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Swedish cousins of Ferolyn Angel, left, have been visiting in Hancock before attending a cousins reunion in California. They are Maria and Arne Paulsson from Uppsala, Sweden.

Cousins keep in touch despite distance

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As families age and grow apart, it becomes increasingly difficult to find time for reunions or visiting. The loss of parents and grandparents and distance between homes can make family time very precious. The responsibility of maintaining those connections falls from generation to generation.

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Ferolyn Angell of Hancock has been working for several years on what will be the fourth reunion of her cousins. For some this might not seem like such a big task, but for Ferolyn it involves communication with cousins that live not only thousands of miles apart, but in many different countries all over the world.

This past week, Ferolyn has been entertaining her cousin, Maria along with Maria’s husband, Arne Paulsson from Uppsala, Sweden, a small town north of Stockholm. Her cousin is in the United States to attend a cousin’s reunion that will take place June 22 in Santa Rosa, Calif.

The reunion will include eight of their cousins who come from Sweden, England,  Australia and the United States. The cousins  got together the first time when an uncle-in-law invited them to his 80th birthday celebration. They have met twice in  London, England at a cousins home. This time it was decided to meet in California.

The heritage of the cousins can be traced back to Nazi Germany. Ferolyn and Maria’s grandparents on their mother’s side were Lutheran. However, their paternal grandparents were Jewish. Despite the fact that the family practiced the Lutheran religion, they were still threatened by their Jewish backgroud.

One sister remained in Germany. She left their hometown and fled to a small town in southern Germany. The children couldn’t go to school and the family hid in seclusion for years. One of their aunts had remained with their parents and was eventually arrested. The family later learned that she died in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Their grandparents had eight children, seven girls and one boy. Ferolyn’s mom went to work for the Swedish Lutheran Mission where she worked for years. Maria’s dad, the only son, came to visit there and met his wife who was a maid for the minister’s family where Ferolyn’s mom was living. That is how Maria ended up growing up in Sweden.

Ferolyn’s mother eventually came to America to attend school at Berkeley. This is where she met her husband,  Ferolyn's father. Ferolyn's mom later moved to Minnesota. During the years in California, Maria came to live with them for one year. She was 16 years old and Ferolyn was 12. It was a memorable year for the cousins and Maria was able to learn not only the English language, but also the culture.

When it was time for Maria to return home, Ferolyn’s family, which also included her 17 year old sister, boarded a passenger ship and cruised back to Sweden. Ferolyn remembers the older girls being very into boys at that age while she spent time on the ship in the rec room listening to music and doing the twist.

After the visit, the families stayed in touch primarily through letters. This also included the other aunts who moved to many other countries. The families stayed connected through the letters and occasional visits. When their parents could no longer manage the trips, they encouraged their children to keep in touch any way they could.

Since the reunions involve a lot of planning and travel, they only happen every four years or more. Ferolyn stated that discussions are always ‘pre-reunion or post-reunion.’ They have no idea yet when or where the next one will take place.

For Arne and Maria, this is their third trip to the states but the first time they have been in Minnesota. They have visited several Swedish sites such as places in Stillwater, Taylors Falls, Lindstrom and Chisago City. They can understand why so many Swedish immigrants choose to settle in this area because it looks so much like Sweden. They also grow many of the same crops and the climates are very similar.

They are both retired so have the time to travel and are enjoying their time here. This Friday they will all fly to California for the reunion before returning home to their family which includes two daughters and four grandchildren.

It will be fun for both Maria and Ferolyn to re-visit some of the places they remember from those teenage years in California. However, the best part of the trip will be reconnecting with cousins that they have not seen for four years. This started out as an encouragement from parents but now has become something they enjoy and remember, even as they look forwad to planning the next one.

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