Pentti Saarikoski, “Photograph”

imatra valtuusto

Valokuva
Pilvet kermaa,
lehmä, kuu, Egypti,
siinä olen sanonut viisi sanaa ymmärryksellä,

kuuromykälle rakennnettiin talo jossa ei ole ikkunoita,
kunnanhallitus seisoo portailla,
valokuvaaja valokuvaa pitäjänlehteä varten,
kuuromykkä istuu talossaan niin pimeässä ettei häntä ole,
mutta onhan talo,
talo on, kuu, pilvet, lehmä,
kuka vielä muistaa lehmän?
Kuka muistaa mitä Egypti tarkoittaa?
Näistä tapahtumista on kulunut kauan
aikaa pimeässä,

kuuromykkä istunut talossaan jossa ei ole ikkunoita,
tuolilla jossa on kaksi jalkaa, onhan miehellä omat jalat terveet,
kunnanhallitus seisonut portailla
esimerkkinä hyvästä hallituksesta
joka alensi veroäyrin hinnan.

Photograph
Cream clouds,
cow, moon, Egypt.
There: I have said five words whilst making sense.

A deaf mute was built a house without windows.
The council stands on the steps.
A photographer takes a photo for the local paper.
The deaf mute sits in the house so dark he is not there,
but the house is there in any case.
The house is there, the moon, the clouds, the cow.
Who still remembers the cow?
Who remembers what Egypt means?
Such a long time has passed
in the dark since these events.

The deaf mute sitting in the house without windows.
An armchair with two legs, and the man, too, has healthy legs, his own legs.
The council standing on the steps.
A model of good government,
they lowered the rates.

1961

Source: Pentti Saarikoski, Runot (Otava, 2004), p. 101. Translated by Living in FIN. Photograph of Imatra Town Council courtesy of imatra.fi.

The Imatra Sling

imatra sling.JPGThe Imatra Sling. Photo by Living in FIN

“Supreme Court rules in favor of baker who would not make wedding cake for gay couple.”

That is why they call it the Supreme Court, because, historically and episodically, it has reinforced racial, class, gender and sexual supremacy in the so-called United States.

Incidentally, I would never eat a cake made by a baker who would not make a wedding cake for a gay couple, not for political reasons, but because a cook or baker who has so much hatred in his soul inevitably infuses his dishes, cakes, pies, and cupcakes with the same hatred.

So, I have never understood the appeal of televised cooking competition programs in which hatred, anger, jealousy, and the spirit of cutthroat rivalry prevail. Having watched Gordon Ramsay in his calmer moments, I realize he actually is a terrific cook, but the atmosphere he cultivates in most of the TV programs he presents seems bound to produce tasteless, even harmful food.

I just made the first chicken mole in my life. I cannot even remember how exactly I made it and what I put in the mole sauce. I was winging it. But it turned out tasty, because I enjoyed making it, and I always enjoy improvising.

It was improvisation that led me to invent the cocktail I have dubbed the Imatra Sling, which consists of lots of ice in a tumbler glass, a heaping helping of ginger beer poured over the ice, whatever garnishes come to hand (tonight, it was a fresh basil leaf and an orange slice), and three-star Finnish jaloviina, a so-called cut brandy that has its own peculiar history, dating back to the two wars Finland fought against the Soviet Union in the 1940s.

Since I have tested the Imatra Sling on actual people who like alcoholic cocktails, I know it is a winner, but for the time being I won’t be going public with my profoundly random chicken mole sauce.

The happiest place I have ever been in my life was the café next to the flat where my longtime friend K. lived in the Castro after graduating from college and moving to San Francisco. Every morning, the cafe was chockablock with beautiful, happy gay men living in a community where it would have been unthinkable to hate them. In fact, it was easy to love so many handsome, happy men.

This post is going in way too many directions, just like my mole sauce, but I wanted to say the so-called United States will not have much of a future if its highest court reverts to the low road of defending the New Jim Crow, segregation, and homophobia. I thought we had been through all that pure evil before, at great cost to our country and a great loss of life, but, apparently, we will have to go through it all over again. // LIF

Ilya Kapustin: Escape to Finland

iljasuomessa1_ulRussian activist Ilya Kapustin has fled to Finland, where he is currently seeking asylum. Photo by Pasi Liesimaa. Courtesy of Iltalehti

Russian Activist Ilya Kapustin, Seeking Asylum in Finland: “When the Stamp Thudded in My Passport, It Was Like a Huge Weight Had Been Lifted from My Shoulders”
Nina Järvenkylä
Iltalehti
March 10, 2018

A familiar looking man sits opposite me. We have met earlier via video link, but now there are coffee cups between us.

