The diary of Simo Häyhä visualized and contextualized

There was already a sense of war in the air and so I was called on 10/10 1939 to the house of the Rautjärvi White Guard and from there onwards to Huuhanmäki to the barracks of the Viipuri regiment. 

There we were assigned into companies and I got into company 6/JR 34 under Lieutenant (now Captain) Juutilainen known as the Dread of Morocco.

The leaders of the companies were: I. Lieutenant Salo, II. Lieutenant Suuronen, III Lieutenant Lehelä and IV Lieutenant Liimatainen.

I was in III platoon and III group. The regimental commander at the time was Lieutenant Colonel Teittinen and the division commander was Colonel L Tiainen. 

From Huuhanmäki we left by train to Roikonkoski and from there to the terrain.

The White Death

Simo Häyhä.

A farmer. A hunter. The deadliest sniper of all time.

Nicknamed Valkoinen Kuolema, the White Death by later generations, this is his only recently discovered diary of the 105 days of the Winter War. For his friends he was Simuna.

Häyhä joined the Finnish White Guard voluntary militia at the age of 17. He completed his mandatory military service in 1925 on the 2nd Bicycle Battalion. In 1938 Häyhä was chosen to receive training as a sharpshooter in the Utti regiment.

As an already older active reservist at the age of 33, Häyhä was called up among other Finnish reserve soldiers for refresher training as the Soviet Union had on 17/9/1939 invaded Poland and made ultimatums on the Baltic states.

His war diary has been contextualized with wartime photographs from Finnish army archives and information related to the characters and events of his memories as the White Death Diary.

The Winter War

Winter war began at the end of November 1939 when the then-largest army in the world, the Red Army of the Soviet Union, invaded Finland.

The Soviet Union aimed to swiftly conquer Finland as they had taken over Poland after the signing of the secret protocol in the Molotov-Ribbentrop treaty between Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany and Josif Stalin of the Soviet Union which divided Europe into spheres of influence.

Finland was alone, waging a defensive war against an enemy that had the Finnish troops heavily outnumbered in both men and modern weapons of war.

The Soviet Union had in secrecy built a railroad to the Finnish-Russian border which would be used to transport up to 65 000 soldiers and hundreds of armored vehicles and artillery against the Finnish defenses on the minor river of Kollaa and the few border roads nearby.

The Kollaa Front

Häyhä served on the Kollaa front in a company with other reservists gathered mostly from his home village of Rautjärvi and those of Merikarvia. The 378 men of Rautjärvi included people close or familiar to Häyhä as was common with the Finnish reserve forces.

On Kollaa the Red Army's goal was a breakthrough in order to strike behind the Mannerheim line.

Mannerheim line was the main Finnish defensive line on the Karelian isthmus located between the second biggest city of Finland, Viipuri, and the great ice age formed border lake Laatokka. Holding Kollaa on the Northern side of the lake was vital for the overall Finnish defenses.

At the beginning of the war Finns would line up 4000 men in defense against the 15 000 Soviet soldiers on Kollaa. Finnish defense would rise up to 15 000 men on Kollaa as the war went on while the Soviet Union would invade with an advantage of tens of thousands of soldiers more.

The Dread of Morocco

Aarne Juutilainen was the commander of Häyhä's company on the Kollaa front. Marokon Kauhu, the Dread of Morocco was a nickname given to Juutilainen by those serving under him for his harsh style of leadership inspired by his five-year service in the French Foreign Legion at the Moroccan Atlas mountains.

One of the most famous sayings of the Winter War was created when lieutenant general Hägglund asked Juutilainen if Kollaa will hold. Juutilainen replied, "Kollaa will hold, unless were are ordered to run away in retreat".

Kollaa kestää

Juutilainen's younger brother was the pilot ace with the most air victories in World War 2 besides any German pilot, Ilmari, with 96.

Häyhä's sleeping quarters during the Winter War were situated in the command tent of the Dread of Morocco.

On 30/11 at 3 o'clock the Russians started firing with artillery the village of Hautavaara in Hyrsylä where the border bends. I was in Pyhäjoki at the time.

On 2/12 Iivana attacked on 2 nights in a row, and during the three days Janne Rautio and Lauri Kustaa Leminen fell. That night the order was given to retreat to Suvilahti.

After burning Suvilahti during the night we retreated to Kollaa at about 6/12. There we started the making of barbed wire barriers and positions.

When the Russian attacked on 6/12 we hit them back at dusk gaining 1 field gun, 6 anti-tank guns, 12 machine guns, light machine guns and other war equipment. To my delight, no one was even wounded. We made small attacks as densely as ash with our company gaining about 40 machine guns.

The Burning of Suvilahti

Suvilahti village of 400 houses was part of the scorched earth policy employed by Finns to halt the Soviet advance on Kollaa. By burning and trip-wiring buildings on the way to the defensive line of Kollaa the Red Army was forced to reside for weeks only in ditches dug on snow.

Due to a lack of time and problems in communications not every planned burning or demolition of a bridge or power plant in the region was successful. But Suvilahti did not provide any help, warmth or food for the invading Soviets.

Teams of local volunteers were more willing to burn local houses down than the more cautious outsider reservists in order to not leave anything for the invaders.

Before Christmas, Reverend Rantamaa, the author Mika Valtari and some of the headquarters' officers visited the camp to photograph Juutilainen and me as if we were some kind of miracles.

My sin list then was 150 Russians with a pystykorva.

They wanted our autographs and we were also printed in the Finnish photo magazine Suomen Kuvalehti as some days went by.

Gradually Christmas arrived when we shaved our beards and transformed from almost of a moor to more ordinary-looking.


Mika Waltari is one of the most known Finnish authors.

His most famous epoch is Sinuhe Egyptiläinen, Sinuhe the Egyptian, which was published in 1945. The historical novel taking place in ancient Egypt is one of the classics of Finnish literature. It was made into a Hollywood film the Egyptian in 1954.

Everything returns to the way it was and there is nothing new under the sun, and man does not change, even though his clothes change and the words of his language change. Therefore, I believe that in the times to come, writing will not change from what has been written until now, because man himself will not change.

Waltari was one of the post-war cultural icons of rebuilding, industrializing Finland who worked in the entertainment troops of the Winter War. Others included Tapio Rautavaara, the singer, actor and 1948 Olympic gold medallist in javelin throwing and world champion in archery. Who was even considered for the role of Tarzan in Hollywood films.


Pystykorva meaning 'up ear' as a name for The Finnish Spitz, Suomenpystykorva, was the nickname of the Finnish White Guard SAKO manufactured and modified Russian Mosin-Nagant rifle used by Häyhä.

The front sight of the rifle was Finnish made with the two spitz-like ears on the sides guarding the sight. The barrel of the rifle was also of Finnish Lokomo-made steel.

Without ever using already then popular scope for his sniping in either White Guard practice training, war or hunting Häyhä trained for years with his own SAKO M28-30. The maximum operating range of its bullet was around 450 meters or 0,28 miles. Aiming without a scope allowed him to a keep lower profile than the enemy snipers, staying almost invisible to the eye when in position.

