When Finnish war children were evacuated to Sweden

Nya hem i Sverige

Finnish children were evacuated to Sweden during World War II to protect them from the hostilities and provide them with food, clothing and shelter. The enormous commitment by Sweden had both political and personal repercussions. This project examines how Swedish authorities and volunteer organisations justified the evacuation, their view of parent-child separation and the best interests of the child, thereby contributing insights about the policies surrounding unaccompanied refugee children at a more general level.

Finland was initially sceptical about the proposal to evacuate war children to Sweden. Nevertheless, approximately 70,000 children were eventually evacuated. Some were placed in orphanages, but most of them in foster homes. Sweden had a tradition of foster care. Finnish war children more than doubled the population of foster homes during the period. 

Evacuation from a number of other countries 

Children were also evacuated from other parts of Europe during World War II. Experts on children discussed the impact of parent-child separation as the result of evacuation from war-torn cities. A number of studies were conducted, laying the foundation for bonding theory. France and other countries, however, regarded parent-child separation more sanguinely and wartime evacuation did not spark the same kind of debate as in the UK. 

How Finnish war children were looked at and treated

This project explores the ways that Swedish authorities and volunteer organisations justified and promoted evacuation of Finnish war children, their view of parent-child separation and the best interests of children, and the impact of public willingness to help on their treatment in Sweden from 1939 to 1959. The focus of the study encompasses the actions of Swedish authorities, the deliberations of experts on children, the image of Finland presented in the media, and the reasons for which the general public opened its homes to war children against the backdrop of Sweden's neutrality policy. 

The political role of children in wartime 

This project contributes knowledge about the actions of Sweden during World War II from the perspective of children, shedding light on their role in wartime while offering insights into the involvement of authorities, the social sciences, the media and the general public in shaping the policies to which unaccompanied refugee children are subject at a more general level. Title of the project: New homes in Sweden – the evacuation of Finnish war children during WWII:  notions of child-parent separations and the public's willingness to help in light of Swedish politics of neutrality Funding: Forte

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