Todos guardamos memórias daquelas em que se pergunta: O que estavas a fazer quando aconteceu tal e tal?
Essas memórias costumam ser negativas, associadas a alguma calamidade ou a algum atentado que nos marcou por tambem nos afetar direta ou indiretamente. O primeiro evento de que me recordo foi no dia 22 de novembro de 1963. Tinha 11 anos e vivia na Politécnica em Lisboa. Recordo-me dessa noticia e exactamente onde estava, que era no apartamento na Eng. Miguel Pais. Senti a apreensão e preocupação dos adultos à minha volta.Havia uma insegurança em fazer grandes alaridos pois o assassinato do presidente Kennedy era do foro das politicas.
Do mesmo tipo foi o assassinato a Olof Palme, primeiro ministro em exercicio, no dia 28 de fevereiro de 1986. Vivia já na Suécia e foi um amigo chileno que me acordou ao telefone na manhã seguinte para informar do sucedido. Pensei que fosse uma brincadeira de mau gosto, mas nesse mesmo dia organizaram-se e participámos numa manifestação de solidariedade e pesar no centro de Sundsvall.
No dia 11 de setembro de 2003 estava com a Mona em Oslo para ver a seleção nacional de futebol jogar um amigável com a Noruega. Por telemóvel chegou-nos a noticia que a nossa ministra de Negócios Estrangeiros Anna Lindh havia sido vitimada em atentado com faca numa loja de Estocolmo. Ficámos apreensivos e só no dia seguinte depois de muitas notícias contraditórias ficámos a saber que Anna não tinha podido sobreviver aos ataques do dia anterior.
A informação que recebi dos ataques ao World Trade Centre de Nova Iorque no dia 11 de setembro de 2001 foram dados numa reunião de pais duma nova classe na escola de Katrinelund onde trabalhava na altura. Recordo-me de ter comentado se não teria sido um filme ou piada de mau gosto o que me estavam a contar.
Estas noticias, todas de cariz negativo e calamitoso só podem ser acompanhadas de uma noticia positiva. Foi de manhã no dia 25 de abril de 1974 que a minha sogra informou que estavam a correr algumas noticias sobre acontecimentos em Lisboa. Terei encolhido os ombros e recordo-me ter pensado que não devia ter sido nada de mais. Mas foi ,e terei ocasião em futuros textos de repartir convosco como os eventos foram seguidos por uma pessoa, das muitas, que não estando lá, muito gostariam de ter estado. Nascia um novo Portugal!
O que teria eu feito no dia 24 de abril? A primavera começava a ganhar terreno após um longo e rigoroso inverno. Teria começado os meus estudos na escola municipal para adultos com o intuito de seguir para alguma coisa. Como o meu sueco ainda era um tanto rudimentar, inscrevi-me nos cursos de linguas. Para ter nota em ingles penso que nem precisei de frequentar classes . Fiz logo o exame. Tambem não faltava mais nada… Tinha saudades de Portugal. Já só podia sonhar com o mar e a praia de Carcavelos e toda a nossa costa. A comidinha de que se está sempre a falar. As nossas imperiais. Tinha saudades…Mas ao mesmo tempo já quase tinha deixado de sonhar.
Dava quase vergonha dizer às pessoas de onde vinha. Então há 48 anos debaixo da mais antiga ditadura da Europa e ninguem se mexe? Já com um filho e a tentar construir uma vida nova pela segunda vez. O meu foco não estava voltado para Portugal. O meu pai lá me enviava uns jornais da Bola para me ir inteirando de como ía o nosso Sporting.
As pessoas em Sundsvall mal sabiam o que era Portugal. Era mesmo quase só o futebol, os vinhos do Porto e as sardinhas em lata que eram a nossa referencia universal. O país estava mergulhado em silencio. O “orgulhosamente sós” de Salazar não nos dava nehum orgulho. Mas que estávamos sós ,estávamos…
O dia 24 de abril não me deixa memória nenhuma. Foi um dia como outro qualquer mas pode muito bem servir para sintetizar como um Estado pode abafar tanta creatividade,tanta força para trabalhar, tanto amor e tanta dedicação daqueles que estavam e dos que já não estavam.
