Salvatore Macri moved to Sweden as a boy so that his dad could work at the electrical company. Now he's a chef at an Italian restaurant in Västerås.
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Salvatore Macri moved to Sweden as a boy so that his dad could work at the electrical company. Now he's a chef at an Italian restaurant in Västerås. Credit: Dave Russell / Radio Sweden
Researcher and senior lecturer at Mälardalen University, Michela Cozza, is the latest in a long line of Italian migrants to the city of Västerås.
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Researcher and senior lecturer at Mälardalen University, Michela Cozza, is the latest in a long line of Italian migrants to the city of Västerås. Credit: Dave Russell/Radio Sweden
Sören Bååth remembers working with Italians at Asea (ABB) and today is the chairman of the Industrial Historical Association in Västerås.
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Sören Bååth remembers working with Italians at Asea (ABB) and today is the chairman of the Industrial Historical Association in Västerås. Credit: Dave Russell/Radio Sweden
Historian Niklas Ulfvebrand, posing in front of a statue of Asea workers on their bikes, is leading a pizza tour of Västerås this weekend.
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Historian Niklas Ulfvebrand, posing in front of a statue of Asea workers on their bikes, is leading a pizza tour of Västerås this weekend. Credit: Dave Russell / Radio Sweden

I remember all the Swedish girls fell for Italian boys

7:10 min

Salvatore Macri remembers like it was yesterday the day in May, 1966 when he first arrived in Sweden after a 72-hour train journey from his small village in southern Italy.

I was 13 years old and it was my first time on a train. It took three days. I was with my mother and siblings. It was very exciting. My father was already in Västerås."

His father was one of hundreds of Italian migrants recruited in the post-war years by the Swedish government to meet the demand  for skilled industrial labour in a country untouched by the Second World War.

The first 26 Italian workers at the Asea factory in Västerås (now known as ABB) arrived in September 1947. Six hundred more arrived within the next two years and the demand continued for two decades.

The first migrants were housed in barracks in the Hammarby area of Västerås, which became known as Little Italy.

As part of an agreement between the governments of Sweden and Italy, the Italian workers were given special access to wine and food from back home.

The arrival of the "exotic" Italians was not met with universal approval by the locals, particularly the men.  

Stefano Besagni remembers his grandparents' stories of how the men were jealous about the Italians' attraction to women.

"They told funny stories of how the Swedish women used to go to the barracks where they lived to visit and drink wine. One night the chief of police led a raid because they were playing cards and found his wife there!" Stefani Besagni tells Radio Sweden.

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