Not only did many refugees from Afghanistan and Syria join in Tuesday’s 17th of May celebrations for the first time, they also helped in preparations for the holiday. They joined volunteers from the Red Cross and the state refugee service (Flyktningtjenesten) in taking part in a city clean-up operation late last week.
“There’s a lot of garbage out there after the winter snow has melted,” Fatima Al Shami from Syria told newspaper Sør-Varanger Avis. “But it went well. I like keeping things clean.” Both she and Itaf Sheik Omar, also from Syria, each had a big plastic garbage bag to fill as they joined others in picking up garbage in a city park in Kirkenes.
Farther south, in Hedmark County, refugees new to Norway were also being told what the 17th of May is all about, and looked forward to see the parades and celebrate along with Norwegians. There were some cultural clashes, though. Several refugees reportedly were shocked by seeing naked russ, the graduating high school students known for wild partying in the run-up to the 17th of May, running over a bridge in Hamar – part of a stunt to win points in a russ competition.
Thoughtful counselors at the asylum center where they’re living also bought sausages made of chicken so they could eat 17th of May party food along with others who don’t eat traditional pork sausages because of religious beliefs.