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Undisciplined Wilhelmiina : An Autobiography

Mary Korvela

In Etelä-Pohjanmaa (part of Vaasa county) lived a family. In August they got a daughter, who in the holy christening got the name Wilhelmiina, but her mother started to use the short form Miina. Children born in August have the symbol Lion, which is said to influence the child's character. In Miina this could soon be noticed. Miina was a child of good health and grew fast. Aunts visiting told she was beautiful. The parents were laborers. In Finland fall is harvesting time. Mother took the girl with her into the field. There under the corn stock Miina, with red cheeks, was sleeping while mother was cutting grain.

So Miina's childhood passed, the family grew bigger, Miina got sisters and brothers. As Miina was growing, she had to take care of the younger siblings. It was time for Miina to learn how to read. It was not a problem, she was lively and learned fast. Miina was very undisciplined and good for doing bad things. Because she was born under the Lion, she was brave and feared nothing. Mother had taught Miina to do good, but she still did bad. No matter how far a turnip or pea field was, Miina went there with unruly boys to get turnips and peas. It was a wonder they were never caught. Miina jumped over the fence like the boys did and escaped. Good heavens, if the parents or sisters found out. If the sisters had known, they would have told mother and Miina knew what had happened.

Miina's hiding place was under the barn. There she took her catch and went to eat when nobody saw. Sometimes the turnips rottened when she did not have a chance to go and get them. Miina's home was a small cottage. The parents worked for other people and Miina, the eldest, had to take care of the younger sisters and brothers at home. The other children of the village gathered there of course to play. There they played and fought when they did not have to care for the parents. The parents came home late and the sandman had already visited.

Once the kids had started arguing who could make the biggest heap of excrement. The only way to find out was that all of the ten or more children made their own heaps on the floor in the cottage. The children left the excrements on the floor and the neighbor's children went home. Miina and her sisters and brothers went to sleep. When mother came home, she smelled something strange and held her nose. Mother lit the lamp and looked under the bench and found the excrements. Oh, you dear children, why do you make me so much work? You make the floor dirty instead of cleaning it!

Next morning mother went to work again and the neighbor's children came to play. Miina told the children what mother had said, clean the floor instead of making it dirty. The children started cleaning the cottage. There was a clay-pit nearby and there the children took their water, some with pails, some with cups. The bigger children used the broom and everybody had fun cleaning on their own. But poor mother when she came home! Two inches of wet clay on the floor! Mother started crying, she felt so bad, no wonder. To the children mother said, don't you ever again do bad things to me. Mother went to work and the neighbor's children came to play. Miina again told them what mother had said. Now the children all agreed that Miina had a bad mother because she was not satisfied even after the children had washed the cottage.

Miina often went to church on Sundays. It was 5 kilometers (3 miles) away. She always went very early, because close to the church was a store. First she went to the back yard to look for just anything. She used to find coloured pieces of paper and sometimes even some sweets and that was something! No wonder she went there. Then she had to run to look how many corpses were brought to be buried. She would go with the crowd to the grave and look how the coffins were buried.

The adults went to listen to the sermon and sing hymns, but Miina and her friends would go and climb the stairs in the belfry. From above they would watch the views and argue how many meters up they were. They had to go down when the sermon was over and walked home. At home mother asked what the sermon was about today. The children did not know, but Miina could tell how many corpses were buried. Miina was happy about the coloured pieces of paper she had in her pocket. She made flowers and pictures of them and played with them when mother went to work.

Miina was always very sleepy in the morning and would rather have stayed in bed. Every morning she thought, "oh if I only could sleep as long as I want! Even once! There must be a way that I may sleep until my eyes stay open". Then one Saturday evening when mother was in the sauna, Miina went up on the ceiling with all the rugs, sacks and all the rubbish. Nobody knew where the girl went. Mother thought she was sleeping in the bed above. Next morning mother came to wake her up, but the bed was empty. Mother was very surprised, but thought that Miina had gone to sleep with the neighbor's kids, although she had never done that before.

It was Sunday morning and father went to church and mother wanted to go and get Miina home. But she was not there and nobody had seen her the evening before. Mother was very upset and worried where the girl had gone, and they all started serching, but could not find the girl. Mother was in trouble, she did nor know where to look. Miina was sleeping peacefully on the ceiling. She woke up at noon and she could not keep her eyes closed any longer how hard she ever tried. She came down from her hiding-place. Mother was glad, but she said, Thank the Lord you woke up before father came from church! Thus Miina slept as long as she could, at least one time during her childhood.

Years pass away and the children grow up. Miina was old enough to go to school. It was her dream. Her favourite subjects were calculation and geography but writing she disliked. She would rather have left that subject out. The school building was on a beautiful riverbank, red coloured, which is Miina's favourite colour. The school was 3 kilometers (2 miles) away. Miina always went to school early in the morning, so she had time for toboggan-run onto the ice in winter. In springtime she would "throw buttons" with the boys, jump rope and board, in the fall look for bushes with gooseberry. Miina had lots of time for doing bad things, she did not have to spend much time with homework, she had a good memory. Often there were fights on the way.

Once Miina was standing on the road and pushed everybody trying to pass into the ditch. Some Jussi got mad, took his knife and hit Miina in the back when she did not notice. There was a big hole in the cloths, but only a small scratch on the skin. Miina was afraid mother would see the hole in the coat, so she could never turn mother her back when going out, although her Aunt had done her best to repair the coat. The other children told the teacher that Jussi and Miina had been fighting and Jussi had used his knife. Of course they were questioned what the fight was all about and why Jussi had used his knife. The teacher found out why and Miina had to tell Jussi she was sorry and that was a hard punishment. Miina would much rather have got the twig.

