Tuesday, September 25, 2001

September 2001


The Midwest has no active Icelandic Consul General!

For many years Icelanders and people of Icelandic heritage in the Midwest have not had an active representative. The Icelandic Consul General for the Midwest lives in Washington DC! And although the Vice Consul lives closer he could as well live in Timbuktu that is how enthusiastic he is about Iceland and Icelandic affairs. Repeatedly, we hear stories of newcomers or others interested in our country, culture, and heritage, who have difficulties getting information. Even those who manage to get a hold of the Consul or his partner have little luck because neither of them seems to bother to keep track of “Icelandic” activities or know names and phone numbers of the Icelandic Association’s members. More seriously, people run into problems when renewing or obtaining passports and when we visited the Vice Consul couple of years ago to cast a vote we felt like intruders who were disturbing a busy schedule of more important matters. This situation is shameful for Iceland, and many in our community are really unhappy, even mad. The Icelandic Association has been trying to help Icelanders who are traveling to Chicago, studying, or immigrating to the Midwest, but this work is becoming more demanding and more time consuming for Lena and me, as well as other members of the board. We will have to demand that the Foreign Ministry of Iceland does something to fix this situation. Various people have brought this to their attention on several occasions through conversations and a formal letter to the Icelandic Ambassador. We have not received any respond. It appears the matter is somewhat political and the current Consul General, who is Polish, supposedly got his post for helping Iceland lobbying whale fishing.

The Governor of Illinois, the Major of Chicago and other parties have invited me as the President of the Icelandic Association to some gatherings and social events, which Lena and I have attended. Our Scandinavian friends frequently comment that Iceland is being left out in Nordic-US relations and often bring up the absence of the Icelandic Consul General. Maybe, the Midwest is of no interest to the Icelandic government: after all it only hosts 50 million people, thereof 14 million in Illinois and 6 million in Chicago and its suburbs!

In any event, I feel that it is my responsibility to touch on this subject and, hopefully, the members of the Association will voice their opinion in this newsletter, at meetings or directly to the Icelandic Embassy or the Icelandic Government.

With a strong patriotic heart.
Einar Steinsson, President

From the editor

The 2001-2002 season in Chicago is filled with interesting events, whether you are into arts, music or sports. The Lyric Opera has a very impressive program this year, as well as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Few Icelanders will make their way into the heartlands to contribute to the arts. Bjarni Þór Kristinsson will debut with the Lyric Opera, Björk is coming this fall to perform at the Civic Opera Theatre with an orchestra and choir. A lesser known Icelandic alternative rock band, Sigurrós will play in Chicago late September. Break a leg, everyone!

Ólafur Jóhann Ólafsson (b. 1962) has carved out an unusually impressive career as a novelist. Formerly the president of Sony Interactive Entertainment, Olafsson is currently Vice Chairman of Time Warner Digital Media. His books have all become bestsellers in Iceland. I recently read “Slóð fiðrildanna”, published in Iceland 1999, which has now been translated and published in the USA as “The Journey Home” by Pantheon Books.

The Journey Home is a powerful and moving story of Icelandic destiny into the turbulent history of Europe in the mid 20th century. The main character, Ásdís Jónsdóttir, has for years run a smart country-house hotel in England. In the novel she must confront her past and return home to the Iceland, which she left 20 years before - in search of the life she turned her back on. I recommend this book for anyone, even if you do not have any ties to Iceland. This is excellent storytelling and a well-crafted story. I have never been a particular fan of Ólaf´s writing but this novel I can truly recommend. I wait in great anticipation what he might carve out for us in the future.

Scandinavian Day

Scandinavian Day was celebrated in Vasa Park in Elgin on the 9th of September. It was a rainy and gloomy day with some thunderstorms to make it even better. We sold our Icelandic flatbread with smoked lamb (flatkökur með hangiketi) with Icelandic Spring water and American Cola. The attendance was not as good as previous years, most likely due to the rain but we had a good time, flagged the Icelandic flag and signed up few more Icelanders and Icelandophiles to the association.

Annual Board Meeting

The Icelandic Association of Chicago’s annual board meeting will be held on October 28th at La Bocca Della Verita, 4618 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago at 5 pm. There is street parking in front of the restaurant and two city lots one block south and north of the place. The agenda will be:

Meeting commencement

Last year’s accounts reviewed

Board election

President election

Accountant election

Association fees


Website and newsletter


Meeting adjourned

Please, RSVP before 10/23/01 by phone (773.489.4621) or e-mail to Einar Steinsson (einar@karenzupko.com) if you will be participating in the meeting.

Christmas at the Museum of Science and Industry

This year, the annual Christmas tree will be decorated November 11 at 1 pm. Everyone interested in participating and helping out is welcome. The tree will be on display over the holidays along with trees from other nations. On January 13 2002 we will take the tree down at 1 pm, and again all help is appreciated.

Icelandic settlers´ churches in North Dakota are crumbling down

According to the Icelandic newspaper, “Morgunblaðið”, more than 400 of the still standing 2,000 19th century settlement churches in North Dakota are condemned and in danger of crumbling down. They have been placed on a list of eleven historical remains in the USA that are thought to be endangered. Icelandic settlers were among the ones who originally erected many of these churches

Letters to the Association

I am grasping at straws. I have been trying to trace my great grandmother Sophia Benson, who was born in Iceland, March of 1869. She married John T. Hurley and had three children, Helen born January 1889, James Bruce (my grandfather) born December 1890, and Benjamin born 1985 all in St. Paul, Minn. They settled in Chicago some time in the early 20th century. The 1920 census lists John T. Hurley and Sophia living at East 50th Place, Apt. 731. My grandmother had divorced James some time around 1917 and we lost track of the family. The census record was difficult to read, but I believe it listed Sophia as a nonresident.

