From Switzerland to Kwiatonowice and Farther On — Around the World. The Story of Lina Bögli

Lina Bögli

A Swiss teacher, traveller and writer, born 15 April 1858 in Oschwand, canton of Bern, died 22 December 1941 in Herzogenbuchsee, canton of Bern.

When she was 12, her mother died. From then on she had to earn a living as a childcare provider. At 17 she became a maidservant and governess for a Swiss family living in Naples. It was there that she learnt to run a household, and she also made use of her employees’ extensive library to self-study. Three years later she found work in Kwiatonowice in Galicia. In 1878 the Sczaniecki family hired her to take care of their children. She was treated in a very friendly manner, and she was able to further her studies. In the evenings she would listen to Kazimierz Sczaniecki’s lectures on art history and literature. Aleksandra Sczaniecka taught her French grammar. She spent 8 years in Kwiatonowice. The money she saved up allowed her to finish teaching school in Switzerland.

Lina never started a family and she was a lonely woman, the star-crossed lover of the Polish officer Juliusz Bijak, who served in the Austrian army. The lovers could not marry. She was a foreigner, and he was an officer. To tie the knot he would have had to either pay a fee of 50 thousand Kronen or leave the army. They did not have enough money. This unhappy love was likely one of the main motivators for her two journeys. Following Kazimierz Sczaniecki’s advice, she decided to travel into the faraway unknown.

First Journey — Around the World, 1892–1902

Lina started her journey on 12 July 1892 taking the train from the station in Zagórzany to Kraków. From there she went to Italy, then took a ship from Brindisi to Sydney. She spent four and a half years in Australia working as a teacher in private schools, sightseeing and saving money for further travels. In late 1896 she sailed to New Zealand, and then to Samoa and Hawaii, where she stayed for a year and saw, among other things, the famous volcano Haleakalā. Afterwards she went to the United States, first to San Francisco, where she stayed for four years, and then through the East Coast and Canada she returned to Europe. On 12 July 1902, exactly ten years after setting off, she arrived in Kraków.

After her journey across the world, Lina returned to Kwiatonowice. At the estate she wrote her first book, in the form of letters to a fictional friend. She titled it Vorwärts! (Forward!). The book, initially published in 1904 in England, then two years later in Germany, proved to be very popular. It was read all over Europe. The Polish edition, titled Avanti. Listy z podroży naokoło świata, was published in Lviv in 1908. The book contradicted stereotypes about women’s role in the Victorian era, as Lina Bögli had travelled alone and without much money, earning a living by teaching languages, and using public transport.

Second Journey — the Far East, 1910–1913

After a few years in Poland, Lina decided to embark on another journey. She set out in the autumn of 1910. It would lead her to Asia via the Trans-Siberian Railway (which was then still new, as its construction had begun in 1891 and the railway had only been available to the public since July 1903, mere seven years before the start of Lina’s journey). The Trans-Siberian Railway is the longest railway in the world. It connects Russia’s European section with major industrial centres in Siberia and the Russian Far East. The English named it the “Great Siberian Way”, which name evolved over time and eventually it came to be known in many languages as the Trans-Siberian Railway.

Lina Bögli w Azji

Lina Bögli in Asia.

Lina visited Japan, where she stayed for two years. Afterwards she spent a year in China. The Chinese called her Be-Shinsen — the Scholar, and she was offered professorship at Nanjing University, established in 1902, one of the oldest universities in the country. She turned it down.

The reason for her journey to the Far East was her intention to write another book. Lina returned to Europe in 1913, once again to Kwiatonowice, so that here she could — like before — write a report from her journey. She titled the book Immer Vorwärts! (Always Forward!); however, it did not repeat its predecessor’s success.

In 1914, at the age of 56, Lina left Poland forever. That September she received a message from Kwiatonowice (an entry in Lina’s journal dated 1 October 1914) saying that her beloved had died heroically. In actuality, on 14 September 1914 he was wounded near Zaleszany on the river San and fell captive to the Russians. He survived the war and lived two years longer than her, only dying in 1943, which she most likely never learnt about.

Her whole life Lina was a diligent, thrifty and organised Swiss woman. The money she had saved up allowed her to live a simple but independent life. Having travelled across the globe, after returning to her homeland she settled down in Herzogenbuchsee, only 8 km away from her family home, in the still-existing boarding house “Kreuz” (“Cross”), where she lived for the rest of her life. Lina left nothing to chance. She had a strong urge to create. She planned her own funeral and designed her gravestone, in which design she referenced her unusual journeys. She died on 22 December 1941 in “Kreuz” in Herzogenbuchsee, where she had spent 27 years.

