The American dream of Norway
Part 7: Siri Dammarell Brekkaa
Our ancestors came to America to give their families a better life. Now young Norwegian Americans dream of the old country. This series of interviews was conducted by a visiting Norwegian journalist.
Siri Dammarell Brekkaa, 36, belongs to the youngest generation of immigrants from Norway. She was born on the west coast of Norway, the fishing town Haugesund. Her grandfather moved from Norway in the 60s. Later, Siri’s father also came across the sea, and in 1984, when Siri was 10 months old, she and her mother came over.
“We came here for a year to make money in the fishing industry. Thirty-five years later we are still here.”
The family works with crab fishing in Alaska. Now they own a 126-foot crab vessel and a 32-foot Salmon gillnetter. While her husband is in Alaska, Siri is at home looking after their two daughters, Synnove, 3, and Olena, 1. Her job is to take care of paperwork and finances. “We have a family business where everyone participates. Being at sea is mainly a man’s job.”
When it comes to politics, Siri is not quite in line with relatives in the old country.
“It seems that ‘everyone’ in Norway is so against Trump, but I trust him more than any other politician.”
Like many business owners in the United States, she votes Republican.
“No one is perfect, but as it is now, the left is blaming the president for absolutely everything. Trump is a businessman; he spent his own money on the campaign and is not bought and paid for by anyone.”
She is not enthusiastic about social democratic models. “The United States is many times larger, with an extremely large number of peoples and cultures. The Norwegian system just wouldn’t work here.”
She says that as business owners, they have to pay taxes that she finds unfair.
“Why should we pay for unemployed people to receive benefits? I am convinced that if you want a job, then you get a job. I would rather keep the money we earned and spend it on my own family. I do not trust the state to distribute our money properly. Norway is a socialist country, and it works there, but the United States is a democratic country.”
Siri’s house is filled with four-legged creatures. All of them, except the dogs, are stuffed. A large moose meets you in the entrance area. Different deer decorate the living room. And in the basement hang two bears. “It is mostly my husband who hunts, but I used to join him at times.” She points to one of the bears’ heads.
“I shot that when I was eight months pregnant,” says Siri. The weapon was bow and arrow.
After Siri became a mother, there has definitely been less hunting. Olena is still being nursed. Siri wants to feed her and asks if it’s okay. Public breastfeeding is not as accepted in the United States as in Norway, even here in liberal Seattle.
I ask, “Are you Norwegian or American?”
“Both. When we leave from here it is home to Norway. When we leave Norway it is home to the United States.”
Ingerid Jordal is a photojournalist based in western Norway, with a great passion for the deep north and stories of belonging. She is scared of flying, but not scared of driving backward on a highway in Seattle. Learn more at www.ingeridjordal.no.
This article originally appeared in the September 20, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American.