A rare photo from 1945

A rare picture: Ukrainian refugees 1945.

We have also previously had refugees from Ukraine in Norway. There were 182 girls who had been picked up from school in Ukraine and sent to Norway to work as forced labourers in the fishing industry.

These women were treated somewhat better than others as they were important to the German firm Fischeinkauf Gemeinshaft, who were responsible for all production and purchase of fish for Germany. The Ukrainian ladies were stationed on Svinøya in Svolvær and had to take a small ferry across the harbour to get over to the centre of Svolvær. And they did that once a week when they saw the cinema with the janitor and a German soldier as guard.

On Svinøya they made a large and magnificent choir. In the evenings, when they rehearsed in the great barracks, many stood and listened quietly in the darkness outside while the girls’ song of loss and longing for their homeland rose to the northern lights that blazed and the starry sky vaulted over.  A powerful experience. 

If they liked someone, in the summer they braided beautiful flower wreaths that were hung on the person who might have helped them with some small things.

The picture shows three of the ladies after the liberation on 8 May at the steamship quay in Svolvær.

Clothes were collected for them and a Norwegian lice jacket has been obtained. Good mood because the war is over. They are oblivious to the ugly and unfriendly reception they were to receive in Stalin’s Soviet Union.

There were many crushes on the days of liberation, but the girls were sent back so quickly that there was no time for anything more. However, one of the girls married a Norwegian and stayed behind in Norway.  The male person is someone from Leknes who thought it was fun to be in the picture. 

Photograph coloured by William Hakvaag from Lofoten War Memorial Museum.

Visit Lofoten War Memorial Museum

Lofoten War Memorial Museum

The largest exhibition of rare uniforms and artifacts from World War II in Norway. Unique historic snapshots. Personal and engaging.