In the year of 1974 my classes of Swedish got on the way. The course was in Ljustadalen and it was seen as a job. When I arrived I had to punch the card just as it was done in the industrial workplaces. My degree of participation was relevant for my monthly salary. Needless to say I did not miss any lessons.
Naturally I became friends with people from different countries attending the SFI course. One of them was Randolph Richards. Randolph was a musician from Jamaica. He was on to bodybuilding and had a small gymnasium in the Skönsberg area. This was also his residential area so we were neighbours as it turned out.
On Saturday the 6th April my small family was invited to his home where we would eat and watch the Eurovision song festival. Randolph and wife Elisabeth with two small girls were among my first social contacts in Sundsvall.
The show was completely dominated by a new Swedish group composed by two girls and two guys. These Agnetha, Benny, Björn and Anni-Frid were the group Abba and they did succeed in winning everything and became megastars the following years. The song was Waterloo where Napoleon did surrender.
My first impressions from my new life in Sundsvall were from the Skönsberg residential area. The houses there were quite new and answered to the investments made by the municipals and the State on modernizing the housing standard. The people living there were of varied ages and quite a lot were families with children. We soon got a larger flat with an extra room at Bruksgatan 6B.
One of the first things I noticed was the way we disposed of the rubbish. You just put it in a plastic bag, went out into the staircase and dropped it through a hatch. Now that, I had never seen before. Once I felt that there must have been a gas leak somewhere. It turned out that the downstairs neighbours who had opened a tin of fermented Baltic herring(Surströmming), very popular in the North of Sweden.
We could choose new wallpaper once in a while. In those days the fashion was flowery wallpaper. Another thing that surprised me and still surprises people that come to live in Sweden is that the household machinery is part of the flat so we did not need to buy, cooker, or fridge. All was electrical The washing was done on a common launderette in the basement.
Walking around Skönsberg I would meet many small kids that were eager to salute me saying- Hej!
Skönsberg was a worker’s area. Its proximity to the paper factory plant influenced that. It was a part of town that had everything. The Konsum supermarket selling food stuffs, a Sparbank bank office, a post office, church, school, petrol station,the lot! You really did not need to go to town as most of your needs were provided for nearby.
According to my instructions I was supposed to look out of a small window to see when the horses were approaching the finishing line. After measuring the intensity of the light and calculating the speed of the horses I should press a button and keep it pressed until all horses had crossed the line.
After that I needed to speedily develop the film so it could be shown to the race dignitaries so they could confirm and announce the order of arrival of the horses. This was very important especially on tight decisions where just a nose could decide the correct outcome. Needless to say it was a very responsible job as hundreds if not thousands of people had been on the betting side of things.
How could I have finished up on top of that tower with very little knowledge of the Swedish language and absolutely no knowledge on the trotting sport? What they were screaming from down below I have no idea up to this day!
This is the story. When John was born Mona became friends with another mother on the ward. Her husband Kenth Forsberg had a photo shop called Foto Mer. It was very near our flat in Skönsberg.
Kenth was not very fond of this job at the Bergsåker Trav, trotting race course. It took too much of his time and he asked me if I wanted to do it. I obviously accepted as I would any job that was offered to me, most particularly in those days. I did this a number of times but recall some errors on my first day. On one of the races the horses came out extremely long. I can anyhow and for the record inform my dear readers that this was my first job in Sundsvall, probably in the beginning of 1974.
When I arrived in Sundsvall in 1973 it is safe to say that I didn’t know anyone. It is also true that nobody knew me! I felt when walking down the main street Storgatan that people looked at me and wondered who this new stranger was.
