Translation of a letter to the editor: “In post-war Finland we felt empathy”

A pensioner born in what was then Finnish Karelia writes to the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat (original letter in Finnish). She is obviously perplexed by the extensive discussion nowadays about who is a migrant and who is a refugee. She quotes Eino Leino, and this is remarkable given the timing: just yesterday Jukka Huusko wrote in the same paper about Eino Leino and his sense of humanity, a piece also motivated by the recent weeks of tense debate about racism and immigration in Finland (Finnish original and English translation). Although she is clearly not responding to Jukka Huusko, she quotes the same line of Leino.

In post-war Finland we knew empathy

My 30-year-old mother was forced, in the summer of 1944, to flee war with five children, leaving behind the village of Lottola, in Jääski, where my father’s family had lived for centuries. The youngest child was a couple of weeks old; I was five. From the same house fled my aunt with two children. My father and uncle had been at the front the whole war, “somewhere out there”.

Finland and the Finns, impoverished in wars, showed their best side then. There was tolerance, love of those nearest to one and understanding of human peril. The term “earned benefit” had not even been invented – there were no benefits. They were achieved only after the war through common efforts.

In my circle of Karelian friends I do not know anybody who was mistreated – to the contrary. Almost everyone was taken in without demurral, even though living space had to be divided and given up.

At that time people did not think about whether those who had fled were asylum seekers, refugees or evacuees. The current classification of immigrants takes up an extraordinary amount of time and resources. Would now not be the time for cleaning up some regulations? What if humanity were the norm in the immigration question?

One study has shown that one in seven Finns is a racist. It is a shameful thought that among the evacuees’ descendants are those who want to limit or stop others from moving country.

To quote Eino Leino: “Oh people, tolerate one another! For the land is great, great.”

Auli Talvi, pensioner, evacuee



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