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Friendship and Finnish by Correspondence

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Tuuri Hotakainen
House of Tuuri and Lalli Hotakainen
Finnish Military Compound
Finland

Mora, 21 mars 91

Dear Tuuri,

It was good to hear from you.

My aunt and uncle say to tell you that they are very pleased with the preliminary findings on the second batch. Uncle’s contact needs some more information before they can proceed, apparently, so that’s what the typewritten questions here enclosed are about. You’ll need to find out some things yourself but it should be easy enough. Siv says to remember that they need it back before the end of the month or all our carefully laid plans will fall apart —I’ll spare you the details on how— so you definitely need to make sure they’re with the package on next week’s boat. Sorry about that.

You will doubtless be pleased to hear that the Cleansers were clamouring to have me back; I have already been assigned to a project at our vanguard! We will be departing on Sunday so please write to me care of the 5th Company of the Cleansers. You can also write to Uncle Torbjörn’s address or to my parents’ and they will forward it to me. I will be very busy with work but I will try to put aside some time for writing in the evenings. Do not worry about the post taking too long. We Swedes have devised a most efficient system for both our military and civilian post so my letters should be in Finland in just under a week. I’m not sure how long they will take to where you live but make sure to check with the post office often.

I am being called to dinner now. I’m sure I’ll have a lot to tell you when I write again next week.

By the way, how are you and Lalli? Is he finally feeling better? Say hello to him from me.

All my best,

Emil Västerström

E. F. Västerström
5. komp. Saneringsregementet
Fältpost 33-4758
Sverige

Keuruu, Finland, 30.03.91

Dear Emil,

Thank you for writing so soon! It was really nice to be able to talk to everyone together, and I really hope we get a chance to keep in touch over the summer. I told Reynir and Sigrun and Mikkel to write too but I guess their letters haven’t got here yet.

I was SO pleased when we heard we would be able to keep the radio at Siv and Torbjörn’s! I know we cannot use it every day, but it is honestly so much quicker than sending letters back and forth. I have access to a radio here and I’m sure I’ll be able to get authorisation to use it, at least once in a while. Do you get any time off from your project? Let me know if you’re likely to be in Mora and I’ll try to time a call while you’re there. I mean, I’m sure you’ll want to see your parents, too, but I thought I would mention it just in case.

I’m sending this letter with the package for Siv and Torbjörn (it’s just easier that way) so hopefully it won’t take too long and it won’t get misplaced or anything. I’m pretty sure I got the address right but I asked Siv to check it over, too. Speaking of addresses, you’re LUCKY Keuruu is so small. Honestly, you’re lucky your letter even GOT to Keuruu. I mean, once it gets here it’s fine, but Lalli and I don’t live together (he’s in the scouts’ barracks) so it’s fine to address it just to me. Speaking of Lalli, yeah, he’s totally fine; got over the seasickness in no time and was back to scouting straight away. I’ll say hi next time I see him.

I’m doing well, thanks for asking! A lot of the work I’m doing now is more of the same sort of thing I was doing before, but at least I know I’ll get to go back to the Silent World soon. Plus now they’re letting me handle more of the official communications, specially those in Icelandic (and some Swedish!). Oh, and of course I still have a couple more batches of material to go through from the Expedition and from the lot Taru’s brought back from Sweden. I have a lot more to do but I’m enjoying myself doing it, you know?

But tell me more about what you’re doing! Where exactly are you stationed, and what sort of work are you doing exactly?

By the way, did you want me to carry on teaching you Finnish? I STILL don’t understand why you won’t just learn Icelandic, but if you really want to I think it would be good practice for you to try to write a little bit in Finnish and I’ll help and correct you. I promise I’ll be nice!!

With love,

Tuuri

Tuuri Hotakainen
Keuruu
Finland

Vansbro, 7 april 91

Dear Tuuri,

It was nice to get this letter with the postal delivery today. I had three letters to open when most cleansers only have the one! I haven’t heard from any of the others either, but then again you really can’t expect the Norwegians to be very good correspondents, and I think Mikkel said he might be travelling for a bit (or something like that). I guess Reynir knows better than to try writing to me since his Swedish is worse than my Icelandic.

Even in Spring we Cleansers are so busy that we don’t get much time off and those of us most qualified to do the work are in very high demand. Right now I have a day or so fortnightly on leave to see my family. I’ll be going to Mora every time since Östersund is so far anyway! So I’ll be at my uncle’s on the 14th and 27th this month, and then next month on the 5th and 18th. I’ll make sure the radio is all set up next week, in case this letter gets to you in time.

