Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"Headhunters" Hits U.S. Theaters

The May issue of Viking features our interview with actor Aksel Hennie, star of "Headhunters," the highest grossing Norwegian film to date. Based on the best-selling novel by Jo Nesbø, the movie opened in select U.S. theaters in April and is currently playing in many cities around the country. Check your local listings to find a screening in your area.

In the movie, Hennie plays Roger, Norway's most accomplished corporate headhunter, who subsidizes his extravagant lifestyle by stealing art on the side. When Roger meets a former mercenary with an extremely valuable painting, he risks everything to get his hands on it, and goes from hunter to a hunted man himself. The Viking team had the opportunity to preview the film this spring and it earned an unqualified thumbs up from all of us! Check out the trailer here.

Nesbø fans will be pleased to know that another one of his bestsellers is currently being made into a movie. Academy award-winning director Martin Scorsese will direct "The Snowman," the seventh in Nesbø's series featuring detective Harry Hole. You can read more about it in the April issue of Viking!

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sherrill "Swede" Swenson

It’s with great sadness and a real sense of grief that I must share with you, today, the loss of one of our own. This past Saturday, after a prolonged illness, Sherrill Swenson (81) passed away in his home surrounded by loved ones, including his devoted wife, Dee.

Sherrill, or Swede as many of us knew him, was one of the most dedicated and determined Sons of Norway members I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. His devotion to his lodge, his district and the organization as a whole ran deep and it showed in actions as a District 6 president and, later, as an International Director. In the decade or so the I knew him, I came to respect his forthrightness and the strength of his convictions. He was never one to shy away from debate and always made decisions based on what he believed was best for the organization, not simply what the popular decision might have been.

It’s a rare thing to come across someone like that nowadays and I feel very lucky to have known Swede if even for only a few years. I hope you’ll join me today in mourning his loss and celebrating his life.

Also, a scholarship fund has been set up in Swede’s name through Solbakken lodge 6-064. If you’d like to make a contribution, please call Sons of Norway and we can give you the information for where contributions can be sent.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Shhh! It's a Birthday Gift for Their Majesties!

Hey, kids! Sons of Norway is planning a very special 75th birthday gift for Their Majesties King Harald V and Queen Sonja, and we need your help! We're creating a birthday book for the royal pair and we want to include artwork from our youngest members. Over the next week, we'll be collecting drawings, then we'll choose eight that look the most colorful, fun and festive.

Here are the details: The theme of your artwork should be a happy birthday greeting to Their Majesties. Draw on a blank sheet of white paper, 8.5" x 11." Bold colors work best—use pens or markers rather than pencil. 
Please don't fold, cut or glue your drawing. Include your first name, age and lodge name and number on the artwork. Mail it to Sons of Norway, Attention: Melissa Ederer, 1455 West Lake Street, Minneapolis, MN 55408. All drawings need to arrive our headquarters by Tues., May 22 to be considered.

Want to learn how Norwegians are celebrating the king's and queen's 75th birthdays? The Norwegian government has created six exhibits of palace treasures—many of which have never been on display—that will be shown in museums throughout the country. You can read more about it in "Royal Treasures" on page 11 of this month's issue of Viking

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.

Photo: Sølve Sundsbø / The Royal Court

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Farewell to a Hero

Viking, April 2011 interview with Gunnar Sønsteby

Gunnar Sønsteby died today at the age of 94. He was one of the most influential leaders in Norway’s WWII resistance movement and the most decorated citizen in the country's history.

Known as Kjakan (“The Chin”) and “Nr. 24,” Sønsteby was a master of disguise, coordinating and carrying out spectacular feats of sabotage against the occupying Nazi forces while evading arrest. Throughout the rest of his life, he shared his wartime experiences with audiences on both sides of the Atlantic so that younger generations might learn from the lessons of World War II.

I was honored to interview Sønsteby when he visited Minneapolis in April, 2010. His visit coincided with a screening of the film "Max Manus" (English title: "Man of War"), the 2008 blockbuster based on the events of the Norwegian resistance movement. Here's my conversation with Sønsteby as it appeared in Viking.

Viking: What were you doing when the Nazi occupation began?
Gunnar Sønsteby: When the war broke out I was a student and I had a job besides. I studied economics. I had a job in an insurance company, so I was working [part-time] and studying at the same time.

The students in Oslo were the first people who really wanted voluntary military training and they [trained] in ’39. That was the only [training] in Norway, I think. We had a feeling that something could come up and our feelings were right: The war came.

V: How did you get involved in the resistance movement?
GS: When the war came, I went to the office as usual. An army lieutenant [Philip Hansteen, who worked at the insurance company] said, “I think we have to start up a volunteer ski company. I know they’re fighting outside Oslo. … You can all meet me and we’ll go to the northern part of Nordmarka [the woods north of Oslo]. I know [of] a place where you can get uniforms and guns. It has been taken over from a [nearby] depot. Let’s meet there tomorrow.” So we left the office and we came together. One came by train, one went skiing over Nordmarka, and we all met that next day at that depot.

V: What were your first actions in the war? 
GS: The Germans had already started [arriving at] a place called Stryken. We had [formed] Philip Hansteens Ski Company, and stopped the Germans at Stryken so they couldn’t get north. We stopped them for two days and then Hansteen didn’t want to retreat. He stood there on the 16th of April and shot and shot. He was killed. It made a deep impression on me, of course.

