Archive for November, 2010

DAY 36.

Saturday, November 20th, 2010

Depressed angel

I start to feel the fatigue of the travel. I’m using my extra energy supplies. I can’t help feeling tremendous, breath taking sorrow in my heart when I hear people telling me about how different the Finnish immigrants were compared to today’s immigrants. They think Finns were more hard working and not dependent on state. I don’t understand – people are looking for better life for themselves and their families, just like they’ve always done. They work and they integrate, at least try to. We, together should find ways to create a world where we can all have the same chance. I know I’m naïve. I don’t care. Even though I don’t comment when making the interview, I’m not objective. No one is.

Nevertheless, I had a wonderful new day in Cokato with Carole as my designated driver. I met Anne and Richard, Audrey as well as Harvey and Heidi Barberg. Harvey is a sauna enthusiast and they have renovated an old smoke sauna in Cokato in a place called Temperance Corner. There are also other historical buildings preserved on the location. Harvey says very straight forwardly that sauna is like a church. I have been timid to say this because I feel I’ve been interviewing rather religious people. But on the other hand, why should it hurt anyone’s feelings? Sauna was a place where people’s lives started (women giving birth in sauna) and ended (corpses were washed in sauna before burial). It is not like that anymore, but surely the idea about washing away your worries still exists. It is like a confession.

DAY 35.

Friday, November 19th, 2010


I had a very interesting interview with Kent who is the archivist of the Finnish Heritage Centre. Many people have told me that high working moral, honesty and politeness is linked to their Finnish genes. I wonder if other characteristics often related to Finnish people follow, too: alcoholism and depression for example. We talk about this with Kent.

Kent takes me to Calumet which is said to be a ghost town, but it’s not that ghosty, I think. The mines are gone and the area is not so lively anymore. The mines left unpleasant heritage behind them: poisoned lake. Kent says that if one would swim in it, their limbs would fall off. We also visit Keweenav National Historical Park briefly going trough the office building and former library/public bath with historian Jo Urion.

My time in Hancock is comes to an end at the airport. We eat Subway sandwiches with Kent. He laughs and teases me: I started my travel to Michigan with a private jet and now I’m ending it with junk food at small Hancock airport. I like either way…

Marianne, Honorary Consul of Finland in Minneapolis, picks me up from the airport. I also meet Carole and Danish Honorary Consul Annelise. We go for dinner with Marianne, she tells about her work in Tampere University. She wants to look at the Finnish-American community not only from the point of view of US but also Finland. And she also is interested in how contemporary immigration could be related to the historical Finnish immigration.

DAY 34.

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

I start my day at Finnish-American Heritage Centre and immediately get caught in an interesting discussion with the director James Kurtti. He has wast knowledge about the history and culture of the area. He tells about division in conservative, religious groups and more liberal, leftist groups in Finnish-American community. Supposedly this polarisation still remain in US. Regardless of the disagreements of the history, Jim thinks it is important to have Finnish-American identity. United States is a big country with many people and cultures. You have to have something for yourself, something to identify to. Finnish-American are more talkative and open than Finnish people, but more quiet compared to the rest of US.

One very interesting detail is that FBI started a Klux Klux Klan amongst Finnish-American people. The main idea was to scare the leftists.

We have a very emotional interview with Beth, her mother Joan and Joan’s cousin Evie in the evening. It is sometimes hard to remember all the old family stories. But it is probably easier to tell them to a more or less stranger like me. We visit Joan’s old school and her other cousin’s Jane’s house. Jane passed away recently.

DAY 33.

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Carl Pellonpää, icon of the Finnish American community – invited me to be a guest in his show called Suomi Kutsuu. It is the longest running talk show in US. Carl started it 48 years ago. We have fun, but I also feel a little bit sad. When Carl stops working on the show, there will be no-one to continue it.

Elsa takes me to Hancock. The street names are in Finnish… I heard the signs have been done recently. We have a very nice dinner with Finlandia University president Philip and his wife Renee. We talk about education, but also: what does it matter if you have Finnish heritage or any other nation’s heritage either?

DAY 32.

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010

During my visit in Iron River, nothing was about contemporary Finland or Finnish culture. It is about heritage that Betty and her siblings want to pass on to the next generations. I find this fascinating. It is a reflection of Finnish culture from the past and nothing has changed. I eat food that is said to be traditionally Finnish. I have never heard of it. People don’t need to know what is going on in Finland now, because it is a country that doesn’t really exist to them. Why should it?

Iron Country Museum is a pleasant visit. It is very coherent museum with also outdoor exhibits. Many volunteers have spend hundreds of hours moving and setting up buildings in the museum area. I hear a story how Carrie Jacob Bonds house was moved to the museum area and while moving it, money was collected from people on the streets. You could really see how your money moved the house inch by inch towards the museum.

We visit Kangas old farm. Jack gives me his mother cap she used to wear at work. I promise to take it to Finland where Jack’s mother never got to visit again after she immigrated. I will take a picture of the cap in some nice place.

I took many photographs of Jack trying capture his thoughtful eyes that can really see you as a person. I wasn’t doing very well. But then we went to Kangas Bay. It was the very last picture I took – and it was the one.