AROUND LA WITH AVA®: MAY-nia

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

Ava Anttila by Jonny Kahleyn Dieb

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: MAY-nia

What is so fair as a beautiful day in May??

What is so fair as a beautiful day in May??   Nothing –when some 150 fine Finns show up at your home with smiles on their faces..

What is so fair as a beautiful day in May??
Nothing –when some 150 fine Finns show up at your home with smiles on their faces..

Nothing –when some 150 fine Finns show up at your home with smiles on their faces, ylioppilaislakit [graduation caps] on their heads, and the promise of Summer in their souls. Add some homemade Finnish Sima, some Spanish Cava, some Danish Carlsberg on tap, some California Savingon Blanc, and a ‘groaning board’ buffet of homemade traditional Finnish foods. The scents of sausage, salmon, and herring are magnetic for Finns, of course.   Now, you have the prospects of a flurry of fun reminiscent of the best of times in our homeland.

The scents of sausage, salmon, and herring are magnetic for Finns, of course.

The scents of sausage, salmon, and herring are magnetic for Finns, of course.

On 2 May, the sky was as blue as the Finnish flag flying high on the 30’ flag pole. The air was as fresh as at a Finnish lakeside cabin. The sun was pleasantly warm. The Finnish American Chamber of Commerce had invited all local Finns to celebrate VAPPU as their guests. And, people responded in such an enthusiastic way that reservation requests exceeded normal capacity in such numbers that a ‘waiting list’ was established before an imaginative Board member suggested ‘phasing’ arrival times so we could welcome all who wished to attend.

n 2 May, the sky was as blue as the Finnish flag flying high on the 30’ flag pole.

n 2 May, the sky was as blue as the Finnish flag flying high on the 30’ flag pole.

And, so, suddenly my festively decorated back yard was ‘Chock-Full-of-Finns’ having fun! To quote hardworking FACC Board member Eila Kopra, “…it was a blast!!”

To quote hardworking FACC Board member Eila Kopra, “…it was a blast!!”

To quote hardworking FACC Board member Eila Kopra, “…it was a blast!!” (double click to view larger photo)

The smile on my face stemmed from the vivid recollections of 30 years of the FACC facilitating the camaraderie and networking of Finns from all walks of life and the sharing of the Suomi traditions that bind us together as cultural kin.   My muse, the late Greta Peck, taught me that people love a party. She knew that it is hard to fuss when you are having fun. And, the FACC was back to doing that most satisfying of FACC business! I am sure Greta was smiling too.

The Finnish American Chamber of Commerce had invited all local Finns to celebrate VAPPU as their guests.

The Finnish American Chamber of Commerce had invited all local Finns to celebrate VAPPU as their guests.

Spring On Steroids?

Does it seem to you like this May has been a “Spring on Steroids”? Somehow, since Easter, there has not been a moment to sit down or to catch a breath.

Sisu Is In the Heart, FACC’s Vappu, Mothers’ Day, Cinco de Mayo, the Scandinavian Festival at Cal Lutheran, Suomi Kirkko services/coffees, the Consulate General’s Friends of Finland planning meeting, Finnish elections, garden tours, mandated Fire Department brush clearance, venue openings, spring festivals of all kinds—all leading up to Memorial Day weekend which is celebrated early this year! It is like flowers bursting open and blooming all over the place.

And, it seems, half of the people on this planet have May birthdays!!

Annual Scandinavian Festival

Finland stood proud as Consul General JP Markkanen and the Katirilli Dancers enthusiastically represented Finland at the Annual Scandinavian Festival in Thousand Oaks.

Consul General JP Markkanen and the Katirilli Dancers at the Annual Scandinavian Festival in Thousand Oaks

Consul General JP Markkanen and the Katirilli Dancers at the Annual Scandinavian Festival in Thousand Oaks

FACC Board member Joann Scott had her traditional Travel By Scott booth to help us all plan our Summer trips.

Word went out about the FACC Vappu Mayday party and registrations began to pour in.

Friends of Finland Working Meeting

Consul General Markkanen hosted a productive working breakfast meeting at the Consular residence. A group of active Finns participated by sharing news of their programs for the remaining year, as well as, hearing preliminary plans for Finland’s 100 Year Celebration.

Consul General Markkanen hosted a productive working breakfast meeting at the Consular residence (double click to view larger photo)

Consul General Markkanen hosted a productive working breakfast meeting at the Consular residence (double click to view larger photo)

Sima

What does every Finn have on mind in late April? It is time to make Sima, of course!

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For whatever reason, the lemon trees in our City of Angels have had a rough time. Well, at least mine did. This was the first year, ever, that it was necessary to buy lemons to supplement the meager crop on the normally trusty tree that sits outside the dining room window. [Perhaps it’s the drought –or, maybe, we are being too conscientious in listening to our Governor’s pleas to conserve water. At times it seems he wants the whole state to become his last name!]

his was the first year, ever, that it was necessary to buy lemons to supplement the meager crop on the normally trusty tree that sits outside the dining room window.

his was the first year, ever, that it was necessary to buy lemons to supplement the meager crop on the normally trusty tree that sits outside the dining room window.

This year I could have used our usual bumper lemon crop. With the FACC Vappu Party pending, much Sima was needed—if our calculations were correct, we would need up to 10 gallons [= 24 1.5 liter bottles] to serve the large crowd we hoped would attend. There was a lot of mathematics, metric conversions, and logistics to make the Sima production work. Considerable advance planning had to go into unconventional concerns such as coming up with a sufficient quantity of empty 1.5 liter wine bottles (and corks) in which to ferment and store the tasty lemon product, once produced. After all, someone had to make full bottles empty so they could be sterilized and re-filled—right? It is tough work, but someone had to do it in a timely manner. Oh, the sacrifices we make to serve Finland!!

My family Sima recipe has been presented in years past in Around LA with Ava®. You know the basic ingredients and the traditional process: lemons, brown sugar and white sugar, yeast, and cool clear water–peel, slice, boil, strain, cool, sterilize bottles and corks, pour, cool, cap, refrigerate—pray.  Repeat as necessary to get to 10 gallons!   Don’t forget the raisins—three per bottle to announce ‘done’ when the raisins rise to the top of the bottle to signal success in the fermentation process.

My family Sima recipe has been presented in years past in Around LA with Ava®. You know the basic ingredients and the traditional process: lemons, brown sugar and white sugar, yeast, and cool clear water--peel, slice, boil, strain, cool, sterilize bottles and corks, pour, cool, cap, refrigerate—pray.  Repeat as necessary to get to 10 gallons!   Don’t forget the raisins—three per bottle to announce ‘done’ when the raisins rise to the top of the bottle to signal success in the fermentation process.

