PICTURE PERFECT: INFINITE

Definitions on INFINITE:
“Unlimited or boundless, in time or space;
as, infinite duration or distance.”

Forsmark Nuclear Power Plant is over there in the distance. It was there where it was discovered that the Chernobyl accident had happened in 1986, for the Swedes thought that they had a ‘leak’ or whatever at first. I took this photo in the summer of 2002 during very hot weather.

Archipelago around Stockholm

On April 27, 1986, unusually high levels of radiation were detected in workers’ clothing at this plant, prompting concerns of a radiation leak. No leak was found, however, and the radiation was determined to have originated from Chernobyl, where a reactor had exploded the previous day. Chernobyl is approximately 1,100 km from this power plant.

Because of the sensitive instruments located in the nuclear power plant for the purpose of detecting local leaks, Forsmark was, on April 27, 1986, the first place outside the Soviet Union where the signs of the Chernobyl accident became apparent. When workers at the plant were found to carry radioactive particles, the origin of the leak was investigated and it eventually became clear that the contamination came from the atmosphere rather than from the Forsmark plant itself. (Wikipedia)

Archipelago around Stockholm
© All photos Riihele. All rights reserved

Nuclear accidents affect infinitely into the lives of all the people on the globe; even though, the usual presumption is that the effects are only local… Chernobyl still has its mark on the water we drink and bathe in, our soil where everything grows, and the air we breathe in, and will for a very long time yet to come!

This is my contribution on the Picture Perfect theme INFINITE.

Don’t use words too big for the subject.
Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”;
otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.
(C. S. Lewis)

Do have a grand weekend and do keep so well. Rii xx

The nuclear meltdown provoked a radioactive cloud that floated not over just Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova,
but
the European part of the
Turkey,
Republic of Macedonia,
Croatia,
Bulgaria,
Greece,
Romania,
Lithuania,
Estonia,
Latvia,
Finland,
Denmark,
Norway,
Sweden,
Austria,
Hungary,
the Czech Republic
and the Slovak Republic,
The Netherlands,
Belgium,
Slovenia,
Poland,
Switzerland,
Germany,
Italy,
Ireland,
France (including Corsica)
and the United Kingdom as well. (Wikipedia)

PICTURE PERFECT: REPETITION


This beautiful manor, Lövstabruk, in Upper Uppland in Sweden was built from the 1600´s to the 1800´s in the likeness to Versailles in Paris. It lies just over 100 km north of Stockholm and 45 km north of Uppsala. Lövstabruk Manor House was plundered and burned in 1719 but was rebuilt building by building during the following decades. (Unfortunately, all those lovely photos and texts in the links highlighted are only in Swedish, for in English there is a totally different page that comes up!) Did you notice that there is even a variation to my photo on these Pelargoniums on the page?

This manor has the honour of being very much in the fore-front of the industry of melting first class iron that laid the foundation on the wealth of Sweden. Walloonbruk in Uppland is a region of unique, historic, industrial sites. Beautiful environments, excellent cuisine and lodgings at the inns and manors, the site tells about this fabulous place.

Decorative Plants @ Lövstabruk
Walloonbruk

An industrial village where natural resources are processed is called a ”bruk” in Swedish. Within the Uppland region all the necessary raw materials for iron production were available: ore from the Dannemora mines, forests for charcoal, and water for powering blast furnaces and forges. More than thirty ironworks were established in the region. These ”vallonbruk” derive their name from the skilled workers who came to Sweden from Liege region in Walloonia of present day Belgium. The craftsmen were brought here by far-seeing industrial entrepreneurs, among them Louis De Geer, who recognized the value of their professional skills. Walloon forging was the principal iron working method here from the early 17th century until the early 20th century. The vallonbruks bar iron was for many years the finest quality available in the world, and much of the production was exported with the greater part going to England.

The bruks were much more than factories. They were complete miniature societies where many people worked and spent their entire lives. Working conditions were hard, but the management also took responsibility for the workers social welfare. Today most of the vallonbruks are well-preserved, unique tourist attractions and a few still maintain world-leading metal industries.

