My Friday book: Lebensborn or “Nowhere’s Child”

Barnet från Ingenstans

Barnet från Ingenstans

Through my life I have discovered that some people will only feel like victims when they are informed of being just that. But from that moment, they can not think about anything else and will sink deeper and deeper in to self-pity and rage. Not until 2008 when she was 64 years old, did Kari Rosvall discover that she was a Lebensborn child and suddenly her life was not worth a spit. Suddenly she started talking about guilt and shame but also about anger and other feelings. And I am sorry, but for me, her story only comes off like a scream for attention. A long poorly written 229 page long scream.

I have read what a lot of people have written on Goodreads about this book. Too late. And for the most part, it seems like noone was aware of the Lebensborn program. Which for me, a historian is difficult to fathom. I have known about the Lebensborn program since I was 14 years old and started my fascination with world war two. Not that I knew a lot about it back then, but I did have the essential knowledge that Hitler for one, encouraged German Aryan couples to have as many children as possible. Women received medals depending on how many they gave birth to. But Hitler realized that it would take too long to build up a Master Race, no matter how many children the German women gave birth to. This was in the days when you did not have a child out-of-wedlock unless you wanted to live out your life in shame. So he ordered the Nazi men, to have extra marital affairs with young Aryan maidens. Homes were set up for this purpose. For the sexual encounters but mainly, so that the women would have a safe haven to hide in, while pregnant. Obviously, their “elderly” parents might not appreciate their daughters sacrificing themselves in that manner, for the Reich. I mean, there is a limit to how much one is ready to put up with!

These children, brought forth in such an unorthodox manner were, together with all the legitimate children born, the future, the Master Race of blond and blue-eyed children, that Hitler wanted for his Third Reich which was going to last for a thousand years. When he started to occupy the rest of Europe, he extended the program to include children already born. Blond blue-eyed children were kidnapped in various countries, to be raised in Germany by loyal Nazis. Their parents never knowing where their children had disappeared to.

Norway, was invaded and occupied in April 1940. Now. I am not a Norway expert at all. But its world war two history, is not just that of brave resistance. Many Norwegians had no problem with the Nazis at all. Especially not the young Norwegian women. While kidnappings of children occurred in many occupied countries, there was no need to do so in Norway.The women gladly bedded the German soldiers and there were 500 000 to choose from! Norway was considered a good country to spread your seed in, since they were Aryan in Himmler’s opinion, and nine Lebensborn homes were set up for the purpose. The end result was 12 000 babies.

Now, in 2002, many of these sued the Norwegian state for maltreatment. Because when the war was over, the population finally got to act out their frustration. They had lived under a harsh regime, having Germans everywhere, telling them what to think, say and do. And they had seen these women getting advantages, flirting and having fun, for years. They reacted like the French, Dutch and Belgians. They took their rage out on the women and called them whores. And in that society and in that time period, that is what those women were. If you were not married to a man and had sex and children out-of-wedlock, you were classified as a whore. But they did not only take their rage out on the women who had been with Germans, they also took it out on the result of these liaisons. The children became targets for bullying and all sorts of cruel treatment. I can fully understand, those children demanding an apology in 2002! Because while their mothers’ behaviour was questionable and their fathers’ not something to applaud, the children did nothing wrong. They did not ask for such parents!

But the problem with the book I have just finished, is that Kari was not one of those children. Yes, she was a Lebensborn child. Her mother Åse Löwe did at some point have sex with a German soldier by the name of Kurt Zeidler. Kari was born in September 1944 and she was taken to Germany to be raised in the program. I suspect the plan was to place her in the home of a Nazi couple, but since the Allies stood on Germany’s doorstep by then, this never took place. But contrary to her peers from Norway, who would have had interesting stories to tell, she did not grow up in Norway and never had to feel the brunt of the Norwegian hate and anger. In a way, this makes her story as uninteresting as it gets. (And by the way, my explanations above, are not in the book, but comes from MY knowledge!)

Kari spent about a year in Bremen. She was not abandoned nor was she unloved, in Hohehorst. After the war, it was decided that

Hohehorst Lebensborn

Hohehorst Lebensborn

she and all the other babies from Norway, staying in Bremen, were not welcome in Norway, so they were taken to Sweden instead. The story she tells after that, is not unique. She ends up in an orphanage, like all other children without parents and noone in their right mind will say that an orphanage is a good place to grow up in. Look at Russian ones, look at the ones in China, children becoming mentally retarded from lack of physical contact. Put on “Annie” or read Dickens for heaven’s sake. Spending time in an orphanage is a nightmare and even more so, when you are not chosen by the couples arriving to adopt. This is what happened to Kari till she one day did get chosen. But health care in those days was not tip top and the adoptive father died, which forced the mother to return Kari, to the orphanage. And like one can read in “Anne of Greengables”, returned children cause a totally different problem than the ones who arrive for the “first time”. Kari, did by the age of three, not talk, which is nothing unique. My aunt, did not say a single word before she was three and she did not grow up in an orphanage nor was she part of the Lebensborn. You can’t blame a child’s speech problems on those things, I’m afraid, even if it sounds good for the story.

When she was three, Simon and Valborg, a childless couple arrived and they very much resemble Matthew and Marilla in “Anne of Greengables”. Simon being the loving kind one and Valborg, being the practical, realistic farm wife, who did not show a whole lot of affection or emotion. But they gave her a happy childhood. They loved her, fed her, kept her safe. And like in all farm communities in those days, the rumours spread. A childless couple do not just come home one day with a child of their own. It must have been adopted from an orphanage and most children in such, were abandoned by unmarried mothers. So the fact that some people whispered about her being illegitimate, is not strange at all. That is what society was like back then. There was a reason bastards were not completely accepted. They caused trouble for the community in an economical way, but also could mess up inheritances. Since centuries back, they were seen as a possible cause for problems. Economic burdens but they were also suspected of having the same sort of morals, as their deviant parents! 1940s Sweden was no different than the 1740s.

Hardly the look of a maltreated, unhappy child

Hardly the look of a maltreated, unhappy child

When she was old enough, her parents told her that she was adopted, since they thought it only fair that she knew. But it did not cause her any trauma, since she knew they loved her like their own. But of course, she like all other adopted children, started to wonder about her origins. Why did my mother give me up? Do I have siblings? Every country have their own TV documentaries about all these grown ups searching for their roots. And as we have seen on TV, their biological parents are not always happy to see them, when they show up on their doorsteps. Kari asked the usual questions, but of course her parents could not answer. In those days, such information was confidential. How could a parent otherwise feel safe? And the new parents had to be given a chance of really becoming the adopted child’s real parents, without interference.

When Kari was 17, she left home to move to town and take a job. Simon encouraged her to travel instead of staying in the little village for the rest of her life, like he had done. The 1960s did offer new possibilities for both women and men. She applied for a job, but needed to tell where she was born and she of course did not know. A priest supplied her future employers with the information: Norway. Now, people in the 1960s were not backwards. Kari should have put two and two together. Born in Norway, 1944, German Occupation, given up for adoption… But she did not put anything together. What she did do though, was sending a letter, a couple of years later, to the Red Cross, asking for information, if they had any. When she finally heard from them, they did not want to be bearers of bad news, but told her to fetch a train ticket and an address to Oslo. She was off to see her mother Åse.

But from the book, you get the feeling that Kari acted wet noodle and after two weeks her mother did not want her there anymore. Åse was not the sort of woman who showed affection either. (I wonder if any women of that generation did? My grandmothers did not!) She refused to say anything about her former “lover”. And while she took Kari to see her mother Anna, her brother Alf and Kari’s half-brother Per, she introduced Kari as a friend. Now, if Kari was so anxious to know of her past, of her three first years in life, to not feel like a child from nowhere, why did she not put Åse on the spot? She could have sat down and said that not knowing was wrecking her life. That she could not go on living without knowing the truth, no matter how bad it was. Instead, the women seem to have remained quite for two weeks and that was that.

Kari went back to Linköping, married Daniel, had baby Roger and when the baby turned one, Daniel dropped down ill. Why Kari tells us details of everything else in her life and does not explain that part, is beyond me? What disease lands you in a hospital for years? The doctors told her that it would be a long, long time before Daniel would be well again, so it did not sound lethal. But what happened after that, made no sense at all. She and Daniel decided to get a divorce! Why? And his mother promised to help out with the baby, but added that Kari would meet love again. But  three years later, she dropped down ill at work, with porphyria. She was ill for two years and instead of Valborg or Daniel’s mother taking little Roger in to their care, he was put in a foster family. How does that make sense?

When she turned 50, she met a 15 year younger man, named Sven Rosvall. By then she had tried to visit Åse again, for Roger’s sake, but Åse was not interested in any further contact. Kari still oblivious to what happened in Norway during the war. I mean, we are talking 1994 here! Not until 2008, when she and her husband Sven had lived in Ireland for over a decade, did she run in to a man, a historian, at a party, who told her that she might be a Lebensborn child and if so, she was entitled to money from the Norwegian state. This perked her interest. I am sorry, but that is how it all comes off. Perhaps she did not care about the money, but she seems to have cherished the thought of belonging to a group of victims.

