The Granny Report: Aslaug Margrethe Nebel

The 84-year-old avid traveller and mother of three told us about dealing with WWII as a child and the lice, mice and long journeys she endured.

‘The Granny Report’ is our new series where we ask some women who’ve been around the block and seen it all about their strongest memories. Today, meet 84-year-old mother of three Aslaug Margrethe Nebel
. Originally from Norway, Aslaug spends a lot of time listening to audio books and loves to drink wine even though the doctors say she should stop. And she loves to travel; in fact, she’s been almost everywhere in the world.

Aslaug in her 20s.

I was born in Bergen, Norway, in 1933. It is a very beautiful city. I started school in 1939, and that’s when World War II began. We had to move from Bergen; the city was covered in flyers that told people to flee because the city would be bombed.

We moved 47 people up to a small country house. Everyone got sick because there was typhus in circulation, and the plumbing and sewage systems had collapsed. Our area was closed off by the Germans, so we couldn’t get away. That was the first 14 days of war for me.

Because we were at war, the children were sent away to other families. When it happened to me, I was pretty young—maybe 9 years old. I first came somewhere called Sorgen, which was an organisation that would place us with families. My little sister was sent do a doctor’s family and I was sent to a very old lady. I think her son and daughter-in-law thought I would be good help around the house. The old lady had a small room furnished with a small bed with a sheepskin throw on top, and I was supposed to sleep in that little bed together with her. I got both lice and fleas because it was so dirty.

There was no water in the house and I was itching all over my body, so I tried to wash myself in a small, muddy lake beside the house. I was so sad. There were mice in all the drawers in the house that would jump out as soon as you’d open them. It was so disgusting.

Aslaug as a child.

One day, I couldn’t take it anymore, so I ran away. I met a man with a horse-drawn carriage who gave me a lift down to the harbour. I had no money or food—I had nothing, except for myself and my suitcase. But luckily there was a return ticket in my suitcase, so I could take the ship back to Bergen. I still had no money when I came to Bergen, so I went all the way to my grandmother’s, which was outside the city. I knocked on the door and my grandmother came out and said, “oh, dear child.” She took me straight into the washroom in the basement because I was completely dirty and covered in lice and fleas. She burned my clothes and cut my hair. I cried and cried.

It was so nice to come home to my grandmother; she was the most wonderful person I’d ever known.

To this day, I’m still scared of mice and lice.