I was so inspired by my Swedish grandmother’s struggles during the Great Depression and how she responded to adversity challenges as an immigrant I wrote a book about her.
She is my hero.
Most people know that once immigrants arrive in a new land they will face tough times. During the years 1948-1969 I spent time unraveling a ball of string kind of immigration survival story. My grandmother saved a ball of string she strung together from her daily Swedish Newspaper.
As a young boy in the late forties, my brother Tom and I lived in a house next door to our Grandma Maja.
Like many, we fell in love with grandma for all the usual ways: cookies, candy and cuddles. I was about 8 years old when I began to realize Grandma was an immigrant.
I began collecting Grandma Maja immigrant stories, in my head. I loved the stories. Sometimes they made me laugh. I became fascinated with her, “old country”. She had an amazing collection of photos. I practically memorized each one as the same stories were told over and over.
Sometimes grandma cried and I cried with her. She cried about being homesick and leaving her family behind in Sweden.
Grandma kept promising until the day she died in 1969 that she would take me to Sweden. There, I could see for myself the wondrous country she loved so well.
My book, My Maja A Grandson’s Tribute is a happy and sad narrative about her life as an immigrant. The book tells of ups and downs. Mainly it points to the times she had to dig deep into her character in order to rise after being knocked down.
This very famous photo is well known to convey the strife and despair women endured during America’s Great Depression. Hard times tested the guts and gumption of Americans during 1929 and on toward WW2.
Grandma Maja’s picture book tells her complete story and the last photos portray times that tested her soul and her will to live. Depression years were horrific for many. Her story as an immigrant picks up as she was proud to apply for US citizenship.
What is amazing to me is that Maja collected archives as if she hoped that someday someone could piece the photos and the clippings together.
I found in my research that the plight of women immigrants in general is not at all very well told in recorded history or literature. Grandma Maja’s destiny was to be forgotten along with her struggles and triumphs, unnoticed.
Unraveling her struggles in the Great Depression after becoming a widow in 1932, single mom of three was a chore. There are plenty of images of the catastrophic times, starvation, humiliation, broken farms, dust bowls, government programs.
Maja’s story of doing battle with being a widow, the despair and depression, trauma, stress is not adequately described in my book. Only Maja could describe the agony, the satisfaction, the joys. Some photos she left behind tell a story she wanted others to see. I think Maja was mostly proud of what she accomplished.
Redemption came in waves for Maja. As her children were raised as survivors she could look back at the decisions she made. Some regrets must have become skeletons in her closet. You must read the book to learn her secrets.
My Maja is a story of making the bitter skeletons hidden in a family steamer trunk come back to life and dance to make a positive show. Maja and I and our family cannot make our telltale skeletons go away (any longer). They are exposed and dancing their show for your view.