Portugueses de Sundsvall

Muita gente sabe que os portugueses podem aparecer nos sitios mais reconditos do planeta. Decidi, de memória, fazer um pequeno e limitado relatório sobre a relação entre os portugueses e a cidade de Sundsvall na Suécia.

Provávelmente a primeira referencia terá sido o Joaquim Oliveira que andava embarcado nos barcos do SCA e por conseguinte passava pouco tempo em terra. Voltou para o seu Algarve mas acabou por desaparecer servindo este artigo tambem como um convite para quem souber dele enviar alguma informação sobre o seu paradeiro. Fizeram permanencia curta na década de 80 os filhos João e José.

Quando da construcão do hospital distrital tambem cá parou o arquitecto Luis Pereira hoje em Estocolmo.

Quem para cá veio e ficou fe-lo por ter conhecido alguem o que afinal é um motivo sobejamente universal para que as pessoas mudem os rumos às suas vida. Assim se passou comigo quando definitivamente vim para cá viver em 1973. Tambem por mesmos motivos cá apareceu ainda na década de 70 a Isabel Costa beirã da zona de Viseu que hoje é enfermeira e trabalha em Estocolmo nunca deixando de visitar Sundsvall. Pouco tempo depois apareceu a Manuela Pettersson que tendo conhecido o Lennart lá para as bandas de Coimbra aqui se estabeleceu e ficou, tendo já netos à sua conta.

Tambem a algarvia Guiomar Holmström veio mais tarde e casou-se com o Mikael trabalhando presentemente numa pré escolar.

O Herlander Sapage é outra história, veio mas sem nunca ter um relacionamento a 100% com esta cidade, trabalha e vive hoje em Luleå. A Graça Olsson esteve cá uns anos, foi para Estocolmo mas está de volta, já que o filho por cá ficou. A querida Helena Sequeira Svedin portuense e professora de linguas deixou-nos prematuramente deixando tambem filhos e o Björn que foi afinal o motivo que a trouxe para estas bandas.

Todos estes vieram pois conheceram quem os para cá trouxe. A minha mulher Patricia tambem veio por mesmo motivo trazendo os dois rapazes David e Daniel aos quais se juntou tambem o irmão Cristóvão Meneses.

Tambem há exemplos do contrário como é o caso do Miguel Varanda que hoje vive em Lisboa com a sua Malin.

A Catarina Conde trabalhava aqui na medicina mas já foi para outras paragens.

Com a aparecimento da Mittuniversitet dá a nossa cidade passos largos para a internacionalização que uma universidade sempre cria e desenvolve. Para estudar fotografia já por cá passaram o Nuno Perestrelo e o João Barata. Tambem mais recentemente o montijense Daniel Raposo e a investigadora Teresa Silva cá está agora.

Um simpático casal que durante um par de anos aqui residiu foram o Alexandre Vidal Pinheiro e a Rita que veio estudar design. Graças à ajuda do Alexandre tenho este blogue para comunicar esta interessante informação.

São dados incompletos em que basicamente me concentrei nas primeiras gerações. Quem quiser completar ou comentar fá-lo-á melhor escrevendo no próprio blogue para que se possam posteriormente encontrar estes dados.

A foto aqui publicada no topo  dá conta de convivio luso brasileiro em 1983.

A de baixo mostra uma geracão de portugueses mais recente.


According to Barata…


João Barata is a student of photojournalism at Mid Sweden University in Sundsvall. He has as part of his work interviewed me in 2013. I have with his pernission decided to post his own version of myself here and share it with you.

“The Marginal road gave a good view of the Lisbon coast. When will I ever see it again, he thought while being driven by his dad to the airport. Joao Pinheiro decided to leave Portugal and move to the country where he was born, England. A war was going on between the Portuguese regime and the colonies. Angola, Guine-Bissau and Mozambique were the destination of several young men that had to fight for a regime that many, like Joao, did not support.


The arrival in the UK on the 11th of September 1968 was a turning point in his life. Many times the 16-year-old felt alone and displaced from a culture he had left behind at the age of three. To adapt and to integrate in the British society was extremely difficult during that first year. It would take time to make friends and to fully understand his new being. Fortunately he had the help from his uncle, who owned a chain of Patisseries spread all over south London. Joao was delighted that Uncle Dennis was prepared to give him employment and a living wage of 6 guineas a week. During those first months, his grandfather Joseph was also an extremely important person in the integration process. He helped him finding a job in the City (London’s’ financial district), and bought him his first tie. He even taught him to make a knot with it. In addition, he sent an envelope with a pound every Friday that many times kept Joao going.


On a cold, sunny autumn day I meet Joao for an interview. We gather outside the local library, near the Council offices where he works as a politician. We are not in Portugal or England but in Sundsvall, Sweden. It’s a small city halfway the coastline of the country. Joao’s job with the Department of Education is to improve learning standards in schools; “Education is my passion,” he points out. The politician seems to know almost everyone that passes by and even enquires the Polish workforce, restoring the pavement outside the main building, about their lives in Sweden. Before we go inside, Joao says to me, “Immigrants have value”.

We find some available seats in the library’s café and order coffee. Joao moved to Sweden in 1973 with is first wife Mona. Her parents were loyal to the workers and cooperative movement led by the Swedish Social Democratic Party. He tells me, “Mona’s father did volunteer work (…) we would not fill the car with petrol anywhere else but at the cooperative”. Everyone in the family was a member of the trade union. It was practice every day of the month, every month of the year. “It was a powerful religion”, Joao recalls. They had a great influence on him and within months of his arrival he went on to join the Party.

