Heloisa Helena Costa Berto

"The whole time, I held my head up high, and even inspected their work to see if they were knocking it down correctly."

Coming from
Rua Autódromo, 144, Vila Autodromo Rua Autódromo, 144, Vila Autodromo

Now living in
Cidade de Deus Cidade de Deus

I didn’t shed a single tear, and until now I don’t know how I didn’t, because I am a crier. I didn’t shed a tear. The whole time, I held my head up high, and even inspected their work to see if they were knocking it down correctly. And that was what they couldn’t swallow, they had this face… because they didn’t expect me to have that reaction. Like my daughter, who when it was time for them to knock down our house, she wanted to cry, but I said “Swallow it. Swallow your tears right now!” because I didn’t want anyone crying in that house.

I remember the first time I saw the land. I remember that I looked at the lake, I remember that mountain of… I always forget the name! It was that herb that only grows by the lake. They took all of it out of there. It was that herb which you dry out, then plait to make that mat in Bahia, you know? So they took all of it out, and it only grows there, in muddy lakes. It doesn’t grow anywhere else, and they took it all out like it was a weed. But I remember the image very well, that image of the lake. That hospital, Sara, wasn’t there then. There was nothing there. It was just an island. There was nothing there. Barra de Tijuca wasn’t there. You know? Just the lake and fishermen. So I liked the feeling of that air. People might have said “ah, the lake stinks,” or I don’t know what. There were times when it had a higher level of pollution. It got more polluted when all those apartments were built. Before it didn’t have anything. When it was just us living there, there wasn’t any pollution, nothing like that. Sometimes when I felt, sad, I sat down there and cried and looked up at the sky. There was no view more beautiful than that. In the afternoons, the sky would meet the lake and form a mirror, and it was really beautiful, really beautiful.

I was already negotiating, it was at the time of negotiations, and I was sure I was going to leave in a week’s time, 15 days. And when I was going there, the music that stuck in my head was a Tom Jobim song. That music never left my head. When he sings about the thrush’s corner…the music says, the music says. The thrush’s corner, that it’s going to exist again. They wrecked everything. They wrecked everything… it was a pure piece of land! My centre… we believe that a place which has a spiritual centre is a sacred ground. There was a rose bush, which belonged to my mother, it was 20 years old. I asked if I could take it out, and they said they would be there another day for me to come and get it. The rose bush was the first thing they ripped out. There was no way to bring another one there. My herbs… nothing! I couldn’t come and get anything from there, not my herbs, nothing at all. Because for me, these things are important.

Reporter: Natalia Viana e Mariana Simões

My journey

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