His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haakon of Norway Visits the town of Kirkenes.

Photo courtesy of the Norwegian royal court/S.Løvberg Sund

While Her Majesty Queen Sonja of Norway was meeting with Ukrainian refugees at the Caritas Norge in Oslo, her son, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Haakon of Norway was visiting the town of Kirkenes. The town, located in the Sør-Varanger municipality in the far northeastern region of Norway, borders Finland and Russia.

According to the Norwegian royal court, the purpose of today’s visit was to “…meet the locals and hear how it feels to live close to the border with Russia after the country’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine.”

The day began with a:

“…visit to the Barents Secretariat, where the mayor of Kirkenes, Lena Norum Bergeng, and head of the Barents Secretariat, Lars Georg Fordal, told how Russia’s warfare affects the city’s population, cooperation and friendship across borders, and business. At the same time, they experience that there is a good community in Kirkenes regardless of nationality.

The mayor of Kirkenes said that many Russians live in the city, and that everyone knows someone from Russia. They are friends, neighbors, spouses and colleagues. In addition, you are used to traveling freely across the border to shop, visit friends, maintain business cooperation and go on holiday. Both she and the other representatives who were present at the meeting emphasized that there are now many in the city who feel great sadness that cooperation across the border is now not possible.

The head of the Barents Secretariat said that their goal is to create mutual understanding between Russia and Norway, by sharing knowledge and building networks and financing cooperation projects. But after Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, virtually all cooperation between Norway and Russia has stopped.

After the briefing, the Crown Prince took a walk through a snow-covered center, and had lunch at Go’biten patisserie with six of the city’s residents: Nils Edvard Olsen, Vegard Kristiansen, Matvey Shchetnev, Nina Karin Skogan, Maria Alexeeva and Ingrid Valan. Together they talked about how they experience living and living close to the Russian border.

At the Basen youth club, the Crown Prince met several local young people from the Youth Council, and was shown around by the unit leader for culture, Harald Sørensen. The young people told about the offer at the newly opened club; and spent particularly good time in the new E-sports room. 

The day ended at the city’s ice hockey field, which is the home field of Kirkenes Puckers. The ice hockey club is led by William Sjøstrand. He was born in Murmansk and moved to Norway when he was 30 years old. His family has Norwegian roots and is referred to as Kolanordmenn. He now leads the city’s ice hockey team and is one of the initiators behind the amateur league Barents Hockey League, known to many through the NRK series Puckers. The league facilitates a number of matches between teams from Norway, Finland and Russia.”