My Swedish Grandmother
September 11, 2020
Tor Kjølberg, Ph.D., Editor in Chief
Don Grossnickle, the grandson of Maja Källgren Witterström, spent 14 years dusting off photos and archives he found in his grandmother’s steamers trunk on a journey to revive her memory and proclaim her dramatic and inspiring story. Read more about the fascinating story of the deacon’s Swedish grandmother.
The deacon’s research has resulted in a dramatic and inspiring book, “My Maja – a Grandson’s Tribute”. Grossnickle’s book relives the trials of his Swedish immigrant grandmother, a young widow who raised three children far from family in Sweden, while working as a night nurse and running a boardinghouse to provide for her family during the Great Depression. Scarred by stress, strain and exhaustion, Maja picks up the pieces of her shattered life, suffers through two serious breakdowns and struggles to find her American dream.
Related: The Swedish Emigrants
Grossnickle’s book relives the trials of his Swedish immigrant grandmother
The book explains how Maja’s gritty essence of resilient gumption was strategically built up and applied intuitively via upbringing, ancestry, Swedish culture, practice and experience. Maja’s Story centers on a pursuit to discover: How does one put into action the heart and soul it takes to tap into resilience and rise after being severely knocked down? (Grandma Maja revealed her secret calling it: “gott gry framatanda” meaning in English “Good dawn forward spirit”).
In 1938, Maja found herself a widow separated from her kids lost and depressed in a state mental asylum overwhelmed by the stress and strain of Great Depression woes.
But Maja rose. In 1949, she is despondent enough to drink poison in a cemetery having lost a grip on valuing accomplishments over failures and regrets.
But Maja rose again.Maja’s family from Sollefteå helped her build her resilience ‘framåtanda’
Related: New Nordic Heritage Museum in Seattle
Immigrant widow alone in America
“Some, like my Grandma Maja, who were immigrant widows alone in America, suffered mightily and many buckled under the strain,” tells Grossnickle. “Scarred but healed, the tales of surviving brutal testing by adversity reveals an inner backbone and character strength mobilized for a brave resilient comeback under fire,” he adds.
The reader discovers three family secrets that Grandma Maja kept from the author and certain other family members. Research for this book brought the skeletons out of the closet.
Related: The Great Scandinavian ExodusMaja’s steamer trunk Don discovered in an attic containing a treasure chest of family photos and archive
An inspirational story
What is the potent universal essence of a survivor’s life-saving gritty resilience? This important question was the driving force that began the search for answers and supplied the obsessive motivation to write and share her story before it was too late.
As a teacher, curriculum director and educator, Dr. Don first wrote about helping students trapped in academic and motivational failure. He published and spoke nationwide about addressing American high school dropout trends, and how to respond.Maja and her children
Drawn to help paralyzed high school athletes crippled in sports, Deacon Grossnickle and his broken neck boys together invented and shared a book: Unbreakable Resilience Leap of Faith Stories to Live by. (A powerful chronicle of transforming pity into accomplishment).
Today, Deacon Don’s missionary work in Uganda East Africa focuses on saving suffering impoverished moms and babies overcome with malaria by supplying care and medicine.
Grossnickle has now revealed his bedrock source of inspiration for his lifetime in his latest work: My Maja- A Grandson’s Tribute.
You might be interested in following Maja’s Blog.Don Grossnickle
Daily Scandinavian would like to thank deacon Don Grossnickle for bringing this inspirational book to our attention. His fascination with vulnerable persons’ capacity to invent ways to rise when knocked down is a central mission of his life and a focus of his writing career.
Feature image (on top): Maja’s Swedish Uncle Albert strikes it rich in America and tries to convince Maja’s family to travel to Chicago. She travels in 1922.