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Meeting Old and New Friends

Freda Isaksen

When you live in a big city like Los Angeles, apart from your own circle of friends one is a stranger amongst millions. Very often we do not even know our neighbors. Only someone who has lived in a small town or city knows that anybody can be a somebody even though that person has not accomplished anything significant.

Trondheim is such a city. It is the third largest city in Norway with a population of about 75,000. But it is still a provincial city. People become accustomed to shopping in the same few main streets and attending the same communal functions.

Certainly all the Jewish people knew every other Jew in the whole of Norway. There are only about 11,000 Jews in the country. Nevertheless my son Leonard and I thought it remarkable that although it is 66 years since I left Norway people know when I am coming to visit. But then, after all in 1936 I was the girl who came from England and married the most eligible bachelor in the whole of Norway (no exaggerating). Besides I have the Isaksen name which still carries a great deal of respect. I even dared to emigrate to the United States to escape the fate that others suffered from the German occupation.

So it was exciting that unknown people and non-Jewish had heard that I would be in Trondheim this year. Leonard went to purchase a gift at a jewelry store. There are many in Trondheim. Not many tourists come to that northern city so the inhabitants surely buy the goods displayed there for sterling silver and handcrafted jewelry. Norway has a socialist government that encourages its citizens to spend rather than save their money. It stimulates the economy and the state will care for them in their old age (after 67) by providing health care from cradle to grave and living conditions when needed in private or government selected homes.

At the jewelry store Leonard was assisted by a Norwegian saleslady. She asked him, “How long will you be in Trondheim?” He answered, “Only until next week. I accompanied my mother here to visit relatives.” “Oh,” was the answer, “Is your mother Freda Isaksen? I heard she was coming here.” “How do you know my mother?” says Leonard. “My friend is a friend of a friend who knows the family,” she explains.

Of course I went to the jewelry store to meet her.

Copyright Freda Isaksen 1986–2006. Permission to reuse for non-commercial purposes is granted, provided that the text is unaltered and the original source is acknowledged. For more information, contact isaksen at

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