‘We’re love refugees too – but not the usual kind’

After his son started a family in a small village in central Sweden, Scotsman Tom Smith ditched his dreams of retirement in France and instead followed his family to Nannberga, where he teaches Swedes the intricacies of making stained glass.

'We're love refugees too - but not the usual kind'

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If you search online for information about Nannberga, you’d be lucky to find much.

The tiny Swedish village, located just 12 kilometres south-west of Arboga in the centre of Sweden, doesn't even get a mention on Wikipedia.

But for Tom Smith, a 61-year-old Scotsman who once had elaborate retirement plans featuring food, wine, and a farmhouse in France, Nannberga became a sudden and unexpected reality in 2006.

“I found out that I had heart problems when I was working as a teacher in the UK and had to retire at 54,” the pensioner tells The Local.

“You can’t very well drop dead in front of the children, can you?” he adds with a laugh.

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His wife retired soon after, and with their son starting his own life with a Swedish wife and daughters in Nannberga, the retirees made an instant decision to jump ship and join their growing family in Sweden.

“I guess you could say we’re love refugees too, but not the usual kind,” he explains.

Now, the Scotsman spends his time teaching Swedes how to make stained-glass windows, something he took to himself in the UK “like a duck to water”.

Better still, he has almost cornered the market in Sweden, he says, partly because the art form is virtually non-existent around the country.

IN PICTURES: Check out Tom Smith’s art and find out more about his Sweden

Smith paints a fine picture of Nannberga itself, describing it as more of a community than a village, where the inhabitants of the “20 or 30 houses” are talkative and welcoming.

While many of the houses there are holiday homes, the 61-year-old says that a growing number of people are throwing in the white towel on their city lives and making the move to Nannberga full-time.

“And we are only 15 minutes' walk from the fourth biggest lake in the country, Hjälmaren,” the artist adds.

“Perfect if you feel like a walk.”

Better still for Smith, thanks to the layout of the village, he thinks he got a taste of France in the end anyway.

“There's a big, wide avenue leading through the village with trees on either side that gives a bit of a French feel to it,” he says.

“It feels like it could be France after all.”

And big city adventure is only a stone's throw away for the residents of Nannberga, with the bustling medieval town of Arboga and its 10,000-strong population just a short drive away.

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“Heading there is like stepping back in time, into a village; most people know everyone else. It’s a friendly kind of place. You can’t go into a shop without people knowing who you are.”

But for now, Smith is keen to get on with his stained-glass lessons.

“Some of my students have been coming for two years; I think they enjoy the social side of it just as much,” he says.

“Halfway through the course we have a British cup of tea and a biscuit that my wife bakes.”

And with the courses held in English, Smith claims the Swedes can learn even more than just the art of creating stained-glass panels.

“I say they have to pay for the courses but the English is free,” he chuckles.

As for life in a small Swedish village, the 61-year-old couldn't be happier with Nannberga.

“It’s great here, the people are lovely. They try to help me learn Swedish, but always switch to English if I don’t understand,” he tells The Local.

“I've been told so much about Swedes keeping to themselves, but we've found the opposite – people have been very friendly towards us. People go out of their way to come and talk to us.”

So does that mean France is off the cards, then?

“Well, I have only good things to say about Nannberga. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”

Oliver Gee

Follow Oliver on Twitter here

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Convicted killer offers Assange ‘legal advice’

Christine Schürrer, a German woman who was convicted of murdering two children in 2008, has offered to help Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in his legal battles with Sweden by explaining her own troubles with the Swedish legal system.

Convicted killer offers Assange 'legal advice'

Schürrer, 35, has reportedly sent a letter to the Australian embassy in Stockholm offering her expertise. Her own very public trial four years ago followed the deaths of two children in Arboga, central Sweden.

The fact that Assange currently risks extradition to Sweden is something that “scares” Schürrer, according to daily Expressen.

Schürrer received a lifetime sentence in 2008 for killing two Swedish children, Max, 3 and Saga, 1, and the attempted murder of their mother.

“She thinks that she has been mishandled, that the Swedish justice system has not taken into consideration her human rights,” said an acquaintance of Schürrer to the paper.

Schürrer’s letter allegedly reads as a warning to the Australian whistleblower.

“There are gaps in legal security here that are obvious and that threaten law and order,” the letter reads, according to Expressen.

According to the woman’s acquaintance, Schürrer believes that Swedish justice system remains at a “medieval level when it allows innocent people to be convicted”.

In her own trial, the Supreme Court, Sweden’s highest legal authority, chose not to grant her the chance to appeal.

However, Assange’s lawyer Tomas Olsson is reportedly not interested in the developments, and has distanced himself from the news.

“I attach no importance to this, it means nothing. This is something she has done of her own accord,” he told the paper.

Meanwhile, Paul Stephens, the Australian ambassador to Sweden, will not comment on the matter, according to his assistant Therese Ryde.

“I’ve spoken to him and he has no comments” she told the paper.

TT/The Local/og