Too Young For War

A true story.

Dedicated to my father – Voitto Olavi Pokela 
Father’s Day  – 4th  September 2016


Dad with his father

He was suicidal. The twenty-one year old war veteran, rifle in hand, headed into his family’s forest. Not too far from the house so it would not be hard to find and retrieve his body. Just about to pull the trigger, he was stopped by the sound of angelic voices singing gospel music: No one can understand me like Jesus. It saved his life. Later he was to marry the owner of one of those voices.

Just 16. They were calling for volunteers. He was eager. He wanted to defend his fatherland. Only to be told he was too young. So he lied about his age and at age 17 was accepted. Like so many others. The consequences of that decision were to haunt him for life. He lived through the horror that was war in Finland  between 1939 – 1945. That man was my father. He carried this photo of mum in his pocket throughout the war. It was a lifeline to home.

war photo

A machine gunner, he also dug trenches, trudged through freezing winters, battled starvation. Amazingly, given his role and function, he survived. It was in these harsh conditions and limited food supplies that he learnt to eat blue vein cheese. It came supplied with the army rations. Others thought it was cheese gone bad and refused to eat it. He gladly took all of it. It staved the hunger. And he developed a lifelong love for it.  He saw action across many parts of Finland from the south to the north in Finnish Lapland.

He called it a dirty war, the one he was in. It was well known that the Russian army did not like to take prisoners. If caught there was a high risk they would be shot just as they did their own troops if they were caught retreating. It made the Finnish soldiers fight all the harder to avoid capture and almost certain death.

At some stage during the Continuation War Dad had gone to the Supply Store to get replacement boots and socks for his worn out  ones. The Supply Seargent asked him what he did. I’m a machine gunner. He was told there was no point in being given any as he would not last more than a day or two.  Such was the  fatalistic attitude stated in a thoughtless matter-of-fact manner, without any regard for the person being addressed.

In assaults against the Russians a machine gunner killed enemy soldiers. Dad says he killed hundreds. During flashbacks,  he saw the faces of every soldier he had shot. Many studies have been conducted on the effect of chronic PTSD in war veterans. It is relatively recent that this research was extended to include WW2 veterans. “Reported symptoms include reliving an event through bad memories, nightmares, flashbacks and feelings of fear and horror. Possible triggers can be certain sounds, smells and news reports of a similar event. Feelings of numbness, jitteriness, an intense awareness of potential danger, sudden anger or irritability and difficulty sleeping or concentrating can occur.”   Chronic PTSD in ageing war veterans becomes more acute with each successive life loss.

                                                                                                                                                         Dad was awarded this medal

For Bravery
For Bravery

In 1998 when Saving Private Ryan was first released in the cinemas, depicting war in all its unsanitised graphic reality, Dad and the boys went to see it. They returned home in a very sombre mood. No-one was willing to talk about it. Dad summed it up: It showed war as it really was. Over the years this is how I recall my father ‘telling’ us what war was like for him. He took the whole family to view the famous WW2 Finnish movie Unknown Soldier when it came to Adelaide and was shown in the local Estonian Club. Widely regarded as a canonical movie of the Continuation War it tells the story from an ordinary soldier’s perspective.

From the citizens of Finland
From the citizens of Finland

Dad found it extraordinarily difficult to share his personal war experiences. He would tell the funny stories quite happily. As for the real, nitty gritty stuff – they remained far too raw and painful to share. A few times he tried to tell us about the battle for which he was awarded the medal for bravery. He could never get past the first sentence before dissolving into great gulping sobs of anguish. Likewise, I only once heard him briefly mention his faithful four legged partner. He was a loyal friend, a good soldier, killed in action he said.

Dad suffered from nightmares all his life. Mum’s singing in her sleep mostly kept them at bay. Sometimes he would wake her up saying I’ve listened to six hymns. You can stop now. I’m ready to sleep! But I do recall some occasions when he was on official Church business here in Adelaide on his own, hearing him screaming in                                                                     terror of a night.