Lövstabruk Manor House

This the photo that I took of the Main House in Lövstabruk Manor which is located near Uppsala – the Athens of Sweden.

The large photo is my entry on the PICTURE PERFECT theme REPETITION’
– the photo does bear repetition, methinks!

Decorative Plants @ Lövstabruk

Tis for now, Rii xx

© Photos: By Riihele. All rights reserved.

TREASURES in LIFE: True Friendships

Two Friends

These two friends are my daughter and her friend
in the countryside one summer in Ireland.
Photo by me.

“A FRIEND LOVES AT ALL TIMES”
(Proverbs 17:7 Ampl.Bible)

In some countries it is harder than in others to make the ‘cut’ – that is – to get into the mainstream of the life and the living but once you are in, ‘you are in’, for good! Finland, Sweden and Israel are like this. It requires much patience to get there. The Finns, the Swedes and the Israelis are cautious at first, then after a while they let their guard down and you will be firm friends for life. No matter how fiercely your opinions on matters differ and how much you would argue, at the end of the day; it only clears the air and strengthens the bond of friendship. I am not saying that this the rule 100 per cent in each and every case, but certainly in my own personal experience, it has been the norm.

The Irish give the ‘hail fellow, well met’ – impression of ease and quick skills of getting to know other people. That does not lead to lasting friendship, most of the time. It is just politeness, social skills or whatever one will call it. I am most outgoing but it was in Ireland that I found it the hardest of all to really get to know people where they would be genuine and real. No stereotype Irish, but the person, the people as they are.

A friend said this in one of her comments in my page on another entry on friendships:

“Funny how to put the differences in friendships in a cultural view, because I’ve had to deal with this issue myself. Americans are more like the way you describe Irish…easy get by with on basic social levels, friendly in that “hi, how ya doin, see ya” way.

But maybe because it’s so easy to become “friends” with them, you don’t realize that you aren’t really really friends, true friends, until you try to get closer and come up against a wall. I sound disparaging, but that’s the way I am. My Israeli friends often tell me that they see Americans as hypocrites, or pretend friends. And I find the Israeli friendships to often be suffocating. It’s worth knowing when you go to a strange culture.”

My response to her:

“Yes indeed, it is wise to know some basic things about the strange, as in different, culture one is moving to. It makes the adjusting so much easier. The Scandinavians, particularly, the Finns are considered ‘cold, aloof and distant’ by the others who don’t understand that the culture is such that people take their time ‘letting’ you through the barriers bit by bit.

Then once you are IN; YOU ARE IN for life. This kind of process takes a lot adjusting to do but it’s worth it in the end. I’m not a typical Finn in this aspect either but more Latin in my manner, style & personality in that I am not reserved in meeting new people, yet still Finnish in this that when I am your friend – I truly am your friend through thick & thin!”

Tis for now. Riihele xx

SWEDISH SUNSET: Da Blonde on HAPPINESS

Swedish Sunset1

Mark Twain – said this and more on the link on the word happiness :

“Happiness is a Swedish Sunset
– it is there for all,
but most of us look the other way and lose it.”

Swedish Sunset
Why the ‘Swedish’ I do not know. Could it be that in the summertime the sunsets in Sweden are so long and so very bright that nobody could/should miss the stunning beauty and the illuminating brightness thereof? And yet one chooses to be blind to it by turning one’s head the other way – refusing to see the ‘show of this beauty’ by one’s own willful actions. One is so blind to one’s blessings of happiness right then and there. Tragic.

“Happiness or glad is an emotional or affective state that is characterized by feelings of enjoyment and satisfaction. As a state and a subject, it has been pursued and commented on extensively throughout world history. This reflects the universal importance that humans place on happiness. States associated with happiness include well-being, delight, health, safety, contentment, and love. Contrasting states include suffering, depression, grief, anxiety, and pain.” Wikipedia

The science of happiness is an interesting field, just have a look at this and this. The latter is called, The World Database of Happiness! There is even a test to do on the Beeb site. A strange thing to me is in the The Declaration of Independence – which particularly names the ‘Pursuit of Happiness’ as one of the goals/things to be achieved. That very word – pursuit – makes the happiness flee faster than the lightning, totally unattainable to all.