SAKO m/28-30

A good rifle is the pride of a white guard member.

Let us refurbish your rifle to the latest requirements.

These changes and improvements are included in the 'pystykorva' m/28-30.

Closer instruction is given by the local chief of your white guard.

The weapon and machinery shop of the White Guard, SAKO, Riihimäki.


Häyhä's reference to looking like a moor is probably based on the appearance of the king of the Moors, one of the central figures of medieval Christmas play traditions popular also in Finland.

The other characters are king Herodes, Knihti a knight and Mänkki, the one without a sword carrying the stage elements.

War Reverend Rantamaa

Antti Rantamaa, a newly chosen member of the Finnish parliament, took shelter among his fellow citizens under the Finnish Post building when the Soviet Union began bombing the Finnish capital city of Helsinki on the opening day of the Winter War.

The Finnish parliament was soon evacuated to Western Finland but Rantamaa decided to instead join the front lines as a volunteer non-combat military chaplain.

In his diary Rantamaa likened war to the snakes of the Helsinki Museum of Nature that were let loose during the second air bombing of Helsinki on the opening day of the Winter War.

In the photo the Christmas prayer was hastened by the Russian artillery continuing to fire behind them.

I myself was not in this picture but I was in the vanguard teasing the Russians snapping 20 Russians and even three more on the leg. We didn't fire our artillery all day on Christmas Day at all. We spent the evening in the barracks among good Christmas food.

A Good Christmas is wished to you

A card for Christmas from Vaasa that was in a package from a stranger.

Häyhä at the Kollaa front received a Christmas card which he glued on his diary.

After Christmas, we caught a Russkie, blindfolded him, spun him all confused and took him to the Dread of Morocco's tent for a good feast. The Russian was happy to be held and when he was sent back, having to return felt very repulsive to him.

Avenging a friend

On the 28th of December 1939 Häyhä got the news that his friend, neighbor and fellow sharpshooter Toivo Varis had fallen. Both were part of the local volunteer White Guard and had numerous times bicycled alongside the village road to the training sessions at the local white guard house. Carrying their own personal rifles on their backs.

An enemy sniper had given a quick death to Varis who was on his post.

The leader of the company, the Dread of Morocco, Aarne Juutilainen right away brought the shooting of Varis up in his command tent. Häyhä replied: "That man will be taken out of his days."

At night Häyhä went to the other soldiers. "I asked at which spot might the enemy sniper be. The boys said that they will show the exact location where the sniper was.

The next day Häyhä was early as usual at his position. The night was already fast falling when the Russian sniper began to leave his position.

"The poor boy climbed on the edge of the pit. I then raised the sight a little. It was well over 200 meters. I had the good luck to hit with the first snap."

One day the Dread of Morocco said: "Let's go and see what the Russian is up to".

We crept under the cover of rocks and juniper bushes near the Russian campfire and saw them in the job of eating and stripped barefoot, drying their shoes. We unexpectedly opened fire, leaving at least half of the Iivanas by the fire, and the others panicked and fled, leaving their equipment and shoes behind.

When Captain Juutilainen noticed that even the machine gun was left behind, he ran to it and turned the barrel towards the Russians, making a clear aftermath. The spoils of war were again at least several submachine guns.

During the whole war I shot about 500 Russians. Around the beginning of February a rifle of honor was donated by a Swede, which was presented to me by the then head of the division Colonel Svensson.

The Swedish Honorary Rifle

Häyhä was awarded a rifle on 17/2 for his accomplishments during Winter War. 

"This honorary rifle donated from Sweden is given to alikersantti Simo Häyhä in recognition of his great merits as a marksman and weapon user in combat. His actions - 219 enemies shot with a rifle alone and about the same number with a submachine gun - show what can be achieved by a determined, sharp-eyed Finnish man who does not flinch and whose hand does not tremble. This rifle of honor must be considered worthy of a medal of honor for exceptional merit.

Handed down from father to son, it will tell unborn generations of the deeds once performed by Simo Häyhä in the great war in which the men of Finland fought bravely and successfully for the freedom of their country, the future of their people and for the greatest ideal values of all mankind."

He would still prefer to use the same SAKO M28-30 that he had trained with as a volunteer white guard. Never using the Swedish-awarded rifle which Häyhä didn't find as accurate as his own rifle.

While Häyhä's relatives had gathered around in quiet as usual to listen to the nightly news on the radio the news report of Häyhä being awarded came as a total surprise. On his awarded and only vacation, between 26/2-1/3, off the front line to the home farm, Häyhä did not either speak of those things.

The entire regiment's casualty count was 1667 killed and wounded.

I myself was wounded by an exploding rifle bullet on 7/3 in Kollaa while chasing Russians in the woods. I woke up a few minutes later when my comrades turned me over on my side by my arm and tied me up, screaming for the medics to come and get me.

The first place was a field hospital, 13/3 they brought me to Kinkomaa, to Keski-Suomen Surgical Sanatorium, where I was given the Cross of Kollaa on 16/6.

28/6 I was moved to Helsinki to the Mehiläinen Red Cross war hospital. Already I have been operated 4 times and I am still being operated on. Now I have arrived on holiday in Karjaa at Dr Hartvall's farm in Lövkulla. 17/8 1940 [P.O. 14.8.1940].

Already I have been wondered and photographed for publicity purposes.

There even was an obituary in the newspaper about my death.

Simo Häyhä has fallen

The Kaukola-born freedom fighter Simo Häyhä of whose unique service the papers have told downright miraculous stories has fallen in the last battles of the war on Kollaa.

The final battles of Kollaa river took many good men. Among them was alikersantti Simo Häyhä, a master marksman of his own class. 

Simo Häyhä was a farmer from Kaukola. By nature he was very modest but for his feats admired by all of his brothers in arms. A lot has been written about him also in foreign newspapers.

When Häyhä woke up from his injuries a week later on the day of the Winter War truce on 13/3 he was in a hurry to send a letter to home in response to the obituary already published.

"Stop the funeral, the deceased is missing", Häyhä wrote to his relatives.


Häyhä was given the command of a small group ordered to intersect with a Soviet group. In the ensuing close-quarters skirmish Häyhä had already snapped more than ten Russians while being on his knee when an enemy shot with an unlawful explosive bullet pierced him through the cheek.

Häyhä was discovered among the dead. The firefight was still raging on when his fellow soldiers put him on a sled and began pulling him toward safety. Häyhä was near to drowning in his own blood before being turned face down on the sled. He could still at that point think clearly but could not move a muscle.

He was forbidden from joining the front of the 1941 Continuation War due to the seriousness of his facial injuries, despite his pleas. He served at the home front in the selection of the horses to be sent to the front. His jaw would be reconstructed in 26 surgeries from part of his hip bone.

Häyhä's rifle was left behind on the frozen swamps of Ulismainen where he was wounded. His rifle with the serial number S60974 has never been found.


The night arrives
silence is upon the fields of battles
So droop the heads of the exhausted soldiers,
in their trenches the men can now sleep for a while in peace.