But she never was a victim! She was a child given up for adoption, yes. But is that being a victim? Åse actually saved her life, by letting the Nazis take her. Åse subsequently went on to be tortured. She told Kari that it was the Nazis, but that was hardly true. She had given them what they wanted. An Aryan child. But the people who would have wanted revenge, were the Norwegians. They must have been the ones giving her scars and cutting off her nipples! She could have demanded an apology alright and money for her sufferings. Åse’s family turned her away. The only one still talking to her, was her blind mother Anna. Her son, from an earlier liaison, was brought up by her brother. But she just hid with her shame. Kari never had to share her fate though. She was spared all the humiliation that all the other Lebensborn children remaining in Norway, had to suffer through. She really should have been ashamed for joining them in their monetary claim!

imageWhen she found out that she indeed was a Lebensborn child, she wanted to see where she was born and where she was taken to in Germany. That would be natural in my opinion, to any child. But what happened next, does not make sense. She keeps on repeating in the book, how Hitler created her, how she thereby feels shame. Because she was considered perfect. Because as a baby, she was put on a pillow under a swastika and an SS officer took an oath on her behalf, that she would be loyal to the Führer. Honestly, who cares about their mumbo jumbo ceremonies? So what, that Hitler wanted to create a Master Race. We know that there is no such thing. There are no perfect genes. If anything, Kari proved that by getting porphyria, which is a genetic disease, and then she got breast cancer. None of us are perfect or safe from diseases. Anything can happen. The Lebensborn project was a mad plan, like many of Hitler’s plans. What is tragic, is not the women that agreed to it. Because nowhere has it really been written, that the women were forced. The men happily obliged. Martin Borrman’s wife wanted him to populate the entire Germany by himself! She encouraged her husband to make lots of women pregnant!

No, the thing we must pity, are the innocent children who fared very ill, when the Nazis no longer were in charge. But for the children to feel guilty because some man promised on their behalf to be loyal to Hitler, that is utter nonsense. We are only guilty when we break an oath WE have given and when having given that oath with sound mind. A baby can’t swear an oath. So these babies promised nothing. They had their free agencies given to them upon birth, by God, and what they chose to do with that gift, was up to them. Not a Nazi officer.

Kari went on to meet her brother Per after her mother Åse was dead. He did not want to dig in the past. Nor did Åse’s partner Arnt, whom she also got to meet. I believe that we all need to know our story to feel whole and complete. I can understand that Kari needed to find out what happened to her, during her first three years, in order to feel in control. But there is something wrong, when the person starts rejecting the adoptive parents, the older the person gets. When the person goes from feeling like a  loved child, to being an ungrateful grown up, only looking for the times, when the parents were not so perfect. And the reason for that being, that they want to be a victim of something, in order to fit in to the group, where they feel that they belong. Kari does not belong in the group of Lebensborn children, who grew up in Norway! She was not maltreated. She had a home, with Simon and Valborg. She had a happy home with Daniel and then on her own, with Roger. So why say in the end of the book, that she is a victim and that she did not get a home, until she moved to Ireland with Sven? Saying that she never had a mother. When she had Valborg.  It really is rude! Spitting everyone in the face. I can feel sorry for her, for the hardships she has gone through, with divorce, disease, missing out on years with her son Roger. But being adopted is not a misfortune! Nor are children raised by their biological mothers automatically granted unconditional love and affection! I agree with all the people who gave this book two stars on Goodreads. It was poorly written and to be honest, I learned nothing knew about the Lebensborn program at all! Either there is nothing more to know, or the ones who could REALLY tell a story, do not want to.

 

 

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Finds at the Swedish Book Sale 2017: Physical shops!

Well, it is here again! All booklovers’ feast. Bibliophiles’ heaven. And then I am one of the worse bibliophiles even though I am trying to restrain myself every year. Today I did the mistake of taking my two youngest sons with me, who are both autistic. Not that they were any problem really. But bringing them, meant bringing my husband as well, to mainly babysit them. And HE does not appreciate my book-shopping, one bit. So all I heard on the way home was how I can open a historical bookshop. When I informed him that noone would want to buy my books since they all have yellow highlighting in them, he changed it to me opening up a library at home. Not what one wants to hear in the early morning hours. Nor is it fun to have a conscience with you, telling you to put the book back, if you ask for advice!

All that said, I have done terrible damage to my bank account. Although it could always be worse I suppose. I say terrible damage, because I want to save as much as I can, in order to go on a holiday, with the family this summer. And it would be nice to do something else, than going to Legoland.

Having the boys with me, was actually good, because they were able to say right away “No I am not interested in that book!”, so I actually did not end up buying a lot of children’s books this year. “Boo” is dyslexic, so he is not really interested in books at all. He did come up with one of the  Wimpy Kid’s diaries books. But I suspected that it might have been one which I bought for his brother LAST year, at the book sale at the supermarket, and I did not want to buy a second copy, especially since his brother never opened the books I bought for him last year. It seems like autism and boys mean a natural aversion to reading. And I guess it stems

"The Big Guide to All the Characters"

“The Big Guide to All the Characters”

from having to make your own mental pictures and they are unable to do so. He did come up with two books he thought I should buy though, for sure, and they were identical. I actually thought it was sweet, since he was thinking about his little brother and he thought they should have one each. But I said no, especially since “Gubby” showed no interest what so ever in the book, nor in any other book really. He did take a peak in a monster book and he did ask if he could have this experiment book, which “Boo” picked for him. But I said no to that one as well, since one might as well borrow that one from the library. What did I buy for “Boo” then?

I did buy the “Chima” book he showed me, since he seems to be the only boy in the family who really has liked Lego Chima. And you get a little miniature figure with it, which he appreciated, even though he with his autism doesn’t know how to play with toys.

These books are nice for the dyslexic child, since a lot of it is pictures and it is a book of facts and not a story to read. You can read as much or as little as you want.

But I have jumped ahead of myself. To get the best deals, you need to be at the bookshop at 07:00 or before 10:00. That is when they sell four books for the price of three. And that was my goal this morning. And why do I say bookshop singular? Because in Sweden you basically only have one bookshop, the chain of “Akademibokhandeln” shops. Some towns might have some little independent shops, but it is most unusual, so there really is monopoly on books in Sweden. Unless you turn to the internet!

I chased the family out of bed at 06:45, like when school is in session. (They are off this week on sports’ holiday.) And as mentioned above, my husband was staying home to work, since otherwise I could not have gone at all. He will have to work the time in, this evening. I was not up for getting up at 05:45, but hoped that the books I was interested in and had marked in the sale catalogue, were not going to have sold out an hour after the doors opened.

So I got there at 08:00, the others dropping me close by and then driving off to find parking. Not an easy feat in Lund. I ran first of all, to novels. I do not usually go for novels but there was a book I have been wanting since it was published in 2015. I feared it

"Sunbleached by Life"

“Sunbleached by Life”

was going to be sold out but they had about 8-10 copies left, so no danger.

For everyone living outside Sweden, this man will be more or less unknown. If I was going to introduce him to someone, I would say that he always looks as happy as he does on the cover of this book! And he speaks like one of Tove Jansson’s cozy Moomin Trolls, with an irresistible Finland-Swedish accent. And he is funny! Very funny! It seems like he comes from a very original quirky family and he always tells the funniest stories about them, which this book also does.

Unfortunately, he has really become famous in Sweden for being a homosexual. And being the partner of Jonas Gardell, a comedian/author. They have always been very open about their relationship and their sexual preferences, but while I would never buy one of Gardell’s books, Levengood is something different entirely. He keeps the bedroom scenes private, which is what all of us heterosexuals do. While his partner Gardell crams it down our throats, seemingly living for sex and talking about it. Maybe that is why, Levengood is asked to host all sorts of events and comment on such diverse things like a Royal Wedding and the Eurovision Contest?  Because he knows what is appropriate! And because he can be nice to WOMEN! And because he shows the same enthusiasm for everything! I have high hopes for this book and that I will look as happy as Mark when reading it!

It also helps that Ilon Wiklund has illustrated it! The woman who has illustrated all of Astrid Lindgren’s books! I just love pictures by her. Cozy extravaganza!

While I was in the novel section, I looked at the special edition classics. My life is so tough as it is, with three autistic sons and a teenage daughter who makes their problems worse, by not accepting them as they are and doing the best of the situation, so I honestly was not drawn to any of all the Russian depressing authors. But I did end up getting a copy of “Silas Marner”. I tried to read it in English, when I was pregnant with my oldest son, 1989, but I was constantly nauseous and vomiting, so I never managed to get through it. Why? Because the paperback I had smelled and all smells made me heave. All these years I have connected the book with vomiting, but perhaps NOW I can put that past me, and actually read the book. After all, I loved “Middlemarch”, so why would I not love this one?image

I know it will not be the happiest novel, since it was written in 1861, when realism was the motto, and it being about a falsely accused man, whose life does not take a turn until he finds an abandoned baby to look after and raise. But I do know that it will have a happy ending. George Eliot will never let her characters end on an unhappy note.

The other book is one I have also wanted to read for a while now, which is the Pulitzer Prize winner for 2015, “All the Light We Cannot See” about Marie-Laure, a blind girl, and Werner, A German Soldier, meeting in occupied France during the war. It cannot be anything but good! It has won too many prizes to be bad. Otherwise, I am not the sort of person who enjoys reading novels written in our time, since they tend to be full of sex, swear words and being too politically correct, so that they always have a homosexual angle to them. Can’t stand it, so I hope this book will be full of neither, but just be a plain good book. When I had added these three books, I headed over to the history shelves in order to not miss out on the books I definitely had come to the sale to buy.

