Date: July 16, 2017
He grew up to become a celebrated
actor. But inside he hid another person. An adopted boy
who did not know who he was. This is the story of
Michael Nyqvist's search for his own story.
They stopped in front of the door of the big house. Gerd
and Åke longed for a child and after careful
investigations that had shown that they looked like
parents, a child was waiting for them inside the door.
But they did not know who it was, yet.
They stood on the stairs to St. Göran's orphanage in
Stockholm and it was quite late in the fall. Therein the
children lay in small beds. They were mostly girls and
they were often the most popular.
But instead Gerd and Åke Nyqvist stopped in front of a
bed where there was a small and very cute boy with dark
hair and blue eyes. His hand cradled a red ketchup
bottle. It was the boy's only toy. He was the one
who had been in the nursery for the longest time, and he
was quiet and watched Gerd and Åke with his big eyes.
There was no doubt that he was just the boy they really
wanted. Now he would accompany them to the home of the
lawyer and his wife in a Lidingö apartment. Now he would
have a new and better life.
He was named Rolf Åke Michael on
Wednesday, November 8, 1961. Michael became his name.
Without knowing that his father was not Swedish, he came
from a country where you could spell Mikael with "ch".
Adoptions were still quite sensitive
at this time so it was not mentioned though it must have
been mysterious to those who knew the family because no
one had seen Gerd pregnant.
Michael had a safe upbringing and the family would
hardly be called rich even though they lived in "rich"
Lidingö. But Åke Nyqvist's job as a lawyer paid enough
to put at least some gold in his life.
They made trips by car, often big American cars, which
Åke proudly steered to the mountains and around Sweden,
but also abroad. One of these travels was to change
Michael's life forever.
In the book "När barnet lagt sig", which Michael Nyqvist
wrote and published in 2009, he explains in detail about
the trip. And that's a moving story, just like the whole
He tells how they go in a big Ford V8
and how daddy drives for 210km on the autobahn while
Michael sings. The journey is through Germany since they
went there via the ferry between Trelleborg and Sassnitz.
The goal is Venice, a long journey, and when they
arrive, they check into a hotel with a large balcony and
a view of the water. They walk around town and Michael
remembers a square with a dining room with a big
umbrella with the text "Cinzano" on it.
"I can drink Coca-Cola and Pepsi that I have never been
allowed to drink at home and I find myself fast in
luxury," Michael writes in the book.
There is a reason why the family is
in Italy and there is a reason why mom and dad are so
They are sitting in a cafe on a roof terrace and Dad Åke
smokes, despite being in the morning, and he never
smoked, and there is something in the air, something
nervous, something worrying. They are silent and the one
who breaks the silence is Mommy Gerd.
"I'm your mother, but not your real mom," she says
straight out. "Your real mom, who had you in her stomach
is not me, but I'm your real mom."
It sounds confusing to anyone and how it sounds to a six
year old is probably even more difficult to imagine.
"You were born in a orphanage," continues the mother
with trembling voice. "Your mother was young and could
not have you. But when we got you, it was the most
beautiful day of our life. You came completely naked
with just an empty ketchup bottle. It was your only toy.
When we drove you from the orphanage, I asked your dad
to drive carefully and the dad replied that you were the
most expensive thing he ever drove.
This is how Michael Nyqvist describes
the dramatic moments in his book, and also told in a
summer program on the radio and in several interviews.
He learns that his true father is Italian, but not more.
He has difficulty retrieving what has just been said,
but it will characterize his entire life.
On their way back home to Sweden, Michael promises not
to tell anyone that he has been adopted. No easy promise
to hold, especially when you're only six years old.
At home, Michael tells what happened
to his best friend at Kolmårdsvägen in Lidingö.
But the friend does not want to believe what he hears.
When the boys come in to eat, Michael tries to tell his
friend's mom. He cannot help it. She rejects him too,
thinking he's just kidding. She laughs at him. When his
mother comes to pick up Michael, he makes another
attempt and says, "Mom, you have to tell me what you
said in Italy, that I'm adopted and that my dad is from
Italy. Tell it to them."
But the mother pretends to be amazed, saying, "I do not
understand what you're talking about."
On the way home, his mother reminds
him that it's a secret.
Åke and Gerd divorce a few years
after they adopt Michael. Michael then lives with his
mother in Lidingö, while his dad moves to another
apartment in Stockholm. But he sees him every other
Sunday. On one of these occasions the mood is a bit
special. Michael writes in his book how his father
confirms to him that it will be harder to hear from him
in the future. Michael tries to convince him to keep
calling, and above all, to stay with him.
"You said parents who adopt love the children even more
than other parents because they cannot have their own
children," he says.
The father says that's correct, but he still has to go.
He walks into the snow and gets in the car, Michael will
soon be ten years old and he runs forward to the car in
his socks. He sees the tail light. He reaches the
tailgate and sees his father's neck and at the same
moment the car makes a rush start and disappears.