The Finns describe their involvement in the second world war as three distinctly separate conflicts:

  • The Winter War from 1939 to 1940 (against the Russians)
  • The Continuation War from 1941 to 1944 (also against the Russians)
  • The Lapland War from 1944 to 1945 (against Nazi Germany)
War 3
Machine gun outposts. Behind the barbed wire lies Russia.

The Winter War

On Nov. 30, 1939, the Soviet Union invaded Finland with more than 400,000 troops. The assault was almost three times larger than the Allied landing at Normandy. Soviet Leningrad, a city of five million, by itself contained more people than the entire country of Finland. The Winter War became one of the USSR’s most shocking defeats. The Finnish army,  ill equipped but skilful and  just a third the size of the Soviet force slowed and bloodied the invaders until a peace treaty ended the war. Finland was forced to cede territory to the USSR.

The Continuation War

Keen to regain lost territory, Finland formed an alliance with Germany during the Continuation War. It seemed a good   strategic move to defend the borders against the Soviet Union. Unusually, the Finnish government did not take any anti-Jewish measures despite Nazi Germany’s repeated requests. The Finns resisted the pressure. Surprisingly Hitler continued to view Finland as an ally. Finnish Jews joined in the fight against the Soviet Union. Finland adopted the concept of a “parallel war”pursuing its own objectives in concert with, but separate from, Nazi Germany. The Finnish government’s main objective was to regain lost territory.

Finns living overseas at the time were considered enemies of the state due to this alliance. In Australia, they were interred in enemy war camps. Except for those who were fortunate enough to live in the thriving mining town of Mt Isa in North Queensland. Mine production was crucial for the war effort. Mt Isa Mines refused to stay operational without its Finnish labour force. The Finns living there were exempt.

Battle ready Finns in harsh winter conditions
Battle ready Finns in harsh winter conditions

Armed with sisu*, that peculiar national Finnish characteristic some describe as fortitude, ski troopers, quick and agile in the forests, wove through the trees, using their white uniforms to remain concealed in the snow. The skiers tossed Molotov cocktails and satchel charges through exhaust openings into tanks’ bellows, causing the vehicles to explode from the inside out.

A bitter winter saw temperatures in some areas plummet as low as – 50. It was so cold that when a soldier was hit by a bullet and his circulation slowed, his body would snap freeze. When the snow finally melted , the corpses of thousands of Soviet soldiers were unearthed in the Finnish woods, each body still contorted in its final moments of life.

It was during the Continuation War in a Finnish assault against the Russians that Dad earned the Medal for Bravery. Sometime during this war he also suffered an injury. When jumping into a trench he landed  on his hip in a way that caused a serious enough injury to require hospital admission. After the war he applied for war veteran’s ranking. This would have given him additional financial support. However, no record could be found of the injury or hospital admission. His application was not successful. He was to suffer with chronic back and hip pain for the rest of his life. In latter years he required a hip replacement.

The Lapland War

in Northern Finland was fought against Nazi Germany after Finland signed an armistice with the Russians. Under pressure from the Allies and Russia Finland was to drive the German troops out of their country. Germany had used Finland to access Russian territory. German troops were responsible for a front of nearly a thousand kilometres in Lapland. They built close to a 100 prisoner of war and labour camps, imprisoning some 30,000 Russian soldiers.  Given Lapland’s infrastructure was poor, the Germans used the prisoners as a workforce. The German built infrastructure was almost completely destroyed during their  retreat.

Not only did they destroy their former bases and camps, they also burned down every Finnish village. A total of some 16,000 buildings, over 1,000 road bridges, some 100 railroad bridges and 40 ferries were blown up. 170 kilometres of railroad, 9,500 kilometres of road and almost 3,000 culverts were destroyed. Tens of thousands of head of cattle and reindeer were killed and over 130,000 land mines and other explosives were planted in the landscape. After the war these mines killed 2,000 people.

