Sivusto ei tue käyttämääsi selainta. Suosittelemme selaimen päivittämistä uudempaan versioon.


(translated from original text by Laura Alho 09/2009)

Two first decades in the beginning of the 20th century are remembered of emigration. At the time, many inhabitants of Mannila moved to America. They emigrated to west, to the land of gold, and hoped that there they would find happiness and better living circumstances. The daily survival was threatened in their own home country. The statistics of the parish tell that the majority of the emi-grants were young people but also entire families were forced to leave. First left the father and one or two years later the rest of the family. 
When the American fever was at its strongest the songwriters of the time described the atmosphere with the following lyrics:

“The road to America, covered with gold, that’s where I’ll go, that’s where everyone goes.”

The majority of the emigrants stayed in America for the rest of their lives but some people returned to their home country after retirement, especially unmarried and childless couples. A part of the emigrants travelled several times to their former homeland to meet relatives and old friends. One of these travellers was Urho Numminen. He had been born in Mannila in 1907 and he moved to America with his family in 1917. Fifty years later he visited his old home village and as a compan-ion he had an American friend who wrote down everything that happened during their journey.
In this part, dear reader, you can read the travelogue that he has written.
The Numminens
An emigrant returning to his roots

There lived once a stone worker named Viktor Numminen in Honkilahti, in Mannila. He had been born on 21st of January in 1870 and was the illegitimate son of Justiina, daughter of Benjamin. The rememberance of the village tells that from his father’s side he was related to the nobels. He was skilled in his occupation and you can still find some of his works in Honkilahti. For example: the warehouse which is located next to the church. It was first built to be a granary but today used as a mortuary, in 1905 built Heikkilä’s stone barn in Mannila and in 1907-1908 built stone foundation of the Community Hall. He was also the first chairman of the Workers’ Association of Mannila in 1906.
When the stonework began to run out Viktor left for America with his oldest son in 1914. Two years earlier the Titanic had sunk into the Atlantic Ocean and the villagers tried to scare Viktor: ”How can you have the courage to leave?” ”It’s not like they’re all going to sink”, Numminen answered. At the time a 14-year-old Lyyri Tuominen (Aitonurmi) worked as a maid on Sankkila’s farm and in the morning she brought milk jugs beside the road for the milkman to pick up. Vilho, who was leaving with his father, came across the field to say goodbye to her and asked : ”What if we sometimes wrote to each other so that I would know what’s going on here in Mannila?”. Their correspondence never evolved into a real relationship. Numminen’s wife left for America with the rest of the children in 1916.

The Numminens’ children’s names were Vilho, Kosti, Urho and Lahja and only the last mentioned has never visited their old home village Mannila. Kosti traveled there in the beginning of the 60’s and took with him to America a stone of the porch of his old home as a souvenir. Urho visited there in the end of the 60’s and as a companion he had a man who wrote down everything that happened during their journey. In a guest book that Elsa left behind you can find the name John Barthell and it is written on the same day that Urho’s. The people in the village remember that Barthell didn’t speak Finnish and that’s why it is possible that the story has first been written in English and after that someone has translated it into Finnish in America. From there it has been delivered to Elsa Berg and after that to the writer of this text. Here is the story as it originally has been written.

”My friend, Urho Numminen lives in Michigan. It is a place of 300 inhabitants. A High Peninsula in the desert of Michigan. A region of mines and logs. I have also a summer cottage there. 
Urho has been born in Finland and a few years ago we visited together his birthplace. He is 61 years old, short, has a round face and a corpulent body. Without asking he expresses his opinions only seldom and even then very carefully and without bragging. We have been friends for over 25 years. During this time we spoke often half-seriously about travelling to Finland but it didn’t always feel like he would have really wanted to leave. In the summer of 1966 he became seriously sick and we thought that it would be fateful to him but an unexpected action that was taken saved his life. 
One evening, when Urho was still recovering we went together to sauna and while we sat there we decided that we are going to realize our journey. He hadn’t been in Finland in 50 years. We arranged everything by mail during the winter. I was in the East Coast and late in the spring Urho wrote to me: ”I believe that during the next summer I will make that journey if I don’t loose my nervs or my money.”
In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan a man who is a director of a finnish television program made a presentation in Finnish about travelling to Finland. He taught us the word ”Suomi”- in English ”Finland” or ”Finnish”. Urho left Michigan like a tourist along with 30 other countrymen. Many of them were his friends. As we headed towards the enormous and misty airport of Frankfurt, Urho noticed that the land below him, looked like a four-lane higway, where he once worked as a construction engineer. The group that Urho called with the name ”Suomi”, was sitting dispersed in the big plane that flied between two cities and landed to Frankfrurt for lunch.
We booked a flight straight to Finland in the smallest plane. Urho’s co-travellers filled it up almost completely and it flied to Helsinki without stops. The weather was unstable and a man who sat close to us covered his face with his hat and looked uneasy but Urho sat peacefully.

When the landing began, the passangers, as always, became very restless but Urho just sat and gazed down at the ground. We flied over blue waters, green fields and dark forests, which reminded me a lot of the Upper peninsula of Michigan. As we touched the ground, a passenger at the back of the plane shouted: ”We did it, we did it!”
When we got out of the plane we felt the same fresh air as in the Upper peninsula of Michigan.

We arrived at the customs and there were signs in Finnish, in Swedish, in English and in Russian. No one forgets Russia in Finland. In the airport for almost every passanger there were relatives and friends waiting for them to get out of the plane and most of them cried because of the reunion. We met a lot of Urho’s tourisfriends’ friends. They all had a place where to go. Urho and I lived with Urho’s relatives’ family but before we left for Mannila we spent a few days in Helsinki and made some travel plans concerning our journey.

There are 4075000 inhabitants in Finland and 10% of them lives in Helsinki. Geographically Finland belongs to Scandinavia. The origin of its population is unknown and they speak a language that is not related to the other languages of Europe except for Estonian and Hungarian. Finland has always been menaced by Sweden or Russia: First Sweden won the dominion over Finland but then lost it to Russia in 1809. Russia lost his dominion in 1917 during the Bolshevik revolution. Finland gained independence in the same year and has preserved it ever since.

Russia attacked Finland in 1939 and the Winter War began. Almost everyone waited for a quick and easy victory but Russia won and Finland had a big price to pay. Russia gained a long and narrow area from the border of the country called Karelia.
When Hitler in 1941 defeated Russia, Finland started the so called Continuation War. The Finnish persistence was seen, when men got wounded during the battle but regardless of that they got up over and over again even though they knew that they are going to get wounded again. When the Second World War was ending, Finland had been able to preserve its sovereignty. It became the only nation in Europe (except for Turkey) in the border of Russia that has not become a squire of Russia. 

It has made this possible by following the line of Paasikivi. The line is simple; Finland should keep good relations with the neighboring countries, especially with the Soviet Union and it must also stay objective with the affaires of the big states.

The streets of Helsinki were lively. There were fast cabs, little green tramways and the sidewalks were full of busy people. We saw corpulent businessmen in their tight buttoned suits, thin young long-haired men in well fitting trousers, carrying a schoolbag in one hand. There were Gypsies in their national costumes. In Finland there are more Gypsies than Laplanders.

Here and there we saw beautiful green but quite small parks. We walked by the solid Senate house, the Lutheran cathedral and the university. That area felt a little oppressive because of the old big buildings that were made of stone. We continued walking down a cobbled road that led to the harbor.
We arrived to the new hotel called Linnahotelli, it was gorgeous and very comfortable. Because it was early June it was warm enough for us to sit in the outdoor restaurant. Helsinki is located on the same latitude as Alaska, ocean streams bring warmth and the climate is milder than in the Upper peninsula of Michigan.

Bookstores there seemed to be everywhrere and someone has said that their number is the highest in the whole Europe. Every Finn reads books to some extend.

Our hotel called Marski was located on Mannerheimintie which is a wide street named after Field Marshal Mannerheim. Well-dressed businessmen were having lunch in the hotel dining room. The lighting was good and the beautiful interior decorating and fresh flowers on the tables made the food taste even more delicious. For starters there were herring sandwiches and for main course very well served reindeer. Our room was clean and cosy. It feels like everyone in Finland are very hardworking. Urho was very pleased about all of this.

One night Urho remembered a man who he had known when he was a boy. That man was Walter Kuusela and he lived in Helsinki. We took a cab and drove to see him.

As we drove we saw lots of islands and peninsulas, the evening sun was shining and the seagulls were flying. We noticed also a fisherman as we headed for the new satellite town Tapiola. That place became famous for its exemplary town planning scheme because the town has been built on a rocky forestland but nowadays there are numerous different kinds of buildings there. 

Kuusela is not a very big man but he gave me an impression that he is very determined, strong-willed and wise. He is robust, he has short grey hair, he moves with dignity and speaks loudly. In 1940 Kuusela was elected to the Parliament of Finland from the countryside where he and Urho had been born. He was a Social Democrat, was elected several times and had a leading position in the party. But then began the failures: due to his drinking problem he got into a car accident that caused one person’s death. The Finnsh people are known for their drinking.

In Finland there is a strict law that forbids driving a car when you’re drunk, but also even if you had enjoyed alcohol only moderately. Kuusela got a comparatively light punishment, a year and a half in prison, but his political career was ruined.
We met him and his wife in Kuusela’s home, they lived in a three-room apartement in Tapiola and it was incredibly clean. Kuusela works as a secretary in the national Smallholders’ Trade Union.

He told us about the car accident and said: ”One time when I was in the USA there was a homeless man who said to me that we have only one life to live and we tend to do it so unbelievably badly.” At the point, Kuusela was speaking about the reason that caused his failure but then he continued  talking about the Smallholders’ Trade Union, about Tapiola and about Finland and was satisfied with all of them. 

There lives about 16 000 people in Tapiola. Like many others, also Kuusela bought a condominium with a low interest loan granted by the state. The payback period is 40 years.
Kuusela and his wife took us for a ride through Tapiola and they were proud of the new classic houses and the lowely new church. The educational institutions were made of granite and copper plates. In the background there were hills, white birches, tall pines and spruces.

Late in the same evening we rented a car and headed for Urho’s birthplace. The direction of our journey was towards west to Turku which is the biggest city in that point of the compass. We drove pass a countryside where we saw hills, green meadows and dark spruce forests. They reminded me a lot of Michigan except that in Michigan there grows no hardwood there. Urho laughed and said : “A Finnish American wouldn’t find hardwood even if he tried”.

When we got closer to Turku, grain fields became larger and valleys wider. This region is the most fertile in Finland. Not a single meter of the soil has been wasted. It produces generous crops with good quality but still only seven percent of the farmers are self-sufficient.

We spent the evening in Turku and the next day around midday we left for north. The forests were clean there. In the Upper peninsula of Michigan the felled areas can be as large as 40 acres. Entire regions have been destroyed and stumps and branches have been left in the felled forests.

But in Finland the forests looked like parks. The spruces were thick-branched and the felled trees carefully selected. There were no stumps or branches laying on the ground. Felled trees were cut and neatly stacked beside the road. All the branches and treetops were also cut and stacked for firewood. Nothing was wasted. Forests are the richness of Finland and they are taken good care of.
Before anyone can fell trees from a forest, even if it was one’s own, he has to ask a certified forester to mark the trees which he thinks are ready to be felled out of the way of younger trees. The owner takes care of the selling by himself.
Urho was exceptionally observing today as we came closer to his home region. He read the map and gave instructions, changed kilometers into miles. We drove 35 miles along the highway, then we turned to a seven kilometer long, curvy, hilly road, then to the sand road and soon after that we arrived to Honkilahti, to the region where Urho had been born.
It was a small village. The church was located on a small hill. I assumed it was a Lutheran Church because I didn’t see any round dome as in one of Greece’s Orthodox Church and there were no relics from the Russian era either.

We drove pass tidy white houses and outbuildings that were painted red. We saw small fields and stacks of stones that were piled up beside the fields to create a fence. Beside the fields there grew young birches and dark spruces. We saw also a watermill, a log cottage and a fat old man standing on a two wheeled carriage that was pulled by a horse. We drove over rugged hills, marshlands and gullies. That landscape looked exactly like in the Upper peninsula of Michigan. 

In Helsinki we promised to Walter Kuusela that we would visit his old home near Honkilahti. We asked for instructions and turned to a curvy small road where there were grooves on the ground. We drove through forests and meadows until we saw a white farmhouse beside a forest. We went to the kitchen where long rag rugs covered a part of the linoleum. 
Their coat rack were made of elk horns. The elk was shot somewhere in these areas. This was Kuusela’s childhood home. Nowadays his daughter lives there with her husband and children. Their little daughter curtseyed and their son bowed when they greeted us. Kuusela’s son-in-law, a serious young man, came inside out of the rain where he was milking cows. His wife made coffee and served cake and sandwiches which were placed on a table made of spruce. The Finns eat often yeast bread with a lot of butter and different kinds of escalopes, cucumber, tomato, herring, sardine and eggs. 

