There is a place that I will never forget… Trondenes. It is a peaceful, forested peninsula, with a medieval stone church, on the north tip of Hinnøya. Once a Viking settlement, the area was turned into a German barracks during the war. Now there is a Norwegian military base in it’s stead. The Adolph Cannon, built by the Germans and left behind as it was too big to carry, is now a tourist attraction.
When we lived in the area, we used to go walking in the forest. Every now and then we would stumble on some ruins. Not left by the Viking, but huts and shelters left by the war. During WWII the whole of Finnmark was evacuated by the Germans. All their homes and buildings where burnt down to the ground, only churches were left standing. The Germans herded many of the people to Harstad, the biggest city on the island of Hinnøya.
Once there, the Russian prisoners of war were forced to build shelters for the evacuees. The Norwegians had great empathy for the Russians and they became friends. (Farfar, a boy of 18, would sneak them food – risking his own life.) When the war was over, the Russians were set free. Some of them stayed for a while visiting their Norwegian comrades before returning home.
The ruins we would stumble upon where build by the hands of these Russian prisoners of war. There was one particular area that made me too weak to stand. I am a grandchild of a solider, in a country that never experienced the war on it’s own soil. I had never been so effected, so touched by a war story, than when I was standing amongst these ruins.
Below is a video of our experience:
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