War hero’s statue damaged again

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A statue of Norwegian war hero Gunnar Sønsteby has now been removed from its base at Solli Plass in Oslo, after it was found broken and lying on its side Friday morning. The statue that was formally unveiled by King Harald V six years ago was already in need of repairs after vandalism earlier this month.

Shortly after the the death of Norwegian war hero Gunnar Sønsteby, flowers adorn his statue, which stands near another of Sir Winston Churchill, seen in the background. PHOTO: Views and News

Norwegians placed flowers around the statue of war hero Gunnar Sønsteby when he died last year at the age of 94. His statue has since been damaged by recklessness twice within the past month, and its pedestal now stands empty. A statue of Sir Winston Churchill can be seen in the background. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Sculptor Per Ung’s depiction of the resistance fighter with his famed bicycle lost its front wheel during or just after a massive outdoor party at Solli Plass on the 17th of May. The wheel was later recovered and a highly upset Ung has been in the process of arranging repairs.

When the new damage was reported to police Friday morning, it appeared vandals or reckless drunks had struck again. Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that police received a call a few hours later, however, from a mother who said her four-year-old son had climbed up on the statue in an attempt to ride Sønsteby’s bicycle.

The boy was on his way to a local day care center when he jumped up on the statue, according to police. The statue couldn’t tolerate the weight of the boy and it broke off its pedestal, sending both the artistic impression of Norway’s greatest war hero and his bicycle, along with the boy, to the ground.

The boy was taken to a local emergency room with a swollen ankle, but was otherwise said to be uninjured.

The statue has now been removed from Solli Plass and Ung told NRK that it will be repaired at a bronze foundry. He said the wheel will be refastened and the pedestal improved.

Ung hopes the statue, placed not far from another war memorial statue of British war hero Sir Winston Churchill at Solli Plass, will now be moved to a new location.

“Solli Plass isn’t the right place for it,” Ung told NRK. “It would have been best if it was placed along Karl Johans Gate, where Kjakan (Sønsteby’s nickname) stood when the Germans came.”

Oslo Mayor Fabian Stang later told NRK that the statue, when repaired, will be permanently moved, probably later this summer, to a site along Karl Johan’s Gate that’s historically connected to Sønsteby: A black-and-white photo from the day German troops marched down Oslo’s main parade boulevard, after the invasion on April 9 1940, shows Sønsteby with his trademark sixpence cap and bicycle watching from the sidelines.

Sønsteby later went on to be one of Norway’s most successful resistance fighters and saboteurs during the war years, evading capture and becoming highly decorated and revered after Norway’s liberation. He received a state funeral when he died last year at the age of 94.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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