I am stationed south of Mora near the Mora-Øresund line. Another company went through last summer and did some burning and demolition work and now that winter’s done its part we’re going in with the cat squads. This is not the kind of work I excel at —they’re really not playing to my strengths here— but I am doing well at hunting whatever trolls and beasts are left. Nothing to what we saw in Denmark! Sigrun would laugh, probably.

If you think you can manage to carry on with the Finnish that would be good. Look, I know everyone thinks an academic should know Icelandic, but I never found I needed it and I think Finnish is better for me anyway. What should I write about?

Don’t forget to say hello to Lalli. Tell him he can try writing in Finnish and I’ll see how much sense I can make of it with a dictionary.

All my best,

Emil Västerström

E. Västerström
5. komp. Saneringsregementet
Fältpost 33-4758
Sverige

Keuruu, Finland, 16.04.91

Dear Emil,

It was great to speak to you on Monday!! I didn’t think I would be writing back so soon, but there’s a ferry going out today and I thought I might as well write something since I can. AND I’ve actually got some news. They brought some post with them when they docked last night and there were TWO letters from Reynir and one from Mikkel. So that’s everyone, what with Sigrun’s letter last week. Mikkel’s wasn’t very long so I’ve made a copy for you and am sending it with my letter. I’ve sent him your address too so he should be able to write to you directly.

Reynir seems really happy to be back in Iceland with his family but he says he still wants to try to join us again once he’s got some mage training, can you believe it? He’s gone to Reykjavik with one of his sisters to arrange it now. He’s also got some news on Kisu; she passed all the veterinary tests and is apparently doing really well with her training. She’s actually being sent to Denmark for further training. If she passes (which she will!) she’ll definitely be able to come with us. ♥︎

Ugh, look at me writing in Swedish when I said I would make you practice your Finnish. I think you should be able to manage the rest!

Sooo true that after Denmark it all seems just a little less scary. Onni insists that I should be glad to have made it back alive and shouldn’t be thinking about ever stepping out of Keuruu again if I can help it, but we’ve shown that we can actually do it, so why not try again? The documents I’m looking at for Siv are all so useful that I can’t imagine the Council will deny us some more funding. At least a teensy bit more. And anyway you know your uncle wants to try again and is willing to part-fund the expedition next winter. This time at least we can make sure that the supplies will last and that the tank is in good shape.

Tell me about YOU for your Finnish practice! What exactly are you doing with the cat squads? I’ve never seen cleansers at work and honestly really only see the cats around the base. Lalli works with them more, I think, but he has not said to me what kind of work they do, either. What are the other cleansers like? How long are you going to be stationed there?

Love,

Tuuri

Tuuri Hotakainen
Keuruu
Finland

Vansbro, 25/04 91

Dear Tuuri,

Surely no kind of normal person can make sense of whatever all that stuff was. I know you say that once you have the grammar down it’s just a matter of looking up the words you don’t know and then figuring out what the endings mean, but sometimes I think that if you wrote down Kissekatt’s meows it would look about the same and make just as much sense!

Look, can you go over the whole conditional and imperative forms for me again? They don’t make sense to me and I can’t really tell if that’s what you’re using or if it’s just words changing the way they’re written again . Actually, do you think you could write down a chart for me, or something?

Thank you for forwarding Mikkel’s letter and passing on the news from Reynir. Do you know when Kissekatt’s going to Denmark? Who’s taking her there? She could have done just as well in Sweden.

By the way, I know I said I didn’t think I would get anything from her, but Sigrun wrote to me too. Did she mention the incident at the pass to you too?

Onni looks like he has to stop telling you about he thinks you should act. Onni don’t know if you can do things that are useful from the Silent World, but we do know. Like you say, the Council will given us some more funding. I hear from father’s brother that he hear from friend of him that many books sell already, so you are right. I don’t understand ‘supplies’. What does it mean?

I don’t know what to tell you. The cat squads we use for reason of finding trolls and beasts with their caves. At the mornings we go to the cats. This is difficult springtime when the sun rises late, sometimes the cats is awake. Cleansers follows the cats from the camp, or show them food to take them from in. At the time they meow or cry we find the place and bring weapons. It is small groups with two or three cleansers for one cats. If maybe there is one giant, two groups can join. Do Finnish scouts use cats?

The other cleansers are okay. I am here one other month.

Wow, that was very difficult! I hope you can understand what I meant, it took me a really long time to get it right.