A man awake alone is remembering,
and his thoughts stray the long way home.
Mother there is probably still up at this moment
sighing and praying on the behalf of her beloved child.


First you taught me romance, then you taught me how to love.

Now teach me how to forget. As you forgot me.

Life does not bring roses. It only allows a cold trench. Who would trade roses for tears. Who happiness for solace.

I only wandered in my dreams. I only cloaked the dreams of others. I only laughed at others always. I evaded the truth. Forgive me, my friend.


As our path took us to the battles,
where only the song of bullets plays,
we never knew as we departed,
who may ever return.
This life in the trenches is
to us only a command of the Fate
and maybe the destination of our journey
is to disappear into the din of war.

As the day turns to night,
comes a moment for a brief rest,
everyone has fallen asleep,
where the bonfire grants its warmth.

I keep remembering you again,
I still see the tear on your cheek,
even if I were to fall on the fields of battle,
the memory of you will be my last.

Life in the Trenches

Elämää juoksuhaudoissa (Life in the Trenches in English) a popular Finnish song of the war times, was how Häyhä decided to express his feelings about war in the latter part of his diary. Adding his own touch to the second chapter of the song.

His home farm was on the part of Rautjärvi lost to the Soviet Union on the 1940 Moscow Peace Treaty. Häyhä's parents and sisters had to leave their home on the day of the signing of the Winter War peace.

One-fifth of the men of Rautjärvi fell on the Kollaa front.

Häyhä would return to farm his land during the Continuation War until the evacuation of the summer of 1944 in face of the Soviet offensive would force 420 000 Finns to leave their homes as Karelian resettlers.

Häyhä would live from 1905 to the age of 96 to see the Finland of his birth first become an independent nation in the tides of the first World War and the Russian revolution in 1917 and the ensuing civil war in Finland in 1918 between the White Finland and the Red Finland, before himself defending its independence and people in Winter War.

He would become perhaps the most well-known and respected soldier of the internet era. Getting his own very popular song with Swedish war history metal group Sabaton's White Death.

Simo Häyhä is alive!

Simo Häyhä is alive! The information reported in newspapers that Simo Häyhä had fallen at Kollaa is not true.

The silent marksman from Kaukola of whose achievements we have been telling in this magazine is wounded and retrieving in a war hospital.

A good man was saved to live!

Letter from the Dread of Morocco

His fellow soldiers at the Kollaa front were too in the belief that Häyhä had fallen. War reverand Rantamaa had already said memorial words for Häyhä when the news of him being alive arrived.

The captain of Häyhä's company Aarne Juutilainen wrote to the wounded Häyhä:

"Simuna-hyvä. We believed you were gone. We didn't hold a memorial feast but when we learned that you were alive then we held quite a party.

Hope your health returns but if it happened so unfortunate that it wouldn't happen then every Finnish free or unofficially attached "grandmother" will accept you as a bachelor, "scoundler".

I recommended you for a sergeant and as an IV freedom cross knight; slow are the hurries of misters, but maybe with time...

The scribe was to You of course an unknown "greatness" reserve vänrikki Mutikainen from Kollaa.

Feel thickly, keep the tongue in the middle of the mouth and get well soon", Aarne E. Juutilainen.

Häyhä was promoted from alikersantti to an officer, vänrikki, by the commander-in-chief of the Finnish defense forces Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim in a promotion of which like had not happened ever before in the history of the Finnish army.

Häyhä's collection of letters included two photographs and a letter from an Ostrobothnian girl.

Hurtti Ukko

While wounded at the Red Cross hospital Häyhä gave an interview with the Hurtti Ukko magazine. Hurttiukko means a reserve soldier whose eligibility for service can be questioned. Häyhä's interview was in the number 1/1941, 'the hero tales of Finland's war 1939-1940'.

"Yes, the neighbor's shots touched near the verge of ear lobes every day but it didn't result in any worse than this.

It began already in the first days of the war. At Pyhäjoki, at the bend of Hyrsylä, I got the first across-the-border-person in my sight. And this my first 'point', wasn't exactly a raw infantryman but a company leader carrying marks of the enemy who with his scoped rifle tried to end my war right there and then.

This star-carrying company leader shot reasonably well. I got sand on my eyes a couple of times and a few shots went right by my ear. Then came my turn and so I got to mark my first hit with time and care.

Besides being a front-line man I had some special assignments as well. They called me kyttäilijä, a stalker. I moved always where only enemy movement could be seen. I silenced the men of the enemy's machine gun nests whenever the occasion arose. Occasionally I was on patrol and preying trips. On those I usually used the Suomi submachine gun although the pystykorva was my regular weapon."

Newspapers told of you falling. Where that rumor came from?

"I suppose it seemed to those at present that the son of Häyhä is not anymore fit for war. Couple of minutes I was out of my mind, the world was spinning and tilting in my eyes. I think the stars were also showing. Then a rush of blood blinded my eyesight and when the medics came on the scene, I guess they thought I was hit so bad that they can in advance declare the death. So it happened.

I had the whole war had such good luck that I was already wondering.

It did create a mean mark, as you can still see."

Kollaa Kestää

The very popular book Kollaa Will Hold by Erkki Palolampi was published already soon after the Winter War in 1940. "I might know something as well, as I was there too", wrote officer Palolampi. The book features also gruesome descriptions of the even madness-inducing close-quarter war waged with grenades and machine guns on Kollaa.

The book further on spread the reputations of Simo Häyhä and the Dread of Morocco, Aarne Juutilainen, as heroes of Kollaa.

Palolampi's Kollaa Kestää also further popularized the saying, Kollaa Kestää. Which would reflect the spirit of the Winter War. Sisu is the Finnish word for showing resilience in difficulties. For never giving up.

On the last day of the war the constant firing of the artillery cut soon after the time of the peace at Kollaa. On the Russian side the soldiers began rising up. The Finns also joined in to look at the former enemy. Through a Russian-knowing Finn a Russian soldier asked "where are all your men?" The Finns showed that here. The Russian shook his head.

Tää on meiän maa

"This is our land and we have to defend it", were the words of Häyhä to his family when he left for the Winter War. Tää on meiän maa, in his Karelian dialect.

'Koti, uskonto ja isänmaa'. Home, faith and fatherland is engraved on Simo Häyhä's grave on Rautjärvi. He died in 2002 in the veteran soldier's retirement home in Hamina. Never marrying, living the rest of his life near the Finnish-Russian border.

After the war Finland transformed from a poor agricultural society into one of the most modernized welfare societies in the world with the rapid industrialization of the post-war decades. Häyhä lived through the birth and fall of the Soviet Union.

Simo Häyhä also has his own museum in Rautjärvi, near his birth home farm left on other side of the border, dedicated to Häyhä and the Kollaa front who both withstood the horrors of war till the signing of peace in March 1940.

Simo Häyhä in quotes, letters, interviews and memories

Besides Häyhä's own diary there are other recorded words straight from him. Which range from often repeated Simo Häyhä quotes to interviews from the past decades given by him. Häyhä has been quoted even for things he probably didn't say. For example the famous recoil quote.