A few years later he volunteered to work with the GIF’s program, ‘Back to Basics’. Sundsvall’s biggest football club had the youth department underdeveloped and was missing the basic services that could help the local communities to enroll on sports activities. “I wanted to assist this communities in helping young people to feel integrated socially”, he says. “People that had money could do two or three sports but the immigrant communities were left out.” So, in 2001, he became President for the youth department of the club and by 2009 they had one of the best academies in the country.

Near the end of the interview, Joao opens up about the recent difficult times he’s been going through. In 2011 he lost two extremely important people during his existence, Mona and his mother. Their death made the 60-year-old look back at his life. It was difficult for him to cope with the loss, “it made me think about what and who I am”, he reveals. Shortly after, he started a blog on his earliest memories, “I write to publish some of the thoughts that passed through my mind in those days. Maybe I can make sense of it now”, he adds.


Some people that walk by our table recognize Joao and interrupt the interview. They talk in Swedish and I can’t understand what they are saying but these people are very willing to approach the Portuguese politician. He takes time to listen to what they have to say to him and is actually interested in knowing what is going on with them. There is honesty in Joao’s interaction with other people and they seem to appreciate that. Everyone is at ease.

While they speak, I think to myself that Joao’s life has been shaped by sturdy decisions that caused him to have a great sense of reverence for others. He’s a man that both respects and is respected. He’s a good man.”

Prisoner 885/63


I remember how excited we were when asked to host a comrade from the ANC in Sundsvall. It was in autumn of 1987. I had been involved in international work for the Social democratic party for some time. It was now just about one year since our Prime Minister Olof Palme had been murdered. What better way to honour his memory but to work politically and internationally.

It turned out that it was Indres Naidoo exiled ANC member that would come to stay with us in Sundsvall for a few weeks where he would participate and study different activities connected with our political life at the local and regional levels. Indres was a prisoner at the renown Robben Island  between the years of 1963 and 1973. There was a book published by Penguin in 1982 “Island in chains”. In it Indres describes to Albie Sachs what life was like when chained down by a rasist regime .

A flat was rented for him in Skönsberg and I followed him whenever I had the opportunity. Indres was here as part of a program of solidarity where Sweden stood firm when many other countries ignored the struggle against the system of apartheid.

This is how Indres described his sortie from Lusaka, Zambia where he was working at the time.” I got to Zambia and while I was there, I was appointed to go to Sweden. It was chaotic. Only two of us were on the plane instead of nine. There was chaos between ANC and the Swedish embassy in Lusaka. The two of us landed in Stockholm and a week later the others joined us. The Social Democratic Party was having a congress in Stockholm and Prime Minister Carlsson invited us to have lunch with him, all of us. But, unfortunately, because only two of us had arrived they had to cancel that. However, there was a big welcome for us. We also went to attend the Social Democratic Party congress. I looked around and the first thing that struck me was all the red banners and the letters SAP. I started to laugh and said: ‘Oh God, SAP—South African Police— everywhere’. But I realized that SAP was short for the Swedish Social Democratic Party.”

Indres and I in 1987.


Uusitalo and Berthelard

Helge Helge Uusitalo

Where would I have been without adult education (Komvux)? When I realized that nobody was really very interested on what I had done, previously to moving to Sundsvall in 1973, it seemed that studying was one of the only paths open. I finished my Swedish course after the planned 9 weeks and decided to further my studies. As I already been to the schools as a substitute teacher, and survived, it seemed like the fastest way to get a job was to become a teacher. In that category, language teaching was down my alley.

I decided to contact the responsible director for adult education. I felt I was quite old to study at 22 years of age, but it was worth a try. I met a director called Helge Uusitalo. This gentleman backed me up and I enrolled for Spanish, French and English sometime in 1974.

I particularly enjoyed the French classes that were held in the evenings. The teacher was Monsieur Robert Berthelard. This Frenchman from the Lyon area was well established in the town and I was to become his friend and colleague some years later. He worked as did his wife Britt at the Åkersvik School.

Mr. Uusitalo encouraged me to study and later on I enrolled for History lessons with him. Mr. Berthelard was an older colleague that inspired with his pedagogical skills. These two men were important in the setup of the Swedish system of adult education. The system aims at  giving new opportunities to those who need to complete their studies. It is free of charge and has seen many in Sweden achieve higher goals thanks to it. Without it I would not have gone further.

After I completed the subjects I mentioned, plus language science ad psychology, did Swedish and some Russian I could and did apply to get into University in the autumn of 1976.


The Christening


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!


Baby John!


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.

There’s always IKEA

BillyWhen 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!

Marcello visita Londres


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.


The new king of Sweden

hurst view rd

The year of 1973 was almost all spent in London! It was an eventful period. Looking at the pictures it is clear that Mona came back in the summer now evidently pregnant! At this time she would have taken Maxwell, the cat, to Sweden. During this visit a rare family gathering can be seen outside my grandparents’ house in Croydon. The reader can enjoy the two pictures on display and sort out who the photographers were.

Sometime around this time I had started a new job. Someone said a person speaking Portuguese was needed at the Banco do Brasil near St. Paul’s Cathedral. I was interviewed and offered the job by the Brazilian manager. In reality I was working for the Portuguese bank BPA- Banco Portugues do Atlantico. My job was to send remittances (money) from Portuguese immigrants back to Portugal. At this time immigrant remittances were an important part of the Portuguese economy . Some of the clients came from far away as Wales with their money in cash. Every morning I awaited a fax message stating the actual exchange rate.  Someone in charge for this office once came and gave me some instructions. I kept this job right up to my final return to Sweden so when I did arrive there it was as a bank clerk.

The king of Sweden Gustav VI died on the 15th September in Helsingborg so the chap I was serving drinks to, a few months earlier at the Tramp Club in Jermyn Street was now the Swedish king under the name of Carl XVI Gustav. He was crowned on the very same day of his grandfather’s death, exactly 40 years ago, yesterday.