In the January issue of Viking, we spoke with Minnesota business leader and Sons of Norway member Kjell Bergh. He came to the United States from Norway as a young journalist in 1965 and is now Chairman and CEO of Borton Volvo and Borton Overseas, a travel company that specializes in travel to Scandinavia. Bergh has led travel for royalty, dignitaries and head of state. In 2000, he was appointed Honorary Consul of the Republic of Tanzania. Here’s more of our interview.
Viking: Where do you hail from in Norway and what brought you to the United States?
Kjell Bergh: I’m from Kristansund, Norway, which is just south of Trondheim. I came to the United States in 1965 as a freelance journalist. I was traveling across the country doing stories and taking odd jobs. I was actually on my way to Seattle to see my brother. I ended up in Minneapolis. I did just one semester at the University of Oslo and finished up at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn. In 2004, I went back to the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Boston and got a Master’s degree in international relations.
V: Tell me about the travel services you’ve provided to dignitaries and royalty.
KB: In the 1960s, I became involved with helping plan transportation for Norway’s royal family. For all subsequent royal visits, I took care of the ground transportation, both in Iowa and Minnesota. I also had a large corporate limousine company, and we had a fleet of limos that facilitated that. Over the years, the royal family also asked me to take care of their airplanes. I took care of the jets, turbo props and flew with them on trips around the country. One of the trips, we went had many stops in the Midwest and continued on to California. I also hosted the royal family in Africa. We’ve taken care of travel for the Ted Turner Family Foundation, Vice President Walter Mondale, senators and ambassadors to Africa.
V: You’ve held the position of Honorary Consul of the Republic of Tanzania since 2000. Why are you passionate about your ties to Africa?
KB: I’ve always been a world traveler. I’ve loved Africa from the first moment I started studying it. I married a Tanzanian just a year after the federal government and Supreme Court outlawed all bans on interracial marriage. In 1974, the Swedish ambassador to Tanzania and his wife invited us to go and spend two weeks at the Embassy residence. I fell in love with the place. I told my then-wife that I really felt at home! I have three home countries—Norway, the United States and Tanzania. I became acquainted with the Tanzanian ambassador to the United States. He was a member of three cabinets and ended up being the foreign minister and eventually the first democratically elected President. He’s the one who appointed me Honorary Consul.
Anya Britzius is associate managing editor of Viking. She lives in Minneapolis, Minn., and enjoys baking, reading and keeping up on modern Norwegian trends.