His real, truly recorded words and thoughts are more illuminating than the fabrication so the focus here is on what was important for him. For what he did fight for in the Winter War.

You will learn what were his feelings over war. Of what did he dream of even beyond death.

Others also had their say on Häyhä. How he was a person or a friend. Or as a hunter or a sharpshooter.

Some of the images are from the Continuation War era when Häyhä returned to Kollaa with war reverand Rantamaa.

Truth or false

In this famous picture a Swedish volunteer poses for a war photographer, not Simo Häyhä.

So the Legend of the White has also a good amount of internet-age fabrication. False claims are easily spread. Yet the truth often paints a more humane image.

The German tabloid Der Spiegel for example might be behind the now often repeated Häyhä quote of being asked what he felt when shooting Russian soldiers. "The recoil." The Der Spiegel story begins with a fictionalized battle account so other liberties might have been also taken since the Finnish sources on the internet do not credit any source for the quote which was not even known in Finnish before the story's publification.

Luckily Häyhä's nephew also asked whether Häyhä felt any hate towards his former enemy. "No. The shot that wounded me came in honest man-to-man combat."

Belaja Smert

The nickname of Belaja Smert, the White Death, has usually been attributed to have been given to Häyhä by his Soviet enemies. This probably ain't accurate as the term White Death, during the Winter War and Continuation War era Finnish leaflets, that were spread to the enemy in Russian, referred to the cold temperature.

White Death. You can not fight against this enemy - frost. You do not see him and he is around you.

In the Winter War era stories written of Häyhä in Finnish there is no mention of the White Death being his nickname at that time already. The moniker of White Death when referring to Häyhä is believed to have originated in 1980s Finnish Winter War literature. 

The image of the frozen Karelian night sky was taken at Käppäselkä at a temperature of minus 30 Celsius, -22 Fahrenheit.


In this photo from the Continuation War in 1942 Häyhä was demonstrating one of his shooting positions behind rocks on Kollaa.

During most of winter Finland has only a few hours of daylight until darkness sets. Häyhä would set on his post well before daybreak and leave only after sunset.

The winter of the Winter war was one of the coldest in memory. Häyhä would wear multiple layers of clothing under his white snow suit to bear with the many cold hours of laying on snow. He would also wear thick, warm mittens and shoes.

Häyhä would prevent his breath from revealing his location during aiming by placing snow in his mouth and otherwise breathing towards the ground. He poured water on the sides of his positions to freeze the snow so any movement of snow wouldn't betray his location after shooting.

As Häyhä was using a rifle without a scope, it did not reflect sunlight, which would have revealed him to enemy snipers and artillery. Operating without a scope allowed the 160 cm (5"2 feet) tall Häyhä to keep a low profile, as he was not raising his head as high as the enemy snipers. Häyhä said that "You wouldn't actually with the naked eye spot him at all" when he was in his position.

The Magic Shooter

Häyhä's other nickname was Taika-ampuja, the Magic Shooter. Of his kill count Häyhä remarked that the Winter War wasn't a competition but a struggle.

Another heralded Finnish sharpshooter of the Winter War is Kalle Moilanen. Who is almost forgotten in Finland and elsewhere as there is little written about him on the internet. Or even any photographs so here is an image of a Finnish sharpshooter on Syväri.

The recipient of the widely publicized Swedish rifle recognition was selected among the regiments of the 12th division of Häyhä while Moilanen with similar feats was on the 13th division. Moilanen was still heralded during the war as a soldier even if eternal renown similar to the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae has evaded him. Despite going through a warpath with many similarities to Simo Häyhä, even on Laatokan Karjala, in a neighboring division. If not on Kollaa.

Reserve vänrikki Kalle Moilanen, participated with KrhK/JR 37 in battles at Uuksu, Syskyjärvi, Ruhtinaanmäki and on "motti" encirclements. Wounded in the shoulder in Lemetti on 26/2, leaving him an invalid. Promoted on 1/2/40 to reserve kersantti. Awarded the Gold Grand Champion Mark for the best man in the Division by the 13th Division Commander, local commander Nuora.

A few achievements:

As a master class marksman, he has marked over 200 Russians on his record with a rifle. This figure is considerably higher if one includes uncertain instances.

During the battle of Juttuselkä, he shot 12 Russians behind one machine gun nest, with a range of about 500 meters. More similar occurrences could be listed in the "Department Moilanen" account. As an excellent marksman, a brave and skillful soldier, 'Department Moilanen' was known by both his own and by the neighbors' side.

Suomi KP/-31

The self-taught Finnish weapons designer Aimo Lahti created one of the most efficient submachine guns of the World War Two era. Suomi is the name for Finland in Finnish. And suomi means the Finnish language as well...

Häyhä and his company would utilize submachine guns and grenades when counter-attacking and storming enemy positions at Kollaa.

The most adored user of the Suomi submachine gun is the soldier and Karelian farmer Viljam Pylkäs who in the Winter War served at the river Taipale on the Karelian isthmus which was one of the first defensive victories of the Winter War where the Finns halted the Soviet onslaught.

Pylkäs would be adapted as unruly Antero Rokka by the Finnish national author Väinö Linna in his Unknown Soldier. A famous scene, from maybe the most beloved Finnish book, was inspired by Pylkäs facing an attacking Soviet patrol in Pertjärvi in 1942. 

A call for help came from the front. Pylkäs then took a Suomi submachine gun and ran with his magazine switcher, private Kärkkäinen, to wait for the Soviet patrol of at least 100 men that was advancing in deep snow up the hill. They crawled the last meters to the pit where the sole defending Finnish rifleman had already fallen. When the Soviet patrol was 20 meters away from the two, Pylkäs opened fire.

The surprised Soviets fiercely continued their attack up the hill shouting 'Uraa, uraa!' As the fight went on Pylkäs was hit by a Soviet shot, leaving a scar for life on his head.

His ammo switcher Kärkkäinen was already beginning to retreat as Pylkäs had lied unconscious for a while but as Pylkäs woke up he asked Kärkkäinen to keep changing the magazines. For as long as they would have ammo they would be safe.

Pylkäs used 17 magazines with 680 cartridges as other Finnish soldiers brought more magazines to them as the fight continued. The submachine gun had also overheated, melting the snow around and requiring a barrel switch while the Soviets were already retreating.

After the fight 83 ribbons decorated with stars, sickles and hammers were picked up from the spot.

Home Farm Fortress

Häyhä's Rautjärvi home farm was left on the Russian side of the border after the Winter War peace. Where it was turned by the Soviet army into a fortified position with an underground passage leading into a machine gun nest.

Russians had transported two large buildings next to the original farm on the left. Another of those was already destroyed by Finnish artillery when the photo was taken.

The farm was liberated in the Continuation War and Häyhä returned to farm it in 1942 until the Soviet offensive led to evacuation in the summer of 1944 forcing Häyhä and his relatives to leave their home again. The Häyhä farm was later disassembled.


