Christmas in Iceland - 15.12.1940, Blaðsíða 25

Christmas in Iceland - 15.12.1940, Blaðsíða 25
interfere with our Government's policy. They are to pay for everything they get here, and and everything that may be damaged by them”. What was the attitude of the people of Reykjavik to all this sudden change? I will tell you honestly — it was rather cold. It was in no way hostile, but just cold. The main reason for this cold reception was that we were on the threshold of indepen- dance when it was snatched away. To understand the Icelanders’ point of view, it is necessary at this point to say a few words about the country’s history. Iceland was colonised late in the ninth century, and early in the tenth by Herdir, Rygir, Syguir and several other tribes from the West Coast of Norway. It is wrong to say that it was colonised by Norwegians, for it was these tribes who, with other similar tribes, later became the Norwegian nation. They were by no means a nation at that time. Some of the settlers came from Scotland and Ireland they were partly Norsemen and people of Celtic origin. About half a century after the settlement of Iceland began, a republic was established with common laws for the whole country. This republic stood for 300 years, as has been pointed out by Dr. Vilhjalmur Stefansson, — double the time United States of America have so far existed. After these three centuries Iceland came under the Norwegian King, and later the “Kalmar Union” was established, when Nor- way broke away from Denmark, Iceland re- mained in union with the latter. Then in 1377 a Thousend years after the settlement of Iceland — we get home gggg. In 1918 we made a final agraiment with the Danes that settled matters for the next 25 years. This agreement was to expire in 1943, and looked like oventually ending in a free Icelandic republic, free of any bonds to the Danes or to the Danish King. In April last the Germans siezed Denmark, therby cutting the ties that remained between these countries. The Icelandic government therefore declared that it was a declation of independence which would eventually have come in 1943, had things taken their norma! course. That was a lump of history, but I gave it in order to lead up to this point — the rather cold attitude of the Icelanders towards you when you landed. In the past months so many promises had been broken especially by the “Maddogs” that no one here in Ice- land trusted anybody. No wonder that many Icelanders wondered whether the British would keep their promi- ses. It was not so, with such Icelanders as knew the British. I for one know them. All nations have their own peculiarities. People of some don’t take their given word too seriously, if it is in convenient for them. Not so the British. They almost fanatically keep their word , it seems to me sometimes as if it where part o ftheir religion. I thenfore had no hesitition in believing that, come the appropriate time, they would evacuate the country. But there were several small things I did not like that morning. I did not like to see soldiers with fixed bayonets on guard outside my hotel. I had always liked to see, fluttering the Union Jack of our powerful southerly neighbour. But that morning — the 10 th of May — I felt uneasy when I saw it flying boldly from the building where the British had established their headquarters. Also, I did not like to see these stalwart young sol- diers digging trenches in our mud! All these complaints.... and to think that several hours previously I had felt “the bitter- ness of defeat”, because I had earnestly belie- ved that the “Maddogs” had arrived. Then I thought again. Things had been mo- ving fast in the outer vorld. Holland Bel- gium and Norway have fallen. The impreg- nable Maginot line has been blown up. The famous French Army has been paralysed. The German leader has told his followers that they have the world in “palm of their hands” that it would only be a few days before the British Army was ruled off the map. The invasion of England, it was heralded, was to Continued on Page 29, CHRISTMAS IN ICELAND 23


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