Montessori believed in telling stories to spark interest in learning. One of the best ways to share your heritage with your child is tell true stories about your family. Here is the first part of a series that I wrote about my mother’s story during WWII in Norway.
The Paper Clip War
My most profound memory is the morning my Mom woke me up and told me there was war in Norway. I was 13 years old and it was April 9, 1940. I had until then lived a happy and sheltered life with my family and friends in the fishing village of Stavanger, Norway. However, the next 48 hours would prove to be the most eventful and life changing of my young life.
After waking me up, Mom ran downstairs to our landlady, Fru Undem, and said that they must pray. Fru Undem said she did not feel worthy to pray because she should have prayed before this terrible thing happened.
Later that afternoon, we noticed the Nazis setting up machine guns outside our home. Mom and Dad immediately decided it would be best to go to Grandma’s house. My parents, my little brother and I, with our dog in tow, hastily biked to her house. We wanted to be surrounded by our loved ones.
At Grandma’s we were embraced by my two American cousins, Olle and Irene, along with my Uncle Torjus, Aunt Selma, and of course my precious Grandma. As soon as we had taken off our coats, Grandma ushered us into the dining room where tea was waiting for us. I felt comforted eating my boiled egg and bread in the room where we had spent so many happy occasions and holidays together.
That evening we received our first order from our captors, we were to completely block and cover our windows each night. If any light escaped from the windows, the Germans would shoot at the light. This outer darkness would last for the next five years.
Dazed, we went to bed in a state of shock. In the middle of the night our beds began to shake as the heavy tanks, artillery, and trucks drove through the formerly peaceful streets of Stavanger. As the onslaught of the German army moved onward through the night, I tried to grasp what would the future bring with the Nazis occupying our neighborhood, city, and country.
The next morning was a beautiful, warm spring day. For a brief moment, the nightmare of the day before seemed like a dream. We hurriedly ate breakfast and went outside with the other children to watch what was going on. Suddenly, a huge crowd of people walked past Grandma’s house. The Germans had started a rumor that there was going to be a battle in the city and that we must evacuate.
My Uncle Torjus decided that we should take shelter without delay at Aunt Selmaâ€™s childhood farm on the outskirts of town. So we gathered what belongings we could carry and briskly hiked to the farm. Tante Selma’s family heartily welcomed us. The adults gathered together and began to talk in hushed and serious tones about the occupation. We children quietly escaped outdoors to the barnyard and started to scope out the best places to hide during the upcoming bombings. Our minds were quickly turning from childish thoughts to the reality and seriousness of war.
We decided that the hog house would be the best bomb shelter. It was a two-story structure with the pigs on top. We decided the lower floor would be a great place for protection. We figured the pigs would get the brunt of the bombs. That day we moved into a new type of play called war.
Later that afternoon, we saw a cloud of dust with a bread truck in front of it speeding down the farm road. When it stopped, I saw my dad running out of the truck. Dad shouted there was a boat at the nearby pier that would take people into the country. Mom, Grandma and the children would be able to escape to our family farm there. He herded us toward the truck, putting Grandma in the front. Everyone else crammed into the windowless back compartment. The driver was a young man with a cauliflower ear, who did not have a driverâ€™s license. During that crazy and wild trip we blindly bounced and fell on each other. Suddenly, the truck stopped and Dad opened the back door for us. Squinting, we filed out into the bright sunlight.
We briskly walked to the end of the dock where we saw a steam boat waiting. Masses of refugees were crammed onto the boat. By the time we boarded, there was barely any standing room. The boat was so full that looked like it was sinking. Like us, everyone was fleeing into the mountainous country on the edges of the fjords.
Soon the boat pulled away from shore and I saw my father waving to us. I was sad to leave my dad and I wondered if I would ever see him again. He looked so sorrowful and lonely standing there on the dock. He finally disappeared from view as the boat headed into fjords.