A Finnish Karelian and a South African Refugee (1990)

this is not a scribble.

this is living memory.

in 1990, we were in exile in Finland, where my father represented the African National Congress (ANC) at the World Peace Council (WPC) in Helsinki.

it was a tumultuous time.

the Wall had come down.

Nelson Mandela was a free man and arrangements were being made for us, along with so many political exiles, to return to South Africa.

it was around that time that we were invited to a Finnish comrades home for a meal.

during the course of the evening I saw my mother hugging an elderly lady, who appeared to be sobbing, on my mom’s shoulder.

it was on the metro ride back to our apartment on an island just east of Helsinki that mom told us the following:

that old lady was a Karelian Finn, who after the 1940 Winter War (Talvisota in Finnish) found herself among so many who had to flee Karelia and became refugees in their own country.

the old lady broke down and recalled her days as a refugee in the merciless Finnish winter of 1940.

you see, my mom and that old lady who’s name i dont even know shared a bond that transcended race colour religion political social and ideological boundaries.

my mom and the fellow refugee shared a human connection of shared pain, displacement, and loss and hurt.
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long may the humanity of ordinary people live on, often the poorest and most deprived and ostracised and banished who constantly cling onto the threads and fragile strands that make us human.

they remind us
they shame us

they jab us to open our eyes
they prod us to do more

and they tell us
what we know
but what we often forget …

that we, the people, shall always, always be many many more

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with many thanks to the Kallio family of Helsinki, Finland.

for Anja, Jussi, Antti, Matti, Miikko & Liisa Kallio

thank you for your warmth and generosity of spirit and for your friendship

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https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evacuation_of_Finnish_Karelia

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