A Swedish summer adventure … and more!
LORI ANN REINHALL
The Norwegian American
Dear readers and friends,
Last summer, we embarked an adventure to Denmark in an issue that focused on Nordic cooperation, and this year, we are “traveling” to Sweden, with an issue packed full of features focused on Norway’s closest neighbor.
This special focus on Sweden comes at an unusual time in history, in a year when the border between the two countries was closed last March because of the coronavirus.
Since the 1950s, there has been an agreement that gives citizens of the Nordic countries the right to move freely within the region. The border between Norway and Sweden has remained unchanged since 1751, and it is the oldest and one of the longest consecutive borders between two countries in Europe. This relationship between the two Nordic cousins has been so close that many old dirt road border crossings were not even marked until recently.
But not even the coronavirus can divide in spirit, and the relationship and cooperation between Norway and Sweden remains strong. While there are significant regional differences, there is a shared history and culture, and to a large extent, a shared language. Norwegians affectionately refer to Sweden as “Søta Bror” (after the Swedish “Söta Bror”), or “Sweet Brother,” a nickname that goes back to the days following World War II, when the Swedes sent food and other provisions to Norway, including their famous Marabou chocolate. Some Swedes set up stands along the border where they could sell food, including sugar, to the Norwegians.
None of this is intended to downplay the complexities of history, including the complicated story of Swedish neutrality during World War II, but I think there is little question that the Norwegians and the Swedes have much in common as part of a big Nordic family, with a few sibling rivalries here and there. And of course, here in North America, the bonds between Norwegian Americans and Swedish Americans are very close, as the immigrant populations have interacted and worked together to build up their communities. Many Scandinavian Americans are the result of “mixed marriages,” and today, we attend each other’s celebrations and events, at times not even knowing exactly what is Swedish and what is Norwegian.
My own relationship to Sweden is very strong, having grown up with a Swedish grandmother, and without her, I am convinced that I would not be here writing to you today. She gave me and strengthened my interest in Scandinavia and all my roots there.
My mormor was also known to be a great cook, which somehow helped nurture this love, and it is somehow very appropriate that this issue features a recipe for a tour-de-force creation, the Swedish smörgåstårta. Chef Carina Johnsson and the staff at the Swedish Club in Seattle (where my grandmother and grandfather met after World War I) most generously collaborated with us on this production, and I can say, without hesitation, that the Swedish Club is one of our strongest supporters. Recently, I was asked to serve on the board there, a position I felt honored to accept.
And yes, of course, it has to be mentioned that I married a Swede, my husband, Ulf, a native of Stockholm. An avid reader, he has always been a great source of knowledge on all matters both Swedish and Norwegian. With this issue, we are both very pleased to share some artwork from our home that has been handed down to us as family heirlooms, true treasures of our shared Nordic heritage.
A big birthday
June 15 is also a very special day for me each year, because it is the day on which my mother and her father were born, and it is the birthday of Edvard Grieg, Norway’s national composer and my own favorite composer.
To mark this special day that has just passed, we are featuring two articles in our popular “Grieg Notes” section. This is also a great opportunity to express how grateful we are to Dr. Sylvia Eckes and Dr. Bill Halverson for curating this monthly column for us. Both are leading experts in their field, who generously donate their time and expertise to our newspaper. Through their efforts, we are so fortunate to be able to present the work of so many prominent Grieg scholars. Their work not only serves to heighten our appreciation for Grieg, but it offers a great opportunity to learn more about Norway and Norwegian history.
On that note, I am able to offer a little tidbit of Swedish trivia in regard to Grieg. It was in the southern Swedish city of Karlshamn that the young musician made his debut as a concert pianist on Aug. 18, 1861, while at the Leipzig Conservatory in Germany. He was invited to perform at the home of the Swedish “puncsh king” C.G. Berg. The concert was a great success, but Grieg did not return to Sweden for many years. Legend has it that is was Berg’s intention to marry off his daughter, Therese, to Grieg, but that was not at all to the young Norwegian’s liking. Perhaps he was scared off? At any rate, Grieg was a proud and outspoken nationalist, who wished to see the union between Norway and Sweden dissolved, which may have affected his official reception in Sweden. Fortunately, he was able to live to see the peaceful dissolution of the union in 1905; Grieg died two years later in 1907.
Finally, I have some important announcements to make. Alas, nothing ever stays the same, and with this issue, Andy Meyer is stepping down as assistant editor because of his increased responsibilities on the faculty at the University of Washington in Seattle and his very important duties as a parent. We will miss him greatly, but we are thrilled that the incredibly talented Courtney Olsen is stepping up to fill his position.
At the same time, Madison Leiren, who has been so instrumental in helping us build up a vibrant marketing plan for 2021, will be focusing more on her fashion design business, which has also taken off to the point that she is now running a new brick-and-mortar boutique here in Seattle.
We are so excited to think that the experience we are able to offer these two young, talented professionals here at our newspaper has helped them reach their goals, and we will keep in close touch. Fortunately, neither Andy nor Madison are going very far, and both will be consulting with us on special projects—so we are not saying goodbye, rather tusen takk for everything you have done so far and all the best going forth.
Finally, I want to say tusen takk to all of you, dear readers. We are grateful for all the support you bring to us and hope you will enjoy this new issue.
Wishing you Midtsommer happiness,
Lori Ann Reinhall
Editor-in-chief, The Norwegian American
This article originally appeared in the June 18, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.