Latvian writers Rainis and Aspazija might no longer be found in Switzerland

The premises of the Rainis and Aspazija Memorial in Lugano, Switzerland, will no longer be available in the future, the Minister of Culture Agnese Logina (Progressives) was informed on April 16 during her visit to Switzerland.

Latvian Radio reports April 17 that no exact date has been given, but following an agreement signed last May, Lugano has made the space available until mid-May 2025. Latvia and Switzerland will continue to discuss how to ensure that the story of Rainis and Aspazija continues in a modern way.

The Latvian poets and writers Rainis and Aspazija went to Switzerland in 1905 and lived there until 1920. During their emigration, the cornerstones of Latvian culture were created in Castagnola - the plays "Zelta zirgs" (Golden Horse) (1909), "Indulis un Ārija" (Indulis and Ārija) (1912), "Spēlēju, dancoju" (I Played, I Danced) (1915), the tragedy "Jāzeps un viņa brāļi" (Joseph and His Brothers), as well as the poem "Daugava", in which Rainis called for the creation of an independent Latvian state.

The Rainis memorial in the village of Castagnola, which later became part of Lugano, was started by World War II refugees from Latvia in the late 1950s, the first memorial room was opened in the mid-1960s for Rainis' centenary, and the independent Rainis and Aspazija Museum opened its doors in 1980.

A year ago, Vita Matīsa, a Swiss-Latvian who had heard about this in unofficial conversations, expressed her fears that the Rainis and Aspazija Museum in Lugano might close its doors in 2025 in an interview with Latvian Radio. She was a young student who volunteered to open up the museum in 1980, but she was also the author of the content of the exhibition "Rainis and Aspazija between Latvia and Switzerland" in the team of the Latvian Ministry of Culture.

The exhibition, created by the renowned design firm H2E in the Lugano Archive House, was opened on the occasion of Latvia's centenary in 2018 and cost €58,000. However, Latvia financed only the exhibition, while the Swiss side was entrusted with the maintenance of the premises, the promotion of the exhibition, and the work with tourists. 

So yesterday's news that the Lugano municipality no longer wants to take care of the exhibition did not come out of the blue. Agnese Logina, the Minister of Culture (Progressives), who was on a visit to Switzerland, commented on the news on Latvian Radio as follows: 

"They [the Swiss municipality] see a different use for the premises where the exhibition is now. The municipality, of course, has its interests first and foremost. My aim in these talks was to show that we are open and very interested in the story of Rainis and Aspazija continuing in Lugano, so that this story is not just digital."

"We are interested in having physical signs that Rainis and Aspazija lived here, that there is a deep connection with Latvia, with the idea of Latvia. We could also bring these stories into the urban environment - whether it's informative plaques or other objects," she continued.

The Minister met with Roberto Badaracco, Vice Mayor of Lugano, and Luigi Di Corato, Director of the Department of Culture.

There was discussion in the municipality that the story of Rainis and Aspazija could be included in a broader vision of the place as a home for cultural figures from different countries in times of confusion, as it was for Rainis and Aspazija.

The question of renting other premises is not being considered because of the high costs.

Vita Matīsa told Latvian Radio that she was not surprised by the outcome, as the Latvian Association of Memorial Museums had not contacted the person responsible in Switzerland for three years and it was too late to save the situation.

Seen a mistake?

Select text and press Ctrl+Enter to send a suggested correction to the editor

Select text and press Report a mistake to send a suggested correction to the editor

Related articles


Most important