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Svolværraidet memorial exhibition

The series of paintings made to this memorial exhibition is inspired by photos my grandfather's brother, Kyrre Sørstrøm, returned with from the second world war. March 4th 2011 it was 70 years since Svolværraidet, or operation Claymore as it was called in the UK, took place in Svolvær in Lofoten in Norway.

Kyrre  was among the many who embarked the English warships returning for England after the raid. He wanted to fight against the nazism. My grandfathers nephew, Brynjulf Grindedal, also embarked for England. He was not allowed at home to go. His grandmother who was taking care of him said he was too young. But he took his sailor boots in the hands, tiptoed out, and went. Maybe these men were adventurous. At least they were young. But they stayed in the service to the end of the war. This bares witness of a sense of duty beyond the reach of the adventurousness of youth. That is the truth of many of our soldiers who serve abroad today too.


When I came across these photos during a research in my family history, they made a strong impression. I wanted to communicate their stories. That became my leap into political art.


Svolværraidet and also the other raids along the Norwegian coast, was a military success.  As propaganda they had great value too, partly due to the many people from Lofoten who  volunteered for England.


As a part of the preparation for this exhibition I read the book "Thunder in March" by Harry Westrheim, Bjørn Nilsen og Dag Skogheim. I also had a long interview with now retired journalist in Lofotposten, Odd Gjerstad. Here it is told what dramatic punishment reichskommisar Terboven had in mind for the people in Lofoten who had received the Englishmen. Entire villages should be burned, and the families of those who had escaped to England should be executed. The fact that this did not take place is mostly due to the fishermen and the fishing industry who threatened to stop working. This frightened Berlin. The fish was an enormously important war resource. Terboven was subdued.


The example with the fishermen who could force the will of the occupants shows that change can be achieved through many ways. Those who do not possess canons can also contribute.


The  series of paintings shows the horrors and destruction of war. For children and the young ones who, through computer games and films, get an unrealistic impression of war, it is important that this story is retold.


The photos I found in Kyrre's album also tell about the friendship and unity that kept both ordinary soldiers and peers going. For those who view this from the outside, this is hard to understand. To easy one tries to discuss the soldiers' reality from an idealized theoretical point of view.


The memorial exhibition took place at Lofoten Cultural House in Svolvær and was part of a large ceremonial arrangement organized by Lofoten War Museum and William Hakvaag.