22 July, 2014

I wish that Utøya shall be filled with life

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Category: European Action Day
Gubaz Koberidze
8 pm

On the 22nd of July the Terrorist Ander Behring Breivik murdered 77 people. 69 of these on the AUF, Labor Youths’ summer camp on Utøya. The last three years since the massacre took place the Island has not been used and the discussion of the future of Utøya is also a discussion of the aftermath of the 22nd of July. Unni Espeland Marcussen lost her 16 year old daughter on the Island that day. Her story tells about the process of reconciling with what happened. Her conclusion – Utøya must once again be filled with life, with young people respecting the memories of the victims and fighting the beliefs and ideologies which the terrorist stood for. 

I wish that Utøya shall be filled with life

I am sure the memory of Utøya is something AUF will carry with them with great respect, and that they will spend their efforts in fighting the beliefs and ideologies the terrorist stands for.

Unni Espeland Marcussen, the mother of Andrine Bakkene Espeland

Published the 9th of July 2014 in Aftenposten, the largest Norwegian newspaper

Translated by Eirik Rise with permission from the author

Link to original story: http://www.aftenposten.no/meninger/debatt/Eg-onskjer-at-Utoya-skal-fyllast-med-liv-7630818.html#.U75aFvl_uSo

Soon it’s the 22nd of July once again, and I’m returning to Utøya. I have been there many times over the last three years. Before this date I hardly knew where the Island was, even though I had a daughter that was filled with joy to go there. For the first time, and hopefully the first of many. It didn’t go that way, and we all know why.

Hard process

At the same time as all of us affected are mobilizing to stand this day through, a lot of different discussions are going on. It is the discussion if Utøya once again should be filled with life, and it is the discussions around the spontaneous memorial and the national memorial. I leave these discussions to rest for now.

I’ve ended up with wishing for Utøya to once again be filled with life. The process of coming to term with this has not been easy, because I’ve also felt that it must be hard to once again fill the Island with political discussions, seriousness and play. I have never thought anyone will be “stepping on the grave” of my girl, because to me that’s not where the grave is, but the place where she was robbed of her life.

Laughing and chatting

How I have been thinking and how I’ve processed my loss to reach the opinion I now have? The third time I stepped ashore on Utøya, the spring of 2012, I heard the sound of youth in my head. They were happy youth looking forward to summer camp. In my head they were laughing, chatting, meeting friends and hugging each other. I also pictured my own daughter, when she went on the bus heading for the Island. This feeling came to stay with me.

When I once again was on the Island on the day one year after I was deeply moved when we were returning from the Island. We met queues of youth who were getting on the boat. I cried and though, there are so many missing here. My girl should have been in that queue.


On the day two years after I sat on the Southern tip, all alone at the time 18.34.55, because I wanted this. That’s the time my girl was murdered.

I played Adele on my phone. I saw pictures of my little girl, that her big sister had hung up earlier that day, and I spoke with her. Right there and then I reconciled with what had happened and I settled the scores with the terrorist. I reconciled with this horror. I write reconciled with, because forgive I will never do, and never accept, but I have reconciled with my youngest girl having been murdered and that she would never come back.

Of course I have felt and feel anger over what happened. Despite this, I decided early that I could not stay there. It would destroy me. I decided that I would concentrate on what I could do something about. That’s why the contact with the youth has become important to me. I know there are different opinions also amongst the youth about what should happen with the Island, but most of those who I speak with, wishes that there shall be life once again.

My girl would never come back and I will never be able to ask her about her opinion. Therefor I need to make my own decision. She was an eager and engaged member of AUF and I think that it is in her spirit that the Island once again shall be filled with life. For me this is important.

No ownership of Utøya

I have been thinking about that the process with learning how to live with the trauma we have experienced will happen in very different time. It will be this way for we who were left behind and it will be this way for the young ones who were on Utøya that day three years ago. I have never been a member of AUF and I didn’t have any relation to this Island, before it became the murder site of my daughter. I don’t have any ownership rights to the Island. Just as little as I would have ownership rights to another place, if she would have been murdered there.

In the beginning AUF acted to quick and have taken self-criticism for this. Afterwards I have experienced a good dialogue with AUF and I have been allowed to come with thoughts and opinions. I’ve felt both seen and heard. This doesn’t mean that all of my opinions end up the way I think best, but I know it has been taken into consideration. For me that’s democracy, the way I wish a democracy to work.

Nature heals its wounds

The 22nd of July this year I will be once again on the Island, and it is the last time the Island looks approximately the same way she did three years ago. The Southern tip has already changed, because the bush where my little girl fell when she was murdered has overgrown. Nature heals it wounds. It’s worse with us people. We will always have wounds in our hearts, but next to the wounds the memories live on, forever.

For the new generation of AUF-members the memory of this day will also be a part of everything they do, also on Utøya. I am sure that they will carry this memory with great respect, and that they will spend their efforts in fighting the beliefs and ideologies the terrorist stands for.

That’s why I wish that there will be life on Utøya once again. For me this is honoring my daughter and what she stood for.

Adele song found on Unni’s YouTube channel:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HKoqNJtMTQ

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