More photos at Chicago SVEA/SWEA Turns 30

On Saturday May 21, 2011, there were about sixty guests celebrating the 30th anniversary of SVEA/SWEA–Chicago at The Gage restaurant in Chicago. The guests mingled while violinist Frida Rosén played Swedish folk tunes. Tina O’Malley, President of SWEA-Chicago, welcomed everyone, and while the Swedish-inspired dinner was served the guests sang traditional Swedish songs with entertainment by some SWEA (Swedish Women Educational Association) members and HOS (Husbands Of SWEA).
Tina O’Malley introduced the woman who started it all in Chicago, Kerstin Lane, Honorary Consul General of Sweden for Illinois. Kerstin has been an inspiration to many within Chicago's Swedish community for several years. She founded SVEA-Chicago in 1981, became SWEA International’s Woman of the Year 1999, received the Serafimerordern from King Carl XVI Gustaf in 2007, and this year Kerstin was named The Swedish-American of the Year by the Vasa Order.
"Thank you for all that you have done and all that you continue to do for the Swedish community in Chicago,” said Tina and handed the microphone to Kerstin.

Common heritage adds a dimension [fills a void]
"I feel so humbled. What I have been doing here in Chicago for the Swedish community are things that I really like to do,” said Kerstin. She told us how it all started: She joined a playgroup with her son Johan and found that one other mom was Swedish. They had so much to talk about—especially their experiences coming to this country. The women decided not to complain about all the things they thought were difficult, but to do something about them.
They talked with Ylva Isaac, the only other Swedish woman they knew. She worked at MASTA (Mid-America Swedish Trade Council), that later became SACC (Swedish American Chamber of Commerce) and had a list of Swedes in Chicago. They invited Swedish women to come to Kerstin’s house, and eighteen enthusiastic women showed up—at the next meeting it doubled.
They knew they all had something very special in common: their heritage. Agneta Nilsson had started SWEA in Los Angels one year earlier and they contacted her. At that time Los Angeles was not ready to be the International organization we have today. So SVEA (with a V instead of a W) was founded in Chicago. The group in Chicago later joined SWEA International in 1993.
”It is amazing how much your heritage can bring you together,” said Kerstin after mentioning all the activities that happen within SWEA every year. "SWEA adds another dimension to our lives. We can in a positive way share our heritage with each other. Many Swedish women have spent a lot of time creating the great organization that SWEA is today. Many women have worked hard to make it grow and be stimulating. The reason why I in the beginning started SVEA–Chicago, was that I had moved here and was very lonely, and I missed Sweden a lot. I needed the relationship with other women where I could communicate in a way I couldn’t with my American friends. Both friendships are important, but certainly Swedish friendships are incredibly important, and that is how SVEA evolved in the beginning for me,” said Kerstin.
At the end she put on her official hat as the Honorary Consul General of Sweden for Illinois and said, "Thank you SWEA for what you are doing to promote Sweden here in the state of Illinois. You are all ambassadors for Sweden.”

Greetings from the SWEA world
Mariette Ericsson-Weinles shared several congratulatory announcements, including a gift and greetings from Tina Klintmalm, the regional chair of MAME (Mellersta AMErika), other chapters of SWEA International in North America and from SWEA International’s honorary president, Princess Christina of Sweden. "As Honorary President of SWEA International, I am sending you my heartfelt congratulations on your 30th anniversary. Also my best wishes to this year’s Swedish-American, Kerstin Lane. Congratulations!” read Mariette.
The founder of SWEA International, Agneta Nilsson, sent a video clip with a message. "You are now the 4th SWEA chapter (Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego and Chicago) that has reached the wonderful age where you are not very young anymore but still has a lot of enthusiasm left. My warmest congratulations!” she said.
During dessert the guests took a trip down SVEA/SWEA-Chicago Memory Lane, a musical slideshow presenting members and events from 1981 through 2011.
Tina O’Malley introduced a very special guest, Åsa-Lena Lööf, president of SWEA International.
"I am honored to be here tonight. I have had a soft spot for Chicago for a long time and I have seen your work. I really, really have been impressed by what you have done here ... you are one of the pearls in a long string of pearls around the world.”
The night wrapped up with Anna Engström announcing the lucky raffle-ticket winners of the evening. We all enjoyed closing the night with some traditional Swedish sing-along songs while Frida Rosén skillfully played the violin.
A warm thank you to The Gage for hosting the event and also many thanks to Tina O’Malley and the Jubilee Committee who planned the 30th anniversary. At last a thank you to all the sponsors: IKEA, The Swedish American Museum, Really Useful Boxes, Marianne Strokirk, Ingrid Bergström, Nails of Bliss, Wikströms and Svedka.

Kristina Hall