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"Hyvä päivä, minä olen Waino Johannes Nivaoja. Minä olen suomalainen ja sinä." These were most likely the first words of a Finnish immigrant who had just landed on a different land. A land, which is full of work and one where one, is free to do as he pleases. A place where you don't have people looking over your shoulder all the time. My great grandfather Waino Johannes Nivaoja (Waino John Niva) is a legend of my family history because of his strength to come to a place he had just heard about from those who have come from such a land. Waino Nivaoja was born around 1882 during a time of poverty, in Kemijoki, Oulunlaani Finland.
Waino grew up working the family farm with his mother and father. During this time, education was mainly taught to the upper class people. The lower class families either didn't receive an education or if they did they didn't receive much of one. Because Waino was living on a remote farm his mother taught his education. She taught him what she could including the Bible. When Waino was old enough he moved away from home to a town on the Russian border and got a job there.
One day he had overheard a man talking of a land where the work was good and the trip would only cost $100.00. So he got a friend to give him the money for the ticket stating the fact that he would never forget him for it. Shortly after, 35-year-old Waino Nivaoja got on the ship owned by the Gunneds Ship Lines to come to America. The voyage to America lasted between two and three weeks. Shortly after he arrived in America, Waino made his way to the U.P. (Upper Peninsula) and found a job as a miner. He worked in the Superior Mines for some time. After many years he transferred to the Calumet Mines. From working in the mines Waino switched work, from the mines to working as a woodsman in the Keweenaw Bay area.
During that time Waino fell in love with another Finnish immigrant. Some time later the two got married and had some children, one of them being my grandfather, Waino John Niva Jr. Between the years 1940-45, Waino Sr. died around the age of 63. He lived a long and happy life with his wife and kids.
© Aron D. Jarvi
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