Mariana Österblom, verksamhetschef på kvinnojouren i Fagersta. Foto: Mattias Pleijel/Sveriges Radio.
Mariana Österblom, director of the women's shelter in Fagersta. Photo: Mattias Pleijel/Sveriges Radio.

Kids celebrating Christmas at shelters

"We try to make it cosy and homey"
1:33 min

Hundreds of children in Sweden are celebrating Christmas behind barbed wire. They're living in protected shelters because they and a parent are fleeing from violence at home.

"We have decorated. We try to make it cosy and homey. And one of the staff will dress up as Santa Claus," says Mariana Österblom at a women's shelter in Fagersta, in west-central Sweden.

She says all children deserve peace and holiday feelings during the season. They have had quite a lot of presents donated, so the children will have something to unwrap.

The shelter is ringed with barbed wire and the windows are of reinforced glass. But inside there are pushchairs and baby carriages and there's the smell of Swedish holiday baking.

This is a home for people who have escaped from domestic violence.

According to the national umbrella organisation for women and girls' shelters, at least 300 children will be spending this Christmas at such a residence.

Christmas itself is a stressful time, and often means arguments even in safe homes. But Mariana Österblom says they're trying to show the children it is possible to have a happy Christmas.

Not everyone shares her point of view, though. Elin Hedén at another shelter nearby says they have to think about what all the children there have been through. And they might not have positive associations to Santa Claus and Christmas presents.

She says there will be tears - and it's her job to see that the children who get upset get to talk about their feelings. And that the children get a real break from the violence they've suffered at home.

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