Thursday, July 15, 2004


On Tuesday we paid a visit with my brother to our grandfather, who lives in Lapua. Lapua is a small town (pop. approximately 13,000) situated in the region of Southern Pohjanmaa (Ostrobothnia is the ancient Latin name for the region). I was born in Lapua myself, though I have lived in Tampere since I was one year old, after my father came to study at the University of Tampere.

The town of Lapua, despite its small size, plays quite a part in Finnish history. Locals are deeply religious, conservative and patriotic Protestants, and the town was the place where the fiercely anti-Communist, right-wing "Lapuan Liike" movement was born in the 1930s, headed by one Vihtori Kosola. Other well-known Lapua natives are, among all, Finnish ex-Prime Minister Anneli Jäätteenmäki (who had to resign in the stir of controversy in an affair called "Iraqgate"), the notorious artist Teemu Mäki (still best known from his art video where he slaughtered a living cat), and the actor Esko Nikkari, also familiar from Aki Kaurismäki's films. It's obvious Lapua is known for people who like to make ripples. Lapua is also the home for the world-famous Lapua Ammunition Factory. In 1976 there was an explosion at the factory that took the lives of 40 people. From Pohjanmaa there was a large immigrant movement to America in the nineteenth century (when the great starvation years took place) and early twentieth century, so I have some distant relatives also in the New World.

Despite the bold reputation of Pohjanmaa people, my grandfather Aarne Rautio is a kind and modest man; even a saint-like person if I've ever known one. I feel guilty that I don't visit him as often as I should, especially now when he became a widower in 2001. My grandmother Helvi Rautio was the strong-willed matriach of our family. She was from the Finnish region of Savo and was married during the war to my grandfather. The relocation from Savo to Pohjanmaa did not take place without any friction. In Finland there's some tribal mistrust between people of different provinces and regions, and for example, the people of Savo are often especially maligned as being crooked and self-serving people, though dynamic, humorous and playful too. And the Pohjanmaa people are considered very proud, bold, straightforward, patriotic, conservative, with a lot of entrepreneur spirit -- and stiff.

Before she died, my grandmother often told me her hard-time stories about how she was mistreated in the Rautio family in the 1940s and 50s, by her mother-in-law et al. I think those experiences made my grandmother a bit hardened and bitter person, though she and my grandfather always treated me like a little prince. When I was a child, I spent many summers and holidays with my grandparents in Lapua and they grew very fond of and attached to me. They lived in a house in the middle of forest of Rautakorpi, and it was all quite secluded. There were rarely any visitors, and I spent a lot alone with my own games, reading books and watching their small black and white TV that got its power from a car accumulator: they didn't have any electricity and used gas for cooking and to light up the place. Now it feels very idyllic, but I often wonder if all that seclusion didn't have some effect at least of me becoming more a loner type than a socializing one. Nevertheless, those are my memories, things that were to make me what I am now.

It is said that the notorious puukkojunkkari ("knife fighter") Antti Rannanjärvi would also bear some relation to our family. Puukkojunkkarit, or Häjyt, were a bunch of rogues who terrorized the Pohjanmaa region in the 19th century. Especially restless was the decade of the 1850s. Antti Rannanjärvi's best known associate was a man called Antti Isotalo. Nowadays these people have become similar "folk heroes" in Finland as the outlaws in the Wild West of America are now considered.

Antti Rannanjärvi & Antti Isotalo, the original gangstas

Isotalon Antti ja Rannanjärvi
ne jutteli kaharen kesken:
:;: Tapa sinä Kauhavan ruma vallesmanni,
niin minä nain sen komian lesken. :;:

Isotalon Antti oli ensimmäänen
ja Rannanjärvi oli toinen
:;: Pukkilan Jaska se Kauhavalla,
oli kolmas samanmoinen. :;:

Sitten on piru, sanoi Rannanjärvi
jos minä miestä pelkään
:;: Tervaspampulla kuonon päälle,
ja teräksellä selkään. :;:

Vaasan veri ei vapise
eikä Kauhavan rauta ruostu
:;: niskasta kiinni ja puukkolla selkähän
jonsei muutoin suostu :;:

Ensin portahat särjettiin
ja sitten vasta muuri,
:;: Isoo-Antti se erellä meni,
joka joukosta oli suurin. :;:

Ei saa laulaa Rannanjärvestä,
Rannanjärvi on kuollu.
:;: Rannanjärven hauralle,
on marmorikivi tuotu. :;:

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