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I am glad that I got there when I did, since I took the last Bergman book, surprising this old man when I reached in front of his face to grab it! I would have been so upset if I had lost out on this one, which was the reason I got out of bed so early on a holiday. It is a book about “The Casablanca of the North” as the back cover states. Stockholm was the hot spot for intelligence during world war two and the most secret part was the C-bureau. I just must quote the back cover: ” It is the story of ‘the swallows’, the women who worked as couriers, infiltrators, informants and ‘escort girls’. They were at the bottom of the hierarchy in the intelligence department and yet they took the highest risks, sacrificed their bodies and future, sometimes their lives. Without ‘the swallows’, the German codes could not have been cracked and the information vital for Sweden, would not have been gained. But this is also the story of power, the power had by high-ranking officers, the police, the politicians and the trouble makers. Here you find out how Säpo, Must, FRA, BND, CIA and ‘Stay Behind’ were created.” Anything about women in world war two, has me interested!

The book they had plenty of, was “A Child From Nowhere”. It was not on my shopping list. But then I ended up buying it anyway, since it is about the Lebensborn program. Not that much has been written about that program since it is one of those subjects still considered a taboo. Not a whole lot of people want to talk about themselves as a product of this evil plan of Hitler’s. And I can imagine that a lot of the documents were destroyed. It is a very tragic part of world war two, since these children were created for the Reich and really did not have a place in post-war Europe. Their mothers got shunned. And often they were adopted by proper Aryan couples, who were supposed to bring them up as true Nazis. The book is Kari’s story, who was taken from her mother at age 10 days, to be raised by more suitable parents. She was brought to Sweden after the war, being adopted by Swedish farmers at the age of three. But she really wanted to know the truth and what she went through during the first three years of her life. That is what the book is about and I have no idea if it is a good book or not. But the Irish Times claims that she really opens up her heart and that it is a story full of healing, love and pain. Hopefully I did not waste my money and will learn a lot of about the Lebensborn program.

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“The Book Thieves. The Hunt for the Vanished Libraries”, was another reason for me to get out of bed early. This is a much spoken of book and one I really want to read since I do love books. I was happy that they had two left on the shelf when I grabbed my copy, right in front of a man standing reading on the back side of another copy of it. This will be a good read, that I know. It is the story about the secret story behind the 1930s book burnings in Germany. The Nazis stole millions of books from libraries all over Europe. Why? Heinrich Himmler and Alfred Rosenberg competed against each other, since they had different goals with their thefts. “Himmler collected a big library about ‘the enemies of the Reich’. Chief Ideology creator Rosenberg’s plan was more ambitious – creating a new Nazi research and University system. The plan was to educate the future leaders of the Third Reich  but also creating lots of new research facilities in order to justify the conquests of land and the murder of Jews, Roma and political enemies.” I guess the author has tried to travel in the footsteps of the thieves, trying to locate the stolen books and finding out who once owned them.

“In the Shadow of Auschwitz. The Holocaust 1939-45” is about the holocaust of course. But the author wants to tell the story of the forgotten parts of Operation Reinhard. About the camps which are less known, those of Belzec, Sobibór and Treblinka. All talk has a tendency to concentrate on Auschwitz, it having become the symbol for the holocaust. But it is very important to remember the other camps. Especially since they were not work camps. They were solely created for one purpose only, and that was to kill Jews. When their task was completed, the Germans disassembled the camps so there would not be any evidence left. And the people having worked there as executioners, went on to other camps, now being considered experts on how to liquidate the Jewish race. An important book in other words. Hardly going to be a best seller on the book sale, but one which my library will absorb.

Walking to the cash register, I lifted out two books so that I would have eight books and get two of them for free. Moving out of the shop with the gaggle, I noticed that the religious bookshop Arken, almost opposite, was open as well. So we headed over there. But their sale was not as impressive. As a matter of fact, they did not have any order at all, the sale books being intermixed with regular prized books and only a red paper sticking up at the top, indicating that they were sale books. Very annoying! They could have created sections on a table in the middle of the shop, to make it easier for the customers. User friendly is the key word here. And I felt that I probably missed possible gems, the way their sale was set up. But upon entering, “Gubby” finally found  what

Noah's Arc alphabet puzzle

Noah’s Arc alphabet puzzle

HE liked. “Mamma, lets buy that one” he said and then he sat down in a 1970s egg chair, pulled down the “blind” of the chair and played on his daddy’s mobile. “Boo” sitting on a chair outside the shop playing on a tablet. T. zoomed through the shop determining that he did not see anything worth buying. I must say that I was disappointed and perhaps I should have left, but I did end up buying two more books:

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“My Wounded Heart” by Martin Doerry is one of the most traumatizing books I have read about the Holocaust and then I have read MANY. If you are ever going to read just ONE book on the Holocaust, THIS book should be the one you read, not the diary of Anne Frank. Yes, Anne was robbed of an entire life, she had to hide in fear and was turned in by strangers, which lead to a painful death. Tragic. But to be honest, her writings are those of a spoiled hotheaded child and teenager. This book in my opinion is a much better testament to the trauma of being Jewish during the Nazi era. I have read it once, in paperback, and decided to invest in a good hardcover copy, because I want to read it again. And I want my children to read it when they are ready for it. This woman must not be forgotten! Lilli Jahn’s life was as tragic as it gets. A woman sacrifices everything for her husband. Being Jewish, she goes against her family’s wishes and marries a gentile. She works as a doctor beside him and the couple are blessed with five children. But her husband is not faithful. And after Hitler’s ascent to power, Lilli gets more and more shut out from society. But she is safe since she is married to an Aryan. Only, he trades her for a younger model and the cruelty he puts Lilli through is beyond belief. He and his mistress basically treats her like a dog. Forced to live in one small part of the house, waiting upon the mistress, helping her give birth and so on. But the story gets more disgusting when her husband decides to divorce her, even though he knows that this will lead to her death! She is forced to move with their five children and when she is arrested and put in prison, her children are left to their own devices in a constantly bombed city. Needless to say, Lilli does not survive the Holocaust and you could say that it was her own husband who murdered her. Her letters to her children will make you cry. They are a scream for help but also has all the love of a mother in them.

“The pureness of the blood” is a book about Swedish anti-Semitism during the 1930s and the war years. It is also about the Swedish Nazis during this time period. Written by the foremost expert on fascism in Sweden, it is bound to be good. Especially since she is a professor at Umeå University, in the history department, and works with fascism researcher Roger Griffin from Britain. A must read for me, in other words. I must say, that Arken takes in the most unusual books which you will never find on the shelves in Akademibokhandeln. You just have to have the patience to search through their strange system of displaying books.

Walking away from the town center, towards the car, I got this idea for a treat. In December 2015, we all drove D. to the airport in Copenhagen. He was off to Birmingham and his two-year mission there. He had to leave very early, so none of us had breakfast before leaving. On the way back home, as soon as we got over on the Swedish side of the bridge, we stopped at Macdonald’s so the whining children could have some breakfast. They all took different things and “Gubby” wanted egg MacMuffin. Since then, every time we go to the big M, which is not often at all, he wants the same thing. He is autistic, so it does not matter how many times I explain to him that you can only order that in the morning. To him it does not make any sense at all, that one can not order the same thing throughout the day. And we never go to Macdonald’s in the morning! But today, it was still morning in my opinion, when we drove by the golden arches. We walked in 10:02 and they said “No, it is too late. We serve food now!”. Right! I explained how “Gubby” has dreamed of eating a MacMuffin since December 2015 and she called to the people in the kitchen, to see if they had any left. They did! So, he got his MacMuffin with bacon while “Boo” did the mistake of ordering one with sausage, which he did not like at all. T. had to finish that one. But “Gubby” was in heaven and said it was the best thing he has ever eaten! Big smile! But as soon as we got to the car, he started again, saying that next time we go, he wants the same thing. I give up. How to explain that the hot, hamburger-looking thing he ate, is not a hamburger at all? That eggs and bacon are associated with breakfast in English-speaking countries and therefore you can not get egg MacMuffin for breakfast at American Macdonald’s in Sweden? I guess this discussion will go on for years in our family? He will get disappointed over and over again. But he was at least not disappointed today. And he had a fun puzzle to build when he got home!

 

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My Friday Book: “Just One Damned Thing After Another”

imageAccording to Jodi Taylor who obviously is not a historian, this quote is supposed to come from economic historian Arnold Toynbee and is supposed to be “History is Just One Damned Thing After Another”. If you google the quote, you instead get “Life is One Damn Thing after Another” and was said by  Elbert Hubbard, while H.A.L. Fischer traded Life for History. In other words, this was not a very original thing to say nor a very original title for a book! But maybe I am somewhat biased, since I was not too happy about ordering a book with such a name. Unfortunately I had to order it, since I by mistake bought number four in the series, as a Christmas present for my husband, Amazon being very blurry about which book was which in the series. And these books have to be read in order, trust me.

While my husband started on other Christmas books, I ordered this one, and when it arrived, decided to read it myself first, since time travel has fascinated me since childhood. As a child I dreamed of jumping back to a time which seemed much nicer than the one I was born in to myself, which I found incredibly boring. And as a HISTORIAN, I would love to jump back in time, to see things with my own eyes and not just rely on sometimes unreliable accounts. But as a HISTORIAN, I also realize, that we can never ever allow ourselves to do such a thing, even if it ever becomes possible, because to jump back in time, will undoubtedly mean altering history. And one might assume, not for the better!