Speak to you soon,

Emil Västerström

E. Västerström
5. komp. Saneringsregementet
Fältpost 33-4758
Sverige

Keuruu, 03.05.91

Dear Emil,

I’m so sorry, I didn’t think it would be so hard to understand. I tried writing in simple language but I guess it didn’t occur to me that you wouldn’t pick up some of the word forms! It seems pretty obvious to me but I guess it isn’t really. I’m not going to try to explain here because I know we’ll be able to talk on the radio before this letter gets to you anyway, but there really is a logic to it and I think you’ll get it really quickly if we just practice some more.

I did make you a chart for all the different imperative forms in Finnish with some Swedish translations. I hope you find them useful! I actually had to do a lot of thinking to make sure all the uses were right. It’s been a really long time since I had to think about grammar instead of just using it. That’s always the hardest part of learning a language anyway; I don’t think I ever think about whether I have to use the conditional or not, and even with Swedish I haven’t asked myself that kind of thing since I had to do exercises for school.

Don’t be discouraged! The more you understand Finnish the easier it will be to just pick it up without thinking about the grammar. I can already sort of make sense of your Finnish. That’s pretty good!

Love,

Tuuri

P.S. Lalli says hei.

Tuuri Hotakainen
Keuruu
Finland

Vansbro, 10/05 91

Dear Tuuri,

Did you manage to get all the filing done on time? It sounded really bad when you were talking about it, but it was probably fine, right? To be honest, I had no idea a minor base like Keuruu would need so much administrative nonsense, but that’s of course the nature of paperwork. Have you had a chance to do anything less boring since? What about Lalli, is he back on nights now? I can’t believe they put him on days again.

We still have another couple of weeks at this old settlement before we move on to the next area. It looks cleansed to me already, but our cats would beg to differ. Stridently. Other than the occasional larger nests, it’s small beasts and trolls followed by more beasts and trolls, and hardly any structures aboveground left to destroy. How bad is it that I wish the team before us had done a less thorough job?

We’re basically just ambushing these creatures. I would much rather be setting up explosives. I wish I could say that I’m bored but none of this is dull work, you know?

I don’t know what else to say. I suspect I might not be the best correspondent. I can’t even think what to write about for my Finnish practice. If Finnish was less ridiculous I might actually be able to use it to talk about things, but it takes hours to say anything!

My name is Emil Västerström. I am 19 years old. I come from Östersund. My work is a Cleanser in the Sweden militaries.  It started when I am 17 years. My mother is Helga and my father is Torolf. I have not siblings, but I have three cousins instead. They are called Anna, Håkan, and Sune. You meet them in Mora. What more do you like to know?

It’s really obvious stuff, but there it is. If you mean it about understanding me, at least now if I ever go to Finland I can say something .

Yours,

Emil

E. Västerström
5. komp. Saneringsregementet
Fältpost 33-4758
Sverige

Keuruu, 24.05.91

Dear Emil,

I’ve said it to you before and I’ll say it again, of course I mean it about understanding you! Okay, it’s true that you need to learn to differentiate your vowel sounds, and your grammar still needs a LOT of work, but when you look back to how little you knew even three months ago you can easily see how much progress you’ve made.

It would be great if you came to Finland! I know you find it awkward to speak to me in Finnish when we could be speaking in Swedish anyway, but if you come stay here you’ll have a lot of opportunities to practice and improve your vocabulary! It’s a shame you don’t have time this summer. Keuruu is really nice this time of year and I would love to show you round and introduce you to everyone. You might even be able to chat to Onni for a bit this time —I always forget you don’t really know him! I know he has this face like he disapproves of everything you are but he’s a big softie and I promise he’s heard nothing but good from me. He still hasn’t come to terms with me wanting to go away again, but I think he’s glad I’m going to be among friends, since I am going. It helps that this time it should be easier to convince him to just go to Mora when Lalli and I go. He KNOWS how helpful he was, and he probably prefers being informed, in spite of everything.

And it’s not just him you’d be able to talk to! If you get a chance you should speak to Taru; she helped create some of the strategies for cleansing the area around Keuruu some twenty years ago, you know? Ooh, and you know who else? Outi!! Remember I mentioned her when I called last Sunday? I’d never talked to her much before at all —she’s only just 16— but she’s been learning some Swedish for her job and she’d probably be up for some Swedish/Finnish practice.

EEK, I forgot I was supposed to be writing to you in Finnish. I’m sorry! Writing to you is really easy and lately I’ve realised that there’s a lot we haven’t talked about. It’s a little bit odd, considering how much time we spent moving around and in the cat-tank, but I never even knew your parents’ names before your last letter, and I doubt I told you about mine. Wait, I’m sorry AGAIN, Emil, I forgot to try to write in easier Finnish for you. I mean that I didn’t know about your family before, and I think you don’t know about mine, and maybe it would be good if I told you.

