The Terrible Fate Of Swiss Women Who Lost Their Nationality

Until 1952, Swiss women who married foreigners automatically lost their citizenship. During World War II, this “marriage rule” sealed the fate of hundreds of women. Some died, while others — like Bea Laskowski-Jäggli (pictured above) — became stateless. Bea is only one of the 85,200 women who lost their Swiss citizenship between 1848 and 1952. The marriage rule stipulated that a woman’s place of origin becomes that of her husband. If a woman lost her Swiss citizenship, she was treated the same as any other foreigner in Switzerland. If she had been living abroad before the outbreak of the World War II, then she was permitted to stay in Switzerland for a maximum of three months. If she was settled in Switzerland, she had to apply for a residence permit, which she usually obtained. Bea met Wladislaw Laskowski in 1945, when he was a prisoner at Büren an der Aare detention camp and she was working there as a nurse. Wladislaw had joined the Polish army in 1939 and was captured by the Germans soon after. After the war, he had to leave for London, so Bea moved to London and got a job as a domestic worker. In June 1947, the couple married, but Bea didn’t know at the time that she would be losing her Swiss citizenship. She also was unable to obtain Polish citizenship, so she became stateless. The loss of her citizenship had little impact on her life. She and Wladislaw both worked for many years at the Central Middlesex Hospital in West London, she as a laboratory manager and he in payroll. The couple bought a house and lived a comfortable life, though they didn’t have any children. Wladislaw died in 2006 and his wife kept the promise she made to him: she returned to live in Switzerland until her death in 2016. Ironically, after Wladislaw died, Bea was able to regain her Swiss citizenship.