Most of the civilian population of Lapland was evacuated to Sweden and Southern Finland before combat started. 100,000 Finnish Laplanders became refugees.  Only 600 Finnish troops were left to fight the Germans. Most of these were fresh recruits. Because of this, the last part of the Finnish Lapland War is called the Children’s Crusade.

Of the Lapland War I can recall  a still horrified Dad telling us once how out of sheer desperation to keep their children out of the hands of the Germans many parents deliberately maimed their own children. After the war the Finnish government set up life-long supports and funds for the affected families. By the time Dad joined the war effort in the north he had well and truly had enough. The majority of the Finnish soldiers were very young with no idea of what war was about. They witnessed horrific acts against civilians by the Germans. Just one of these was the drowning at sea of local women who had outlived their usefulness in ‘entertaining’  their troops.

Something snapped in Dad. He disobeyed orders which  led to disciplinary action and the stripping away of some of his commendations. Exactly what he did is not known by us. All we know is that he was involved in helping to make large wooden storage boxes to hide and bury firearms from the Germans. He was beyond caring about the consequences of his disobedience.

The end of War

By April 1945 all Germans had been expelled from Finland and the Finnish flag raised at the Norwegian border. This marked the end of the Finnish wars. Most of Northern Finland was devastated and would take years to recover. Finland would end the war as the only democracy to survive Stalin’s takeover of Eastern Europe. This can only be attributed to the bravery of the Finnish Army and their commander Marshall Mannerheim.

                                                                                                                                   Dad’s medals

War trench. Lottas on aerial surveillance
War trench. Lottas on aerial surveillance

A voluntary Finnish women’s auxiliary known as the Lotta Svärd mobilised into action during the war. The Lottas freed an equal number of men from homefront duties into the military by taking over their duties. During the Winter War 80,000 served in unarmed missions. They continued to do so throughout the war working as nurse assistants in military hospitals, conducting air surveillance, handling food supplies for evacuees and troops, assisting families of troops serving on the front and many other duties. We met one of the Lottas involved in aerial surveillance here in Adelaide. By then she was a sweet, snow-white haired grandmother who spent her time knitting woolly winter socks for friends and family and balaclavas for her son’s bikie friends.

Overall Losses

Finland lost 24,000 men in the Winter War; almost 60,000 men as dead or missing in the Continuation and Lapland Wars. Over 161, 000 were wounded. The infantry was the heaviest hit. Loss of civilian life was small compared to other nations – 900 died in bombings of towns and cities; 2,700 were wounded. Soviet partisans killed 190 civilians in Northern Finland.

The cession of territory meant 430,000 people had to be evacuated and relocated, some for the second time in five years. The entire population of Finland after the war was just 3.7 million. The war in Lapland was a dirty albeit short war. Once over, troops were demobbed. Soldiers returned to civilian life battle scarred, traumatised, shell shocked. Survivor guilt took its toll. As did the horrors of what they had experienced. My father returned home a broken man.


Mum and Dad married on the 6th December 1946, Finnish Independence Day. They had three children – my sister Ritva, my brother Erkki and me.

Top Row - wedding photo; our family in Finland Bottom Row - our family in Mt Isa; Mum and us kids farewelling friends and family in Finland
Top Row – wedding photo; our family in Finland
Bottom Row – our family in Mt Isa; Mum and us kids farewelling friends and family in Finland

In 1959 Dad flew to Tasmania with  his sister-in-law Anja Piispanen. Her husband Taito (Mum’s older brother) had flown ahead. The plan was to check out work prospects and living conditions with a view to moving the family to Australia if everything worked out. Work prospects in Finland were not good at the time and the government was offering assisted passage to immigrants. We followed by ship some 5 months later.

Plans to live and work in Tasmania changed our family’s circumstances drastically when Dad accepted employment with the Church. We moved to Brisbane.

Whilst crossing the Bass Strait to Melbourne Mum became very ill. It was not till over twenty years later when medical equipment and assessments were more sophisticated that her actual diagnosis was confirmed. She had suffered a massive stroke. It was a huge blow to us all. Dad had to start work. Mum was left in hospital in Melbourne until she was well enough to be discharged. Throughout her life she was to have a series of mini strokes.

