Goodbye to Helene Sand Andresen, Norwegian Diplomat
Helene Sand Andresen, Deputy Director for the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, knows exactly when to speak up, exactly what to say, and exactly when to listen. Her rich life experience, conversational tact, and contagious good-humor made Helene a gift to the L&D community and our B2 group of students. After a short two weeks, however, it’s time to say до свидания and to wish her all the best.
Biography and Background
From age three onward, Helene lived in Staten Island for one year, in New Orleans for two years, in Singapore for three years, in Moscow for four years, and then in Nairobi for five years. “At age 19,” she said, “my parents sent me home to learn how to be Norwegian.”
After completing an Economics degree from the University of Oslo, Helene became a UN Volunteer in Mogadishu, where she worked as an administrative assistant in a gated compound. She then got a job offer for the UN in Tajikistan. “In Tajikistan, I used Russian actively during field work to interact with women who experienced regressions in their freedom after the collapse of the Soviet Union. We’d talk about women’s rights and how an international organization could best help them.”
Since then, Helene has worked for the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As a diplomat, she spent three years in Iran, five years in Afghanistan, and four years in Moscow.
Interest in Russia
“My life has been in and out of Russia since I lived in Moscow for four years as a child. This country is a red thread for me, so to speak. Not by coincidence — by choice.”
Although Soviet Children weren’t allowed to spend too much time around Helene, a dangerous Westerner, she still learned the basics of the Russian language as a child. At the same time, Russian high art left a deep impression on her. “I was exposed to culture — real culture — the best of the best. I saw ballet and opera at the Bolshoi Theatre, and my mom took me to see Visotsky perform.” During her time at L&D, she’s been to the Mariinsky twice. Cultural appreciation is a key reason why Helene continued to study Russian.
While in Nairobi, she began to study Russian with a tutor, conscious that she’d need the language in the future. “It wasn’t until 2010,” she said, “when I began my post in Moscow, that I began to feel comfortably fluent in Russian. For work I had to read Russian papers and watch the news…and you know how the TV hosts talk — faster than the speed of light.”
“I love Russian friendships, Russian open-heartedness — how once you’re accepted, you really become part of the family.
“I love the way Russians start singing when they get together. They all seem to know the same songs.
“I love Russia’s traditional manners — how when you travel on public transport, people still offer their seats to the elderly.
“I love how in the winter if you get on a bus without a hat on, a babushka will scold you in an endearing way, ‘Where is your hat? You’ll catch cold.’”
Goodbye, Helene, and Best of Luck!