National Geographic : 1947 Aug
Scenes of Postwar Finland BY LA VERNE BRADLEY With Illustrations from Photographs by Jerry Wtaller WE WERE dead serious about our trip to Finland in January. And in no mood for humor. Having just re turned from zero temperatures in Poland, we didn't think Sam's telegram, which met us in Paris, a bit funny. It said, "Suggest you wait two weeks. Not sufficiently cold!" We waited. Then, late in the month, our little Swedish steamer, making its last run from Stockholm to Finland's capital before the big freeze, crunched through floe-blocked waters and into the ice-banked harbor of Helsinki. We had followed a course across a wildly rolling Baltic and into a path carved by ice breaker through the sprawling islands of the Turku archipelago. Two weeks later we crossed this path by horse and sleigh, and learned why up to then it had not been "suffi ciently cold." The temperature was only 100 above zero F. that first raw night in Helsinki.* While we were waiting for the greater cold and our ultimate tour of the southern islands, plans had been laid for a hurried trip to the north of Finland. We Head for Lapland At 8 the next morning, with barely a flush of light over the runway, we lifted into a frosty sky and headed for Lapland (map, p. 237).". "We" included Jerry Waller, our photog rapher; Samuel Krakow, the American Red Cross representative for most of Scandinavia and Finland; and myself, on a survey of relief activities in Finland. We flew in an old DC-2, handled by giant Finns of serene self-confidence. Below us lay a land of snow, increasing in white intensity as we moved northward. Tampere, largest industrial city of Finland, lay perfectly patterned to the right, smoke curling from its textile and paper mills, its leather and metal factories. Farther north in the cultivated lands along the coast, fields were dotted with tiny sheds holding the summer hay and stores of hard working farmers waiting out the long winter. The frozen Gulf of Bothnia sent icy fingers into the land and held it in its grip. Forests, weighted with their burden of snow, slept quietly under the spell. As we circled Kemi, we noticed cargo ships frozen in the harbor, and fishing boats, lined bottoms-up along the ice-sheeted shore. The days were offering a little more light now, but the worst cold lay just ahead. The land and the sea seemed locked in readiness. Cities, rural communities, people, and animals ad justed themselves to the elements. Within 18 hours of landing in this white country of the North, we had seen the wonder of winter as it lays its hand over a nation and bends the lives of the people to its will. Within 24 hours we were to see the strength of these people, whose tragedy lay not in the battle against snow and cold, but in the failure of mankind to guarantee them the right to make the most of it. Warm Welcome in the Frozen North Following the destruction of Rovaniemi, Kemi was made the provisional capital of Fin land's farthest-north province. In Kemi, the Governor of Lapland had lunch waiting for us.j: This bright and unexpected gesture of hospitality was due to more than the tradi tional Finnish sociability. First, we represented the American Red Cross, which had sponsored the biggest Ameri can relief program in Finland since the war (pages 234 and 238). Second, the Finns were touched by the fact that we had picked their most difficult season to visit them! Third, and most important, not many Ameri cans have found their way to this country in the last seven years, and the Finnish people have an admiration for America which barely falls short of idolatry. Any contact with the United States becomes a matter of national and personal importance to every one of them. The aching tragedy of having been even briefly on opposite sides of a war involving America lies heavy on their hearts. For the most part, they attempt to dismiss it by say ing we were not at war. They are oversensi tive about what the current feeling in America * See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, "Farthest-North Republic," by Alma Luise Olson, October, 1938, and "Helsingfors-A Contrast in Light and Shade," by Frank P. S. Glassey, May, 1925. t See "Nomads of Arctic Lapland," by Clyde Fisher, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, November, 1939. $ Lapland is the name of the vast area stretching across northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and into part of the Soviet Union. It has no political bounda ries other than those of the individual nations. In speaking of Lapland throughout this story, I refer to the Finnish province.