A Grey Blanket with Embroidered Flowers
By Solveig Hansen, May 2009
In a WW2 prison camp in Germany, a Norwegian woman started to embroider her life on a grey prison blanket. Little did she know that this blanket and her story would touch so many hearts decades later. “A Grey Blanket with Embroidered Flowers” is a 35-minute long documentary portraying this woman, a fisherman’s wife who had been sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment by the Germans. She was arrested together with her husband for their involvement in the resistance movement. He was sentenced to death.
Her name is Dagny Loe. When the war broke out, she lived with her husband Osvald and their eight children in the arctic village of Berlevaag at the top of Norway. They agreed to assist the partisans, who operated from a nearby mountain, by collecting information that the partisans then forwarded to Soviet Murmansk, and by providing them with warm clothes and food. They knew the risk. One day Osvald was captured by the Germans; then they came for her. She took their youngest child, a 6 week old baby girl, with her, while the others were left behind.
The sentences were harsh, the human costs even harder. Before she was transported to Germany, her baby girl died and was taken away for burial by a woman – more about that later. Her husband was executed, beaten to death, together with six others. She saw him one last time before the sentence was carried out. “If you survive, try to take care of our children,” he said.
It was in the German prison camp that she started to embroider her life on that grey blanket, just to survive. Some of her cellmates embroidered their names on it, too. One was Héléne from France, another Tina from the Netherlands. Women from all over Europe, all with similar fates, who never allowed themselves to show any weakness in front of their guards. On the blanket, she also embroidered her name and address in the hope that it would find its way home should she not make it.
She did return home a few years later, to what was left of it. The Germans had efficiently applied their scorched earth tactic as they were forced to retreat from the north. She was reunited with her children and raised them. Later there were grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
The fate of her baby girl was revealed 51 years later when she received a call from the woman who had taken care of the burial of that little body. The woman told that she buried the baby in the arms of an elderly lady who had just passed away.
In the film, Mrs. Loe, now in her nineties, tells her story in a matter-of-fact way, calm voice, beautiful mild face. Maybe the story is one she has told many times before.
She still has her wedding dress, that was dyed red and came to good use during the war years. Her wish is to be buried in it, firm in the belief that she will meet again the man she loved, he who used to sing Edvard Grieg’s I Love You to her in such a way that it could melt the ice.
Despite the underlying sadness to the film, it is full of love and hope. Love for a husband, a country, life itself. Hope because there is always someone who is willing to make sacrifices when they are called to serve. And I wonder: Would I do the same?
The prize-winning documentary “A Grey Blanket with Embroidered Flowers” is made by Swedish journalist and director Gunilla Bresky. Swedish title: “En grå filt med broderade blommor”