My family Sima recipe has been presented in years past in Around LA with Ava®. You know the basic ingredients and the traditional process: lemons, brown sugar and white sugar, yeast, and cool clear water–peel, slice, boil, strain, cool, sterilize bottles and corks, pour, cool, cap, refrigerate—pray. Repeat as necessary to get to 10 gallons! Don’t forget the raisins—three per bottle to announce ‘done’ when the raisins rise to the top of the bottle to signal success in the fermentation process (double click to view larger photo)

This year’s project involved most every large pot on the premises ‘cranking’ on a 6 burner stove. At times I felt like one mad Finnish scientist with pots bubbling on burners, sheets of calculations, piles of bottles and corks to be sterilized, and lots of late night steamy windows suggesting to neighbors and passers-by that something nefarious was happening in the kitchen!

Sisu

On the Sunday preceding the FACC Vappu party, I had agreed to host a ‘Sisu Circle’ for the Sisu Is In the Heart project. This unique project is sponsored by the Consulate General of Finland and Finlandia Foundation National [and others].   It seeks to weave together expressions shared in discussions in ‘story circles’ built around Finns and Finnish-Americans in communities around the United States. The premise of sharing Sisu stories brings focus on the importance of communicating with younger generations about the concept and the experience of Sisu.

Sisu Is In the Heart,

Sisu Is In the Heart (double click to view larger photo)

Park Cofield (Project Director) and Saara Wacklin* (Community Manager) orchestrated a wonderful program which included a presentation on the history of Finnish vaivaisukot [“pauper statues”]. Park brought the statue puppet of his own Grandfather he is working on as part of the project.

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After lively, focused discussions took place, the ‘circles’ were combined into one ‘community circle’ at the end to share the day’s experience and revelations.

Once briefed on the Sisu project, progress, and plans, the large group broke up into three individual ‘story circles’ under project leaders.   After lively, focused discussions took place, the ‘circles’ were combined into one ‘community circle’ at the end to share the day’s experience and revelations. Consul General Markkanen was present –as were many other thought and action leaders from the Finnish community.

*Saara was Producer of The Snow Leopard’s Den in Santa Monica last Fall.

Closing the Loop

The Sisu Circle came ‘full circle’ in the following weekend’s Vappu Event. All generations of living Finns were present from beautiful babies and lively children to seasoned citizens –all enjoying each other’s company, their good times rooted in their Finnish connection, and their good spirits lifted by the music of the Alek Hautanen Band. The Sima, champagne, and Carlsberg may have helped a bit!

All generations of living Finns were present from beautiful babies and lively children to seasoned citizens –all enjoying each other’s company, their good times rooted in their Finnish connection, and their good spirits lifted by the music of the Alek Hautanen Band.

All generations of living Finns were present from beautiful babies and lively children to seasoned citizens –all enjoying each other’s company, their good times rooted in their Finnish connection, and their good spirits lifted by the music of the Alek Hautanen Band.

Park and Saara were present as guests, along with Consul General JP Markkanen and his wife Tuula, both among many donning their ylioppilaislakit. One enterprising American graduate wore his ‘mortar board’ as a tribute to his Finnish kin’s tradition. Another Helsinki tradition is for a student to climb the Havis Amanda statue to put a ylioppilaslakki on her head—we did not attempt to recreate that feat even though we heard that this year the cap arrived by ‘helicoptering’ drone!

All generations of living Finns were present from beautiful babies and lively children to seasoned citizens..

All generations of living Finns were present from beautiful babies and lively children to seasoned citizens..

Taking a Pass

In the week between Sisu and Vappu, I had the opportunity to attend a dinner with The Right Honorable Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister. A few years back, a similar intimate gathering with Margaret Thatcher was so memorable I really wanted to say ‘yes’ to the invitation despite the awkward timing. This was an event of the revered Pacific Council on International Policy where discretion is the rule and decorum is the standard for events.

In the week between Sisu and Vappu, I had the opportunity to attend a dinner with The Right Honorable Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister.

In the week between Sisu and Vappu, I had the opportunity to attend a dinner with The Right Honorable Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister.

Our City of Angeles draws our national political figures [not just because we are the ATM of American politics] and world leaders of every ilk. LA provides the ultimate stage (literally and figuratively) to promote and publicize their message in what often feels like the center of the universe. The opportunities to experience, meet, and interact are endless here. As far as we are from the Continent, getting to hear and interact directly with world leaders without the blather and filter of media is always a refreshing experience.

The rumblings of escalating attendance numbers from Eila (registrar pro temp) after the Scandinavian Festival for the pending FACC Vappu event were so overwhelming that I said “no” to the lure of world political luminaries—there were gallons of Sima and a mountain of Finnish food to prepare!!

Other Pleasant Distractions

In addition to the big FACC Vappu production, the SCAN Foundation meeting in Palos Verdes was gearing up for important happenings leading up to their Summer activities, including their big Midsummer Party on June 27th.   As Finland’s representative on the SCAN Board for the last several years, it was important for me to attend the scheduled planning meeting to give my “two cent’s worth”.

On arriving home after the SCAN meeting, I checked the 10 gallons of bottled Sima and found the raisins rising in the bottles temporarily ‘stored’ on the dining room table. To my chagrin, those many bottles had started to pop their corks and spilled Sima was leaking off of the table and on to the hardwood floor!

After reattaching the corks, washing off the many bottles, and cleaning up the table and floor mess, I decided that, if the dining room chandelier was not to be obliterated by popping corks, the 24 1.5 liter bottles needed to be moved to the unheated, fully tiled, handicapped bathroom with a floor drain just off of the dining room. The planned fermentation had moved to the point where it was OK to put the Sima under refrigeration—but not tonight!

Alek Hautanen

Alek Hautanen

The next day, the Alek Hautanen Band members came to discuss the FACC expectations for their pending Vappu engagement and to check out the premises for optimum performance. As we sat around the [neat and cleaned] dining room table with our coffee and cookies discussing Vappu music, strange disconcerting popping sounds came from the nearby bathroom. Of course, the ‘noise’ caught everyone’s attention. Even with what I knew, I could not keep from snickering!

Those sweet young men were amused—and helpful, as we scrambled to save the ‘exploding’ bottles and re-apply the corks. All were maniacally rescued and refrigerated.

That madcap episode was like an old “I Love Lucy” episode!

A Super Soldier Celebrates

It is one thing to discuss Sisu as a cultural trait in a sociological study of our forefathers [and mothers]; it is an altogether different matter to celebrate one of those who defined the trait by their actions and lives.

I was honored to be a guest as one of our two remaining local Finnish War Veterans, Mark Salo, celebrated his 90th birthday.

I was honored to be a guest as one of our two remaining local Finnish War Veterans, Mark Salo, celebrated his 90th birthday.

I was honored to be a guest as one of our two remaining local Finnish War Veterans, Mark Salo, celebrated his 90th birthday. [We have two Lottas, too.] Mark is not only a Finnish War Veteran, he is an American War Veteran too, having served in the Korean conflict. Talk about blooming where you are planted –some people just take care of business!

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The event was hosted by Risto and Robert Salo and families at the iconic 1920’s Tam O’Shantor Restaurant in Los Feliz, just a few blocks from Mark and Eeva-Liisa’s home.

The invitation asked for no gifts, but a message for a remembrance book was welcomed. Of course, I could not resist honoring that request. [My message to Mark is in the Afterword.]

The event was hosted by Risto and Robert Salo and families at the iconic 1920’s Tam O’Shantor Restaurant in Los Feliz, just a few blocks from Mark and Eeva-Liisa’s home. The loving and proud Salo clan [including Mark’s brother Sulo and Sulo’s daughter Linda] arranged an homage to Mark that included presentation of a flag stantion by Pauli Majamaki of Suomi Kerho to Mark for his role as one of the original Finnish Club founding members. The birthday cake featured beautifully depicted Finnish and American flags, as well.

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The legacy of awesomeness of the Salo family is what the Finnish community stands for –as is the way they raised their children, lived their lives, and honor their countries –a fine and proud legacy indeed. It was such an honor and joy to be included as a guest at this occasion.

The legacy of awesomeness of the Salo family is what the Finnish community stands for...

The legacy of awesomeness of the Salo family is what the Finnish community stands for…

Party On—If the Weather Holds

Stepping out of the dark, traditional, clubby Scottish Tam O’Shantor ambiance that was a cool respite from what had been our very dry, very hot LA normal, I suddenly faced a knock-out downpour of rain!   This ‘hostess-to-be’ [tomorrow!] for the Sisu Is In The Heart event planned as a garden venue because of the large number of guests experienced a little ‘gear-switching mania’ running down the 101 Freeway to get back to work!

FACC Vappu Event

Looking back, it was amazing that just six days after the Sisu Is In The Heart program, the FACC hosted one of the most special and touching assemblies the Finnish community has experienced in many years. What a week!!! We got to study Sisu, to celebrate the longevity of a Sisu soldier, and to experience the need for Sisu as we geared up for the happy hoards who arrived to welcome Spring in a wondrous Finnish way. The Finnish blue skies and the generations of smiles enjoying their Finnish heritage at work made me smile!!

Sometimes it is fun to be a Finn.

Creative Solutions to Joyous Problems

The FACC Vappu party was so popular that a waiting list became necessary. As noted, that wonderful problem was solved by creating a ‘second shift’.

President of the FACC Michael Berlin welcomed the multi-generation crowd and introduced Consul General and Mrs. JP Markkanen.   Dr. Berlin gave background about Vappu history and traditions. As hostess, I shared local history of past events and remembered our own “Havis Amanda”, the late Greta Peck, who is always in our hearts.

The Finnish American Chamber of Commerce and Vappu were linked for decades because of Greta. For so many years, Greta Peck was our gracious and lovely hostess who made sure Vappu was properly celebrated by welcoming us all to her home.

The Finnish American Chamber of Commerce and Vappu were linked for decades because of Greta. For so many years, Greta Peck was our gracious and lovely hostess who made sure Vappu was properly celebrated by welcoming us all to her home.

The revitalized FACC set out to rekindle a great tradition that was always an energizer for Finnish pride and participation. I tried to duplicate much of the menu we had at Greta’s home in years past, including my grandmother’s Pih-mummin Makkara and Finnish potatoes with dill which Greta used to ask me to make ‘back when’.

One of many memorable Vappu celebrations at Greta’s was one where a beloved and productive Consul General from the past, Maria Serenius, met the Finnish community for the first time during her tenure here. The new Consul General learned quickly that there were enthusiastic Finns around LA and that the FACC was a reliable ally for promoting Finland by both word and deed.

One of many memorable Vappu celebrations at Greta’s was one where a beloved and productive Consul General from the past, Maria Serenius, met the Finnish community for the first time during her tenure here.

[Coincidentally, I received an e-mail from Ambassador Emeritus Serenius just after Vappu. While she is now officially retired after serving as Finland’s Ambassador to Turkey and Finland’s Ambassador to Latvia, she continues to serve Finland in an advisory role on Mideast affairs.]

More Vappu

Among the many distinguished Vappu guests were Mikko Setelä of Rovio and his wife, Marie. The Setelä’s kindly provided exciting Angry Birds raffle prizes. The Rovio created Angry Birds also had a busy month having participated at the 137th White House Easter Egg Roll in Washington, DC. Over 30,000 enjoyed those White House lawn festivities, especially posing with the Angry Birds characters.

Among the many distinguished Vappu guests were Mikko Setelä of Rovio and his wife, Marie.

Among the many distinguished Vappu guests were Mikko Setelä of Rovio and his wife, Marie.

The Angry Birds game [released in 2009] became an instant phenomenon and is now the most downloaded ‘app’ ever!  In good Finnish tradition, Rovio is now focused significantly on educational issues while cooperating with NASA and the National Geographic Society in making learning fun and engaging for children.

The Angry Birds game [released in 2009] became an instant phenomenon and is now the most downloaded ‘app’ ever!

The Angry Birds game [released in 2009] became an instant phenomenon and is now the most downloaded ‘app’ ever!

Finnish actress Nina Sallinen served as the FACC’s Vappu Raffle ‘Celebrity Prize # Drawer’ and ‘Presenter’ for the Raffle.   Our Star added a Hollywood spark and a touch of class that put an even bigger smile on the winners’ happy faces!

Mothers’ Day at the Finnish Lutheran Church

A special Mothers’ Day themed service was held with the Reverend Jarmo Tarkki officiating at Suomikirkko in Santa Monica. This was a special occasion, indeed, as the Reverend Auvo Naukkarinen of the Temppeliaukkionkirkko (The Rock Church) in Helsinki delivered the sermon.   Readers included Anita Finifrock in English and Pirkko Bastecki in Finnish.

This was a special occasion, indeed, as the Reverend Auvo Naukkarinen of the Temppeliaukkionkirkko (The Rock Church) in Helsinki delivered the sermon.

This was a special occasion, indeed, as the Reverend Auvo Naukkarinen of the Temppeliaukkionkirkko (The Rock Church) in Helsinki delivered the sermon.

Finnish Mothers are revered and respected. The Annual Scorecard Index by Save the Children ranked Finland as the 2nd best place in the world to be a mother (after Norway, this time). The study rates 179 countries based on 5 indicators related to maternal health, education, income levels, and status of women. The US ranked 33rd.

The Annual Scorecard Index by Save the Children ranked Finland as the 2nd best place in the world to be a mother.