How would I classify this book? On Amazon they rave on this book series, saying that it contains so much that you can not classify it, but of course it is Science Fiction. It can never be anything but. And I am not an avid sci-fi reader. Sure, I have watched Star Trek, parts of the Star Wars films, Stargate Atlantis etc. But to read it, has not been my thing and I doubt it ever will, since I am one of those people who make pictures in my head of everything I read, and I can’t create all the technical things described in this book, in to my head, as pictures. I can not “see” what Taylor sees in front of her, as far as the Pods the people time-travel in and the equipment they use.

As I started to read the book, I did not realize how technical it would get. Nor did I expect all the foul language used by the people in the book, of course determined by the author. I absolutely did not expect the graphic descriptions of the sex Max and Chief Farrell have. And the further I got in to the book or the closer to the end I got, my rating of  the book went down. Partly because of the above, but also because things became too unbelievable. And then I am not talking about the time-travel.

My biggest problem with the book is with the heroine Madeleine Maxwell, never called anything but Max. Max is not someone I would have liked to meet. People might think that she is exciting and someone they want to meet, in book after book, but I started to resent her so much in the book, that I am sorry to say, that I will not give part two a chance. Max is NOT believable, because she is portrayed as a superwoman. And the sort of superwoman that she is, does not exist. No matter how you stretch your mind and no matter how much of a feminist you are. Women can, yes, but they can’t go beyond the biology of the body. If you are so pissed that you do not hear people, can’t see straight nor stand on your feet, you can’t sober up in a second and think out an elaborate plan for a dangerous mission! Taylor will not let nature take its course, and then it becomes too much of fantasy for me! Perhaps time for you to make your mind up, whether you agree or not?

Storyline:

Max, is a woman who, by the clues given, has grown up in an abusive family, but without the social services intervening. Teachers knowing fully well what she was growing up with. Not believable! Failing school, she is given one last chance, by a Mrs. De Winter. She not only grabs it but goes on to graduate with a Ph. D. from the University of Thirsk. Upon graduation, the same Mrs. De Winter suggests that she applies to St. Mary’s for a job, and escorts her there herself. Max is introduced to everyone, on a walk about the premises, with “she has not had the interview yet” and feels that there is more to the place, than what she is shown. While being interviewed by the boss, Dr. Edward Bairstow, she finally asks why she was introduced in that manner, whereupon tons of papers are pulled out for her to sign and she gets to go on a second walk about, where everything is revealed. Clients hire St. Mary’s to go back in history to observe and document things. Unfortunately, things are not entirely safe, since a LOT of the historians die in the process. Two time-traveling pods have disappeared, without a trace, being searched for by the others, but neither historians, dead or alive, or pods have been found.

Max is all excited about joining the group. And starts her training at once, with her fellow trainees. This being a problem of course, since they travel in teams, two by two, man and woman. Why is that a problem? Too many people! Taylor has to have trainees fail and die in rapid succession. In Max, you have the typical abused person who trusts noone, a loner who likes to do things her way, who talks to noone, becomes friends with noone. But she is finally forced to work with a partner named Sussman. A man full of himself, knowing exactly how smart he is. A man as intolerable as she is.

Max is a combination of Pippi Longstocking, Anne of Greengables as a child, and all other smart anarchist girls you can think of. She will cheat when she can. She can do anything. And of course is the smartest of the lot. And this had me tired of her, half way through the book. Like when they are to do their solo jump and all the other trainees emergency extract themselves from where they have jumped to, when they realize that they have not entered the time period they were supposed to go to. And she just stays in her pod for weeks, eating of the rations, sunning herself and just waiting for the date she is supposed to go back. This woman is ice-cold and has no fear. Supposedly a result from her family life.

When the final test arrives, she decides to cheat and not go on the survival trip they are supposed to go on. She is too lazy and does not like to be uncomfortable going without shower, food and getting rained on etc. So she works out a plan for hiding in the paint store. There she will sit and review everything for their written exam. Only, they have decided to do inventory the day the trainees leave for their survival test and she is almost caught. Almost. Because she finds a cloaked pod in there and Chief Farrell, chief of the technical officers. He lets her hide in his pod, since he has more than a soft spot for her.

She qualifies for historian, as does Sussman. And historians continue to die, from accidents during time travel. Like one of them helping a mother and her two children during a riot, getting his head slashed in the process. And this is when the book does not make any sense anymore. They are not supposed to interact with history, they are only supposed to observe quickly and get out off there. But they do not. When the publishers describe the people on the cover as disaster-magnets, they make the people sound funny, like it is them being clumsy or something. But the accidents which happen, are because they interact and because they are not the only ones travelling in time, the others being on the scale of Voldemort!

Max first real mission, is one which should not have taken place at all according to the statements at the start of the book. “Not to intervene”. Because they sit there and plan to intervene. A WWI anniversary is coming up and people are questioning a fire, which took place in a casualty clearing centre, in an old manor house, close to the Somme. Sussman, Max and experienced Kalinda Black, are going back to stay for a week, investigating what happened and when. Good enough. But they are not to observe only. Kal and Max will be working as nurses and Sussman as an ambulance driver.

You might think at this point, “how fun!”. I did not. There is no way a 21st century person can don a nurse’s uniform or an ambulance driver’s and not stick out. People around you will notice that you use words not used at the time, you will have mannerisms they do not. In WWI they will most likely shoot you as a spy! There is no way to melt in and less so the longer you stay. And a pod that looks like a small hut standing in the middle of things? But Taylor makes it work even though there is a fat chance of it working in reality. Kal and Max gets a crash course in medicine and work as nurses day after day, meeting up with Sussman every day, just to make sure they are all alive. All the historical “events” they go to, are described quickly, just to make us believe this is an exciting novel about history time-travel, but not enough is described to make me A HISTORIAN impressed. It is more about relationships and a growing darkness.

Upon meeting Sussman one day, Max volunteers to do one of his chores, getting blankets from the linen storage and when she opens the door, she is hit by a ball of fire. She gets out, even though she got a door slammed on her head, because SHE is a superwoman and outside she and Kal help as many soldiers and patients to safety as they can. Once again interfering with history, perhaps saving people who should have died and not having offspring. And confusing officers, who wants to take THEM to safety, reporting THEM, as missing and dead. As they get back to the pod, burned, Sussman sits in the pod, all safe and has not helped a single person to safety, but himself. He is surprised to see Max alive and Kal tells Max, to never ever trust Sussman, that their lives always are dependent on their partners and that Sussman is not a partner to rely on.

Getting back, it is time for Sussman and Max to start preparing for their next mission, which is going back to the dinosaurs. Months of preparing. Here I get angry, because Taylor, Historians are Historians! We do not study stars, nor do we study flora, fauna and the behaviour of dinosaurs. But she is so desperate to send them there, for her story, that superwoman Max can do this as well, even though it has nothing to do with history. At the same time, Chief Farrell is trying to speak to Max, who is always off in her own world or drunk, according to him. When he does not get the opportunity to speak to her in the garden one day, he decides to talk to her, when she, Kal and Helen the doctor, has gone off to a hotel for a spa weekend. Why he has to talk to her is beyond me. Why her of all people? Because otherwise the storyline will not hold up!

This is when the story has had it for me. Suddenly the author says that Max has been to St. Mary’s for five years. How is that possible when the training only takes a couple of months and she has just qualified? And she puts on a gold dress and goes to this hotel, letting us the readers know and understand that usually people at St. Mary’s never set their feet outside their place of work. That is not normal nor believable. It is not normal to not know who the prime minister is in your country, whether you are a historian or not. On the contrary we are very well aware that while we are studying the past, today will also be the past one day, so we pay extra attention to current events.

Chief Farrel gets to talk to Max finally, in her room, when she is drunk as usual and thinking that they are going to have sex. He tells her that he is from the future and so is Dr. Bairstow. But Bairstow came back in time before him, to found St. Mary’s and has aged of course. Chief was married and had two sons and a mother in the future, but his wife abandoned him and an influenza killing everyone under the age of 20 and above 50, or was it 60, killed his sons and mother on the same day. He started drinking but was saved by starting to work at St. Mary’s. But that St. Mary’s is a totally different institution, going back in time for profit instead of knowledge. Voldemort or Clive Ronan, from that time, has stolen two pods and killed historians from Max’s time. That is why the Chief has come back, to try to prevent the future from becoming the way it has. Weird.

Sussman and Max jump back to the Cretaceous period and suddenly 74 days have passed there, without a word about those days. They only have about two weeks left of their mission and is going to go exploring the North Valley, which they have avoided up to then. This is when she is woken up by Sussman standing naked above her with an enormous erection and eyes intent on rape. Superwoman to the action. She disables him and gets him out of their living pod, putting a voice lock on it. And she decides to keep everything businesslike from then on. What was it before? Walking off towards the valley, she gets struck by something from behind and tumbles down a hill, getting trapped under a tree trunk. She hears raptors and stay as quiet as she can, till she knows the danger is over. Upon getting back to where she fell, she finds Sussman’s foot and shoe and lots of blood. He is gone. Dinosaur snack. But does she go back to her own time? No, she coldly finishes the mission.

When she gets back, she gets to see how Sussman filmed the attempted rape. And when she is alone, Chief shows her that it was Sussman who hit her on the back, so that she fell. And after she fell, lots of people arrived on-screen, arguing with Sussman. Arguing and then killing him. Basically. Sussman had for some reason been paid to kill Max and take her back to St. Mary’s, in order to put a stop to their non-profit missions. But he had tried to rape her and hurt her instead, since he had hated her from day one, being jealous of her being a superwoman. The person mortally wounding Sussman, in the Cretaceous period, was Clive Ronan, from the future. And Max starts suspecting that Sussman was on his pay roll already during the WWI mission, when Sussman sent her to the linen storage. He was after all surprised to see her alive.