“I now feel considerably better than in Russia,” says Ilya Kapustin, 25, but he grasps for words when I ask how things are going.

Iltalehti interviewed Kapustin in early February, just a few days after Russia’s security service, the FSB, most likely abducted and tortured him. At the time, Kapustin was still in Petersburg, and the interview was conducted via video link. Kapustin is currently in Finland. He has applied for asylum.

Kapustin is still the same quiet and slightly nervous man as when we spoke the last time.

“I feel a bit shakey. I still sleep badly and cannot get to sleep. But the situation in Russia was even worse,” Kapustin says at first.

He says he also feels sad.

“I may never return to Russia.”

“More importantly, however, there is no threat to my freedom,” he continues.

Kapustin said earlier he was not terribly politically active. Now he can speak more freely because he has left Russia. The connections with terrorism, alleged by the FSB, are absurd. Kapustin has been involved in politics, however. He has been involved in activities opposed to Putin’s regime and the dominant power structures in Russia.

Due to the trumped-charges against them, his fellow activists in Russia could be facing as many as dozens of years in prison.

Escape to Finland
Kapustin decided to escape from Russia to Finland, like many other Russian dissidents and members of minorities have done in recent times.

In an interview with Yle, Esko Repo, head of the Finnish Migration Service’s asylum, said that as a whole it was a matter of hundreds of Russians who had applied for asylum in Finland. In 2016, the number was 192, and last year it was over 400. Repo told Yle there had been 73 applications since the beginning of the year.

Last year, 21 Russians had their applications approved, and 12 of these were asylum seekers.

Kapustin traveled to Finland in a quite ordinary  way. He bought a ticket for one of the minibuses that circulate often between Finland and Russia. The mode of travel was humdrum albeit nerve-wracking in Kapustin’s circumstances.

“At the border, one man was questioned for fifteen minutes,” Kapustin recounts how things went on the Russian side of the frontier.

He was afraid that he, too, would end up being grilled by officials. Luck was on his side, however.

“I noticed a second queue had been opened at the border checkpoint. I quickly moved over to it.”

“When the stamp thudded in my passport and the trip continued on the Finnish side, it was like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders,” Kapustin says.

Ilja Kapustin yrittää nyt järjestellä elämänsä Suomeen.Ilya Kapustin is now trying to put his life together in Finland. Photo by Pasi Liesimaa. Courtesy of Iltalehti 

“My Mind Was Playing Tricks on Me”
Just a day before his escape, their minds had been playing tricks on Kapustin and his loved ones.

Kapustin fled to Finland as soon as his visa was ready. The last night at his sister’s home had been excruciating, however. Kapustin can now smile at what happened, but that night nearly a month ago was as frightening living through a nightmare.

A minivan with dark-tinted windows was parked on the street in front of his sister’s flat. His sister and her husband did not recognize the vehicle, but it was quite reminiscent of the one in which Kapustin had been kidnapped and tortured in January.

“I was really afraid. I immediately packed my belongings and left their place in the morning,” Kapustin recounts.

It later transpired the vehicle parked in the street was owned by his sister’s neighbor.

“He had bought a new vehicle,” Kapustin laughs.

“My mind, however, was playing tricks on me, because I was really afraid at the time. Until I arrived in Finland I wondered who was in the vehicle lest they do anything to my sister’s family.”

Kapustin’s loved ones are under surveillance in Russia. For example, his brother-in-law’s VK social network page has been hacked. He had posted several articles about Kapustin’s case on his page.

“The [hackers] posted only a single link on the page. It led to the site of a well-known reality TV show,” Kapustin says.

In the event, the ludicrous part was that the reality TV show in question, Dom 2, had been hosted by TV presenter and Russian presidential candidate Ksenia Sobchak. Kapustin regards the hack as bad police humor.

