Interview with Stellan's mother - Gudrun Skarsgård
Source: Sveriges Radio
We are going to talk with Gudrun Skarsgård about how
she’s been struggling with an illness since she was a child, and how
she, 80 years old, is enjoying her life. We will also follow her to the
place where every day she meets several of her children and
grandchildren. Katarina Hahr meets her at home in Stockholm in the
apartment where she lives with one of her sons.
K- I’m standing in the elevator in a house built in the 80′s at Söder in
Stockholm. I’m about to meet Gudrun Skarsgård. Mother of five, and just
turned 80 years old. With me, I have her extra-son, Johan. They have
known each other since he was just one years old, and every day he takes
Gudrun out on a walk. I have long wondered who this elegant woman is,
who goes by the name "The Queen of Medborgarplatsen".
K-What a big and nice apartment.
G-Yes, it’s very good. I live together with my son,
K-One of your sons.
G-Yes, that’s right. The second youngest. And now,
his lady lives here, too.
K-But it sounds like you think that's fun.
G-Yes, I do. I’m so spoiled, I have a lot of people
around me all the time. I don’t have to, like a lot of other old people,
have the lonliness like a ghost hanging around. I have a social life,
and every day Johan comes and take me out for a trip. You could say that
he consider himself my eldest son. He’s one year older than
Stellan. And he takes an elder women in a wheelchair down to get a beer
every day. There is a.. do you know what is told in the Most Noble Order
of the Garter?
G- "Honi soit qui mal y pense" – "shame upon him who
thinks evil upon it". It is. I’ve done my share, and I can do what I
want the rest of my life.
K-You say, that you are 80 now and you do what you
want, but in the beginning, how did you grow up?
G-Ehm… back then you weren’t allowed to do what you
wanted. (laughs) I grew up… My father was a sea captain, so there wasn’t
in reality a father at home… In that time, the boats were on long
voyages, and he could be away for two years at a time. When I met him
the first time I was two years old, and I thought awfully bad of him
because he took my place with my mother. We were six kids, and I was the
second youngest. My oldest brother didn’t become older than 19-20 years,
and he died in TB. That was the disease people had at that time. And
that’s when I got infected too. So I got TB when I was about 6 years
old… so… I was hospitalized for almost two years. More or less, all the
K-But, what do you remember from that?
G-I remember the company of other sick children. We
were like 16 kids in every room, and I remember an awful person that
ruled our room, who actually tortured us…
K-In what way?
G-Ehm… you know, we did get fever, which you get now
and then from TB, and then we were punished. We had to sit in the
toilet, while she played music for the other children. Just because
you’ve got fever! Or when you threw up, and had to eat your spews up.
K-Is that true?
G-Yes, it’s true! I didn’t dare to tell anyone,
meanwhile I was nursed there, but when I was leaving, I told my mother,
who was a friend of the women who was the supervisor of the clinic, and
there was a big fuss about it. But what happened to this women, she was
German, and pronounced my name Guth-run. She was moved from the clinic,
but I assume she was put somewhere else, where she could abuse children…
K-How has this affected you?
G-Ehm… I have a big issue with authorities…I think…
it might be an amount of obstinacy… that have followed me… Today, I
don't have to do that anymore (laughs) , but when I was in school and
such… I was no convenient pupil… I went to a girls school, and I often
ended up in the principal's office. But we liked each other, the
principal and I. That worked out well.
K-You had an issue with authorities, but at the same
time you could socialize with authorities?
G-Yes, if we were on the same conditions, so to say.
Not when treated from above, and down… When you horsed around at that
time, you could to that in a different way, then now, since you weren’t
covered the same way that kids are today. We had backyards, and what we
did back there, our parents had no clue about.
K-You mean, that today parents know more?
G-Oh, yes! Today, a child can hardly escape from
these hawkeyes that are everywhere! There are kindergarten staff,
teachers and parents, so… it’s first when you are a teenager and can
start sneak out at town, that the parents can’t keep an eye on you
K-Do you think that it might be a bad thing?
G-Sometimes I think that it’s a little too much
surveillance…but… maybe the world is more dangerous today, then it was
back then…I don’t know…
K-But what about when you grew up and became a
mother? Or an adult? What did you do after school?
