Everyone counts

“Everyone makes a difference here. Everyone counts, and one feels that somehow a person has more value here than they do in a bigger community” – Helga Elisabet Beck Guðlaugsdóttir.

In 2015 Helga Elísabet, together with her husband Kristinn Guðbrandsson and their two children, moved from Seltjarnarnes to Reyðarfjörður.

Helga was born in Reykjavik in 1975, but her roots lie here in the East. Her parents and many of her relatives are from Reyðarfjörður. As she says: “We moved to Austurland when I was in tenth grade and relocated in Fellabær. Before that, I had visited the east coast regularly and stayed with my grandparents in Reyðarfjörður. It was my dream to move this area. I felt Reyðarfjörður was the best place in the world – a kind of heaven.”

In 2015, having  lived in Seltjarnarnes in South West Iceland for years, she finally made her dream come true. “We had a house in Seltjarnarnes and were typical middle class people with two children. Each month our bank balance stood at zero, with nothing left of our salaries, and we began to think about what more we could make from what we had.

Kristinn, my husband, started sending me real-estate adverts from Selfoss, Ísafjörður, Siglufjörður, and beyond. It started out as a joke, but then we realised that we should really move to the countryside” says Helga. They started looking for houses and work in Austurland, where Helga´s parents and relatives still live (Fellabær and Reyðarfjörður, respectively).

“Kristinn was able to get a job in the fire department in Fjarðabyggð and I was not worried about myself,” says Helga, who works as the head of home services at the municipality of Fjarðabyggð. “We saw a house that we liked in a real estate advertisement, bought it sight unseen, and are very happy with it.”

And has Reyðarfjörður met expectations?

“Yes, definitely,” says Helga, who is considerably more socially active in Reyðarfjörður than she ever was in Seltjarnarnes. She sings in the choir, goes skiing and mountain climbing, and plays bass in a punk band. “Everybody counts here,” she says. “Everyone makes a difference here. Everyone counts, and one feels that somehow a person has more value here than they do in a bigger community.”

Text: Jón Knútur Ásmundsson.

Photos: Daniel Byström (top), Rhombie Sandoval og María Hjálmarsdóttir. 

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