Ahola Road (Aholantie), south of Imatra, South Karelia, 7 July 2018. The sign on the right points to the neighborhood summer theater, run by the local youth club. This July, according to the club’s Facebook page, they are presenting a play by Tanja Puustinen-Kiljunen entitled “Two-Woman Plumbing Remodeling” (Kahden naisen putki remppa). Tickets are twenty euros, and the last performance is on July 24. God knows I would go if I were in Finland. Photo by Living in FIN
että minuun pätevät vain vihoviimeiset
Mikäs pahan tappaisi?
On siis varustauduttava pitkään ikään.
Saattaa olla että elän satavuotiaaksi
ja ties vaikka ylikin.
Koettakaa kestää jos niin käy.
Myös minä koetan.
On opeteltava itsekkyyttä.
On pidettävä itsestään huolta.
On oltava oma palveluskuntansa.
Elämä on velvollisuus.
Elämä on intohimoa.
Elämä on syyllisyyttä.
On niin omituisen urhea olo.
Kuolenkohan minä nyt?
It well may be
that only the old Karelian saw
applies to me:
bad weeds never die.
So I have to gear up for the long haul.
Maybe I’ll live to be a hundred years old,
and god knows how many more on top of that.
You try and hold on if it happens to you.
I am going to try and hold on, too.
You must learn to be selfish.
You must take care of yourself.
You must be your own servant.
Your own confidante.
Life is duty.
Life is passion.
Life is guilt.
I feel so strangely brave.
Am I going to die now after all?
Source: Eeva Kilpi, Kuolinsiivous (WSOY, 2012). Photo and translation by Living in FIN
This strange man came up with dozens of words that you use every day, and without him, Tolkien’s world-famous fantasy classic might not have been born
Europaeus, who was born on 1 December 1820, introduced over 200 words into the Finnish language and one of its most famous characters to the Kalevala
30 November 2020
It’s a miracle if you’ve ever heard the name David Emmanuel Daniel Europaeus.
It’s also a miracle if you have never heard or used the words eduskunta (“parliament”), harrastus (“hobby”), ilmansuunta (“compass point, direction”), mielikuvitus (“imagination”), johtaja (“manager”), tilavuus (“volume”), keräilijä (“collector”), kunta (“municipality”) or varasto (“stockpile, warehouse”).
All of these words were coined by Europaeus, or at least he published them for the first time in the history of the Finnish language.
Europaeus left us over 200 words that we still use.
Despite his strange-sounding surname, D.E.D. Europaeus was 100% Finnish. He was born 200 years ago on 1 December 1820 in a rural farmhouse in Savitaipale, South Karelia, about 40 km from Lappeenranta.
Without Europaeus, J.R.R. Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, would never have written The Story of Kullervo, nor would Jean Sibelius have composed his symphonic suite Kullervo. Elias Lönnrot’s Kalevala would be thinner.
The Swedish-Finnish dictionary compiled by Europaeus is on display at the Europaeus Museum. On the left is a list of words that Europaeus used for the first time in the history of the Finnish language. Photo: Petri Kivimäki/Yle
It is impossible to describe Europaeus briefly. He was a man of many hats and involved in everything: he was a Finnish-language advocate, newspaperman, pro-Finnish activist, archaeologist, teacher at a school for the deaf, lexicographer, and mathematician. He was an animal welfare officer for decades before any animal welfare society had even been established.
A man who grew up in a small country village 200 years ago, and whose impact is still audible in our lives every day, Europaeus is almost unknown.
Excited about everything
With a population of 3,400, the town center of Savitaipale looks quite similar to many other Finnish towns. There are a couple of grocery stores, a restaurant, several small businesses, a library, a fire department, and a town hall.
The handsome Olkkola estate is located a few hundred meters from the center. It was once the site of the old mansion building where Europaeus was born. His father was the vicar of Savitaipale, and his mother, the cattle girl at the vicarage.
Finnish was spoken at home, and there was a lot of multilingual literature, which Europaeus read voraciously as a boy.