Close to Miina's home was a wealthy house, where a boy called Jaakko lived. He was one year older than Miina. Miina had loved Jaakko as long as she could remember, but never told anybody. But the difference between rich and poor was so huge, Miina knew that. Miina often wished she were a farmer's daughter, maybe Jaakko would have noticed her then. They often played and argued together. Often The dispute was so loud, the parents had to send both children home to calm down. It was time for Miina to go to confirmation school. There she felt at home. She was not afraid of the pastor nor of the presenter. She thought they asked too easy questions, but there were many children who could not answer any questions. Miina got a bible. She promised to keep it as long as she lives and she was very happy about the gift. Not too many children got a bible. Neighbor's Jaakko teased Miina, "you got it because you are so poor". It hurt and Miina thought she could get rich enough to stand beside Jaakko at Midsummer.

The children were confirmed at Midsummer, it was a great celebration also for Miina. She was not very undisciplined anymore. Instead she had to worry about getting a job to earn her living and to help her parents and younger sisters and brothers.

Miina also dreamed about richness. That's the question, what would she do? As a hired girl she could not support her parents, not to talk about getting rich. At that time everybody had the America-fever. This was about the turn of the century. Miina made the decision to go to America, but how, and where to get the money for the ticket?

Miina had an Aunt in America, to whom she wrote and asked for money. Miina waited ardently for reply, which she also got. It was cold and negative with the explanation "does Miina think you get money so easily in America that you send it and know you never get it back". Disappointment # 1. This cooled down the America-fever a bit, but did not stop it. The Aunt had not seen Miina for years and did not know that she had grown up to be a determined and honest girl.

Father started to ask for a loan. People had money, but who would lend it to poor people. The worst thing was she was a girl, they don't pay their tickets back. If she even was a boy. Them you can trust.

Surprise, surprise, father got a loan from some acquaintance. When Miina heard the good news, she gave father a big hug, although he was a man of the old kind. She said "hurray, now this girl goes to America"! "And if I don't die on the journey, I will pay my ticket back". Father said "thank you, I believe that".

Miina was in a hurry to get her baggage. She sewed a bag of strong cotton fabric for food, cloths, the bible and hymn-book, which father had bought her. Miina could not spend any money for a purse, because she had to save some for the immigration. Miina did not mind having just a sack, as long as she could go to America.

When all the arrangements were done and the travelling-date was fixed for January, one of Miina's friends asked why she was going in the middle of the winter. Why not wait until next spring, when many people she knew were going. Miina just said the ticket is paid for and the bag is ready and I travel by myself. Next spring so many people are going, where are they supposed to get work? When I go first, I get a better job. She thought America would be filled up with immigrants.

The date of departure came. It was a cold day of January. Miina asked the neighbour to take her to the station. At the same time she had a chance to say goodbye to the neghbours. Briskly she also said goodbye to her childhood fighting companion Jaakko. When she got home she could not help the tears coming. She did not know why. Miina had a hard time saying goodbye, especially to mother. Mother had tears in her eyes and wished Miina would not "glide too far on slippery road. That destroys your luck".

Miina was still very young, only seventeen, and going by herself to a foreign country. Nobody she knew would accompany her. The farmer (neighbour) sat next to Miina in the sleigh, the horse started pulling, Miina looked back as long as she could see her home. There went her childhood, father, mother, brothers and sisters. Miina was sitting next to the neighbour holding her bag and dreaming about richness. She would stay only for five years maximum in America, then come back and buy a house. Miina stopped dreaming, when they arrived at the station. The train whistled and stopped at the station. Miina had never seen a train so close and would enter it for the first time. First she said goodbye to the neighbour, who wished Miina good luck and a quick return. Miina thanked him and the train started towards Hankoniemi (Hanko, Hangö). The train was very crowded. Miina finally found an empty seat in a corner. She asked an elderly lady if the seat was taken. She said no. Miina sat down with her bag beside her. Mother had warned Miina to take good care of the bag, then there was all Miina owned.

Miina looked around, but could not see any familiar faces. The elderly lady looked at Miina and the bag and started talking. She asked where such a young girl was travelling by herself. Miina alertly: "To America!" The lady wondered, "to America? You must have relatives you are going to?" "I don't have any relatives. I'm just going to an address I got" The lady wondered how Miina dared to travel alone so far to a foreign country. She did not answer, just thought what there might be to be afraid of. Miina was brave, did not know what fear was.

There were many people on the train going to America. Several people came and asked Miiina with what ship company she was travelling and to what city she was going etc.

The train arrived at Hanko and Miina's school of the shores of the world (!?) started. In front of the station men were shouting. "Anybody going with White Star Line? This way!" "This way everybody going with Cunard Line!" That's where Miina went. She had a ticket for Cunard Line. They were taken into a big lodging-house, where they had to spend the night. The ship was leaving next morning. There was such a noise more people coming all the time, men and women, old and young, everybody with destination America.

They spent the time looking at the town, of course Miina was one of them. Somebody suggested they should by a bottle of cognac, it is good agains sea-sickness. Another said why not, and so the whole gang went to the liquor store. Everybody bought a three mark bottle of cognac. Miina put the bottle into her sack.

