Evacuee children in Denmark

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Evacuee children in Denmark

Postby Claes Johansen » 02 Jul 2017 13:15

Since this issue seems to be somewhat overlooked on this forum, allow me to quote the following from my own book on the subject:

During the Winter War vulnerable Finnish citizens were evacuated to the other Nordic countries. Sweden was the main receiver of such refugees, who were mostly young children. Also some mothers and elderly people were evacuated, again mainly to Sweden. The total number of evacuees during the Winter War was around 10,000, of which the majority came from the Karelian Isthmus. This led to many tearful parting scenes between parents and children, as described here by one of those who experienced it as a young boy:

"We started by leaving Helsinki by train. And when the train started moving, many mothers stood outside and wept terribly. It was all very painful because the small children inside the train became terribly wound up. They started screaming and crying." (Jessen: Finnebørn (Danish Radio Montage 1996))

The number of evacuated Finnish children escalated substantially during the Interim Peace and the Continuation War ...

(Claes Johansen: Hitler's nordic Ally? p. 78)

The pressure that was placed on Finnish women had a substantial effect on the everyday life of their children, as could be seen in the health conditions among the many Finnish refugees that the Scandinavian countries received. These children were often undernourished, weak and infested with lice and flies. One such evacuee, who was later adopted by his Danish foster family, said in an interview in 1996 with the Danish state radio:

"My mother had various jobs. For a while she worked in the kitchen at a restaurant and helped washing up and so on, and that was one of the places where my brother Kalle and I could go once in a while and have a little extra food in the war years of 1941-42. But I think I must have gone to bed hungry many times. My Danish parents told me that when I came to Den-mark I was very thin and skinny. As an eight year old I was probably the size of a normal four or five year old child." (Jessen: Finnebørn (Danish Radio Montage 1996))

The same interviewee also described the differences between the lives that children had in Denmark and in Finland at the time:

"Up in Finland we played war with wooden sticks and so on, pretending we sneaked up on the Russians and shot at them. But down here in Denmark we didn’t play such games at all. We played rounders and football. I had brought a card game with me, Black Man or Musta Pekka as it is called in Finnish. There were four different family members from each country, and you had to collect those. There was a Finnish and a Swedish and a Danish family, and a German family with swastikas next to them, and also an English family. At one point I had cut out the English flags and glued them on to my school book and my pencil case. I did that to show I was on the side of the English, too, not on the German side, as you might think a Finnish child would be." (Jessen: Finnebørn (Danish Radio Montage 1996))

In total some 80,000 children were evacuated from Finland during the Winter War, the Interim Peace and the Continuation War – the biggest evacuation ever of its kind. Most of them went to Sweden, others to Norway, and 4,000 arrived in Denmark where 10% of them remained after the war. The children were mostly between three and eight years old when they arrived. The majority came from poor families in industrial areas or border districts.

Much has been said and written about the lives of the Finnish children in Sweden, where they experienced major cultural shocks and were often exposed to discrimination and bullying. However, all indications suggest that the ones who ended up in Denmark thrived and had a good life. The problems were mainly associated with the journey home. One of the Danish nurses who helped with both the arrival and the departure of the children, told Danish Radio:

"The Finnish Lottas came and collected them. There were many foster mothers to whom I simply had to say: ‘Now you have to leave. The little one has to understand it is time to go home now.’"

(Claes Johansen: Hitler's nordic Ally? pp. 223-224)

Below: The logo of the society "Finnebørn i Danmark" and a photograph from their 2010 meeting. (Source: http://finnebarn.dk/)
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Re: Evacuee children in Denmark

Postby John Hilly » 02 Jul 2017 17:55

A famous Finnish singer Laila Kinnunen was a war child in Danmark as we call them, where she had a good life, but forced back to Finland broke her to some extent. She died of alcoholism.

With best, J-P :milwink:
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Re: Evacuee children in Denmark

Postby Claes Johansen » 02 Jul 2017 19:00

Sad story.