But Ronan is the real villain and he makes no sense. According to Chief, Bairstow, Ronan and this woman Annie, were a dream team in the future. Till Annie went back to James VI  and Annie was tortured because people suspected her of witchcraft. When Bairstow and Ronan arrived to save her, it was evident she was ill with something and while Bairstow wanted to treat her in the pod, Ronan pushed him out of the pod, shot him and abandoned him in the time of James VI. A search time went back for him, even though Ronan had said he was dead. Annie on the other side, was growing worse in sick bay and Ronan was getting in trouble for breaching protocol, so he took the very ill Annie, to escape in a pod. In the shooting which ensued, she was killed and he set out on a career of crime and murder. Now this storyline brought nothing to the book. It does not make any sense. Nor was it needed. It just makes it in to a bad sci-fi soap opera. Because from then on the book goes down hill, Ronan appearing everywhere to hurt and get revenge.

And not just that. The department puts together a spectacular hologram show for the University of Thirsk, who paid for the dinosaur expedition. The show is a success and it seems like St. Mary’s now will survive even though it has had a difficult time to make ends meet. It was fun to read what was shown in the “film” but when Max and Chief is on their way home in Bairstow’s Bentley, they crash. And here the book reaches a real low. On the main road, they have what I would call crude sex on the bonnet of the car. No other cars passing by? Is this typical British behaviour or a wishful dream of Taylor’s? And Max has no problems with Chief calling her Lucy, at the heat of the moment? Honestly! But Taylor’s sexual fantasies do not end here I’m afraid and maybe that is why this book series have become such a hit? I guess a lot of dirty minded women out there enjoy the thought of being 35 and having a silent, handsome, muscular man of 40, having sex with them six times in a couple of hours. On the bonnet of a car, against a pod wall, against a tree, in the shower…. Taylor obviously have not realized that this is physically impossible for anyone but a teenage boy. A man in his 40s does not have that stamina or physical apparatus unless he has swallowed an entire bottle of Viagra. And I am sorry, it just makes the book in to trash and made me end up giving it two stars on goodreads. There is too much crap in this book to give it more! To use the author’s vocabulary. No, she would have said worse things actually!!!!

Back from their sexual frenzy in a prehistorical setting Chief usually goes to, to be alone, they fall in to a party where the different departments fight over which is most important. After a brawl with the rest of them, Max tells Dieter, Chief’s colleague, that he can come with her back to the Cretaceous, to gather some last … what? Why go back? Because otherwise the book would be finished here! So they go back and they find a circus in the North Valley. Captured dinosaurs with targets painted on them, tourists to shoot them, the missing pods plus a strange big pod, pop music blaring out of speakers. They get back to tell the rest of the staff and now a big plan is concocted where basically everyone at St. Mary’s will be involved. They have to get Ronan scared.  They will go with all available pods, turn off the electricity and storm the camp or circus site. But things go wrong since when they cut off the power, all the dinosaurs get out of their cages.

The mission goes pear-shaped and another enemy of Max’s, sees her chance to get rid of Max. Isabella Barclay of the IT department, claims that the four people who should have come back with her, in her pod: Chief, Guthrie, Markham and historian Peterson, are dead. She refuses to send a rescue team and she takes over St. Mary’s, since Bairstow is on sick leave, having got hurt on the mission. Max is thrown out of St. Mary’s without pay, without references, with basically only the clothes she is wearing at the moment. She walks to the nearest town, where she just stays for four months, not working, not eating, living in a flat full of mold. She miscarries a baby she did not know she was expecting and lives with a chest infection. This is when Mrs. De Winter finds her, feeds her and together with Bairstow, they steal Chief Farrell’s cloaked pod. Superwoman Max who has anemia from the miscarriage, is undernourished and with a chest infection, goes back to the Cretaceous period and rescues the four stranded men. She saves their lives, by letting a T-Rex chase her all over a forest. Taylor, one word of advise. When a person has anemia they can not run. I have it myself and can not even walk up the stairs in my own house. I have also gone through three miscarriages and you are not up to any running what so ever for at least eight weeks. But Max can do everything. Anemia, blood loss and chest infection, at the same time and being malnourished, she can plan missions, run like the wind and you name it. This is not nice to read! It just makes you gag!

But it gets worse. They get back to St. Mary’s and take charge of the place again, humiliating Barclay and sending her packing. Max is told to not drink, that she needs weeks of rest and convalescence to recover from all the above ailments. Yet, the same night, she drinks herself into a stupor with Peterson, both intending to quit the place, after Chief has called her a slut for obviously having got pregnant with someone else, but him. Her having refused to tell him about the miscarriage and everything else she has been through and him getting it all wrong through the grape-vine. I know, do not blame me. Author!

In Max’s drunken state and being at death’s door, with all the physical illnesses added, she suddenly is superwoman again. She is sober in seconds and works out a plan how they can save St. Mary’s. In the morning she presents it and I do not see how what she plans on doing, is so much better than what Ronan is doing. They are going to rescue items that were destroyed in the past. Like the library in Alexandria. Suddenly she is not ill at all and the doctors who prescribed bedrest seem to have amnesia, because they plan for the mission, alongside her. And off they go to a burning library. They save as many scrolls as they can and take them to some caves where they will put them in urns, which an archeological team from the University of Thirsk will find, in the future, having been tipped off by St. Mary’s as to where to go searching. Only Ronan arrives with his gangsters and a shoot out takes place where valuable people get killed. Suddenly they are all gun slingers. But I guess Historians can do anything and everything. Where have I gone wrong?

Ronan steals the specially designed pod that Chief had designed and built for the mission, and it is the pod that they saw in the Cretaceous time. The one that got destroyed there. The book ends with Bairstow having paid Shakespeare to write a final play and having buried it so they could find it, at St. Mary’s, in their own time. How exactly is this different from what Ronan is doing? History travel to make a profit. I would say that it is Max that creates the horrible future Chief wants to prevent at St. Mary’s, with her plans to go back and save things from destruction. Altering history. And for Bairstow and Chief to not to see this?

I will not read any more books in this series since I hate series. And I hate how Taylor repeats “Historians are like this” over and over and over in the book. Making us sound like we are another species entirely from the rest of humanity! It makes me as upset as when Isobel (in Alexander McCall Smith’s Sunday Philosophy Club) in book after book drags up the fact that Jamie is so much younger than her and so beautiful and why is he content with her. You just get sick and tired of hearing things over and over again. Move on for heaven’s sake. I also hated the sex scenes described and Max’s Superwoman powers, which no human possesses. What could have been an interesting trail through time, the historians meeting interesting people, having perhaps a difficult time to get home, getting too much involved in history, would have been interesting. But not the direction that this book ended up taking!

 

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My Friday Book: “Salt to the Sea”

Although I would have named the book “What to do when you have watched ‘Titanic’ one time too many”! I was not one of those people sitting wiping my tears in 1998, when I saw Leonardo di Caprio freeze to death and Kate Winslet throw a priceless gem overboard, before joining all the dead on the Titanic, in the spirit world. It was a terrible Hollywood tra-la-la film and when someone on goodreads said “please make this in to a movie” (about this book) I shuddered at the thought. Not another horrible Titanic film!!!

Sure, all women wanted to look like the pretty Winslet girl and drooled over di Caprio, but my US penfriend and I both agreed at the time, that the filmmakers would have made history more justice, by telling one of all the sad stories that ACTUALLY happened on the Titanic. They were surely sad enough, every person’s story, its own tragedy. And once again, I ask what was wrong with true life? Why did Ruta Sepetys think that the real tragedies of Wilhelm Gustloff, were not tragic enough for a book? A ship with 10 573 passengers and 9000 of them drowning and yet, there were not stories worth writing a book about? I refuse to accept that.

So what was the point with this book? Call me paranoid, but it felt like the author is trying to do propaganda for the migrants leaving Syria and many other muslim countries right now, for a better life in the western world. A world they do not REALLY want to belong to. I can not be the only one who makes this observation. Because the way  this book is built up, is so bad, that there can’t be any other point with it.

I gave it three stars on goodreads but I will go back and change that to two stars, because it does not deserve three stars when I  had to start it over three times. When opening the book you are faced with JOANA, as the first chapter, and after ten pages, you have realized that the entire book is going to be written in this horrid way of person 1 telling her observations for two pages, person two for two pages, person three for two pages, person four, the same thing. Over and over and over again for 378 pages and it is not a style I like, nor anyone else I have taken a poll on. It makes for a very choppy story and I quit reading the book, two times. Every time I have re-started it, I have had to go to page one, because nothing stuck in one’s head, to move on from. In other words, either you read this book from start to finish, or you do not read it at all, because you will forget essentials, them not being interesting enough to store in your memory bank.

The story focuses on four youths, in their upper teens, early twenties. deliberately done of course, so she could squeeze in a very unbelievable love story. You have to have a Kate Winslet and Leonardo of course. Or? This book’s love story is ridiculous and an insult of  my intelligence! You do not start a romance when you are sentenced to rape and death! You run and you run fast, to safety or just away from the claws of your enemy. Basic needs have to be satisfied till you can look outside yourself.

