Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Germanic & Slavic Languages & Literature

First Advisor

Patrick Greaney

Second Advisor

Davide Stimilli

Third Advisor

Beverly Weber


Sie waren einst Flüchtlinge is a collection of the biographies of nine individuals who came to Switzerland from different nations as refugees. Although each account varies dramatically in terms of its course and outcome, the common theme which runs through all of the chronicles is resettlement to Switzerland, largely due to the country's contingency refugee policy ( Kontingentsflüchtlingspolitik), and an escape from the political circumstances which led these individuals there. The nine literary portraits are told by former refugees from Hungary, Tibet, former Czechoslovakia, Chile, Vietnam, Poland, Bosnia, Iran, and Somalia. The book was sponsored by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), an organization whose goal is to ensure the protection of refugees in collaboration with individual nations and non-governmental organizations. Journalist Michael Walther was commissioned with collecting these stories, all of which are told by the refugees themselves and in the first person narrative.