Lina Bögli’s Literary Heritage

  • Vorwärts! Briefe von einer Reise um die Welt, Frauenfeld 1906
  • Immer Vorwärts!, Frauenfeld 1915
  • Journals 1893-1940, unreleased, private collection

Following Lina’s Footsteps in the Present Day: Judith Arlt Enters the Stage

Lina Bögli’s memory returned to Kwiatonowice. All because of another Swiss woman, who came here over one hundred years after Lina — Judith Arlt.

Judith Arlt was born in Liestal, Switzerland. She currently lives in Germany. She is a writer, literary critic and translator who publishes in German and Polish. She studied Slavonic and German studies. She received a scholarship on the University of Warsaw, where she stayed from 1983 to 1985. She wrote her doctoral dissertation on the works of Tadeusz Konwicki. Two of her books are about him as well: Mój Konwicki (My Konwicki) and “Ja” Konwickiego (Konwicki’s “I”). She also wrote the novel Die Welt war schneller als die Wörte, inspired by Lina Bögli’s life and her love for Juliusz Bijak. She works with the Rzeszów-based literary magazine “Fraza”, publishes in “Res Publica Nowa” and “Dialog” and writes several blogs. She received a scholarship from the programme organised jointly by the Foundation for Polish-German Cooperation, the Berlin-based foundation Kulturstiftung der Länder and the Villa Decius Association. On this scholarship she was in Kraków from October 2005 to March 2006.

In the year 2000 Judith came to Kwiatonowice, following Lina Bögli’s trail. She taught us about this forgotten writer, incredible woman and traveller. Since that first visit she has been a frequent guest at our house and a friend to us. She has taken part in several Q&A sessions, during which she discussed her work and told Lina Bögli’s story:

  • 2003, 2005 — Gorlice Public Library
  • 2004 — Municipal and District Public Library in Biecz
  • 2005 — school library in Kwiatonowice

For a few years, up until his death, she corresponded with Lina’s nephew Paul, who lived in the United States, after in 2005 Judith went to the USA to meet Lina Bögli’s family’s descendants and to climb the volcano Haleakalā in Hawaii, as Lina had done over a century earlier.

Paul was a great-grandson of Lina’s father, Ulrich Bögli (1804–1887), who after his first wife’s death got married again. Lina (b. 1858) was the youngest child from his second marriage, while Jakob was the eldest child from his first marriage. This made for a significant age difference between them. Jakob was the father of five children, the youngest of whom was born in 1871. That was Franz, Paul’s father. In turn, Paul (1914–2006) was Franz’s youngest son. He always referred to Lina as his aunt, even though she was actually his grandfather’s step-sister. Paul and his wife Johanna (who, as a girl, has taken English lessons from Lina) were the last family members who still remembered Lina. In 1959 they moved to America, where they settled down. Paul worked in a milking laboratory, studying the pasteurisation of milk. Their children (Kurt, Ulrich, Marianne) were born in Switzerland and still speak German, but they went to school in America, and their grandchildren are true Americans.

rodzina — Lina Bögli trzecia z lewej, obok (piąta z lewej) jej siostra Anna, 1932

The family — Lina Bögli is third from the left, next to her sister Anna (fifth from the left), 1932

Lina Boegli, Paul Boegli z rodzicami, bracmi i siostra - Spych ok 1918 r.

Lina Bögli, Paul Bögli with his parents, brothers and sister — Spych, c. 1918

Adaptations of Lina’s Books

Lina Bögli’s story has also caught the interest of one of the world’s greatest theatrical directors — Christoph Marthaler. These are his adaptations:

  • Lina Böglis Reise (Lina Bögli’s Journey). Christoph Marthaler’s stage play based on Lina Bögli’s writings. Private showing in 1996 on the Badischer Bahnhof train station in Basel. Further showings in 1997 at the Volksbühne in Berlin, several more in the following years at the Schauspielhaus in Zurich, in November 2005 at the Old Theatre in Kraków for the second edition of the baz@rt festival dedicated to German-language theatre.
  • Lina Böglis Reise (Lina Bögli’s Journey). Radio play based on Christoph Marthaler’s stage play. Produced by DeutschlandRadio, Berlin 1996.

