Black and white photo of the Great Chicago Fire

Ella – October 23, 2018

October 9th was the 147th anniversary of The Great Chicago Fire. Legend has it that the devastating inferno began when Patrick and Catherine O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lantern on the southwest side of Chicago. However (and perhaps understandably), Mrs. O’Leary denied those charges, and the actual ignition of the fire is still unknown. Closer to the truth is that the dry weather conditions and abundance of wooden buildings, streets and walkways made the city particularly vulnerable to fire. These past few days of particularly strong winds in Chicago make that theory even more credible.

Regardless of the real cause of the fire, I’ve come across some interesting ties between this historical event and The Danish Home.

The first connection was made when I discovered an interesting article dated September 1, 1900, describing how The Dania Society, a significant and very influential Danish organization established over 150 years ago in Chicago, was affected by the devastating fire of 1871 and how the society has flourished since.

Despite tremendous material losses in the Great Chicago Fire, the distinguished Dania Society survived, thrived, and is now celebrating its 156th year of promoting and supporting social, cultural, traditional, educational, charitable, and other worthy causes.

logo for the Dania Society of Chicago

For 156 years, the Dania Society of Chicago has supported Danish-American people and organizations, including The Danish Home of Chicago.

I became so interested in learning more about this group that I went to visit the very wise “Farfar” at The Danish Home (a resident who has become beloved to many of us descendants of the home’s founders) to find out more. A member of the Dania Society himself, as are many residents of The Danish Home, Farfar told me that The Dania Society has a history of partnership with The Danish Home.

Along with the Danish American Athletic Club and The Danish Sisterhood of Chicago, the Dania Society has co-sponsored many events and celebrations over the years, including The Danish Home’s monthly birthday party, language classes, fun movie nights, and the annual Fall Fest, which is coming up this year on November 4.

Farfar also told me something that really piqued my Danish-American pride: Anders Primdahl Vistisen, the grand-nephew of Christian Vistisen (a good friend of The Danish Home), is one of Denmark’s 13 members to the European Parliament. This is a directly elected parliamentary institution of the European Union (EU).

Anders Primdahl Vistisen is a member of the European Parliament and the grand-nephew of a friend of The Danish Home.

Born on November 12, 1987, Anders was an international trade student at the Skive Business School, and in 2013, he earned a Master of Law degree from the University of Aarhus. Today he is a politician with the Danish People’s Party, part of the European Conservatives and Reformists. At the age of just 26, he was elected as the youngest of all of the 751 MEPs of the European Parliament.

I suppose, as I am encouraging my children to do their best in school and life, I could bring up Anders’ story as an example of what hard work and dedication can reap.

Yet, even as I write this, I can already hear their protests. “Mom, don’t compare me to other people! I’m my own person!” (I used to say the same to my Mor.)

And they’re right. They are their own Danish-American individuals, who I suspect in time will take as much pride in their fellows from the homeland as I do.