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Norway: Immigration then and now

A picturesque shoreline along one of Norway’s fjords; photo provided by Lori Moline.

Weeks ago, my wife and I returned from Norway after hosting 37 family members and friends on a journey of a lifetime, bringing a variety of interests — heritage, scenery, and the excitement of visiting new places. We returned deeply saddened by, and reflective on, the recent radical attacks in this peaceful country from which my family migrated.

Extreme poverty in Norway in the 19th century, as well as reports from neighbors already settling in the U.S., were enough to convince my relatives in the Romsdal Valley to consider emigration. My great-great-grandfather urged his children to seek a better life in a far away place called Minnesota. All but one of his nine children emigrated to the Hanska, Minnesota, area beginning in 1868.

For years I attended family gatherings there, gleaning information about my Norwegian Lutheran heritage. At one of these reunions, the attendance of a cousin from Norway heightened our interest to make the journey to there. When my wife and I first visited Norway in 2009, we were unprepared for the beauty of this land, as well as its economic vitality.

Relatives heard of our visit and urged us to organize a group for a return trip. As we traveled, we marveled at the grandeur of the majestic mountains, the tranquility of the fjords, and the remote areas visited only by train. These are a testimony to the country’s high investment in its infrastructure.

The high point of our journey was, of course, visits to family heritage sites. Our visit to the farmhouse where my great-grandfather was raised was a mystical experience. We enjoyed a variety of experiences we will never forget: viewing lush vegetation, the stately mountains, abundant waterfalls, and the racing Rauma River in the valley below.

We are dreaming of a return visit — cruising the thousand miles of Norwegian coast into the Arctic Circle region. In the meantime, we mourn with Norwegian citizens and reflect on what appears to be a new discussion about immigration in the 21st century, this time about those coming to settle in the prosperity of Norway.

Bruce Frederickson is visitation pastor at Mount Olive Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Anoka, Minnesota. He and his wife Ann have hosted many international tours over the past 12 years.

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