In the afternoon passengers were taken onto the ship. The shores of the native country was left behind, for many of them forever. Miina thought she would soon return. The ship moved slowly and the seasickness came. The cognac did not help nor did the pills. It was night. The waves swayed the ship, but it went slow but sure forwards. The passengers got acquainted, some got home sick. They sang all the songs they could remember. Miina was thinking of the small cottage between the birches and neighbour's Jaakko, who used to sing his favourite song: "On the shores of the Gulf of Botnia I have my home, although small and low, it's my goldfield". He had learned that song at school.

Luckily they arrived in England, where a guide took them into a big hall, where they got white bread and tea. Miina had never before seen wheat bread and she ate with good appetite and thought "now the bread gets white". The passengers travelling by Cunard Line had to wait for another three days. They spent their time walking around in the city, also dancing. The ladies, of course, went to buy hats. They were wearing all kinds of cones. There were a couple of girls with the preetiest dresses and when they in the winter wore white sailor's hats and had hair pins, you could nothing but laugh.

Miina did not buy a hat, she only said "I would be quite a sight with a hat on my head and a sack on my back", when the others asked why she did not buy a hat, everybody in America has a hat. She thought "I have plenty of time in America to buy that hat and I can see what kind of hats they wear" The day came when they could go on board the ocean ship. The ship was very old and small. Miina told the others "We travel by Cunard Line but on a swine ship".

The ocean was calm all the way and the ship arrived in New York harbor. Although it was a long journey, Miina had all the way been listening very carefully what people had to say about this famous America. Somebody knew there are many negros, another said everybody is rich, a third person said there are poor people too. Miina did not believe that. She imagined everybody was rich.

At the disembarkation Miina held her eyes and ears wide open, she was not sleepy at all, neither seasick. Such crowds Miina had never imagined there could be anywhere. She saw negros. The fellow told the truth, who said there are many negros. Oh those high buildings! Miina looked up at the top and remembered the belfry of the church at home. She thought how many times higher are those towers?

Miina wore a black scarf and the sack on her back walking behind the guide in the streets of New York. The fruit shops seemed most interesting to her, oranges and bananas. She would have liked to have one, how they taste. She had seen some people eat them. She thought " I will buy those when I arrive at my goal". They arrived at the point where she went on by herself. Miina arrived at that factory city to which her ticket was paid. Miina showed the address to a policeman standing in front of the station. He took it to the coachman and took the sack out of Miina's hand and gave Miina a sign to come. Miina, of course, would have followed her sack anywhere. The coachman opened the door to the four-wheel cart, the policeman put the sack inside and Miina followed. The horses started to pull, she was sitting next to her sack watching where she was being taken. They passed shops and houses. Miina remembered how she was taken from home to the station with one horse by the neighbor. Now she was being carried by two fine horses in a four-wheel cart. This looked very rich, she felt ashamed of the black scarf and the sack.

After a short ride the horses stopped, the coachman jumped down, opened the door, gave Miina a sign to follow, took the sack and went to the front door, knocked, and a man came out. The coachman showed the written address, did this person live here, the man said yes. The coachman asked for payment. Miina had a ten-dollar bill, but it was sewed into the coat pocket. It was the immigration money. Miina asked if the host could pay, I have money, you get it back when I get it out of my pocket. The host paid. In that house were only men at home. Miina looked around and wondered why she did not see any women although it was about noon. Two children aged about four were playing on the floor. The men seemed very friendly, asked about the journey and news from Finland. Miina asked where her acquaintance was. One of the men said,"she is working in the factory and comes home in the evening. Here all of the women are working, we men are idle. The spring-work is soon starting, then we also get some."

Miina had plenty of time to look around inside and outside, waiting for the evening. She thought, is this the famous America? The surroundings don't look too wealthy, workers'homes everywhere, not one single big house. The evening came, the factory whistle blew. Among other workers came also Miina's acquaintance and landlady too. She was very glad to see a familiar face. In fact she was the first familiar person Miina met after leaving the train-station at home.

After greeting, Miina told news from the home village. Somebody asked, "didn't you bring even one small piece of Finnish bread with you?" Miina took her sack and did find a little bread and also a bottle of cognac. What a gift! Everybody wanted to taste the Finnish dark bread and cognac. Miina's landlady asked, "did you have that sack as your handbag?" "Yes." "Do throw it away! It's dirty and besides nobody uses sacks like that round here." Miina thought, "I won't, I can wash it and I can still use it as a pillow case for a long time. It's new, strong fabric".

After supper the landlady said, they would heat water in the sauna, so the Finn may get cleaned. Miina sat and told about her journey and news from Finland. The women seemed to have lots of work. After the day in the factory they had to do the household in the evening. Miina thought, "if I only knew where the sauna is, I would have plenty of time to look after it, go and have a sauna and take some cold water to the landlady, since she is so busy". But she did not care to ask where the sauna was, because she did not see any small room outside while looking around during daytime.

After washing the dishes and bringing the children to bed and nobody was in the kitchen anymore, the landlady came to Miina's door and said the water is hot, Miina may come and wash. She went, but what a sauna! A barrel in one corner of the kitchen. There the landlady told Miina to go and wash. Miina was embarassed. The landlady said, that's our sauna, that's where we wash, all of us. Miina wondered. The famous America, and not even a sauna! In that barrel Miina washed herself after the long journey.

Miina wanted to go and ask for work the first thing in the morning, but the landlady said, wait until Monday. We only work halfday on Saturdays. Somebody will go shopping with you. At least you need to buy a hat and shoes. After the women had gone to work, Miina did what she could in the kitchen. When that was finnished, she told the landlord, she would go out for a walk and look at the surroundings. The landlord said, OK, but don't go too far that you get lost. She put the landlady's hat on and went out.