G-I didn’t have time to do so much… I got pregnant
when I was 20, so now you understand what I did.
K-But that wasn’t so young at the time? 20?
G-No, but my husband, Jan, was my guardian for two
K-What kind of man was he?
G-Jan? He was a strange man. He was the worlds worst
economist, but he was an educated economist (laugh), but couldn’t handle
money. (laughs) And then, it went the way it went. Five kids.
That’s nothing you handle, just like that. He was a very funny man. Very
interesting.. He needed a strong women, and that he got.
K-Why did he need that?
G-He needed to be controlled. He took life very easy…
sometimes a little too easy… so he needed someone who held him back..
and that was my job.
K-But did you let your children, bee rather free?
G-Yes, you can’t look after five kids.
K-But weren’t you worried?
G-No… not so much… What does that help? We lived
nearby a former limestone quarry, , now filled with water, so there were
like lakes. And it was forbidden to play there, but it became, my
daughter almost fell in there, of course they played there anyway! You
can’t look after them all the time, in that case you have to put them in
K-I’m thinking, having five kids, and have that
attitude, that you can’t worry about them all the time… but what worries
K-Today, or then… as a human?
G-I’m not an anxious person.. and I don’t paint the
Devil on the wall. No… maybe it’s because I don’t have enough
imagination… I don’t know… But… when people around you, get sick or so…
that’s serious things, and you think a lot of it…and what’s going to
K-The TB, you got when you were young, you seems so
strong, and you’ve lived until you’re 80, so you must have done pretty
G-Yes, I have. I had a relapse at 55. I had just
given birth to my daughter, and I got nursed, so I never got to
breast-feed her. Se came home when she was four months old. She wasn’t
allowed to be at home, so they took her from me, at the maternity
K-How did that feel?
G-That wasn’t fun at all. It was hard… And it wasn’t
good. It haven’t been good for neither her or for me. There have been
difficulties, and I’m sure it was affected with this. I can see that
K-Can you talk about it?
G-No… it’s nothing we talk about…It’s working good
now. She has her own family now, and I don’t feel that there is any hate
or dissatisfaction from her now.
K-This host of siblings, with 5 kids, weren’t you
tired all the time?
G-No, but do you know what I’m truly amazed over, and
find hard to understand, or take the pride for?! It’s how close these
five children are to each other!
K-But you say that you weren’t tired?! It must have
been a lot of food to cook, a lot of dishes, a lot of clothes to wash,
and long days?
G-But you know, at that time, kids played outside all
days. They were never at home. We had a set time for meals, and you had
to be home by then, but otherwise they were not home… And I didn’t know
all the time what they were doing.
K-When did they start leaving home at the days?
G-Well… since they started school, they were never at
home. (laughs) And you know, when they start school or kindergarten now,
you have to acclimatize them at school for like 14 days or so, that
would never had worked with five kids. Imagine nowadays, when you have
to drag five kids to kindergarten and all strange things they have
today. It’s so much harder to have five kids today.
K-But in a way, it was almost like kindergarten at
G-Yes, with five kids, and every kid brought a
friend! People actually thought that our home was an orphanage.
K-Was it you that planted the thought of a career in
acting with Stellan? I mean, he was so young.
G-No, it wasn’t. Jan was the one, who wanted to be an
actor, himself! But he wasn’t allowed, because it wasn’t good enough.
Among academics, it was considered trickery, and you were supposed to
have an academic education, and that’s he got into economics. But he had
the desire… He really wanted to be an actor… But he had the talent, so I
have to say, it is from him, the talent is inherited. Also, I’m a very
ingenuous person, and when you raise kids with that attitude, maybe it’s
easier to get actors in your family, then if you hold them back and
raise them with anxiety… I don’t think that creates a lot of free
K-Do you think that Jan realized that Stellan had the
G-Yes, I think so. The silly thing was, when they
were casting "Bombi Bitt", Stellan was really excited. He, and his
brother Kjettil, both wrote a letter for the part.
K-What did you think then? Were you worried about
them missing school?