Onni is my only brother, and I don’t have any other cousins besides Lalli. We all grew up in Saimaa (I did mention that, right?), but when we were little Onni and I spent a lot of time with my parents and Lalli with his. My dad (his name was Juha), used to work on the ferries, and my mum (Anne-Mari) was a cartographer (she made maps) and helped with overseeing deforestation and reforestation (ugh, I mean that her other job was to make sure we had enough wood). Onni remembers more. I used to love sitting up with my mum, reading, while she worked. Dad used to sing to us, and he taught us to play the kantele. Onni’s better at it than I am. We used to see uncle Jukka and Aunt Tuulikki and Lalli at mealtimes and sometimes when we travelled between settlements. There’s some family on mum’s side, too, but they didn’t live very close even then.

Next time we speak, please tell me what it was like for you, growing up in Östersund. It should be a PERFECT opportunity to practice the imperfect!

Love,

Tuuri

Tuuri Hotakainen
Keuruu
Finland

Hästkullen, 04/06 91

Dear Tuuri,

How are you? The cleansers company travelled to the new camp finally. We did not went to Kroktorp like I said you in radio as we speak on Monday. Now we are in a place with less of Old World buildings. A lot of cats we have send again to Mora, because we are doing different middle of the summer work. It is much funner! No, no fire still, but we looks for good places for later and write informations.

I called to my parents yesterday and told to them you say hello. You and Lalli are my mother’s invitation to Östersund next summer, haha!

Write you more soon,

Emil

P.S. I did reasonably well at writing wholly in Finnish, wouldn’t you say?

Emil Västerström
5. komp. Saneringsregementet
Fältpost 33-4758
Sverige

Keuruu, 06.06.91

Emil,

Tuuri isn’t well. She’s ill with something and can’t write or call for now. We don’t know what she has, but Eila (the doctor) is taking care of her, so don’t worry. You can write if you want, but maybe she will be too tired to read it.

Can you really understand this? Tuuri says you can.

Lalli

Lalli Hotakainen
Keuruu
Finland

Lesjöfors, 13/06 91

Lalli,

I only now get your letter about Tuuri. I wish she is better already, or at least for radio this Sunday. But this letter is being too much late no matter what. Please, when you got this letter, tell Tuuri.

Can you be with her when she is ill? I will like that.

I can understand a little Finnish. You can know I do not write it okay, and worse at speaking, but I am learning.

If you want, you can write me too.

Your friend,

Emil

E. Västerström
5. komp. Saneringsregementet
Fältpost 33-4758
Sverige

Keuruu, 14.06.91

Emil,

I hope you got my telegram about missing tomorrow’s call!! Although I suppose if you didn’t Outi will have told you.

I am a lot better now, actually, but I get dizzy every time I get up and my throat feels like sandpaper. We’re still not sure what it is exactly, but it doesn’t seem contagious and none of the symptoms so far are alarming, so please don’t worry about me!

I’ll have to make it up to you somehow for skipping our Finnish lesson! If you send me all the case exercises we were going to be doing orally on paper instead, I’ll have a look and send them back with corrections. Don’t think that means you shouldn’t also tell me how everything is going with you and your family, though!

Lots of love,

Tuuri

Tuuri Hotakainen
Keuruu
Finland

Lesjöfors, 22/06 91

Tuuri,

I really hope that by the time you get this you’re feeling entirely recovered. Lalli told me not to worry —I heard it first from him, if you would believe it— but it’s been very difficult not to, when all you can say is that it’s some sort of mysterious illness! I’ll take your word for it that the symptoms are not alarming and that you are improving, but please take care of yourself.

I did get the telegram, so don’t worry about missing the call. I’d got so used to chatting with you whenever I visited my uncle that it was a bit weird not to be able to, but it is best that you took some time to rest. My cousins quickly demanded that I spend any time I would otherwise have spent in the control room with them; I have now learned how to braid hair so that it looks like a crown, and how to put it all back without ties.

Anyway…what I mean to say is that I did not spend our usual Finnish practice hours doing anything resembling Finnish practice. I did bring the exercise book (to think that I have those again, and it’s not even for school!) and did some work on it the last couple of nights, but it’s not the whole section or anything.

I will now try writing the rest in Finnish, because you asked me to do it. I still not yet understand well how to talk in the past, but I think maybe it is now possible for me. How do you do to remember the tense and mood endings when you speak? I can only use them because I have the charts and note. Do you think it is possible if I understand another Finnish person? You speak clear to me, but maybe other persons will not do it. I wish maybe next summer, if I visit, I will be better.

