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The Queen meets Ukrainian refugees

The Oslo Public Health Association has created a safe, friendly meeting place for Ukrainians who have fled the war in their homeland. Her Majesty Queen Sonja came to visit the refugees at their weekly gathering on Monday. 


Wearing Ukrainian embroidered blouses shirts, Zakhar (9) and Solomiia (7) honoured a festive Shrovetide tradition by presenting the Queen with birch boughs decorated with feathers. The two have begun attending school in Norway and impressed the Queen by speaking with her in Norwegian.

Queen Sonja was also welcomed by the Mayor of Oslo, Marianne Borgen, as well as by Malin Stensønes of the Norwegian Women’s Public Health Association and Goke Bressers of the Oslo Public Health Association. 

Queen Sonja meets Ukrainian refugees at the Oslo Public Health Association. Photo: Håkon Mosvold Larsen / NTB

Ukrainian songs, food and activities 

During her 90-minute visit the Queen took part in activities that are typical of the open weekly gatherings. She enjoyed a taste of traditional Ukrainian borscht – beetroot soup – that some of the refugees prepared in the kitchen. And she listened as they sang Ukrainian songs.

Ukrainian songs were performed during the Queen’s visit. Photo: Per-Åge Iversen, Norwegian Women’s Public Health Association

Four of the women shared their stories with Queen Sonja. They spoke of their backgrounds, their concerns for Ukraine and their new lives here in Norway.

Every week the refugees come to the stately old villa in Smestad that houses the Oslo Public Health Association to meet others in the same situation, communicate in their own language and share their experiences. The Oslo Public Health Association provides them with insight into Norwegian society, Norwegian language training and help in building a local network. 

Traditional Ukrainian borscht being prepared in the kitchen. Iryna, Svetlana and Larisa discuss Ukrainian food and food traditions with the Queen. Photo: Liv Anette Luane, The Royal Court


The open meetings for Ukrainian refugees in Oslo have been taking place since 16 May 2022. They draw 15 to 30 people every week.

Since the war broke out almost a year ago, the Norwegian Women’s Public Health Association and other voluntary organisations have provided support by welcoming the refugees and facilitating their integration and inclusion.


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