A necessary rescue II

Curitiba, Paraná/Brasil, to nowadays. Century 21

Egon really liked to tell the stories of our ancestors, immigrants who left German Silesia (now Czech Republic), from Germany and the Austro-hungarian Empire, some refugees from the First War, others who have ventured themselves to gain more then what they received in an Europe in full recession.

America was an El Dorado, where gold used to spring up in the soil and everything that was planted grew vigorously. A paradise on earth.

A lot of lies and a few truths collaborated to increase the suffering and the adaptation of these immigrants who dreamed with prosperity, often thinking they would live in North America, not South, without the option to return to their homeland. Is a fact that in the first ship that left from Germany to Brazil, many immigrants thought they were going to San Francisco, California, but they landed after three months of traveling – leaving the european winter and coming to the brazilian summer – in San Francisco, Santa Catarina, southern Brazil

Was with curiosity and attention that children from Egon heard these stories, like fairy tales of the famous Brothers Grimm, the tales of magical Sherazad, with the big difference that the distory from my family was not pure ficction and, yes, real life stories, of people who came here to work without knowing what they would face in a wild and unexplored country.

Just as so many immigrants, the Weigert and Wanke were part of the story of colonization of this State, which became the “land of all nations” for sheltering diverses ethnic cultures. The Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul received many German immigrants, Poles, Austrians and Italians, in part because the climate of this region – the South of Brazil – was similar with the European and it facilitated the adaptation of new settlers, and also because the abolition of slavery created a serious productive problem: the big landowners were losing their land and the country needed to grow, and to produce, it needed to be colonized.

However, Hermann Weigert (father) and Edward Wanke (husband) came before this process and not as poor colonizers, uneducated and with the unique dream to live here a better life. They came as technical specialists to build the progress and make real the railroad that would conect the plateau (Curitiba) to coast (Port of Paranaguá). They were among the workers considered more specialized from the technical people employed in the Austrian Empire.


The Hermann, Marie’s father, born in 1841, in Trachtenberg, German Silesia, today the Czech Republic, arrived in Brazil already hired by the French company defined to build the railway, as well as my great grandfather Edward, who came a little later. Hermann arrived 38 years old and his role in the work was to put the rivets in bridges and metal overpasses to join the pieces.

Edward, who arrived years later, served the Austrian army, where he made his course of military engineering. Came to Brazil with 21 or 22 years, hired by Compagnie dês Chemins de Fer Brésiliens, the one choose to do the work.

Hermann used to say that if he had gained a penny by each rivet he had put on the steel structure built in the mountains, he would be a millionaire. According to the report contained in the book by Eno Theodor Wanke – Immigrant Saga (Saga dos Imigrantes)- to make the riveting in a bridge you needed teams with at least four men. Two in the pipeline, either for heating or for the passage to the bridge riveteres, another handling the bellows to keep the flame in high temperature.

The bridge

“In the bridge, two men were in charge of riveting, one working in front of another. The transport from the rivet to them depended, naturally, of the position they occupied in relation to the forge. If easy to reach, the rivets was brought one by one into a bucket by a fifth worker. If hard to reach, hanging like spiders in inacessible places, the transport was done by shooting: a man, using bucket, threw the rivet and the other the other picked it up algo in a bucket, passing them one by one, to the riveters.

And this giddy transport by air, could have intermediate steps, in which the workers, strategically placed, caught the hot rivet with his bucket and immediately give it to the next one, until it came to the riveters. (…) As you can see, was essentially a blacksmith work. Who looks for those viaducts and bridges soon notes the huge amout of rivets on it. There are thousands, milions, regularly arranged, buttoning buttons steel beams into each other, keeping the solidity of the whole. (…)

The Railway Curitiba-Paranaguá is one of the most beautiful works of engineering built amid the cliffs of the Serra do Mar, making a sinuous trace inside the exuberant Atlantic Forest in Paraná. In this place are together the hands of God and man: the forest and the railway.


From this building, whose project was considered impossible by French engineers and that was not forward in the hands of an Italian coach, my ancestors participated in the realization, commanded by a Brazilian who accepted the challenge and believed in the impossible: the miner João Teixeira Soares, who had only 33 years when started the construction.

When the work of the most difficult and spectacular stretch was completed, where the most imposing viaducts were built, especially Taquaral, next to the rocky escarpments, projected in a curve with three spans of 12 meters and one with 25 meters, 57 meters in total, the President of the Province, Dr. Carlos Augusto de Carvalho, tall dignified president of Paraná, visited the work.

The visit happened in June of 1884 and Dr. Carlos participated of a small ceremony in which he expressed his feeling in a mixture of pride and triumph: _ “The South Americans also can now say that the word ‘impossible’ is not part of their dictionary . If a yankee breaks the ice wall of the Sierra Nevada with the iron paw of a mechanical horse, we Brazilians, equally make him treading by impracticality of magnitude equivalent.”. The work was inaugurated on February 5th 1885, although the first train to travel the entire line was on December 19, 1884.

So, as you can see, Marie’s father participated of this process which was a historical landmark for the country’s development. He arrived in Brazil already married in Germany with the German Anna Pauline, he also had already four children. The first of four children, born in Breslau, was Marie Weigert, on March 8, 1871.


Their intention was to return to Germany after the construction of the railroad with the pockets full of money. The project was to make a financial reserve and return to live in their homeland.
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But it did not happen because Anne Pauline decided to sell everything in Germany, take the children and find her husband in Brazil. “Hermann nearly fainted because of the fright when he saw her. Her arrival meant the end of the hopes of return. And effectively, was that way.”


1 Wanke, Eno Theodoro. The saga of the immigrants. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Paquette, 1993. P.107

2 Wanke, 1993, p. 99

3 Wanke, 1993, p. 101

4 Wanke, 1993, p. 108

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