What do we know about Finland? Do we know the names of the places our relatives came from? What is the country like? Finland is where our roots are. You may not have been born there, but your heritage was born deep in the roots of Finland, and beyond. Embrace your heritage, as you add to the tapestry of all our roots…
Finland, to some people it is just a place on the map. It is a country in northern Europe, part of Scandinavia, somewhere way up north where it is cold all the time. Mention Gamlakarleby (Kokkola in Finnish), now known as Karleby in Swedish, mention Terijärv, or Smedjebacka, and not many will know what places we are talking about.
Finland is a beautiful forested place with a myriad of lakes dotting the country. If you are not in the city you are in a forest, on a farm, or on a lake. It seems as if there is no in between. The forests seem to start as abruptly as the cities end. The farmlands are dotted by the typical red or yellow farmhouses with white trim, just as they were 100 years ago. In the wheat fields, under a bright blue sky, the old, small log hay barns still stand sentry over waving fields of golden grain. If one could frame the countryside, it would look like an oil painting hanging on someone’s wall.
But to me, and to you, it is much more than that. It is more than just the beauty of the country. It has to be. It is a place where our ancestors felled the first tree to clear the land to grow their crops on. It is the rich, deep dark soil they first dug their spades into, to turn over the land to sow their seeds in. It is where they were born; it is the soil they grew up on, where they died, and the soil they were buried in. It is where my father is buried; it is where my mother is buried; it is where my brother Karl Johan is buried.
Finland is my native land; and by heritage, Finland is your native land. It may not be the land you were born on, but it is the land that you are forever connected to. It is the land your children and their children will be forever connected to. All roads for us lead back to Finland. We cannot undo our heritage. It is ours forever.
Finland is a country of extremes. It is a place where up north the sun shines 24 hours a day during the summer. Finland is a place where the sun is not seen during the entire winter. It can go from 85 above in the summer to 40 below in the winter for weeks on end. In the south there are cattle grazing in the fields, and in the far north reindeer are grazing on dark green moss.
In the deepest, darkest, coldest reaches of northern Finland in the winter, the Northern Lights shimmer in the sky like a beautiful, colorful veil hanging from the heavens. On a quiet cold night one can even hear the Northern Lights. It is a faint sound of something sparkling and crackling in the air. The veil moves back and forth, like a curtain in a window being blown by a gentle breeze. On the darkest nights they light up the landscape, and glimmer on the newly fallen snow. It makes the fields look as if they are covered in thousands of diamonds, all shining brilliantly at once. In the far distance you can see the dark outline of the tall pines reaching for the heavens, as if they are trying to touch the very stars themselves. I have stood out at night in awe, listening to the silence, a silence so intense one could hear the whisper of a snowflake falling, and have seen a show more impressive than anything imaginable on this earth. In northern Finland the cold dark winter then gives way to summer sunlight 24 hours a day. The stars and the Northern Lights disappear only to return next season.
The summer season is short, so all that blooms spring forth in a fury of colors as soon as the sun warms the fertile ground. The grass is greener and the flowers more colorful because of the short summer. The berries hurry and come forth on the bushes in abundance, so the birds and animals have something to feed on, and fatten up with, during the short summer months. The sun makes a big circle in the sky, and never even touches the horizon.
Soon enough the northern winds will turn cold, the sun will be seen less and less, and the first snowflakes will fall. But for now the flowers and the berries are content to color the rolling landscape.
This is my land; this is your land; the land of the midnight sun, the land of winter darkness. We need to hold dear to us our own native land, the land we were born on. But there is also that other place, a place we might have not visited or seen, the place we are forever connected to by our ancestors. I will forever have my roots in Finland; I will not be buried there, but my soul will always long to return to the place where it was born.