Monday, January 17, 2011

What now, Maria Amelie?

I think I mentioned earlier on my blog that I made a short trip to my home country Hungary before Christmas. We flew through Kastrup airport, Copenhagen and while waiting for the flight to Norway, I got myself a Dagbladet (one of Norway's biggest tabloids) and found out that the Norwegian of the year 2010 had been chosen: 25-year-old Maria Amelie.

Maria Amelie
Årets nordmann (Norwegian of the Year) is a prize that was founded in 2007 by weekly Ny Tid (New Time). According to the magazine, the idea of the prize was born after an email received by the editors saying that only 'ethnic Norwegians' can be Norwegians, those having any different background, can never be Norwegians, not even if they have Norwegian citizenship. There are four people (four women, actually) who got the award so far and two out of the four were not born in Norway...

Maria Amelie (née Madina Salamova) was born in the former Soviet Union (in the Kaukasus, North-Ossetia) and came to Norway as a teenager in 2002 with her parents as an illegal immigrant. The family failed to get a residence permit, however, they decided to continue their stay in the country without any documents. Daughter Maria Amelie was everything but lazy in these eight years: she picked up a fluent Norwegian, got several jobs and even got an MA from the university of Trondheim and was involved in organizing different festivals as a volunteer. In September 2010 she went high profile and her first book Ulovlig norsk ('Illegally Norwegian') got published where she described her life as an illegal in the country with the aim to open people's eyes and draw the attention to the often hopeless situation of immigrants living in Norway without any papers.

Maria Amelie, reading from her book Ulovlig norsk
13th January 2011, Maria Amelie got arrested after her lecture at the Nansenskole in Lillehammer (Nansen School, Norwegian Humanitarian Academy - named after Norwegian humanitarian Fridtjof Nansen). By the way, 2011 is Nansen-year in Norway... She is accused of working black, using false identity and being in the country for a long time, despite the fact that there is nothing in Russia that she needs to be protected from.

Already on the very same evening, people went out to the streets to protest against the laws that allow this to happen and trying to find the ways for the young author to stay in the country or at least to come back as soon as possible. However, it can take up to several years, given the fact that she doesn't have any papers to live legally in Russia, either. A group on Facebook has been established to set her free, 'liked' by over 88 000 people just within a few days.

Friday evening, Norway's Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg declared on a television interview: laws apply to everyone equally. Maria Amelie is at the moment in Trandum refugee center near Oslo... waiting for being sent back "home" to Russia. It can happen any time.

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