In December last year, Maire Pekhonen (71) left Sweden to marry Lamin Sanneh, (34) in Gambia.
- Life is short and I want to have fun, she says in an interview with Expressen.
Back in the apartment in Gamleby, Maire now puts aside money from the pension each month. She hopes to be able to afford to travel to Banjul in December to celebrate her one year wedding anniversary.
Gambia, December 2016
There was little water at the hotel, Maire noticed when she showered, and when she opened the refrigerator, a cockroach came out. But she doesn't care, as today, it is her wedding day, and she has just spent the first night with her new husband, Lamina.
- He is faithful and before we were married Islamic he would not do it. But now we have had our first night together, she says.
The Islamic marriage Maire did not even have to attend, she just gave him SEK 700 so that he could register it. And then it was time for the legally binding wedding.
Maire takes her two insulin syringes that are lying on the breakfast table, but she has unfortunately forgotten her dipsticks at home and may run a little short. She hopes that she will survive this week-long trip as she has some health problems to struggle with, and she takes six different medications. In addition to diabetes, she is also suffering from both heart and kidney failure, but the mood is good and she is driven by curiosity and desire for adventure.
- Life is short and I want to have fun, she says.
And then it's off to get married. Lamin, who works at an office, supports Maire, who has swollen feet and difficulties to walk. But the rollator she left at the hotel. It is better to be safe by hanging on to a man than hang over a walker, she says. Maire has longed for love and a man at her side. What others say, she does not cares about.
- We do nothing illegal, we are adults and do what we want.
Laminaria and Maire met in 2014 when she was waiting for a taxi in Gambia. She was tired and he came up with a white plastic chair for her to sit on. It made a strong impression, and she managed to track him via Facebook. They have looked at each other through Skype (audio has never worked) and written to each other before they decided to marry.
- Now I understand why he never showed his right hand in front of the camera when we were on Skype, but I do not care if his hand is malformed. And that he has a stutter means nothing either. I'm half dead, both sick and overweight. And sex is not that important, I'll be honest, the main thing is to be number one for someone. Not having to be alone, says Maire.
The ceremony is short, it starts at 10:13 and the kiss by the newlyweds concludes the ceremony at 10:20.
Wedding witnesses to sign the wedding certificate are Maires friend Hilkka and the groom's sister Binta. The marriage is Maire's fifth and Lamin becomes her third Gambian husband in a row.
- I like traveling, and in Gambia you do not have to do anything, the men make contact with you. And they are beautiful and different, I like rasta hair and they have nice eyes. And they are kind, at least in the beginning, says Maire, who have bad experiences from her first two Gambian husbands. They were both in their twenties when they married Maire. The first guy packed his bags and ran as soon as he was informed of his permanent residence in Sweden, and the second relationship ended as it was not good between them. Recently, she has been told that he has remarried with a woman nearby.
- So I have some bad experiences, but now I hope it gets better. Everybody can not be bad.
- I love African drums and to dance to them. It is very important to me, says Maire, who gets excited when she sees five musicians waiting at the restaurant after the wedding.
But she is disappointed when her groom does not want to dance with her after the dinner. He even refuses.
- He seems to have his own strong will, she says, a little disappointed about his unwillingness to dance to the infectious rhythms.
Instead her new husband has once again gone away to make a phone call.
Maire is a little disappointed, shouldn't he cuddle and kiss her instead of constantly talk on the phone? But after several wedding guests have danced, he finally gives in to the pressure and dance briefly.
Sweden, February 2017
Every day she has contact with her husband through Facebook. They are chatting about this and that and Lamin looks forward to coming to Sweden, he writes. When asked to comment on the age difference, he says that age is just a number. Maire is laughing delighted, saying that her husband is good with words. She wants him home as soon as possible and has now embarked on a process to get him to Sweden. Moving down to Gambia is no option for Maire, who rely on a qualified healthcare.
It usually takes between one and two years to get a temporary residence permit when a Swede marries a foreigner, and from that day it takes two years to get a permanent residency. If there is a divorce before that, the spouse has no right to stay in Sweden. If the marriage lasts for two years, the partner can stay in Sweden even if the relationship crashes.
The Migration Board says no
But Maire just got rejected by the Migration Board to bring home her new husband.
- They write that one should have a second bedroom and I have two rooms in the drawings. But they say it's only one. And I had accidentally written that the apartment is 45 square meters, but it is only 37. What is the significance? So now I have to appeal and it is very hard. But I'll never give up! she says.
Maire is not the only Swedish woman who has had bad experiences with younger African men:
READ: 68-year-old Swedish woman feels deceived
And it's probably a widespread Western problem sadly:
READ: British woman fears Tunisian toy-boy husband only wed her for VISA
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The new trend is ''fleeing'' by taxi in Sweden. A fare of 620 miles, which will cost around USD 1,900, and comes on top of it the amount already paid to smugglers, but it is obviously not something we should react to.