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A Swede in Germany

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Follow-up: Differences in how our lives play out (geographic mobility)

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As a brief follow-up to my previous post:

I have received some additional information from my father. While I will keep most of it unpublished, having no bearing on the main points and being mostly of personal interest, it appears that I have severely underestimated how much my paternal grand-mother moved.

For starters, she did not actually spend her childhood in Sala, but in Säter—something I actually knew but somehow had suppressed. She moved to Sala as a young adult, then studied in Nyköping*, moved to Eskilstuna with my grand-father, and only then settled in Högsby. She eventually moved back to Sala as originally stated, but apparently the first of the two retirement homes she later lived in was not in Sala but a neighbouring village**. This makes for at least six different places in eight different phases (not counting any intra-town moves that might have taken place)—many of them in the days of her youth. Grand-father had a similar history in his youth, and I might have understimated the mobility of this generation. (Although it remains lower than today, considerably so when foreign countries are included.) Still, this actually strengthens my original point, in as far as there being great differences even within a generation (as e.g. with me vs. my sister, or my maternal vs. paternal grand-parents).

*A study stop does not surprise me, and was the main reason I said “at least” in the original post. However, I had imagined something along the lines of Sala–X–Högsby. (And might have guessed that the X was Uppsala.)

**With hindsight, I recall that there was a “rural” drive to reach it, and I possibly should have remembered this too.

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Written by michaeleriksson

November 6, 2017 at 10:55 pm

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Differences in how our lives play out (geographic mobility)

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Some paperwork concerning my mother’s will* has landed with me for signing, and I find myself pondering the different ways lives play out, e.g. when I compare myself to my sister, us with our parents and grand-parents, or anyone of the aforementioned with my one cousin on my father’s side, who died tragically in his twenties.

*She died early this year

One notable example is where we have lived our lives (until now, for those still alive):

The grand-parent generation (born between 1907 and 1924) was obviously far less mobile than today. My paternal grand-mother changed towns at least twice, from her childhood Sala to Högsby, where she spent most of her adult life, and then back to Sala to live out her old age, some time after my grand-father’s death; however, my maternal grand-parents spent their entire lives in or around Kopparberg, a town of some three thousand citizens. (I honestly have no idea about my paternal grand-father: He died when I was a very small child and never got around to talk much about him when I grew up.)

My parents both followed a similar pattern until their divorce: Childhood in Kopparberg resp. Högsby, move to Stockholm to study for the Salvation Army, and then half-a-dozen (or a little more) years moving around as officers in the Salvation Army (most of these together, as a married couple, but there might have been some initial stations apart). Post-divorce, my mother moved back to her childhood Kopparberg where she remained until the hospitalization preceding her death. My father, in contrast, moved to a little island* (Kurön) close to Stockholm and, a few years later, on to Stockholm proper. (In some sense, he has stayed put too, since then. However, his two or three intra-Stockholm moves cover a lot more ground and people than does my mother’s one intra-Kopparberg move.)

*Writing this, I have a brief recollection of visiting him in Stockholm prior to Kurön. Possibly, he briefly lived in Stockholm before Kurön too; possibly, my memory is off—I might have been six years old at the time.

My sister has so far followed mother and grand-mother in being Kopparberg centric: She had a few childhood stops with the Salvation Army and spent possibly six months of high school in Örebro—the rest, too my best knowledge, has been all Kopparberg.

I moved to Germany aged 22, and has since lived for years each in Cologne, Düsseldorf, and Frankfurt (Main); a year each in Munich and Darmstadt; and months each in e.g. Zweibrücken, Stuttgart, and Chemnitz (formerly the GDR Karl-Marx-Stadt). And then there is Wuppertal… Before that, in Sweden, I had a few years in Stockholm as a student, the long stay in Kopparberg, and the ever recurring stops with the Salvation Army.

*Mostly for work reasons while having an official longer-term main domicile in Cologne or Düsseldorf.

Throwing the net a little wider, my mother’s brother is another die-hard Kopparberg fan—while my father’s sister has moved a fair bit, with stations including Högsby, Västervik, Östersund, and Bålsta, for an impressive geographic spread (and I doubt that this is the complete list).

An interesting twist is how “close” foreign countries are nowadays when contrasted with situation for the grand-parent generation. Actually moving to another country was a rarity; today it is nothing special. (I do not know e.g. how many of my old class mates have moved abroad, but I can say that roughly a quarter of the developers on my current project are immigrants.) Even visiting a foreign country was often a once-in-a-lifetime experience, increasingly becoming a once-a-year experience in the 1980s and 1990s. My maternal grand-mother (the only one to remain alive and mobile past the early 1980s) likely saw more foreign travel post-70 than pre-70 (corresponding to the year 1994). My father has conceivably visited more continents* than his father countries…

*Interestingly, I have myself never left Europe, usually preferring to spend my vacations at home; I have had greater means to travel than my father at any given age, but have not had his interest. Even so, I have managed to visit at least seven countries for several days or more, not counting Sweden and Germany. (With shorter visits to at least four others, including the hour-or-so spent in Poland, crossing over from Frankfurt (Oder) on foot during an otherwise intra-German vacation.)

As an aside about Kopparberg: My first recollections of Kopparberg involve visiting the maternal grand-parents. At that young age, I was fascinated by the name and expected to see what it said—a mountain of cups. (En kopp—a cup; många koppar—many cups. Berg—mountain.) To my disappointment, no such mountain was present. As I later learned, the name refers to something far more boring to a child’s mind—a mountain (a long time ago) mined for copper. (Koppar—copper.)

Written by michaeleriksson

November 5, 2017 at 1:23 am

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