“West Icelander” Tours the Country and Tells Stories Skip to content

“West Icelander” Tours the Country and Tells Stories

Sunna Pam Olafson-Furstenau, an American of Icelandic descent from North Dakota, is currently on a roundtrip of Iceland, giving presentations on so-called “West Icelanders”, the Icelandic community in the US, whose members love and respect all things Icelandic.


Langanes, Olafson-Furstenau’s destination today. Photo by Páll Stefánsson.

Olafson-Furstenau is a nurse by education and works on Icelandic affairs, including genealogy, as a volunteer. She is the vice-president of the Icelandic National League of North America and represents the Icelandic communities of the US on its board.

She is so true to her Icelandic roots that she wears the Icelandic national costume during her presentations and adopted an Icelandic name at the 2010 convention of the Icelandic National League of North America, Morgunblaðið reports.

Olafson-Furstenau asked for suggestions of names from fellow West Icelanders and the winning entry came from Nelson Gerrard of Eyrarbakki in Manitoba.

“The only thing missing was an Icelandic name and Nelson pointed out that Sunna was the right one,” Olafson-Furstenau recollects. “‘It means sunshine,’ he said. ‘You’re the happiest person I know, always smiling, content and bright like the sun.’”

In her presentations Olafson-Furstenau emphasizes that even though many Icelanders moved to North America, they haven’t forgotten about their home country. “We inherited our ancestor’s love for Iceland.”

Her father’s family came from Skagafjörður, Eyjafjörður and Langanes in North Iceland but her mother derives from Ireland, Scotland and Norway. Today Olafson-Furstenau is visiting Langanes for the first time.

“I love Eyjafjörður and everything connected with me there but I must say that Skagafjörður evokes unbelievable emotions inside me. When I left Hofsós last year after eight days I cried so much because I had to leave,” Olafson-Furstenau revealed.

“I cry just of the thought alone because the connection with my great-grandfather from Skagafjörður was so strong. He died when I was 22. My heart is in Skagafjörður,” Olafson-Furstenau concludes.

Olafson-Furstenau has already given presentations, telling stories of Icelanders in North America and showing over 500 pictures, in Reykjavík, Eyrarbakki, Egilsstaðir and Vopnafjörður.

She will speak in Húsavík tomorrow and Akureyri on Saturday and then continue her roundtrip with stops in Blönduós, Ísafjörður, Stykkishólmur and Borgarnes.


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