There is now a small Europaeus museum next to the Olkkola estate. Inside, a big display case contains textbooks written by Europaeus, as well as copies of the magazine Suometar, which he published. On the walls, there are maps and reminiscences from his long research expeditions.
A display case next to the back wall contains two human skulls found by Europaeus, which my guide has promised to tell me about soon.
A chart hung on a nail next to the skulls was used to teach the sounds of the Finnish language.
“This picture was used to teach the deaf the positions the mouth must assume to produce a certain sound,” says Eila Kajanus-Jurvanen, president of the Savitaipale Local Heritage Association.
Devised by Europaeus in 1857, the illustrated phonetic diagram was unique in Finland, because before Europaeus, no attempt had been made to teach the deaf to speak.
In his own time, Europaeus received no praise for the chart even though it enabled countless deaf people to get a toehold in the language. The chart was in use for decades: its replacement was published more than 100 years later.
“Europaeus was a special person in that he was always excited about everything new. However, his staying power in completing work was not always very good,” says Kajanus-Jurvanen.
J.R.R. Tolkien’s inspiration
When Europaeus was inspired by folklore, he naturally sought out Elias Lönnrot. Lönnrot, who was 18 years older than Europaeus, was no longer able to travel and collect oral folk poetry, but he set an enthusiastic Europaeus on the task.
Ultimately, Europaeus collected 53,000 verses on his five trips, which was far more than Lönnrot did on his dozen-some collecting trips. The Kalevala contains more poems collected by Europaeus than by Lönnrot himself.
Lönnrot’s so-called Old Kalevala was published in 1835. Lönnrot then planned a new, larger edition. Europaeus sent a message to Lönnrot that the new edition of the Kalevala should be delayed, because he believed there was still a lot of unique poetry to be found in Ingria, the area around St. Petersburg.
That same year, Europaeus went on his fourth collecting trip to Ingria, during which he made a discovery.
“Lönnrot had never been there, and he did not think there would be any Finnish poetry there. Nevertheless, that’s where Europaeus found all the Kullervo poems. It is thanks to Europaeus that the Kullervo poems are now in the Kalevala,” says Kajanus-Jurvanen.
The Kullervo poems recorded by Europaeus ended up in the so-called New Kalevala, which was published in 1849. It is the same work that we read today as the Kalevala.
Kullervo has inspired many artists to create masterpieces. One of them was the writer J.R.R. Tolkien, whose Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit have spread across the globe.
Tolkien was extremely interested in the Finnish language. He read the Kalevala in English, but he didn’t like it. So he learned the Finnish language by reading the Kalevala in the original. Tolkien was so enlightened by this episode that its effect began to appear immediately in his works.
Tolkien wrote his first prose piece The Story of Kullervo in 1914. It tells the tale of a young man who is sold into slavery and vows revenge on a magician who killed his father.
The Story of Kullervo was published in Finnish in 2016 under the title Kullervon tarina.
Tolkien also used mythological elements drawn from the Kalevala in his other works, both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Pölkäre and pyörö
In Europaeus’s day in the 19th century, there was still very little Finnish literature. Even as a child, he wanted Finnish literature and textbooks to be available to Finns.
When he started studying at the University of Helsinki, he took it upon himself to translate a geometry textbook into Finnish. Such things did not exist yet.
For The Geometry Book (Mittauden Oppi-kirja), published in 1847, Europaeus had to invent a whole set of Finnish words. Such words as kehä (“circumference”), suunnikas (“parallelogram”), tilavuus (“volume”), and parillinen (“even”) are still in use today.
However, not all the words have survived. Europaeus translated the word “circle” (ympyrä in modern Finnish) as pyörö (suggesting a “wheel”). Lävistäjä (“diagonal”) became keskeinen (which means “central” or “pivotal” in modern Finnish), and kuutio (“cube”) became pölkäre (suggesting a “block”).
Europaeus had to develop even more new words for his Swedish–Finnish dictionary. Although perhaps not all of them were personally coined by Europaeus, he brought them to light for the first time in the history of the Finnish language.