“They wanted to show us they can do whatever they like.”

Life in Finland
Kapustin’s parents and his sister and her family still live in Petersburg. The family urged Kapustin to flee after he had been abducted and tortured. Nevertheless, Kapustin told them about his escape only after he had arrived in Finland.

“Mom ordered me to leave, but I didn’t tell them ahead of time [when I was leaving] just in case.”

His parents and sister know about the events that led to the escape, but Kapustin did not tell them all the details. He believes the authorities will not go after his family.

“I’m not so interesting to them (the FSB),” he conjectures.

His life is in Finland now. Kapustin worked as an industrial climber in Russia and hopes he can find similar work in Finland.

“I worked in high places. We installed things, cleared snow from rooftops, and washed windows,” Kapustin recounts.

He understands the training he received in Russia is not necessarily valid in Finland and is prepared to study and do other work.

And how will he deal emotionally with the waiting, with going through the asylum application process, and coming to grips with the ways of a new society?

“I’m trying to think of it as an adventure so I can move forward. It is an episode in my life I’ll remember, and now I can remember it as a free man and not in prison,” Kapustin reflects.

If you haven’t heard yet about the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case, you need to read the following articles and spread the word.

 

Stop Deportations: Shady Forced Repatriation Practices at Baghdad Airport

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Stop Deportations
Facebook
March 12, 2018

Shady Forced Repatriation Practices at Baghdad Airport

Stop Deportations was in contact today with a Baghdad Airport policeman via the Danish journalist Kods Almsaray. The policeman did not want his name published. We asked under what terms and agreements they accepted Iraqi asylum seekers forcibly repatriated to Iraq by the Finnish police when the Iraqi immigration minister had said Iraq did not accept any forcibly repatriated Iraqis. The source at Baghdad Airport said they accepted only asylum seekers convicted of crimes, such as terrorism, for example. The criminal background check was done in such a way that the airport police got the forcibly repatriated asylum seeker’s legal documents from the Finnish policemen escorting him, Mohammed said.

When we said the forced returnees were largely ordinary asylum seekers who had not done anything illegal while they were in Finland and most were still in the middle of asylum application process, the line went dead.

Several forcibly repatriated asylum seekers have confirmed the Finnish police gave their asylum application papers at the airport to the Iraqi police, who made photocopies of them. Then the Iraqi police questioned why the applicants went to Finland and checked whether they were on the Iraqi Interior Ministry’s list. All of this put the forced returnees in grave danger, as the asylum application papers contained confidential information about how the applicants were persecuted and who persecuted them.

One can also end up on the Interior Ministry’s list for quite arbitrary reasons and those who are on the list can be victimized indefinitely.

The lack of a passport is no longer an obstacle to forced repatriation when the Finnish police can write up a disposable “European travel document for third-country nationals illegally residing in the country,” although asylum seekers whose application review process is still underway are not residing illegally in Finland.

Forced returnees who even had steady jobs when they left Finland have shown us pictures of their European travel documents. According to the documents, they had been residing in Finland illegally.

Last week, Stop Deportations asked Finnish Interior Minister Kai Mykkänen on the basis of what treaties and documents Finland has been engaged in forced repatriations to Iraq, when neither official Iraq nor Finland has admitted to the repatriations. The minister managed to avoid answering the question. An employee with state-owned Iraqi Airways estimated today, in conversation with Stop Deportations, that Finland is currently the most active forced repatriator in the EU. But where is the agreement on forced repatriations? Where are the transparent practices?

Translated by Living in FIN. Thanks to Comrade AR for the heads-up. Photo courtesy of Stop Deportations

Adding Insult to Injury

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The urban planning geniuses who run Imatra, South Karelia, have re-purposed the former Prisma supermarket in the town’s Linnala (Mansikkala) neighborhood. They have given it over to the mysterious tribe of sub-artists known as taggers. Soon, I expect, the building will be entirely blanketed with these cryptic spray-painted runes, signifying nothing except the onset of urban decay and the collapse of public order.

Unless I am terribly mistaken, neither the building’s owners nor city officials have plans for doing anything more ambitious with the ex-store, yet another huge slab of empty commercial space. Imatra is now chockablock with such vacated stores and offices.