The Annual Scorecard Index by Save the Children ranked Finland as the 2nd best place in the world to be a mother.

AFTERWORD

Vappu 2015 Menu

Keisarinsalaati Suomalaiseen Tapaan (Finnish Caesar Salad)

Makarooni Salaati (Macaroni Salad with Olives)

Kaalisalaatti (Green Cabbage Salad)

Musta Papupaprikasalaatti (Black Bean Salad with Red, Yellow, and Orange Peppers)

Sillisalaati Kurrikastikkeessa (Curried Herring with Green Grapes and Red Onions)

Ruisleipä Viipalietä (Buttered Rye Bread)

Keitetty Lohi Tilli Kastikkeen Kera (Poached Whole Salmon with Arugula Pesto Dill Sauce)

Savustettu Kinkku (Smoked Ham)

Pih-mummin Makkara Ja Sinappi (Tomato, Cheese, & Onion Stuffed Pork Smoked Sausage with Mustard)

Pih-mummin Makkara Ja Sinappi (Tomato, Cheese, & Onion Stuffed Beef Smoked Sausage with Mustard)

Suomalaiset Paistetut Perunat (Finnish Pan Fried Potatoes with Dill)

Pinaatti Piirakka (Spinach Pie)

Purjo Laattikko (“Leek Box” Casserole)

Porkkanat Kastikkeessa (Carrots in Brown Butter with Balsamic Sauce)

Juustotarjotin (Assorted Cheeses, Fruit, Crackers)

“Täytekakku Trifle” (May Day Spring Fruit and Cake Trifle)

Pulla Paistos (Bread Pudding with Vanilla Sauce)

Kahvi (Coffee)

Sima (Homemade Finnish Fermented Lemon Mead)

Carlsberg on Tap

Modavi Sauvignon Blanc

Cava de Espania

AVA ANTTILA’S ODE TO MARK SALO AT 90

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Back in 1997, the Finnish American Chamber of Commerce took on a most rewarding project –one that continues in my life today. That year marked the 80th year of Finnish Independence. The FACC leadership and membership were dedicated to get to know the Finnish War Veterans and Lottas in our region.   We enlisted and got the support of all local Finnish organizations. We diligently sought out all Veterans and Lottas to give them honor and personal recognition as our guests at a grand event.

We wanted to hear from each Veteran and, individually and collectively, to feature them as our Guests of Honor. A special Program was planned. Finns and friends of Finland turned out in record numbers and with great enthusiasm. The President of Finland sent his personal greeting and message of appreciation to our Honorees. Veterans and Lottas were invited to submit photos and brief biographies which were assembled into a special Memory Book. A Wall of Honor showed more history and memorabilia from the Winter War and the Continuation War. A full orchestra played a rousing march as the Veterans and Lottas entered the packed ballroom to a standing ovation—eyes front, backs straight, chests expanded and bedecked with medals hard earned. What a memorable assembly. Finnish Pride on parade!! There was not a dry eye in the house.

In doing the research for the Program, there was one name that stood out among the heroes and heroines we were going to honor. This individual had not only served Finland in war, he had also served in the American armed forces during the Korean War. This amazing dual patriot was Mark Salo.

It has been fun to get to know Mark and his wife Eeva-Liisa through the ensuing years. My mother and father (Ari and Raija Anttila) so enjoyed their interactions with Mark and Eeva-Liisa at the Finnish Church, the Veterans Support Group, and other gatherings of So Cal Finns. We continued to be impressed with Mark in his willingness to be supportive and helpful. He served the Church and the Veteraani Tuki in leadership positions.

Mark epitomizes the finest Finnish character trait of noble, quiet dignity. He does things competently with a generosity of spirit, not bringing any attention to himself. He is a true gentleman.

What a grand occasion to celebrate Mark on his 90th birthday. I will be looking for him at Finland’s and his 100th Birthday!

MARK, you make the Finnish community proud!

Best wishes for good luck, good health, and great happiness!!

PALJON ONNEA!!

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: “HAVE COURAGE AND BE KIND”

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: “HAVE COURAGE AND BE KIND”

Marchin’ on as Women’s Month celebrating female success and strength in our hearts, minds, and accomplishments drew to a close, we welcomed Spring’s arrival with optimism, joy, and hope.

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The US Winter this year was a ‘puzzlement’, to say the least. Conversations with family and friends around the country and the world were awkward, at best. While here in our City of Angels we basked in Summer-type swelter [80º to 90º+F/27º to 32º+C], the Midwest and East were having trouble getting above 0ºF, to say nothing of above freezing [32ºF/0ºC ] or seeing over the 100+ inches of fallen snow that will not melt at those temperatures.

While here in our City of Angels we basked in Summer-type swelter [80º to 90º+F/27º to 32º+C], the Midwest and East were having trouble getting above 0ºF.

While here in our City of Angels we basked in Summer-type swelter [80º to 90º+F/27º to 32º+C], the Midwest and East were having trouble getting above 0ºF.

 I finally found air conditioned refuge in the wonderful world of Disney at the grand opening of the luxurious Playa Vista Cinemark Theater. The “take-away” prescription came from the latest Cinderella movie release with her theme message reminding us all to “…have courage and be kind!”

I finally found air conditioned refuge in the wonderful world of Disney at the grand opening of the luxurious Playa Vista Cinemark Theater

I finally found air conditioned refuge in the wonderful world of Disney at the grand opening of the luxurious Playa Vista Cinemark Theater

The movie Cinderella [Tuhkimo]] ‘grossed’ over $80 M in its premier weekend. It continued to be the preeminent worldwide box office hit for several weeks. The Rogers and Hammerstein based stage musical is currently playing at the LA Music Center’s Ahmanson Theater. Even shoe designers such as Ferragamo and Jimmy Choo seem to have “glass slipper” inspired fantasy footwear this season.

The universal appeal of this story was first captured by Disney in the 1950s animated version we grew up loving.   Cinderella is the ultimate “make-over” story: the heroine with gumption (a mild form of Sisu) faces adversity and female jealously with a happy ending involving a handsome Prince. It is a satisfying parable for a Finn.

The universal appeal of this story was first captured by Disney in the 1950s animated version we grew up loving.

Livin’ La Vida Around LA With Ava®

View from Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes.

View from Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes.