Christoph Marthaler was born in 1951 in Erlenbach near Zurich. He studied music in Zurich, then took a pantomime course in Paris. In the 1970s and 80s he worked as a theatre musician in various German-speaking venues. At that time he also started creating his first small musical and theatrical projects in Switzerland. In 1989 he began working at the Theater Basel, where he organised his first song concerts and staged plays. It was there that he met the set decorator Anna Viebrock and the playwright Stefanie Carp, with whom he has been in a directorial team since then. From 1993 Marthaler worked as a part-time director at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg, as well as at the Volksbühne on Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz. From 1994 he staged opera projects in Frankfurt, Berlin, Vienna and Salzburg. In 1996 Christoph Marthaler received the Konrad Wolf Prize, in 1997 the Bayerischer Theaterpreis and the Fritz Kortner Prize, and in 1998 — the Europa-Preis in Taormina. In both 1997 and 1999 he received the title of Director of the Year in the critics’ poll organised by the “Theater heute” magazine. In 2001 Marthaler became the manager of the Züricher Schauspielhaus, however due to political disputes he stepped down in 2004. That year together with Anna Viebrock he received the Berliner Theaterpreis. He still stages plays all over the world.

Thus over a hundred years after her first journey and fifty years after her death, Lina Bögli began a new, surprising journey — this time across the worlds of literature, media and the internet. Christoph Marthaler’s fascination with her extraordinary life resulted in a radio play and a stage play that in the last 18 years has been continuously performed on various festivals across the world (i.e. in Reims, France at the Festival Reims Scènes d’Europe; in 2011 in Catalonia, Spain it inaugurated the Temporada Alta Festival). Doris Anselm dedicated her book to this play and its director, and this is a comment left online by an audience member at the Temporada Alta Festival: En el marc del Festival Temporada Alta de Salt, torna el director suís Cristoph Marthaler amb la història real d’una dona que, a finals del segle XIX, va viatjar sola per tot el món durant 10 anys. Un dels directors teatrals més radicals i brillants recupera la història real de la viatgera i pionera Lina Bögli, or in English: During the Temporada Alta Festival in Salt, the Swiss director Cristoph Marthaler shows the true story of a woman who at the end of the 19th century travelled alone around the world for 10 years. One of the most radical and brilliant theatrical directors restores the real story of the traveller and pioneer Lina Bögli.

A book was also written about Swiss writer-travellers, including Lina Bögli, titled Unterwegs (On the Way).

Information about Lina and the place from which she set out on her journey can be found in two more books — Literacki atlas Polski (Literary Atlas of Poland), a collaborative work written by children and teenagers as part of a programme sharing its name, organised by the Centre for Citizenship Education; and in Przewodnik literacki po Krakowie i województwie małopolskim (Literary Guide to Kraków and the Lesser Poland Voivodeship), by Ewa Zamorska-Przyłuska. Here is an excerpt from the review of this book published on I’d like to share the part that I found the most interesting — the figure of Lina Bögli, a Swiss teacher who at the turn of the 20th century travelled alone across the world, and several years later to the Far East. The fruits of these travels are the books Avanti. Listy z podroży naokoło świata and Znów naprzód, which unfortunately have not been reissued in Poland.

An interesting initiative is Reading Małopolska, a project funded by the Regional Operational Programme for the Małopolska Region for 2007–2013, under which Lesser Poland and its capital Kraków want to communicate their literary heritage and participate in the building of a network of co-operation of creative regions in the field of literature — Reading Małopolska — Kwiatonowice | Reading Małopolska — Kwiatonowice — The Women’s Trail. Among the literary trails leading across Lesser Poland there is the Women’s Trail, and on it, Kwiatonowice and — of course — Lina! Reading Małopolska — The Women’s Trail

A reference to Lina Bögli can be found in a review of the Austrian-German documentary film Workingman’s Death directed by Michael Glawogger, where the author, Łukasz Maciejewski, names her as an anthropologist from the past next to Bronisław Malinowski. Aficionados of Austro-Hungarian history asked the following question as part of a contest held on the portal He — an officer in a Galician regiment. She — a Swiss woman in Galicia. Seemingly unable to marry the officer, she went on her own on a faraway journey, which also was the start of her literary adventure. Who was the officer, and who the writer-traveller? What terrible obstacle (apparently) stood between them?

In the reasoning for the title of Guardians of National Heritage awarded to us by the Senate in 2015, next to restoring the estate and park in Kwiatonowice and pursuing our passion for collecting and books, it can also be read: for creating an important spot on the Lesser Poland Literary Trail. Noblesse oblige. There is still much work ahead of us.