Immigrant Homesickness Nostalgia and Swedish Hiraeth

My Mother and grandkids creating nostalgia memories of “the old country” via American Daughters of Sweden circa 1981

All my life I have lived with a deep down fascination with the lore and legends of “old country” Sweden. Memories like books added to my library have been filed in my head since birth. It is little wonder that warm and tender images of sights and sounds of an idealized place are so vivid. Add the fragrance of Swedish pepperkakor and warm fresh baked cardamom coffee bread and I can be transported to Sweden in a nanosecond.

My mother and grandmother Maja, without intentionally knowing it, accomplished a mysterious programming of ideas, stories, photos, emotions that add up to a hard to explain feeling about being “Swedish”. Naturally, they had first hand experiences of living in Sweden in addition to their heritage being part of their DNA. Sweden was real to them. From 1948-2004 all I really knew about Sweden was second hand. In 2004, I traveled to Sweden for a three week trip which I called, an ancestral pilgrimage to the homeland.

During that extensive journey all that I had learned vicariously came fully alive. The sharing of recollections with relatives brought the memories, people, places, feelings into a very real focus. It was the spirit of it all that created sentimental connections to days gone by. I got in touch with my Viking roots via a wood fired sauna and a plunge in the ice cold Baltic. I stayed with relatives in a great Stuga located on the island of Örno.

What a wonderful experience reminiscing with Swedish relatives on the archipelago island of Örno.
Wood fired sauna on the island of Örno.

With the passing away of my mother and grandmother Maja, Aunt Linnea and Uncle Peter all I had left was the library in my head and archives and artifacts to remind me of our past. It is strange to have such strong feelings about a place and time that one never experienced in real time.

HIRAETH -In pondering this sentimental feeling that washes over me often, especially when viewing old photos I wonder about it and what it means. To have such deep attachments without actual first hand experiences is curious. I have come to understand that others have related this phenomenon. The Welsh people have coined a word that seems to resonate with my interpretation of the sensation and call it, “hiraeth”. It is a longing and homesickness for connecting to a home that one cannot return to, or in fact, in some cases might never have existed.

I found this emotional poem that seems to fit my blog today:

ENGLISH TRANSLATION—“Homesickness is: +paying a fortune for a tin of herring fillets at the delicatessen
+looking for ages for a shop that sells rye flour (rågmjöl) and then rushing home to fill the house with the smell of freshly baked bread
+paying two pounds for five minutes to call your mother
+walking around under the trees in a park and pretending to pick mushrooms in a Swedish birch forest
+growing a full patch full of dill!
+honking and waving like a maniac to a S marked car.
planting yellow and blue flowers together in one bed when spring approaches
+playing “Jul med Egon” in the middle of summer
+reading “Kattresan” to a three-year-old who barely knows 25 words of Swedish
+booking a boat trip home, five months before the departure date
+if that is the case, go great lengths for meeting your Swedish friend every week to drink coffee and exchange newspapers.”

“This poem was owned by my mother who was born in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1936”. * Citation:

IT IS PERSONAL-My mother and grandma Maja often claimed strong feelings, sad, melancholy like feelings of being detached from a mystical place they might call, home,-“old country “ special love.

Today, I too can reflect that “hiraeth” type sentiments have regularly visited my spirit and soul. In my book, My Maja A Grandson’s Tribute I write 10 letters to Grandma Maja in heaven. My idea was to relive the times she wrote hundreds of letters to folks back home in Sweden. Unable to speak to them, see their faces, touch them she perfected the imagination. When Maja was prevented to travel for her mother’s funeral in Sweden she was heartbroken. She was bitterly homesick. She was deep into a “hiraeth” sensation for a long time.

MY MAJA A GRANDSON’S TRIBUTE (Amazon Books 2020) I wrote the book about my life with Grandma Maja very much in touch with my Swedish “hiraeth”. I wrote it to accomplish what storytelling by all people, all photos, all personal and vicarious experiences provoked in my spiritual connection.

My book left out more than 50 pages of notes and charts about my Swedish family tree and ancestry. My focus is to pass along those treasures along with my very own personal reflections based on research and experiences.

I dedicated the writing of the book to Grandma Maja and little namesake granddaughter Maja (Maya). It was my aim to convey not only a manuscript with detailed notes about her ancestors but to pass along more. My hope was to provide Maya and her parents a rationale of why my sentiments, why the nostalgia, why my emotions—connect with yesterday, today, and possibly even, her tomorrow.

Published by Donnie: An Admiring Grandson

Living an inspired life modeled after my Grandma Maja, who stepped up as a Swedish immigrant widow and mom of 3, facing America’s Great Depression while demonstrating uncommon grit and valor. I am determined to share her life lessons so she is no longer forgotten. I have a book to share and the reader will preview the entire story by visiting here. You are most welcome.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: