Published in Land magazine, #43, Oct 17, 2014. By Torbjörn Österholm. Translated from the original Swedish. View the Swedish version online at tidningenland.se
New TV-star Katie Malik seeks her Swedish roots
“My relative fled to America in the middle of the night”
Opera singer Katie Malik, 34, from Gig Harbor, Washington, may be the new favorite in Allt för Sverige. Her joie de vivre comes from a severe lung disease kept under control. It was a dream to visit Sweden someday, she says.
How much do you know about your Swedish roots?
– My (maternal) grandfather’s (paternal) grandmother, Ellen was born in Lund, Sweden, the daughter of a tailor. She was a talented seamstress who made all the clothes for the family. Why she left Sweden we do not really know, but it was about finding a man to marry; it was perhaps difficult to do so at home.
– Great-grandfather Andrew was probably born on a farm near Malmö. It is said that he sneaked away and left Sweden in the middle of the night to avoid having to marry a woman chosen for him. Ellen and Andrew met in America in the 1880s, and built a farm in Washington State. The farm is still owned by the family and I live just a half an hour away.
What a great story! Why did you want to come to Sweden to learn more?
– Family is very important to me and ancestral history is fascinating. Above all Ellen is somewhat of a mystery. It must have required courage and strength to leave her family and come to America as an unmarried woman.
– Ellen and Andrew left relatives behind in Sweden, and to find links to them for me would be an awesome gift to give the family. Not since the 1930s has anyone had contact with our Swedish relatives.
What made the biggest impression on you in Sweden?
– Sweden was an adventure; it took me several months to digest the impressions. I liked the nature and how accessible it was. Everywhere I was tempted to climb, swim or hike. Next time I come to Sweden, I will bring climbing shoes with me.
What is your weekday like at home?
– I am married for the past twelve years to my husband Joe. We have no children of our own, but love to be “Aunt Katie” and “Uncle Joe” “for our nieces and nephews. We have an American Bulldog named Tor. He is big and strong but a little muddle-headed so we must think for him! My parents have a company that builds small boats so I have grown up on the water and often still go along for a ride. I also share my father’s interest in archery.
You struggle against the lung disease cystic fibrosis that is incurable, but the progress can be slowed down. How do you balance your life?
– It’s like having an extra job every day. I medicate and treat the lungs and I have to be careful with exercise, proper diet and sleep. As a singer, I can combine professional work with training of the lungs, and as a yoga teacher I stay connected with people that motivate me to stay fit. When I’m stuck in my medical treatments there is time to write something on my blog.
Writing helps Katie Malik to plan.
– It helps me to divide life into projects I can focus on it in a certain period, such as the trip to Sweden, and then let me get some rest. But have always been able to work and do what I want to do because of my husband and a network of family, friends and colleagues who help me through when there are tough days.
Photo caption reads: JOIE DE VIVRE. Katie Malik, new TV favorite in Sweden, won’t be broken by her serious disease.
From the inset box: “Allt för Sverige fourth season attracts an audience of millions.”