“Whether one is poor or one is rich –
whether one has nothing much
or one has millions to live on,
but nothing to live for;
makes one utterly
miserable and poor.”

(Riihele quote)

Tis for now. Riihele xx.

© Photos: By Riihele. All rights reserved.

Lapland, Tornio Valley and Childhood – Part3

PIKKURII

Riihele at the age of around 4 in Ylitornio, Lapland.

Now I will say a few things of the war called the Finnish War between Russia and Sweden, and other wars and also, other things about the life and culture in the Tornio Valley – as seen through my eyes.

So – that war of 1808-1809 was the very last war that Sweden as a country has suffered while Finland, on the other hand, has been forced to go through several wars such as the Civil War of 1918 and the Russian-Finnish Wars, because there were two wars during the WW II. The first one is called The Winter War, which began in November 1939. It lasted until March 1940, when both of the countries signed a peace treaty where Finland agreed to cede 10 per cent of its territory and 20 per cent of her industrial production to the Soviet Union. This is a compiled account in English about the events of that war.

The amazing thing about that war was that even though the Russians outnumbered the Finns by three to one, the battle was not a walk-over for the Russians looking at the statistics of the casualties and other details. Stalin and his cohorts had thought that it would be just that. The arrogance and attitude of superiority of the Soviets, was such that they started the war with the marching bands and soldiers arm in arm singing stirring Soviet anthems while advancing towards the Finnish lines!! What they had planned, was a short and sharp victory. But God had decided otherwise. My future would have been very, very different to what it has been, IF, Finland had been a state within the USSR. A state like Estonia, our ‘relatives’. There would have been NO freedom to travel to begin with, so I would have been ‘stuck’ and not being able to go anywhere at all!
The Continuation War is the war that was fought between the years 1941-1944. The Lapland War against the former German allies was battled from September 1944 until April 1945. The reason for this war, was the Soviet demand that all German troops were to be expelled from Finland. The task of expelling was made particularly hard because of the other simultaneous Soviet demand of demobilizing the major part of the Finnish armed forces.

The withdrawing Germans used the scorched earth tactics, so that more than one third of the dwellings were destroyed in Lapland. The provincial capital, Rovaniemi, was burned to the ground. This is the town where my mother was born and where she spent her first few years before the family moved to the Tornio Valley in the 1930’s. Rovaniemi was rebuilt after war and the world famous Finnish architect called, Alvar Aalto was very much at forefront of the same. All of mother’s eldest (five) brothers were in the war. And ALL came back – alive. The horrors of the trauma of war and gore, live on the psyche of the Finnish male – passed from generation to generation. My own ‘concrete’ evidence of the Lapland War, were the bullet holes on the flagpole, in the centre of the yard of the houses, where we lived in Ylitornio.

There are a few books on this subject of the Lapland War: the first one is by a colonel called Wolf H. Halsti. His book is in Finnish called – LAPIN SODASSA. That translated into English is like this: IN THE WAR OF LAPLAND. I do not know if it has been publiced in English or any other language. He writes very honestly and pointedly about the whole sad affair. There is a lady who wrote a book about her life in Lapland during these times of hardship, called, Laila Kanon and the book of hers is called – STADIN friidu ja metsien mies, jatkosodan rakkaustarina”. (WSOY 1997) The title in English would translate into something like: “Town Chick and a Man of the forest, a Love Story during the Continuation War.”

The property losses, at the time, were calculated to be at the 1945 US$ as 300 million dollars. HUGE amount! In addition to the financial losses, was the human distress and suffering. The number of the refugees within Lapland was 100,000. My mother with her parents and siblings, that were still at home, fled across the Tornio River over to the Swedish Övertorneå. Karelian refugees were numbered as over 425,000.