There used to be a very fine Danish radio documentary called "Finnebørn", made in 1996, available on the Internet. Of all the many sad and moving stories I have encountered during my work on Finnish WWII history, the ones in this radio programme belonged to those that saddened me the most. For instance, there is a short "interview" with a two-year-old girl, who has just arrived from Finland. She is obviously from a Swedish-speaking background, but it is still remarkable that there is no communication problem. Just imagine, arriving alone from Finland at the age of two years. Incredible. I really hope she had a good time in Denmark and got home safe after the war.

There is another interview with a girl who was separated from her sister because of the evacuation. I can't remember if it was because the sister decided to stay in Finland, but I think in fact they both went to Denmark and after the war one of them wanted to stay there and become adopted by her "Danish family", and the other one wanted to return to Finland. 50 years later the woman is still completely torn up about this. I seem to remember they were twins, also. I have a pair of twin daughters myself who are extremely close to one another, so that one hit my really hard, too.

According to Wikepedia about 350 of the 4000 "finnebørn" in Denmark stayed with their "Danish families" rather than returned to Finland after the war.

https://da.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finneb%C3%B8rn

I don't want to blow my patriotic trumpet on this forum, but when I heard and read about how well these Finnish children seem to have been treated generally in Denmark, it did make me proud and I know the Danes have the ability to act very decently indeed in such situations. People of all nations have both good and bad features in their national characters, and this seems to be one of the occasions where the Danes showed themselves from their best side.

I have just written to the Danish state radio and asked them to put the documentary "Finnebørn" back on to the Internet. Hopefully, they will.

Another nice picture here from the finnebarn.dk website:
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Re: Evacuee children in Denmark

Postby Seppo Koivisto » 02 Jul 2017 20:32

Here is a link to an abstract of the dissertation of Pertti Kavén. His conclusion to the evacuation of children was quite negative.
https://helda.helsinki.fi/handle/10138/23826

Finnish war children web site has also some material in Danish.
http://www.sotalapset.fi/esittely_tanska.html

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Re: Evacuee children in Denmark

Postby Claes Johansen » 02 Jul 2017 21:25

Thanks, Seppo.

The first link is really interesting but seems to deal with Sweden only and be brimming over with bad feelings of the well-known kind between Finns and Swedes. I have no intention to mingle in that debate, at least not before I know more about it, but judging from what it says here there was some pretty outrageous behaviour going on from Swedish side in order to keep Finnish children against their Finnish parents' will, while the Finns were feeling humiliated, and bitter also that the Swedes didn't turn up with their entire army to help them out in the first place instead of offering to take care of exposed Finnish children. So no surprises there, really.

I am a bit uncertain as to what the situation was like in Denmark in regard to keeping children in the country against their Finnish parents' will. I could try to find out. Until then it looks, from what I do know, as if that the situation was almost the other way around in Denmark, i.e. that children would be sent back to Finland even if they themselves and their Danish "parents" would like them to stay (as seems to have been the case with Laila Kinnunen, as described by Juha-Pekka). Strange perhaps, because the same inter-Nordic agreement would probably have applied in Denmark as in Sweden. However, I may be naive in relation to my compatriots here, but I can't really imagine any Danes insisting on keeping children against their Finnish parents' will. I may of course be wrong, so I'll say no more for now.

It says in the abstract:

If you compare the figure of 2 900 children saved and returned with the figure of about 7 100 children who remained permanently in Sweden, you may draw the conclusion that Finland as a country failed to benefit from the child transports


Only if you suppose that growing up in a Swedish family is as bad as dying, or worse, for a Finnish child ...

---

The second link you sent was slower than a Mummi Troll on Valium. I couldn't get into it at all, which is a shame because it might have the answers to some of my questions in the above.

Meanwhile, on a happier note, I managed to find a YouTube clip of the lovely and talented Laila Kinnunen from 1963 where she sings the Danish song Dansevise in Finnish - Tanssilaulu. This song was the Danish contribution to the Eurovision Song Contest that year - where it won!

I wonder if she could sing it in Danish, too ...

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Re: Evacuee children in Denmark

Postby Seppo Koivisto » 03 Jul 2017 09:27

Laila Kinnunen was actually evacuated in Skåne. I remember seeing a TV program where she visited her childhood landscapes in Simrishamn and she spoke fluently skånska.
http://www.blf.fi/artikel.php?id=1011

Pertti Kavén was himself a war child and has written several books on the subject.

