People on the Move

Faces of migration

The people portrayed in this final set of images have experienced the impact of migration first-hand.

As shown by the emblem held by the boys in the front, the men in this group portrait are all former residents of Zagorichani: one of the centres of the Bulgarian revival in Aegean Macedonia, nicknamed "Little Sofia". Since the Ilinden Uprising of 1903 the village had begun to decline. Many inhabitants sought refuge in Canada, where people from that region had been settling as 'pechalbari' (seasonal workers) since the 19th century. Toronto was a much-favoured destination, as immigrants could work in abattoirs, iron and steel foundries and often ended up running restaurants, butchers and groceries. Several organisations celebrating Macedonian culture were established in Canada, such as the Zagorichani association 'Napredak' ('Progress') shown here.

Frank Otto Skeppstedt, his wife and four children proudly pose for the studio photographer.

At the time this picture was taken, the Skeppstedts (now Shipstads) had migrated from Sweden to St. Paul, Minnesota. Frank worked at a foundry but barely brought in enough to feed his family. Yet Eddie Shipstad - one of the boys in this portrait - was to become a household name in American entertainment. It started when Eddie joined Oscar Johnson in skating on the frozen lakes of St. Paul. Soon they were practising stunts and got hired to perform during hockey games.

From these early ventures, in 1936 the Ice Follies were born: the first travelling extravaganza on the ice, that would thrive for almost 3 decades. A son and a grandson were named after Eddie Shipstad, both following in his footsteps as ice show directors.

This picture tells the story of Ali and Ismail Shurdha.

As a seafaring merchant, one day in 1912 Ismail set out from Albania to Africa on his ship 'Hulusije'. With cargo loaded for the return, an African boy of about 12 begged Ismail to take him along. He was without family and feared he would end up as a slave. Ismail took the clever boy, called Ali, to his home town of Shkodër and raised him together with his wife. The portrait shows Ali as a grown man, surrounded by the family that gave him a new life. The story of Ismail was shared with Europeana by his granddaughter Lindita Lohja, who also provided this precious family portrait.

Siblings Erna, Linda and Evald Lagerström grew up on Muhu, an island in the Baltic Sea belonging to Estonia.

Yet, in 1943, an alarming message prompted them to leave: 19 year-old Evald was summoned to join the German army. On 20 October, they sailed away on a 7.5 metres long boat, remaining undetected because of the high-reaching waves. Two days later they arrived at Nynäshamn, a municipality in Stockholm County, Sweden. Smiling at the photographer are twins Erna and Linda shortly after their arrival, wearing traditional costumes from Muhu: a sweet reminder of the life they left behind.

Sending us off is Swedish painter Mimmi Zetterström, who left Stockholm to pursue arts studies in Paris. Mimmi became a port of refuge for young Swedish artists and presented at several Salons, often with landscapes of her native country. In this self-portrait, she is depicted from the back while working on a canvas.

As the end to our journey through these stories full of courage, adventure and inspiration, Mimmi’s self-portrait symbolises what this exhibition has hoped to achieve: a look into history reflecting present-day reality.