Umeå was not an inviting town in 1976. I felt lonely… My son has later described my homecomings at weekends as those of a stranger. I spent most of my time sitting in the library studying in order to get my teacher’s degree as fast as possible. It was a time for sacrifice. We did not have much money. The Swedish system with a study grant was important to our economy. In the summer I earned some money on summer jobs in Sundsvall.
There were some positive highlights that I will mention in coming texts concerning my years in Umeå. The first one I would mention was enrolling in the Social-Democratic Student Association. I learned on arrival that every student had to belong to the Student Union (kår). I also learned that students could elect their representatives to the student Parliament.
Umeå was still living the spirit of 1968. They were many discussions and debates concerning most things big and small. The SD students were radical and much on the left of the main party. The British “Militant” section of the Labour party was the inspiration. The ideas for the newspaper” Offensiv”, were based on Trotskij’s socialist defiance of Stalin Communism. When I enrolled I got involved in the matter at hand that had to do on whether or not a number of members of the club should be excluded. A decision was eventually taken and some of the “Offensiv” members were excluded and accused of infiltration. When I arrived most of these exclusions had already been carried through.
Maybe one should remember in what world we were living then with violent Vietnam war just ended after 20 years and quiet cold war dividing people and ideas.
The student club was a place to be welcomed in. The interest for international questions and politics engaged and excited me. I recall many of these colleagues and many interesting meetings we had. I was invited to travel to different towns in the north and Olle Westerlund’s old Volvo took us to places like Storuman in the Lapland interior. We travelled there through snowstorms and reindeer herds.
Here with Christer Holmgren and Christer Söderman in 1977
When I had completed enough subjects in the Adult education (Komvux) courses, I applied to the University. At that time we discussed the two nearest alternatives, Uppsala and Umeå. The latter was further up north and Sweden’s newest University. I managed to get in on a sort of trial as I had not managed the level of Swedish required. I enrolled for the English AB course. It was meant that this subject would take a year. Due to my previous knowledge of English I decided to speed up the course. I did most of it within the term.
My student life in Umeå was all, but glamorous. I rented a furnished room at a private home in Scharinsvägen. Once again I had an elderly landlady. There were no cooking facilities so I needed to plan my meals so as not to get hungry at night, which I did not succeed very well in doing.
I came home at weekends especially in the beginning. I did not know anyone so I enrolled at the Social-Democratic Student Association.
I got to and from Umeå by bus. These buses took between three and four hours and some stopped quite often.
My life in Umeå during these first years circled around the University. It was the most left winged environment in the Swedish academic world and I will come back to this. On the 20th November 1976 I got my first 40 academic points. I could come home for Christmas with a sense of duty accomplished.
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.
Já aqui tive ocasião de referir o que foram os meus primeiros contactos com os partidos Socialistas da Suécia e de Portugal. Logo após o 25 de abril de 1974 decidiu-se que uma germinação entre distritos de cá e lá se efectuaria. O partido Social Democrata da Suécia já era antigo enquanto que o PS de Portugal tinha práticamente acabado de nascer. Calhou-nos o distrito de Setúbal. Calhou-me a mim ajudar nas traduções e fazer de intérprete já que era o unico portugues falante em Sundsvall.
Terá sido em 1976 que recebemos cá a segunda visita. Veio o José Resina Bastos autarca do Montijo. Como tinha sido descrito que Montijo era uma vila com muita criação de suíno, visitámos uma unidade de produção de cá. Tambem visitámos a fábrica de peixe fermentado (surströmming) onde fomos recebidos pelo dono o Sr Oskar Söderström.
Mais tarde fomos excelentemente recebidos pela familia Bastos no seu próprio ambiente. Fomos lá a um sábado ou domingo, mas não me recordo já o ano, e após termos visto alguma coisa das actividades importantes do Montijo como a da cortiça foi-nos oferecido um excelente almoço em familia.
Como era dia de tourada e o Vice-Presidente da Câmara, o José Bastos, seria o presidente do feito tauromático, fomos convidados para a tribuna de honra. Foi um evento muito caracteristico da região e muito especialmente as provas de valentia dos forcados ficaram-nos bem vincadas na retina.