She walked until she saw the shop with oranges. The salesman said something, but Miina did not understand. The salesman smiled. Miina gave him money and pointed with her finger on the oranges. The salesman gave her a big bag with oranges. She came back with a big bag filled with the welcome fruits, ate plenty of them. In the evening when the women came home, Miina treated them with oranges. The landlady asked, "where did you get them?" Miina answered, "I went to that shop and bought some". "How much did you pay for them, since you got such a big bag?" "I don't know, but two small coins I gave."

It was Saturday the workers came home about noon, then in the afternoon one man went to town shopping with Miina. He could talk some English. At that time there were no Finnish helpers in the stores. The hat store was the first one they went to, then began the selection of hats. Whatever hat Miina tried on, her companion said, it does not look good. He had a very good eye, and they selected until they found a suitable hat. It was pretty. At home, everybody liked it. Miina remembered the hats the girls bought in England and wished they could now come and see her hat. Then they went to the shoe-store. When Miina looked into the mirror, she thought, "soon I am half a yankee". Miina longed home, but as she got to know people and the new surroundings, her home-sickness disappeared. Next Monday Miina got to work in the factory. She liked the work she got, but the salary was so small, it was hardly enough to earn her living. She was anxious about the salary. It was not enough to save money to pay for her ticket, not to mention getting rich. She got to find out by herself, that you don't shovel money in America.

Miina heard the news, that in another town there are factories that pay higher salary. She desided to move there. In that town were also Finns living. One girl was visiting her sister living in the same house as Miina. "Do they hire workers?" asked Miina. "they have hired many young girls for learning the trade".

Miina got hired at once, but had to work for two weeks without salary, while learning the trade. Soon the two weeks were gone, hoping to get a better paid job. After two weeks she starts using the machine herself, first very slowly and foolish looking. With more knowledge, the salary also increased. Finally she made contracts.

Miina was satisfied with the job because of the higher salary. Now there was a chance she could pay for the ticket. Again, Miina was in a strange surrounding with strange people. She missed the people and place she came from. Every Saturday afternoon she was sitting and weeping at the window in her room, looking at the train going to the other town where her friends were. Miina wrote to Finland to her parents and sent money as soon as she could save some dollars. One year after arriving in America, her ticket had been paid. She was very happy about that. Her parents got out of the guarantee for the loan.

Miina started saving money for that house. She did not buy anything she did not necessarily need, only to get the money for the house and go back to Finland. But destiny wanted something different. In the factory she got to know a young man, Jacob. Jacob was two years older than Miina. Jacob was a silent, decent young man, who did not drink. Jacob was silent and Miina cheerful, so they got along very well in each other's company.

One beautiful spring day they were announced man and wife. At that time Jacob was twenty-one and Miina nineteen. Miina loved her husband with all her heart. Jacob was her everything, but Jacob was good to Miina, but did not love her. Miina soon found out about that, but could not help it. She mourned over it in silent moments, because love did not meet love. She comforted herself, maybe he will start loving her some time. She can wait. They both worked and were careful with thier money. Jacob was eager to learn and read lots of books. In the evenings he was sitting at home reading. Miina was glad her husband stayed at home, even thogh he did not love her. They were good friends. Jacob was good to his wife, never angry. They went out for amusements, especially Miina was fond of that. Jacob did not always join Miina, he would rather sit at home with a good book. He enjoyed that more than young people's amusements. He told Miina to go and have fun "as long as you are young". Miina went by herself some times, but did not stay long, since her husband was at home. "Why do you come back so soon?" asked the husband, "I just started reading". "It's not fun, without you".

Dark clouds came up on their life's sky. Jacob did not feel well and went so see the doctor. "The air in the factory is not good for you, you need mountain air, that's the best medicine I can give you. Miina had to quit her job. She was pregnant. "You have to go to the mountains. You have to obey the doctor's advise. Your health is the best gift". "What about you? asked Jacob. "You stay here alone?" Miina answered playfully: "Alone now, but soon there will be two of us. And when you get strong enough to work, we will come where you are." Jacob went to the mountains to treat his health and Miina styed, waiting for the baby. Miina did not show her sorrow to her husband, when he left. After he had left she weeped until she fell asleep. So short was the beautiful story of her life. She longed for her husband and did not feel well herself.

Jacob wrote her many letters, telling her the montain air was good for him. He got stronger, gained weight and promised to send for his family as soon as he was well enough to work. Miina was bored waiting for the baby and going to her husband. Days pass, even if it is cloudy, they say. After the cloudy days also Miina saw a clear wintry sky. She gave birth to a daughter.

Miina was a mother, she was so happy, she did not know if she should cry or laugh. Now she may give all her young love to her child, and so she did. She gave her daughter the name Maria. Miina was not bored anymore, she had a companion. To Maria she kept talking and singing lullabies. She hoped her husband would now love her, since they have such a beautiful and sweet daughter. She wrote telling her husband how maria is growing fast and does not disturb mother's sleep. Her husband wrote nice letters, but never mentioned Maria.

Miina tried to comfort herself, "some men are so old-fashioned, they don't notice small children at all". When Jacob had been in the mountains for one year, he wrote "I am now well and working, you may come here". Miina bought the ticket and went to her husband in the mountains. Sitting in the train Miina remembered leaving Finland, then travelling alone, now she had company, Maria. She did not have to travel alone. She remembered her dreams of richness and buying the house. Now she was going west holding gold in her arms with Maria sleeping peacefully.

