They met on a commuter train in Stockholm, Sweden. He was sitting across from her and thought to himself, I’m going to marry that lady. Six hours later, after a date with dinner and dancing, he asked her to marry him and she said “Yes!” How’s that for romance! That is the beginning of Christina and Olav Kyte’s life together. They have been married now for 61 long years, so sometimes fairy tales really do come true.
Olav was born in Norway in 1929 and Christina in Sweden in 1933. Both were brought up on farms in the countryside. Olav’s most memorable and interesting times as a child were between the years 1940-1945, during the German occupation of Norway. He remembers one particular morning being awakened on the farm to bombs blowing up all around his family’s farm. His mother, still wearing her nightgown, grabbed him and his little brother and ran out to the field to hide in the woods beyond their farm. Halfway across the field she stopped to tuck her younger son between her legs. Planes, flying so low that you could see the pilots, appeared and opened fire on them. Her stopping probably saved all their lives as the ground all around them was torn up from bullets. Olav remembers her raising her big arm and fist in the air to cuss them out, something he had never heard his mother do in his life. That was the beginning of the occupation.
Another interesting memory for Olav was years later. The Germans would pass by his home everyday with perhaps 500 Russian prisoners with guards in the front and back of the line. Some of the prisoners had no shoes – only burlap wrapped around their feet in the middle of the winter. Food was scarce but his family had plenty of pickled herring. His mother would send Olav out to throw the herring, guts and all, to the prisoners when the guards couldn’t see. One day though a guard saw him and fired his machine gun over Olav’s head striking the neighbor’s house. After that experience his mother wouldn’t allow him to do that anymore, but he was able to help feed those prisoners for most of the winter prior to that incident.
His family became a bit scattered during that time. One brother was part of the Working Force and would flee from one farm to the next in hiding. Another brother was attending the university when one day there was an explosion in the chemistry lab. The Germans surrounded the university and sent all the students to a concentration camp. Luckily, his brother was late that day and when he saw all the Germans he fled. He ended up hiding in Sweden until the war ended.
Christina’s father was in the military. They settled in southern Sweden where her father bought a farm. The Germans never occupied Sweden so she doesn’t have any war related stories, thank goodness. She does remember having to ski, skate or bike to a railroad station to go to school. It took over an hour to get to school. She spent a lot of time alone because of that and she didn’t enjoy the farm chores. When she graduated from high school she spent two years in the Au Pair program in the UK. This was a program that placed young woman to live with a family to help out with chores and the children. She learned to speak English through this experience —which was a good thing because when she and Olav met, that was the language they had in common and used to communicate. She had moved back to Sweden when she met Olav.
Olav had made his way to the United States after the war. He had a friend in Spokane where he ended up getting a job with Pacific Fruit packing fruit. When the draft came up he enlisted and was in the US Air Force for four years. (He wasn’t a citizen but they were taking anyone at that time.) He was transferred to Germany and ended up working in a hospital. Some friends wanted to go to Sweden for a break and that is where he met Christina.
Once they decided to get married, the next task was getting Christina “sponsored” so that she could come to the US after Olav had returned. Olav didn’t have the funds to obtain the necessary documents to get her to the US. His brother had graduated from college and had a job. He was willing to guarantee the finances so that Christina could get the necessary documents.
Olav and Christina married in 1955 in Seattle and had three children. Olav went back to school to become a teacher and taught German and math at the Bellevue Jr. High for 27 years. They bought land in Redmond where Christina raised sheep for the wool. She taught herself to spin and weave and did quite well selling her wares. She was instrumental in getting the Nordic Heritage Museum started in 1975 in Ballard, which is a fascinating and extensive museum with wonderful displays of Nordic culture.
They moved to the Methow in 1999, as they wanted to be in snow country and a drier environment. Their lovely home is filled with Christina’s amazing weavings and Olav’s metal work. Christina has a big garden and fruit trees provide shade for their attractive lawn. They joined Methow At Home because they believe in the concept. They haven’t yet needed any services, and are an inspiration to all!
Written by Deirdre Cassidy