From Brisbane we moved to Mt Isa where Dad began his ministry as a pastor of the Lutheran Church. Dad’s work took him to Adelaide, Canberra and Sydney. Passionate to serve the Finnish migrants in Australia, he worked hard to establish strong links and partnerships between the Australian and Finnish Lutheran Churches. In Sydney he founded a drop in centre for the homeless which is still active to this day. His abiding love and passion was to serve and support people with alcohol dependency problems in particular. He was also instrumental in setting up a war veteran’s live-in Finnish government funded rehabilitation program in Australia for those too old or disabled to travel to Finland. He himself travelled to Finland four times for war veteran’s rehabilitation.

In his early 60’s dad was diagnosed with an inoperable mesothelioma in the base of one of his lungs. He was exposed to blue asbestos some twenty years prior and was given less than six months to live. The night before his biopsy he had an unusual experience. He woke to what he described as an electric current flowing through his body. Biopsy results showed nothing but scar tissue. The only explanation his treating doctor could give was that ‘it must be a miracle’. Which indeed it was.

Top Row - Dad and his sister Tyyne who came to visit us when he was diagnosed with asbestosis; Dad continued to have many serious health problems and many operations Bottom Row - Dad with some of his Aussie war vet mates; Mum and Dad relaxing at home on their verandah
Top Row – Dad and his sister Tyyne who came to visit us when he was diagnosed with asbestosis; Dad continued to have serious health problems throughout the rest of his life requiring many operations
Bottom Row – Dad with some of his Aussie war veteran mates; Mum and Dad relaxing at home on their verandah

After Mum died he plummeted into a deep despair and grief which descended into the shadowlands of dementia. In his mid 80’s he slipped away quietly to be reunited with the angel who sang to him at night to keep the bad dreams away.

The Finnish War Veteran’s Assoc of Australia recognised Dad’s many years of service to the war veterans of Australia by naming him Honorary Chairperson. The Medal on the far left is a civilian one, **The Order of the White Rose, awarded to him by the Finnish government for his services to Australian Finns.
The Finnish War Veteran’s Assoc of Australia recognised Dad’s many years of service to the war veterans of Australia by naming him Honorary Chairperson. The Medal on the far left is a civilian one, **The Order of the White Rose, awarded to him by the Finnish government for his services to Australian Finns.

© Raili Tanska

Thanks to my sister Ritva for her help with this story.

 Disclaimer: Researching and writing this story has been a challenging and emotional journey for me. Any errors and misunderstandings of wartime facts and information are unintentional and all mine.


Finnish ‘sisu’ – loosely translated to mean stoic determination, grit, bravery, guts, resilience, perseverance and hardiness, expressing the historic self-identified Finnish national character. (Wikipedia)

**The Order of the White Rose of Finland was established by Gustaf Mannerheim in his capacity as regent (temporary head of state) on January 28, 1919. The name comes from the nine roses argent in the coat of arms of Finland. The order’s rules and regulations were confirmed on May 16, 1919, and its present rules date from June 1, 1940. The revised scale of ranks was confirmed most recently in 1985. The original decorations were designed by Akseli Gallen-Kallela. The swastikas of the collar was replaced by fir crosses in 1963, designed by heraldic artist Gustaf von Numers. The honour can be granted for military as well as civilian merit. The ribbon for all classes is ultramarine. The motto of the Order appears on the medallion and Isänmaan hyväksi, which means: “For [the well-being or benefit or advantage of] the Fatherland”. Wikipedia

Video links

Fire and Ice (Winter War  – 56 min)

The Unknown Soldier – First battle (English subtitles-  13.51 mins)

Lapland war   (3.30min)

 Finnish war pictures 1939 – 44  (7 .16 min)

References (Powerpoint presentation)   –

(Finnish Government – Disabled war veterans and veterans’ rehabilitation)


Finnish wartime photograph  archive 

Family albums

92 thoughts on “Too Young For War

  1. What an incredible account. I am amazed.
    So many people are traumatised and dehumanised by the effects of war. It is a stupid way to act. I cannot believe it is still going on. My father was in the war stationed in Italy. He wouldn’t talk about it.

    1. So many of the war veterans were deeply traumatised. I know Dad connected strongly to all war veterans and they joked and laughed about the funny stuff and the places they’d been to but somehow none of them could talk about the horror that war is.

  2. Love the thorough account. I can tell much effort was placed into this. You father was a brave man who also helped others. It was also lovely to read about the love your parent had for each other. Such a commitment/connection.

  3. This is a very sad but interesting post, you must feel emotional but also very proud, war is never pleasant not then or now, but your father showed how very brave he was. Thank you for sharing xx

    1. It was quite a journey for me now Brooke as my two sons are older now than when Dad was demobbed. Thank you for your reading and your comment – appreciate it 🙂

  4. Thank you so much for sharing this amazing and poignant story! My mom’s grandparents all came from Finland so I’ve read a bit about the Winter War and been lucky enough to travel to Finland. We were heartbroken to see all the rows of wartime graves adorned with vivid red flowers. And what a toll there was on the survivors… Thank you again for sharing this and best wishes to you and yours!

    1. Thank you Amy, it’s my pleasure. It must make it more real having been there and seen the graves – for a small country we’ve managed to spread ourselves pretty far and wide 🙂

  5. I was not aware of the details of Finnish participation in WWII and appreciate the enlightenment I received reading your post. Thank you for sharing this deeply personal and fascinating account of your father’s service and family history!

  6. Wow, Raili! You put a ton of work into that. I’ve read a lot of stuff about WWII the last few years, but I had never read anything about Finland’s involvement and what happened that. It would be wrong to say I enjoyed that immensely, but I sure found it educational. You did a hell of a job. Well done! And the story about your dad was wonderful. (There was one comment in The Unknown Soldier that is so typical of first battles in wars no matter where they are when confidence is high: “A good year for berries.”

    1. Thanks Calen – I did do a lot of research and getting lost in the detours and byways of what’s on the net. Got myself confused. And of course thoughts of what those very young men went through – Dad was younger than my sons when he came back home battle scarred. That was confronting to think about. I’m glad I did it. And thank you for your kind comments 🙂

  7. What a story Raili. You did your father proud writing about his experiences which were horrific. I can feel the emotions you and your sister went through writing about this. So many people are scarred for life . War is totally senseless. Thank you for sharing this. Lest we forget.💕

  8. What a story of courage. As a war Veteran myself I can Identify with some of the things you described. But as a Veteran one of the things that should be encourage is that the Vets should not keep their wartime experience bottled up inside. For one it is good therapy to talk about the experiences. They may feel uncomfortable but PTSD studies show that going through the experiences by talking about them will relive the pressure after it peaks. On a whole it is hard to find men like your father……

    1. I came across a social experiment being conducted in the US to reduce the dehumanising effect of army training and war. The emphasis was on acts in the service of others rather than defence of country and ‘the enemy’. Early results also suggested reduced PTSD. I agree though, that there is a huge body of evidence that supports the need for talking afterwards. It’s like there needs to be a rehabilitative period before returning to the veteran’s former life.

      1. That sounds like an interesting experiment. Certainly more humane. I think the defence forces still have a long way to go in supporting their troops.

    2. Thank you George for your insightful comments. I agree – talk therapy is very powerful. I think for the ageing vets the issue is it is almost a whole lifetime too late and is compounded by all the successive life losses that compound the grief.

      1. As one face their mortality they tend to be more talkative. But most people don’t have the patience to listen to old people talk. Its too bad the old Vets stories will be gone when they pass….

      2. I hope some of them at least will be captured. Here there seems to be resurgence amongst the young people in honouring and respecting war veterans

  9. We’ve recently revisited the old BBC documentary, “World at War”, a very good and well-researched production. It included the very important and remarkable role that Finland played in the war, it wasn’t something we read about in the history books or heard about in our history lessons. Your very personal account gave me a chill to read. A remarkable man, and such a well- researched and emotive article you’ve written, you’ve really done him justice.

