In July of last year my husband and I flew to Finland to visit my grandmother’s birthplace and to attend a family reunion. We had a nonstop flight on Finnair from Chicago to Helsinki Finland. Relatives met us at the airport.
My grandmother’s travel to the United States was much more arduous. She traveled by boat from Oulu, Finland to the port city Hanko. From Hanko she took another boat to Hull, England, then a train from Hull to Liverpool. As far as I know she traveled alone in 1903.
In Liverpool she boarded the Ultonia (a former livestock carrier). She traveled third class in steerage. She had a bunk, along with many other immigrants, in the hold of the ship. This crowded space had inadequate sanitation, and many of the passengers were seasick. I can’t imagine what she endured.
She arrived in Boston and was directed to a train that took her to Chicago. From Chicago she took a train to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where she was met by two of her brothers.
My grandmother had told family members that she planned to go back to Finland to visit one day. But after completing her journey to Michigan, she decided that she could never make such a difficult journey again. Instead she asked her daughters to promise that they would one day visit Finland.
My mother, my aunt and my sisters have all made the trip. We are blessed by the ease of air travel.
This past summer my husband and I traveled to Finland. We visited the village where my grandmother grew up, north of the artic circle.
We enjoyed seeing the pristine forests, rivers and lakes.
And we saw reindeer roaming freely. They graze in the forests, fields and even in yards adjacent to cabins. The lichen growing in the forest is a favored food.
We were amazed to see a couple dozen reindeer run past a strip of stores.
During the summer it is always daylight. But now as winter approaches the sun makes a much shorter appearance, skimming along the horizon. The reindeer are gathered in herds and taken care of by Lapland herders.
A number of years ago I read an article about a Finnish midwife. In 1909 she had been at the center of a court case, determining the legality of midwifery in Massachusetts. She had been arrested a number of times (despite the fact that her statistics for live births were better than most doctors practicing in the area).
I was struck by her determination, her sisu, in serving childbearing women in Gardner, Massachusetts. Why did she persist after multiple court appearances and a three-month sentence in the House of Corrections?
Her persistence fascinated me. So I began researching her life. I visited Gardner, Massachusetts and found her burial place in the Crystal Lake Cemetery. During the trip that my husband and I made to Finland, I visited the parish where she lived. The church records listed the significant dates in her life.
The court cases that were brought against Hanna influenced the decline of midwifery in the first half of the twentieth century. I am in the process of writing her story.
This post is linked to Five Minute Friday. Every Friday Kate Motaung gives a word prompt. And then we write for five minutes. Today’s prompt is STORY. Visit this writing community by clicking here.
Every Friday the FMF community writes for five minutes on a prompt given by Kate Motaung. To visit this inspiring community of writers, click here. Today’s prompt is: PLACE
While we were in Finland we visited Turku, a beautiful old city. It was the “capitol” of Finland when Finland was under Swedish rule.
Rising above the town is the tower and cross of the Lutheran Church. We walked from our hotel to this landmark.
The church is kept open for visitors. People were ascending the stairs as we approached.
The doors were ornate.
I took a deep breath as we entered this place. The architecture is magnificent.
I was most drawn to the painting behind the altar, with the focus on Jesus, resurrected and ascending to heaven.
// Since we have returned home I have thought a lot about the church in Finland. Every city has a cathedral-like church. The Lutheran Church is the state church. Weddings and funerals are conducted there. But I did not get a sense of the people of the church. When I talked with my Finnish relatives, the concept of a community of believers was outside of their experience. The magnificent churches demonstrate the heritage of faith. And so I am led to pray for revival and a fresh experience of faith in Finland.