switzerland. Any time when you have one we’re happy to come over and we find it so nice that people have treated us so well. For Americans this is a great experience. We consider ourselves very fortunate to have relatives in Switzerland and to be able to visit, because a lot of people don’t. We’re very proud and tell people about this wonderful situation. We really love to get together with you people. You’re so much like us in many ways, but still so different.

 

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