Sweden’s Aussies and Kiwis remember Anzacs

Sweden's Aussies and Kiwis remember Anzacs
Celebrating Antipodean military history may seem an odd crowd-puller at the Swedish horse races, but not only has the Täby Gallop Racing Club for Anzac day seen visitor numbers surge 20 percent every year, it has reunited families.

Australian Rob Manuell arrived in Stockholm in 2000, but after losing touch with some of his expat mates from Australia and New Zealand over the years, he soon decided it was up to him to find a way to bring them back together.

“I realized the importance of keeping the Australian and Kiwi expat community in touch, and the most important national day shared by both countries was the obvious way to do it,” he told The Local.

In 2010, he got the green light for an Anzac (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) horse race at the Täby Gallop Racing Club, which will celebrate its fourth anniversary on Sunday. Last year’s event pulled in over 1,000 people, and Manuell expects even more to show up this weekend when the gates open at 12.30pm.

“The official ceremony will give people a chance to reflect on our brave ancestors and the quality of our lifestyle enjoyed today,” Manuell said.

Swedish military bagpipers will be on the scene, before the event moves on to more music, kids’ activities, and of course, a good dose of horse racing.

And while Australia today is a popular tourist and study destinations for many Swedes, the history between the countries goes back further. Illegal Swedish immigrants to Australia who had left in the 1800s were told they would get Australian passports if they fought for their new country. About 300 signed up, Manuell explained, recalling the fates of the Swedish Anzacs.

In fact, the Aussie Stockholmer himself even had a hand in reunifying two families involved in the war, a moment he considers one of his own “greatest highlights”.

“I recently reunited two families in Sweden and Australia that never knew of each other’s existences,” Manuell said, explaining that the families were descended from two Swedish brothers who fled poverty in Sweden during the 1800s.

“These families are now in regular contact which gives me great satisfaction and confirms really how recently this war was in historical terms,” he told The Local.

As for this weekend, Manuell is beaming about the chance to get out in the Stockholm sunshine to enjoy the event.

“It’s a high-class but easily affordable day out, and if you do happen to back a winner then you can always go home with a bit extra as well,” Manuell said.

Oliver Gee

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