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Siblings Meet in Kaskö


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!Five Brothers and a Sister

The brothers Karl, Virgot, Viking, Håkan and Harry Granfors have lived good adult lives in the United States. This summer they visited their sister Stina Schaffelke in Kaskö, Finland. The last time all five brothers visited Finland was in 1980 when their mother Alina, from Vinby, Närpes, died. In their late teen years all the brothers emigrated to the United States to keep their American citizenship which they received through their father. The could have lost that citizenship in connection with possible military service in Finland.

They did well in life and their respective life’s fortunes have many similarities. This is especially so between the two younger brothers, which is not so strange because they are twins. Håkan’s twin brother Harry jested and said that his history is pretty much the same as Håkan’s, except that he has a second wife. Harry and his family live in Monroe, Connecticut.

The oldest brother Karl can be considered a leader. He traveled to America in 1949 as a 19-year old when he saw his American citizenship as a possibility for a livelihood. He received his citizenship from his father Atle who was born in America as the son of an older generation’s American travel, with Kaskö as his homeplace, and born in Övermark.

- It was a poor time in Kaskö after the war. It was difficult to find a job and many gave up. Before I went to America, I went to sea for two years, said Karl.

When Karl went to America for the first time he stayed with his father’s sister in New York. Then he went to Connecticut where he began to study electrical engineering. He had worked with electricity while he was in Finland. Then he was called to military service, which was obligatory in the beginning of the 1950s. The Army sent him to Germany where American troops were stationed after the war. Karl was placed in telegraphy. While in Germany he was able to visit Finland for the first time since he had left for America.

After returning home from the Army, Karl worked with the same company in Connecticut until he retired at age 61. He is a widower and presently lives in Wilmington, Vermont.

The next oldest brother Virgot lives in two places – Florida and Connecticut. He and his wife Seris, who comes from Värmland, Sweden, don’t like winter.

- I was home in Sweden during the winter once, just before Christmas. It is better to travel in the summer, said Seris.

Virgot came to the United States as a 19-year old in December 1950. In February 1952 he was inducted into the army for two years. This was during the Korean war and he thought he would be sent there. Instead, he was sent to Germany. While there he was able to visit Finland.

- In Finland I could not wear my American uniform, and in Germany I could not wear civilian clothing, said Virgot.

After he left the Army, Virgot worked as an engineer. Later he started his own business and made tools for the plastic industry. He worked there until he retired in 1996. His wife met Virgot in Sweden in 1958 when he was there to watch soccer games. It was the year Brazil defeated Sweden in the finals with their star player Pelé. Virgot played soccer when he lived in Koskö. When he visited Finland during his Army service in Germany, he took part in a match with Närpes Kraft and Kicken won.

The twins Håkan and Harry traveled together to America in 1954. They were only 16-years old. Both volunteered for military service for two years. Both were in the Marines. The Korean war was over but nevertheless Håkan was sent far away – to Japan. Harry stayed in the United States. Before the World War it was customary to send brothers to the same place, but because brothers often died or were injured, the policy changed and brothers were sent to separate places. In the case of Harry and Håkan it was difficult to tell them apart when they wore similar uniforms.

- In school it was difficult for the teachters to distinguish between us. If one of us did some mischief, we would blame the other, said Håkan.

Because of the long distance, Håkan could not visit Finland as his brothers did when they were stationed in Germany. After his military service was over, Håkan went to work for an electric company in New York where he worked for 37 years.

- It was 19 years before I returned to Finland for the first time after I left for America. Now it’s only two years since I was here, he said. Håkan’s wife is Elaine and they have four children and five grandchildren.

Twin Harry thinks their lives have followed the same pattern.

- It is about the same with me, except for a second wife, joked Harry.

During his military service, Harry was stationed in North Carolina. Then he went to work at the same place as Virgot in Connecticut. Then when Virgot started his own company, Håkan worked there 35 years. Now he is retired, but not full-time.

- Wife Kirsten works at two jobs so I think I should also work a little, said Harry.

The middle brother Viking left for America in December 1952. He sailed on the Gripsholm that went from Göteborg to New York via Halifax. He had been in New York only six months and three days before he entered the Army. He was also sent to Germany and could visit Finland.

- At that time an American soldier could not get a passport from Germany to Finland, but had to go via Denmark, said Viking.

He is married to Erna Norrgård from Nämpnäs, Närpes. She has lived in Connecticut almost as long as Viking. Recently Viking and Erna have become Finlanders and residents of Närpes again. When asked why they moved back, they said it was because they grew up there.

NORDEN, 1 August 2002

Translated by June Pelo

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