Anna’s heart

At Grenna Museum the remnants of the André Expedition have been assembled. One of the display cases contain some mementos that relate an extraordinary love story – one between Nils Strindberg, a young photographer and expedition member, and his fiancée, Anna Charlier.

In the display you can read excerpts from a letter Nils wrote to his fiancée after the balloon they were riding became stranded and the men attempted to cross the ice towards land. It also contains a charm that Nils carried when he died in the icy cold on Vitön. In it is a photo of Anna and a lock of her hair. In his pocket out there on the polar ice where he died, Nils also had a ticket from the Stockholm exhibition that he and Anna visited the night before he departed. A keepsake from the last thing they did together. “Nils told Anna, ‘If I have not returned after two years, then there is no longer any hope’,” museum curator Mari Lundberg relates.

Anna waited for 13 years, but then married an Englishman, Gilbert Hawtrey, and lived the rest of her life with him.

Why did Nils choose to set out on this trip fraught with danger when he appears to have been so much in love with Anna? “Nils had promised Andrée, and I believe that in part he wanted to keep his word and so may not have dared to back out. The year before another expedition member had dropped out, and there was tremendous media hype against him in which he was portrayed as a weak wretch,” Mari replies.

In the journal Nils carried on the polar ice, he wrote to Anna, and it is considerably more personal that the logs the other expedition members recorded. Nils’s brother, Tore Strindberg, later saw that both the letter and journal were sent to Anna.

When Anna Charlier died in southern England in 1949, it became clear that she had never forgotten her Nils. In her will it was stated that she wanted her heart to be removed from her body, cremated and placed alongside Nils Strindberg in the André grave at home in Sweden. And this was done. The rest of Anna’s body lies in the Hawtrey family grave in England, while her heart rests in a silver box next to Nils Strindberg. “She gave her heart to him and obviously could not give it to anyone else.”

At Grenna Museum you can become familiar with the entire exciting history of the André Expedition.

 

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