The tiny community of Rosswood north of Terrace and a Swiss family living there have become stars of a Swiss reality TV series featuring citizens who emigrated from that country and are living elsewhere.
Hermann and Christine Schönbächler and their children emigrated from Switzerland in September 2009, settling in Rosswood.
They are now featured with eight other families on the Swiss SRF network program called “Auf und Davon” (Up & Away).
Here last week filming for a new segment with a crew, program producer Markus Storrer said the program with the Schönbächler family scored extremely high ratings, by far the best of the seven seasons Auf und Davon has aired.
“They were the most famous in the whole series,” said Storrer, adding that it is largely due to Hermann and the way his appearance personifies his lifestyle.
“If you talk to people about Up & Away, most of the people are like ‘ah, that guy with the beard’ … [Hermann] is very unique,” Storrer said.
“He has had a vision since he was a teenager that ‘I want to go to Canada, and work in the woods and have my freedom in Canada.’ He has a vision and he looks like that vision, he talks like that vision,” said Storrer.
Back in 2009, SRF filmed the family as it packed and left the 50,000-person city of Biel in Switzerland.
That’s where Hermann ran his own small logging business doing commercial thinning and dangerous tree removal.
The family also had a little retail shop selling chainsaws and work clothes, and Christine worked as a nurse.
Christine said they wanted a place more remote and isolated where they could enjoy nature and live off the land.
It was Hermann’s reading as a youth (especially Kathrene Pinkerton’s books about life on the B.C. west coast) and Christine’s visits to friends in B.C., that gave them a taste and vision for Canada.
TV producer Storrer said Canada is similar to Switzerland in terrain, and it is safe, friendly and educated. What draws the Swiss to Canada is that there are remote areas and it’s uncrowded compared to Switzerland.
Many families want “more space and more freedom, so they want to come to Canada,” Storrer said.
“Canada is very popular… We tried to do a series without Canada, but it never happens, because there are always good people going to Canada,” Storrer said.
He listed other B.C. locations such as Williams Lake, Prince George and Kamloops where they have filmed people moving from Switzerland.
When the Schönbächlers immigrated here in 2009, they flew to Vancouver, bought a truck and camper and started travelling around, looking for logging employment for Hermann.
In January 2010, Hermann found work as a faller in Rosswood, so he and Christine bought a home in a secluded area where they now raise their three children, Natasha, 10, Ricky, 8, and Alexandra, 5.
They live off the land as much as they can, doing gardening, mushroom picking and berry picking, hunting and fishing.
“I love it,” said Christine. “It’s remote, we don’t have close neighbours, we work for ourselves.”
She says she finds their lifestyle very satisfying, living off the land, producing their own food, gardening and enjoying the nature and wildlife.
Hermann said he loves it as well, particularly the geography and the remoteness of the area.
“I always wanted to live on a place on the edge of civilization, and carve my own life out of the land,” he said.
The television program “Auf und Davon” has captured various stages of their lives, including the huge windstorm which swept through Rosswood in 2010.
The storm devastated much of the area, including much of the forested area where Hermann worked, and it took some time to recover.
Shortly after that Hermann started his own small sawmill, producing lumber and using waste wood for firewood which he also sold.
Partly because of the storm, but also because of the popularity of the family, the Swiss TV program ran a second feature on the Schönbächler family in 2011.
The current filming, is for a special feature to catch up on what has been happening with the family.
Producer Storrer says this feature is a bit different and more in depth. Normally they film discretely with one camera, trying to be like a fly on the wall, but this time they have three cameras and a journalist to ask questions for a deeper look into the stories of this family, Storrer said.
They were filming the family last week Friday and Saturday, shot footage of them in the Evangelical Free Church Sunday and filmed the two oldest children in Uplands Elementary School on Monday.
Christine says the filming this time is more intense, especially with three cameras, and it is not something they really planned.
“But it is a great occasion to show our lifestyle [to those] back in Switzerland, to other Swiss people and to our family and friends who can’t make it over here,” she said.