Resident Spotlight: Margrit Metraux

“I feel unbelievably grateful that destiny gave me all of this.”

Margrit Metraux has traveled the world but has called Camphill communities home for the majority of her life. Born and raised in Switzerland, Margrit knew from a young age she wanted to leave her home country and travel. “Switzerland was too small, I always wanted to leave,” said Margrit with a mischievous grin.

As a teenager, Margrit worked in a flower shop creating arrangements, studying horticulture as a trade. “I loved flowers since I was a young girl,” she said. By age 19, not even the beauty of her home country was enough to keep her and she took off hitchhiking through Europe. After time in Paris, Margrit found herself in Sweden where she worked and lived as a nanny for a family for about two years.

Deciding she needed to improve upon her English skills, Margrit’s next stop was England. She found herself at a boarding school for special needs children. “That was it,” she said. “I was totally smitten with my seven little boys.” While the school was independently run, it had ties to Anthroposophy and the Quaker movement and there was much discussion about the Camphill philosophy, which Margrit was hearing about for the first time. After a year of training at the school, Margrit’s father died and she went home to Switzerland to be with her mother for the next six months, taking some time to think about her positive experience working with children with special needs.

By this time she was very interested in the Camphill philosophy and decided to commit to moving to Scotland for three years for more formal training. It was here that Margrit met Karl Koenig. “He was a very special human being,” she recalled. “He had such a sense for people and where they should be. He knew what his task was and he was totally dedicated to the child.” Describing him as “a small man with a lion’s head,” Margrit said Koenig would stand next to a lectern and be dwarfed by it. “He was so gifted, so serious but he knew how to have fun,” she said. “He could look into the future and follow the past, he was quite impressive.” Meeting Koenig and following the Camphill movement changed Margrit’s life. “We live with the legacy, the spiritual ideas,” she said. “It was my whole education from the heavens down to the earth. I feel unbelieveably grateful that destiny gave me all of this.”

Her next stop was South Africa where she went in the early 1960s with a girlfriend to help start a school which later grew to be a training center. Margrit stayed in South Africa for 11 years, helping expand the project which eventually became a Camphill community. “Camphill always went where it was called,” she said. “There always needed to be an impulse there, parents or others who wanted it.” Margrit remembers traveling by boat to the western area of Capetown which was “unbelieveably beautiful.” One trip she took went from France to Capetown on a French freighter with just eight people on it,” Margrit recalled. The three week trip included meals with the captain and shenanigans aboard ship,” she recalled with a laugh. Anytime a ship crosses the equator, everyone has to pay homage to Neptune, god of the sea. “We had to do these crazy antics, like kissing the toe of the captain’s boot which was full of mustard,” said Margrit with a laugh.

By 1968, the South Africa Camphill community was up and running and it was determined that Margrit had been there the longest and needed to move on to another community. She went home to Switzerland where it soon became clear to her that her next post should be in America, a place she never wanted to move to, she recalled. “Everything was supposed to be bigger and better in America.” And, since Margrit’s next stop was Copake Village which was new and growing in leaps and bounds, she was destined to arrive at a place that was “bigger and better.”

“It was half as big as it is now but with less people,” said Margrit of her first impression of Copake Village, which had four houses when she arrived. “Every year they built a house for the next several years,” she recalled, with the construction of Fountain Hall in the center of the Village considered a highlight in 1972. Margrit became a house mother and took charge of the weavery where she worked for many years, also helping villagers who needed one-on-one therapeutic work. Describing herself as someone who “always had a lot of initiative,” Margrit used her love of flowers to start a greenhouse for house flowers so there was greenery inside most of the year.

In 2012, Margrit and her friends and fellow co-workers Sylvia Bausman and Christina Bould decided to make the move to Camphill Ghent, where all three have been ever since. “I am really happy to just be here,” said Margrit of her apartment and full life in Magnolia House.