While the others were talking, I sat and couldn’t understand a word of what they were saying. Later Urho explained to me that Kuusela’s daughter and her husband continued taking care of the farm after Kuusela. The soil was very stony and of bad quality. Urho asked them when they were going to come to the USA. ”Never”, they said immediately without thinking. They could never have enough money to afford the flights although Urho said that they are all very hardworking.

The next day we headed back to Honkilahti, to Mannila. It was a small village and there Urho had been born. He wanted to talk with his relatives, make notes of his family and of his origins. He said that he knows his mother’s origines quite well but not his father’s. After having told me something about his father I understood that he had possibly been an illegitimate son of a paron.
Elsa Berg, an old family friend, invited us to her home while we were in Mannila. In Mannila there lives about 700 inhabitants. In front of the village shop there were young men hanging aroung, just like in Michigan, and we stopped to ask for instructions how to get to Elsa Berg. And this time the Finnish language wasn’t completely gibberish to me. I could distinguish one word from another and when Urho asked me where Berg Elsa lives, I could answer that I knew. Yes, that is correct, they always say the last name first, also Urho is called Numminen Urho.

Urho’s father’s name wasn’t originally Numminen. He had adopted that name and it means a moorland, a prairie. They do this very often. ”Why?”, I asked. They have their reasons. For example Kuusela’s daughter’s husband took their name so that Kuusela’s old home would preserve the name Kuusela. Some young men can take a new name because they think that in that way also their old problems will be forgotten. Many names become very complex. Yet, there are also persons who want to preserve their own name without changing it, but that is no more as simple as it used to be.

By a small woody milk platform where the farmers bring their milk jugs and from whre trucks take them to the dairy, we turned to an alley and drove pass two houses. There was a curve in the road and a pile of wood beside it, and behind the apple trees we saw a house. This is where we stopped. Elsa Berg came out, she was thin and tall, about 70 years old, she had high cheekbones and light grey hair. She spoke continuously, fast but clear and with passion like a distant young woman. She feared that we wouldn’t come at all. Our beds have been made and wherever we went someone asked us if he have had something to eat. 
Elsa lived together with her husband and daughter. Her husband was sick and slept a lot and that’s why we didn’t see him very often. The kitchen was small, in one corner there was a small stove where they burned wood. They had electric light but no refridgerator, they kept the milk in the cold cellar. They had no water pipes either, they had to bring the water from outside, also the toilet was in the outbuilding.
We visited many houses during our journey, and even the more wealthier ones didn’t have a toilet inside the house. But in every house there were a lot of flowers, both real and artificial. The smell that came from a burning wood was similar to that of Michigan. 
Elsa Berg ate with us. The table was close to the window, Elsa pointed towards one of the apple trees outside and said: ”There is your home Urho.”
The next day we stopped by in Viljam Anttila’s home because he was was Urho’s childhood friend.
He had bright blue eyes, he was upstanding and wore blue trousers and a white blouse, no tie. He introduced us to his wife and to their son’s wife and two children. Anttila was serious and sat in his rocking chair while the children served coffee and cake. Urho asked him about his brothers. Anttila answered that one of his brothers lost his two sons in a war. First one died on the frontline and the second one became a prisoner of war after being wounded and he died in Russia. 

They talked about their childhood when they were 9-10 years old and when they were working in the same place. They peeled willow and cut the sticks in a chipper. One day Urho put his hand into the blade and lost one of his fingers. Urho still remembered how he ran to home with his bleeding hand. 
During the week we visited many houses and Urho remembered all the time more and more of his childhood. Those memories came somewhere from his subconscious and he remembered many relatives and friends who he had already forgotten. He was as if he would have tried to search the memories from his childhood and the others were helping him: One showed him a picture of his mother and father at the time when they left for America for the first time. His father wore a leather hat and he had a sarcastic smile on his face. His mother had tight lips and she looked rude and aversive.

Many people admired Urho greatly because he had become an engineer. Urho told that many Finn have become an engineer from a good school, from where for example mine- and other engineers graduate. The school was located 70 miles west from Michigan. In one house, the host and the hostess served us cookies and sandwiches that were placed on a saucer made of glass, juice was served out of polished glasses and for dessert there were coffee, always coffee. One day Urho estimated that he had drunk twelve cups of coffee.