Currently being tagged into oblivion by young people who fancy themselves rebels but are among the dullest conformists on earth, the old Prisma store is smack dab across the street from the new Prisma hypermarket, which was built for Russian shopping tourists, not for local residents, whose peace of mind and quality of life dropped through the floorboards during the two or three years it took to build the gigantic consumerist palazzo, the city’s largest chunk of commercial real estate.

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But it was all worth it. Anything giant construction companies, urban planners, and semi-monopolies (e.g., the S Group, which owns the Prisma chain and approximately fifty percent of all other chain stores, restaurants, and hotels in Finland) wants to do, wherever it wants to do it, and whatever its impact on the people living in the vicinity, it is always worth it.

And you should see the improvements to the neighborhood occasioned by the S Group’s flat-roofed ziggurat!

Do you know the expression “adding insult to injury”?

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That seems to have been the principle guiding the hackwork done by subcontractors and the City of Imatra when they beautified, so to speak, the wave of mutilation that had just rolled over the neighborhood.

First, they made it triply difficult for pedestrians and cyclists to negotiate their old haunts by constructing an impossible maze of new roads, footpaths, and roundabouts in the emerging shopping mecca. (Since the new Prisma opened, chain stores Tokmanni and Jysk got in on the act, closing their old stores in other parts of town and building new outlets in the once spacious but now crowded neighborhood, thus joining the nonstop shopping party started eight or so years ago by K City Market, Lidl, Raja Market, and Prisma).

To put it crudely, they made life easier for motorists at the expense of non-motorists. Or they forgot about non-motorists altogether, which is more likely.

Planners also dotted the environs with sickly little trees, some of them resembling nothing so much as unattractive sticks, stuck maliciously into the dirt by angry taggers or other vandals, or the pathetic Christmas tree that Charlie Brown and Snoopy buy in the cartoon A Charlie Brown Christmas, which immediately sheds all its needles when they bring it home.

This so-called greenery will never grow into anything verdant and flourishing, because that might block the view of the stunning big box the S Group plopped down in the middle of what used to be a grassy meadow and grove of tall trees where old folks and children would ski in the winters. That is, before the City of Imatra decided that attracting Russian shoppers was its only real mission and it could safely turn its back on its own pedestrians, cyclists, children, old people, and poor people.

Photos by Living in FIN

Deportees

Odotus vaeltaa maisemaa
kuin muistot läpi koko entisen elämän.

Waiting to wander the landscape
like memories through a whole former life.

—Hannu Salakka, Kesä kesältä syvemmin (Otava, 1977), p. 41. Translated by Living in FIN

…………………………………

The shameful thing about Finland’s deporting legitimate asylum seekers back to clearly dangerous countries like Afghanistan and Iraq is that there is so much empty commercial and residential space in many Finnish cities and towns that all the asylum seekers Finland temporarily granted refuge during the peak “crisis” year of 2015—approximately 33,000 people, according the Finnish Migration Service’s own statistics—could easily be spread around the country and housed in all that empty space, which is either ready for habitation or could be easily and quickly adapted as living quarters, especially given the Finnish construction sector’s otherwise dangerous eagerness to generate new work for themselves.

Adapting these people to life in a new, very different country is another matter, but it’s not as if Finland hasn’t done it before. After the war, the country took in way more refugees from the parts of Finland ceded to the Soviet Union than it would have to take now (granted, they were already Finnish-speaking Finns), and in much later times, people from Somalia, the Sudan, and other war-torn countries found refuge in Finland in fairly large numbers. A whole generation of these refugees’ kids have already grown up who speak Finnish perfectly and are mostly doing well in life.

One of them was recently elected to the Jyväskylä city council from the Greens: she got the second highest vote tally in the entire city. What a sad irony that the latest deportation of the new asylum seekers, on the run from the wars in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, should take place in Jyväskylä. (See Yle’s article, below.)

So what’s the real problem? The real problem is the current “bourgeois” government, which I predict will go down in flames at the next elections in 2019. Unfortunately, before that happens, they will have managed to wreck much of Finland’s social democracy—all in the name of a mythical “competitiveness”—and blacken the country’s reputation with this wholly unnecessary asylum seeker farce.

