Ten truly inspiring interviewees from 2015

A Syrian Stockholmer who stopped his refugee sister from drowning, an enthusiastic TV signer and a Swedish athlete who helped rescue a south American street dog are among the top ten interviewees who made us learn, gasp or laugh over the last 12 months.

Ten truly inspiring interviewees from 2015
Swedish athlete Mikael Lindnord brought home a street dog he met in Ecuador. Photo: Richard Ström/Wings for Life World Run
1. Khaled Moustafa, refugee rescuer 

When Khaled Moustafa's sister called him in Stockholm to say she was stuck on a sinking refugee boat heading for Greece, the Syrian sought help from Sweden's emergency services, and managed to kick start an amazing rescue operation that saved her life.  In September, the 40-year-old told The Local how he was campaigning for Swedish and international authorities to work to offer safer passage to Europe for asylum seekers, instead of leaving them to take what he refers to as “the boat of death”. Read the full story here.

Khaled Moustafa helped save his sister's life. Photo: Private

2. Tommy Krångh, TV signing sensation

This Swedish sign language interpreter became an overnight global celebrity after videos of his enthusiastic signing and dancing at Melodifestivalen (Sweden's prequel to Eurovision) went viral in March. He told The Local how he spends time “visualizing the sounds” before he goes on stage, practising for up to 30 hours for each track he performs. Sadly he never got to appear on Eurovision as Sweden's Måns Zelmerlöw scooped victory. Click here to read his interview.


3. Leith Eskandar, brother of Trollhättan school attack victim

The world was in shock after a masked man killed two pupils and two members of staff in October in Sweden's first mass school attack since the 1960s. The Local spoke to Leith Eskandar, the older brother of the teaching assistant who died in the violence, the day after the stabbings in Trollhättan in west Sweden. Despite his grief, he took the time to explain how Lavin Eskandar, 20, gave his own life by putting himself in front of pupils and described him as a “real hero”. Mia Jansson, a youth club worker later told The Local that the entire Eskandar family was highly respected in the town and had sought to bring different nationalities together in the wake of the violence. “Lavin I knew very well, since he was a little boy. [He was] the kindest, nicest person I ever met. The whole family, they have a heart of gold, every one of them,” she said. Read more about how Trollhättan is coping after the attacks here.

Lavin Eskandar, who lost his life in the school attack. Photo: Private

4. Titti Qvarnström, Sweden's first female Michelin-starred chef

Sweden may be famous for its gender equality, but until this year, it failed to boast a single female chef  with a Michelin star. In February, Titti Qvarnström, the woman at the helm of the Bloom in the Park restaurant in Malmö in southern Sweden changed that. “It's an amazing feeling and I am especially pleased that it puts my home city Malmö on the culinary map,” she told The Local. Check out our full interview with Titti here.

Titti Qvarnström at work. Photo: Private

5. Clarissa Hirst, entrepreneur

Each week, The Local profiles expats and immigrants who have forged fascinating working lives in Sweden for our My Swedish Career feature. Clarissa Hirst, 25, is one of the most memorable from 2015. While many foreigners find their way in Sweden's large cities, the young Australian graduate managed to launch her own communications business from rural Värmland in central Sweden and get behind an exciting project designed to encourage Swedes to open their homes to international visitors. Click here for more on Clarissa's career.

Clarissa Hirst in the heart of the Swedish countryside. Photo: Private

6. Mikael Lindnord, athlete and dog rescuer

Tales of a stray dog who latched on to a team of Swedish athletes in Ecuador were lapped up by international media at the end of last year and in March The Local reported on the animal's move to northern Sweden after months of quarantine. “I went to Ecuador to try to win a world cup medal, not to bring home a dog. But some things in life you can't control. It's like we were meant to have Arthur,” Adventure Racer Mikael Lindnord told usRead our full interview with Lindnord.

Swedish athlete Mikael Lindnord with his daughter and Arthur. Photo: TT

7. Agnes Victoria Hedengård, model and campaigner

In August, a 19-year-old Swedish model told The Local how thrilled she was to have raised global concerns about the fashion industry, after filming a video in her underwear. Agnes Victoria Hedengård revealed how agencies said she was “too big” despite her BMI (Body Mass Index) suggesting she was actually underweight, with her rant against catwalk and catalogue recruiters going viral. Find the complete story here.

8. Magnus Wennman, photographer

One of Sweden's most prestigious photographers made headlines this autumn with a powerful photo collection documenting children sleeping away from their homes during the global refugee crisis. In an interview with The Local, Magnus Wennman said he was “overwhelmed” by the reaction to his pictures but said he was glad they had captured attention. “It is not hard to understand that children need a safe place to sleep. If people are starting to care more, then I am happy,” he argued. Click here to read more.

Ahmad, 7, lays among thousands of other refugees on the highway leading to Hungary’s closed border. Photo: Magnus Wennman

9. Professor Anders Eriksson, linguistics expert and actor

On April 1st, The Local headed to Åkeby in Kalmar to investigate why a strange, Scottish-sounding phrase has stuck around in the Swedish village for centuries. We also interviewed Professor Anders Eriksson from Stockholm University, a renowned expert in phonetics and linguistics who has been studying the Swedish language for 25 years. The whole thing was invented for an April Fool's Day joke. But Eriksson made such a brilliant argument about the sound that even some members of staff who weren't in on the joke got confused! Watch the video here.


10. Kenneth Neergaard, romantic of the year

It is often claimed that romance is dead in Scandinavia, where gender equality regularly leads to bill-splitting and rarely involves guys opening doors for their dates. But Danish entrepreneur Kenneth Neergaard, 30, went to amazing lengths to propose to his future wife in the southern Swedish city of Malmö in July, by secretly growing 90 plants in a public park in order to spell out his love for his fiancee. “She had a tear in her eye and then she was speechless for a bit,”  he told The Local, as news of his unique approach went viral. Aww. Click here to read more and see photos of his gardening efforts.

Kenneth Neergaard (right) and his fiancee. Photo: Private