In the picture Häyhä and his dog Kille are hunting moose with the long-time president of Finland Urho Kekkonen. They did not say who snapped the moose.

As the school in Ruokolahti was looking for a stuffed beaver they asked Häyhä to hunt one. Häyhä wrote back "When you get the stuffed beaver to your school I would ask you to write back and tell you how like it."

Once he captured a live beaver that was to be relocated to Northern Finland. Häyhä demanded that it has to be transported with good water on the side as a beaver becomes blind if it cannot regularly rinse its eyes.


Häyhä on a rocking chair with his pystykorva dog Kille. Häyhä's post-war hobbies included breeding and training hunting dogs.

Besides being in photographs Häyhä also took them. As he had a Zeiss-Ikon folding camera that he used to capture life at the home front during the Continuation War. The family members of Häyhä have photos taken by him at their homes. Unfortunately, none of the photos taken by him have been released online.


Prior to the war when others went on for a nap after lunch Häyhä had the habit of opening a window on their home farm and began sighting the targets he had placed prior with his rifle. While others slept, he would do sighting practice without ammo until they would return to hay work.

Häyhä was also particularly diligent in maintaining his weapon.


Evacuated cows in Rautjärvi.

Tuomas Nuutinpoika Häyhä or Tuomas the son of Nuutti, was born in 1690 in Hiitola at the Karelian isthmus next to Rautjärvi. The son of his son, Kustaa Tuomaanpoika Häyhä's son, Matti Kustaanpoika Häyhä would be born at the home village of Simo Häyhä in Miettilä, Rautjärvi in 1754.

This is as far as Finnish ancestral records go back in time.

At Kollaa 98 men of Rautjärvi fell while many more were wounded.

The White General

The commander-in-chief of Finnish defense forces in World War Two was Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim. Mannerheim had been trained and served as an officer for the Russian empire and fought in the Russo-Japanese war and the World War One before the Russian revolution. He was the commander, Valkoinen kenraali, of the victorious valkoiset, White Guard, of the 1918 Finnish civil war against the Red Guard, punakaarti.

Simo Häyhä joined the local Rautjärvi White Guard in 1922, as a 17-year-old. Häyhä used to take part in the Viipuri White Guard district shooting competitions. Häyhä placed in shared fifth position for example in 1939 among the 7287 competitors.

Only tripwire now decorates the razed Häyhä home farm left on what is now the Russian border zone. The gravel road that Häyhä used to take to the White Guard house for training still remains.

While he was recovering in the war hospital Häyhä became visibly elated when he was visited by Mannerheim. 

The Mannerheim road goes through central Helsinki, ahead of the Finnish parliament, with ratsastajapatsas, the rider statue of Mannerheim on the other side, at the heart of Helsinki. 

The Lost Karelia

In the photo a sister and a father are giving their goodbyes to a brother and a son ahead of their evacuation journey from their hometown in Karelia's Suistamo in 1944.

The graves are called sankarihauta in Finnish, hero grave, found and maintained in every Finnish town and parish.

In his testament regarding the new farm given to him after World War 2 as a Karelian resettler Häyhä wrote: 

"The farm must be taken care of a as jointly held forest. This is because if someday the great neighbor would give back the ceded land to Finland and its previous owners. Then that my current farm of Kummunlahti 3 could be given to the state and take the former family farm to my own family's control, use and ownership."

Instead of living at his new farm, the seventh child of his family, Häyhä would prefer to live with his older brother's Juho farm near their parents. He moved to the nearby town of Ruokolahti in the 1970s. He would only reside on the new farm when there was farming or forestry work. Or hunting.

As a person

His nurse at the Mehiläinen war hospital remembered Häyhä as a lively man who always had tricks in his mind and was quick to laugh and keep the humor up among the wounded.

When his younger relative went on a trip to Soviet Union Häyhä wrote in a letter: "First of all I am interested in that last name of ours Häyhä. Was it to any harm or hindrance to you? Maybe that name of ours is still remembered from 1939-1940 and in how that guide or would I say overseer of yours gave meaning to it when you said that he was a bad man."

A Ruokolahti local described Häyhä being always a very considerate and kind person who always acknowledged others. Another local said he was always willing to join and aid in neighborly work but if it was he who asked others for aid and you were a minute late the door would stay shut. If he did not like someone, they never again spoke.

A reporter asked Häyhä just before his 96th birthday whether he felt any guilt that so many people died from a bullet shot by him. "I did what I was ordered to do and as well as I knew how to. Finland would not have survived if everyone had not done the same."

You loved peace

"You loved peace". Simo Häyhä 1905-2002.

A celebratory coin released by Moneta had on its other side the picture of Häyhä with his faithful dog Kille at his small Rautjärvi farm. Häyhä's relatives helped with the design.

The text recalls the words of the commander-in-chief of Finnish defense forces Carl Gustav Emil Mannerheim to Finnish soldiers at the end of the Winter War.

The other side of the coin was of Häyhä in war with his other pystykorva.

"You did not want war".

The Battle of Kollaa remembered

The custom of writing diaries and letters was still quite popular during the war times. People were very openly expressing their feelings to those closest to them in writing. Allowing us to access feelings and thoughts touched by the Winter war on the Kollaa front.

Simo Häyhä's diary and letters are an exception. The norm with Finnish front-line soldiers was that you could not get an answer to what they felt or experienced in war. Not even with an axe, as the saying goes in Finnish. The horrors endured or seen in the war were rarely spoken of unless among those who had experienced war themselves.

Kollaa as one of the most famous and hardest-fought Finnish battlefronts made its defenders world-renowned. Already during the war the stories of Simo Häyhä and his captain, the Dread of Morocco, became known among the Finnish soldiers on the various fronts of the Winter War. The characters of Kollaa have continued to live on through memories.

Kollaa Kestää, the bestseller of a Kollaa serving officer written by Erkki Palolampi and published already in August 1940 provides some instant accounting of the reality of warfare in Kollaa. Besides the other various warfare stories and letters of the soldiers on Kollaa again reflect the humanity at display in war.

The Dread at Suvilahti

"In the afternoon, a few grenade rounds also fell upon Suvilahti. The village could have been left by then and should have been left, as the Factory of Anna was already on fire and the road was becoming accessible to the enemy. The backside was threatened.

It was the turn of the Juutilainen company to remain to hold the enemy on the east side of Suvilahti. He then received two orders to leave, the officer's messenger drove through Suvilahti, which was then being set on fire, but Juutilainen paid no attention, thinking he would get away, as long as he pulled the hair of the enemy a bit more first.

'– One of those boys has not yet gotten really used to this war thing. The boy said it hurt him to hear the enemy's wounded crying. Grandpa is teaching this sinner with his own hand how to smell the gunpowder. Just tell the Colonel that we'll come when we come, and there's nothing to worry about.'

He stayed, and the boys waited calmly for the enemy to come, even as the fire behind them began to rage with tremendous force. The officer's messenger came for the third time, and on that occasion he had a written order with him. Suvilahti was to be left, for the direction of Välikylä was open, similar to the Artahuhta deep forest to the south, and the village was already burning.