I have a copy of the marriage license of James to his second wife, and he lists his mother as Sophia Benson, birth place Iceland.

I have joined the Iceland Genealogy Society, but the newsletter is in Icelandic!!!! I am planning to come to Chicago in March and go the Newberry to look for city directory and obituaries. Also, I plan to go to Iceland in the latter part of May.

I would appreciate any ideas you might give me to continue my search.


Barbara J. Brusseau
438 W. Wilmot Street
Chillicothe, IL 61523

Letter from The Great Canadian Travel Company Ltd.

This travel agency sent us a letter and a brochure where they offer tours to Canada, Northwest territories, Greenland, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Orkney & Shetlands, Spitzbergen, and Scandinavia. Their website is www.greatcanadiantravel.com and to see all of their Iceland Travel Product go to www.iceland-experience.com. Their brochure is quite impressive and many of their tours look intriguing. Check it out!

Lögberg-Heimskringla Subscription

The Lögberg-Heimskringla is North America´s oldest ethnic newspaper, published since 1886. Until 1959, there were two newspapers, the Heimskringla and the Lögberg, both of which were Icelandic language newspapers. The dominance of the Icelandic language in the newspaper continued with the amalgamation, but gradually became an English language newspaper, as the community it served lost its mother tongue. Today, there are bilingual headlines, and a Children´s Corner which always has some Icelandic language content.

The front page features news from North America and Iceland. The inside pages contain news and features from Icelandic communities across Canada and the Unites States, as well as editorials, letters to the editor, opinions, children’s corner, career column, food, travel, literary and the arts, family notices and calendar events.

The newspaper has offered the Icelandic Association of Chicago to sell subscriptions to its members. Subscription costst are in USA, Iceland and other countries: USD $54.00 per year, or CAN $ 81.00 per year. In Manitoba: $51.30 per year (includes PST), other Canadian provinces and territories: % 48.15 per year.

If you are interested in subscribing to the newspaper, please send a check for $54 to Sonja Johnson, treasurer, 6105 N. Glenwood unit 2, Chicago, Il, 60660.

Letter from Gullfiskur Ltd

We received a letter from Gullfiskur Ltd., which is a 10-year-old Icelandic company that specializes in making Icelandic dry fish (harðfiskur). They produce dry haddock and catfish, with and without skin and also produce so-called Gullskífur, whick are dry fish plates made from haddock fillets. The plates have become popular in Iceland. The company exports to Norway. They offer to sell their product to interested association members. Please, contact any of the board members if you are interested.

Icelandic Debut at Lyric Opera

The 2001-2002 Lyric Opera season includes masterpieces such as Otello by Verdi, La Bohéme by Puccini, Parcifal by Wagner and The Magic Flute by Mozart. The season opened up on September 22nd with Otello which will be followed by an original production “Street Scene” bu Kurt Weill. Bjarni Þór Kristinsson, native Icelander, will make his debut with the Lyric Opera in Parsifal which opens on February 2nd, 2002. This is also his first performance in an American opera production.

Björk in America

Following the release of her new CD, “Vespertine”, Björk Guðmundsdóttir, the most famous Icelander, will perform at the Civic Opera House with orchestra and choir on October 14th at 7:30 pm. Her special guest is Matmos. Unfortunately, the performance is currently sold out. She will also perform at the Radio City Music Hall on October 4th and 5th, Paramount Theatre, Oakland, California, on the 17th and at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in LA on the 22nd. Tickets are available for those performances.

Of note, Björk was on Dave Letterman few weeks ago where she performed a song from her new CD, “Pagan Poetry”. At the beginning of the performance Björk wound up a music box, starting the song. On stage with her was a women’s´ choir from Greenland, wearing national costumes, a harp player and two other musicians.

Icelandic Cinema

The 18th Annual Chicago International Children’s Film Festival will open on October 25th. This is the largest children’s film festival in North America. The Icelandic film “Ikingut”, directed by Gísli Snær Erlingsson and produced by Friðrik Þór Friðriksson, will be one of the films featured at the festival. The story takes place in a remote costal village in Northern Iceland where the fishermen are fighting for their survival as the harsh winter shifts pack ice towards the coast. The priest's son Bóas spots a small creature on a drifting iceberg believing that he's seen an evil spirit or a devil. But when Bóas is saved from an avalanche by the creature, a young boy from Greenland, they immediately become friends. Bóas's family takes him into their home, grateful for the brave rescue of their son. Meanwhile the superstitious local fishermen claiming that the strange boy is the cause to all their hardship demand that he be banished or even killed.

Another Icelandic film “101 Reykjavík” will be at the Music Box cinema this fall. The film is based on novel by Hallgrímur Helgason published few years ago. It was written and directed by Baltasar Kormákur, starring Hilmir Snær Guðnason, Hanna María Karlsdóttir, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Baltasar Kormákur and Victoria Abril. The film is named after the postcode of the Icelandic capital, where the main scenes take place, this is the story of Hlynur (Hilmir Snær Guðnason), the embodiment of geekness who, approaching the grand old age of 30, still lives with his mother, downloads cyberporn and wanders around Reykjavik half-heartedly searching for a job while spending lots of time in Kaffibarinn, the central Reykjavik bar which just happens to be owned by Baltasar Kormakur and his soundtrack composer Damon Albarn, a long-standing Icelandophile.

Sigurrós in VIC Theatre

The new Icelandic musical phenomenon, “Sigurrós” will be at VIC Theatre on September 27. Unfortunately, the performance is sold out.