Alice Eriksson Kalla was one of the Swedes from Kiruna who in the 1930s travelled to the Soviet Union to help create the communist society.
Alice Eriksson Kalla was born in 1925 in Kiruna, the eldest daughter of Hilma and Ernst Eriksson Kalla. Her father was engaged in the Swedish communist party that was strong in Kiruna. With a background of economic depression with high unemployment and his ideological convictions, working in the Soviet Union was an attractive opportunity. Alice Eriksson Kalla was seven years old and her sister Astrid was five when the family emigrated in 1933 to the Soviet Union. They were some of the around 30 people who left Sweden, the so-called Kirunasvenskarna (Kiruna-Swedes). When the group arrived in Uhtua (now Kalevala) in Russian Karelia, they were given the task of building a road. The Soviets had them under surveillance and several of them were shot after having been found guilty of some form of sabotage. Ernst Eriksson Kalla was sentenced for economic sabotage and shot in 1938. After her father’s death, Alice Eriksson Kalla, her sister Astrid and their mother Hilma were banished to a work camp in Pongoma near the White Sea, where their mother drowned in 1941. Alice Eriksson Kalla was then 16 years old and her sister Astrid was 14. The girls lived in a pigsty and had to work hard but managed to survive.
Alice Eriksson Kalla was sentenced in 1944 for economic sabotage and defamation of the Soviet Union. The first-mentioned was based on her being said to have embellished reports on work results in the work camp, and the latter because she had a long time previously told her schoolmates in Uhtua about Kiruna. Her punishment was banishment to a work camp in Kotlas, Archangel. In the camp, she bore a son whose father was another prisoner. Her sister succeeded in getting the child out of the camp and he was sent to the Ukraine. When Stalin died in 1953, Alice Eriksson Kalla was released like many other prisoners who had been sentenced to hard labour. Her son lived with his father in the Ukraine, however, where she as a previously sentenced person had no right to work. To support herself, she was given work in Tjita in Siberia. There she met a man whom she married.
Astrid Eriksson Kalla had decided to get herself home, which succeeded in 1956 when the Swedish government obtained exit permits for some Swedes. She never forgave her father and nor did she ever want to talk about what she had experienced. Alice Eriksson Kalla remained however in the Soviet Union. After its fall in 1992, she was at last able to return to Sweden and Kiruna, after 59 years “near the furthest wall of hell”. When she had passed through customs at Arlanda and been given back her passport, she said first: “Thank you very much!” Thereafter she broke down and lay on the floor and cried. The customs men asked her what was wrong. She said: “You don’t know what thank you very much means!”
Alice Eriksson Kalla’s great achievement after arriving home was that despite threats and warnings, she dared to recount what she and her family had been through. In Kiruna, she met people who had become informers in order to be allowed to return to Sweden. They refused to greet her.
Five years after her return, she took contact with the author Bengt Pohjanen, who recorded an interview that has been saved on DVD.
Alice Eriksson Kalla died in 2019.