”The Romanians and Barnevernet” – an interview for a Norwegian newspaper
Some time ago I have been contacted by a Norwegian newspaper for an interview. As in the newspaper published just a summary of my answers, I decided to publish the entire interview below. (Daniel Apetrei)
– How would you describe the reactions to this specific case in Romania and among Romanians in Norway?
First of all, it is an emotional reaction coming from the empathy for both parents and children. It is terrible for the parents to be deprived in a brutal way of their five children and even more terrible for the children, separated even one from each other, taken in three places in two counties, with no possibility of communication, even under supervision, with their parents.
I believe that the separation of the breast-fed infant from his mother, without trying to keep him with his mother in a special center under supervision, is a considerably source of this reaction in Romania, as well as among Romanian communities around the globe, from Melbourne to the USA.
Beyond the emotional aspect, the information that have appeared in the Romanian media about the case, the statements made by public or religious authorities in Romania, the position of some civic activists in human rights in Norway accumulated with the lack of “explanations” from the Norwegian authorities, which was interpreted as ignorance or carelessness, strengthened the people reactions in this case.
– Why do you think so many Romanians – in Romania and many other countries – have taken to the streets and in other ways got very engaged in this case?
Romania has a share of about 90% of practicing Christians. The initial presentation of the case as a “religious conflict” between the family and the school was enough reason to lead people out in the street, as a reaction against a presumed religious persecution.
Also in Romania, the traditional family consisting of mother and father, has an important role in the society. Family ties are strong, the extended family functions like a network.
Even if there is suspicion of occasional disciplinary “corrections” of the children, splitting the family is being seen in the Romanian public space as exaggerated, there seems to be a disproportion between the guilt and the punishment. It is believed that the trauma caused to the children by splitting the family is much more significant than the one caused by the presumed “violence”.
The contact with a hermetic institution, that has too much “independence” and full authority, as Barnevernet is perceived, reminds to many Romanians about the way in which some institutions used to be the communist period in Romania.
The complete failure of the totalitarian communist state in Romania questioned the absolute trust in authorities (in particular civil servants) and their good intention to work for the citizens best interest. The legislative differences between the two countries were another factor that disturbed the Romanians (in Romania the police intervention and forced taking of children from the family can take place only after a court order is issued).
Immediately after this specific case, several other cases of families, who consider themselves being victims of unfair treatment from Barnevernet, appeared in the media. Combined with all kinds of rumors, legends, opinions circulating in the social media that have not been demolished by the authorities, the similar cases have easily amplified reactions and street protests.
– Have you previously heard about stories where Romanians in Norway are concerned about Barnevernet?
A few months after I settled in Norway, I learned that there is some fear and tension regarding this institution. First, there were only small talks with colleagues at work, then I found some stories on internet, kind of fantasies that seemed not credible because there was not any official opinion attached to them. Personally, I had, and I still have, a very good relationship with the Norwegian institutions with which I have come in contact with, then the people around me, work colleagues and neighbors.
However, in 2014 a Romanian friend, father of a 5 year old came into contact with Barnevernet, after a report of concern from kindergarten. I was in touch with him during that period and after some tensed encounters with school and Bv, the family just felt treated unfair and unjust, threatened and unsafe so they decided to return to Romania. Following the events that have been revealed in the last months, they strongly believe that they would have lost their child if they had stayed in Norway.
In 2015, a coworker from Lithuania went through a very similar situation: there were several meetings with the kindergarten and Bv about the “aggressive” and “hyperactive” behavior of the child. After these meetings, he and his wife decided that the best for their family is that the child and his mother return in the home country permanently.
After learning about other cases from the international media (including Romanian) I tried to find out more about raising up children in Norway and about rules and legislation regarding child welfare. Unfortunately, it was very hard to find consistent, clear, well-structured official information translated into English. Therefore I ended up only recommending to the Romanians that were sending emails of concern to Jurnal de Nord to have a very good collaboration with schools and kindergartens, to always ask the teachers about guidance and make decisions together.
– What impact do you think this case will have on the relations between Romania/Romanians and Norway?
I and other Romanians leaving here, in Norway, found ourselves now in a very unpleasant situation. I, personally, have a lot of symphathy for the Norwegian people, I have had god interactions and relationships with the people and institutions I have been in contact with by now. I think this is the same for almost all the Romanians living here but, in the same time, we can not play deaf when someone is crying for help and support and there are suspicions and information that they have been treated unjust.
I have heard about families who are moving abroad or just sending their children back in Romania to protect them. This is about people who have been working here, invested here, bought houses, send their children to school here. This is about turning families life, children included, upside down just because of fear, lack of information and communication.
I really believe that there is a need for more clarifications from the authorities regarding the practice of child protection so that people can calm down and feel trustful and safe in Norway.
I do not believe that the diplomatic relation between Norway and Romania will be affected by this case because this is not a conflict but a dialogue which will lead to a solution of the situation which will be god enough for all those involved.
– Could you give a short presentation of Jurnal de Nord?
Jurnal de Nord is a website started in the summer of 2013, three years after I moved in Norway. The purpose of this website was, and still is, to provide information for the Romanians living here, in Norway, and to those who have an interest in Norway, in their native language.
The idea of this website came from the lack of information in Romanian, which may complicate the situation of some Romanians new here. I consider that the stages of an immigration process are: the accommodation – the first few years, the next would be the integration – when a person becomes comfortable, makes friends or a family on her/his own (those that had not had a family when they first arrived here, in Norway), and then assimilation, which occurs within two or three generations. For the first stage, the accommodation, Romanians needed a guide and this is what Jurnal de Nord tries to do.
The article in Norwegian can be read here.