Reposting this as every year on 6th of December:
Today, Friday the 6th of December 2013 my warmly beloved and greatly missed Finland
celebrates her 96th birthday. The Indepence Day is to us Finns very important, reminding us how close it came to lose our freedom. Two times, both in 1917 and 1939-45.
The text below is an ex-pat's sentimental rant, you can stop reading now if that kind of stuff disturbs you.
Finland never was a sovereign country, per se. We were a part of Kingdom of Sweden until Sweden lost us to Russian Csar in 1809, in what is today called as Finnish War
. From those days we still are officially a bilingual country, Swedish language having an official status beside Finnish. Finland became an autonomous Grand Duchy
in impearilistic Russian Empire. When Lenin was causing major disturbance in Russia, the Csar had so much other things in his mind the Finnish nationalists decided the time was right to declare Finland independent
. Surprisingly, Lenin won in St. Petersburg but he too had so much other things to worry he accidentally accepted the Finnish declaration of independence, as one of the first of his foreign policy decicions after the revolution. So, the independent and sovereign Republic of Finland was born on 6th of December 1917.
Living next to the Soviets, the Great Bear, was not easy especially considering Finland has almost thousand kilometers border with Russia. When World War II began, we had basically no alternatives; we allied with nazi Germany. Luckily our government very soon realized that whatever happens, we have to change our allies. The rest of the war we faught a comical war; allied with West, against nazis, but at the same time fighting against Soviet Union, one of the allied forces. As such, Finland is the only country that fought most of the war against nazis and (one of) allied forces. Reason is clear, Stalin could not accept that a west country had it's border only 50 kilometers from Leningrad. He demanded the eastern part of Finland as a buffer zone.
The war ended, we lost about 10% of our soil. We had to give Karelia and Petsamo
, the eastern parts of our country to Stalin's Soviet Union, to keep him on the "right side of the border". But: in the WWII, there were only three European capital cities of war participating countries never occupied by the enemy: London, Moscow and our Helsinki. Finland was the first country (and quite a long time the only one) who paid the war compensations to the last penny. Finland is the only country bordering Soviet Union who could keep the western, capitalistic system and didn't fall under the Soviet umbrella after the war.
Both my grandfathers fought against both Germans and Russians. I'm proud of our independence and my granfathers' part in that. We are only 5.3 million people, a half of that of New York City or Berlin. We are not very well known, normally people know only Nokia
, Linus Torvalds
, Jean Sibelius
and some ice-hockey players or rally and Formula 1 drivers. What people seem not to know is that since 50's, Finnish troops have been an essential part of almost every UN peace keeping operation
, or that our former presidents have had an essential role when negotiating peace in Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Namibia, Sumatra (former region of Indonesia) and other parts of this globe of ours.
Don't misunderstand me: I love my German wife and family very much and have chosen to live an ex-pat's life here, rather than in my native Finland. I love my life and my home. It is my own choice, based on my bottomless love to my beautiful wife Angelika. My home is where Angie is, no question of that. But as in every home in Finland, or in every Finnish home abroad, tonight at exactly 6PM I light those two traditional blue and white candles by every window at home. To remember how close it was some 60+ years ago, to thank the fathers of my mother and father for fighting for my, my childrens and my grandchildrens freedom, to show how proud I am when I can say "I am a Finn!", and to remember home is not a place, it is a state of mind. My home is here in Germany, but part of my heart cannot and will not forget my origins.