There are lots of good reasons to be a Swede these days. Many books come out lately celebrating the ways Nordic-Scandinavian people look at life and choose certain attractive and favorable lifestyle habits. Personally, although I did not directly choose to have Swedish genes and chromosomes, I am very pleased and proud to be a Swede.
Having lived 72 years immersed in Swedish ways I consider myself to be an authentic Swede. My mother was 100% Swede. Now, my father, George Grossnickle, was born 100% third generation, German American. He became Swedish by marriage to my mom and through indoctrination via my mom and grandmother.
My father became a very willing Swedish wannabe. Sometimes when I tell people that I am a proud Swede, they doubt me, pointing out my very non-Swedish sounding name: Grossnickle.
I hear so many stories of immigrant Swedes who came to America through Ellis Island in New York telling tales of how an official changed his or her name. I am stuck with my last name unless I change it to something Swedish like: Kallgren, or Wittenstrom like my Grandma Maja.
What is emblazoned on me is my heritage and Swedish upbringing and family history. So struck with examining how the essence of being a “gritty” kind of Swede, like my Grandma, I spent 16 years researching and writing a book. Like Fridjof Nansen, the Scandanvian explorer for whom my elementary school was named, I set out to discover the essence of my roots.
In 2004 after the death of my very Swedish mother I set out for a long exploratory expedition to search for my Swedish identity. To add to my expedition I brought another 100% Swede with me, my Aunt Linnea Wittenstrom.
To further have a totally Swedish expedition with 100% authentic Swede credentials I invited a resident of Sweden, our cousin, Margit Hogberg as an escort. She assembled the entire Swedish relative cohort. We had non-stop lessons in authentic Swedish history, culture, language, food, morning til night for weeks.
We even spent days in Stockholm immersed in a crash course at Skansen an immersion living history exhibit for two days.
Returning to America I was even more convinced that my combination genetics, 60 years of living with traditions, Swedish language, family history lessons and more reinforced my love for the gift of my ancestry. I was no wannabe.
Dear Linnea, the last of Grandma Maja’s children died shortly after arriving back in Chicago following what turned out to be the Swedish experience of her lifetime. I was appointed to clean out her attic and found Grandma Maja’s steamer trunk. I cleaned it up and looked inside.
I found dozens of photos, documents and Swedish buried treasure. A whole museum exhibit full.
After working through creating a manuscript that would rival Charles Darwin’s research notes which in summary describe my hunt for my Swedish roots,-I returned to Sweden again.
This time I brought my family. I was determined to insure before I passed from this life two important tasks must be completed.
First, my Swedish immediate family, even though bearing the name, Grossnickle, must ideally immerse themselves in Swedish ways. They must be convinced on their own, that they are not Swedish wannabes.
Second, I hoped that they might discover a personal attachment to Sweden and determine for themselves if they are connected to their roots
So much of celebrating my Swedish roots has been studying what is written, but what makes me feel like I am the real deal is my family, embracing on their own, without coercion or pressure, expressing a willing heart for Swedish ways.