On one of her trips to Iceland, Minneota native and INLUS president Dianne O'Konski holds a 10,000-year-old chunk of ice. O'Konski at Gullfoss,  waterfall located in the canyon of the Hvita River in southwest Iceland.

Working to preserve Icelandic heritage

Minneota native has been president of INLUS past 3 years

Realizing the importance of maintaining a connection with their Icelandic Heritage, Minneota native Dianne (Appelwick) O'Konski teamed up with three others and formed the Icelandic National League of the United States.
O'Konski, who now lives in Lakeville, is the current president of the Icelandic National League of the United States, a position she has held since 2019.
The mission of the INLUS is to advance and preserve Icelandic culture, heritage, language and history in the United States, by promoting friendly cooperative relations between the people of Iceland, people of Icelandic heritage, and those who love all things Icelandic.
O'Konski grew up in Minneota and graduated in 1973. Her father, Elden, passed away in 2016, while her mother, Eleanor, now resides in the Twin Cities area.
O'Konski and her late husband were living in Indiana and moved back to Minnesota in 2003. It was then that O'Konski began to connect with her Icelandic roots.
"My mother's sister was a member of the Icelandic Hekla Club and talked me into joining," said O'Konski, referring to the 97-year-old club that is the oldest, continuously meeting organization in the United States.
From there, O'Konski eventually became a member of the Icelandic National League of North America based in Canada.
Because some projects of the INLNA in Canada would be non-profit, the money for grants and scholarships was required to be spent in Canada.
"It made little sense for us to continue since we weren't given any of the money for grants and scholarships in the United States," O'Konski explained. "So, four of us who knew each other started the Icelandic National League of the United States in 2019. The other three are from North Dakota, Virginia and Indiana. We are now a national organization.
"There are six individuals on the board of directors, all volunteers, with O'Konski currently serving as the chairman of the board.
One of the ways the INLUS can accomplish their mission and maintain the Icelandic story is by providing scholarships for Icelandic Language, student exchange programs such as Snorri, and other various scholarship and grant opportunities which will be available as the INLUS grows in membership and donations.
Scholarships currently available from the INLUS are Icelandic Language Scholarships - Post-Secondary, Icelandic Language Camp Scholarship, and The Snorri Program.
"The INLUS provides grants to the U.S.-based Snorri participants, ages 20-30; this year there are five participants," O'Konski explained. "We also provide grants to local organizations for Icelandic-related projects, a grant to someone studying Icelandic as a second language in Iceland, and a scholarship to a young person attending an Icelandic camp."
INLUS continues to grow each year since its inception in 2019.
"We have around 150 members, but many those members are actually groups throughout the United States with up to 100 people in some of them," said O'Konski. "We stay in touch with the members through webinars. We were actually doing webinars through Zoom before the pandemic hit, so we were already set up for this kind of communication."
O'Konski, a retired project manager for hospitals in the Twin Cities area, has traveled to Iceland six times and is one of the speakers during their sister organization's annual convention in August. Her last trip to that country was this past November.
"I feel it's important to keep that connection to Iceland," said O'Konski. "Our organization is all about educating people about the Icelandic history through webinars or by providing grants and scholarships so others can visit this country and learn about their heritage."

Dianne O'Konski speaking at an Icelandic convention in Winnipeg in 2019. Contributed photo

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