We had to retreat up to Valdres. The [fighting] was over for a time. We discussed, what can we do? We knew we couldn’t fight [openly] any longer because there were now [so many] Germans in Norway.

V: How did you meet Max Manus?
GS: In July 1940, I was standing outside the place where I lived. I had a small apartment. There was a small café [nearby] and I met a fellow there. I [talked to] him and I [learned] that he had been in Finland fighting [in the Winter War] and when he heard that I had been in Nordmarka fighting, we started talking. The man’s name was Max Manus.

V: Describe your work with Manus.
GS: We knew now we couldn’t do anymore direct fighting. It [was] all a dictatorship. It was all German propaganda—that’s all we got. So we tried to support a small illegal newspaper [“Vi Vil Oss Et Land”]. We kept that going for a few months.

We used a typewriter but Manus wanted to print it. He thought it would be much better. So he went out from his apartment to look for [a printing press]. But when he came back, [there had been] a traitor. We don’t know how, but [the traitor] warned the Gestapo. When [Manus] was taken and brought in, he jumped out of the window [to escape]. Max had to flee to England and I kept on working in Norway. We met again in ‘44 back in “The Oslo Gang” [a sabotage group operating in Oslo from May 1944 to May 1945].

V: How did members of the resistance movement communicate with each other? 
GS: We had to be very careful. … We used old friends when we started out, then new friends, and then their friends. So we were pretty sure that we were only anti-Nazis. But you had to be very careful of informers. You had to be very careful with the Nazi party.

V: Was your family aware of your activities?
GS: Yes, when [the Gestapo] didn’t get me, they arrested my father as a reprisal. I [believed] that if I didn’t stop, they would shoot him, but he was put in prison. We had talked about it, my father and myself, and he said “You do your job, and I’ll do mine.”  His “job” was being in prison for years. They didn’t shoot him, but the chance was there, of course.

V: Looking back during the occupation, were there any decisions made by you or the resistance movement that you wish you could do differently? 
GS: No. I feel that what we did what was the right thing—fighting it all the time.

V: How do you think your role in the Norwegian Resistance movement affected your later life? 
GS: I changed when the war was over. I had my business career. Just a year after [the war ended], I started a [newspaper] business in Germany.

V: So you were able to separate the events of the war from the people? 
GS: Yes, immediately. The war was over and I knew what I had to do. Especially in business, it was very important to help Germany…to forget about the Nazis and start over.

V: You still go to your office each day and your calendar is full of speaking engagements. What motivates you to keep working so hard?
GS: I want people to know what happened and how difficult it is when … a democracy [is] failing, and you get a dictatorship. We were fighting for a democracy and it’s so important to know what happens if you don’t. …You have to be aware of it all the time.

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.
Photo: Olav Hasselknippe/Aftenposten

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sons of Norway Remembers Alexander Dale Oen.

Last week the world learned of the tragic death of Norwegian Olympian Alexander Dale Oen. On April 30th , while participating in his national team’s training camp in Arizona, he was found unconscious in his hotel bathroom after having suffered a cardiac arrest. At the same time, the Olympics, Norway and the world of competitive swimming lost one of their brightest stars.

Oen’s list of accomplishments included medals in the FINA Shour Course World Championships, European Swimming Championships, European Short Course Championships, Summer Olympics and, most recently, a gold medal at the 2011 World Championships.

Recently Sons of Norway had interviewed Oen for a Viking magazine segment meant to lead in to the summer Olympics. From his comments, it was clear to see that his family and his country were things he held closest to his heart. We at Sons of Norway feel his recent comments stand as a testimony to his character and the legacy he left behind and want to share some of them with you.

“In my free time, I try to spend as much time as possible with family and friends.”

“My brother has been the greatest influence in my career. He always cheered me up with a smile, even if my races were not good. He was always the one who woke me up in the morning so that I wouldn’t miss practice.”

“It’s always an honor to be able to represent Norway and carry the flag on my shoulder. My mindset for the Olympic Games is all about having great fun, and to push myself past every limit, both mentally and physically.”

On behalf of all Sons of Norway members our thoughts are with Oen’s family as they get through this most difficult time.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

"Scream" Sale to Finance New Museum

"The Scream" by Norwegian expressionist Edvard Munch is one of the most recognizable works of art in the world. And now it's also the highest priced. Last night a pastel version of the picture was sold at Sotheby's for a record-breaking $120 million—the most ever paid in an auction for a piece of art.

According to Norwegian newpaper VG, the first use of the iconic image appeared just three years after it was created, in a May 1, 1898 edition of Social-Demokraten, the newspaper of the Labor party. Over time, it seems the angst-filled appeal of Munch's work has resonated with the public. Fast forward 114 years and the image is as well-known as di Vinci's "Mona Lisa," available on everything from t-shirts to refrigerator magnets.

Five bidders competed in the 12-minute auction, with the purchaser—who is yet unnamed—making the winning bid over the telephone. The the last privately-owned version of the four made by Munch, the picture belonged to Norwegian businessman Petter Olsen, whose father was a friend of the artist. Olsen plans to use the proceeds of the sale to finance a new museum near his home south of Oslo. The museum will house his private collection of art by Munch and other artists. "I am looking forward to welcoming admirers of art from around the world from next year on," Olsen said in a statement on Southeby's website.

Amy Boxrud is editor of Viking magazine. She lives with her family in Northfield, Minn., where she’s a member of Nordmarka 1-585.