Come start over with me in #MySkellefteå

If I'm ever going to write a book about my life, don't be surprised if I mention the name Skellefteå a billion times.

"There are a couple of words in Swedish that make me really happy when I hear them. Bastu (Sauna). Fika (Swedish coffee break) and ... panta (recycle cans). Panta mera." We're both laughing hard, me and Agnes. This story is about her. About Agnieszka Boeske. She moved to Skellefteå just 1.5 years ago and she knows what it's like to start over.

We’re sitting together outside one of the small cottages in Bonnstan. So far, English has always been our common language, when we’ve run into each other. But today, as I’m making a video portrait of Agnes she is challenging herself to talk Swedish. A language she had never heard of one and a half years ago. As support she has brought a couple of notes in Swedish, just to feel a bit more comfortable, but before we had even started, those notes fall between two planks on the porch and disappear out of reach.
– Oooh, that will make this even harder, Agnes sighs. But just as quickly as the notes disappeared, Agnes is smiling again.

Agnes was born in Chodziez, Poland, and decided to move to Skellefteå, Sweden when her husband got a chance to study, one of just four students, at one of the most respected wood engineering master programs in the world.

– When you move, everything’s different, Agnes explains. A new language, a new job, you have no friends, and you need to start living day by day to make small achievements. It’s not easy, but very thrilling to just start over.

For me that passion right now is to learn about the arctic way of living and to find my own role in Skellefteå.

I have studied Albanian and Macedonian, Agnes says. That’s not something that is really requested in Skellefteå. But Agnes is an energetic and very social person with a lot of courage.  She has had a couple of different jobs already, and now she’s actually starting up her own company. But we will come to that later.

Why Skellefteå?

– Of course I’m interested in knowing more about your relation to Skellefteå. That’s me asking Agnes a very open question.
– I always get that question, Agnes smiles.
– Why a city far up north, where there’s snow six months a year. Why not a city somewhere else in the world, where the sun always shines. It’s not super easy to answer that, but I think that Skellefteå challenged me. It got me questioning things in my life. Made me find myself after reducing all noise in life. I’ve never experienced so many new and unique things in such a short period of time before, and I just love the arctic lifestyle

– I’ve lived in Kosovo, Macedonia, Albania, Poland but I’ve never felt so at home as I do in Skellefteå. I have everything here that makes me happy, caring people, beautiful nature, and the entire Swedish Lapland within reach.
– Also, I think that I appreciate the warm summers more after a cold and snowy winter. If I ever write a book about my life, don’t be surprised if the name Skellefteå appears a billion times.    

Agnes eyes are constantly glowing. She looks passionate and full of life. I’m happy to see people like Agnes getting drawn to the place on earth that I take for granted.

– I could state in court that the most important thing in life is a passion for trying new things, Anges says.
– For me that passion makes me push harder. To wake up a bit earlier in the mornings ready for a new day. For me that passion, is right now, to learn about the Arctic way of living and to find my own role in Skellefteå.

Interior products with a touch of Swedish Lapland.

At the last minute, Agnes, together with her husband Konrad, applied to a Skellefteå based competition to win her own corporation. They didn’t expect anything, but they both got nominated and were finally announced the winners. So now they are now in the process of starting up their own business, ‘Feels Like North’.

– I’ve never had any plans to start my own business, Agnes tells me.
– I’ve never come up with that perfect business plan. But now, after one and a half years in Sweden, I feel so creative and inspired, so I just decided to go for it. Our plan is to create interior design products, such as espresso cups and reindeer horn-shaped lamps with everything being constructed by wood. Agnes is demonstrating with her hands to illustrate her ideas.

– Our products are inspired by Swedish Lapland. But since we have grown up with a different culture and background, we can look at traditional products with new eyes which results in unique products. We’re planning to travel around in Swedish Lapland to find more ideas and inspiration.

– Everything that we produce is built with resources and materials from the Skellefteå area. It feels good that we know who the owners and producers of the wood and wool are. It’s so nice that this small town can give us everything that we need to run our business.

When I and Agnes have talked for 45 minutes about her restart, I realised that I’m quite moved. I’m starting to consider what it would be like, to move to Poland just like that. But quickly realising that I’m not half as brave as Agnes was. And to be honest, I feel quite at home in Skellefteå.