We have Joana, the nurse, in her early twenties, who wants to care for everyone out of guilt. A girl, Florian, can not resist even though she is covered with mud and dirt. Because contrary to all other dirty people, she somehow is pretty. Joana, is travelling in front of the Russian Army, trying to avoid rape and being sent to the Gulags. She stems from Lithuania and has no problem travelling to Germany major, as a Volksdeutsch, planning on meeting her German mother there.

Florian, is the 18-19 year-old, who cares about nothing but his mission, which is to take a stolen Russian art object, to Kiel, where he will go search for his evacuated sister. He has looked after all the art objects stolen by the Germans, in Königsberg, East Prussia, together with a Dr. Lange and when he one day realized that Dr. Lange was just using him, for his own purposes, he stole the most prized object of all, an amber statue from the famous Russian Amber room. Hitler’s most favourite object, which was going to be the crown of his art museum in Linz. Revenge is sweet they say.

Emilia is the 15-year-old Pole, who should have been dead by all accounts, Hitler not caring too much about the Polish people. What Ruta forgets when she makes this little heroine in to a blonde, blue-eyed Pole, is that Hitler did not have any problems with Aryan looking Poles. They were taken to Germany and Aryanized, especially when they were children like Emilia. Why Emilia is fleeing all by herself is the question never answered. She knows Hitler doesn’t want her and her family is dead, so… But she is there only to make the story interesting. Which is too blatant!

Finally, we have the disgusting Alfred. Alfred is a looser, who has avoided all sorts of Nazism participation, out of fear. His mother has protected him against all evil, but in the last days of Hitler, not even he could avoid being recruited and this to the Navy.  But he is not against Nazism. No, quite the contrary. Mein Kampf is his bible and he believes every word of what Hitler says in there. Including that Alfred is a superior human being, of the master race. Hitler Jugend just did not understand that, nor his beloved Hannelore or his commanding officers.

While Joana, travels the road with blind Ingrid, the giant Eva, who only cares about her mother’s silver in the cart they pull with them, the shoe poet Heinz, a shoe maker, and little six-year-old Klaus, whose grandmother froze to death on the road, Florian and Emilia, take their time joining the group. And Alfred’s story, takes place in the harbour of Gotenhafen.

Alfred’s story, is the most pathetic one, and a drole part to read, every time it is HIS chapter. He writes these pretend letters to his Hannelore, where he makes himself out to be the most important man in the Navy. Being brave and doing a tremendously important service to the Fatherland. While in truth he is avoiding all sorts of physical labour, hiding, eavesdropping, and being a peeping Tom. Everyone who meets him, realize that he is some sort of psychopath, a looser and are disgusted by him. But Florian finds good use for him late in the story, when he speaks to his ego. What is it, that makes him so disgusting? Well, these pretend letters speak of a disturbed young man, spying on his neighbours and being despised by Hannelore and her family. So much so, that he turned her father in. And he is the sort of idiot, that did not realize that Hannelore would be arrested for being Jewish, just like her father. In the final Alfred chapter, one realizes the full scope of what he has done. He claims to love Hannelore but sent her to her death, because he wanted to punish her father for looking down on him, Alfred, a member of the master race!

Wilhem Gustloff, built in 1937 as a luxury vacation ship

Wilhem Gustloff, built in 1936-1937, as a luxury vacation ship. Get your facts straight Ruta! The ship was launched  5 May, not on the 30 January, like you said, to make it coincide with Hitler’s rise to power. Sorry one can’t falsify history to make a good story!

While Alfred and his fellow sailors prepare for a gigantic surge of refugees, wounded from the Russian front and a couple of hundred German equivalents of the British “WRENS”, the group of five walk the long road to the harbour. And Florian, is trying to get to the same point, with a gigantic shrapnel wound and fever. In a cave, he finds Emilia getting raped by a Russian soldier, and finishes that man off. From then on, he can not shake Emilia off. She becomes like a loyal dog, never leaving his side. They run in to the refugee group but Florian wants to be on his own, since he carries the stolen object and false papers, saying that he is a very important courier for Koch, the master thief, and one of the leaders of the Nazis.

After Joana, has taken out the shrapnel, he and Emilia tries to go off on their own, only to run in to the group again, and from then on, Florian stays with the group. Emilia has by then killed a German soldier by mistake and it has been discovered that she is eight months pregnant. Joana, the constantly caring person, does what she can for Emilia, realizing that she is Polish and in great danger. She steals documents off a dead Lithuanian woman, for Emilia, but the latter has to promise to keep her mouth shut. When they arrive by a great frozen lake, they lose their first traveller. Ingrid the blind girl, volunteers to walk first, to make sure the ice is safe and while the Russians are strafing the refugees, Ingrid goes through the ice. Joana tries to save her, but is pulled back by Florian, who by now is in love with this beautiful girl. Ridiculous! How pathetic can it get?

When they have crossed the ice, they need to cross water or walk a long distance around it. Florian, with his special courier papers, is entitled to be rowed across the water and takes with him the entire group while the horse and cart is sent around with a peasant family. Arriving at Gotenhafen, Eva refuses to give up her belongings and decide to wait for the cart. So she leaves the group, but the others try to stay together in a cinema. Florian, staying by himself in the projector room, finding time to flirt with Joana. Joana, quickly is allowed special treatment since she is a nurse. She will be helping the doctors on Wilhelm Gustloff. Alfred is recruited by Florian to help everyone. He gets Florian and Emilia on board as Joana’s patients, thinking he will get a medal by helping Koch’s agent Florian. Even Klaus and Heinz manage to get a place on the ship, thanks to the policy of children having precedence over adults.

On board the ship, Emilia quickly gives birth to a daughter, which she refuses to care for. While she has pretended that the father was the son in a farm family she was staying with, named Peter, the truth is that the family chosen by her dad, to go stay with for safety, was not all together nice. The mother of Peter, hated Emilia. Peter tried to be doubly nice to her because of his mother’s treatment, but he did not return the love, that Emilia had for him. And when the Russians arrived on the farm and wanted to have sex with Peter’s sister, the mother lied and said that she was ill, but that they could have Emilia, who was hiding in the forest. So, she got raped by all the soldiers and wanted nothing of the baby. Here comes the next pathetic scene, when Joana tells Florian that he must make Emilia take the baby. So this young man grabs the baby, kisses it, says how cute she is, looking just like Emilia and then suddenly Emilia loves the baby! Honestly!

Around 21:15 a loud bang is heard and panic ensues. 10 500 people try to get up to the top for the 12 life boats available. And now

Supposed site where Wilhelm Gustloff was torpedoed by the Russians.

Supposed site where Wilhelm Gustloff was torpedoed by the Russians.

we are on Titanic. Ruta is describing the film perfectly. Joana is put in a boat, Klaus is handed to her and Emilia refuses to give her baby to the sailor in charge but wants Florian to carry the baby down in to the boat. And off they go. Florian, Joana, Klaus and baby Halinka, while Emilia gets in to a lifeboat on her own, with Alfred and while Heinz drowns. In the boat, we find out how Alfred sent Hannelore to her death and when he realizes that Emilia is Polish, another enemy of the Fatherland, he tries to kill her, but falls in to the water himself and drowns. Deep sigh! And Emilia of course freezes to death since how else could Florian and Joana live happily ever after? With their kids? No, Emilia sits there and meets her mother and little brother who died at birth, but also her own daughter Halinka, who is well and dandy with Joana. In other words, not believable at all, even though I am a firm believer in that dead relatives who meant something to you, often come and fetch you at the death moment. But Halinka was not dead!

Torpedoes were marked "For the Motherland", "For the Soviet People" and "For Leningrad". The 4th one got stuck and was labelled "For Stalin". I found that apropo!

Torpedoes were marked “For the Motherland”, “For the Soviet People” and “For Leningrad”. The 4th one got stuck and was labelled “For Stalin”. I found that apropo!

Then you get forced twenty years ahead, when Florian gets a letter from a Danish woman. She has read that Halinka, is not allowed to compete in the Olympics, because she has no nationality, being born on a ship in the Baltic Sea. The article also described her parents Florian and Joana, her brother Klaus and a child born by the parents, in the US. From that letter one learns that Emilia floated ashore on Bornholm, a Danish island outside Sweden, with Florian’s rucksack containing the treasure, and Florian has instructed the lady, to bury the rucksack.

I would classify the book as chic lit, something for the teenage girl to drool over, since they are the only once believing in love at first sight, no matter the circumstances and the dirt. To me, an adult, it was a ridiculous and predictable book and so boring, that I had to force myself to finish it. But upon finishing it, I did google Wilhelm Gustloff and read some of the REAL survivor stories and just like with survivors of the Holocaust, there is a feeling that one only survives if it is meant to be. If one’s ticket has not been punched. Some may call it luck or chance, but I do not believe in chance anymore. The ones who survived did so for a purpose, because they were not finished with their mission on Earth.

It is also amazing how this tragedy, is one which is not taught in schools or at University. That it has just become a small side comment. Titanic was nothing to the numbers mentioned in the notes at the back of the book. Wilhelm Gustloff lost 9 000, General von Steuben 4 000, Goya 6 500 and two ships carrying Jews from concentration camps, 7 000. Why has this not been taught or spoken of? Well, Titanic was the first, so that will always be something else. Never had a ship so big, sailed off, and never before had so many travelled before, in the same vessel, and without sufficient life boats. And of course, in the case of Titanic, it was likeable people. Rich people, famous people, but the majority, poor people, emigrating to a better life in America, having used all their life savings, for the ticket.