I don’t obviously have any personal memories of any of the above, but indirect ones, I do. What do I mean? Well, of that Civil War, I have my grandparents memories and view points that I still quite clearly do remember. In that war there were the Whites against the Reds. It is fairly simple as to figure out what these colours mean. Yes, they mean the hues of one’s political standing. My grandparents, on the father’s side that come from Karelia, were on the White side. I do remember Grandma Helena saying still in her old age, that when she was in an old people’s home, she was made to share a room for a time with one that had been on the Red side. Apparently, the poisonous verbal darts between them were still flying like missiles…
I found that rather amusing but had I lived through the horrors of it, I am sure, my reaction would have been different. It is so very tragic that that should have happened after about sixty years of that civil war. The sadness that there was no forgiveness and forgetting in the depths of the people’s hearts and minds!

Of all the kinds of wars, the civil war between brothers, is the most horrendous of all. No doubt. It really is the most un-civil thing imaginable. Deep, deep wounds are left in the nations that have had to go through it.

The Russian-Sweden War of 1808-1809 over Finland, also known as, the Finnish War, became “familiar” to me through the history lessions at school and also through the Finnish literature. We read Vänriikki Stoolin Tarinat The Tales of Ensign Ståhl – year in, year out, so that, even today, I can give direct quotes of the same! I used to love reading those stories in rhyme about that war.
This is the war (February 1808 ’til September 1809) – that resulted the Valley being cut in two parts with the Tornio River as the border. The choices for the actual border included the River Kalix on the Swedish side – the Russian request – the River Kemi on the Finnish side, to the south of Tornio – the Swedish request. The Tornio River was the agreed joined compromise. From that time on in 1809, Finland became part of the Russian Empire until her independence in December 1917.

Finland was under the Swedish rule from 1352 – 1808, and under the Russian rule from 1809 – 1917. We have, as a nation, learned how to live as a “filling in-a-sandwich” to the bigger and more powerful nations than ourselves that are on either side of us! It takes skill.

Tis for now. Riihele xx

Lapland, Tornio Valley and Childhood – Part2

MAP

The Tornio River unites Sweden and Finland – Övertorneå and the neighbouring Finnish town of Ylitornio lie on opposite sides of the river, which also makes the border. This mighty river provides countless opportunities for fishing and recreation. It presents the amazing spectacle of the spring ice break-up, that I mentioned in the Part 1.

Breathtaking scenery can be viewed from the peaks of mountains on either side of the border, from Luppioberget, on the Swedish side and from Aavasaksa, on the Finnish side. Aavasaksa is a very popular place for the tourists to come at the Midsummer time to view the spectacle of the Midnight Sun.

The landscape in the Tornio Valley features varied countryside of both mountainous and flat landscapes. Tornio and Haparanda are situated on the coastal plain by the Gulf of Bothnia. Further north, from Övertorneå and the northern part of Ylitornio Municipality, the mountains become more prominent. The Arctic Circle is at the latitude of 66.55° N. It goes right through the villages of Ylitornio, on the Finnish side of the river, and Övertorneå, on the Swedish side. This latitude also marks the southernmost parallel at which one can experience the Polar Day, another name is the Midnight Sun and Polar Night, which is also called – Kaamos in the Saami language.

The Polar Day culminates on June 21, when the sun remains above the horizon for 24 hours – and it is light all day. On Aavasaksa mountain – situated on the Finnish side of the river in Ylitornio – one can admire The Midnight Sun between the 15.6-7.7. The Polar Night begins on September 23, at the autumnal equinox, which culminates on December 21, when the sun does not rise above the horizon for 24 hours – and it is dark all day.

Talk about the TWILIGHT ZONE. During the Kaamos – the dark period – everything is in these fabulous shades of blues, pinks and lilacs. It is terribly picturesque altogether. I am quite certain, that you would have seen photographs of Lapland in these gorgeously soft pastel colours, even though it did not cross your mind at all, that they were taken during the Kaamos.

The inclination of the earth’s axis, at an angle of 23.4 degrees, due to the influence of the moon, the location of the Arctic Circle is also changing. Currently it is at the rate of 14.4 metres annually. The Arctic Circle is moving northwards. This process will continue for a further period, after which the process will be reversed and the Arctic Circle will start moving south.

