Vellinge (Sweden), Haemophilia B
At age 17 Gert Grekow lost his brother to haemophilia, a condition he too suffered from and had to endure for years without medication. But today, at 73, Gert Grekow is more alive than ever.
It’s summertime in the small town of Vellinge. The wind is nearly still, apart from a quiet breeze moving through the open green fields, characteristic of the south of Sweden. In the midst of the fields stands a white house, in front of which Gert is waiting; excited and a little anxious.
“We met at his home partly to make him feel comfortable, but also to create a contrast between his strong story and the idyllic environment,” says Goran Kapetanovic, the director of the film.
“The landscape was beautiful, everything was in bloom and Gert greeted us with so much enthusiasm. I think he felt a certain pride, he wanted to show us what he had accomplished.”
The reason why Goran Kapetanovic and Gert Grekow met in the first place was because of Anders Molander; the president of the Swedish Haemophilia Society. Anders Molander was interested in hearing from someone who had lived with haemophilia before medication was available.
“It’s a story about being different, a lost childhood but also a story about having the strength to fight,” says Goran Kapetanovic.
“Despite everything that Gert has gone through, he tells his story with clarity and distance. Listening to Gert is like opening a treasure chest of experiences, emotions and perspectives. It’s fascinating how he has stayed so positive and so full of life,” says Goran Kapetanovic.
When 73-year old Gert Grekow was born in the 1940’s, access to haemophilia treatment in Sweden was basically non-existent. In the film he describes the everyday struggles of living with haemophilia, as well as the ignorance surrounding the condition.
“Back then there was very little knowledge about haemophilia and extremely widespread prejudices. Haemophiliacs were in a sense marked, which is why the psychological strain became as big as the physical one, says Goran Kapetanovic and admits to being guilty of some prejudices himself before meeting Gert.
”I thought, like I imagine a lot of people do, that cutting oneself meant you would bleed to death. But through this journey I have learnedt that the biggest problem is the pain and the loss of mobility. Also today’s treatment makes it possible to live a fully normal life.”
Survivor of a life-long struggle
In the film Goran Kapetanovic focuses solely on Gert Grekow who is allowed to speak without interruptions or voiceovers. The reason, Goran says, is because he discovered that Gert had the ability to tell a story.
“I realized that all of his pain and experience had been canalized into knowledge. So I let him take the time to tell his story.”
Today the situation for haemophiliacs in Sweden is completely different. Most people born with haemophilia live a completely normal life thanks to prophylaxis – which is regular, preventive treatment –, physiotherapy and other treatments, which have become standard. Still, Goran Kapetanovic is convinced that Gert Grekow’s story is one that needs to be told.
”All around Europe there are still people living without access to medicine, and it is important not to take the treatments we have for granted. They are the result of a years of research development that cost a lot of lives, and we need to acknowledge that.”