"My cry can hardly squeeze through the cramp I have in
my throat. I hear my voice far away and it sounds like
when a fox screams," writes Michael Nyqvist in his book.
"I immediately understood that he
would not turn the car around, that he would not come
back to me. It was like I died... I took it as an
incredible betrayal and tried to get my dad back all my
life. I saw him just a few days before he died.
In several interviews, he has told of
the two biggest events in his life, about the news that
he was adopted and the day his father disappeared in the
The third major event occurred in 1990. Michael was 30
years old and had become a father himself. Ellen was
born on June 10, 1990 and just three months earlier,
Michael had married her first wife, Pinita. Michael had
become an actor at this time and had some minor roles.
But what happened on the day Ellen came into the world
was that Michael's thoughts on his own past were
revived. That's when he realized that nobody remembered
something from their own first year of life.
He knew that his biological mother was Swedish and he
had found adoption papers from the Social Council, where
it says "well-founded boy child" and "mother convinced
He also found her former name. Through the tax
authority, he managed, on the pretext that he was
checking if a customer has made payments, he found her
current name and residential address.
She was born in 1941 and lived at Arbetargatan at
Kungsholmen in Stockholm and even got a phone number.
"I called and I wrote letters, but she did not want to
meet me. I thought it was incomprehensible," he says in
the close-up SVT documentary "Michael Nyqvist - A
Portrait" by Susanne Cederberg.
A year later he decided to try again.
He realized that the beginning of the letter was very,
very important. Somebody needed someone to make sure she
did not just throw it away.
"I want to thank you for being there," he wrote.
In the rest of the letter, he describes, according to
his own book, that he grows up with adoptive parents,
that he has a daughter and that he now wants to meet his
mother and get the name of his biological father.
"Then I'll go away," he wrote.
It takes some time, but then a letter comes and Michael
realizes it's from his biological mother.
She writes that the meaning of the beginning of
Michael's letter, "I want to thank you for being there,"
prompted her to change and attend a meeting.
She suggests they meet, but only in a month and then at
a cafe next to the swimming pool at Medborgarplatsen.
When the day arrives, Michael is there in good time.
He walks around, but sees no one who could be his
Suddenly she appears.
"Hi, you're Michael, I understand," says a woman.
For the first time he sees his mother, the woman who
bore him 30 years earlier, and he finds that she is
similar to his adoptive mother.
"You look like your daddy," she says.
enter the cafe and settle down.
Another man comes in. He has a briefcase and he seems to
The man orders a beer and sits a bit away from them.
Michael tells his mother he wondered his whole life over
his origins. And then he
asks about his dad, who he was. His
mother picks up a piece of paper and hands it to him.
He unfolds it and reads:
"Marcello Lo Cicero".
She tells him they met in Paris in 1958 when he was
there for study.
He studied chemistry and eventually they agreed that
Marcello would go to Sweden and continue his studies
They moved to Stockholm but Marcello was not allowed to
study in Sweden.
Instead, he started working as a dishwasher to collect
Among other things, he worked at the Grand Hôtel.
But he did not feel very welcomed in Sweden.
He moved home to Italy, but it is unclear if he knew
Michael's future mother was pregnant.
Anyway, he was gone when Michael was born in November
For almost an hour and a half, Michael and his mother
have been sitting and talking when the drunk man comes
to their table.
Michael is surprised.
But then the man tells him that he is married to
Michael's biological mother and so he says something
very important and explains a lot to Michael.
"It was me who took you away," he says.
"Forgive me, can you forgive me?"
begins to cry.
Michael says goodbye to his mother
and leaves. In his pocket he has the name of his dad.
Now the next detective work begins.
In an interview with Aftonbladet, Michael Nyqvist says
later that it was his mother's biological mother who
demanded she leave her newborn son at the children's
He has the name, knows that he
studied chemistry in Paris and has lived in Casablanca
but is an Italian citizen. Through the Italian consulate
in Casablanca, he gets help.
The name is relatively unusual and Michael begins to
search via European number information. He gets phone
numbers in Belgium, Italian Turin and Moroccan
Casablanca. But it leads to nothing. Michael is prepared
to take almost any action to achieve his goal.
Finally he calls the Italian
Consulate in Casablanca and says he is looking for his
biological father. But then he lies. He says he has a
serious blood disease and must know if it is hereditary
and therefore needs to get in touch with his father,
Marcello Lo Cicero.
Michael says, "Polycymetia Vera".
"I do not know what that means," he writes in his book.
But it was silent in the handset for half a second. And
another official took the handset.
Michael was asked to fax the first page of his passport
which he did immediately. And just as fast came the
It states that Marcello lived in Casablanca until 1971
and that he's married and has two children. The family
moved to Florence in Italy and he is a pharmacist.
When Michael is over 35, he leaves for Italy. He has
booked a hotel in Florence for a week and the goal is to
meet his father. He now knows that he lives in Florence
and Michael has found out which pharmacy he operates and
where he lives.
