Title: Red Exodus
Finnish-American Emigration to Russia
Author: Mayme Sevander
"From the frying pan to the fire"
We've all heard the old saying "If a tree fell in the forest, and nobody saw it, did it really happen?"
Stalin thought that he could simply make history anything he wanted. Events did not necessarily have to have happened. Reality was to be constructed, separate from actual events. Thus, he could shoot anybody he wanted and since very few people ever got out of his massive concentration camp, what happens there would stay there. He went on a killing spree, a mass murder that even his WWII allies decided to ignor. They chose to dismiss the rumours, and it really didn't concern them.
To such a Socialist system, built on lies, deception, murder, in short hell on earth, many idealists came with their families, by the thousands. They came to build a paradise, and landed in hell. Amongst them were a large number of Finns who had emigrated to North America in the decades before the Second World War. They had made the biggest mistake of their lives.
Mayme Sevander is a survivor of this holocaust, and she has spent years collecting information on both sides of the Atlantic so she can tell us what happened to her family and many of the others who suffered the same fate. The book tells about her search for answers. Why did her family leave the land of the free and move to a large concentration camp, where the family was separated and the men shot?
Finnish Emigrants: Early 1900 to the Depression
Finns began to look for a better life in the new world, like millions of other people from all over the world in the early years of the 20th Century. Among them were many Marxist radicals. It is not known how many of these immigrants were Marxist sympathizers, but I think it is safe to say that many Finns were Christians and did not participate in radical activities. Many more were neither Christians nor "Communists." This history is about the Marxist element and their fate.
At the time, working class lot was not good in America. Employers payed what they wanted and treated employees any way they wanted, usually very badly. Radicals began to stir up discontent against injustice and devastating working and living conditions. The most dangerous jobs were assigned to Finns.
Finns were substantially more literate than average immigrants. Radical papers mushroomed throughout US. E.g. Työmies, a banned publication, appeared 1903 in Worcester Mass. It was therefore read in secret, mainly in the mining towns and logging camps.
These Finns were under surveillance by the boss' spies, while those who belonged to a church were supported by employers. Church publications were not banned.
According to Sevander, Finns were labelled trouble-makers, and were the first to be layed off or blacklisted in times of trouble.
Intellectual Marxist immigrants such as Yrjö Sirola and Santeri Nuorteva arrived 1910-11 enhancing the radical scene. They began to promote Marxist ideas among Finns in America. Many Finns began to believe in Soviet Russia, and the smooth talk of these "Pied Pipers." They want to help build the first ever Communist Society.
Working conditions in America were not improving very quickly. Accidents in mining and lumbering were high, and there was even a drop in wages 1913-14 when wages dropped to $4 in mining. Indeed it looked like a "class struggle" alright. Strikes were met with armed forces if the employer was not happy with the strikers' demands. There were arrests and "accidental" murders. A hall was set on fire and many men, women and children died because the exists were blocked. It happened in Calumet Michigan. Woody Guthrie sang "The 1913 Massacre" about this very event. Defeated, the Marxist Finns now looked for alternatives. Instead of staying behind to fight, they decided to retreat. Idealists will always run, because wherever they are in this world, it will always be reality, not some ideal. All we can do is deal with the situations as they arise, and do the best we can. But this is not how the radicals saw it.
To be continued: come back and read the next section about Kaarlo and Aino Forsman who fought on the side of the Red Guard in Finland's War of Independence.
Finns, Karelians and others murdered and buried secretly between 1937 - 1938
(from the Sandormohi graveyard at Karhumäki district overlooking Lake Onega)
The List of Finns and Karelians (may they rest in peace) shot by Stalin