Tuesday, December 06, 2005

We have a debt of honor

This is what a young Finnish athlete said in an interview just a while ago. He had been invited to the president's independence day reception, thanks to his success in the world championships this past summer. He was answering a question about the meaning of independence and referring to the generation of Finns who sacrificed their youth to defend our independence in the last wars. I agree with him, today more than ever.

A veteran of the Continuation War gave a speech in our school yesterday. He told us of his own experiences in the fierce battle of Tali-Ihantala (in the summer of 1944), in which an estimated 8500 Finnish soldiers and around 18000 Soviet soldiers lost their lives or were wounded. It's the largest ever battle fought in Scandinavia and he survived it. Truly humbling story, really. My grandpa, who is also a veteran of the Continuation War, has never really told me stories of the battles he fought in his time. I think he really doesn't want to talk about that part of the war at all - and I don't blame him.

Today, however, grandma told us about her experiences, which is very rare. I don't think I remember her telling us stuff like that before. She gets to speak up more now that grandpa is getting quieter and quieter all the time. She told us how she had taken her little puppy with her to the bomb shelter, even though it wasn't allowed. I didn't even know she had had a dog then. But the image of grandma and her family fleeing from their home, because Turku was bombed heavily, is just chilling. Especially when she told that they were forced to walk towards the city to the nearest bomb shelter, because the area where they lived didn't have one. Which then meant they were actually walking closer to the areas that were bombed, rather than running the other way. It must've been scarier than I could ever imagine.

To complete my patriotic and emotional independence day I watched the old movie version of the Unknown Soldier earlier today. I absolutely love the book and I finally remembered to tape the movie for future use in school. Oh, how I cried. It's an old black&white movie, which makes it very much like the old document films we see of the war. Which then makes it feel very real and made me think about all the young men (and women) who actually were in the war... You see what I got myself into? An emotional trap. I watch a movie - movie gets my imagination running - I get emotional... Argh.

Oh well, I suppose being emotional over Finnish history is very appropriate for the occasion. And besides, I love being a Finn. I absolutely LOVE it. Anybody notice that lately?

Hyvää itsenäisyyspäivää kaikille!


Sarin said...

I have deep regrets that I didn't ask more about the war from my grandmother while she was still alive. Although she lived in Imatra (which is and was in this side of the russian border) she had to go to "evakko" with her two children while grandpa stayed behind. Grandpa had some kind of health problems that made him unable to go to war. My mom was only a tiny toddler (she is born 8th of September 1939)when they left their home for the first time during the Winter War so she can't remember anything from that era. But grandmom would have had many stories about those days. I did ask some questions, but not enough.

Friendly advice: if you still have relatives alive who have experienced the war, talk with them before it's too late. Provided that they want to talk. It's totally understandable that not everyone wants to.

Hyvää myöhästynyttä itsenäisyyspäivää täältäkin suunnasta.

Johan A said...

I haven't watched Tuntematon sotilas for many years now, but I remember it as an extremely strong film. I think the remake was good too, but you can feel how close in time the war was when you watch the old one - it permeates the film.

Tytti said...

A little bit late comment here... but I noticed the same kind of thoughts in myself when I was watching the documentaries and interviews. I never had a grandfather alive from whom I could have asked about the wartimes. And I never really talked about it with my grandma. She was a Lotta at the time and since it was such a hushed subject afterwards, she kind of seemed to be ashamed of that and never told about her experiences. Of course she was never near any battles (living in the southwestern Finland) and since she had my mom in 1943 she wasn't involved in the Continuation War. But she had some books about the Lotta movement and there are some pictures of her wearing a uniform. I just never asked her anything and now it's too late. :(

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