They include enemmistö (“majority”), harrastus (“hobby”), johtokunta (“committee”), vety (“hydrogen”), osoite (“address”), pätevä (“qualified, competent, valid”), ulkomaalainen (“foreigner”), valokuvaaja (“photographer”), viehättävä (“attractive, charming”), väitöskirja (“dissertation”), yhdyssana (“compound word”) and äänenkannattaja (“organ,” i.e., an official magazine, newsletter, or similar publication of an organization)
It is estimated that Europaeus introduced over 200 new words into the Finnish language.
Human bone collector
There is a sight in a display case at the Europaeus Museum that causes many museum visitors to pause for at least a moment: two real human skulls.
They harken back to the period when Europaeus was inspired by archaeology. After collecting folk poetry, he made seven archaeological expeditions, the first of them at the age of 51 in 1872, mainly to the northern shores of Lake Ladoga.
He is still the only Finn to have explored the southeastern parts of Ladoga.
During his travels he found objects in burial mounds that are now in museums around the world.
But Europaeus was not so much interested in objects as in bones and especially skulls. In keeping with the spirit of the times, he believed that they could be used to elucidate the history of European and Russian settlement.
In one of his letters, Europaeus said that he had four skulls retrieved from the Savitaipale cemetery. Later, after his research trips, he wrote that he had all the skulls he needed.
“At the time, craniometry was in vogue. It was used to determine whether people were long-skulled or short-skulled. And then this was used to determine their origins,” says Kajanus-Jurvanen.
On the basis of his skull research, Europaeus concluded that Africa was humanity’s original home.
“That idea was laughed at, and all that was said was, ‘What a strange opinion,'” says Kajanus-Jurvanen.
In the 19th century, D.E.D. Europaeus was considered a peculiar vagabond, even a ragamuffin. In his own time, he was never approved, and he is still not famous.
“Europaeus was modest and did not promote himself,” says Pertti Jurvanen, a local heritage councilor who was involved in founding the D.E.D. Europaeus society.
Juha Nirkko, an archivist at the Finnish Literature Society, also explains how Europaeus was not well liked in his own time
“Lönnrot, for example, was a respected cholera doctor and was recognized for it. Poor Europaeus, on the other hand, was considered a cholera transmitter and well poisoner. Some people can’t get a break,” says Nirkoo.
According to Nirkko, Europaeus was a telecommuter and temp worker of his day and age. He had no family and wandered around the country in search of work.
“He enrolled at university, but his studies never progressed,” says Nirkko.
Nirkko emphasizes how much Europaeus differed from his contemporaries. He was an anarchist of his time.
“He just couldn’t adhere to the norms and conventions of his time. He was not held back by the borders of countries, continents or cultures. Europaeus was not a limited thinker. Maybe he was too unrestrained and uncontrollable,” argues Nirkko.
After leaving Savitaipale to pursue his education, Europeaus was, at different times, a teacher, collected place names in St. Petersburg, and went on poetry collecting trips. He may have been a private tutor in Heinävesi, and studied in Viipuri and Helsinki. In Germany, he attended political rallies.
But he often returned to his native region on holiday. There he wrote, among other things, the Swedish–Finnish dictionary and met his sister Charlotta, who was also an avid collector of folk poetry.
In the spring of 1884 Europaeus went to St. Petersburg, where in the autumn of the same year he died at the age of 63.
Europaeus was buried in St. Petersburg. After a few weeks his remains were exhumed and brought to Helsinki, where on 4 December 1884 he was laid to rest in Hietaniemi Cemetery with other great men and women.
The peace of death has been attained by one wanderer of the world whose whole life was spent in tireless searching, restless acquisition and amateur pursuits. He lived like a bird without thinking about tomorrow’s needs.
—Excerpt from an article about Europaeus’s death, published in Uusi-Suometar on 23 October 1884
Europaeus’s date of death is marked on his tombstone as 15 October 1884, which, according to archivist Juha Nirkko, is at least quite close to the correct date. Some sources claim that Europaeus died in May 1884. Photo: Rudolph Bülow/Yle
Tuesday 1 December 2020 marks 200 years since the birth of D.E.D. Europaeus. The municipality of Savitaipale had planned a variety of events for the jubilee year, but most of them have been cancelled due to the coronavirus.