Wilhelm Gustloff sank with a cargo of Germans. They were the enemy. It was soldiers, rich Prussian Junkers, Nazi officers and their families and most and foremost, Volksdeutsche, who had been equally happy about Hitler’s ascent to power. The picture one gets from google, is that it was a ship full of the master race which sunk, and that can be the explanation for the silence. It was just one more step towards victory, one more step to try to get Hitler to give up and surrender unconditionally. And as we know, it did not effect him one bit. He sat safely in his bunker for three more months, before he gave up.

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Back to the Grind…

And to the worries. Honestly, where did Christmas vacation disappear to? It came and disappeared in no time. And if I must sum it up in one word, it would have to be SLEEPING.

During 2016, I went to a funny lecture at the local book shop. It was to promote a book, written by a journalist, about the need for loving ourselves. She was full of humour and gave a great lecture on how most of us are too hard on ourselves. In the middle of it all, people started to ask questions about her and the book. Till this female priest, in the audience, raised her hand and said “So, one more thing WE HAVE TO DO. Pardon me, but I already feel overwhelmed!”. Secretly I agreed. Learning to love oneself and be less hard on oneself, feels like just another chore, even if it would be beneficial for everything else in one’s life.

imageIn December, I joined many others in the #LIGHTtheWORLD challenge. It was also a very good thought, just like the book written by the lady mentioned above, and a thing beneficial to both yourself and others. BUT it also added on to all my other December stress and instead of enjoying December and a two and a half week vacation, towards the end of the month and the beginning of this one, I felt overwhelmed in the end and as the vacation started, I collapsed. I can’t describe it in any better way. Sure, I had to continue to do things, in order for Christmas to come around to our house, BUT the rest of the time I slept, slept and slept. None of my great plans for the holiday came about, since I was just too tired to do anything.

And to my horror, I then discovered that “Boo” started school, a day ahead of all his siblings. So, back to normal, a day too early, when my mind and body was not ready for it. I did not sleep the night between Sunday and Monday, thanks to my itching skin. According to the doctor, not caused at all by my hypothyroid, but by stress. Nonsense of course, since I itch all year round, whether I am on holiday or running like a hamster in a wheel. “Gubby” did not want to stay in bed alone nor go up to his brother’s bed, till I got back from the morning run, so he had to come with to drop off “Boo” at school. I think all other parents had a tough time getting out of bed, as well, because we arrived and there was noone to be seen, except a couple of children, inside the windows of the after-school-care (or ought I say, before-school-care). We stood there in the cold and waited and waited. No cars arriving or anything. After ten minutes I lost patience and started to look in through the windows of the headmaster’s office. Had I misunderstood the starting date? It got an effect and “Boo’s” assistant came to the door, got dressed and came out, so they could walk down to the assembly point, for the buses.

Today, all the others also had to get up in the dark and head out in to a frozen landscape. I did not feel rested this morning either. I finished a book last night which was very disturbing in its nature, so I had a tough time falling asleep. And I woke up feeling upset. For one and a half year, I have felt that “Gubby” is in a good spot. At a good school. They have listened to habilitation’s advice on how to educate my little autistic boy, how to deal with his peculiarities, his language problems, his social problems etc. He has had a headmaster who has taken his handicap seriously and who has given him what he needs for the most part. Two assistants sharing the job of helping “Gubby”, while also wearing two other hats, that of music teacher and after-school-care-personnel. There has been a special ed teacher, who has worked with “Gubby” for years, already at the pre-school in OUR village and who has instructed both assistants and teachers on how to handle “Gubby’s” weaknesses.

In November, it was announced that the special ed teacher had been offered a better job elsewhere and she would quit after the autumn term at the school. The after-school-care teacher, who has been “Gubby’s” assistant during the lunch recesses and on Fridays, was also to quit, since he was tired of having a long distance relationship with his girlfriend, who lives in Stockholm. So this man who has come to understand “Gubby” and who felt it a privilege to be with him, has moved north. And right before school was out in December, all parents received a letter from the school’s board, that the headmaster is quitting for a job at a bigger school. A great shock. “Gubby” loves his little dog, Chili, a little female Jack Russell, who comes with him to work every day. For a year and a half, “Gubby” has walked  in to the headmaster’s office, to say hello to Chili, and this school year, the headmaster has understood how much the dog means to “Gubby”, so he has let the latter go with him and Chili for their walks! We can’t have a dog because of my allergies, so this has been so perfect.

This morning, I just felt so sad and so worried all of a sudden. How do I know that the next headmaster will respect what has been done to help “Gubby” up till now? She/He might just say “Forget it, I am not going to spend any extra money on this child. He can go to another school instead, which has more funding.” And who is going to inform her/him of all of “Gubby’s” problems or weaknesses? Who is going to explain that he needs this and that? It feels like I have to start all over again from scratch. Asking habilitation in, to inform all over, what it means to have an autistic child at the school and in the classroom. And not just to a new headmaster but also to the new special ed teacher, who will not arrive until February. He is supposed to guide the others and how can he do that, when he does not have a single clue as to what “Gubby” needs to prosper or flourish. And what about Fridays and recesses? WHO is going to look after my little boy then? Assistants are so important because they are the ones the child turns to first and foremost. They are the stability to these children. And now one is gone and they still do not have a solution after having had months to think already. The Music teacher has volunteered to take over the second assistant’s day and the recesses, but she still knew nothing on the 21st December. I really do not like this! Are things going to go from good to bad at that school now? And what is going to happen to my little angel boy?

This morning he was happy to go back to school. We packed his bag and he got all the needed clothes on. Finally! He has enjoyed being home of course, but he likes the usual routine of the days. Getting up, getting dressed, having porridge for breakfast and a mug of milk. Driving off to school and spending half the day there, me arriving at 12:25 to bring him home… He ran in to school even though the ground was slippery with ice and he was telling everyone “Hello, I have missed you!”. But I heard noone answering the poor soul back, until this young woman working for before/after-school-care got a hug from him and I heard her saying that she had missed HIM. He then went to hug a man, also working for that part of the school system. (To be honest, they are there all day, helping out in the classrooms as personal assistants or just to be extra help. Two of them are the school’s gym teachers and most of them are in charge of recess safety.)  “Gubby” looked troubled and sad by now and said “I don’t think people like me!” Both Thomas and I said “Yes they do! Why do you think they do not like you?”. “Because they do not talk to me. I tell them I have missed them and they have not missed me.”. I really did not want to leave at this point. Thomas tried to explain that everyone had just arrived and perhaps some did not hear “Gubby” or they felt a little bit overwhelmed at being back after the holidays… We tried to reassure “Gubby” that they all like him and after giving him several hugs and kissing his soft, newly cut hair, I had to leave, in order for “Boo” to not miss the bus from his school. But I felt worried.

Getting to “Boo’s” school, I also felt concerned, since his headmaster also has turned in his notice. It happened after his wife was fired for verbally abusing the handicapped children in her class, for threatening the parents of those children and reporting them unduly to the social services. No new headmaster has been found though until now, six months later and the new one will not show up for another month. But what will things be like for “Boo”? His headmaster also understood the problems, in a way, more serious problems than “Gubby’s”. And they had an assistant picked for him months before he actually arrived at the school and a plan. I am REALLY worried since at our last meeting, “Boo’s” teacher just looked at me and said “I don’t know if we can offer ‘Boo’ what he needs.” The special ed teacher did not want to paint an equally dark picture, but the picture is dark alright with my son in all likelihood failing class three, thanks to his resistance to learning things by practice. That Catholic school he went to for three years, really screwed him up. They destroyed all his self-confidence and they let him fail at everything, only to watch him getting bullied for his failures and his handicaps. I hate that school and wish someone had the courage to report them and get the school permanently closed for all future! But the schools have found a powerful weapon. If you report an independent school in Sweden, they report the parents to social services! So, I have not been able to report them for destroying my children’s lives. Other schools have had to pick up the pieces and unfortunately “Boo” is so afraid of failure, that he will not exert himself. He stops when the going gets tough, so he does not get anywhere while the others learn more and more. He is in third grade and thanks to dyslexia, he still can not read and he can not do math above ten… The others can sew and crochet but he has fine motor problems, so he is completely excluded in that area. There are just so many things he can not do and still the law says he must go to school. And now there will be a new headmaster. who knows nothing about him and who might say “We can’t afford to keep such a student!”.

So this term has started stressfully, due to factors outside my control. And yes, I know, we should not worry about things which are out of our control, but just accept them. But theses factors will effect my children and they might not effect them in a good way at all. I might be in for another year of sheer hell! Deep breaths! Count to ten! Sleep has become my usual method to deal with stress, it seems. At the same time, I go to bed and just lay there, thinking, thinking, THINKING!

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What sort of world are we living in?: #LIGHTtheWORLD

6 December 2016:

Share your favourite scripture place on social media, is the challenge of today. Now, I do not really have ONE favourite scripture place, like my daughter has. She phoned from Cardiff and read it up from memory.  No, I have too many, to mention here. But, something interesting happened to me, the other day. And I really don’t know how it all started. I was sitting on my iPad as usual and I can not even remember how or what I was actually searching for, but suddenly I was on a site called israelblessing.com. Curious to what it was all about, I started looking at all the pretty things they are selling.