Mona’s relatives knew nothing of me. As we had got married in Stockholm one year previously it was felt that a christening would make some amends. The new family consisted very much of my mother in law’s relatives. Aime had then five older brothers still alive. They all had names ending in the letter E. The one that hadn’t was Allan and he was dead. Another peculiarity was that they all had only one child, except for Allan who had two.
Obviously the choice for the christening fell on Alnö. This is the island where all the family related to. Mona’s grandparents had worked in the sawmills like so many other men of that Sundsvall’s generation. Here everybody was at home Cedervalls and Hillmans.
The church of Alnö was built very near the medieval one. From it, the christening font was moved, and this would be used for the service that was to be directed by the old priest Mr. Bertil Wågström.
There was the small matter of getting Godparents for the occasion. The choice was simple. Best friends Åsa and Quim. I asked Quim, not very hopeful that he would say yes, considering travelling distances involved. He said yes and the date was set to the 16th December and the toddler would be given the name John Olof.
This event in the church was followed by coffee and cake and if nothing else gave everyone the possibility to get a glimpse of this new import somewhere from the south with the unpronounceable name. How would it go?
I registered myself as a resident in the parish of Skön on the 1 November 1973. After applying for residence and if accepted I would be given the 4 magical numbers that open most doors in Sweden. These numbers complete your personal number. Without the 10 digit personal numbers you practically do not exist. I needed four to add to my 520329.
My permit came on the 23rd December almost as a Christmas present. Now I could apply to the Swedish course. I immediately did that. This does not mean that I did not look for employment meanwhile.
Mona and I went to the ABF. This is a labour movement run school for adults on the national level. At one time it was very important to further educate in the model of study circles. The leader of these circles more or less was one in the democratic group but got some pay. We were interviewed by a Mrs Marie Viking. We spoke English with her and she was in charge of language courses. After the interview Mona was asked if she would like to take on a course.
I went to the labour exchange and eventually met the lady who was in charge of the foreigners. We filled the forms and expected a quick answer so I could start off with the Swedish lessons. I met a Portuguese architect working on the plans for the new hospital. Mr Reis offered to accompany me to the employment agency. Once there he presented himself and said something like- I am architect Reis, when can my friend start the course, as he has waited for a long time for an answer?
The lady behind the desk asked for my personal number and disappeared for a while. When she came back she said.
-He can start on Monday!
The Swedish course I enrolled for was a bit away from town in the Ljustadalen area. It reminded of an industrial work place. There I did my 9 intensive weeks of Swedish in 1974.Besides learning the language we also got some information and guidance to prepare ourselves for work. I had grown a beard as a way to cope with the winter as I did not at the time wear anything on my head! Question of principle! Hejdå!
I ended my latest text by describing what I saw were my main issues for the next few months. Would my plans develop after my thoughts, on those cold and windy days in Sundsvall, as the year of 1973 drew to a close?
I was going to become a father. It was an exciting thought but at the same time scary. Were we as parents prepared for such a responsibility? I think Mona saw it this way: We had some back up in the shape of her parents Olle and Aime Hillman. They welcomed a grandchild and could help us with the logistical bits.
In our flat in Skönsberg we had what we needed to await the arrival of our first child. If it was a boy the family tradition should be followed. From my great-grandfather and down the name for the first born was João. Now this was tricky because it was a difficult name both to spell and to pronounce for anyone outside a Portuguese speaking country. We settled for the nearest and most international alternative. If it was a male he would be called John. He would have British nationality so an English name would be appropriate.
The parents waited! Maxwell the cat waited! But nothing happened when we were expecting it to happen. The baby just wasn’t in the mood to come out! Eventually they decided to start labour. After a second attempt the Sundsvall’s hospital prepared to help deliver the baby. It was a long drawn process occurring just two floors underneath where I sit on my working days. I was of course present. I had not participated on the labour courses provided. I hairy blond baby did eventually come out. It was a boy and he had a name.
