Werner Matt
Translation: John Christensen

“Back home in Carinthia all you could do was smash rocks”

Punkt 2: “Back home in Carinthia all you could do was smash rocks”

In the late 1950’s the construction of the Home for Young Workers was completed. Chaplain Emil Bonetti, who had taken the project over from Dr. Edwin Fasching, wanted to run a “worker’s hotel”. Food and shelter was provided for 140 young workers. Their laundry and ironing was taken care of and two recreational rooms offered entertainment. The home was necessary because the economy was booming, especially in the textile industry. The high workforce demand led to a housing shortage. In the Home for Young Workers men and women were strictly separated, of course. The company F.M. Hämmerle also ran a separate girls’ home in the district Oberdorf. A veritable wave of immigration reached Dornbirn from inner Austria, almost two thirds of which came from the states Styria, Tyrol and Carinthia. In 1966, only about half of Dornbirn’s population had been born in Dornbirn. Of the other half, 17.5% came from some other place in Vorarlberg, 15.1% from the rest of Austria and 14.8% were foreigners.

Volker Gasser and Karoline Schönett remember what it was like back then:

Volker Gasser, born in 1943, left Lavamünd in Carinthia to come to Vorarlberg in 1960. Recruited by a colleague, who received a bonus for his recruitment, Gasser felt like a second-class citizen for a long time. According to him that changed when increasingly more guest workers from Spain, Turkey and Yugoslavia immigrated to Vorarlberg.

At the age of 17 he came to Vorarlberg all by himself and lived in the home for young workers. There were three beds in one room. He stayed there for about a year. He remembers how they all helped Chaplain Bonetti to maintain the building. Every Saturday they went out, although they had to be back at the home by 10 p.m. He got his master craftsman certificate and married a girl from Vorarlberg. Initially his parents-in-law were not pleased with having a “foreigner” as a son-in-law. Once a year he visits Carinthia. Today he still identifies himself as Carinthian, while his children are from Vorarlberg, culturally.

Quote 2: Karoline Schönett Text: Mrs. Schönett, who was born in Styria, came to Dornbirn in 1947: “I read in the newspaper that they were looking for people in Vorarlberg. Among the firms was the company F.A.Hämmerle. I wrote to them… and within three weeks I was out here.” She worked as a weaver and lived in the girls’ home: “There were predominantly Russians and Ukrainians in the home… but not for long, they all left. Then girls from Styria, Carinthia and Tyrol, who all worked at Hämmerle. At first I shared a room with 7 other girls, after about a month I was transferred to a 5-bed room and eventually I lived in a 2-bed room. It was very tidy.“ Looking back, she describes the relationship between the locals and the immigrants as follows: “Yes, when we first came here, it was the girls from South Tyrol who were looked down upon. Then it was us. And later on when the foreigners came, we were more and more integrated into society.”

Foto: Tamer Barbaros

Blick in ein Zimmer des Mädchenheims, Original Stadtarchiv Dornbirn