Norway Demands to Own an Icelandic Child - in the 21st Century

Leifur Eiríksson standing guard
(This post is published solely on IcelandEyes.com. If you've found it reposted without permission on a click-bait blog with any other title or a URL that doesn't include the words IcelandEyes, please do yourself a favor and visit the original Iceland Eyes website instead:) 

A classic shot, and a memorable view for anyone who has traveled here to Reykjavík. This statue of adventurer Leifur Eiriksson ('Leif Eriksson') gifted to Iceland by the US in memory of his travels back in the day, stands brave and tall, silhouetted against an early winter twilight. Son of the famous Eiríkur Rauði, or Erik the Red, who settled Greenland in 986 A.D., and an ancestor of mine 27 generations back, he was also the
grandson of one Þorvaldur (Thorvaldur) Ásvaldsson who fled Norway for Iceland in the Settlement Era and never looked back. 

Norway, however, is definitely in the news again here in Iceland, and not in a happy way. I was hoping to find something on the consistently excellent Iceland Review website, one of the most long-standing and influential English-language print and online magazines in the country, or in the Grapevine, but it looks like neither has yet written about the messed up case of the Norwegian Child Welfare Services (Barnevernet) demanding that they be able to take an Icelandic citizen, a 5 year old boy, from his mother and grandmother, with an official deadline that he be handed over in two months. They intend to place the little guy in foster care with some Norse family who will be paid to store him for 13 years. Yes, you read that right. Just in time for a miserable Christmas in the company of strangers!

I don't have the time to go into the whole saga here and now, and I don't see news on this scandal translated into English yet, but we the public are shocked, and are demanding our Minister of the Interior do something, and right quick, so that this child will not be stolen from his family in some modern-day Dickensian nightmare. 

I did, though, run the text of an article in Vísir about the situation through Google Translate,  and I have to say it came out better than I thought it would, albeit a bit choppy and with some words dropped here and there. I recommend you do the same. Be sure to check out this detailed article and interview about case the from the award-winning newspaper Stundin as well.

Please don't get the impression that this is a stand-alone situation where the enlightened, socialist Norse know something about the child's family that the general public doesn't. Iceland is a small country. Word gets around. Yes, the mother (Elva Christina) is young and as a matter of fact went to summer camp with my own daughter, and yes she had a scary run-in with the very dark underworld of "perfect" Norway when she moved there with her mother, older sister and her toddler son. And yes, she ended up in a six-month Norwegian rehab program (where, rumor has it, there's usually partying going on full-force.)

But she's been sober for a year now, and she's opened up her entire life to the scrutiny of the public, press and Icelandic Child Services because she has nothing to hide. She messed up, she asked for help, and she's finding her way through life one healthy day at a time.  

Her ability to perform perfectly as a young mother isn't even the crux of the situation, though. It's this: both her mother and her older sister (who moved out to Norway as well with her husband and their twelve year old daughter) went through all the proper evaluative and administrative steps to have the boy placed legally in their care (after the Norwegian authorities decided that, because Elva had asked for their help to get herself out of the underworld she was stuck in, that she was unfit to parent her son.) Though there seemed no justifiable reason to do so, the Norse authorities decided that, instead of being adopted by his immediate family, whom he wanted to stay with and whom he'd known all his life, he was to be removed, placed with a family paid to take him in, and to only see his mother twice a year, for a few hours at a time and under supervision, for the next 13 years. 

Faced with that Helena, his grandmother, flew her daughter and grandson home to Iceland this summer. Norse authorities want the boy back.

That's the raw bit of this story. That's where Norway's demands are exposed for what they are: kidnapping.

And once again, if you think this is a unique situation, it simply isn't. Go ahead and run "Norway child services" through your search engine. You´ll get headlines like, Norway Child Welfare Services faces growing global protests and Norway is Taking Children From Their Parents and Sparking an Outcry, and even, from the mighty BBC, Norway's Barnevernet: They took our four children...then the baby.

Or you can watch this documentary by Australia's award-winning current affairs show, SBS Dateline, entitled Norway's Stolen Children? for a chilling view into what some are calling a modern-day version of a totalitarian state, cloaked in the mantle of some romanticized ideal of Scandinavian socialist perfection. 

It's anything but. 

If this happens, it'll not only break the hearts of everyone involved, but it will destroy this boy forever. He's definitely old enough to have firm, clear memories of his mother and grandmother, the scents of them and the feel of their love for him. If he's taken away, he'll be being told, directly and/or indirectly, that these women, and his aunt and uncle, are bad people. This will contradict every ounce of deep love he has for them, and he'll never be able to truly trust his feelings again. Children are forgiving creatures, and if we let them their presence can heal us and give us hope for the future. To destroy the inherent bond of familial love with the violence of unnecessary, forced separation, to cast doubt on the pure heartfelt feelings of a child and demand that he or she deny and mistrust their own emotions, is destruction of the kind that bleeds down through the generations, unhealed.

The pain this boy will feel if he's taken from his family will never be soothed, the hole where his mother was will never be filled, though for the rest of his life he'll try to do just that, in any way he has to, and with whatever long-term repercussions. I feel like I can state that to be a fact.

This can't be allowed to happen. And if I have any say in it, if protests need to take place, if a wall of bodies needs to stand guard at this family's home, I'll do my best to make sure it doesn't. 

If you'd like to state your opinion to the Icelandic government, please feel free to write to Ólöf Nordal, Minister of the Interior, at: postur@irr.is, visit her on Facebook or find her on Twitter at @olofnordal. 

[Update December 12th: Little Eyólfur will NOT be sent to Norway! This is huge news, and though no further details have been released, it's an absolute blessing for the child that he won't be removed from the extended family that loves him less than two weeks before Christmas. It feels strange wishing congratulations to Elva as this should never have happened at all, but Congratulations all the same! : )

[Update October 7th: Vala Hafstað has just published an article on this scandal for Iceland Review.]
Elva Christina and her son. Photo by Anton Brink for Visir 

2 comments:

Jono said...

I would like to try and understand Norway's reasoning behind this. It seems rather cruel and I wonder how the legal aspects would hold up in an international court?
As an aside, I am a direct descendant of Þórfinnr Þórdarson (Karlsefni). I assume our ancestors may have known each other.

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