    1. Thank you Safar 🙂 Even though I’m Finnish (born and bred) I knew so little about the Finnish wars until I started researching for this article. Maybe it’s because it’s such a small country that it is assumed nothing much happened there.

      1. I suspect it has to do with relative ‘power’ of countries. But nevertheless, it should be given more commemorative acknowledgement than it does. Personal stories like your family’s are so valuable to keep alive.

  10. Thank you for sharing this Raili, you have much to be proud of, not only your courageous and loving father but your homeland, your people, as well. I have learned a lot reading this. Let’s hope today’s young men never have to face what your father (and my grandfather, who fought in the trenches of France in WWI) had to face.

  11. What an incredible and moving account of your father’s wartime experiences and later life. It is awful to think of him still being haunted by memories and nightmares many decades later. I’m glad your mother was able to offer him a way back from despair. Her death must have been so very painful for him. I can imagine how difficult it must have been for you to write parts of this post, but I’m very glad you did. Your father’s story was one that deserved to be told.

    1. Thank you Bun for your kind abd thoughtful comments 🙂 .You’re right, it was Mum’s death that plunged him quickly into a downward spiral. He insisted on officiating at her funeral and my sister was holding on to the back of his gown to make sure he didn’t jump into the grave!

  12. When I saw this the other day I wanted to sit down and read it properly so I held off and waited until I could. I had this feeling it would make me emotional (in a good way). I was right.
    Your dad. What a lovely name he had. Your mom. What a beautiful face she had.
    The photo of all three of you kids and your parents. I love that photo.
    Your dads medals.
    The scar.
    I did not know that about the Mesotheleoma and that blows my mind, as everything I have read about it makes it sound like a terrible and definitely incurable disease but somehow I believe this because I do believe in miracles and I am glad your father was granted a miracle to be with your mum a little longer.
    Love like that. Does it exist so much today I wonder?
    You are … I can’t say enough .. a scholar of beauty and history – your sister did good in reading this over but this is your work and I am astounded R, astounded. You write like you have always written, you can do academic, historical, humor, poetry, sultry, fiction, anything … what can you not do? Oh there is something you cannot do, you cannot be ordinary if you TRIED
    your legacy, well your legacy is why you are extraordinary, it is because of these people who came before you, whom you came from, it is because they survived, it is because they feared and suffered and survived. You are part of this, this is your legacy, this is your kin, and few can really say they come from a family and a history like this any more, I find so many lives (and I know this sounds wrong but I’m being honest) very bland, very unchallenged, very beige. You couldn’t say that about the world you came from, the people you came from, the stories and the myths and the ancestry you carry.
    It sort of blows my mind. It sort of makes me want you to write about 200 books. I think you should but you know this.
    You are so talented. Understatement
    You do them proud. Understatement
    They would be proud of you and were. Understatement
    You come from magnificent people and wonderful people. Understatement
    You give me reasons to like humans again (I didn’t for a while)
    You inspire me
    You make me smile and cry (both in very good ways)
    You’re a story teller and so much beyond a story teller.
    I know they are watching and they are proud of their Raili and I am too.
    Thank you for being in my life. My life is richer for knowing you. You bring so much into this world. Not everyone does, and that’s a choice, you choose to make a difference and you DO.
    This is better than I had hoped it would be.
    Your father was an incredible human being and this is such an interesting story, so much I didn’t know, so very much I had no idea about, I have learned so much.
    Thank you so much for this. Thank you for sharing you with us.

      1. I am glad I waited to read it. I wondered if you thought it meant I hadn’t been moved by it, but it was more a prescience that I knew I needed to be alone and sitting down to read it and not distracted or casual. When I did, it was so worth it and I cried and I felt so much, and this is the mark of anything special. You are special, your family are special. I am affected deeply by your words.

