Meeting point for Ukrainian refugees

Oseberg Viking Heritage, the municipalities of Tønsberg and Færder, local businesses and – not least – Ukrainians themselves – have combined forces to open Norway´s first meeting point for Ukrainians and Norwegians alike.

Text: Einar Chr. Erlingsen

Photo: Willy Fredriksen

“Thanks to a lot of goodwill and effort from many, we have succeeded in establishing a gathering point for seeking help and information, cooperation and for showing solidarity with the Ukrainian people,” says Anastasiia Smyk. Herself a Ukrainian by birth and a resident of Norway, and second chair in the Ukrainian Association in Eastern Norway, she took the initiative to establish the meeting centre in the middle of Tønsberg´s main street, naming it “Vi Sammen!” (We – together!)

The centre was opened on Wednesday 7. April, in the presence of among others Ukraine´s Ambassador to Norway, His Excellency Vlacheslav Yatsluk, mayors Anne Ryhg Pedersen and Jon Sanness Andersen (of Tønsberg and Færder municipalities, respectively) and many other Norwegians and Ukrainians, the latter mainly women and children and recent arrivals from their war-torn country.

Many people had joined forces in preparing for the opening, including washing and furnishing the former bank office in the very centre of Tønsberg. Others have prepared Ukrainian traditional food for the guests. A choir of young mothers and their children singing a traditional Ukrainian folksong touched the hearts of all those present.

“Our aim is to help the refugees in establishing a foothold in Norway, and to demonstrate their willingness to become a resource in the local community.

This will be a meeting point for organisations and others who want to support Ukraine and its people,” said Anastasiia. 

Other tasks will be to offer information on Norwegian culture and society, rules and regulations and where to find translators or other services. 

“In short, we aim at strengthening the ties between our two countries,” said Anastasiia, before thanking all those who have made the meeting point possible through goodwill, work and money. A special thank to owner of the premises, Kaldnes AS, and to Oseberg´s project leader Ole Harald Flåten.

From Oseberg Viking Heritage Foundation we can add: We want to help our Ukrainian friends to feel safe and recognised, to create new networks, find comfort and a friendly word when needed, and to learn to speak Norwegian through using the language. We aim at our Viking shipyard becoming a site for integration, and hope that many – Ukrainians and Norwegians alike – will make use of this opportunity.

More in formation to be find at the information centre – Main Street no. 20.

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