Kuwakaribisha marafiki zangu kwa Sundsvall

Welcome to Sundsvall, Makunduchi friends. Next Sunday you are expected to arrive after a long and tiring trip. From the sunshine of Zanzibar to a Sundsvall profoundly immersed in the November cold and darkness. A dramatic contrast, but we will do what we can to ease up for you. I want to take the opportunity to fill you in on the events here since your last visit.

We have had a general election which means that Swedish voters chose their representatives on all three levels of government. As far as the national level is concerned there is a situation unique in Swedish modern history and after 10 weeks since the election there is still no government. What has mainly upset Sweden’s democratic set up has been the growing support for the Sweden Democrats a party with immigration issues at the center but where many experts widen the explanation to insecurity on some parts of the population about undefined future, brought about by modern technology, globalization and desertification of rural areas. We could safely say that this party thrives on people’s worries and fear. Somehow it has shifted Swedish  political map and we are experiencing now three main ideological fields, Conservative Nationalism, Liberalism and Democratic Socialism. The Green Party was practically wiped out despite awareness of climate change and pollution issues.

As far as the local Sundsvall government is concerned we are continuing with same partners, (Social Democrats, Center party and Left party).

On Monday Mohamed and I will give our local parliament a short presentation of our cooperation so far. I will share it here for your benefit.

I am leaving the chairmanship of the School Board but carry on with focus on Culture and Sport plus an elected seat on our Municipal Parliament.

I look forward to seeing you Mbanja Makame, Mohamed Muombwa, Suleiman Selele and Zainab Fadhil on Sunday, when we will try to start the “Friends of Makunduchi association” that I already have mentioned before.

I also expect that you will share with us the main questions affecting your beautiful island of Unguja with challenges facing Zanzibar and ideas to solve them.

Note: Swahili texts are also welcome here!

The Wallenberg cube

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Students and teachers from the Västermalm secondary school  invited me to say a few words when the Sundsvall cube was inaugurated. Students worked  with their own interpretations on the subject of the “Right of asylum in other countries”. Students and teachers from 8 different countries participating in a Erasmus network were present.

This project was initiated  by the Raoul Wallenberg foundation. The project is about human rights but also about our obligations as human beings towards others. 30 cubes have been spread out to schools all over Sweden, each one representing a human right as stipulated and agreed by the United Nations. “The right of asylum in other countries” that the Västermalm School has been assigned to work with, fits all too well, with Raoul Wallenberg’s own commitments and achievements during and after world war two. Who was Raoul Wallenberg, you may ask? Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat that saw how the Nazis persecuted Jews and others in Budapest where he was stationed. Wallenberg created false documents to help people out of the country and into safety. Later on he organized bus transports for many of the survivors of the holocaust and the surviving victims of Nazi crimes against humanity. Many of these refugees came to Sweden and started a new life here.

All this brings us to today’s situation in Sweden and in the rest of Europe. Europe is once again in trouble when it comes to coping with the refugee situation. Some countries try to pass on responsibility to other countries. We want to shut down frontiers and imagine that these people do not exist. We need each and every one of us not to feel guilty, but rather to understand the mechanisms that create the situations we are experiencing today. We have in Europe a good life and we need to share with others. If we permit that differences in society grow even more we will have more crimes and all other social problems that inequality create. Sweden is richer than ever. Every year we spend more in education and care. But many still expect more.

Here in Sundsvall we have 8 political parties at the local council. The third largest party was formed and grew based on the idea that we have too many refugees. The people that vote for this party must have a reason to do so. Racist people and people that are scared of foreigners exist in all our European countries  but now they have people that support them. We have to understand that many people are scared of globalization and feel that they are being ignored or pushed aside by technical development, new ways of communication and new competitive labor relations. These people feel unsure as whether immigrants and refugees are not presenting new threats to them.

My message to you today is only one. We all have an individual responsibility when creating the society we want to live in. We can choose to work together or we can choose to look after our own interests and let ourselves be influenced by cheap and easy propaganda or we can try to be aware citizens conscious that what we do and how we think or choose to express ourselves prepares the path for the future. A huge thanks to teachers and students that worked on this subject. The cube is yours!

Lagos y Cerros

Lagos

On the 9th of December 1989, a Saturday, the Swedish labour movement delegation where I was included sat on a bus to take us to Valparaiso. The morning had been spent, learning about the forthcoming elections and the PPD’s plan to regain democratic power in Chile after Pinochet’s dictatorship. This election was, after all, the main reason for our visit and this election was the result of a victory by the democratic voters in the referendum of 1988.

We joined up with Senate candidate Ricardo Lagos and could in the middle of the crowd listen to many complaints about the appalling conditions residents chose to take up with us. Lagos would later become president of the Republic of Chile. Together with us you can spot José Goñi that accompanied this delegation and is presently ambassador in Stockholm. This I was actually not aware of until yesterday when I received his Christmas greetings.

Visiting Valparaiso had a special importance to me. I had met many Chilean immigrants in my hometown of Sundsvall the previous couple of years and many came from this hilly coastal town. In Sundsvall they found a hilly town too even if the Cerros of Valparaiso were not easily compared to Sundsvall’s own Norra and Södra berg. Even the huge Pacific Ocean at this coastal city’s feet would have to compare to the even calmer Baltic Sea. I remember that we arrived from the 100 km bus trip and went to a restaurant where many sea food dishes were presented and many of these were exciting novelties to practically all of us.

