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Moving Day in Stockholm 1

Freda Isaksen

We were living in a makeshift home because that’s what one does when one is forced to leave one’s own home and go to live in another city in a foreign country. One calls it home because that is where the family eats and sleeps and tends to their everyday chores with the hope that the situation is temporary whilst future plans are made. That is how we were living in a very modest apartment with only the most essential furnishings provided by the benevolent society. It was sufficient considering the alternative of living with the enemy who had invaded our country. This circumstance was tolerable until we awoke each morning with red and itchy marks on our bodies. Could this be bedbugs? What else when it continued every night? No, this situation was not tolerable, we must move away from this new horror, we must find another apartment with another bed.

But we were not familiar with the customs of this city we were now living in. Two days a year were designated as moving day not by law but by custom, so the inhabitants knew that all arrangements to find another place to live must be made several months ahead. With the help of our own government agency we were able to find another apartment which would become available on the designated moving day. In the meantime we would have to use insect deterrent to suffer through the affliction.

Then another local custom presented itself. In order to move our meager possessions to another locality it was necessary to present the new landlord with a certificate of inspection from the city stating that our furniture was free of bugs. An official presented himself at our door with notepad in hand and I prayed for a miracle, but although he was not bitten personally he surely did find those small brown buggers and refused to sign the certificate. I tearfully explained why we were forced to live in such meager circumstances and assured him that I would gladly leave the offensive bed behind and preferred to sleep on the floor if only he would certify the other pieces of furniture. Fortunately he was a compassionate man and agreed that everything but the bed could be taken with us when we left.

Yet another local custom presented itself. When a large portion of a city’s inhabitants are planning to move on the same day, the knowledgeable people will make arrangements well ahead of time to have their belongings transported from one place to another. We were greenhorns and waited to find a helper until a short time before the day. No such help was to be found, every available truck was booked previously. The day before moving day we thought our situation was hopeless, there was no way we could vacate that apartment unless we left everything behind, not that we wanted to keep that rubbish but we had nothing else to replace it. In desperation my husband rushed from store to store, even accosted people on the street asking if anyone had a truck he could borrow…. Finally one man did say, “You want to move tomorrow? I’ll help you.” At this point my husband was willing to agree to any helper no questions asked, so he gave the man the address and he promised to come at eight o’clock the following morning.

Already at 7.30 I was anxiously peering out the window until I saw a tall burly man stop outside the building with a rickety looking wheelbarrow. “Is this the man?” I asked my husband. “Where is his truck?” As the man left his wheelbarrow at the street curb I saw him take a swig from a bottle and unsteadily enter our building. With the help of my husband our possessions were loaded onto the wheelbarrow whilst the man occasionally fortified himself from the bottle in his back pocket. The furniture was strapped high onto the wheelbarrow and my husband was instructed to help push the load alongside our helper. From my vantage point I could see that everything was unsteady and unbalanced. But the two men took off pushing the wheelbarrow with its load nevertheless.

They did not get very far before the whole unwieldy contraption collapsed in the middle of the busy street in Stockholm. The police soon arrived because traffic came to a halt, the officers ordered everything to be moved onto the sidewalk until the next day when a truck could be obtained. Immediately our benefactor took off with his wheelbarrow, his bottle and his unsteady gait and we never heard from him again.


  1. For a different version of this story and the context surrounding it, see Freda’s Autobiography.

Copyright Freda Isaksen 1986–2006. Permission to reuse for non-commercial purposes is granted, provided that the text is unaltered and the original source is acknowledged. For more information, contact isaksen at

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