A small memorial event will take place at the Europaeus monument at 12:00 p.m. on first December.
On Thursday 3 December 2020 at 6:00 p.m. in the courtyard of the Europaeus School, excerpts from the play Europaeus, which was to be performed this year, will be presented. In addition, there will be a program by schoolchildren and a light show.
Thanks to Tiina Pasanen for the invaluable heads-up. Translated by Living in FIN
A scary clown has struck again in Vuoksenniska, this time on the bike path at the end of Retikankuja. Photo by Minna Mäkinen. Courtesy of Uutisvuoksi
Clown Character Shows Up in Vuoksenniska in Broad Daylight, Scares Two Schoolboys
Clown Was Lurking in Bushes on Bike Path Leading to Lakasentie
September 30, 2019
A character wearing a clown mask has struck again in Vuoksenniska. This time the character appeared in broad daylight—on Sunday sometime after one in the afternoon.
The victims of the intimidation were schoolboys out riding their bicycles.
“The boys came home out of breath and told me the clown had been in the bushes. He had come out of the bushes to chase them. He was not able to overtake the boys since they pedaled as quickly away from the spot as they could,” said Tanja Jaatinen, mother of one of the boys.
According to the boys, the clown character was holding a knife.
The incident occurred at the end of Retikankuja on the bike path leading to Lakasenpelto.
The encounter with the clown frightened the second-graders.
“I was freaked out, too,” Jaatinen said.
She immediately reported the incident to emergency services.
“A police patrol has been to the spot,” she said.
The police situation center confirmed their officers had gone to Vuoksenniska, but no one was found at the scene of the incident.
Last Incident Was in Early September
According to Jaatinen, it was especially unfortunate the clown character was scaring little children, who until then had ventured to move around by themselves in the daytime.
The last time a clown struck was in Vuoksenniska on September 3. The target of the intimidation was 17-year-old Imatra resident Samu Kemppi.
Kemppi was biking toward the underpass that runs under Saimaanhovintie in Vuoksenniska when a person dressed in a clown suit jumped from the hillside in front of him.
The site of the September 2019 incident. Image courtesy of Google Maps
Kemppi called emergency services, but when police arrived at the scene they could find no trace of the perpetrator.
The police have been investigating the incident in early September as illegal intimidation.
A person in a clown suit also made headlines in Imatra in October 2017 when they intimidated a young girl in Vuoksenniska. The police then also failed to catch the perpetrator.
Translated by Living in FIN
The best airports have only six arrivals and six departures a week. Anything more than that, and chaos, tedium, and draconian security are sure to follow.
Photos by Living in FIN
Mietin, mistä alkaen olen aina valehdellut,
keksinyt, sepittänyt, muistanut tahallani väärin,
Sitten siitä tuli toinen luonto,
enkä enää välittänyt tietää
mikä minuun oli mennyt.
Väsyn ihmisiin helposti
enkä välitä heistä enää,
mutta heti kun olen yksin alan kaivata
seurassa nauran, juhlin, juttelen, keksin tarinoita,
mutta heti kun tuli hetkikin hiljaista
täsmälleen itseni kokoiselle erakolle
joka on vaiti
toreilla, ruuhkabusseissa, pääkaupunkien kaduilla;
vain jossain kaukaisessa erämaan kolkassa
saattaa törmätä kummajaiseen
joka heti alkaa jutella jokaiselle kuin vanhalle tuttavalle.
En ole nähnyt paikkaa
jossa en olisi halunnut käydä, mutta vain käydä,
jotkut muistelevat mennyttä,
minä elän tätä päivää,
en mieti iltaan saakka,
se kuitenkin tulee, väsyn,
menen toiseen huoneeseen, alan nukkua,
tai kävelen kadulla,
jos minut nähdään,
käännyn jostain kulmasta ja katoan,
ei kukaan saa minua elämästäni kiinni.
I was wondering: since when have I always lied,
concocted, made up, deliberately recalled things wrongly,
changed the sense of things?
