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Sweden's 'snow man': I didn't want to be saved

Sweden's 'snow man': I didn't want to be saved

Published: 21 Feb 2013 17:12 GMT+01:00
Updated: 21 Feb 2013 17:12 GMT+01:00

The now 45-year-old man's improbable story of Swedish winter survival made headlines across the globe in February 2012.

Local emergency workers were stunned that he had managed to stay alive for 60 days without any food in the frozen car, which was discovered on a forest trail outside of Umeå in northern Sweden by a pair of passing snowmobilers.

Questions swirled like mid-winter snowflakes as to why he had parked his car at the edge of a secluded forest in the middle of the bitter Swedish winter and why he never left.

As the man recovered from his ordeal in hospital, the Discovery Channel in the United States set about making a documentary film about what it called "an incredible story of survival".

On the one-year anniversary of his being rescued from what he thought would be his wintry tomb, the 45-year-old has come out of a long media hibernation by granting an extensive interview, published on Thursday by the Aftonbladet tabloid.

And according to the man, who wished to be referred to by his real name, Peter, the interview will be the only one he grants.

"After this, I want to be left alone," he said.

The request for solitude seems fitting for a man whose search for seclusion inadvertently landed him in the unwanted spotlight.

"I wanted to be like a bear and hibernate through the winter," he said.

According to Peter, his bone-chilling escapade started in the autumn of 2011 when he moved to Umeå in a bid to get a fresh start in life.

But starting over in northern Sweden proved tough going, and unable to find work or housing, Peter resorted to sleeping in his car.

As Christmas approached, he decided to "celebrate in the woods".

"I wanted to find peace," he told Aftonbladet.

He loaded up on cigarettes, liquor, coffee, and some basic provisions before driving his black SUV out to the edge of the forest on December 18th, 2011.

The makeshift shelter gave Peter everything he needed, including much needed quiet.

"The only sound was the wind blowing through the trees," he explained.

Save for a few trips to the petrol station to buy more supplies and a couple of walks in the woods, Peter stayed in his car listening to Christmas music on the car radio.

A few days after Christmas and amid a steady snowfall, Peter made an attempt to move his vehicle, but only managed to drive a few metres.

With snow pouring down, he realized then that he was likely to be stuck for good.

But he didn't mind.

"I was happy in the car, it was like my own cabin in the woods," he said.

"I decided to fuck it all and celebrate New Year's too."

The days passed and Peter smoked his last cigarette on January 8th, at which point he started to lose track of time in the mid-winter darkness.

"I was able to get over the hunger. The problem was the coffee and the craving for cigarettes," he said.

Sometime later, Peter made one last ditch effort to walk the three kilometres to the nearest petrol station, but turned back after falling down three times in just a matter of steps.

Out of petrol, food, and with his car and mobile phone batteries dead, Peter began to accept what he saw as his inevitable fate.

"I was so happy out there. I didn't want to be saved," he recalled.

A thick blanket of snow on his SUV and his sleeping bag helped insulate him against the -30C cold.

Peter sipped melted snow he collected by cracking open his window and dreamed of coffee and cigarettes falling from the sky.

At some point, he heard the noise of a snowmobile. Sometime later, he heard the noise again, followed by a man's voice.

"It's the police."

"Do you have cigarettes?" asked Peter.

"No."

"Do you have coffee?"

"No."

"Then close the door. It's cold."

When he was told it was February 17th, 2012, Peter couldn't believe his ears.

"There was no way I could have survived that long. I couldn't understand why I wasn't dead," he said.

By the time he was rescued, Peter's weight had dropped from 70 to 45 kilos.

"I strongly don't recommend using this method to lose weight," said the man who now weighs about 60 kilos.

After dodging prying paparazzi for weeks at the hospital in Umeå, Peter was moved to a facility in his home county where he began a regimen of physical therapy and counselling before finally leaving the hospital in June 2012.

He now works part time for the municipality and hopes to find a new job that will allow him to save enough money to buy a cabin in the woods.

Peter's SUV remains abandoned where he left it one year ago. And despite the near-death experience and media exposure, Peter said he has no regrets.

"Quite the opposite," he told Aftonbladet.

"I'd like to be back there. It was a great time."

The Local's Swede of the week is a person in the news who - for good or ill - has revealed something interesting about the country. Being selected as Swede of the week is not necessarily an endorsement.

RELATED: A list of The Local's past Swedes of the Week

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19:48 April 5, 2013 by Dio
So, it was not a hero's story, but a crazy-man's story, after all.
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