In this border country, as anywhere in a situation alike, a special, local culture, both Swedish and Finnish has emerged. Yet it is somehow distinct from both. A majority of the residents speak Tornio Valley Finnish – Meänkieli – the native language and the bearer of the culture. Culture, that is distinctive in religion, in the local cuisine with its eastern influences. Here is the list of spices: saffron, sugar, lemon, ginger and orange-peel that were used. Also cumin was used in all the bread making in the 18th century as described by a Frenchman. Living in the border region has given the people of the valley a characteristic mentality and a genuine pride – a deep awareness of who they are, rather than the ‘nose-up- in the air’ -variety. The local population is meant to be even more fanatical about hot-hot sauna baths than the rest of the Finns.

Well, one must try, in any which way, to keep warm – somehow! The temperature difference between summer and winter is roughly 60ºC. In winter the temperature creeps down at times to -35ºC or even more. It’s cold, but the air is dry and with the right clothing you can still spend time outdoors. When summer comes, the nature awakens from the slumber, gets over its shock because of the long, long freeze and begins to work 24/7, as it will be light and bright daylight round the clock!! Temperatures of around +30ºC and sometimes even higher are not uncommon.

These temperatures are the norm nowadays. I don’t remember – EVER – in my childhood that the temperature in the summer would have reached much above the 15-20ºC mark! We swam no matter what the weather was like during those short, but, bright summer months. It really was a bit of ‘it’s now or never’ – because the summer was so very short, that, if one blinked, twas over!

The coldest temperature in Ylitornio that I have experienced in my entire life was all of -44ºC!! Do ponder that. Insane, I say.

In this valley, the life revolves around the Tornio River, as I stated already earlier on – this 520 kilometres long river of tranquil pools, foaming rapids and swirling waters that winds its way towards the sea. The people, who used be one nation under the Swedish rule for several centuries. It should be of no real surprise that there is such unity and conformability with the populations on both sides of the river here, as historically, culturally and geographically they were ONE NATION for a time period of six to seven hundred years. That is an awfully long time. It is not going be wiped of by any artificial ‘border’ – however hard the politics of the day may try.

Two peoples, and if the Saami is counted as they should be, that would make three people, four languages and a majestic river make Tornio Valley unique . The local population use several languages, Swedish, Finnish, Saami and Meänkieli. Meänkieli – Our Language – that is what the name means in English – is a language spoken in both Swedish and Finnish Tornio Valley. Meänkieli is a language derived from Finnish. Newspapers and books are written in Meänkieli. Even films have been made in this language. In 1999, a new Minorities Act in Sweden recognised Meänkieli as an indigenous minority language. In Finland it does not have such a recognized status.

Unfortunately, I think, because it is very different from the Finnish in many ways.

When we moved to the Southern Finland, the people there did not understand what we were saying for most of the time and so we had to learn the ordinary Finnish. The southerners thought that we were speaking in Saami. They also thought that we had lived in a Kota – the Saami dwelling special to them.

It must have been the only few weeks that I have ever been silent in my entire life while learning the ‘other’ language!! (Finnish Finnish)

This area belonged to Sweden for several centuries, as already mentioned above, until 1809, actually, when Sweden ceded Finnish Tornio Valley to Russia which I will go into more detail in the next posting in Part 3. That war of 1808-1809 is the last war that Sweden has fought. Finland has not been as spared from wars, but we do have a Big Bear of a neighbour on our eastern side. They do not.

Tis for now. Riihele xx

Memories: Sweden

Swedenpics

‘Memory… is the diary that we all carry about with us.’
Oscar Wilde in
  “The Importance of Being Earnest”

This fabulous scenery – taken by me – is a small town called, Öregrund, which is situated in the archipelago that lies in the Baltic Sea between Finland and Sweden. This gives you an idea how and where Sweden is and what it is like. I have not yet really lately talked about my time in Sweden but tis now.

