Once upon a time, some 20 years ago
in the final phases of the Nazi oc-
cupation of Norway, there was a
tiny, wide-eyed, blonde baby girl
named Birgit Annalisa Rusanen. Her
mother was a Norwegian; her father,
a German soldier who has not been
heard from since. When she was two
weeks old, she was left at an or-
phanage in Oslo, Norway.
Now upon a time, this fall, there
is a new m series called Lost in
Space. In it, playing the space fam-
ily's older daughter, is a slim, wide-
eyed, flaxen-haired girl who looks
like a combination of Mia Farrow and
Tuesday Weld. Her name is Marta
The story of Birgit (or, if you will,
Marta) from Oslo, Norway, to Holly-
wood, rivals "Cinderella." But there
is no fairy godmother. Only a phil-
osophy professor, his kindly wife, and
what Marta calls "the good luck to
be an adaptable extrovert."
At 4 Birgit was simply one of thou-
sands of unwanted war waifs. But
even then she seemed to have some
irrepressible sparkle. A photograph
of that time shows a little girl dressed
in long heavy stockings and a dark
shapeless smock with a pixy grin.
"I don't remember too much about
the orphanage," she says, "except it
was really a large old house, and I
used to love to sing there."
That same photograph was sent to
a Prof. and Mrs. Harold Soderquist
of Detroit (he teaches at Wayne State
University), who were eager to adopt
a war orphan. After a year of red tape,
she arrived, all alone, on a plane.
She didn't speak English. But Marta
says she wasn't frightened. She cried
only once, when she realized that her
"smeller" (a handkerchief she always
carried, and that "smelled like home")
had been left behind. Mrs. Soder-
quiet promptly substituted her own
"After that," says Marta, "everything
seemed to be all right."|
Under the loving care of the Soder-
quists, older people who were
really more like grandparents, Birgit
thrived. (As part of her new life,
her name was changed to the more
American sounding Martha, which
was the name of the woman who had
arranged for her adoption. Later, for
acting purposes, she changed it to the
European version, Marta.) She adapt-
ed to America with sparkle and grace.
In junior high she was a straight-A
student. At home she loved entertain-
ing family guests with singing and
dancing. She began thinking about
being an actress. "it seemed," she
says, "the most American thing for
a young girl to want to be!"
At 12 she played summer stock in
Birmingham, Mich. Then one day in
1959 Professor Soderquist took his
family to California on sabbatical
leave. Marta remained there, with a
guardian, attending Hollywood Pro-
fessional School. She changed her last
name to Kristen. And the Cinderella
quality of her life persisted.
"It sounds made-up," says Marta.
"I was sitting in a restaurant with a
boy friend having a hamburger, and
a man who said he was a producer
named Jimmy Harris came up and
asked if I'd like to test for 'Lolita.' I
thought he was kidding, until I
checked up. It's a good thing I didn't
get the part. After testing, I went out
and read the book. There was a lot in
it I didn't understand."
Two years ago the adaptable extro-
vert met a young man--at the beach,
surfing. Six months later they were
married. He is Terence Treadwell, a
graduate student in psychology at San
Fernando Valley State College.
So all is well for Cinderella. She
is still close to her family in Michi-
gan. Her career is thriving. Her mar-
riage, she says, has given her "great
confidence and security."
The slipper seems a perfect fit.