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From Vysočina Beyond the Arctic Circle to Angel Island (Engeløy)

30/05/2021

The Benc brothers in Postřelmov in the Šumperk region keep a wonderful photo album with pictures from Narvik and Engeløya, period official materials and war souvenirs. It is a memorial to their father, Mr. Benc who he did not tell much about his three sons and daughter about being forced to live in Norway. They did not receive most of the information until shortly after his death in the mid-1990s, when an invitation to the Norwegians met came.

There they learned from their father's friends about their fate in Norway. Mr. Kunštátský, who worked at the same workplace in Engeløya, described the place and work environment to his sons in detail. He even drew a living room in a wooden hut where they had lived for almost three years, and marked the place on the bunk bed where Mr. Benc slept.

Mr. Bence's eldest son then searched for those deployed from Šumperk. He wrote several newspaper articles about the Noráci meeting and their memories in the local newspaper "Moravský Sever".

Mr. Jiří Benc came to Norway in December 1942. As a trained gardener, he was soon commissioned with gardening work at the workplace - this included the camouflage of completed military buildings. Secretly taking a picture captures his work on Dietl's battery. The image, preserved even in negative, is truly exceptional, as there was a strict ban on photography in the workplace. This is, among other things, the reason why most of the preserved photographs of Czechoslovaks show mainly the surroundings, nature, group photos, or conditions of accommodation.

In addition to period pictures from Engeløy, we can also find rich materials from meetings in the family estate. Furthermore, this estate preserves the correspondence with Mr. Kunštátský and the memories of another deputy, Karel Jirgl, on repatriation to his homeland. A video recording of the meeting in 2000 has also been preserved.

A surprise for the family was the content of the letters written in Norwegian, which we translated for them during our visit. Upon his return, Mr. Benc corresponded with his Norwegian girlfriend Erna Larsen from Ofoten. In the surviving concept, he confided in him his feelings and remembered the time they had spent together in Norway, but with the sad statement that they would probably never meet again. Who wrote the concept written in Norwegian is not entirely clear to them. According to them, the father did not speak Norwegian.

With the kind permission of the family, we are publishing a photographic legacy from Norway. Thank you for your helpful reception and provision of materials!

Source: Family Archive, Postřelmov.

Edited by: Vendula V. Hingarová

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