The mixed feelings as I made my way home to our flat walking with my ears and legs frozen by the bitter wind along the Heffners Road were those of an immense pride and at the same time concern for the future of this little human being. The date was the 30th November.
When you are expecting your first child you want conditions to be as good as possible! Our basement one-room- flat, in Mornington Avenue, London didn’t quite make the ticket in comparison to what Sweden had to offer. Mona’s hometown of Sundsvall with caring future grandparents was there waiting for us.
I came back to Sweden roughly one year after I had left it. It was a completely new life we were talking about. Sundsvall was limited in almost all aspects but it did have some advantages.
The first one was the one concerning accommodation. A flat was fixed before I arrived. It had two rooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. The new address was Bruksgatan 4C. It was a council flat and we paid rent for it. The houses were new. The area had this unpronounceable name of Skönsberg and it was at walking distance from the centre of town. But who in their right minds would do this stretch in the freezing and windy conditions of the Swedish autumn?
The second one was that I was provided with a course to learn Swedish. All foreigners were. The procedure was as such: you went to the labour exchange and said you needed a job, which was true. But this labour exchange ( Arbetsförmedling) did not seriously commit itself to getting you work according to your merits. What they could and did do was to offer you this SFI course. This stands for Swedish for foreigners. In those days it was considered a part of the employment system so I actually was meant to get paid while attending. It was also explained to me that I could continue after 9 weeks with a professional course on the same terms. I obviously enrolled even though I thought I could manage with my English abilities.
The third was that there was an IKEA warehouse where we could buy your Billy bookcases and as matter of fact everything else. The year was 1973.
There were now three things that IKEA couldn’t fix, the baby, the Swedish course and a job!
O português ajusta-se bem ao mundo. É flexível e integra-se. Por isso temos portugueses espalhados pelos cantos do mundo. Além do mais gosta do seu país. Vibra com a sua seleção de futebol e com outros feitos desportivos. Orgulha-se da beleza do país e da sua cultura.
Na escola aprendi tudo sobre o heroísmo dos portugueses, país mais antigo da Europa, quase um mundo aparte. Heróis do mar, nobre Povo, aprendi a cantar ao lado do órgão do maestro Cruz no Colégio Valsassina.
Mas nem tudo estava bem. O meu contacto com a imigração dá-se em Londres quando durante alguns meses trabalho para o Banco Português do Atlântico, cujo escritório nas instalações do Banco do Brasil apenas tinha a função de encaminhar as poupanças dos imigrantes para as suas contas em Portugal para onde quase todos ansiavam retornar.
Em 1973, Portugal já levava um período de ditadura de 47 anos. Era o regime autoritário mais antigo da Europa. Era um país que já não nos podia orgulhar mas antes envergonhava. Com os índices de analfabetismo a rondar os 50%, uma pobreza gritante que obrigava centenas de milhares a procurar outros sítios para ganhar a vida, as prisões recheadas de presos políticos e uma guerra absurda para manter um Império Colonial. Éramos o país do pé descalço governado por sujeitos autocratas que queriam manter o país na ignorância e na pobreza porque um certo António Oliveira Salazar achava que a felicidade do povo era viver no campo e ir à missa. Ainda há pessoas que dizem que querem voltar a esses tempos. Não sei em que estarão a pensar…
É nesse ano em 15 de julho que Marcello Caetano faz uma visita oficial à Inglaterra com o intuito de celebrar os 600 anos de aliança Luso- Britânica. É uma visita acompanhada de manifestações e protestos. Não fui lá, nem sabia que tais manifestações se estavam a organizar, mas filmes dessa ocasião mostram Mário Soares entre os manifestantes.
É neste contexto nacional que volto a emigrar no ano de 1973 para a Suécia que tinha sido um país mais pobre que Portugal mas que tinha evoluído para uma das sociedades mais bem organizadas onde os seus cidadãos usufruíam de direitos sociais ímpares no mundo.