Sunday, May 30, 2010

They are novel and interesting, these Finlanders

It was not really in running order for the summer, the landlady was away, and I was again struggling with the sign language, when somebody came to the rescue — a tall, dark, grave, distinguished-looking lady who spoke a little English and brought a vague odor of attar of roses. She was from Finland, also come to see Ellen Key, with whom she was dining that evening, and she said she would report my arrival and find out when it would be convenient for me to call.

They are novel and interesting, these Finlanders, to the simple-minded American who thinks of Finland as consisting of reindeer and ice. Every grown-up person votes in Finland, and the women sit in the Legislature. And this faraway place consists, apparently, not of reindeer and ice, but of lively and intelligent people who speak every language you ever heard of. The companion of this particular lady did, indeed, speak all the languages of Europe; she was a tremendous politician and suffragist, spoke familiarly of Mrs. Chapman Catt and other Americans, and she was, as her card related: Medlem av Finlands Landtag. II viceordrforanden i internat. Kvinnorostrattalliansen. Ordforande i Svenska Kvinnoforbundet i Finland — which means a member of the Finnish Diet, among other things.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Finland mates and Finland sailors, speaking both English and Russian

All my surroundings were those of the country of the midnight sun, and I should have felt more bewildered than when in the fog I viewed and chased this spectral-looking ship, had not Captain Bergelund, in most excellent English, entertained me with a flow of conversation which put me at my ease. He discoursed of Finland, where lakes covered the country from near Abo, its chief city, to the far north, where the summer days are "nearly all night long."

Painting in high colors the delights of his native land, he begged me to visit it. Finally, as midnight drew near, this genial sailor insisted upon putting me in his own comfortable stateroom, while he slept upon a lounge in the cabin.

Friday, May 28, 2010

A cruise on Lake Ladoga

"Dear Q.,—The steamboat Valamo is advertised to leave on Tuesday, the 26th, (July 8th, New Style,) for Serdopol, at the very head of Lake Ladoga, stopping on the way at Schlüsselburg, Konewitz Island, Kexholm, and the island and monastery of Valaam. The anniversary of Saints Sergius and Herrmann, miracle-workers, will be celebrated at the last-named place on Thursday, and the festival of the Apostles Peter and Paul on Friday. If the weather is fine, the boat will take passengers to the Holy Island. The fare is nine rubles for the trip. You can be back again in St. Petersburg by six o'clock on Saturday evening. Provisions can be had on board, but (probably) not beds; so, if you are luxurious in this particular, take along your own sheets, pillow-cases, and blankets. I intend going, and depend upon your company. Make up your mind by ten o'clock, when I will call for your decision.


I laid down the note, looked at my watch, and found that I had an hour for deliberation before P.'s arrival. "Lake Ladoga?" said I to myself; "it is the largest lake in Europe,—I learned that at school. It is full of fish; it is stormy; and the Neva is its outlet. What else?" I took down a geographical dictionary, and obtained the following additional particulars: The name Lad'oga (not Lado'ga, as it is pronounced in America) is Finnish, and means "new." The lake lies between 60° and 61° 45' north latitude, is 175 versts—about 117 miles—in length, from north to south, and 100 versts in breadth; receives the great river Volkhoff on the south, the Svir, which pours into it the waters of Lake Onega, on the east, and the overflow of nearly half the lakes of Finland, on the west; and is, in some parts, fourteen hundred feet deep.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The little bridge that gave us our freedom

"At the border a suspicious sailor on guard searched us. He turned many back to Petrograd. The train pulled back carrying four hundred women and children and babies disappointed at the very door to freedom, weeping, penniless, and starving, starting back into Russia all to suit the whim
of an ignorant under officer. Under the influence of flattery he softened toward us and after robbing us of everything that had been provided us by our friends for the journey, taking even the official papers sent by the Bolshevik government to our government which we were to deliver to American representatives in Finland, he let us go.

"After he let us go we saw the soldiers in the house grabbing for the American money which Mr. Taylor had given us. They had not thought it worth while to take the Russian roubles away from us. Of course they were of no value to us in Finland. After a two kilometer walk, carrying a sick English soldier with us, my three comrades and I reached the little bridge that gave us our freedom."--By Sgt. Glenn W. Leitzell, Co. M, 339th Inf.

Monday, May 17, 2010

My father was in Helsingfors during the rioting

The Finnish question is to Russia much what the Irish question has been to England. Successive Tsars have sought to deprive the Finns of the liberties they were granted when, in 1809, their country was finally annexed to Russia. The Russian language was forced on the people, and Russian officials overran the country. Nicholas II. promulgated a new military law soon after his accession, which aimed at incorporating the Finnish forces in the Russian army, whilst further steps were taken to override the Finnish Diet. Matters culminated in 1905, when Finland went "on strike," and quickly forced the Russian Government to give way. My father was in Helsingfors during the rioting, and was able to be of inconsiderable assistance in putting the views of the Finns before the Emperor. Not only was the Diet allowed to meet again, but it was permitted to remodel the constitution. Universal suffrage was brought in, and women, for the first time,were elected members of Parliament and took their seats in the Diet. Unfortunately, though, some three years before the outbreak of the present war there was further friction, and efforts were made to curtail the power of the Diet and override its decisions. Some of its more prominent members were banished to Siberia.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

In the open-air restaurant of Brunn's Park

"YOU ask how I happened to go to Siberia to study music," said my Russian friend Hartveld, as we sat smoking in the open-air restaurant of Brunn's Park, Helsingfors. "I might reply by asking you how you happened to go there to study penal servitude. I presume the inducement in both cases was the same. You thought you would find, among the political exiles in Siberia, characters, conditions and stories of personal adventure that would be novel and interesting, and that you could use as literary material."

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The friendly, courageous Finns had lied

The effects of this control were brought forcibly to view during the Russo-Finnish War, when a controlled Finnish press painted a glowing and almost fantastic picture of Finnish victories over insurmountable odds. But the public over here was taken in. The story struck a chord in the hearts of every American, as we read how a tiny handful of Finns smashed a Russian army of 300,000 men. Then the United States slowly began to hear the real story. It seemed hard to believe that the friendly, courageous Finns had lied. But there were the facts. And Americans learned the importance of controlling the news, the value of censorship in total war strategy.