As your humble correspondent/observer of the LA “arki“ scene [everyday activities/events] for some 5 years now, I continue to do my usual and go where I have always gone, but I do find myself looking at things differently.   While I still put one foot in front of the other on my way from one unusual place to another, I have a different perspective from behind the wheel or the camera lens. Since my perceived assignment is to share with you, dear reader, an inside look with a Finnish Point of View at the “day to day” life of an involved, long-term activist who is reasonably well-connected here in our fair little town, it seems my own world looks different. For example, as I was driving off of Palos Verdes after a delightful lunch and some other business at the Terranea Resort the other day, I reflected on the beautiful day, the interesting conversation, the magnificent view of the Pacific and Catalina Island from our outdoor table, and the exquisite Lobster Roll I ate. I found myself regretting not having taken a picture of one of the Terranea golf carts with 4 rows of seats behind the driver who whisked us from one resort site to the next as the day’s business unfolded—how many readers have ridden in a pristine ‘stretch golf cart’ like an open-air limousine? How “…so LA”!

as I was driving off of Palos Verdes after a delightful lunch and some other business at the Terranea Resort the other day, I reflected on the beautiful day, the interesting conversation, the magnificent view of the Pacific and Catalina Island from our outdoor table, and the exquisite Lobster Roll I ate.

as I was driving off of Palos Verdes after a delightful lunch and some other business at the Terranea Resort the other day, I reflected on the beautiful day, the interesting conversation, the magnificent view of the Pacific and Catalina Island from our outdoor table, and the exquisite Lobster Roll I ate.

A Void Filled

If you live in the Los Angeles area, there are certain places you really should visit. The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley was a “must see” I had not bothered to explore even though I had driven past the modest entrance scores of times.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley was a “must see” I had not bothered to explore even though I had driven past the modest entrance scores of times.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley was a “must see” I had not bothered to explore even though I had driven past the modest entrance scores of times.

There was no valid excuse for not stopping to experience the real artifacts and to re-view newsreels of the history I had lived through in my lifetime and had seen on my family TV screen. I could rationalize not making a special trip to see the visage of President Reagan made of 10,000 of his favorite jelly beans and I could even comfortably miss “The Ultimate Car Exhibit” featuring the Batmobile and other ‘star’ cars of Hollywood movies that was a secondary attraction. There is soooo much more.

I could rationalize not making a special trip to see the visage of President Reagan made of 10,000 of his favorite jelly beans and I could even comfortably miss “The Ultimate Car Exhibit” featuring the Batmobile and other ‘star’ cars of Hollywood movies that was a secondary attraction.

I could rationalize not making a special trip to see the visage of President Reagan made of 10,000 of his favorite jelly beans and I could even comfortably miss “The Ultimate Car Exhibit” featuring the Batmobile and other ‘star’ cars of Hollywood movies that was a secondary attraction.

What a great return I got from a small investment of time!

At the Reagan Library on a glorious, often windy California mountaintop with ‘never ending’ vistas, the world in all its complexity comes alive from a grand era in American history...

At the Reagan Library on a glorious, often windy California mountaintop with ‘never ending’ vistas, the world in all its complexity comes alive from a grand era in American history…

At the Reagan Library on a glorious, often windy California mountaintop with ‘never ending’ vistas, the world in all its complexity comes alive from a grand era in American history: the glamorous lives of the Reagans in California and Washington, the earth shaking political times of the Cold War, the Berlin Wall coming down (with real ‘chunks’ you can touch or be ‘selfied’ beside), experiencing the Hinckley Presidential assassination attempt almost as an on-the-street eyewitness, and countless other exhibits that put you ‘in the moment’ and ‘in the place’ of the history our children study in school. It all becomes an existential experience.

Dress gowns, White House menus, and tables with china, silver, and stemware set the scene world leaders experienced at State Dinners during their visits to the US.

Dress gowns, White House menus, and tables with china, silver, and stemware set the scene world leaders experienced at State Dinners during their visits to the US.

Dress gowns, White House menus, and tables with china, silver, and stemware set the scene world leaders experienced at State Dinners during their visits to the US. You can walk through a scale replica of the Oval office […a lot cozier than you might expect]. From there, down a long hallway, you arrive at a mind blowing exhibition: the actual Boeing 707 that was President Reagan’s Air Force One. The airplane was mounted in place and, then, the pavilion was built around it! Marine One [the Presidential helicopter] sits just off of the starboard nose of Air Force One. The fleet is at the ready. The plane faces a multi-story glass semi-circle wall, but seems as if it could take off over the canyons at a moment’s notice! It feels so real because it is real!!

The airplane was mounted in place and, then, the pavilion was built around it! Marine One [the Presidential helicopter] sits just off of the starboard nose of Air Force One.

The airplane was mounted in place and, then, the pavilion was built around it! Marine One [the Presidential helicopter] sits just off of the starboard nose of Air Force One.

Did I mention that you can walk through both aircraft as if you were a member of the Secret Service? Or, pretend President—if you prefer!!!

A Personal Aside

A remarkable woman, Nancy Reagan was responsible for so much of the success of the Reagan Presidency –as are so many First Ladies. I had the honor of meeting her personally. I was privileged to serve on a Board with her many years ago. She was a great inspiration with a real sense of style.

I had the honor of meeting her personally. I was privileged to serve on a Board with her many years ago.

I had the honor of meeting her personally. I was privileged to serve on a Board with her many years ago.

Presidential politics (observation, analysis, pontification about it) has become a national sport. Politics aside, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is a must see. It is an experience for young and old, history buff or cultural newbie, jaded local or star-struck tourist to LA or the USA.

Politics aside, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is a must see. It is an experience for young and old, history buff or cultural newbie, jaded local or star-struck tourist to LA or the USA.

Politics aside, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is a must see. It is an experience for young and old, history buff or cultural newbie, jaded local or star-struck tourist to LA or the USA.

Women to Celebrate

Former Finnish President Tarja Halonen was honored for Advancing Women in Politics. President Halonen is pictured on the Finnish Embassy website in a photo with Cindy McCain, wife of Arizona Republican Senator and former US Presidential Candidate John McCain.

Former Finnish President Tarja Halonen

Former Finnish President Tarja Halonen

Women Harassed

As March celebrates women of accomplishment, there are still worldwide issues of abuse even in everyday situations. Driving to Costco on Venice Boulevard I became an ‘Eye Witness’ to news as I made a left hand turn just past Venice High School. No need to ‘phone it in’, the police cars and news vans with cameras were already on scene at 10:00 AM on Friday the 13th. The news stations reported that 14 juvenile males had been arrested for harassing behavior toward two young female students. Little in detail is given in the media when minors are involved.

It is alarming to hear that every 107 seconds someone is sexually abused in the US.

It is alarming to hear that every 107 seconds someone is sexually abused in the US.

It is alarming to hear that every 107 seconds someone is sexually abused in the US.

Things to Ponder

Last year, I reported about the local taxpayer funded Public Metro Transit promoting a Valentine’s Day ‘hook up’ facilitation for singles. It happened again this year. The hebahabas were on duty again. Is it a surprise to anyone that the ‘warm and fuzzy’ promotion led to sexual harassment lawsuits from Metro riders? Guess who pays for that ticket?