The pharmacy is located on Via Sodini, a fairly small
It's a nervous 35-year-old standing there smoking
cigarette on cigarette and drinking a double espresso
and just waiting for the right moment to step in to meet
And then he approaches the pharmacy, he steps in and
there's a man in his 60's, but Michael quickly finds
that it cannot be him.
Behind another counter is a younger woman in her 30s and
has blonde hair.
Michael goes to her and asks for Marcello Lo Cicero.
The woman laughs and says that he has traveled on
holiday to Ireland and he is not coming home until two
A disappointment spreads in Michael. He has booked the
hotel for a whole week and he is not there. He
leaves a letter for the young woman saying that it's
very important that she gives it to Marcello.
She promises to perform the assignment.
During the week in Florence, Michael succeeds in looking
for the house where his dad lives and he photographs the
He goes to the pharmacy almost every day that week and
buys a few different things every time.
An early morning a couple of weeks later, the phone
rings in Michael's family summerhouse in the Stockholm
Michael, who divorced his daughter Ellen's mother in
1994, has met another woman, Catharina, nine years
younger than himself.
They have a son, Arthur, born in 1996, and they will
marry two years later.
phone call is for Michael.
his dad calling.
Padre, come stai?
Says the voice in
(in Swedish: It's your dad, how are you?).
Michael's Italian is not so good so he switches to
He realizes immediately that his dad is happy to have
received his letter and it is a relief.
"Do you know who you gave the letter to what you left at
the pharmacy," says Marcello.
Michael answers no.
was your sister, Beatrice.
Michael writes in his book that he does not remember so
much of the rest of the conversation because it was too
much to take in. But at the end he remembers when his
"Now I do not let you go, now you will not let me go."
They keep in touch and it is decided that they will meet
in Sweden in Stockholm and the place will be
Medborgarplatsen. Marcello wants to stay at the hotel
They decide on a time to see each
other but Marcello does not show up. Michael goes and
gets a beer and another. He sits in the hotel's foyer
and time goes by. After four hours, a man in yellow
camel-hunters arrives through the glass doors. He has
brown shoes, a suitcase in light leather in his hand and
his gray hair is stretched backwards.
Michael describes him in his book as elegant and
"It's my dad," he writes. "In one second, I'll recognize
him, though I have never seen him."
When they greet each other, Michael finds that they have
the same hands, father and son.
In the evening they leave from Södermalm to Djurgården
where they will eat at Ulla Winbladh restaurant in
Djurgården where Michael booked a table.
As they pass the Grand Hôtel, Marcello says that he once
worked there as a dishwasher when he was with Michael's
mom. He also reveals that he never knew what happened to
Michael, that he did not know that his son was adopted.
In addition, he tells Michael that his family is from
Sicily, that his grandfather had a cargo where they
cultivated wine called Lo Cicero. And so he said that
most people living in northern Sicily have blue eyes and
that Michael's eyes are similar to his grandmother's.
Marcello also tells Michael, that he has two siblings,
Beatrice, whom he had already met at the pharmacy, and
Fabricio, who lives in Paris.
Michaels and his father's families meet more often in
the years to come. The family also gets together
when Michael's sister Beatrice gets married.
In 2001, Michael's adoptive father,
Åke, becomes ill with a blood disease. He makes contact
with him during the illness. One day at the end of 2001,
he flew to Stockholm and when he landed at Arlanda, his
mother called and told him to go to the hospital
immediately. His father was weak. Michael sat with him
when he died on lucia day 2001. He was 77 years old.
Michael had not visited his father's apartment often.
Their contact had been bad for many years, almost all of
his life, and Michael did not think that Åke cared for
him. But he decided to visit the apartment to begin
sorting and cleaning. He found that it was a dwelling
for a lonely man. He describes in his book how he opened
boxes and lifted newspapers on the bedside table that
contained many medicine bottles.
He suddenly remembered how he had a theater premiere
right next to his dad's home once and that Åke had been
there for a while and that the reviews afterwards were
brilliant, but that Åke did not say a word about it.
Michael found a closet full of beer
cans, but in the closet next door he saw something he
did not expect. Here's what he wrote"
"I open the closet in the middle and
find that it's full of magazines and clippings. Some of
the newspapers are from the resort. It's all about me.
He has highlighted reviews and interviews with yellow
marker pens. He has every theater program I've been in.
Every image taken ".
Above all, Michael Nyqvist found his roots. He knew why
he was abandoned and he knew who his biological mom and
The meeting with Marcello was the beginning of a warm
and cordial relationship. Michaels family traveled back
and forth to Florence to see Marcello and his family in
He had a good life thanks to his adoptive parents. But
they had also caused him a great deal of pain,
especially for so many years when he had to conceal that
he had been adopted.
But there is always something good in everything that
hurts. He also shows great gratitude to his adoptive
parents, despite what happened. In a summer radio
program, he ended with "I want to dedicate this program
to my mother. Mommy Gerd, thank you for putting up with
all my impossible questions over the years, because I
know they were almost impossible to answer. Thank you
for being there."