She got to her destination. Her husband was waiting for her at the station and did not notice Maria at all. Miina said "come and look what a beautiful daughter I have brought you". Her husband quickly looked over Maria and said "so it seems". It hurt a mother's heart like a knife. Miina could no longer love her husband as warm as before. Mother had to carry the child from the station to the cabin, which would become their home. There up in the mountains the landscape was very rugged, no beautiful vegetation. The workers lived in small cabins. The men worked in gold-mines. Although nature was rugged, Miina did not long for any other place. With her cheerful nature she soon got acquainted with the new surroundings and neighbors although the neighbors all spoke other languages.

Miina's and Jacob's family-life continued as a nice companionship. The husband was kind to Miina, Maria he did not notice, that was mother's task. Jacob went to work, Miina took care of the household. They were careful with their money, did not spend it on anything needless.

After one year, the stork visited the family and brought Miina a son. He got the name Jacob after his father. The mother was happy about getting a son, maybe her husband would pay more attention to a boy-child. She was mistaken. Her husband did not pay any attention to either one of the children. To the mother both were equally beloved. After a couple of years Jacob was ill again. He had to be taken to the hospital. Miina was pregnant again and worried about the economy. What if the husband does not well again, the savings would soon be spent. After three months Jacob came back healthy, went back to work and family-life went on like before. They got one more son, named Arvi. Mother was happy and told her husband "now we have a daughter who helps her mother and two sons helping their father. Maria and Jacob talked to their father and watched his doings and father started noticing the children. He made them a swing, a cart and all kinds of toys. Mother was so happy about this, she had tears in her eyes. "That I have been waiting for for many years, that you notice your children."

Miina's health got poorer. The doctor said the mountain air is too high, she has to move to a lower climate, there she would get her strength back. They left the mountains and settled down to live in a small market town and bought a small farm hoping that it would be good for the health for both of them and the children would grow up in fresh air in the countryside. Their farm was only small with little land. The house had five rooms, there was a cow-house and a barn. The farm was in a very lonely place, one half mile to the neighbour, one mile to the highway.

There they lived their quiet, lonely life. Jacob went to work and was still eager to read books. Miina looked after two cows and the hens. The children were healthy and grew one faster than the other in the fresh air. Miina was pregnant again and she worried what to do if the time came and her husband was at work. But all went well. In the afternoon she felt the time had come and she just talked to the coming baby "just you stay inside until father gets home". Jacob came home from work, Miina told him to go and get the doctor at once. He went to the nearest house with a telephone, called the doctor just to hear the doctor was not there. When father came back, Miina already had a daughter. Mother had to wash the baby herself. No other female available. The husband could not wash a small child. For two days Jacob was at home taking care of the household, then mother took over. It was like before, only one more person in the family. They gave the daughter the name Justiina. When Justiina was three months old, Jacob became sick and had to be taken to the hospital. Minna was in great trouble, how would she get along with the winter coming and four small children. At that time there were no relief societies for widows, these have been founded afterwards. The small savings had been used for buying the farm and they still had debts.

Miina was healthy, she could work, but who would look after the children? She let people know that she would wash laundry. She got that kind of job, but the payment was not enough to support a family of five persons. Miina did not want any support from the town, like some neighbor suggested. How would she? She had always dreampt about richness, but some neighbor had put his nose into her business by sending some man from town to find out how Miina was getting along with the children. Miina said she does not want any support, but the man said he can not see how they would get along with that little money you get for the laundry. The law says they have to help. The man began to send a three-dollar-food-package every week, but no other support. The winter went by, Miina did as much laundry as she could get and took care of the children. Sometimes she went to the hospital to see her husband, she came home broken down by sorrow. There was no hope her husband would recover. She still kept hoping, though. The summer came with all the berries in the woods. Miina went every morning with her children to pick berries. Maria and Jacob were diligent pickers, since they were allowed to keep all the money they could get for the berries. Justiina was sleeping under a tree and Arvi stayed close to her, so the snakes would not bite the child while asleep. There were snakes in the woods. Mother paid Arvi for looking after his sister. Every evening when the berries were sold, Maria divided the money and everybody got his share.

Miina promised to take the children to town after the berry season was over and the children would buy cloths and shoes for their money. Miina had so much money, she could pay the taxes, the fire-insurance and the mortgage, so nobody could drive them out of their home. Miina had to smile, when she thought of her dreams about richness and the house. Now she had a house, but not the house of her dreams. At least she had four healthy children, that she loved with all her heart. They were more important than gold. Mother kept her promise and took the children to town for shopping. They had five miles to town.

Going by train was fun for the children. They could buy themselves cloths and pay out of their own purse. Of course they bought some toys, too. The boys wanted an air-rifle to shoot craws with. For Maria a crochet (?) needle and yarn. Now the children had what they needed for the whole winter.

Next fall Miina sent Arvi with the other children to school. She took Justiina with her and went to work. Miina would rather forget the period she had to carry the child to work and home from work. Sometimes there was so much snow, the roads were closed. Miina was so tired, she thought "tomorrow I don't have the strength to go to work". But next morning when mother looked at her playing and quarrelling children, she got strength and enthusiasm to struggle forwards.

After Jacob had been in the hospital for three years, Miina got a letter in which she was told to come. Her husband was very weak. She went right away and when she saw her husband, she knew he would soon depart this life. Jacob knew it himself and said his suffering would soon be over. Miina had a hard time staying calm, trying to comfort her husband. Jacob was sorry he could not take care of his family. Miina comforted her dying husband, the children are all healthy and growing to be adults soon. "I am trying to raise them the best I can".

