A new exhibition for Simo Häyhä was to be held in 2018 at the Simo Häyhä and Kollaa museum. The curator and organizer then one last time contacted the relatives and associates of Häyhä on whether they would have any memorabilia for the exhibition.
Häyhä's nephew then said that he had Häyhä's guest book and another one titled "War Memories" written by Häyhä.
The handwritten diary had been stored in a drawer. Häyhä's nephew had not read it prior before bringing it up.
Researchers of Häyhä have confirmed the notebook is in Häyhä's handwriting.
In its original handwritten, notebook form Häyhä's diary is about 11 pages long. So the idea with the website was to contextualize it also for non-Finnish readers by providing information on what he wrote of or referred to. The additional Häyhä interviews, letters and stories provide access to Simo Häyhä's thoughts or what he even dreamed of.
The notebook was mainly available in separate quotes through Finnish media. Besides that copies of the handwritten notebook were being sold at the Häyhä and Kollaa museum for a few euros.
In 2019 a history student at the University of Oulu published the thesis in PDF file format in Finnish as an appendix. Her candidate work studied the notebook and Häyhä's thoughts on the Winter War and the Russians.
So the diary in Finnish at least has been already available for a few years. Although not in a very user-friendly way.
I had already created three free study websites in 2022 that were meant to be useful to the reader. So why not try creating a fourth website? Especially when prototyping the website it seemed to be already shaping far better than a couple of other attempts I had done on other topics.
I had the idea of making the diary already previously but it seemed far-fetched till I found that the whole thing was already freely available as a PDF with the permission of the museum. On my way to the summer cottage, I had driven past the Häyhä and Kollaa museum a few times but of course it would have been a whole different ordeal if the text would not have been available.
I feel like the website's format with images and contextualization combined with the original text shaped out nicely. Hopefully humanely also. Of course, you never how people react before it is out there on the internet.
Any sort of external negotiating behind the creation of anything I think risks the vision shaping out freely through experimenting and prototyping. Feedback is course welcome and beneficial for all after there is something to critique.
The introduction of the website has at least so far been received well.
The discussions and feedback I've had for example in Reddit and Finnish forums have also helped with honing the stuff or even finding and then adding something that I hadn't come across before. So thank you for that.
I cannot perhaps yet see the website as neutrally as with time is possible. So any feedback at least makes you think if the site could be improved in any way. Although it is a longer-term realization process.
With my first flagship site in Finnish, Helpotnopat.fi, for example the site visually developed drastically through the months. You can see some of the influence on how this website is arranged as they are part of the same continuum. Although there are fewer beige rabbits around this time.
With this one too I've at least tried to make it visually interesting. Although beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And who knows how it will appear to me with the passage of time since I at least yet cannot really review all aspects of it that neutrally.
Häyhä's deeds and words belong to the free world.
While the internet might be a good way of instantly popularizing the image of someone it can easily also lead to painting less than humane pictures of that someone.
So I think it is important that also his own words and thoughts reflect the soldier, farmer and human that was Simo Häyhä.
Winter war and the following Continuation War and Lapland War are documented also as internet-era resources.
Here we take look at some of the resources freely available to anyone. Albeit mostly in Finnish as the resources are only partially available in English.
You also have the option to see the Simo Häyhä diary with your own eyes at the Häyhä and Kollaa museum.
War photography is perhaps the most instant way to learn of the many faces of war.
Häyhä himself was awarded a Zeiss-Ikon folding camera for his heroics in the Winter War. He used it to take pictures of the Continuation War era. Those images recording the life at the home front of his home village and relatives unfortunately are not available as they have been seen by only his relatives and those in the Häyhä family society.
During wartime the footage shown was controlled and censored but now all of it is available.
So the archives of the Wartime Photograph Archive of SA-kuva are freely available for all. The downside is that the execution of the archive is archaic so the search function for example is not up to modern standards. How the site frequently ceases to work is also less than optimal. But there is also a modern solution.
Fortunately the Sotasampo project has also a modern component for searching the SA-kuva archive image bank. Although it either doesn't function always as reliably as you would expect a modern website to work so it can be as frustrating to use. Even if it is already far better than the original archive.
Since the Finnish defense forces have already IT corps formed from those serving their mandatory military service it should be possible to remake the original archive without spending too much time or resources. Of course, slow are the hurries of misters.
Sampo is the magical device that grinds grain and gold for its beholder in the Finnish national Epic Kalevala collected from Karelian rune singers by Elias Lönnrot. Sotasampo hopes to be the same for those interested in the Finnish wars of the Second World War.
The Sotapolku project tries to gather information about individual soldiers. To give information about for example their civilian backgrounds and where they were located in the war. Illuminating their warpaths.
Some soldiers have little to no information. Some have photographs with them.
The Rautjärvi men who fell on Kollaa were not left behind but brought by their fellow soldiers to rest at the Rautjärvi hero cemetery.
The Finnish Kansa taisteli (The People Fought) magazine was published between 1957-1986. Collecting war stories of the soldiers. Which are now available for free on the internet in PDF format as the Finnish War Histographical Society made them available for all to read.
The magazine utilized often the Finnish war record photographs in their stories. Which are now public on the previous sources with any additional might have been added to the photos for context.
I don't know if there yet a tool that could reliably translate text from a PDF source. As that would open at least some of it to non-Finnish speakers. Although translator tools do not yet always manage to cope with Finnish as many times the original meaning of a sentence can be turned upside down. But maybe one day.
The small Kollaa and Simo Häyhä Museum is run by volunteers. It is open during the summer time and for groups on reservation otherwise.
The museum is located along the main road 6 alongside the Finnish-Russian border. The original Häyhä home farm is only a few kilometers away on the Russian side.
The museum has attracted plenty of visitors outside of Finland too. Foreign media stories of the Winter War often include the White Death. For example British, French and Japanese media visited the museum during the summer of 2022.
At the basement level of the museum is the exhibition dedicated to Häyhä. There you can see for example the equipment he used, the elongated sled he was pulled away on after being wounded and of course the hand-written diary. Plus other memorabilia.
The Saimaa ice age formed lake land area is also very beautiful during the summer if you ever visit Finland.
For example the Venice of the North, Savonlinna, with Olavinlinna, the medieval castle built to face the Eastern threat of Finland, is surrounded by Saimaa, the greatest lake in Finland. It is nice during winter, autumn and fall also. Or at least so my ancestors thought living there at least since the 1600's when the population record-keeping began.
Your support helps with collecting even more previously known only in Finnish Simo Häyhä stories. You can tell your friend about the website if you want to help.
You can get the White Death Diary also as an eBook from Buy Me a Coffee.
You can re-download your digital eBook from the platform whenever you wish.