This is a preview to the chapter EIGERØY 1895-1955 from the book Fly Away Home by Maggie Myklebust.
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reminiscing and was pleased with my interest in the past.
“Hang on a minute while I get the Bible…that’s where I have all my important dates written down. I’m much too old to remember them anymore,” she said, after I finished explaining I wanted to write about how our family came to America.
We got started on our two-hour, transatlantic conversation. These were all stories I’d heard before, but needed to hear again and felt lucky she was still here to tell them. By the end of our phone call I could picture her sitting in her chair, small and frail, with a Bible on her lap and her knitting lying close beside her, as it always did. I wanted to give her hug but couldn’t because of the cruel distance between us. She on one side of the world, me on the other, the opposite of where each of us had started.
My Oldemor, which means great-grandmother in Norwegian, was Jakobine Skadberg. She was born in 1895, on the island of Eigerøy, located off the southwest coast of Norway. At sixteen she went to New York to work as a mother’s helper for a wealthy Norwegian family, returning to Norway two years later with many stories to tell. Soon after her return she married Ludvig Skadberg and although they shared the same last name, they were not related. It was quite common at that time for people to take the name of the place they were born. My great grandparents were both born at Skadberg, an area located on the north side of Eigerøy and where most of its inhabitants were farmers or fishermen.
In 1919 they welcomed a daughter, named her Gerd, and raised her on her mother’s tales of America. These stories, which may have been slightly embellished over the years, were like fairytales and captured the little girl’s imagination. Life in America was something Jakobine and her daughter not only dreamed of but were determined to have. In 1924, times were tough and many people were leaving Norway to start new lives in America. Money was a problem for the young couple, but they worked hard and scraped together enough for Ludvig to go ahead on his own. Once in America, he would find a job fishing and save enough money for the family to follow him. They waited anxiously to hear of his safe arrival but when news finally came, their dreams became a nightmare. Ludvig became ill on the crossing and a few weeks after his arrival in New York died of diabetic complications. The pain of knowing he died trying to fulfill their dream was almost unbearable and hopes of ever leaving Norway toppled down around them.
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