In 1973, a sister city relationship was established between the City of Wheaton and Karlskoga, Sweden. In early July, 2023, three guests from Sweden visited Wheaton to commemorate this 50-year anniversary. Our Swedish guests included Tony Ring, Chairman of the Municipal Board, Karlskoga municipality; Anna Ragén, Chairman of the Municipal Council; and Mikael Ragén, Anna’s husband.
During their stay, we visited the Warhol Exhibit, Cantigny, the Field of Honor, Wheaton College, College of DuPage, the Morton Arboretum, and, of course, Downtown Wheaton. We had a wonderful time touring all these local gems!
They planned their visit so that they could enjoy a significant holiday in America. In honor of our Independence Day, they attended the Wheaton Park District 4th of July Parade and Fireworks. Tony, Anna, and Mikael had also visited Wheaton in June, 2019, and they enjoyed all Wheaton had to offer.
What Is a Sister City and How Did it Get Started?
The sister city relationship was initiated through the work of Wheaton resident and City Council member Arnold DeLuca, PhD. The interest in the sister city relationships was initiated by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956. Dr. DeLuca established criteria for the sister relationship and researched possible candidates. Requirements for sister city consideration included comparability with Wheaton in terms of:
- heritage similar to Wheaton;
- other considerations—such as having a college
The relationship was finalized in 1973 by the establishment of Wheaton’s Sister City Commission. Over the years, there have been multiple interactions with Karlskoga, including visits by hockey teams, baseball teams, and music groups. The most recent visits were in June, 2019, when representatives of Karlskoga, including a local youth baseball team, visited Wheaton. I personally visited Karlskoga in September, 2019, in recognition of the 100th Anniversary of Democracy in Sweden.
The Rich History of Karlskoga, Sweden
The origins of Karlskoga date back to the 1500s with a focus on iron castings for cannons. With a population of roughly 48,000 people, Karlskoga is located about 2 1/2 hours east of Stockholm and about 50 miles from Gothenburg.
Situated on a lake, Karlskoga has an auto racetrack, an ownership interest in an airport, and the municipality has a university. Karlskoga’s identity is that it is the hometown of Alfred Nobel. The municipality is the home to a casting company known as Bofors. This company began casting iron for cannons, which morphed over the years into one of premier manufacturers of anti-aircraft guns. Their products included the Bofors gun, which Churchill credited for winning the Battle of Britain. Nobel was the owner of Bofors from 1894 to 1896 and maintained an estate in Karlskoga. Upon his death, in 1896, Karlskoga was determined to be Nobel’s hometown for purposes of his will, because Karlskoga was the place where he maintained his horses.
The municipality is also known for the manufacturing of “powders,” a euphemism for explosives; has a manufacturing complex built into the side of a mountain; and manufactures pharmaceuticals.
The governmental structure of Karlskoga is different from Wheaton and is more comparable to that of our county structure. The Karlskoga municipality is responsible for local government, the schools, and recreation. The municipality does not have responsibility for the police, which are organized on a national basis in Sweden.
More About Our Visitors
Tony and Anna were elected to their positions in 2019 on a moderate platform known as the “Moderate Alliance.” This platform placed emphasis on fiscal stability and economic growth. The election of Tony and Anna represented the first change in Karlskoga’s political leadership in over one hundred years.
Tony is a retired race car driver, and he had driven professionally for both Porsche and Ferrari. Since retiring, Tony has been involved in broadcasting and public relations activities.
Anna holds a doctorate from Karlstad University. Her doctorate focused on “delving deeper into the activities and actors that exist in the ecosystem that works to promote innovation and commercial activity linked to higher education and research.” Anna’s current and past responsibilities have included positions with Swedish manufacturing companies, working at Orebro University, focusing on innovations and utilization of research, external relations, and being CEO of Orebro University Holding A.B. In conjunction with her husband, Anna is a partner in several small technology companies.
Mikael is the owner of several small businesses in the Karlskoga area.