To halve and to hold: Husband returns home from work to find half his house demolished after wife sold her share to make way for controversial Rio Olympic Park
- Luis Geraldo dos Santos, 52, came home from work one day to find half his house demolished after wife Edileza sold her share
- Families are being offered compensation to make way for Olympic Park being built for next year’s Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- The couple had split but had shared house with their children for ten years
- Luis told MailOnline: ‘I think they went a bit too far really. I mean, isn’t it enough having to live with your ex for the last ten years?’.
- Edileza, who moved out with her elderly father, told MailOnline, it was an absurdity, adding: ‘At first I thought Luis had done it just so I couldn’t change my mind and come back’
- Many families are refusing to make way for the Games and face eviction
A husband has been left living in half his house when authorities bulldozed it down the middle after his ex-wife took compensation to reclaim land for the Rio Olympic Park.
Luis Geraldo dos Santos, 52, is one of hundreds of residents of Vila Autodromo, a community situated on the edge of the Olympic Park site for next year’s Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The neighbourhood, some of which lies inside the planned Olympic Park, has been marked for demolition by Rio’s city council. While some have accepted compensation deals others have bitterly vowed to hold out.
Luis, who separated from wife Edileza more than ten years ago but continued living with her, recalled: ‘I came home from work knowing my ex-wife would be gone and thinking, marvellous, I’ll have the whole place to myself.
‘But when I arrived I saw that they’d chopped it in two. I could hardly believe what I was seeing.
‘The house is exactly half of what it used to be. Even the living room which she and I shared, and the dining room where we ate meals together, has been cut right through the middle.
‘The demolishers later told me they’d been ordered to remove my ex’s half of the house, as that’s what she’d been compensated for. So they did.
‘I think they went a bit too far really. I mean, isn’t it enough having to live with your ex for the last ten years? And now when she finally leaves, everywhere I look I can’t help but remember her, and not in a good way.
‘If that isn’t bad enough, I haven’t had a shower in the last 15 days. When they destroyed her side, they managed to cut off the water supply too. You see, I finally get rid of her and now I stink. It would be funny if it wasn’t so serious.’
Edileza’s half comprised two bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and bathroom. He had use of two bedrooms and a living room.
Luis, who is ironically a bricklayer, moved to the Vila Autodromo after arriving in Rio from Brazil’s northeast 25 years ago in search of a better life. He said authorities offered him just £20,000 for the four-bedroomed home in from of the picturesque Jacarepagua lake – a fraction of what it he claims it was worth.
Organisers designed Rio’s Olympic Park around the lake ignoring the road of houses, some of which have been there for more than 50 years, which they decreed needed to be removed for the work to be completed.
Luis said: ‘When Rio won the Olympic Games I was cheering more than anyone else. I felt so lucky to have the Games happening in my city, and right next to my house. But then they came telling us we would have to leave to make way for it.
‘I came here with nothing, bought my land and built my house. It’s my life, I love living here. My dream was to live here for the rest of my life and to die here.
‘But now that dream is over, thanks to the Olympics. Now when I think about the Olympics it just makes me angry.’
His daughter Thais, 17 (and her baby) and son Igor, 14, stayed with their father in Vila Autodromo. But Luis’ ex took her three older sons from a previous relationship with her when she left.
Thais, who has an 18-month-old son, said: ‘This used to be a good place to live and to raise children. It was quiet and peaceful, and our home was always happy and full of people.
‘We all lived under the same roof, even though she and my dad were no longer together. But now it’s horrible.
‘They had to make separate offers of compensation to both my parents, because they were no longer married. But I never imagined that because one accepted and the other didn’t, they chop our house in two. It’s just ridiculous.’
And now ex-wife Edileza seems to be even having second thoughts.She said: ‘It was my idea, because I wanted to help him have a place to live.
‘It was a bit strange living with your ex, still got on well even though well and avoided each other when we needed to. We didn’t fight much.’
Edileza, whose father also lived in the house, said: ‘I remember the day I went back to visit and found our house chopped in half. It was an absurdity. At first I thought Luis had done it just so I couldn’t change my mind and come back!
‘It made me very sad to see the home we had lived in for so many years like that. People think it’s funny but not for us, it’s agony seeing our house like that. We built that home with much sacrifice, it was part of us, and now we’ve lost a part of us that we’ll never get back.
‘They even knocked down the mango trees next to the house which we’d grow up with. That was the part that hurt the most.’
Her 88-year-old father Estelian died of a heart attack one week after they moved from the house.
Edileza has now moved to a distant neighbourhood of Rio, Pedra de Guaratiba, 30 miles from Vila Autodromo with five of her children.
She said: ‘I never wanted to leave out home, but I felt under so much pressure I ended up caving in. Now I’m renting my house, something I’ve never done in my life.
‘If the Olympics had never come to Brazil I would still be enjoying my life in the place I loved.’
Around 90 per cent of residents in the Vila Autodromo, which once numbered 600 people, have already accepted compensation or alternative housing offered by Rio’s city council, nearly a year before the start of the 2016 Olympic Games.
But around 40 families have rejected the offers – which are often way below the market rate – and are resisting attempts to forcibly remove them from the homes many have lived in for more than 30 years.
The community, which occupies a small area on one corner of the Olympic Park site, was orginally an illegal settlement started by local fishermen – but residents later won the ownership rights to their land.
Homeowners claim the Games are being used as an excuse to flatten the community and sell the land – prime real estate in one of the city’s most expensive areas – to build luxury apartments for the ultra rich.
With the clock ticking until the completion of Olympic construction work, Rio mayor Eduardo Paes recently signed a decree calling for the urgent removal of the remaining properties in the Vila Autonomo, opening the way for the removal of residents against their will.
But while many have vowed to fight to the end, Luis is now resigned to losing the rest of his house too.
He said: ‘I’ve only got half a house left, I’ll never get that back. Now I’m thinking of accepting the compensation offer, even though it means I’ll be I will have to start all over again.
‘It’s not fair, but what can I do? There’s one rule for the rich and another for the poor. Thanks alot, Olympics.’