In reality, Finland’s population is aging rapidly, so why not take a chunk of refugees, only too happy to live in a peaceful country after the hell they have been through in their homeland, and put some of them to work looking after the country’s elders, while the rest can be employed elsewhere (including building houses for themselves as needed) or start their own businesses. What could be more “competitive” and “innovative” than that?

But no, Finland’s ruling coalition has a weak link in the shape of the so-called Finns Party, which over the summer was taken over by its far-right wing in the person of the certified racist Jussi Halla-aho, causing the party’s previous chair, Timo Soini, and the party’s entire parliamentary delegation of twenty MPs, including all its government ministers, to bail and form a new party called New Alternative.

The other two parties in the coalition, the Center Party (which won the most votes in the last elections and controls the prime minister’s office) and the National Coalition Party are not exactly known for their racist policies, but I can easily imagine they are so lacking in backbone and imagination that they promised the Finns Party not to accept “too many” asylum seeker claims in order to keep them onside voting for their other so-called reforms.

Ironically, it was just this that had caused the ratings of the Finns Party to sink precipitously, because their supporters are all for Finnish social democracy, just Finnish social democracy for ethnic Finns and Finnish Swedes. Suddenly, their party’s leadership blindsided them by going into government (something they said they would never do if it was not on their own terms; that is, if they had not won a plurarity of votes and were the party forming the new government) with the country’s two major “bourgeois” parties, who were hellbent on a program of heavy austerity to alleviate Finland’s very real economic woes.

So, basically nobody is getting what they want, and the country is making itself look cruel and foolish to boot, when in reality, given the gains in the ratings made by the Social Democrats, the Left Alliance, and the Greens, who are now the second most popular party in the country, this crackdown on asylum seekers probably does not reflect the popular will at all.

It reflects two things: a) a tiny racist minority that weaseled its way into government even as its popularity was falling (it did much better in the elections before last, when absolutely all the other parties were still determined never to allow the Finns Party into government), and whose popularity has now tanked altogether, but which is still somehow managing to set the tone in the government’s approach to asylum seekers, and b) a migration service that has been poorly equipped to deal with so many asylum seekers, especially in terms of decent interpreters, so it has been making asylum decisons, or so I have read on activist websites, based on partial or false information.

The people in Finnish (or EU?) officialdom who made up the fairy tale that Afghanistan and Iraq are “safe” countries again are the real culprits, however, not the wacko racists like Jussi Halla-aho, who have always been fairly easy to neutralize in one way or another.

I have no idea who these people were. They should be outed, at very least. LIF

…………………………………

Despite Jyväskylä protests, police start deportation of Afghan family
Yle
September 5, 2017

Dozens of demonstrators outside an asylum reception centre in Jyväskylä, in central Finland, attempted to prevent police from removing an Afghan family ordered to be deported on Monday afternoon. But several hours later after the arrival of several backup units, police announced that they had carried out the family’s removal from the centre at around 6 pm.

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Police had originally planned to begin the deportation of an Afghan family at about noon on Monday when they were surrounded by a human chain of people who temporarily foiled their attempt to remove them.

Police had reportedly used pepper spray after being attacked by some demonstrators, according to police.

More officers outfitted in riot gear arrived to the scene at about 16:45 pm and in a tweet about a half-hour later, police reported that the reinforcements would enable them to carry out the deportation operation.

According to Detective Chief Inspector Jari Kinnunen a few dozen protestors had taken part in the incident.

“It was a few dozen protestors. The police are trying to solve the situation peacefully, by negotiating as long as required,” Kinnunen said at about 3 pm.

“If we go back, we’ll be killed”
The family being deported—a father, mother and their eight month-old baby—are originally from Ghazni, Afghanistan.

Before leaving Afghanistan some two years ago the father worked as a taxi driver.

The father said that the family could not return to Afghanistan because they were Shia Muslims, saying that they faced persecution there.

“If we go back we’ll be killed,” the father told the newspaper Keskisuomalainen.

Roughly 80 percent of Afghanistan’s population, including the Taliban,are Sunni Muslims.

Photo courtesy of Lehtikuva/Juha Sorri

For the Union Dead

Their monument sticks like a fishbone
in the city’s throat.
—Robert Lowell, “For the Union Dead”

On her always surprising blog Found in Translation, Kate Sotejeff-Wilson, a translator based in Finland, has recently reviewed Tiina Lintunen’s Punaisten naisten tiet (Red Women’s Paths).