It is impossible to describe Miina's sorrow, when she got home, but still she kept hoping her husband would get well. The night went by, in the morning she was slowly doing the laundry, when the information came that Jacob was dead. They wanted to know what to do with the body, would he be taken home or buried there? Miina's tears dropped into the laundry. It was all so hopeless and lonely, her husband was dead. Jacob was buried in the town where he died. Miina mourned over his death, but when she thought about his illness, death was better than illness without hope.

Miina got more strength, she was now the only one looking after her family. Life went on like before. The children grew and she did laundry and other work. In summertime they picked berries. Miina was afraid while working out of home, that some wanderer would do harm to the children or they would happen to have a fire.

One day Miina was in some home doing laundry, when a wanderer came asking for food. The landlady said cold "I don't have anything to give you. There is a shop nera by". The man went in the direction Miina's home was. She finished her work very fast and ran home.

At home Maria told that some man came and asked for food "but I said I would give, but there is none, but if my mother were at home, I'm sure she would give some". The man asked "was it your mother doing the laundry at the neighbor's?" Maria had answered yes. "Where is your father?" "Father is dead". The man got tears in his eyes and he wiped them off with his dirty hands. But all wanderers are not like him.

One time Arvi came running and telling they wanted to make just a little fire in the woods. "You won't believe how fast it goes!" Maria had run for help. When Maria went out ther, she could only try to keep off the fire. But soon came help and the fire was extinguished. The boys got severe warnings, that if they ever do that again, they will be taken to a childrens home. Since then they did not have to fear for fire, the boys were so scared. It was time for Justiina to go to school with the others. Miina stopped working for the neighbors and went to a factory. The town support was not needed anymore and that was taken with pleasure. They were independent, although life was defective(?). Miina had to work long days in the factory, which was three miles away. Miina had to walk every morning and evening, there was no bus. She had to get up early to make the children breakfast and dinner. In the factory she had a nine-hour day six days a week. At home she had the household until ten. After ten she might have a look at the newspaper. On Sundays laundry and cleaning.

Jacob had been dead for several years, Miina and her children spent lonely years on the farm. They hardly got any company. In the summertime somebody would stop by, but in wintertime nobody.

During silent days Miina longed for company to talk with. She was still young with a cheerful character, no wonder she longed for company. The way to any pleasure was so long, she could not think about it, and she could not have left the children alone at home.

Then one day arrived a man from another town. His name was Matias, he was a couple of years older than Miina. He had come to propose to Miina. His wife had died two years ago and his daughter, who had ben taking care of the household, was moving out. He had three children who need support and asked Miina to be his wife. He looked honest. Miina said "I don't know yet, until we get to know each other, and I'll think about it". Matias often came by on Sundays, always talking about marriage. Miina was not willing, although she was longing for a companion. She said "how would we manage with such a big family?" Both had three children, Maria was already gone. Matias just tried to convince her, "soon your eldest son and mine too will go to work, we'll manage until then, and you would have a chance to rest, you wouldn't have to get up every morning". Matias convinced Miina to marry him. Miina said "I'll marry you OK, but I won't stay if we don't fit".

Miina quit working in the factory, sold her farm and moved to Matias' place to take care of his household and children. Matias loved Miina, but she did not love him. Miina thought "I'm his good comerade, although I don't love him". Matias was quick-tempered, he got mad at every detail. Miina got him to calm down by her peaceful talking. Matias gave Miina the same amount of money for the household he had given to his former wife. Miina was a good house-keeper, but the money was not enough. Miina talked about it with Matias, "the money is no way enough". Matias said it was enough before. Miina said "but the family is now much bigger, you should understand that". Matias just said, "if it's not enough, take of your own money". Matias knew Miina got some money for selling the farm. But she did not want to use that money. So, there was no other choice but going back to the factory and leave the children vithout a caretaker. Now Miina realized how the work increased. Not even until ten did she have her household done. Oh that laundry every Sunday! All the worn cloths and socks she took with her to the factory (honest, I don't understand why!) so she could mend the every half hour. (?)

She thought she would manage until the boys go to work, but often when mother came home from work, the children said "why don't we move out of here? Matias' children tell us to leave, it's not your home, this is our home". Miina tried to tell the chldren it was also their home, we can't move. But the children did not get along. If one sat on the chair, the other would say "go to your own chair, this is our chair". Miina was sorry for that, did not know what to do. After all, Matias was her husband and the home was hers too. She spoke to Matias, would it be better if she moved out. Matias did not say yes or no.

After one half year, she found it quite impossible to go on in Matias' home. Miina quit working, ordered the vanload and moved to another town. She did not regret her leaving. She rented an appartment. The children were so happy about having a home of their own. Justiina ran around on the kitchen floor and asked mother: "What shall I do now, I feel so good." They were at home. Nobody asked them to leave. Miina went to work in the factory. Maria often came home to say hello to mother, sister and brothers. After living separate from her husband for two years, she met Matias by chance. He asked, "aren't you ever again coming back to live with me?" "I don't intend to ever come back, it's too difficult to take care of two families."

After three years had passed, Matias got a legal divorce. Miina was grateful and glad for that. Miina's life was much easier. Jacob went to work and the days had become shorter and the salary better compared to those days when Miina started. Miina had time to go out to evening entertainment on Saturdays and to program meetings (?) on Sundays and also entertainments. There was a housing shortage. The house where Miina lived, was sold and and they got a notice. Miina was looking for a new apartment, but there was none. There were houses for sale, but not for rent. The only chance was to buy a house and start paying the mortgage to the bank every month. Again Miina had a house, but not the house of her dreams. It was only a small family house, but big enough for them. Their lives seemed to be filled with hope, when every morning two went to work and two to school.