It later became second nature,
I no longer cared to know
what had gotten into me.
I tire of people easily.
I don’t care about them anymore.
But as soon as I’m alone, I miss
laughing, partying, chatting, making up stories in company.
But as soon as it has become quiet for a second,
I give way
to the loner living inside me,
exactly my same size,
who is silent
at markets, on crowded buses, in city streets.
Only in a distant corner of the wilderness
might you run into an oddball
who immediately chats to everyone like an old buddy.
I haven’t seen a place
where I wouldn’t want to go, but only go.
Some remember the past,
plan their future.
I live this day,
I don’t think until evening.
Nevertheless, it comes. I am tired,
I go to another room and sleep.
Or I walk down the street.
If I am seen,
I turn a corner and disappear.
No one catches me out in my life.
Source: Hannu Salakka, Kuin unessa viipyen (Otava, 1990), pp. 536–537. Translated by Thomas H. Campbell
niin suurena niin tavoittamattomana
oli elämä edessäsi
ja sinä sanoit itsellesi
ennen kuin kaiken jätät
kaiken myös ymmärrät
kun käännyt katsomaan taaksesi
kun uskallat sen tehdä
yhtä suurena yhtä tavoittamattomana
ja poikasi näet
seisovan hautakivesi äärellä
pitäen kädestä jotakin konttorityttöä
(hautausmaan rauhassa heilläkin
on tilaisuus olla oma itsensä)
ja kuulet poikasi kuiskaavan
hänen suloiseen pikku korvaansa
salaisuuden jota sinä et ymmärtänyt
(niin hän kuiskaa
ja hän tietää)
life confronted you
so great so unattainable
and you said to yourself
before you left it all
you would understand it all, too
when you’ve turned to look back
when you dare to do it
you see life
just as great just as unattainable
and you see your son
standing before your tombstone
holding the hand of some office girl
(in the cemetery’s calm they have
a chance to be themselves)
and you hear your son whispering
into her sweet little ear
the secret you didn’t understand
(so he whispers
and he knows)
Source: Jorma Etto, Suomalainen ja muut vaalitut (Oulu: Pohjoinen, 1985), p. 5. Photo and translation by Thomas H. Campbell
It is a tiny miracle that strawberries grow this far north. It is even more of a miracle that Finnish strawberries are supremely delicious, perfectly succulent and sweet.
Finns celebrate this miracle by eating as many strawberries as they can while they are in season.
They also honor strawberries by incorporating them into desserts concocted only on the most festive occasions, such as the strawberry whipped cream cake our downstairs neighbor Maija makes on her birthday, her name day, and her husband’s name day, which all take place in July and August, during and just after the peak of the all-too-brief Finnish strawberry season.
Maija’s strawberry whipped cream cake is to die for, by the way.
But strawberries are not just delicious, they are good for you, too, as I was reminded yesterday by this placard at the pop-up strawberry stand at my local grocery store.
10 Reasons to Eat Strawberries
- It improves the immune system.
- It maintains eyesight.
- It prevents cancer.
- It firms up the skin.
- It lowers cholesterol.
- It makes the joints work better.
- It lowers blood pressure.
- It improves digestion.
- It helps control weight.
- It is positively yummy.
Photo and translation by Living in FIN
One of the most dismaying things you discover if you study Finnish long enough is that the extremely morphologically complex and otherwise utterly alien-sounding language you have been melting your brains to get a tenuous grip on is, in fact, textbook Finnish, the literary language or standard language (kirjakieli) used in newspapers, magazines, and books, and spoken, as it were, by TV and radio presenters, politicians, schoolteachers and other professionals, and government clerks.
In real life, Finns speak bewildering combinations of conversational Finnish (puhekieli) and regional dialects (murteet). In Helsinki, the local dialect or argo is stadi (the word itself is a Finnish take on the Swedish for “city,” stad), a mind-numbing melange of Swedish, German, Russian, and English loanwords embedded in a Finnish grammatical, syntactical, and morphological matrix.
