MY ROOTS IN FINLAND
As somebody who’s been fortunate enough to have travel the world over, who’s lived in several countries, my roots are still very deep in Finland, the country where I was born. However, I almost wasn’t born a Finnish citizen. Here’s why.
From the 13th century Finland was part of Sweden. The Russo-Swedish war raged on and off until 1809 when Finland pledged allegiance to Russia’s Tsar Alexander I, but remained an autonomous Grand Duchy in the Russian Empire. The degree of Finland’s autonomy varied. There were periods of censorship, political and religious persecutions. Throughout history, the Jews have been through hardship. Under the Russian boot their situation was precarious.
In the Grand Duchy of Russia between 1809 and 1917, Jews were not allowed to dwell in Finland. Jewish men were sent there to serve in the army for twenty-five years. The Russians dispatched trainloads of Jewish women for these soldiers, avid for female company. The men, accompanied by a rabbi, met the train with its cargo and were married to a woman, any woman, right there on the railway platform. Most Jews in Finland were retired soldiers, allowed to settle in Finland as trades- and craftsmen, which sounds good, but in actual fact they were permitted to trade only in old clothing. After Finland declared independence in 1917, her Jews along with the general population were granted full Finnish citizenship rights.
My mother, born in Vyborg on the Karelian Isthmus, Finland, didn’t talk much about her family history. Her father, Abraham was born in Tallinn, Estonia, was allowed to settle in Finland in 1908, married Maria from Vilnius, Lithuania. My mother was the youngest of four girls, six years senior to a fifth child, a boy. I can imagine how wonderful it would have been to grow up with lots and lots of cousins, but apart from my mother, only one of her siblings had a child. The only story I remember my mother telling is that of her aunt being deported by the Germans and died in a concentration camp. I’m named after this aunt.
My information is pretty sketchy when it comes to the two eldest of my forefathers on my father’s side. Some of it comes from stories my father told about his ancestors. I remember well evenings listening to him spin yarns about this great aunt or that great-uncle as he puffed away on his pipe. He was a wonderful storyteller.
My great-great-grandfather, Rashmiel, was born in 1818 in Vilnius, Lithuania, then under Russian rule. Rashmiel had several children; Chaim, was my great-grandfather, born in 1844 in Vilnius, Lithuania. Archives in Helsinki show he moved to Helsinki, Finland, in 1871.
Samuel, my grand-father, was born in 1883 in Helsinki. He obtained permission to remain in Finland on March 8, 1909 after he did his military service. During WWI, between 1915 and 1917, he lived with his family in Copenhagen, Denmark, where my aunt Sarah was born. When Finland declared her independence in 1917, my grandfather and his family obtained Finnish citizenship.
My father, Chaim, born in 1912 in Helsinki, obtained Finnish citizenship along with all Finns and Jews when Finland became independent. Russia’s invasion of Finland on November 30, 1939 started the Winter War. My father fought in the army through this and the Continuation War, which ended in 1944. The injuries he sustained exempted him from fighting in the Lapland war between 1944 and 1945.
Let me mention as an aside that Finland fought the Winter War alone against Russia, the Continuation war with Germany against Russia and the Lapland War between 1944 and 1945 against the Germans. Finland along with other countries signed The Paris Peace Treaties in February 1947. This allowed Finland, Italy, Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria to resume their responsibilities in international affairs and their independence. This also qualified these countries for membership in the United Nations.
Throughout the war years, Finland was independent. I was born long after Finland obtained her independence—the first in my family, the first in five generations born a Finnish citizen.
The Wooden Chair
Rayne E. Golay
Genre: Family saga/literary fiction
Publisher: Untreed Reads Publication
Date of Publication: May 15, 2013
Number of pages: 317
Word Count: 100,00
Winner of the Royal Palm Award, Florida Writers Association
Set against the background of the Finno-Russian winter war, this story starts I Helsinki in 1943 and spans over fifty years of Leini Bauman’s life.
As a child, Leini stands ready to do anything to win her mother Mira’s love. This effort costs her the sight in one eye and as a result, causes her to endure bullying from kids her own age. As a teenager, with her Grandpa’s help, she undergoes one more surgery to straighten her eye, but the psychological scar of the events of her childhood remain.
Leini struggles to break free of Mira’s tyranny by leaving her native Helsinki to study psychology at Geneva University. A few years later, married, herself to a wonderful man, about to become a mother, she is determined with her own children not to repeat Mira’s behavior. With the help of a psychiatrist, she labors through the pains of past hurts to become a nurturing and loving mother and wife, as well as a successful professional, as she grows from victim to victor over adversity. Can her efforts lead her to the one thing she needs to discover the most – the ability to forgive her mother?
About the Author:
Whenever I pause and think about my past, I realized I’ve lived three lives in one. Some people are lucky to spend their whole life in the village or town or country where they were born. They’re surrounded by relatives and friends they’ve known since childhood, have deep roots. I believe they are very rich. My life has been made of a different cloth with hues of the rainbow. It’s been about change and adaptation.
I was born in Helsinki, Finland. For various reasons I changed schools three times before Highschool. When I was very small, my mother used to read to me. She helped me put letters together to form words. As she was done reading “A Thousand and One Nights” my passion was born. From then on, I read everything with the printed word: matchboxes, newspapers, pamphlet and books, of course. I was no more than six years old when my father obtained a library card for me. Believe me, that was one of the happiest days of my childhood. To this day, I read at least three books a week. In school, I always had high grades in composition and wanted to be a journalist, but my parents had other plans. I got a Masters degree in psychology, was certified as addictions counselor in England after studies in the United States.
Skilled in languages, from the age of fifteen I translated dialogues in Hollywood movies from English into Finnish and Swedish. This, my first paying job, came through my father, who was the Nordic managing director of a prominent American film company.
After graduation, I married, had two children in rapid succession. My then husband was transferred to Geneva, Switzerland, so that’s where we moved with our two wonderful children.
In Geneva, I worked in a multinational company as an addictions counselor with responsibilities for all of the company’s European subsidiaries. During this time, I wrote two non-fiction books: one about alcoholism, another about dysfunction in the workplace. I also wrote the script to “Something of The Danger That Exists,” a 50 minute film, used within the company as part of an educational program, which I facilitated. In my function, I was a frequent speaker on dependence at conferences and business groups. As I oversaw company sites throughout Europe and the then East Block countries, I’m fortunate to have traveled extensively.
As an avid reader, I’ve read most American, French and Russian classics, modern literature and poetry. It may seem that my books are autobiographical, particularly THE WOODEN CHAIR, but that’s not so. I believe in writing about what I know, so my life has parallels in Leini’s story, but I guess you have to read the book to find out more.
My whole life I’ve longed for the sun and warmth. When opportunity presented itself, I took up residence in Florida. I live here with my partner, my best friend and husband.
The award winning novel THE WOODEN CHAIR is my second book. At present, I’m editing my third story.
Every book is a journey so enjoy the trip.
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