Thursday, August 6, 2020

Thoughts On Being An Emigrant



a person who leaves their own country to settle permanently in another

It was November 1962 when I arrived in America. I was 22 years old. I didn't know it then, but I had in fact emigrated to the United States. At that time, I thought I had come for a year or two and it took a long time before I knew I was here to stay. Before I became a citizen of the United States.

Much is said and written about immigrants, but few of us probably consider that each immigrant is also an emigrant. Someone who left family members, friends, country, culture, language, a common religion, a common ethnicity, nature, food, and so much more. 

I have a picture in my mind of a grandmother somewhere in Central America, left behind, standing in a doorway, TV cameras pointed at her. For me it was my grandfather. I loved him so much. In 1962 he was 84 years old. 

My grandfather, Karl Blomqvist.

Some leave poverty, war, or lack of opportunities. I left because I was unhappy in Sweden. In a spoiled youthful way of being unhappy. I wasn't suffering, but I needed a change, some adventures before I finally settled down to become a grownup.

Perhaps some never look back, but I believe most of us do. 

I wonder if the things that I miss as I remember Sweden even exist anymore. 

My friends are still there and I miss them. Christina came to visit a couple of years ago and there was the ease of sharing common values, culture and background. The ease of understanding. The certainty of being understood, something I'm never quite sure of here.

Trolls by Swedish Illustrator John Bauer

When I was little, my grandmother would tell me old folktales of deep forests where trolls were known to come out at night, giants too, who had to retreat to their caves before sunrise or they would melt. She would tell me stories of goblins and of misty ponds where elves danced. 

Are there any grandmothers left to tell those fairy tales? Does anyone care? Are there just ipads now, ipads and smartphones for the kids? I seriously don't know.

There are still glittering lakes everywhere. There's the almost midnight sun on my birthday, light midsummer nights, fields of flowers, islands full of summer cottages. Snow, ice and dark  winter days too. 

Stockholm, my home town, is still there. Old Town with its cobblestone alleys and ancient buildings that lean into each other, with wonderful cellars where jazz was played when I was young. 

And the Stockholm Opera, where I fell in love with Verdi's music and the drama of his operas. It was so easy to get a ticket back then and sit on the highest balcony. 

I believe the concert hall must be there still. In the center of the city, where I went to a Louis Armstrong concert when I was 15 and just about fainted from the excitement of it all.  

In Stockholm, ferries plow the waters and ancient steamboats head for the archipelago. 

When I sit down to write about Sweden, I think of those things. 

Things that shaped who I am. Before I emigrated.

Blueberries, granite rocks, tall trees --  a Swedish forest.


  1. This is a great thoughtful post, and is true for me too. Perhaps I'll write about it sometime. I came here one year after you for possibly two years, and never left! But this is your story. So thank you for the picture of Sweden you've created for your readers.

  2. Good afternoon. Thanks for visiting my blog. Congratulations for your work. I wish I had the privilege of following you too. Good Tuesday.

  3. Good morning, I'm a follower of number 422. I would like to have the privilege of following you too.

  4. Dear Inger, this is a wonderful post. I enjoyed reading about your experience and your lovely pictures of your homeland.

  5. That is beautiful! I can see why you miss it so much!

  6. You make me wonder how I would view the US if I had gone to live in another country. At about your age, I had such thoughts, just never acted on them. Have you gone back for a visit?

  7. You really had me enthralled reading about your homeland. And I read every word. I imagine I'd be so transfixed with that "old world" of ANY part of Europe, I'd not want to leave. Loved mostly, reading about the tales told by your grandmother. As long as you're happy where you are (in California) that's what counts.

    Happy to meet you, I followed your comment link from another blog. Glad I did.

  8. You have painted a lovely picture of it. Sounds like you are homesick!

  9. I did not immigrate here but sometimes I too wonder if the things of my childhood are true anymore.

  10. Always enjoy reading your blog. This post made me think of my parents. Dad was from England (served in the British army 12 years), mom was from Belgium. My sisters were born in England. They all immigrated in 1950. Dad loved England but said he could never achieve the success he had in the USA if he stayed in England. My Belgium grandmother came too. She was 66 and spoke no English. Speed ahead to today and one of our DIL's family came from the Philippines 15 years ago. They were on a list for 23 years!! Hard decision to make when you and hubby are in your 50's but they came with their 3 college student children. They too say they couldn't achieve the success they now have. I love their family for so many reasons. Great people. Each immigrant I know loves their country of birth but also loves and appreciates this country.
    I really wish each high school student could experience living in another country for the summer. I visited Russia for 2 weeks (as an adult). Visited small towns.....not in Moscow except at the non-air conditioned airport. Beautiful country with lovely people but depressing. Won't go into detail but people seem to live in fear.
    Another interesting post. Patty McDonald

  11. We sure view things differently when we are 22 years old. I've enjoyed reading this post and learning more about your past. I guess we all look back and wonder. I've often thought of the small town I grew up in and wondered what it would be like to live there again and know so many people. Love this type of post my friend! Sweet hugs!

  12. I am sure there are some grandmothers still telling those same old stories. :)
    Guess you will always be a little homesick for Sweden. Thinking back to our childhoods I think make us all a bit homesick!

  13. I really appreciate your perspective and I'm intrigued by it. I was born and raised in the US, so I don't have the experience or same perspective. But I often wonder about my Swedish ancestors and what they experienced. Unfortunately, most of that history has been lost.

  14. I've experienced both emmigraton and immigration,; it's not a light matter.
    I believe migtation is one of Man;s violations of the Creation rules. God has given any race/ethnical group a territory. People preferred to leave the given territory and migrate from place to place. Contrary to belief, it didn't make them happier.

  15. Inger... this is a beautiful part of your life story.
    thank you for sharing it with us. xo

  16. Dear Inger, once again I lost my comment. So I'll start again: Thank you for sharing your memories of Sweden and Stockholm. Your poiignant words of memory took me there. You have so much to share with all of us who have never had your experience of leaving our birth country and settling elsewhere. So much to share about the loss and the gain in both. You are such a dear. Peace.

  17. This is really beautiful. I believe that my father would write similar things about Ireland. It’s shaped who he was before he came here to the US. Thank you for sharing such a thoughtful story.

  18. I really enjoyed reading this - your thoughts of the past and how you felt and looking back..your musings.
    Glad I didn't miss this post. (Was busy with family recently).

  19. Hi Inger – better comment here … as I see you put another post up. I never emigrated to South Africa … though I guess if I’d had a successful marriage then I’d have stayed and like you become an emigrant.

    I was drawn back to England for family, heritage, culture … but I’m different here – because I’ve lived elsewhere … I’m not your regular Brit.

    Unlike you I couldn’t leave it all behind … memories, reminiscences … it’s the way of the world – and in many ways we’ve both had huge experiences in life – many would love to have had.

    I’m just so glad I’m back here now … life goes on – take care and stay sane! Essential … thank goodness for the blog – settles me down. All the best - fascinating to read ... loved it - Hilary

  20. I was a nanny for a Swedish family in the silicon valley for 16 years. (I'm still close friends with them to this day) When the Swedish Grandma would come to visit for the holidays, she told the children all the tales of trolls and fairies and made sure to bring over many books. I even learned new things! Oh and who can resist Pippi Longstocking? The children today speak both Svenska and English fluently even though the Grandma would tell me they speak it with an "American accent".

    So yes, there are still some Grandmas who teach their grandchildren the old ways and many Swedish American children who still want to learn it.

    Beautiful post.


Thanks for leaving a comment.. ~~ Inger


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