30 August 2018

familien-er-samlet (the-family-is-together):
5 years as refugees

A couple of weeks ago my eldest daughter said that we had reached the very day of the year when we fled from Norway five years ago.

That is right.

Our youngest does not remember Norway. Our oldest longs for Norway now and then.

The electric current failing on that evening, we sat around the sitting room table in the light from some solar cell lamps. It was a good opportunity to sum up the five years that have passed.


I made a start by saying that I was incredibly proud of the children's way of tackling all the new things they have had to adapt to after we moved. I also told the children that these have been the most fantastic years of my life.

I expected the children to roll their eyes, thinking that "oh no, daddy is going to make a speech". But they stayed calm and seemed to appreciate our conversation.

After my brief start, the children chimed in, one after the other, with their own views and conclusions. Some were humoristic, others more serious and focused on explaining. Some of them found words for things they had not said before. We got to talk of that which had been so good, and about that which had been difficult.

I realise, humbly, that our children are doing fine and they function normally in a country which is gradually getting to be more foreign to me than to them.


I wonder why thoughts still come to me of how the Norwegian assistance system thought our children ought to grow up with strangers.

Curious, really, that it was possible to say that these years have been the most fantastic of my life. They have also been the most difficult, except for Barnevernet's ravaging of our lives the last couple of years before we left.

When things were at their worst, I had to ask people home in Norway to send money. That was very unpleasant. Then things became more settled and our financial situation improved.

I would have hoped that the fear of Norwegian child protection would have lessened after some years abroad. That has not happened. On the contrary: I have had the possibility of analysing what happened in our case, and today I have more respect for Norwegian Barnevern than ever.

"Respect" in a negative sense, I mean.

I still sometimes wake up from painful dreams in which Barnevernet is involved.

An educated man who had never feared authorities, I respect Barnevernet without reservation. I know they can destroy us and any family, and that the odds of winning against them are bad. I know that rational arguments and common sense have no force with them.


Do we long for Norway?

Yes. I do. And my eldest daughter does. In three years she is of age. She can then settle in Norway if that is what she wants.

For the other children, it is necessary to stay away until they are safe. That is some while yet.

It is Norway's shame that things are like this. It is a shameful thing that my greatest fear here in another country is that something or other should happen which could make it necessary to return to Norway.

But today, then, I am proud of the fact that we have tackled these years and are still optimistic.

I sent a text message to Norway way back just after our flight five years ago. In it I explained to an acquaintance why we had escaped.

The answer was brief and to the point:
" – I understand. The family is together!"

That, of course, is why we are still here.


So, then, I myself have arrived at a kind of crossroads. In the years that have passed since we fled, I have been furious with the system which made it necessary at last to get away. I have discussed with them, sent mails, tried to get into a dialogue with them. The chief medical officer of the county. The mayor. The Board of Health Supervision. The municipal administration. The head of the municipal child protection unit.

I have met an impenetrable system, one I did not think existed in Norway.

Recently I came across a wise formulation:
"The secret of change is to focus your energy, not on figthing the old, but on building the new."

It is relevant for us as a family. To leave the painful past behind and look ahead. Perhaps that is what we must do.


See also

familien-er-samlet (the-family-is-together):
Flight, exile and taking chances
MHS's home page, 11 November 2020