Meeting the challenges of leaving much loved Sweden and relatives and choosing to settle in America must have been a mixed bag of emotions.
It takes a whole book: My Maja A Grandson’s Tribute to sort out for the reader my views of my grandmother’s decision to set down roots in America and incurring terrible consequences in doing so.
The first 10 years of Maja’s life in Chicago was a mixed bag. She spoke English. She was well educated. She found a handsome good quality 100% Swede to marry. She had difficulties adjusting and assimilating.
Her brother, Oskar and Uncle Albert were family members to give her encouragement and support. She had minimal contact with her mother and siblings back home in Sollefteå. Letter writing kept her homesickness in check, but sometimes made things worse. Emotions ran high when sadness of being so far from home took a toll.
I devote the final chapters of the book reflecting on the scars, life lessons learned and reflections passed along, and an analysis of blessings of her life we can see in a retrospective view.
Safe to say, Maja’s journey through life had terrible life threatening moments. Once the Great Depression hit home, the family business collapsed and Maja’s husband keeled over with a fatal heart attack, Maja as a widow was in for a fight for her life. Regrets? She was overwhelmed. Survival became her focus in place of hoping to achieve her ideal Swedish American Dream.
With three young children to take to her husband’s funeral, Maja was in crisis. She fled with them to grieve with her family in Sweden.
She returned to Chicago in 1934 and went to work as a night nurse. She took advantage of her Swedish nurse training.
She converted the upper floors of her home and operated a boarding house
Here in this time Maja suffers greatly. Depression was all around her. Suicides, foreclosures, people hungry, homeless. Maja worked long hours to make ends meet. She grew stressed and strained. Great Depression has a double meaning for Maja and family
She had a nervous breakdown. She was hospitalized. She fought hard and recovered. She happily became well and regrouped her children who had been farmed out to relatives.
Maja’s children were her everything.
Through it all. Maja took all the tough times and managed to raise her kids with great love and joy.
Guilt over not being able to handle the logjams that depressed and incapacitated her? Regret?
Maja grieved over not being able to make the trip to Sweden to bury and attend the funeral of her dear mother.
Maja did her best to keep her relatives in Sweden informed about her life. Here from her sister Hanna’s family album is a photo inscribed and sent overseas. Maja was frequently homesick.
In 1945, the first of Maja’s grandchildren was born. I came along in 1948. Our family lived next door to Maja. We became very close. Maja’s three children distinguished themselves and left home . Maja was proud, but extremely lonely.
In 1949 Maja experiences the greatest crisis of her life. For unknown reasons, she no longer wishes to live. Regret gone wild.
Immediately after, Maja from 1949-1969 until,-the time of her death, she lived a noteworthy ideal happy life. (on the outside at least). I have dozens of happy photos that depict an amazing happy Maja with me and others.
Maja shared her intimate oral history over 21years . I derived life lessons and inspiration for my career and life.
Did Maja, as an immigrant, wish she would have remained in Sweden enjoying the good aristocracy and wealthy lifestyle?
In my book, I write love letters to grandma in heaven. Do I write about any of her regrets? Check it out?
My Maja A Grandson’s Tribute honors Maja Kallgren Wittenstrom who despite all of the ups and downs, joys and sorrows, triumphs and defeats, never once let it be known she publicly regretted the life God gave her to be used as a cherished gift which she demonstrably showed she loved until the end.
Would the statue depict Maja as an immigrant like so many others being caught looking over her shoulder to the past she was leaving behind?