Juutilainen saw the messenger coming and made a point of moving ahead of the messenger to "escape" toward the southern edge of the cemetery. He went ahead, nest by nest, and the messenger ran after him, shouting and wondering. Juutilainen looked in the direction of the highway, and then came what he had been expecting. Movement began to be seen from among the trees, and soon a line of the enemy appeared in sight.

Juutilainen stopped at the machine gun and talked with the messenger. "Aah, you have even written greetings. But as you can see, there is no time to start reading letters now, that will have to wait a little longer. Tell the commander that we are coming, and the Bolsheviks won't deceive us, we won't be left in a pocket."

The tall lieutenant jumped behind the machine gun and began to sweep the attacking line from the highway to the ground. Only when this attack was also repulsed and the enemy retreated out of sight did he give the order to assemble the company and march to the village central school, which was ablaze with flames."

Transcript from Erkki Palolampi's book Kollaa Kestää.

The company would then retreat to river Kollaa. Where they right away would be ordered to assemble counter-attacks in order to get weapons from the enemy as there was a shortage of guns to begin with.

The River Kollaa

The Finnish defensive line was meant to be at first at the more favorable and more fortified river Piitsoin but the sight of a strong Soviet armor department led to a sudden retreat to the small river of Kollaa.

The March 1940 Soviet offensive would throw four Red Army divisions against the already exhausted Finnish division of colonel Svensson on Kollaa.

Finnish forces on Kollaa had no tanks unlike the Soviet offensive which was supported by a huge number of artillery and bombers.


"The men armed their hand grenades, dived into the pits in front of them and threw the grenades. Full power was no longer needed for throwing. The hand grenades exploded, and in the flashes the men saw the pits and the trench were full of Russians. A severed arm flew flailing in front of the lieutenant.

The enemy fired a flare, but the lieutenant had given his signal, the men stood up, diving forward in the light. The machine gun crackled with a high-pitched noise and its spray hit the group in the nearest hole. The greenish light from the flare showed a red arc spraying from an open artery..."

Kollaa Kestää, written by Erkki Palolampi, described the many close combat attacks made on enemy positions on Kollaa. Häyhä took part in them as a leadman with a submachine gun.


"The leader of the machine gun team, a reserve lieutenant who has been in combat for two weeks, goes berserk. He runs into the company's command barracks, stares with fierce, bloodshot eyes at the fallen and wounded, and starts talking frantically:

- "My wife is coming here with the company's machine guns [...]

Then he bursts out and runs bare-headed, staggering down the shell-torn hill, laughing and shouting: "My wife will come and bring machine guns!"


Before Christmas the number of fallen in the company of the Dread of Morocco was already over 90 men. On the other hand the attacks led by him resulted in a great deal of war bounty and were an inspiration on all fronts, not only in Kollaa.

When describing Juutilainen's harsh style of leadership the men serving under him had the feeling that the Dread had his pistol more in his hand than in the holster.

For example when they got their baptism by fire at the bend of Hyrsylä, Dread saw a young man running towards the command post. Juutilainen took out his pistol in order to shoot the man he took for a deserter when alikersantti Hugo Varis hit Dread with the end of a rifle. The running man was a messenger.

After one fierce day of fighting Dread appeared in the tent with a pistol in his hand saying "You will go attack again if I say so. I will shoot everyone who won't go."

Infantryman Väinö Tiippana who was maintaining his weapon rose up, loaded and lifted his weapon and aimed at Dread standing at the tent opening and said, "You do not shoot me, you will yourself die first".

"We need soldiers like this", Dread said and exited the tent.

War Reverand Heiskanen

As a 25-year-old war reverand of Kollaa Jorma Heiskanen knew if a reverand is afraid and does not go to the frontlines, the soldiers won't respect him.

In his diary he remembers the 22nd of December. "A light snowsquall. It was a good day to drop in for a coffee at Juutilainen's tent at the front. A moment before I arrived, a splinter had made a meter-long tear in the canvas. Despite this, Dread was in a great mood, lying in bed reading a suspense novel. Every now and then a bullet whizzed through the top of the tent. There was something to marvel at in his cold-bloodedness..."

During the Continuation war in 1942 reverand Heiskanen was walking at the front of his company on the road to Enso when sudden Russian fire made everyone jump in the ditches and begin crawling back towards safety. Heiskanen had instead jumped into the forest. He was expected to return to others his own way. 

Despite multiple searches the body of Heiskanen was never found.

In 1942 a Russian saboteur was airdropped into Finland. He was carrying the RUK reserve officer mark of Heiskanen. A Finnish war prisoner later on said he had met Heiskanen at a Soviet prison camp. War reverand Rantamaa who was Heiskanen's friend had the information that both of Heiskanen's hands had been amputated and he had died in a hospital.

With his fate still unresolved in December 1973 Heiskanen's widow Elna wrote again to contact the officials by this time writing to president Urho Kekkonen. Who put an inquiry to the Finnish Foreign Ministry on her behalf. In 1975 the inquiries regarding Heiskanen's fate as a war prisoner in the Soviet Union were once again futile as they provided no information on Heiskanen.

Fallen heroes

In Finnish a fallen soldier is called sankarivainaja, a fallen hero. During the wartime it was commonly shortened to sankari, a hero, when speaking of the fallen.

"He fell for us, gave his life on behalf of the fatherland. We have to continue to work in his honor and for the sake of the future", a young widow of Kollaa said of her husband's sacrifice.

Reverand Heiskanen married his wife Elna during the Winter War, on the seventh of January at their parish of Hiitola, Karelia. Right before they were wed at the church the four white coffins of local sankarivainajat were laid to rest.

Veljeä ei jätetä. Artillerymen with families, Petter Anttonen and Johannes Halko, had made a pact between themselves that "a brother won't be left behind".

When Halko got the news of Anttonen having fallen under the Soviet barrage on Kollaa he went searching for Anttonen in the drumfire, against the orders of his superiors. In 1942 both of the fallen were found and returned to the hero graveyard of Simpele where they were buried in adjacent graves.

Young widows

In the photo the brothers-in-arms society of Kuusamo is giving the deed of transfer for a new house to widow Helmi Oikarainen.

"May the highest grant you the strength to raise your children to be good citizens, who, bound by the memory of their hero father, would live for their fatherland."

The wife of Kollaa war reverand Heiskanen, Elna, never remarried. They had been married for one and half years, with one son, at the time when Heiskanen disappeared.

The granddaughter of Heiskanen wrote down Elna Heiskanen's final letter to his disappeared husband.

"With You we have three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren already--...

Jorma, see you soon. Soon I will come to you, my dear husband, I, your ancient little wife.

Do you know that you have a large family. I hope you know that... This is the way life went, this is the way it was allowed to go. All I can now do is lie down and look forward to the rest of the journey to you... My golden husband, let us rest together in peace soon."

