Arnie* and Astrid,* Sweden “It was very cold. The house was in bad shape — but that’s just how it was.”

Arnie and Astrid refer to being statare, which refers to contract-workers in Swedish agriculture who, contrary to other farmhands, were expected to be married, and were provided with a simple dwelling for their family. Instead of eating at the servants’ table, they were often paid in kind with foodstuff.

Q: How did your family stay warm at home during sub-zero winters?

A:  Astrid / We were not cold, because in the evening they put peat in the kitchen stove; the fire kept burning, so it kept the heat. In the morning, they put in firewood.

Q: When you were a child, did your family ever experience limited access to energy and heating resources for reasons outside of their control, strictly speaking?

A museum in Sweden replicates an old farmhouse with an actress playing the role of a farmhand.

The interior of an old Swedish farmhouse with an actor playing a maid. Photographed at Skansen outdoor museum in Stockholm, Sweden in August 2008.

A: Astrid / I remember that for a time after the war, we did not have hot water. There was a rationing of everything. But then all of a sudden, sometimes on Fridays, you would get hot water and then everyone would bathe. Electricity was rationed, I was aware of that. Although we were a big family, we could only consume the same amount as the single lady who had lived in our home before us.

Q: How cosy was the house you both moved to after getting married?

A: Arnie / It was very cold. The house was in bad shape – but that’s just how it was.

Astrid / When we got married, he worked on a farm so I also moved back; it was only so we would have somewhere to live. We had one of those statare* apartments, which had a heating stove and a kitchen stove and things like that. But, for me that was hard: I was not used to being uncomfortable in that way.

SYSAV waste-to-energy plant in Malmo Sweden

The SYSAV waste-to-energy plant incinerates waste to feed district heating and generate electricity.

Q: Has your current home always been cosy?

A: Astrid / It’s great now, but during the very first years we were actually cold here. We complained about the heating all the time, that it was poor. But last year or, last winter, then we told them again ‘you have to do something about it.’ So, they flushed all the radiators and exchanged the radiators in the kitchen and the bathroom to put in larger radiators one. They also changed the thermostat.  Now the temperature inside is 23°C.

Q: What about your current heating system?

A: Astrid / I think it is good with this district heating system. It is not as it was before when every single property used to have a separate heating system.

Arnie / They have drilled deep, here in Lund, from where they take some heat. They also generate heat by burning garbage. I do not know if they add any oil, maybe they do.

Astrid / I think it’s good that they feed the fire with garbage.

Learn more: To understand how ‘waste-to-energy’ plants in Sweden provide district heating and generate electricity, check out the film.

* Names are fictitious as per the agreement to be interviewed.