I have think about it and I do not need to work for military all summer next year. If we get good books and things at winter, maybe it will be good for expenses and also for us. The works in later summer is also better by me. I liked working with cats, but now we’re doing demolition it is more useful to be here! So I could come in spring or the earlier summer. That is very much time from now, but good for us to organise it.

I could not figure out how to write it in Finnish —or rather, it’s still so tiring to write all this— but I wanted to let you know, in case you haven’t already heard from Taru, that Torbjörn, Siv, and Trond are on their way to Reykjavik for the hearing concerning the second funding application, so expect some news about that soon. I doubt we’ll know anything by the time you call on the 30th but it’s good to know things are moving forward, isn’t it?

I do hope you’re better and feel up to speaking.

Yours,

Emil

E. Västerström
5. komp. Saneringsregementet
Fältpost 33-4758
Sverige

Keuruu, 04.07.91

Emil,

Hi!! Sorry I didn’t write earlier. I’ve been SO busy since I came back to work because of everything that I couldn’t do when I was ill, and now to top it off I need to make sure I can wrap everything up before the end of August AND I need to put together the supplemental supporting material the Council are now asking for. Honestly, bless Mikkel for volunteering to take charge of the supplies side of things. I imagine I would be doing that too, otherwise.

I heard that Mikkel’s taking Kisu to Sweden with him next week!! I’m soooo jealous, you’ll have to tell me all about her on Sunday. And maybe you could do a drawing? The one you did when she was tiny was pretty cute.

Lots of love,

Tuuri

Tuuri Hotakainen
Keuruu
Finland

Lesjöfors, 17/07 91

Tuuri,

Great news! We’ve been funded again and will be free to leave as soon as conditions are favourable. I don’t know how, but they’ve managed to convince the Council to provide enough for a salary for Reynir and even a small provision for Kissekatt. I suppose they’re glad they did not have to arrange the training of either cat or mage, and, after all, as a trainee Reynir cannot ask for a great deal. It looks like the rest of us will be on the same salaries as before, but of course they don’t know that what we get is going to be supplemented.

The other change is that they’re sending some basic equipment for us to take ‘organic’ samples and do some analysis while we’re out there. Siv doesn’t think it’s particularly useful or safe, but apparently the samples of the ancient ‘cure’ we brought back meant that it was a good idea to push the scientific research angle in the funding application…

Torbjörn’s asked me to tell you and Lalli to prepare yourselves to come to make the crossing sometime next month, in time for the last week. Sigrun’s organised some training jointly with one of the defence regiments here and we’re all expected to attend. We’ll have some free time so I’ll make sure you see the best Mora has to offer — you haven’t seen everything there yet.

Looking forward to seeing you!

Emil

P.S. Here’s a little drawing of Kissekatt with Sune and Bosse.

E. Västerström
5. komp. Saneringsregementet
Fältpost 33-4758
Sverige

Keuruu, 25.07.91

Emil,

Eeeee, that’s the MOST exciting news ever!! I am SO glad to know for sure that the expedition is going ahead, and I’m even more glad that we will all be going again!

I don’t have much time to write today (so many things to get ready!), but I’m setting aside the whole evening for our next call.

Before I forget: I found one of the books I used to read when I was little. It has some really nice illustrations and the language is fairly simple. I thought you might like it, so I’m sending it with this letter. Let me know what you think! We probably have a couple more somewhere and I could bring them with me to Sweden if you want.

(Thank you for the drawing: it is SUPER adorable. ♥︎)

Love,

Tuuri

 

Tuuri Hotakainen
Keuruu
Finland

Hästkullen, 05/08 91

Dear Tuuri,

This is my final week with the Cleansers for the summer. I’ll be heading back to Mora to my uncle’s as soon as I’m done, in time for the whole team to join us. Reynir should be getting to us next week, and Sigrun and Mikkel the week after.

If you let us know when you call what time you’re likely to be getting into Björköfjärden I should be able to meet you and Lalli there.

Yours,

Emil

Lalli Hotakainen
Keuruu
Finland

Mora, 10/08 91

Lalli,

See you at Björköfjärden soon! For good luck, I am sending you some cookies. I wish you can eat them and feel not so bad as before after the boat.

Yours,

Emil

E. Västerström
Dössvägen 33
792 36 Mora
Sverige

Keuruu, 17.08.91

Dear Emil,

We’re ready to leave! We’ll be getting the ferry on Wednesday and making the crossing as soon as we get to Pori.

It’ll be really great to see you again, though a bit weird not to write letters all the time — it was really fun!

Let’s see whether we can beat this letter there!

Tuuri ♥︎