PERSONAL
16/07/2020 06:00 BST | Updated 16/07/2020 12:16 BST

You Know How My Daughter Kim Wall Died. I Want You To Know How She Lived

Three years after her death, we remember her as the fantastic woman, daughter, sister, beloved and friend she was – not as the victim she became.

Photo copyright: Joachim Wall
Kim Wall in Paris in 2008 

It’s been almost three years since Kim disappeared. More than a thousand long days and just as many – even longer – nights. Our lives changed forever on that day in August 2017 when our daughter boarded a homemade submarine in Copenhagen. Her task: finishing up a story before she and her beloved Ole moved to Beijing to start a new life together.

No one can imagine the pain and grief involved in losing a beloved daughter, sister, fiancée and friend. No one can imagine having to manage the pendulum between hope and despair for those twelve days it took before we got the dreadful news that Kim had been found. The search didn’t end until 111 days later. This changes you as a human being in a very fundamental way.

Kim was a force of nature. She was curious, gifted, stubborn, decisive and very goal-oriented. Even as a child, she showed signs of these traits. When she thought the bedtime stories we read her were too few and too short, she taught herself to read on her own. When she was a teenager, Kim went her own way and decided early on that she would not give up in the face of obstacles – if she had decided something, that’s the way it would be. It didn’t always turn out the way she had planned, but her philosophy was that you had to at least try. She was often successful; knowledge paired with charm and deep interest for other people opened many doors for her.

During her years as a journalist, she travelled the entire world. As parents, we worried constantly that something would happen to her. A traffic accident, snapping power lines, natural disasters, crime – we knew anything at all could bring her to harm. Kim tried to soothe our fears by saying she knew what she was doing, and she made her way around the world without major incidents. Then came that sunny August evening in Copenhagen, a 45-minute trip from our home in southern Sweden.

She was a journalist of the old school, one who left the newsroom to go out and meet people in their own environment. She read up thoroughly, took plenty of time and was a good listener.

Kim was happy her last summer. She was on her way to success as a freelance woman journalist in the very male-dominated world of international reporting. “The editors are calling me back now – they know who I am!” she told us happily. The sun also shone on Kim’s personal life this summer. She and Ole had been a couple for a while, but for the most part, they had lived on different continents. Now they were finally going to create a home together in China, a country that Kim dearly loved. She was looking forward to it: “China is where everything is going to be happening in the future. There’s no better place for me on earth.” 

Kim was continuing her efforts to learn to speak Mandarin so that she could work unimpeded in China. This was typical for Kim’s work method. She was a journalist of the old school, one who left the newsroom to go out and meet people in their own environment. She read up thoroughly, took plenty of time and was a good listener. She said often, “if a person entrusts me with their story, I have to honour this responsibility.” She believed that every human being had something to say, and she was willing to listen.

This aptitude served Kim well in theatres of war in northern Sri Lanka, islands poisoned by atomic bomb testing in the Pacific Ocean, survivors of the earthquake in Haiti, Cubans thirsting for the Internet, torture chambers in Uganda and enormous follies in North Korea. Kim was constantly on her way between two continents, eager to make the world a little better by means of her pen.

There will never be another article with the byline “Kim Wall”. Her pen has been laid to rest for good. For those of us left behind, it’s a solace that we can send out other young women journalists through the Kim Wall Memorial Fund to write stories in Kim’s spirit. To date, we’ve given grants to six women, and we will continue this work as long as we live. After us, Kim’s brother Tom will take over together with Ole.

We are honouring Kim's memory by remembering her as the fantastic woman, daughter, sister, beloved and friend she was.

The ideas for this fund and for a book about Kim were born on one of those first dreadful nights, when we didn’t know what had happened, but had a feeling that it was grim. We wanted to make sure that Kim wouldn’t be forgotten. And who, if not us, would be better suited to telling her story?

Writing Kim Wall – A Silenced Voice turned into a journey with many stops where we both laughed and cried. It also became part of the process of managing the unfathomable. Going back and remembering those thirty lovely years we had with Kim was healing. Getting to write about the kind, loving reception we’ve had from those we know and those we don’t has also helped. We’ve learned the hard way that you don’t need much at all to paint a golden edge on a truly terrible day. A hug, a pat on the shoulder, a few friendly words – our grief doesn’t get any smaller for being shared with others, but it becomes a little easier to bear. We know we’re not alone – Kim’s friends are all over the world, and we’re united in the sorrow of having lost her. Now we are honouring her memory by remembering her as the fantastic woman, daughter, sister, beloved and friend she was – not as the victim she became.

Ingrid Wall is a journalist and author of A Silenced Voice: The Life of Kim Wall. This article was translated by Kathy Saranpa.

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