Is it a surprise to anyone that the ‘warm and fuzzy’ promotion led to sexual harassment lawsuits from Metro riders? Guess who pays for that ticket?

Is it a surprise to anyone that the ‘warm and fuzzy’ promotion led to sexual harassment lawsuits from Metro riders? Guess who pays for that ticket?

The last I heard, the Metro is now sponsoring a “harassment awareness” program for riders! Go figure.

Bach and Forth

Instead of government promoted hook-ups in the subway, here is something wonderful: how about Bach on the rails? This beautiful world-wide event celebrated Bach’s 330th birthday across 129 cities in 39 countries. Our fair City of Angels featured a 10 hour Bach marathon with Union Station appearances by, among others, LA Opera Violinist James Start. There was an event at the Glendale Metro Link Station, as well as, a flute choir at the LA Zoo and a youth program at Santa Monica Place. All of these celebrations were done for the pure joy of sharing classical music with no one asking anything in return—not even a donation.

Celebrating J.S. Bach's 330th birthday at Los Angeles' Union Station.

Celebrating J.S. Bach’s 330th birthday at Los Angeles’ Union Station.

What a lovely, joyous event on the First Day of Spring!

International Day of Happiness

March 20th was declared the International Day of Happiness. Pharell Williams (known for his “Happy” song) spoke at the United Nations. He may not be as happy these days, personally, since he lost a $7 million lawsuit concerning “Blurred Lines”, his endeavor with Robin Thicke. They were accused by Marvin Gaye’s family of taking material from the deceased artist’s “Got to Give It Up” for their 2013 mega-hit.

March 20th was declared the International Day of Happiness.

March 20th was declared the International Day of Happiness.

All this happiness, a lunar eclipse, incredible northern lights displays, a ‘super moon’, and the first day of Spring.   I was going to share my Aurora Borealis Parfait this month, but I decided to wait because I was inspired otherwise by the annual St. Urho’s Day meeting of the LAFF.

Finnish Name Day Update

For those of us with Finnish names and/or their variations, it is fun to have that extra annual day of celebration. We are warmed by greetings from friends, celebrating with flowers, cards, email messages, or a cake. The tradition of the celebration of name days goes back to the Christian calendar noting Saint’s days. Each day of the year is assigned a name or names. The original source of Finland’s name day calendar is the University of Helsinki Almanac.**

The tradition of the celebration of name days goes back to the Christian calendar noting Saint’s days. Each day of the year is assigned a name or names.

The tradition of the celebration of name days goes back to the Christian calendar noting Saint’s days. Each day of the year is assigned a name or names.

The new Almanac for 2015 has been published featuring some new names. As it turns out, on February 28th the name Sisu was added. That date is also Kalevala Day and Finland’s National Flag Day honoring Finnish culture!

**[I was told in family lore that my dear, late father was the first to officially be named “Ari” in Finland—NTS: look into that.]

Sisu Going Forth

How appropriate that February 28th was the day an exciting happening was taking place in LA: The Sisu Project! The event was held at the Chekhov Studio International in Glendale. Activities of the evening orchestrated by Park Cofield included a story circle and a facilitated discussion about the creative process.   Park is a participant in the Global Connections–On the Road Program, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by Theater Communications Group, the national organization for the Professional Not-for-Profit American Theater.   The event is part of the Year of Sisu—2015, a global initiative spearheaded by “sisu” researcher Emilia Lahti and Sisu LAB.

Saara Wacklin and Park Cofield

Saara Wacklin and Park Cofield

It was great to see Nina Sallinen, Marjo-Riika Mäkinen, Susanna Goltch, and many other familiar faces participating. Finlandia Foundation National is part of the support for research and development by way of providing a grant.

 The Sisu Project! The event was held at the Chekhov Studio International in Glendale. Activities of the evening orchestrated by Park Cofield included a story circle and a facilitated discussion about the creative process.

The Sisu Project! The event was held at the Chekhov Studio International in Glendale. Activities of the evening orchestrated by Park Cofield included a story circle and a facilitated discussion about the creative process.

Plans are in the works for another Sisu in the Heart Event. The hope is that all local Finns will familiarize themselves with the project and enjoy the experience of participating in an event.   Please keep posted and plan to attend: www.SISUisintheHeart.com

The hope is that all local Finns will familiarize themselves with the project and enjoy the experience of participating in an event.

The hope is that all local Finns will familiarize themselves with the project and enjoy the experience of participating in an event.

Finnish Activities and News

Pastor Jarmo Tarkki gave a Lenten Sermon that moved the congregation with a great message: “…what you don’t say can be as important as what you do say”. A good lesson for us all. Pastor Tarkki was excited to tell about baptizing the great-great-granddaughter of Jean Sibelius in a recent ceremony in one of his Congregations. Ruusumarja Teppo, Sibelius’ great-granddaughter will be part of a joint San Diego/Los Angeles Finnish Congregation event in September.

Pastor Tarkki was excited to tell about baptizing the great-great-granddaughter of Jean Sibelius in a recent ceremony in one of his Congregations.

Pastor Tarkki was excited to tell about baptizing the great-great-granddaughter of Jean Sibelius in a recent ceremony in one of his Congregations.

The Hauli Huvila Annual Fundraiser was held at the Burbank Spa on March 21.

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The FACC is gearing up to move forward in a big way –back to its golden future under the leadership of new President Michael Berlin.

Former Presidents of FACC (me& Heidi Crooks), new Pres. Michael Berlin, Philip Johnson, President of Finlandia University.

Former Presidents of FACC (me& Heidi Crooks), new Pres. Michael Berlin, Philip Johnson, President of Finlandia University.

Dr. Michael Berlin is a renowned Beverly Hills ophthalmologist, researcher, UCLA professor, businessman, inventor, and a loyal, active member and supporter of the FACC for decades. FACC is the Finnish “American” Chamber of Commerce and, therefore, under Michael’s leadership it will thrive especially with Michael’s underlying American love of all things and people Finnish. How many people do you know who have become fluent in the Finnish language as an adult? I rest my case!

Philip, Michael and Heidi.

Philip, Michael and Heidi.

More ‘March Celebrates Women’

A woman to celebrate in our Finnish American community here is Liisa Linnala who is the newly elected President of Suomi Kerho. The multi-talented Liisa has been a unifying member of the Finnish community and all things Suomi Kerho. Many will know her through her leadership in (among other things) putting together the club’s excellent newsletter.

Liisa Linnala

Liisa Linnala

LAFF

The Los Angeles Finlandia Foundation always has its St. Urho Day themed March meeting. The ‘holiday’ is actually a Finnish-American tradition originating in Minnesota. This ‘made up’, goofy frivolity is named for St. Urho who “…drove the grasshoppers from Finland” or some such folly. Members dress in purple and green. Realtor Janice Hiltunen (who also has a home in Minneapolis), was decked out in festive purple outfit and hat. By local tradition, a tub of grapes is passed and each member gets to guess the number of grapes in the container. The winner gets to keep the grapes! I did not win, but I did think of pie on my way home.

