Border divides and unites Swedish twins separated by Covid – fr

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Border divides and unites Swedish twins separated by Covid – fr


Svinesund (Norway) (AFP)

They have not been allowed to return to their homes for a year now due to Covid. Come rain or shine, two 73-year-old Swedish twins met every Saturday, each on their side of the border, on a bridge that connects Norway and Sweden.

Each week, Ola and Pontus Berglund each stand behind a thin but impassable line on the floor, with camping chairs, thermos, sandwiches – and lots of good humor.

“We are not allowed to cross the border. I have to stay one meter (yard) from my side and he must stay one meter from his side, ”explains Ola, the little Norwegian and Swedish flags they have attached. to the windward floating bridge.

“So basically, there must be two meters between us,” he said, pushing back his chair, suddenly aware that he was too close.

At its feet, painted on the road, is a simple white line, the words “Norge” and “Sverige” on either side.

The pandemic has put an end to the weekly visits of identical twins to each other.

Ola lives in Halden, in south-eastern Norway, where he moved almost 40 years ago for love, while Pontus lives half an hour’s drive away in the town of Stromstad, south-west of Sweden.

Instead, they meet here, at a more or less respectful distance, on the old Svinesund Bridge which straddles a fjord between the two countries.

They celebrated their 72nd and 73rd birthdays this way on April 20.

“It’s very strange but it became a need, a pressing need, because we saw each other every week and we wanted to continue,” said Pontus from the Swedish side.

“The pandemic did not prevent us from seeing each other and for us, it is a victory. “

While local restrictions have changed over the months as the viral situation has evolved, the border has remained closed.

The shutdown angered Norwegians – many of whom own summer homes in Sweden, where living is cheaper – so much so that they sued the Norwegian state to lift the mandatory quarantine required for them. back home.

– ‘A little party’ –

The few motorists who use the bridge usually smile or greet the two men with gray beards sitting in their chairs.

Ola, a former nursing assistant who now spends her time doing sets for a theater, and Pontus, an artist and bird watcher, have become local celebrities, with some people driving up to five hours just to take their picture.

“It’s not very important to us. The important thing for us is to be able to come together and talk about what we want, ”says Ola, sporting a red bow tie“ because it’s May 1st ”.

From their privileged perch, the two have found themselves at times in the role of benevolent smugglers – like the day they delivered a puppy born in Sweden to its new family in Norway.

It is their fondest memory, they say.

In over a year, they’ve only missed their weekly date three times – because of the stubborn police who didn’t leave them on the bridge.

Otherwise, they stuck to their schedules during blizzards or heat waves, just dressing for the weather.

Before the vaccination rollout, many older people said they felt isolated during the pandemic as they needed to protect themselves from the virus.

“Every meeting was a little party,” says Pontus, who is divorced. “For me who live alone, it’s really important to see Ola. Without it, I would be depressed. ”

Does he miss hugging his brother?

“Yes,” he said with an infectious laugh.

“So sometimes I hug myself – since we’re the same.” ”

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