Story of Julio Parada. From Chile to Sweden
I studied in Moscow when I was young, in a university dedicated to Latin American students, who would return to their countries to contribute with their skills and knowledge. This period had a profound impact on me.
When I returned home to Chile, things were happening, the Left was moving towards a revolution, and I immediately became active in politics. But when the September 11 coup took place in 1973 and Allende was overthrown, my time in Moscow marked me as an agent for the Soviet Union, and I was arrested and tortured. I was later condemned to 14 years in prison for belonging to the Communist Party and for being an activist.
I was in prison in August of 1975, when a group of us, 24 comrades, found out that our sentences had been changed. We were all going to be extradited. They forced us out of Chile, and they threw us on an aeroplane.
Once I was sat aboard the plane, I heard the flight attendant say, “Ladies and gentlemen, fasten your seatbelts, as flight SAS will soon be taking off, destination Stockholm.”
When I arrived it was summer and I recall that it was like arriving on another planet. In the first place, poverty was nowhere to be seen, everything seemed so structured, so planned-out, the transport, and the timetables. Everything functioned like clockwork. Everything was so unfamiliar.
I never thought that I would come to call this strange place I arrived to, almost 40 years ago, my second home. I have planted my roots here. My grandchildren are growing up with Sweden as their first home. Still, it is very important for me to tell them my story, which is so closely entwined with the story of our country, Chile, so they learn about our past. To tell them my story and how I came to Sweden, I have to explain the history of Chile. It is impossible to separate the two.
Julio Parada’s story is part of the book “Siete Vidas” by Luis Salas, telling the stories of Chileans fleeing to Sweden after the 1973 coup d’etat.