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Re: Evacuee children in Denmark

Postby Claes Johansen » 03 Jul 2017 17:23

Skåne is actually a part of Denmark, only it has been occupied by Sweden since 1660 along with Halland and Blekinge.

Besides, there is no such thing as "fluent skånska". It's a very chopped-up dialect.

Just kidding ... :D

(Below map from Wikepedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_o ... itypvs.jpg)
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Re: Evacuee children in Denmark

Postby Claes Johansen » 03 Jul 2017 22:56

I found this little piece of information, which I believe could be interesting to the readers of this forum:

When Finland in September 1944 once more had to make peace with its powerful enemy the Soviet Union, one of the peace conditions was that the Finns themselves had to drive their former allies, the Germans, out of Finnish territory. For fear of German reprisals all name lists kept at the office of Finlandshjælpen were burned. I doubt if the Germans would actually have interned the Finnish children, who were now in Denmark, but just to be on the safe side all traces of them were wiped. Of course, the Finnebørn looked like "the natives", so we couldn't be spotted just from the way we looked. The situation was more serious for the Finnish Lottas, who were still scattered around Denmark as curators. Our contact Mrs Hansen was a Danish citizen, so probably nothing would happen to her, but Inger Sippus, for instance, who was a curator in Kolding, Vejle and Lunderskov, had to "go underground" until the end of the war.

(Kai Joel Palomäki Schmidt: Købmandens finnedreng, pp. 22-23)

Explanations to certain words:
Curator: Term used for the people who carried out the practical work for this above society.
Finlandshjælpen (Aid to Finland): Society that existed 1939-49 and organised the circumstances surrounding the evacuated Finnish children in Denmark.
Mrs Hansen: Judith Hansen, a Finnish woman married to a Danish grocer in the town of Haderslev in Southern Jutland. She acted as contact person between the evacuated Finnish children in the area and their parents back in Finland.

Below: Finnish evacuee children arrive in Denmark. The girl in the centre of the photograph is still carrying the obligatory cardboard sign around her neck, comprising her name, her home address and her destination. (https://df-nyt.dk/dansk-kultur-finlands ... gens-ofre/)
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Re: Evacuee children in Denmark

Postby Claes Johansen » 04 Jul 2017 16:32

I have translated into English some of the information on the link mentioned in my previous posting.

Danish Culture - Finlandshjælpen - War Victims

Finland's history, as that of so many other countries, includes numerous conflicts, particular over territorial issues. Finland only gained its independence at late as 1917 – and then, in the autumn of 1939, things went wrong again.

The war breaks out
In the autumn of 1939, Soviet military forces attacked Finland, after Finland had refused to hand over territories to the Soviet Union.

The aid work is initiated
In sympathy for Finland in its troubled situation, the NORDEN Association along with the Red Cross formed, on 10 January 1940, the Central Committee for the Aid to Finland society - Finlandshjælpen.

Suffering Civilian Population
The purpose of Finlandshjælpen was to collect money in aid of the troubled Finns, organise a voluntary workforce and work out an evacuation plan for Finnish children in war-torn areas.

Danish Culture
To make Finlandshjælpen a national issue, local committees were launched and given the task to collect clothes and money and provide foster families for the evacuated finnebørn.

Continued help
The Danish population continued to support the aid initiatives, despite the fact that Finland was an ally of Nazi Germany during 1941-44.

Broad Support
Private individuals, societies, enterprises and schools sponsored Finnish children and 3,800 were set up with foster families, while some children later on came to Denmark on summer holiday.

The aid work is rounded off
In 1949, Finlandshjælpen was dissolved, yet 415 finnebørn remained in Denmark, 216 of whom were adopted by their foster parents.


The same webpage (https://df-nyt.dk/dansk-kultur-finlands ... gens-ofre/) has two interesting YouTube clips comprising interviews with former finnebørn. They are in Danish but have English subtitles.

