Swadat Troicher Tagirova was born in Kazakhstan. Her family originally was from Chechnya in the northern Caucasus but it was the family’s displacement, a result of Soviet deportation politics, that instilled the values of solidarity and compassion into the young girl. Another central influence, she recalls, was the importance her father attached to charity and support for those in need. As a school girl she involved herself in public life, joined marches, wrote and read poetry and sang at assemblies. But at a time dominated by the Soviet Communist regime there were few possibilities for women from ethnic
minorities in tertiary education.
In 1994 war broke out in Chechnya. As a result she lost friends and family, but also much of what she had worked for. She was left to care for the family. But the number of those dependent on her increased steadily. She helped and cared for people in need, and she saw this as a source of strength for her and the children to live through this difficult time. Her compassion had never made a difference between victims and enemies. When the war was over, once again she was forced to leave her country.
She came to Switzerland in 1997 with her children and her sister. Two years later she began her work as an interpreter for migrants from the Caucasus and the post-soviet states, her calling up to the present time. She is most deeply moved by the lives of women who, like her, are left to care for children on their own, but also by the fate of young people having to make their way through life without a family as a result of war or other traumatic circumstances.
After a life characterised by loss and by having to leave her beloved home, she often finds it difficult to be confronted with the suffering of people in similar circumstances. But it is of paramount importance for her to help migrants, asylum seekers and refugees with their problems in a new and at times indifferent or even hostile environment. In this engagement she draws strength from her father’s commitment to compassion, but her activities, as she says herself, help her deal with her own pain and give her the strength to be there for and console others.
Her work as an interpreter is at the centre of her activities. Through the years and through her work she has been able to expand her knowledge of the political system, to gather useful insights and to build up a network of vital contacts. She acts as a councillor for people with a variety of legal problems, she puts them in contact with the relevant organisations, and she can resort to a number of lawyers, doctors and psychiatrists. But sometimes it is enough simply to be there, to listen, to give solace so that people realise they are not alone, that someone is there for them and that there are helpful people who are prepared to get involved. In this way Sawdat Troicher-Tagirova has given many women the courage to stand up for
themselves, to open up about their secret traumas; she was there at births, has shared sadness and tears, has coaxed those who felt they didn’t have the strength to go on, but has also shared joyful laughter for small victories.
Today she is a voluntary worker for the organization “Solidaritätsnetz für Sans-Papiers Bern” (Solidarity network for undocumented migrants Bern) as a contact person specializing in post-soviet states. She helps write appeals and requests for reappraisals, counsels in a variety of areas, interprets orally and in
writing for a variety of institutions that support her organization. In addition she works in the field of cultural exchange, focusing on events that raise cultural awareness among the citizens of her new country for her homeland.
She considers it the greatest honour that some people for whom she has worked have called her Mother Teresa. What can be more rewarding, she says, than to be mentioned in one breath with such a person. But what she finds motivates her as much to carry on is her father’s belief
“The only thing we leave behind are our deeds.”