Realtor Janice Hiltunen (who also has a home in Minneapolis), was decked out in festive purple outfit and hat.

Realtor Janice Hiltunen (who also has a home in Minneapolis), was decked out in festive purple outfit and hat.

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Earlier this month, America celebrated Pie Day which (this year) was also Pi Day (as in the mathematical 3.14). Since this year was 3.14.15 it was bigger than ever. With all this happening, I just had to feature my decades old standby pie dessert: Grasshopper Pie.

RELAX! It is not made with ground up grasshoppers!

RELAX! It is not made with ground up grasshoppers!

RELAX! It is not made with ground up grasshoppers! It is named for the old cocktail from the ‘50s –the Grasshopper that was named for its color.

The Grasshopper pie is perfect for your Finnish American St. Urho’s celebration or any Spring festivity you care to invent.   For your Easter dessert, simply decorate with Easter candies or edible flowers.

Tiina Purtonen and Kimmo Heinström’s Grand Adventure

Tiina Purtonen and Kimmo Heinström

Tiina Purtonen and Kimmo Heinström

On March 22, after the St. Uhro grapes had been passed, the LAFF meeting featured Tiina Purtonen and Kimmo Heinström sharing their grand adventure of over 20,000 miles in a 14 month expedition over 37 US states and 4 Canadian provinces. It has been fun keeping up with Tiina and Kimmo’s travels, but it is especially nice to have this darling couple back with us in LA.

LA Marathon—30th Anniversary

The new LA Marathon route continues to attract a first rate field and massive participation.

The new LA Marathon route continues to attract a first rate field and massive participation.

Despite Summer-like weather forcing an earlier start, the new LA Marathon route continues to attract a first rate field and massive participation. No Finns were in the top finishing positions.

GRASSHOPPER PIE

Grasshopper Pie

Grasshopper Pie

This pie was taught to me when we moved to the US (and I was just a young girl) by my mother’s new friend, Alice, an interior decorator. Alice was a blue-haired, blue-blooded lady from the South (where the drink originated). The grasshopper cocktails were all the rage in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Alice had great style and panache –always ‘dressed to the nines’. [I think she preferred her Grasshopper pie in liquid form, if you know what I mean.]

Grasshopper Pie ingredients

Grasshopper Pie ingredients

For crust:

1 ½ C chocolate cookie crumbs (the thin wafers or chocolate sandwich type mashed up). Save a few tablespoons for decorating the top of pie, if you like.

½ C (1/4 lb) melted butter or margarine

For filling:

½ C milk

About 2 dozen large marshmallows*** or 3 cups small

***They didn’t have marshmallows in Finland when I started making this. I remember looking up the word in the dictionary and it said “samettihaapio”. The translation now is “vaahtokaramelli”.

1 C whipping cream

¼ C white crème de cacao liqueur

¼ C green crème de menthe liqueur

A couple of drops green food coloring

For garnish:

Chocolate curls, after dinner mints (the kind in the green wrapper—crumbled) candies, fresh mint, edible flowers, drizzle of chocolate sauce, or whatever suits your theme or eye!

Process:

Heat milk and marshmallows together in a saucepan over a low flame, stirring continuously until the marshmallows are melted. Let cool.

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Make crust by combining cookie crumbs and melted butter. Press ‘result’ into bottom and up the sides of a 9 inch pie tin.

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Whip the cream; add the liqueurs and food coloring. Fold in marshmallow/milk mixture. Put into crust and chill.

 

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Garnish as desired.IMG2290

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Makes 8 servings.

Note: Rather than one big pie, I often make small individual pies (dessert tarts) out of the same ingredients. Adding the garnishes, drizzles of sauce, eyedroppers of the crème de menthe to the plate makes for a fun dinner party presentation.

AFTERWORD

Have courage and be kind!!

Advance voting in the United States for the parliamentary elections of 2015

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Advance voting in the United States for the parliamentary elections of 2015

Advance voting for the parliamentary elections of spring 2015 is possible in the United States on April 8 – 11. The parliamentary elections take place in Finland on Sunday, April 19.

Every Finnish citizen who has reached the age of 18 years not later than on Election Day (April 19) is entitled to vote in the 2015 parliamentary elections regardless of the place of residence.

A passport or other official identity card must be presented at the polling station. It is also good to take the notice of your right to vote with you, but it is also possible to vote without it.

A person entitled to vote who lives abroad will be notified by post if the register office of his or her last place of residence in Finland has the correct address.
List of polling stations and opening hours on the website http://tulospalvelu.vaalit.fi/E-2015/en/uap_840.html

 

Further information on the embassy’s website www.finland.org and

 

Embassy of Finland, Washington
Tel. +1-202-298 5800,

 

Consulate General of Finland, New York
Tel. +1-212-750 4400,

 

Consulate General of Finland, Los Angeles
Tel. +1-310-203 9903,

AROUND LA WITH AVA®: Hail and Farewell

FINNISH INDEPENDENCE

6 December 1917

ARI J. ANTTILA 1925-2014

This column is dedicated to the memory of my dear Veteran father, Ari Anttila.

He heard me give this speech at the 95th Independence Day Gala.

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Independence Day Gala 2012 Speech by Ava Anttila:

Welcome everyone (Tervetuloa kaikille)

Thank you for being here!!

As we begin the Suomi 95 celebration, a special thanks is due to all of our sponsors—and, especially to our principal sponsors: the Finnish Consulate and Suomi Kerho.  Thanks too to Riikka Jyrälä and her hard working Suomi 95 Committee.

We all are here tonight to celebrate Finnish Independence.  But what does that mean?   Everyone here tonight has some connection or interest in Finland.  That, by itself, is reason to celebrate!

The 95th anniversary of Independence is more than a date and a reason for a party.   How did we get here?  Why are we here?  What is our connection with Finland’s history?   Why should you or you or you or you—Why should we care about our history and connected heritage?

Olen varma että kaikki tässä salissa ovat kiitollisia perinteisistä historiastamme.  Olet läsnä tänä iltana isoisienne, isoäitienne, isienne ja, äitienne muiston kunniaksi.

Miksi olemme täällää? Mikä tämän tilaisuuden tarkoitus ? Olette myös juhlimassa suomalaisuuttanne ja mitä se on merkinnyt omassa elämässänne.

What is this box —-mikä tämä rasia on?

This box holds our history.  This box is why we are here!  This box is a gift from the heroes and heroines we honor tonight.

