When the barber came to Boden

Photo Mats Engfors/Fotographic

From war and death threats in Mosul to hipster beards, antiques and his own salon in Boden. It’s Barber Gorgis Farha’s journey.

Dark wood paneling, real carpets, a stylish chesterfield sofa and antique objects from the past. On a shelf are brown jars with beard oils and hair wax. Halfway up, the hairdresser’s chairs line up in front of large mirrors with frames of dark-stained timber.

Here you can, among other things, get the trendiest men’s look right now; a well-groomed beard, a tight skin barrel and good-looking eyebrows. And then a moment of relaxation.

It could be a real hipster place barber shop on Södermalm in Stockholm. But we are at Guldsaxen in Boden, barber Gorgis Farha’s dream come true. However, the journey to the dream has been far from straight. Gorgis, now 38, grew up as a Christian in Mosul, Iraq, and there were often conflicts between Christians and Muslims, which made schooling tough.

– Dad was a blacksmith and did not want me to become a hairdresser, he wanted me to work with him. But my uncle helped me become a hairdresser, he says.

He learned the trade by practicing with a barber and after his father passed away, Gorgis started his first salon in Mosul as a 20-year-old.

Forced to leave

But conflicts in the area grew and Gorgis’ colleagues lost their lives after cutting Americans. He received threatening phone calls that he was next in line and feared for his life, so he fled. Through Turkey, Greece, Italy and Germany, he went to Sweden, as his grandfather described with warmth.

– Grandpa traveled a lot and always said “If you are moving, move to Sweden. There are such good people there, ”Gorgis remembers.

He ended up in Boden and after eight years of waiting, Gorgis finally got a permanent residence permit and the right to work and run a business. He had the plan completely clear to him. First, he worked as a carpenter for a while to raise money. Then he got hold of the premises on Kungsgatan, which many recognize as an old patisserie, and after a month of renovation, he opened Guldsaxen in the summer of 2016.

– I have done everything myself, the table, the shelf, the panel on the walls, he says. As Boden’s first barber, Gorgis has created something unique and the salon is doing well.

– I love this job. When I cut, I do not think about time or money, it’s so much fun, he says.

He has an employee and more and more customers come here via recommendations from friends and acquaintances.

– They like my salon and they like me, everyone is happy when they leave here.

In the future, he hopes to rent a chair to someone who is good at cutting longer hairstyles and even further ahead he wants to expand and open another salon.

Thrives in the small town

He will stay in Boden. This is where Gorgis has found his home. He enjoys the small town feeling, the tranquility and all the people who live here. A hobby is to hunt for antiques, both for the home and the salon, and here in the immediate area there is a large selection.

– I like old things, they are often handmade and there is a story behind it, it means a lot to me.

The only thing he really misses from Mosul are places by the water where you can settle down for a bite to eat and something good to drink. So he takes matters into his own hands. He does not fish himself, but he likes to go fishing with his friends to sit by the beach and grill.

It is now 14 years since Gorgis met his mother and siblings. They fled to Canada and have a few months left until they can get a passport and travel. This summer, Gorgis will be able to show Boden and the local life we live here to his family. He longs.

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