Again Miina stumbles. She went to amusements and on the way back home she walked with a man called Nikoteemus, since he lived on the same street. Miina knew that the man was living separated from his wife. She was living in Finland. When this common walk home happened too often, Miina was angry at herself and thought she would not go again, and when Nikoteemus came, she went again. This went on for two years. Nikoteemus wanted to marry Miina, but she did not. She was afraid of failing again. Nikoteemus was legally divorced like Miina too, and the children were not in the way any longer. His children were old enough to go to work, too.

Suddenly Miina was married again, her children all disliked it. Afterwards Miina thought herself, what took her strength of will? Especially Jacob was very upset. The marriage was only a such a comrade marriage. Nikoteemus got a home and Miina a companion. Nikoteemus had a car, with which they went to the lake on Sundays to swim and lie in the sun. They went out dancing and on entertainment evenings they had such fun, since they were comrades to each other.

The children did not get on well at home anymore. Jacob left, mother mourned over her son's leaving. When Arvi quit school, he went to another town. Mother missed her son. But when Justiina, the youngest, left home, mother cried out her heart, like only a mother can do, when she realizes her last child is leaving home. Nikoteemus and Miina were alone. They both went to work and each paid their own bills, Miina the rent every month to the bank, also the tax and fire-insurance. Nikoteemus paid for the heating and bought the food himself on Saturdays. When the food went out during week-days and Miina asked for money to get more food, she seldom got any. She had to buy with her own money or just abandon. The rest of the salary each one kept, but a man's salary is much bigger than a woman's, who is just an ordinary factory worker.

They lived in harmony together for some years, came and went like good comrades do. Miina got ill and had to go to the hospital to get help. After a while in the hospital she came home, but still did not feel well. She did not go to work for one whole year. After going back to work, she was working only for a couple of weeks, then came the bad years. The factory reduced workers, Miina one of them.. The was looking for a new job, but could not find one, because everywhere was being reduced and no new employees were taken. Many factoried closed and all the workers had to go. Miina would have taken laundry-work per hour or house-cleaning, but there was none. Miina had been unemployed for two years, sick for one year, and one more year unemployed. With no job, her savings were gone. The hospital and doctor were expensive, taxes, rent had to be paid regularly as before. The children sent some money every now and then, but they had their own expenses and could not help a lot. Miina was so tired looking for a job, she had no hope. She heard rumors, that Nikoteemus is going to Finland. She was surprised, because her husband had told her nothing. Miina asked her husband, "is it true what they tell me, that you are going to Finland?" "That's true, I have so much money after exchanging it into Finnish currency, that I can live of the interest there. I don't have to work anymore." Take me with you", Miina asked. Nikoteemus sarcastically: "Just you go, who forbids you? Buy your own ticket, I bought mine with my own money."

It was the nicest springday, when Nikoteemus left. When they said goodbye, Miina asked for some money for food (bread-money). Nikoteemus' harsh answer; "Get your own bread-money." That was the bitterest day in all her life for Miina. The comrade left, there Miina on the ruins of her life, left alone, almost fifty years old, no job, no money and still mortgage to pay for. She stood thinking for a long while, but her tears had already dried out. Some days passed, she thought, life can not go on like this. "I'll gather what I can out of the ruins and survive." And so she did. Miina never complained to her neighbors, what would it have helped? Miina went to look for a job again. To the employment exchange, although she had been there in vain so many times. But there was no other place to look for work, since there was only little work in the factories.

A proverb says, where the need is big, the help is close. So was it for Miina, too. She got a job. A family had come home from their winter vacation in the South and wanted a lady to come and do the spring clean-up their house.

Miina went to become familiar with this job and she got it. She was so happy, she had to cry after getting home. She got work only for two weeks, they were very friendly people and Mrs promised to talk to her friends that they would hire Miina if needed. After one month was gone, she had had job every day, only four to five hours a day. Nobody could describe the joy when a person gets what she wants after all hope is gone. Only he knows, who has experinced it. Miina got on living again. She felt very lonely living alone, but one has to get used to anything. Nikoteemus wrote her a letter to tell her how much he enjoyed doing nothing, lieing in the sun all day. Miina's children were all married except for Jacob, who was single. Maria had been married for several years now, and they did not have children. Mother, just for fun, used to say she is getting old but is still not a grandmother. Maria just said, you have four children, some day you will be a grandmother. One day Miina was surprised when she got an expres card. She took the card and read "dear grandma" and wondered to whom this might be. It was addressed to her, "dear grandma". She was so surprised, she read the same word four times and still did not get it. Then she read the card: "we have got a baby, Maria and the young man are fine, come and see them." Miina went right away to see her grandchild. Her joy was beyond description when she held the baby in her arms and took a kiss from his soft cheek. She thought it was the most beatiful child she had ever seen. Grandmother gave Maria a warning, "you ought to teach the boy Finnish". Maria promised to do her best and teach the boy Finnish. The boy grew fast and learned how to speak. Mother taught him Finnish, but since the parents had to speak English with each other, the boy learned that faster than Finnish. There were more babies, but not as a surprise any longer. Grandma knew in advance to expect. Jacob came home quite unexpected, but, oh, what a sorrow he brought. Miina's heart broke, he was a slave under intoxicants (?) (=alcohol). He had a job, but when he got paid, he had to buy alcohol and again alcohol. Mother thought, "did I have to see this? See my own son drunk?" Mother asked him nicely to stop using alcohol and sometimes scolded him, but with the same result, he got on buying alcohol. Once when mother was criticizing her son Jacob said, "why are you criticizing me, there is the bottle, have a drink, you would be in a better mood." Mother stood in front of her son and asked him, "Jacob, would you like to have a drunk mother?" Jacob looked down (bended his head down) and said no. Mother said, "then don't you ever offer your mother alcohol," and he never did again. Once again mother was blaming her son. Jacob touched her shoulder and said, "if you were not my mother, I would hit you, but since you are my mother, I won't touch you." One day Jacob went away, mother did not know where. Mother would often in her loneliness sigh and think, "where is my son Jacob?" Miina's life went on slowly and she got back to work in a factory. That is much easier work than working per hour. She got her debts paid. During long winter evenings she would sit and remember how undisciplined she used to be when she was young. The unruly nature is gone long ago, instead has come real life. Some years had passed since Nikoteemus left for Finland. Miina got legally divorced and wanted her old name back. That she got. She wrote two verses in her memory book because of the name-change:

