As a family, we try to spend a month in Switzerland every year

by Elisa Snelling, United States

There were three brothers Rocco and Chris Campana and a third – we are still trying to verify his name and details of his immigration. My grandfather, Ray Campana, now 85 is Rocco Campana Jr’s son and he still lives in Butte, Montana.

My great grandfather and his two brothers left Ticino in 1868. One went to San Francisco, California and other two came directly to Butte, Montana.

Rocco Campana was born in Maglio di Colla on May 21, 1852, son of Philip and Johanna Campana, and died in Butte, Montana on February 13, 1898.

Rocco Campana located in several different cities sequentially, coming from CH to California to Utah, to Nevada, and then on to Montana, always building a business and then selling them. In Butte Montana he opened up a bar/restaurant in Butte. My grandfather Ray Campana worked at this same business as an adolescent when it was being operated by Rocco Campana, Jr.

The actual stories of the family may be starting to get lost. My grandfather Ray Campana is still alive in Butte, MT, USA, and I am hoping to get an even better record of the family from him soon.

As a family, we try to spend a month in Switzerland every year and have been to the Ticino area frequently enough to feel very comfortable with both the people and the way of life in all its various forms and manifestations to the point that it feels more natural and comfortable to us than our own social and economic structure here in the United States.

With Gianna Campana’s advancing age and there being no one there in the local Campana family in a position to take over the hotel business, we had wanted to find a way to take over Hotel Campana someday and make Ticino our home. We believe that finding a way for our children to ‘grow up Swiss’ would be much better for them than staying here where our ‘American’ societal values and mores fall far short of what we find and observe in the less urbanized places in Switzerland such as Maglio di Colla.

As you well know, even with several million CHF, we are unable to buy our way into a cantonal negotiated settlement and with the continuing strength of the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) it makes such a return to our roots almost impossible. With the recent repudiation and shaming of Herr Blocher in the Federal Council and the ascension of Eveline Widmer-Schlumph to replace him, we had hoped to see a softening of the walls against culturally congruent repatriation, but alas, it has not happened so far.

So we continue to celebrate Swiss National Day every August 1st, we tell our children about the importance of 1291 and 1848, about Grütli and the three forest cantons, the importance of Vierwaldstättersee and even about William Tell (all right, maybe he never really existed, but please don’t tell us that because the Tell legend epitomizes for us the true Swiss spirit that we dearly honor and are determined to pass on to our children! We even try to tell them about General Guisan and his speech at Rütli at the beginning of WWII.

We also teach our children about current Swiss events and even about Swiss making news; such as Yves Rossy…please take a moment, if you like, to see the website we put together to share his skill, spirit and daring with others here in the U.S.!/What_can_you_do_when_you_get_old.html

We also believe that the powers afforded to the Swiss people through initiatives and referendums and to powers reserved for the individual Cantons as well as the Swiss governmental consultative process all works to foster effective compromise and consensus rather than producing the more combative style of government we see developing here in the USA. Most of all, we try to teach our children the importance of developing a high degree of personal responsibility and societal involvement and committment.

We just wish our ancestors had not been so impulsive to leave Ticino and Zürich when they did!

For all the perceived difficulties that the Swiss sometimes think they face, and yes, many are worth thinking about, and all have good sensible solutions; please never forget the huge and wonderful advantages and benefits that accrue to you simply by being Swiss!

While we understand the benefits of cultural diversity, we are concerned (at a distance, true) about the long-term significance and the implications of the current 20% of the population being non-Swiss.

I believe that Swiss traditions, educational standards and way of life form the backbone for Swiss freedom and democracy and that the Swiss are the most special people on earth. I don’t want Swiss values and culture eroded and placed under attack by those now being allowed into Switzerland but who remain uninterested in accepting, learning, following or maintaining Swiss traditions.

Further, I would like to see provision made for repatriating interested Swiss emigrates ahead of the accommodation of EU citizens, especially if they are able to demonstrate a proper knowledge of Swiss cultural, historical and linguistic bonds.

Thank you very much for offering an opportunity for us to stay connected!

4 thoughts on “As a family, we try to spend a month in Switzerland every year

  1. Elisa, What a great story! I loved reading it. I too am attempting to pass on my Swiss values and roots to my children. General Guisan was my Zia Lidovina Bisi’s all time Hero. After we acquired the family house in Gordola area I was given a large photo of the General and the cousins on the hill said that this photo hung in the hallway outside her bedroom. So, after we finished our ‘painting’ a couple of years ago the General was put back on the same nail. My Zia served in the Swiss Army during WWII and the villagers said she was one of the first women to go from the village. I am wanting to find her military records to see where she was stationed because I have a wonderful photo of her in her military uniform. OH, I would also like to read the speech at Rutli…Again, thanks for sharing your great story!!! Amy

  2. Elisa – Thank you for posting this article. The first part of your article is very familiar to me. I have also visited our mutual relatives in Maglio di Colla many times since 1983. I am the oldest son of Frank Campana (your grandfather’s’ brother) and you must be the daughter of Dave Campana, my first cousin, in Anchorage, AK.

    If you are interested in documenting our family history, I have may be able to help you. During several of my earlier visits to Ticino, I visited with many of the older relatives who are no longer with us. They made copies of many documents and pictures for me and drew a detailed family tree for me going back to the 1600’s. I also believe that we could easily find all of the living descendants of Rocco Campana, Sr.

    Your cousin, Chuck (Madison, WI)

  3. Great reading your story, I am wondering if any of your Campana family came to Australia as I have come across them either related or friends of the Moresi from Colla, also looking at a similar period of time.

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