Almost every conversation that we had, was about the developed and prospered countryside. We talked about who had died, who were getting married or who have moved away from the countryside in order to find a job from the industry. We were treated as guests but at the same time the atmosphere was warm and friendly as if we would have always been good friends. Urho could only say that everything was carefully made here in Mannila. We planed that we would just quickly pay a visit to the families but instead of that we always stayed at least a couple of hours in every home. We talked a lot, ate and drank coffee.

Every day we drove back to Elsa Berg’s from where we could see Urho’s birthplace. For some reason we visited there only the last day of our journey. We parked our car beside the road and walked across the field, jumped over a ditch and a fence and climbed up a small hill.

This had once been Urho’s father’s farm but now there grew only long grass and daisies. It was a very uneven field in a hillside and it didn’t produce a lot of yield. There was an old underground root cellar, built inside the hill and covered with huge granite stones. Urho was a bit sucpicious as he gazed the heavy roof on the cellar, it looked dangerous. But then Urho said that we can trust his father and walked inside the cellar.

I always thought that Urho’s father was a construction worker, a carpenter, but he had been a stone worker. As we walked along the hillside we found the place where Urho’s home had once been located. Among the weeds we saw a pile of stones of the house foundation. Now there stood birches instead of a house. Urho threw a stone because he wanted to break it and take a piece of it with him, but it was too hard to break. The size of their home had been about 20 feet times 20 feet.
I asked Urho where all the trashes were piled up. I remember one time in Michigan when I found the remains of James Gurjoord’s hut, and among them I found also many kinds of other mementos from ancient times. Urho began to wander around the place, he kicked weeds and found almost completely rotten wooden toy stroller.
We found also pieces of a pottery, they were burned so that they had become brown and their coat had been glazed. Urho thought to himself and remembered that when he was a child he saw that kind of vases beside the stove when they were drying. We put in our pockets a small piece of this vase. I picked up a stone and we managed to break it so that we could get a smaller piece of it which Urho took also with him. Then he said: ”That was that”, and began walking down the hill.

The next morning we said goodbye to Elsa Berg and to her family. She gave me a linen tablecloth and to Urho a hunting knife that his uncle had made a long time ago and as she gave it she cried. We hurried to our car and headed for north, towards Tampere.

After leaving Mannila it seemed like our visit would have left Urho a scar and it hurted him for a long time. He thought our journey was like a pilgrimage to his father’s home but we weren’t pilgrims, we were frivolous tourists.
It didn’t take us a very long time to get to the highway. There were signs that warned us about elks that may run across the road. In Michigan deers cause a lot of trouble in the roads. But here in Finland we didn’t see any elk crossing a road during our whole journey, except for one day when Urho saw three elks in a green meadow by the lake. I thought they were cows with horns but Urho said that they were too big to be cows. It was a fun and a long day, we drove continuosly eight hours and got to Punkaharju. It is often said that it is the most beautiful place in Finland. But for me and Urho it was a little bit too well organized and looked like a park.

The next day we drove 90 kilometers to Mikkeli where Walter Kuusela had a meeting with the Smallholders’ Trade Union. We joined him and started to talk about the national planning. On the same evening, after the dinner party we got to spoke briefly with the young president of the union.
We stayed up late with the leaders of the union and their wifes, dancing American jazz and listening to the music of Latin America. The next morning we drove to Helsinki and stayed a couple days in the gorgeous hotel Linnahotelli and planed a trip to Russia.

Last evening when we were having diner in the uppest floor of the hotel Urho put his head out of the window and looked at the bright blue sky and the water and said: ”This has been a wonderful journey. I probably never would have come here if it wasn’t for you.” 
I was surprised about this and asked him: ”Why do you say that?”
His lips trembled a little, he didn’t look at me but continued watching out of the window although I thought there was nothing worth of watching.
”But why?”, I asked.

He turned around to look at me, leaned back and said: ”Because everytime someone has told me something about Finland they talked about hunger and poverty. Already in school everyone harped me on that and there was no one to reverse these assumptions.”
He leaned back and smiled a little: ”And now I got to see that Finland is a welfare state. I never could have dreamed of anything like this. As if things were upside-down. Everything are completely contrary to the assumptions that were tried to get into my head.

The next day we packed our bags and left for the station. That big, grey, gorgeous building made of stone from where also Lenin himself left in his sealed wagon. At 12.25 Urho and I left Finland and headed for Leningrad.”

Aaro Ritvo has copied this text on 24th September in 1999 from the original travelogue which is kept in the Institute of Migration in Turku.