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Beyond the Lone Islands

Friday, 22 May 2009

Connecting With History

This week I found a book at the local library about the history of the town where I live. Turns out the building in which I now live was finished in 1944, while World War II was still going on. I had a sort of "revelation" looking at pictures and reading quotations from newspaper articles back then. I always knew Sweden was not involved in the war but surrounded by it; and I think I've been sort of subconsciously assuming that everyday life must have been at some kind of standstill during those years, every major project put on hold, just waiting for the war to end...

But looking at the pictures in this book made me realize that even during the war, individuals as well as town council and government were still making plans for the future; people were not only having children and building houses and planning for towns to grow, but also paying attention to details like what kind of bricks to use for the facing, what kind of wood for the floors, even the choice of wallpaper… As well as building air raid shelters in the basement!

The building where I now live still gives a very "solid" impression, compared to for example the one from the early 70's where I lived before I moved here. The exterior still looks much the same as in the old photos. The interior has been renovated, but original details have been kept, like parquet floor in the living room, deep window ledges, wooden doorframes. But 2½ decades later, in the late 60's/ early 70's, the focus when building new apartment houses had shifted from "solid and lasting" to "fast and cheap" - and the materials to concrete, sheet metal, and plastic, plastic, plastic...

This week, with the help of my aunt, I also found the family grave of my great-grandparents, in an old cemetery close to where I live now. I never even knew they were buried there, until quite recently; and I would never have been able to find the grave by myself. Not only did they have a very common surname, the letters on the stone are so worn down that they are hardly visible any more.

I never met my great-grandparents, they died long before I was born. But I do remember visiting the house where they once lived (and where my grandmother grew up), back in my early childhood. Two of my grandmother's cousins were still living there then. Although as far as I was concerned, I don't think I even knew back then exactly how we were related to these "old ladies" that we used to visit sometimes. (They must have been about the same age then as I am now, I guess...)

The house does not exist any more, there is a petrol station now where it once lay. But recently, looking through a file of photos from a past exhibition at the local library, I suddenly came upon a picture of that house and its inhabitants, taken about 100 years ago. There were two families living in the house then; the children are my grandmother, her brother and their cousins. I scanned this from a xerox copy of a copy of a print… But it still gives an idea of what it looked like. It is a winter scenery with the smallest children sitting on sledges.


Thom said...

Wonderful post and very informative. Thanks for sharing :)

Reston Friends! said...

I came to read your wordzzle (very intriguing and I want to read the "rest of the story!"), but scrolled down to this entry. What a lovely description of near history. It always strikes me when I read about war times how the regular people just carried on, having babies, teaching children, and living as if the war was not the only thing in their lives, but when we look back in history, we study...the war, not the people! Thank you for sharing this!


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