Bikers with a cause
11 July 2007
by Maude Fröberg
The ‘Human Wheel’, as the cortege was called, was the initiative of Lasse Lahnn, a member of the Swedish Red Cross. “Bikers are often portrayed by the media as trouble-makers,” he explained. “It’s a very one-dimensional image and one that the turn-out today shows is not true.”
All of the numerous participants paid an entrance fee to take part in the event. The fee also included membership in the Red Cross. “Of course we are in it for the Red Cross,” said Leif Ohlsson, President of the Vulcan Riders bikers’ association. Among other things, his association raised money to help the victims of a major ferry accident in Sweden.
Motorbikes have played and do play an important role in Red Cross work. “In the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, we are using motorbikes today to deliver medicines,” said Christer Zettergren. “And during the Second World War, they played a vital part in supporting the White Buses that saved more than 15,000 people from Nazi concentration camps.” Included in the cortege were veteran motorbikes such as the Monark-Albin that was used in the White Buses humanitarian effort.
The cortege was making its way to Malmoe, Sweden’s third largest town and home to the House of Humanity, a place of remembrance of the White Buses operation. Many of those rescued settled in Malmoe after the war.
Among those awaiting the arrival of the cortege was 85-year-old Stig Hjalmarsson who took part in the humanitarian mission in 1945 and has first-hand experience of the power of humanity. He tells how, finding himself alone in Germany with a pilot overhead attacking everything in sight, he climbed off his motorbike and displayed the only protection he had – a white vest with a red cross. To his amazement, the pilot stopped firing, allowing him to get back on his bike and continue his humanitarian journey.
Others in the crowd have similarly strong connections with the mission. Bo Fröberg’s mother was a volunteer Red Cross nurse who tended to the starving and sick concentration camp survivors arriving in Malmoe. She is one of the few people who died in the service of the Swedish Red Cross, succumbing to typhoid fever when Bo Fröberg was just 14 months old.
This was the first ‘Human Wheel’ event in Sweden but there are plans to repeat it in other parts of the country. “Stockholm is one of the cities where the event might next take place,” said Christer Zettergren. “The support does seem to be there.”