60 years after Heiskanen's disappearence, Marjo, the daughter of Heiskanen's son, was writing the story of her grandfather's disappearance and how her grandmother had to leave Karelia with her young son as evacuees.

As she was reading a book belonging to her grandmother that told of Finnish war prisoners she noticed a familiar face. There was a 1941 picture from an unknown Soviet prison camp in which she recognized one of the war prisoners to be her grandfather Jorma. That is the only certified information anyone has ever learned of war reverand Heiskanen's fate.


The Dread of Morocco is inspecting a Soviet T-26 B tank.

The future president of Finland Mauno Koivisto who served in the detachment Törni behind enemy lines once wrote in a letter: 

 "Although it is hard here, I am grateful that I do not have to be at the Karelian isthmus. Here you do not have to fight against machines but man versus man under the cover of the forest.

It is miraculous that as peace-loving nation as Finland is so good at fighting. I will try my best that our people would not go under slavery." 


On 19/12 the Finnish war-time radio conducted an interview with Aarne Juutilainen on Kollaa. He recalled how in one day in December his syntiset, 'sinful' stopped five Soviet tanks.

"Well, we haven't had anything difficult, or anything that strange. It makes me laugh a little, because, was it the fourteenth day when five Soviet tanks were destroyed. When one stopped, three of our boys went with bayonets to rattle open the tank hatch. The Russians hung on and held it shut. When the boys took the points of their bayonets off the tank hatch, the Russians opened the hatch and threw a hand grenade".

The men flinched, but fortunately the hand grenade did not go off. The hatch opened twice more and two hand grenades popped out. However, they too flew far enough away that no one was wounded. A fourth grenade flew through the hatch, but now a Finnish hand grenade also fell in.

The Russians didn't throw any more," Juutilainen said.

Some of the tanks had surviving men who were taken as prisoners. One of them tried to escape right in front of Juutilainen but was struck with the end of a Colt pistol and fell to his knees.


Häyhä was pulled on an elongated sled, ahkio, to safety on Kollaa by his fellow soldiers. Also horses and even reindeer in Lapland, as in the picture, were utilized to pull ahkios.

On the first day of the war a mine went off near a Finnish soldier which made him disorientated. The soldier began running towards the wrong side, towards the enemy. The Dread of Morocco shouted towards the man who did not react. Dread then realized that the soldier had lost his hearing.

Juutilainen ran after the soldier, turning his direction. Both managed to safely return.


The korsu of artillery fire control is an example of the living quarters for soldiers in the Finnish wars of World War Two.

The Commander of the Battalion remembers the firestorm in which the two-time Olympic Bronze medallist Martti Uosikkinen fell:

"A fierce battle rages along the shores of the lake and near the bridge. The enemy cannot reach the hill. The few men who almost reach the ridge are destroyed or beaten back in blood. The defenders of the Korsu Hill hold their ground and inflict heavy casualties on the invaders with their accurate fire...

The enemy has penetrated through the central block at Korsu Hill... There the roar of battle rings out in fury. The muzzle blasts are constantly flaring, and in their light the tangled remains of the forest look ghastly... 

By midnight the situation has been cleared. Korsu Hill is ours again. But the harvest of death has grown again."

Two-time Olympic bronze medallist

1932 and 1936 Olympic gymnastics bronze medallist, gymnastics teacher and reserve lieutenant on the Kollaa front, Martti Uosikkinen, was already deadly wounded when he shouted from the sled he was put on to his men "Remember that Kollaa will hold!", as he was began to be pulled along the broken trail on snow.

Uosikkinen was taken to the infirmary tent where a doctor who was a former schoolmate of his tied him up. Uosikkinen didn't anymore at that point recognize him or none of the others present in the tent.

His final words were to his wife and little daughter.

Under Artillery Fire

Palolampi's Kollaa Kestää described the March 1940 offensive on Kollaa:

"There were just pits, pits everywhere and black dirt, a sooty grey mixture of dirt and snow. Trenches and positions were drowned in the pits. At night they came to life, we tried to repair them with picks and shovels and to re-open them, but the next day there were only pits again. The air was full of flying earth and squeaking shrapnel. Grenades rained down in clusters for hours, exploding many at a time, their volcanic columns coalescing into clouds in the air. After going into position at night, the day after - whoever was still alive - could not find his way back, the paths, the trenches and the compound graves had changed their shape...

...the battle for the Red Hill was fought bitterly. After six days of fighting, the defending force was down to three men. The company's three squads and their leaders were almost down to their last man. The leader of the machine gun team counts his men and gets a strength number of eight. All the machine gun positions are empty, one left to the enemy. Opening machine gun fire means death in a few minutes. Direct-fire cannons and tanks will open up a devilish barrage immediately. You have to think carefully about where to sacrifice a machine gun and a couple of men with it."

Soviet artillery would launch 30 000-40 000 munitions a day while the Finnish artillery would be limited to under 1000 a day.

With the signing of the peace the weeks of enduring hellish artillery fire ended in astonishment at the sudden silence.


An enemy division was advancing on Finnish Metsähallitus (forest government) logging line when a group led by alikersantti-promoted Simo Häyhä was given an order to intercept it.

On 6/3 at 06.00 the counter-attack began. Häyhä's group had to cross 300 meters long swamp on Ulismainen. Behind the swamp was a small ridge that the group was climbing on when the firing began.

The Finns were able to fire on the enemy and drive them away from their snow hideouts. One Soviet soldier still managed to fire once more, wounding Simo Häyhä.

The image is from recaptured Loimola of Karjala during the Continuation War as Häyhä was taken on by reverand Rantamaa for a tour of Kollaa and Karelia where they remembered the war on Kollaa.

Commander-in-Chief Mannerheim's order of the day number 34

Soldiers of the glorious Finnish army.

Peace has been concluded between our country and Soviet Russia, a harsh peace which has surrendered to Soviet Russia almost every battlefield on which you have shed your blood for all that we hold dear and sacred.

You did not want war, you loved peace, work and progress, but you were forced into a battle in which you have done great deeds, deeds that will shine in the pages of history for centuries.

More than 15 000 of you who went into the field can no longer see your homes, and how many of you have lost your ability to work forever. But you have also dealt hard blows, and while two hundred thousand of our enemies now lie in the snow, staring with broken eyes at our starry sky, it is not your fault. You did not hate them and wish them harm, but followed the harsh law of war, kill or be killed yourselves.

Soldiers! I have fought on many battlefields, but I have yet to see your like as warriors. I am proud of you as if you were my own children, as proud of the man of the fells in the North as of the son of the plains of Pohjanmaa, the forests of Karjala, the hills of Savo, the fertile meadows of Häme and Satakunta, the groves of Uusimaa and Varsinais-Suomi. I am as proud of the sacrifice offered by the son of a poor hut as I am of the rich.

...Despite all the courage and spirit of sacrifice, the government has been forced to make peace on hard terms, which is, however, explainable.

Our army was small and its reserves and cadres inadequate. We were not equipped for war against a great power. Our brave soldiers defending our frontiers had to make an overwhelming effort to obtain what was lacking. We had to build defensive lines that did not exist. We had to try to get help that did not come. We had to get arms and equipment, at a time when all countries were feverishly bracing themselves for the storm which sweeps over the world.