I saw this box every day of my life as a little girl –literally, as long as I can remember.

I saw this box every day of my life as a little girl –literally, as long as I can remember.

As the daughter of a Finnish war Veteran and a Lotta, I am honored to be standing here tonight to share a few thoughts with you.  As a proud citizen of Finland and of the United States, I have noticed the difference in the way Independence is celebrated.  The 4th of July is a joyous, yankee-doodle-dandy, beer and barbeque party—appropriate to a freedom celebration earned by the blood and treasure of distant kin almost 250 years ago.

Finnish Independence Day on December 6th is a solemn, reverent homage to the SISU of our fathers and mothers who ‘told’ Russia they could not take back Finland in 1939 –independent only since 1917.  Finns do not like change—and they certainly do not respond well to being told what to do!

... the combination of heavy woodland, strong defence layout and veterans of the Finnish legion fresh from the European war held the Russians at bay.

… the combination of heavy woodland, strong defence layout and veterans of the Finnish legion fresh from the European war held the Russians at bay.

You may recall that in 1155, the first missionaries arrived in Finland from Sweden.  Finland became part of the Swedish realm.  In 1809, Sweden surrendered Finland to Russia, with the Czar declaring himself as a constitutional monarch over an autonomous Duchy.  In 1917, Finland declared its independence and was recognized as a new state by Russia, France, Germany, and Sweden.  Finland soon became a Republic with a President as its Head of State.

Russia invaded Finland in 1939—after only 22 years of Finnish Independence, and the Winter War began.  My Mother was 13—my Father was 14 when he saw the Russian bombers hitting his Helsinki neighborhood!  Both were active participants in the Continuation War from 1941 to 1944.  Finnish Independence is not only Finnish History—it is family history.  It is very personal!!  My parents survived.  Many others did not.  They were people my parents –and yours, knew and loved.  Yes, Finnish Independence is personal, indeed!

Finland stood alone when on November 30 1939, Stalin, believing he could rapidly crush the Finns opened hostilities with a bomber raid over Helsinki.

Finland stood alone when on November 30 1939, Stalin, believing he could rapidly crush the Finns opened hostilities with a bomber raid over Helsinki.

Fifteen years ago—when we were planning the 80th, it seemed only proper to cast that Los Angeles Independence “Gala” as a dignified celebration featuring the Veterans and Lottas who fought to preserve Finnish Independence and who were living in our midst.  Yesterday I pulled out the photos of the 1997 celebration where the Veterans and Lottas posed for a formal portrait before they proudly marched into the Ballroom to thunderous applause.  What a proud assembly!!  Tonight their numbers are significantly fewer, but our gratitude and pride in their courage, commitment, and accomplishments forever remains

Books and movies have attempted to capture the grim reality of the Winter War and the Continuation War.  Truth be known, only those who were there really know why “…war is hell”.  Our honored guests—the Veterans , know from personal experience.  The Lottas were right alongside of them on the battlefields, in the medical triage, and in the mess halls as the bullets were flying.    Thank you!!

On a lighter note:  A number of years ago when my boys were younger, I encouraged them to learn about Finnish Independence from two who were part of that heritage of the valiant fighting Finns—their Grandparents.  My older son asked my dear Lotta Mother: “What did the Lotta’s do?”  Her answer lost a little in translation when she replied “…we serviced the troops!”

So, what about this  box?

At this time of year everyone is all about the holiday season, the celebrations, and the pikkujoulus.  Remember ‘Black Friday’ this year with its accelerated commercialism?  It worked.  People are buying presents like crazy.  Decorations are up, music is playing, but most seem to be in a holiday mood for fun and folly.  Lots of fancy boxes will be wrapped in pretty paper and pretentious bows.

Not today!  Not in this moment!  Not on Finnish Independence Day!  For the younger generations here tonight, you need to know that this is a solemn day of great respect to ponder the incredible Finnish heritage you have been given.  It is your obligation to pass the heritage on.  You are the last generation who will have personally known the very real and wonderful people who fought to keep Finland independent!

I saw this box every day of my life as a little girl –literally, as long as I can remember.  Isä brought this simple contraption to the U.S. from Finland.  It was part of my dear Veteran Father’s daily routine.  He looked at it—he held it—he put treasured items in it.  One day, many years ago, I asked him about the box.  He showed me 2 papers folded up inside, but did not say much that I understood.  Those papers were leaflets in Finnish and Russian urging the Finns to surrender because the war was “lost”.  [The Russians never did understand the Finns—or Sisu!]

A few years later, I came to understand what this box was –and what it represented.   It was a gift from him—and his generation, to me and mine.  Just a plain box—no ribbons here!

This is a land mine from the Continuation War!  Among the duties my Father had doing during the war was clearing these from our homeland.  The mines were put on the Russian border by the Germans and were meant to kill and maim.  As you can see, these mines were cleverly made of wood [not Finnish wood] so they could not be detected by metal detectors.  Filled with explosives, they were deadly if tripped!   My Dad and his mates used a long stick to probe ahead of their paces.  With each step you held your breath, not knowing what was to come.  You never knew what or whom you would lose.  Mine clearing is not for the faint of heart!

What does this box symbolize?   This box is the gift of Independence brought to all of us by our brave forefathers and mothers.

A Finnish lotta, a member of the Lotta Svärd women organisation, watching the skies for Soviet aircraft during January 1940 in northern Finland.

A Finnish lotta, a member of the Lotta Svärd women organisation, watching the skies for Soviet aircraft during January 1940 in northern Finland.

So, as you go through this season of giving, I hope you will remember this little box and the great gift we have all been given by our Finnish heroes and heroines!

Thank you dear Veterans and Lottas for our precious gift of freedom.  And, as we thank you this evening, we remember those patriots, the aseveljet who were not able to be here tonight, those who have gone before, and those who lie in the cemeteries in Finland who paid the ultimate price for us.

We stand and honor our Heroes and Heroines—our Veterans and Lottas .Thank you for your service!!!  Thank you for Finland!!!

Thank you dear Veterans and Lottas for our precious gift of freedom.

Thank you dear Veterans and Lottas for our precious gift of freedom.

There is a long legacy of individuals and organizations continuing in the Finnish tradition that will make sure that what is true, righteous, and proud in our history, heritage, and national treasure will live on. We will share our history; we will work hard; we will never forget; we will honor your Sisu and sacrifice.

Haluan luvata Teille, rakkaat Veteraanit ja Lotat että me suomalaiset, jälkeläisemme ja tulevat sukupolvet eivät ikinä unohda työtänne. Tulemme yhdessä  pitämään uhrauksenne ja perinteenne aina elossa.

 

Finnish war veteran Ari Antiila with daughter Ava  at the 95th Independence Day Gala

Finnish war veteran Ari Antiila with daughter Ava