Beautiful mountains, fjords and tiny islands out in the open sea. Those are the pictures we are used to see of my dear Norway. A few days ago, before the bombing in Oslo and the shooting at Utøya last Friday, I never expected my homeland to be the center of attention as a result of terror. As the Norwegian author Jo Nesbø put it in his article The Past is a Foreign Country, “For many years, it seemed as if nothing changed in Norway. You could leave the country for three months, travel the world, through coups d’état, assassinations, famines, massacres and tsunamis, and come home to find that the only new thing in the newspapers was the crossword puzzle. It was a country where everyone’s material needs were provided for. Political consensus was overwhelming, the debates focused primarily on how to achieve the goals that everyone had already agreed on.”
Of course things changed over the course of the years, from having a population where just about everyone had the same cultural and ideological background, to a country where people with different nationalities and culture found their place. Being naïve, thinking that no one would ever hurt our little land, not even from the inside, might have been Norway’s biggest mistake, but also its strength. Being able to walk around in the city without seing a single armed guard, and having direct access to politicians without barriers. Even the prime minister could bike to work or go skiing without to much hassle. Sometimes you met him and he would stop for a small chat, like an old neighbor or a friend.
Three days after the terror attacks, committed by a right-extremist who’s name doesn’t deserve being mentioned here, I was walking around in a damaged Oslo, hurt but not broken. The streets were filled with people, many carrying flowers and lighting candles. Different political opinions and religion aside, there was a consensus that the way ahead should be filled with more democracy, more openness and more love. ”We are so few in this country, every fallen is a brother or a friend.” Nothing describes the feeling in Norway better than the poet Nordahl Grieg’s words written during World War 2.
Us Norwegians might not be known as the warmest of people, but during the last few days a message has been spread all across the country and outside its borders. Love, warm hugs, people caring for each other and standing up for the society they want to live in, has been that message we all look to pass on. In the words of one of the survivors from Utøya: “If one man can spread so much hatred, imagine how much love we can show together.” This is a time for togetherness and unity, not hate and fear. On Monday evening over 200 000 people with flowers in their hands showed that patriotism doesn’t have color, age or background. We’re in this together and no extremist is going to break us down.
She loves cities with imperfect facades, photography, traveling by bike, vintage hunting, and everything that comes with cheese. Follow her visual diary at anchoredpaperplane.com.