The relationship between the Finns and Swedes is very much one of love-hate. Rather like the Brits and the Irish – the master and the mastered, I think. There is in both nations’ dependency on the other that even now, though severed years ago, is still so very strong and hence resented by the underdog, mastered nation. “Du Gamla, Du Fria, Du Fjällhöga Nord“…! The national anthem of the Swedes. The nation was a super power in the Baltic region in the times past. Not that terribly long ago, really. It is quite like a child saying to the mother: “I am big now.” Yet always looking for the mother’s approval and being in a kind of competition with her; to outdo her and everything that she stood for.  Complex, but intriguing. How it pops up to the surface every now and then is, when the Finns meet the Swedes in ice-hockey or the Irish play against the Brits in rugby. NO MERCY GIVEN – NO MERCY ASKED. It is: Let the best nation win. More often than not, it is not the best nation that wins as far as ability and skill are concerned but the one with the greatest will to win.

I did what thousands upon thousands of the Finns then did: we took the ferry to our neighbour’s across the Gulf of Bothnia to work and for me it meant at first to be an au pair in the Stockholm area. It is rather amusing that the French phrase that describes this word means: ‘equal to’. Funny, because  the au pair, in most cases, is anything but equal to any other thing than a cheap labour at the whim of the employers who themselves know very little about children and child rearing. This was my case, too. I am afraid my au pairing memories of Sweden are not great but my social life memories are first class, though!

My first impressions of the Swedes and Sweden in this region – as I am familiar with the Lapland Swedish variety since childhood – was that they are much more open and, also, have a more positive outlook on life in all its aspects than the Finns do. I found it much more relaxed and easier to breath in every way. Even the weather was milder than what I had been experiencing in Finland. The coldest I have been in Lapland was all of -44 C!! I know, insane!  At that stage I did not know that my family roots go to Sweden, I just felt so at home from the word go! Only the last few years have we been aware that this is where some of the roots go quite far back there as well to other countries on my mother’s-mother’s side.

My time in Sweden was such a brilliant and blessed time. A time for healing and a time for good friendships that are, even today, extremely strong, close and vibrant! The hospitality of the Swedes, that I experienced, was most extraordinary and warm during all my years living over there. Did we drink coffee, tea; also, hot chocolate! Rivers, it must have been when the total amounts are all added up together. Even these days when I do pop over there, it is still ever the same.

We used to arrange these great parties where everybody was told to come to them dressed up to the nines. The lads were told very firmly that if they appeared at our do’s in their usual jeans & t-shirts -ensemble, we girls would not talk to them again. It worked, as they always came well turned out. The parties themselves were sometimes, as in mid August in the summers, the Crayfish Parties when we would have beautifully set out long tables in the garden. Cook gorgeous food and take our time eating and have great time together. Different teams of us in the gang would do the cooking and another team would do the clearing and tidying up. One of us was and is a qualified chef but after feeding the hungry beasts for a few times on his own, he got wiser as the time and feeding went on; hence, the teams came into being! Other times it was somebody’s birthday or another like occasion. Food, again, played a large role in them as it is the best means of getting people to enjoy and relax in one another’s company in any and every culture!

One among other marvellous things, I must say, to my parents credit is that they did not try to stop one doing this thing or that thing but quite the opposite; they encouraged me to go and do whatever was on my mind. Also, they had such confidence in me and my ability for survival that it was with a bushy tail and a positive outlook that I left, every time.

When young one really is not bothered about things like: not knowing anybody or how to arrange this or that, one just trusts that it will be fine. And so it is many a time, actually. Could it not be said of the people as well; that we begin our life, our walk with a whole but tight bundle of various shades like a rosebud not opened yet? Then maturing, opening to the full bloom like a rose, we have maybe one or two colours that are more prominent than the rest. With colours I mean, traits and that which is so typical for and to us that it is us. And these things essentially make you, you and me, me!

All in all the years in Sweden for me were exceptionally good and the years that I still have great memories of. The times that were like an investment for the years to follow. I go to Sweden at regular intervals to visit and to feel at home again!!

Tis for now until the next posting. Riihele xx