Grit. I can’t imagine anyone reflecting on grit without thinking about what is happening in Ukraine right now. Their incredible strength and resilience in the face of a brutal dictator are beyond belief. We all are holding our collective breath and hoping this needless war will end soon.

The Olsens in 1949, when they emigrated from Norway to Stonington: Edith, Karin, Bjorn, Grethe, Svend and Harald. Photo courtesy of Karin Olsen Gamache

On a more personal level, my next real-life reflection goes to my mom and dad. They survived Hitler’s occupation of Norway and then starting a new life in America four years after World War II. I just can’t even begin to imagine what that must have been like for them, not knowing the language or culture, especially after all they had gone through during the occupation.

While they never complained, I recall hearing stories of the challenges they faced while in Norway, such as German soldiers everywhere and never knowing who to trust. My twin brother, Svend, almost died when he got pneumonia while in a bomb shelter.

Papa and Mama were incredibly hardworking. My dad was a stonecutter, and we settled in Stonington, where there was a prominent quarry. The memories of those early years, as we adjusted to leaving our family and homeland and settling in a new land, are wrapped with so much love and resilience.

I remember what it was like as a child growing up in that beautiful small island town. While I was seemingly happy and involved with my “growing up life,” I had no grandma or grandpa near and, yes, I felt alone and different at times. But that pales in comparison to what my parents must have gone through. They were so dedicated and focused. They were immigrants making their way in a new land.

I can still see my mama’s raw cold hands as she came in from gathering clothes off the line; I still remember the many walks into town with my dad, as each of his steps became two of mine. We had no car. Many in Norway didn’t. We lived the life of both worlds.

While I don’t think we were actually bombed in Norway as they are in Ukraine right now, there are many similarities, and the fears were real. My heart goes out to them. I feel their pain. Their strength and resilience are so exemplified as they show the world what true grit looks like.

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