When I run head on into something that looks like slang or conversational Finnish, I often turn to the website Urbaani Sanakirja (“Urban Dictionary”). One of the things I like about the online dictionary is that it almost always provides down-to-earth examples of usage.
The website also features a Päivän sana (“Word of the day”), helpful for building and reinforcing your Finnish slang vocabulary.
Today’s word of the day is a personal favorite of mine, dösä, “bus.”
Although Finns also often use the word bussi (“bus”), it is a colloquialism; the word for “bus” in standard textboox Finnish is linja-auto, the very same word Urbaani Sanakirja uses to define dösä.
The example it supplies—Tulin eilen dösällä himaan (“Yesterday I got home by bus”)—contains another slang word, hima.
Hima means koti (“home”) in standard Finnish. “Translated” into book Finnish, then, the entire sentence would read, “Tulin eilen bussilla kotiin.” That is a far cry, lexically, from our original sentence, “Tulin eilen dösällä himaan.”
What does the sample sentence supplied for hima (“Nauran heittereille matkan himast pankkiin”) mean?
“I laugh at the haters all the way from home to the bank.”
That is a slightly obscure sentence (at least, to this non-Finn: is it a peculiar Finnish way of saying, “I’m laughing all the way to the bank”? Who are the “haters”?), so let’s look at the second example provided. It, on the contrary, is a perfectly clear and typical specimen of conversational Finnish with a bit of slang tossed in for good measure.
“Mun pitäs varmaa jo lähtee himaa” means “I should probably go home already.” Translated into standard Finnish, it would read, “Minun pitäisi varmaa jo lähteä kotiin.”
If you find this confusing, you’re not alone. In conversations with actual Finns, I rarely venture beyond the bounds of my still quite shaky kirjakieli, although often as not what I hear in return is conversational Finnish or the Karelian dialect of Finnish, spoken in parts of southeast Finland (where I hang out) and once spoken in Finland’s former second city, Viipuri (Vyborg), and the area to the south of it, known in Finnish as the Karjalankannas (Karelian Isthmus), but usually called simply Kannas or “the Isthmus” by Finns.
For obvious reasons, Kannas is a charged word in Finland, but that is a topic for another, less frivolous post.
Metsä on iloa.
Siksi jätän teille kallioita, poikani,
ja metsää niiden ympärillä.
Kallioilta näkee Karjalaan
ja sinne, kuusenlatvojen taakse
voi kuvitella äidin lapsuuden
ja mummin ja vaarin lapsuuden
sinne voi kuvitella
myös teidän lastenlastenne lapsuuden,
se on luvallista
se on sallittua
se on mahdollista
“ei silmä ossaa ota”
ja vaikka ottaisikin
se olisi oikein.
Siellä ovät teidän vaarinne metsät
laitumet joilla hän paimensi lehmiä,
lähde jonne nappuri upotti mehupullot
ja ne säilyivät siellä yli talvisodan,
yli välirauhan ja uuden sodan.
Ja kun hän kolme vuotta myöhemmin
palasi ja upotti kätensä lähteeseen
ne tervehtivät häntä ehjinä, sileinä, raikkaina
kuin kärsivällisesti odottaneet
Ja mehu oli hyvää.
The forest is joy.
I shall thus leave you the rocks and crags, my boys,
and the forest in their midst.
Karelia can be seen from the cliffs
and there, beyond the tops of the firs,
you can picture Mother’s childhood
and Grandma and Grandpa’s childhood.
You can picture
your grandchildren’s childhood as well.
It is legal,
it is permissible,
it is possible.
“It’s not the eye that takes part.”
Even if it did take,
it would be right.
Your grandpa’s forests are there,
your mother’s beaches,
the shoreline paths
where she herded cows to pasture,
and the spring where the neighbor submerged juice bottles.
They were preserved there over the Winter War,
over the truce and the new war.
When, three years later,
in the summer of forty-three,
he returned and plunged his hand into the spring,
they greeted him intact, smooth, and fresh,
like hidden children who had been waiting patiently.
The juice was good.
Source: Eeva Kilpi, Perhonen ylittää tien (WSOY, 2000), p. 451. Photo and translation by Living in FIN