Your heroic deeds have been admired across countries, but after three and a half months of war, we are still almost alone. We have received no more than 2 reinforced battalions with artillery and aircraft, as foreign aid on our fronts, where our own men, fighting day and night without the possibility of exchange, have had to face the onslaughts of ever new enemy forces, pushing their physical and mental strength to the limit.

When the history of this war is once written, the world will know of your efforts.

The Memorial Cross of Kollaa

The soldiers who fought at the battlefronts of Ahte, Kollaa, Ulismainen, Uomaa, Sasarijärvi, Siira, Songerjärvi and Tshumeikka during the Winter War were awarded memorial crosses of Kollaa.

The ribbon bears the traditional colors of Karelia, red and black.

The emblem of Karelia created in 1562, of the opposite hands clashing a sword and sabel is meant to represent Karjala as a border region between the Western and Eastern spheres.

Karelia has been touched by war for over a thousand years, as far as the recorded history of the region goes. With times of peace also, affecting greatly how the neighbor has been seen or remembered at different times.


The ancient oral story tradition kept alive by the Karelian poem singers was collected by Elias Lönnrot into the Finnish national epic Kalevala released in 1835. Many artists thought that the most untouched version of Finnish culture and nature was represented by the Karelian Song Lands.

Alone the nights of ours come, alone the days brighten, alone was born Väinämöinen, alone appeared the eternal poet.

Finnish national painter Akseli-Gallen Kallela turned the many tragic characters of Kalevala into paintings. Kullervo's revenge was painted in 1899 when the beginning of the first oppression and Russification period of the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland inspired resistance among the Finns. This is the year when Finlandia of another Karelianist, Jean Sibelius, was composed.

Gallen-Kallela's son, a reserve officer and a painter, Jorma, was one of the first fallen Finnish soldiers of the Winter War. Jorma Gallen-Kallela died in an ambush on Karjalankannas, the Karelian isthmus while shielding his superior from bullets as he fell.

Similar to Simo Häyhä, many of the evakot, evacuees of Karjala, never stopped longing for their homes or the Karelian land. The great Karelian castle city of Viipuri nowadays lies in ruin as much of Karelia has been left unmaintained under Soviet and Russian rule.

When we had a lesson in school about astronomy, all the lights in the classroom were turned off while the solar system was projected in the middle of the room. Our lecturer then unexpectedly broke into tears as he began, in the darkness illuminated only by the planets, telling how as a child he had to leave his home and parents. As he was one of the 80 000 war children relocated into safety under new parents in warless Sweden. How he was forced to leave them too when he had already forgotten his original Finnish parents due to his young age, as the war ended. 15 000 of the war children never returned.

Aarne Juutilainen

When hearing of the Winter War peace terms which relinquished Karelia to the Soviet Union, the Sortavala-born Juutilainen buried his hands in his face and said with a quiet voice, "Karjala, my own Karjala."

The war for Juutilainen or Finland was not over as the Continuation War in 1942-1944 and the Lapland War of 1944-1945 saw him continue to serve.

Serving in the war also meant that Juutilainen never had to sit the six-month prison term he was sentenced to by court-martial in 1944 for attempted assault. In April 1944 Juutilainen received a letter from his wife Helvi whom he married in the summer of 1940, a notice of divorce.

A young underling of his then refused to bring him any more booze when the Dread of Morocco again went for his pistol to magnify his order. The pistol went off but the bullet missed. Juutilainen's sole defense in the trial was that he does not miss from a distance of 3 meters.

Juutilainen clarified his use of pistol: "If someone cluelessly began to rub the back of their head or stammer something that no one could make any sense of, I struck my hand at the pistol holster and bellowed that 'I will shoot a man who does not know where we are!' I of course wouldn't have started shooting anyone but it did put haste in men".

Alcohol, likewise to many of the soldiers returning home and civil life, was a life-long problem for Juutilainen who after the war was estranged from his son before they made peace in his final years. His grandchildren, who remember him warmly, reminisced how Juutilainen would always poke the person he was speaking to with his index finger.

The then-prime minister of Finland, Paavo Lipponen, said during one Finnish independence day celebration that every Finnish man would like to be the Dread of Morocco.

The People Fought, men tell

On Kansa taisteli, miehet kertovat magazine guerilla battalion 4's, sissipataljoona 4's, Arvi Kujala recalled the fight on the right flank of the Kollaa front where Simo Häyhä was wounded.

"The hard wilderness fights of Ulismainen raged the fiercest between 3/3-13/3. Usually the enemy would start the morning with a heavy artillery barrage, then continue with a long day of repeated attacks, trying to break our defensive line that had formed on the snowy woodland ridge with their multiple numerical advantage without succeeding in doing so.

One day we got a message from our right flank that the enemy is trying to flank our positions there. I gathered three other men, I couldn't find more, and we skied with haste."

When approaching the enemy fire Kujala began to think how they would have to go against the fire along the open swamp land which made him reconsider.

One of the four men, a kitchen man, then groaned that "When we have to go, let's go." Prior to that the kitchen man's constant complaining during the war had left Kujala thinking that the man is an eager bolshevik.

"We others either didn't dare to just stay there but went after him. In my mind I had the feeling that we left for the last passage of our life for that woodland swamp opened up a perfect hell. The enemy had not saved any gunpowder around there.

And it did open up. To our wonderment not many bullets flew on this open swamp where we waded with our skis sinking in the snow. The few that did, flew far over us. The accustomed ear could right away conclude that they were not meant for us.

Next the kitchen man shouted "Nyt on piru merrassa! Now the devil is in the crab trap! The boys have been left between two fires." And then this 'bolshevik' went with his skis as fast as he could in the sinking snow swamp. The man did not seem at all to know the word 'fear'.

While following the ski tracks Kujala noticed they were actually following the ski stick marks of Finnish skiers. Then they came about a small Finnish force arranged in the shape of a horseshoe chain, firing at everything moving at the swamp, with the enemy approaching.

"There it was, the group sent to do the enemy's flanking movement, 70-80 men. But before it got to do destruction in our chain, it was surprised by another group. This group was the famous company of the Dread of Morocco and it decimated quickly and mercilessly the enemy to the last man. Our task was only to witness what happened.

And as the final enemy had faded on the snow, we heard captain Juutilainen say to his men with a calm voice: "What are we doing here anymore, let's go to eat, boys."

The Wooden Cross of Kollaa

The correspondent at the front during Continuation War, author Olavi Paavolainen, described visiting Kollaa in 1942.

"There are landscapes over which not even temporal distance has yet been able to create reconciliation and peace - over which glory and suffering still vibrate in all their painful nakedness. The most humanly poignant and tragically heroic of these landscapes is the place that HELD OUT - Wreathed by world renown, Kollaa of Winter War."

White death diary

The visualized and contextualized Winter War diary of Simo Häyhä including letters, interviews and other memoirs.

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