Ms. Lintunen has traced the lives of women in the Pori area who fought for the Reds during Finland’s brief civil war (1918) and the aftermaths of their decisions.

As Ms. Sotejeff-Wilson writes in her conclusion, Ms. Lintunen’s book seems to be a perfect candidate for translation into English, especially in this centennial year. (Finland is celebrating 100 years of independence this year.)

“The immediate consequence was often months of waiting—if not dying—in near-starvation conditions in prison camps before their case went to court. The daughter of one woman, Katri, remembers the story of how her mother stole fresh bread from her own mother’s kitchen and was hysterical when her little sister wanted to leave the house with red ribbons in her hair. Katri was sure that her sister would be arrested for openly supporting the Reds. Another woman remembers her teacher knocking a boy’s head against a brick wall for taking 1 May, the international workers’ day, off school.”

In my adopted semi-hometown of Imatra, there is a war memorial, seemingly leftist in its aesthetic, and twelve headstones at the city’s cemetery. They sit cheek by jowl with the clearly delineated, amply identified part of the cemetery where the “real” Finnish war heroes lie, i.e., men who died fighting the Soviet Union in the Winter War and the Continuation War.

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“Leftist” memorial and gravestones to twelve “non-heroes” of the Finnish Civil War, Tainionkoski Cemetery, Imatra
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The section where those who fought and died against the Soviet Union lie in rest is much better looked after and more clearly identified.  Tainionkoski Cemetery, Imatra

Until quite recently, all the names and dates of the dead and brief details of their deaths were listed on large laminated sheets of paper, hung behind glass in a information stand situated midway between the two memorials.

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“Tainionkoski [Cemetery] War Graves.” This schematic is keyed to the lists of the war dead, most of them local soldiers and officers who fought in one of the two wars against the Soviet Union from 1939 to 1944. The twelve graves situated perpendicularly and at a distance from the main mass of war graves are marked on this schematic, but the men and one woman who lie in those graves are no longer listed on the information stand, although only a few years ago they, too, were deemed worthy of inclusion in the list of war heroes.
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All the local men who perished the Winter War and Continuation War are still listed on the information stand, as are their dates of birth and death, as well as their exact location in the “heroes” section of Imatra’s Tainionkoski Cemetery. But you will find no information about the war dead buried nearby, eleven men and one woman, who were most likely executed by the Whites during the waning days of the Finnish Civil War.

Then, about a year or two ago, the names of the twelve—who most likely were Finnish Reds executed during late April and early May 1918 at Ruokolahti, near present-day Imatra, if my memory serves me as to what was written on the old lists—were mysteriously removed from the stand.

When I last visited the cemetery again, a week or two ago, the graves of the twelve “traitors” seemed to have been spruced up a bit. The names and dates engraved on the headstones had been outlined in white to make them more legible, but their bearers were still absent from the laminated list of heroes in the information stand, and there was nothing but the memorial behind them that would suggest to anyone who they were and what side they could have fought on.

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This is all Imatra’s Tainionkoski Cemetery has to tell us about Amanda Knutars, who was, I seem to remember, executed near Ruokolahti (which in the administrative toponymy of that era, before Imatra and Ruokolahti were incorporated as full-fledged municipalities, could have been almost literally down the street). It also strikes me as odd that the modest headstones of her and eleven companions in death are marked with crosses. Were they Reds or Whites? Or is the current generation too modest to tell us plainly, passing off Reds shamefacedly as “good Christians”?
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Meanwhile, nearly all the gravestones marking the final resting places of the “real” heroes bear traces of the German Junker aesthetic that has been all too prominent in the insignia and symbolism of the Finnish Army, even to this day.

I am sure the memorial to the twelve, by the way, is no longer legible to the younger generation, i.e., people born after 1991, just as the motto etched on its base, something about “brotherly sacrifice” has long been overgrown with moss.

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The only real clue to their identities is the fact that members of the Finnish Social Democratic Party march to the Tainionkoski Cemetery very early in the morning every May first and place a wreath at the memorial before going to have their Mayday coffee and roll. Next year, I’m marching with them.

Text and photos by Living in FIN