      2. It was too special and I knew before reading it, that it would be, before I even saw the first picture, a sense of it when we were talking about it before you finished, and so I wanted to honor that and you. I am glad I did as I got into it and was able to appreciate it the way something as beautiful and real as what you wrote, should be appreciated. You are such a talent. I wish I had a better more sincere sounding word. I wish I could just say ‘argh’ and you’d know what I meant. I want to shake you and say OMG how do you do this? It is a wonder I believe to behold. I am so proud of you.

  13. I meant to add – your account of the ‘fatalism’ of war, imagining your dad at 16 years old, covering the laplands, it’s just like this epic story, and the blue-veined cheese, loved that little bit, you recount things as vividly as if you had been there. It makes it real not just a story, but an experience, a life. Wonderful. Even the very worst of it is made wonderful in exposing worlds I knew so little of. That is your gift.

      1. I thought afterward how hard and marvelous and difficult and emotional it must have been to write, when you first said your sister would edit it, I didn’t understand and now I do. This is a tapestry, it had to be right. I cannot imagine how this felt to write, but I am so glad that you did (understatement of the century)

      2. Being immersed in the reading of what it was like on the internet, and looking at the photos in the war archives was probably the hardest bit. It was confronting to realise that Dad was immersed in that horror, and gave a new depth of understanding to his trauma. That and the thought that our kids are older now than he was when the war was over.

      3. You are a natural researcher. I cannot imagine not being immersed in the horror. It is not fair he went through so much, and yet, look at who he was and what he became despite this! I expect it would be dark to see war archives. I think you are a natural when it comes to putting research together in a way that makes the reader compelled. That is a gift in its own right as some researchers cannot open what they find up to their readers.

      4. I think my tertiary education taught me the discipline and importance of research. And for many years at work I was responsible for co-ordinating clinical quality and incident investigation

      5. I think you would be like that no matter what education you got, you have the genes of a thinker and you’re very astute which is an interesting juxapose to the fact that you are also intuitive, as usually people only have one part and you have both (lucky fiend)

  14. This post made me tears come out.
    Very touching.
    I was imagining what your Dad and you all as a family might have undergone.
    OMG !
    I hate Wars. Wars of any kind.
    I now understand why “Soulgifts”.

  15. A beautifully written account of a horrible period in history. Both your Mum and Dad sound like amazing people, filled with the strength of character to avoid them being dehumanized by the horrors they faced. Together they will sing with the angels. Earthly demons can do them no harm now. Thank you so much for sharing this. I am now officially a puddle of tears with glasses floating on top.

      1. I’m like the song from the musical Oklahoma, “The Surrey With The Fringe On Top”, only I’m “The Puddle With The Glasses On Top”! 😀

    1. Thank you for reading and your thoughtful, kind comments. His experiences during the war had a profound impact on him, and the empathy he had for others struggling with their own demons.

  16. My goodness, what an extraordinarily moving post! So interesting, educational and devastating.
    And your mother, singing in her sleep. This story should be in print Raili! I’m so glad I caught this before going to bed.
    (Sidenote, my husband is a Lutheran pastor).
    Thank you for sharing all of this!

    1. Thank you so much! It was a long, emotional process for me to pull it all together. And I’m so glad I did. I have just finished translating Dad’s book into English so non-Finnish speaking family members could read it too. That was a 20 year marathon! He wrote about our early years of life in Australia. His intention was to continue writing, focusing on the Finnish Church history in Australia. Unfortunately that did not happen. Your husband is a Lutheran pastor? WOW! Where are you based. I now have two nephews in the ministry. One in the ACT, the other in WA.

      1. Oh that is fantastic, about the translating work!
        I’m sure it would have been very emotionally challenging. I admire your diligence, for the sake of others too!
        We are in Loxton 🙂 The Pastor Pokela I know of is Jason, I think, please correct me if I am wrong, I am terrible with names, in WA. I was going to ask if you were related! We have never met but have mutual friends. It is a small Lutheran church after all haha
        Who is the one in the ACT? My brother lives in Canberra.

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