The afternoon was spent visiting our Folkets Hus (Cenpros) project and learning about the hard toll on youth and women that the dictatorship had burdened on so many. Problems with unemployment, crime, lack of education opportunities, violence, abortions and other social problems had been allowed to grow by a regime that cared little for the people and their well-being.

We saw also another side of the society, away from the Cerros and through fashionable Viña del Mar a few miles away where the wealthy rather spent their time.

 

Valparaiso 1989

According to Barata…

 miun_norraberget

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.”

Indres in Sundsvall

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Indres Naidoo came to us in Sundsvall in 1987. I enjoyed seeing him and as he had lived in Mozambique we had some of the Portuguese connection there too. When the ANC delegation was completed (9 people) they attended a course at the Trade Union (LO) school of Brunnsvik where the theme was theory of local administration, the civil structures of Sweden, the laws, etc. Useful information as Indres later on would be elected as member of South African parliament.

These 9 ANC members were later allocated to different areas around the country. As they were an odd number one had to come somewhere alone. It was the ex Robben Island prisoner that came alone to Sundsvall. He was now 51 years old and I was a junior with my 35.

The local ABF office was in charge of setting up the program in the region. This is how Indres described his stay in Sundsvall. ”The people who were in charge of me drove me all the way to Sundsvall, where they rented a flat for me. A fully furnished flat, right in the centre of town. I got a daily allowance for food, but I never ate at home. The only thing that I ever had at home was breakfast, because I was out at lunch-time. I went to factories. I went to schools. I went to government offices, and I used to have my lunch there.”

And he continues to explain:

“The agreement between ANC and ABF was that we should spend time with all political parties, the Social Democrats, the Communists or Left Party, the Liberal Party and the Centre Party, and that agreement was kept. I was very busy. I sat in at meetings of the local council and they took me along to show me how the local administration worked. I spent two days with the police force.”

“I then spent two days with the Centre Party. I was taken to a farm and it was very impressive. On the farm there were a husband and wife and two adult sons and a daughter. Just the five of them controlled the entire farm. It was a dairy farm and they had fields of alfalfa. They worked very hard. They were up at five in the morning, milking the cows.” Whose farm was that? (Selléns?)

If you want to read more about Indres and his life you can acquire his book “ Island in chains” or look at these interviews.

http://www.liberationafrica.se/intervstories/interviews/naidoo/

http://www.sahistory.org.za/people/indrasena-elatchininathan-naidoo

medborgargatan

 

Prisoner 885/63

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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.

indres

The Umeå years (1)

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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.

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.

spanska

The National Team (1)

BWembley

Sweden and Portugal are set to play a decisive play-off to participate in next year’s World Cup in Brazil. Whilst trying to decide whether or not I should go to the match in Stockholm on the 19th November, I am recalling the matches I have seen live, with Portugal’s national team. My team!

First match I saw was a friendly as part of the preparation for the England World Cup of 1966. Portugal played Uruguay at the national stadium on the 26th June. José Torres scored all the three goals and my grandmother who had never seen a football match but was very keen on Eusébio felt very sorry for the Uruguayans and said that they should be allowed to score a goal.

I had moved to London in 1968 and one year later Portugal played a friendly on the 10th December 1969. England won by 1-0 after a goal by Jackie Charlton, so Portugal did not at this time revenge being knocked out of the England World Cup three years earlier.

In 1984 Portugal were in the same qualifying group as Sweden for the World Championship of 1986 in Mexico. Thanks to a late goal by Fernando Gomes Portugal could come home with a precious 1-0 victory. That match was seen surrounded by Swedes that had little or no understanding when João Oliveira and I jumped up to celebrate the goal. Much could be said of this Stockholm encounter but it is a story that will have to stand on its own.

Fate had it that Portugal and Sweden would once again play each other, this time for the European Championships. My fourth match was also in Råsunda, Stockholm, and was played on the 23rd September 1987. Even in this match Portugal came out as a winner. An early goal by defender João Pinto ( his only one, in 70 caps) was enough but neither of the two countries would reach the final phase in Germany 1988.

Before the 2004 European Championship that was organized in Portugal the National Team only played friendlies. It was on the 10th September 2003 that I saw Portugal defeat Norway by 1-0. The goal scored by Pedro Pauleta at the Oslo Ullevaal arena. Through our mobile we heard that Swedish foreign minister Anna Lindh had been knifed in Stockholm some hours earlier. Unfortunately she would no longer be with us the next day.

 

Socialist Sundsvall encounters

Valente

My first encounter with the Swedish Social-democratic party was in November 1974. A few months had passed since the military action that put an end to the dictatorship in Portugal. The political parties needed to build up their organizations and the Swedish party prompted itself to help the very young Socialist party of Portugal. Somehow it was known that there was someone in Sundsvall that spoke Portuguese. That someone was me. I had then been in Sweden for roughly one year.

I accepted to help out, on what turned out to be, cooperation between the Setubal District and our own of Medelpad. Sent on this first mission from the Setubal side was Mr Antonio Valente. He was an insurance man living in the parish of Corroios, Seixal.

My job was in fact to accompany Mr Valente to different study visits. My most difficult and nervous moment was to address a large number of members on their monthly gathering where the PS member, greeted the Swedish party and thanked for the solidarity shown, at the same time as he briefly explained what was going on at this time in the country.

Chairing the Swedish district was Mr Bo Forslund newly appointed Member of Parliament that can be seen on the picture below.

It was an opportunity for me to learn something of Swedish politics and at the same time grasp some understanding of the importance of the municipalities in Sweden. In a few years’ time I would become a member of the Social Democratic party.

Bosse