Stories after the war

 

Photo courtesy of Leslee Lane Hoyum When asked what his first impression was of America, Einar Johansen answered, “I thought I was in a dream land.”Johansen lives in Richfield, Minn. but grew up on a farm near Harpefoss in Gudbrandsdalen. One of his avocations is creating Hardanger fiddles.

Know folks who emigrated after World War II? We want to hear from you and them!

By Leslee Lane Hoyum
Rockford, Minn

 

If you are acquainted with individuals who emigrated from Norway after World War II, your help is needed to tell their stories. For more than 80 years the Norwegian American Historical Association (NAHA) in Northfield, Minn., has collected materials about the immigration of Norwegians to the U.S. and Canada, mostly from 1825 to 1925. But a large wave of Norwegians arrived after World War II. Why did they come? Scholars hold many theories, but it is time to hear from the immigrants

themselves.

In cooperation with Sons of Norway International, NAHA is asking potential interviewers and post-World War II immigrants to become a part of the Oral History Project and help chronicle the experiences of our latter-day pioneers. We all know people in the Norwegian community who immigrated after World War II. They may be our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents or friends and neighbors. All have a fascinating story to tell beginning with growing up in Norway and continuing through the days of Nazi occupation, conditions in Norway after the war, their voyage to America and the life they created for themselves as new

Americans or Canadians. Participation is simple. First, go to www.naha.stolaf.edu/oralhistory, where you find a list of questions to ask the interviewee and some simple instructions. You pose the questions, operate your video camera and download the recording to one of several formats to be forwarded to NAHA for use in future research projects. If you think you’re not technologically adept enough to conduct the project, hand it off to one of your children or grandchildren. They, in all likelihood, have the skills. It’s a great family activity that involves and unites folks of all ages. You will capture the essence of your family members’ or friends’ personal histories and never have to say to yourself, “If only I had asked Grandma!” Plus, the academic community finally will know the truth behind the post -World War II immigration. You can be as creative as you wish. However, conducting the interview in the subject’s home, where he or she feels most comfortable, is best in most cases. You will be able

to record family photos, memorabilia from Norway, and perhaps the person singing or playing a musical instrument or demonstrating their hobbies, whether Norwegian- or American-oriented. You will know the person thoroughly upon completion of the interview. In addition, Sons of Norway members can use the oral history project to earn credit toward their cultural skills medal.

Oral interviews can be conducted by family, friends and fellow members of organizations where post-World War II immigrants are members, such as fraternal societies, churches, lag societies and Norwegian cultural organizations. In most cases, the interviewer should be personally known to the interview subject.

For further information, send an email to naha-archivists@stolaf.edu, or call (507) 786-3221.

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 2, 2012 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (800) 305-0271.

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