Last week, I went to the doctor and found out that I basically can forget about loosing weight, ever. She is not going to send me to an endocrinologist, since she blames ALL my hypothyroid symptoms on stress, age, genes and anemia. And without Liothyronine, I can not get rid of the symptoms, that is just the way it is. When I told her that I have never had to take off my engagement ring and wedding ring, during all my eight pregnancies, with the accompanying weight gain, but that I have not been able to wear either for the past five years, she just told me: “SO why don’t you just have them stretched?”.

Right, the jewelers told me that you can only stretch a plain ring. Anything else will be VERY costly. They have to take out the diamond on the engagement ring, fill in with extra gold and dip it in white gold, before putting the diamond back in. Forget about doing anything to the wedding band. It is out of the question all together. I can never wear my wedding ring again, nor my engagement ring. In one way, I do not care. Why wear such rings in the first place? Telling the world that one is OWNED by someone? When I could not wear my rings anymore, my husband happily took off his wedding ring and does not wear it anymore. So obviously it was a burden to him, to wear it. Or he is trying to send me a secret message?

Which ever, I sat and looked at the israel blessing site and found these beautiful wedding bands, called comfort bands, since they have welded two rings together. The outer one, has a Hebrew writing on it, and I do not know why, but I just love it! No, I am not Jewish nor do I speak that sacred language, but the Lord was and did! So to me, it is very, very special and I would love to have a ring like it. image

Not only is the ring beautiful with its simplicity and writing, the prospective buyer, gets to choose what they want written on it, and I read through the list and knew exactly what I would love on mine, if I ever got one:

image

“The Lord bless you and keep you” from Numbers 6:24. A very short and unassuming little verse/saying, but I reacted to it at once and thought it was very beautiful, the nicest of the lot actually, suggested on the site. What a nice thing to say to someone, on a ring. And it made me think of a film I love. “Fiddler on the Roof”.

For those of you who have not seen it, you must. The songs are wonderful. The storyline is beautiful. Tevje, whom the story is really about, starts the film by saying, that what has kept the Jewish people together, is tradition. None of them know why they do things the way they do, but it gives them stability in life and it makes them survive in an all too unsure world. Throughout the film though, poor Tevje has to question his traditions. His oldest daughter refuses to marry the man her parents and the matchmaker have chosen for her. A thing unheard of! She has fallen in love with her old playmate, the village tailor. And Tevje has to trick his wife, to be able to make his daughter happy. Then his second daughter, falls in love with one of the new communists. A man who speaks of education, of throwing traditions out of the window, and who ends up being deported to Siberia by the Tsar.  Tevje, has to accept that his daughter will leave home, without being married, going to the man SHE loves, in Siberia, a cold place where Jews do not usually go. Tevje feels that he has stretched as far as he can. Now he can not accept more new things. But then his beloved third daughter, the one who has spent all her years with her nose in books, wants to marry a Christian peasant. Tevje, is devastated. But he does not have any choices anymore. All the Jews are driven out of the little village of Anatevka, where they have lived for hundreds of years. Their neighbours have started a pogrom, on the Tsar’s orders, and they are no longer welcome.

At the end of the film, when they all leave with the few belongings they can take with them on hand carts and hay carriages, the village fiddler stands by the side, waiting to see if he is welcome to come with. Because he symbolizes tradition. Tevje motions for him to come with, even though, his entire world has been thrown upside down. I do not know why I get so emotional when watching the film or hearing the music, which of course brings pictures from the film to my mind. But it does. Because life did not turn out at all like Tevje expected it to become. And how often does it? How often, today, are we not forced to question our traditions and our way of living?

At particularly two places in the film, I cry. At the wedding scene, between the oldest daughter and her poor tailor, which starts out very touching and ends with the Christians riding in, destroying both the wedding party and the few wedding gifts. But also, during the Sabbath scene, when Tevje has come home, with lots of thoughts in his head, asking his wife is she loves him. (And she answers that he must be having indigestion and should lie down.) They start the Sabbath singing a Sabbath blessing over their five daughters and it is such a beautiful blessing. I know that the REAL prayer said, uses other words and names etc. But all Jewish prayers are very beautiful, and so is this pretend prayer:

“May the Lord protect and defend you,image

May He always shield you from shame,

May you come to be in Yisroel a shining name.

May you be like Ruth and like Esther.

May you be deserving of praise.

strengthen them, Oh Lord, and keep them from the strangers’ ways.

May God bless you and grant you long lives.

May the Lord fulfill our Sabbath prayer for you.

May God make you mothers and wives.

May He send you husbands who will care for you.

May the Lord protect and defend you.

May the Lord preserve you from pain.

Favour them, oh Lord, with happiness and peace.

Oh, hear our Sabbath prayer. Amen.”

For some reason that ring above, with the scripture place from Numbers, reminds me of the film and that very tender scene, when the parents lovingly pray for their daughters, hoping all the best for them. Is there anything more dear, than wishing a loved one to be kept safe by God and blessed by him? So this, is one of my newest favourite scripture places!

I meant to have finished the post here, but the story about the above ring and its Hebrew writing, does not end here. Saturday, after we had been to the Autism Christmas party, I  stood and looked at some cheap silver rings, in a jewelry shop window. These being the only kind of rings I can afford, to replace my wedding ring and engagement one.  It does feel very naked without a ring, when I have worn rings on that finger since I was 12.

Walking out to the car, we started talking about jewelry, my husband, my son “Kitty” and I. My husband stating that he will not buy jewelry for anyone, since everyone has different tastes and my son asking  his father what sort of jewelry, he likes. My husband’s answer “I would have liked that ring your mother showed me with Hebrew writing on it. But I do not want to be beaten to death!”. I asked him, what one earth he meant and his answer is very sad, very tragic and I’m afraid very true: “The Muslims would kill me. They are all over downtown Helsingborg and there is no way to avoid them. They would kill me for wearing a ring like that. You ask the Jews how safe they feel in Sweden!” That is how far it has gone though, in this country. You can’t display anything Hebrew or anything associated with Jewishness. The hatred among the Muslims have joined the Swedish anti-Semitism, and is allowed to roam free in my country. And it makes me SO mad! If a Jew want to wear a Chai sign around his neck or a star of David or if I, a Christian would like to wear a ring with a Hebrew text on it, we should be allowed to do so, without having to fear for our lives! Is this really the kind of society Swedes or anyone wants to live in? Where you are not allowed to wear what you want, nor believe in what you want to believe in?

 

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Swedish dish on a budget: #LIGHTtheWORLD

7 December 2016:

As a mother of seven, I have many times wondered how we would make it from one pay check to another. Sometimes, the bills are just overwhelming, aren’t they. It seems, they especially are so, towards the end of the year, when you need and want the money for funnier things, like making Christmas special. And also, in January, when all money have been spent, on Christmas itself, New Year’s and Twelfth Night.

This year, it is especially tough for us, since we have one son on a mission for our church. We know, how poorly he eats, how little money he has every month, compared to his rich American companions. He was not able to get a job in Sweden, before his mission, except doing the Basic Training for the Army. But that money only covered his packing list for the mission and all doctor’s and dentist’s appointments and examinations, he had to have before applying. He lives on very little, and we wanted to make Christmas special for him, so both my daughter and I, have tried to go the extra mile, when it came to sending him some treasured things.

We also have a used car, we had to buy on credit, in August last year, after I crashed our Toyota bus in Germany. That car has turned out to be worse than a money pit. If that is possible? On top of that, we had to have our ventilation checked and contrary to other companies, they wanted immediate payment. The gall! After they wrecked our furnace! So we now have the bill for that repair, to pay as well.

I have no idea, what our Christmas will be like. To be honest, I feel all depressed about the money situation, we are in. Fortunately, I have basically bought all Christmas presents for the children, my husband and my mother. BUT they might not be as grand as some elements of the family, were expecting. And I am worried sick about five of the items, which are still in transit from China, even though they were supposed to have arrived already. The companies refuse to pay back the money, so I can not go and buy something else, locally. That is eBay for you!

In the midst of this, the mormon.org calendar says that “Jesus fed the hungry and so can you”. So how can I feed the hungry? Today, I have decided to share an inexpensive recipe. On the one hand, it is not cheap, since it requires that you turn on the oven which is as expensive as keeping it on for an entire hour. But say that you have no problem with turning on an oven and dealing with that cost, then the following dinner, is usually within reach for most people. Super nutritious? Perhaps not, but not bad either.

SWEDISH OVEN PANCAKE (serves 4 people)

Turn the oven to 225 degrees Celsius/437 Fahrenheit 

and grease a deep oven cooking sheet with margarine, so the pancake will not stick (if in doubt, see picture below).

Mix

3 eggs

8 dl milk/4 cups

4 dl flour/2 cups

1/2 teaspoon salt

and pour the mixture in to the deep pan and cook for 3o minutes or until golden brown. The batter is supposed to have become firm as well.

To this recipe, you can add 300 grams of bacon or pork pieces. Many people put the pieces in to the batter and cook it all together. But my sister and I hated this when it was done in school, nor could my family afford the extra meat, so I did not grow up with it done. Also, when you have autistic sons like I do, it is never a good idea, to mix in things, in to a dish! What we do, when we feel “rich”, is fry up bacon and put them on a plate, where people can grab a couple of pieces, to eat with the pancake. It really does taste good together, BUT becomes a little bit too rich for me.

Usually, you just eat lingonberry or strawberry jam with it. Enjoy! It is something my family really likes!

 

What it looks like when ready.

What it looks like when ready.

Side view and serving suggestion.

Side view and serving suggestion.

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