When a woman's name is changed
it takes two (persons)
only this time I
may bear my name alone
I try to reach happiness
even if bearing my name alone
a lot of vigour is needed
nature will give you happiness

One half year after the divorse, she heard that Nikoteemus had died in Finland. She thought, "was Nikoteemus' cheerful and care-free life that short?" Again, she wrote a verse in her book:

Rest in peace, my former comrade
in the soil of your fatherland
roses bloom in summertime
on your grave

Miina still experienced amusing events. She used to have sauna very often. Close to her home was a Finnish family and they had a sauna, only a family-sauna, but since they were good friends, Miina was invited to use their sauna. Often Miina would go there about midnight after getting home from the hall. Once she was at the hall and came home about midnight and went to sauna. She did not hurry, because she knew her neighbors had already had sauna. She washed her hair and since it was cold outside, she put cloths around her head, not to get cold - first the towel, then a scarf, put her coat on and then her hat and went home. She had a big paper sack with towels and cloths in her hand. After walking a short distance a car was parked. She thought it must be a loving couple. After walking for a while, the car followed her. She thought, they must have thought she was a chicken-thief with the sack in her hand and in so strange cloths walking in the street this time of the night. The car stopped and two policemen came out. One had a lamp and took a close look at her face and asked, "where are you going?" Miina was in a teasing mood and said, "not your business where I am going, do you think I am drunk?" "No, I don't think so, but it's not apppropriate for a lady to be out on the road so late." "Not late, but early", said Miina. "Where do you live, come into the car, we take you home." "NO, I won't, you just leave, I can walk alone." The police started driving slowly and looked where the old woman is going. When Miina got home, she looked in the mirror and could nothing but laugh. She looked very strange. No wonder the police would have taken her, two o'clock in the morning. "If someone had lost chickens tonight, this is where they would come looking." Afterwards Miina annoyed she did not go into the police car, they would have seen a ghost, and she would have seen the jail. Miina was still brave, afraid of nothing. Time passes on, Miina keeps remembering the days when the children were small, she used to think, when they grow up, I'm going to Finland, my native country, not to buy a house, but to see my home and relatives. But illness and unemployment came instead. Then she thought, "at least I will go to the olympics". But also that was prescribed differently by destiny. Jacob sent mother a letter and wanted to become reconciled. Mother answered, "come any time, you are welcome." Jacob came to see his mother. He was working in the next city, "but I am afraid of the war." He had also been drafted. Jacob went, but came back after a couple of weeks and said he had the a-card (?) and would probably soon have to go. On Sunday evening, when he left, he said again, "I have this a-card, but that I want o tell you mother, I'm not going." Mother did not give that much thought, because Jacob was drunk again. After a couple of days mother was informed that her son Jacob had taken gas and was at the funeral home. Miina was so broken down, she could not even cry. Mother had her son's corpse brought to her home town and had him buried. When Jacob was lieing in the coffin, mother touched her son's hand. It was cold. Mother knew Jacob was gone to Hades (?) and would not come back. There in the graveyard of her home town, on a nice spot, mother bought resting-place for her son. She plants flowers on the grave every spring and takes care of them all summer.

There is a new man in Miina's life. His name is John. They had known each other for decades, after living close to each other. John's wife had been dead for several years, his children were all out of the home. He was living in a small apartment in a tenementhouse. They alway talked when they happened to meet.

Once, when Miina was going to see a friend, John was standing on the sidewalk talking with his friend. Miina said good evening, and the men answered. John asked, "where are you going?" "I'm going up on the hill to see my friend" and added playfully: "come on, join me." John joined her and so it started again. After a short time John took Miina to the rectory, where they became husband and wife. The pastor, who knew them, asked "how did this happen, that you married?" Miina took her turn to speak and said, "it happened like this: This John is so shy and silent, that he does not dare to appear in public, but when I told him to join me, he came all the way here." The old pastor got a good laugh that his shoulders shook and said "I see, that's how it happened." The pastor's daughter was also present. She said she had never been to such an amusing wedding, when even father laughs like this. John did not want to move to Miina's place. His own apartment was closer to his job. Miina sold her cottage and moved to her husband's apartment. John had his job and Miina lived a happy life next to her husband, "in the evening of her life". That's the story about a girl, whose dreams never came true, because destiny had assigned it different.

Written by Mary Korvela, 10 Maryland Street, Fitchburg, Massachusets.

Translated by Torbjörn Rolf Nikus.

© Jane Knuuttila-Guercio

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