Below: Another photograph of a group of finnebørn on their arrival in Denmark (http://www.bistrupby.dk/13448880)
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Re: Evacuee children in Denmark

Postby Claes Johansen » 04 Jul 2017 21:08

Another interesting little detail here. Some may recall the Finnish soldier Gunnar Bergstrøm, who took the Soviet Major-General Vladimir Kirpitshnikov prisoner after the defeat of the Porlampi Motti in September 1941. For those who don't know it, the story goes like this:

The Porlampi-motti was neutralised on 1 September. The Finnish war booty was enormous: 300 artillery pieces, 50 tanks, almost 700 trucks, 300 tractors and 4,500 horses. The number of prisoners exceeded 9,000. Among them was the commander of the 43rd Division, Major-General Vladimir Kirpitshnikov. The Finnish paramedic, Gunnar Bergström from the largely Swedish speaking 24th Regiment, related how he was standing one and a half kilometre southeast of Sommee railway station, enjoying the sunshine that had finally come out from behind the clouds after several days of rain, when some soldiers from another battalion approached, warning him that there were Russians in the forest next to the road.

"I immediately went into the forest and caught sight of two enemies lying there with rain ponchos pulled up over their heads. I pulled the poncho off one of them and saw to my amazement a living person looking up at me with staring eyes. He wore the insignia of a Major-General and I immediately grabbed his hands and helped him stand up. I first took the general’s 9mm Mauser pistol from him, then his thick map briefcase and finally his big canteen, which turned out to contain ¾ litre of vodka. Some of my comrades took care of the other officer, who was a lieutenant." (Source: Wallenius, K.O.: Tjugofyran – Infanteriregement 24:s Historia i Kriget 1941-1944, Helsingfors, Shildt 1974)

(Claes Johansen: Hitler's Nordic Ally? P. 199)

About three years ago I recieved a letter from Kai J. Palomäki Schmidt (as quoted in one of my previous postings on this thread), where he told me (after having read the Danish version of my book, published in 2013):

On page 232 you mention the soldier Gunnar Bergström, who took a Soviet officer prisoner. I have heard that story before, since two of his sons were also sent to Denmark during the war and both remained here, and both are members of our association "Suomalaislapset Tanskasse-Yhdistys". Incidentally, both of them are named Gunnar, too, though one of them uses his other first name, which is Kai.


Below: The Porlampi Motti - Après le combat. (http://www.subsim.com/radioroom/showthr ... 75&page=12)
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Re: Evacuee children in Denmark

Postby Claes Johansen » 05 Jul 2017 17:11

I found the above-mentioned interviews on "the real" YouTube along with a few more of the same kind. It is of course uplifting for a Danish person to see how well these children were treated in Denmark, and how happy and thankful they are even to this day. But even more it saddens me to imagine the incredible pain it must have been for the childrens' biological parents back in Finland to lose their children. Although in Denmark's case it doesn't seem to have happened against the Finnish parents' will, they obvious didn't let go of their children for any other reason than the children's own sake - because Denmark was a richer and less physically and psychologically mutilated country in the post war years.

In any case, here are the clips - in Danish with English subtitles. The people in these clips came to live with Danish families around the town of Kolding in Jutland and they speak in an accent that is softer, slower and not as "sloppy" as the typical modern Copenhagen accent used in the Danish TV series that have been successful around the world in later years.





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Re: Evacuee children in Denmark

Postby Seppo Koivisto » 06 Jul 2017 19:52

Here is a happy story.

Kirsti and her brother got pneumonia when they played on a thin lake ice. A doctor told her mother that the child will die if she is not moved where food is abundant. At that time there was no food in Tampere, at shops you could buy only frost bitten turnips boiled in bouillon.

In June 1942 she and her brother were sent by boat from Turku to Stockholm and from there by train to Middelfart in Denmark. Siblings were placed in different families. She started school in second class and learned Danish in two weeks.

After a year the brother heard rumors that the 21 year old son of her foster family was a member of the resistance, got frightened and wrote home that they come back. After 13 months in Denmark they returned to Finland, she relearned Finnish quickly, but always spoke Danish with her brother.

After the war it was difficult for the war children to get a passport to visit their foster parents. Her foster parents wanted to give her gymnasium education, while her present home town had no gymnasium. In 1947 she went to fifth class at Nørre Åby Realskole, but got a passport for one year only. In 1952 she went to study at Snøghøj Gymnastikhøjskole, but returned home after graduation.

http://www.tampere.fi/ekstrat/vapriikki ... i/sivu.htm


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