Sunday, November 29, 2009

What kind of Finns we would encounter

We were now not at all sure what kind of Finns we would encounter, but soon we saw two Finnish soldiers and much to my relief I recognized them as being White Finns. They stopped us and then took us to the village to their officer. A young lieutenant was sitting at a table in a small hut. We reported to him and when I mentioned that I was an officer and named my regiment, he rose and saluted. The Finns were very decent and helpful in every way. Despite their own difficulties, they extended help to the numerous refugees coming over, established receiving camps and medical units for the sick. We were taken by sleigh to Terrioky. Nelka as having temperature was taken to the hospital and I to the camp. As soon as possible we communicated with our friends the Wredes in Helsingfors and they immediately took steps to get us out of camp and into their own home. So in a few days we were on our way to Helsingfors where we received the warmest hospitality from the Wredes and remained with them for about six weeks.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

In the neat, shiny, carefully scrubbed little city of Helsingfors

They had a hair-raising time in Helsingfors. On one occasion, German officers forced Palla’s door at night, and the girl became ill with fear while soldiers searched the room, ordering her out of bed and pushing her into a corner while they ripped up carpets and tore the place to pieces in a swinishly ferocious search for “information.”

But they did nothing worse to her, and, for some reason, left the hotel without disturbing Brisson, whose room adjoined and who sat on the edge of his bed with an automatic in each hand––a dangerous opportunist awaiting events and calmly determined to do some recruiting for hell if the huns harmed Palla.

She never knew that. And the worst was over now, and the Scandinavian border not far away. And in twenty-four hours they were over––Brisson impatient to get his papers to Washington and planning to start for England on a wretched little packet-boat, in utter contempt of mines, U-boats, and the icy menace of the North Sea.

Robert W. Chambers: The Crimson Tide

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Nearly as independent as is Norway of Sweden

The town of Åbo has a population of about twenty-five thousand, who are mostly of Swedish descent. It is thrifty, cleanly, and wears an aspect of quiet prosperity. The place is venerable in years, having a record reaching back for over seven centuries. Here the Russian flag—red, blue, and white—first begins to greet us from all appropriate points. The most prominent building to catch the stranger's eye on entering the harbor is the long barrack-like prison upon a hillside. In front of us looms up the famous old castle of Åbo, awkward and irregular in its shape, and snow-white in texture. Here, in the olden time, Gustavus Vasa, Eric XIV. and John III. held royal court. The streets are few but very broad, causing the town to cover an area quite out of proportion to the number of its inhabitants.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Capturing Sveaborg, Helsingfors

The fortress of Sveaborg is built on a granite island about a mile in advance of Helsingfors, the Russian capital of Finland. There are eight island rocks connected by strong fortifications, and in the centre is situated the fort in which the Russian flotilla was congregated. It was looked upon as the Gibraltar of the North, and had been considerably strengthened since the commencement of the war. The citadel of this water-surrounded fortress is called Wargon. The allied fleet, consisting of seventeen British men-of-war, fifteen gunboats, and sixteen mortar-vessels, with two French men-of-war, six gunboats, and five mortar-vessels, left Nargen on the 6th of August, and anchored the same night among the islands about five miles from Sveaborg. During the night and next day, some batteries were thrown up on the neighbouring islands; and early on the morning of the 9th, the squadron having taken up their positions,--several behind the islands, where the enemy's guns could not reach them,--the bombardment commenced. The showers of shot and shell told with terrific effect on the devoted fortress; powder magazines and stores of projectiles one after the other blew up, and fires broke out in various directions, which all the efforts of the garrison could not extinguish, and in a short time the whole of the arsenal was reduced to ashes. Still the mortars continued to play, to prevent the fires which were blazing up around from being extinguished. Very few men were wounded, and none were killed during the whole of the operations. Although the naval and military stores were destroyed, the fortress still remained intact. The Russians, however, had been taught the lesson that it would be better for them in future not to make aggressions on their neighbours, or to venture hastily into war.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Beautiful music-loving Helsingfors

"I can recall how proud I was when he sent me to beautiful music-loving Helsingfors, in Finland—where all seems to be bloodshed and confusion now—to play a recital in his own stead on one occasion, and how proud he was of my success. Yet Auer had his little peculiarities. I have read somewhere that the great fencing-masters of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were very jealous of the secrets of their famous feints and ripostes, and only confided them to favorite pupils who promised not to reveal them. Auer had his little secrets, too, with which he was loth to part. When I was to make my début in Berlin, I remember, he was naturally enough interested—since I was his pupil—in my scoring a triumph. And he decided to part with some of his treasured technical thrusts and parries. And when I was going over the Tschaikovsky D minor concerto (which I was to play), he would select a passage and say: 'Now I'll play this for you. If you catch it, well and good; if not it is your own fault!' I am happy to say that I did not fail to 'catch' his meaning on any occasion. Auer really has a wonderful intellect, and some secrets well worth knowing. That he is so great an artist himself on the instrument is the more remarkable, since physically he was not exceptionally favored. Often, when he saw me, he'd say with a sigh: 'Ah, if I only had your hand!'
Frederick H. Martens: Violin Mastery