G-No, no, no! That came later. I didn’t believe that
they had any chance to get the part! But Stellan never posted his
letter. He just wrote it, and then left it on his desk. But his brother
posted both letters but didn’t get the part since it went to his
brother, Stellan. But it was festive for all of them, anyway. Imagine
the fuss when Stellan worked as a young actor. There was press and lots
of other people who wanted to get in touch with him.
K-And, Jan, what did he think of it?
G-He thought it was great, and of course he was
really proud of him. Maybe he even thought that "Oh man, why didn’t I
get the chance to do this?"
K-You have never been hard with your kids, and told
them they have to study and become academics or so?
G-No… I don’t think so…
K-But what have you been hard with? They had to have
G-They had to take responsibility for their school
work. I never asked them if they did their homework or read with them.
That was their job, and they had to manage it.
K-What did you do if they didn’t?
G-They did! The only one who didn’t do that, for some
time was my daughter. Then I took her out of school. I told her that we
don’t pay taxes to be used for your negligence. And she got to start
over later when she felt mature enough to do it. I believe a lot in that
you have to take responsibility for yourself.
K-I believe someone told me that you started working
at Stockholm’s nursing home as a nurse’s assistant, and you left as the
chief of staff?
G-Yes, not really, but I was responsible for hiring
and firing. Well, I’d decided to move to Stockholm, when Jan and I
K-You were divorced?
G-Yes, and we re-married too, to be safe, so there
were no big tragedy. We had… you could call it a schism. So.. I was
about to change domicile, and the best way to do that was to move to
Stockholm. I had five kids, and most of them were to end up around
Stockholm, I figured. So, I decided to move there, and then I needed
somewhere to live. So I talked to Stockholm’s nursing home and said, I’m
coming up to work for you, and I need a room in the staff’s house. And
they did. So I started there as a nurse’s assistant, and became main
safety representative. I became an important person in that subject, and
later on I became responsible for all the safety representative work in
Stockholm and it’s neighborhood, in the private nursing sector. There
was a hundred of small places to look after. I worked with that for a
lot of years, and then I became staff assistant at Stockholm’s nursing
home. How strange! (laughs)
K-Do you think that your issue with authorities is
why you weren’t afraid to take negotiations and discussions?
G-Of course! You have to be cocky if you don’t want
to give the autorities the chance to push you down!
K-But where is the line, so people doesn’t start thinking that you are
G-(laughs) I’m not the right person to talk about
that. (laughs) I don’t know… I’m sure there are a lot of people who
think that I’m annoying.
K-But you don’t care so much, do you?
G-No… I can’t walk around wondering if people think
I’m annoying. If they do, they have to tell me. I can’t go around asking
if people find me annoying. No… I’m not a person who walks around and
apologizes for my existence.
K-Is that something you’ve carried with you all your
life or something that came with age?
G-No, that’s something that I’ve had all my life, and
I think a lot of it comes from the time when I was hospitalized, when we
were harassed. Not to be ruled by authorities..
K-You’re used to get out about this time?
K-I notice that Gudrun is getting a little restless,
and wants to get out in the sun. Johan, her extra-son, comes to help her
out. He drives her in her wheelchair down to Medborgarplatsen. There she
sits, every day, at the same time, and all of her children, and
grandchildren and good friends, that are at home, come to join her.
K-Now we are at your favorite places?
G-Yes we are. Medborgarplatsen has a lot of great
K-I was thinking about what you said about being
alone. You don’t consider yourself lonely?
G-No, I’m not lonely. But when you talk about old
people, you talk a lot about loneliness too.
K-And now we’re sitting here with… Can you tell us
who are here today?
G-Yes, there’s my eldest son, Stellan, and son number
two, Kjettil, son number four, Torbjörn, and Johan Günther, who you can
say is sort of my son too. He’s my extra son, and he’s really good at
driving the wheelchair.
K-I get the impression that you like sitting here in
G-Of course! Who wouldn’t?! You would like it too.
K-But, haven’t you always been in the center?
Stellan-There’s a difference between being in the
center, or being the center!
G-(laughs) If I’m too modest about this, they are
going to laugh at me. (laughs) But for sure… I’ve taken space. I have a
lot of men around me. I’ve only got one daughter, and she doesn’t need
that much support, but men, they need all kinds of support from us
women. So I’ve had to work hard. (laughs)