Recorded here is the date in the Archives. This differs from the date known in Finland (20th Mar 1906) which he gave when he entered Finland. Also, the Archive date is in the old Russian calendar.


This is an extract from a book that was published in 27/5/1988 “On isat taalla taistelleet. Yil-Iin veteraani Kirja”, pages 87 to 98. It was prepared and read at Lauri’s funeral by Niilo Haukilahti, who was the next child born to Jenni and Oscari featured in the story. Translated by Kaarina Worsley (nee Kuntijarvi) The Bolsheviks had been threatening in Vienna Karelia the wife’s of the men who had gone to Finland in the early 1920’s. The threat was that they would be taken to Petroskoi where their future would not be promising. Through the circumstances of the time, several men had gone to Finland to escape the alternative of being imprisoned or of losing their lives, which included men from Soukelo, a village which is situated in the Oulanko county (and Lauri’s birthplace). In addition to Oskari Haukilahti the following had gone: Simo Niemi to Kemi Risto Rovaniemi(brother of Simo) to Kemi Paavo Reponiemi to Kemi Jaako Sotka to Haukipudas Vasili Iijanen (Saikov) to Kemi Ortto, Olli and Iivana Seratin to Kemi Just before mid-summer Monday when mid-summer was the next Thursday, Jenni Haukilahti (b1891) and family’s son Matti (b1914) left Soukelo for Finland. The departure took place in the following manner: The previous night, two boys from the same village, Lauri Kuntijarvi (b1906) and Jussi Uutala (b?), visited the Paanajarvi which is at Kusamo on the Finnish side of the border. Before the boys returned to Soukelo, the village had got a message from the local smugglers (kulanssi) that as the boys had gone to Finland without permission, the authorities were preparing to arrest them that very day. Lauri’s uncle awoke him and gave the news and advised him to flee to Finland for “You will be in trouble”. Lauri decided to flee with Jussi but for some reason they wanted Jenni and Matti to go with them. The distance between Lauri’s house and Jenni’s was 300 metres. He went there to ask Jenni to accompany them, but he had to ask without alerting the others. He asked Jenni “Where did you put the halter?” and while they were looking for this, he was able to whisper “At 10 o’clock Jussi and I are leaving for Finland. Why don’t you and Matti come too, if you can? ”.The boys knew that the father was already in Finland. Oskari Ortto (Saikoff)was working in forestry, the logging camps, on the Finnish side and the family had wanted to be re-united. He was born 24 March 1885 in Soukelo and was the 4th child out of six. In Soukelo he spent his childhood and early youth. He did not go to school because there wasn’t one in the area. Oskari learnt to read write and do arithmetic without the school, but how is not known. The distance from the village to the border was a good twenty kilometres. From Lauri’s house to the mouth of the river Heinajoki was about two kilometres across the lake. So he first rowed to Jenni’s house to Ontrei’s house and from there past Iija’s house to his own. There he said goodbyes to his sister. Then he went to Rotola’s house and tried to wake up Mikita and get him to join the group. Mikita was sleeping too soundly, and Lauri could not wake him. Matti’s grandfather Riiko (father’s father was about 83 years old) asked the 8 year old Matti to accompany him to collect some birch bark. Matti, who was thinking about the journey ahead of him and needed to invent and excuse why he could not go with his grandfather, said “No, there are so many perches here I have to fish”. The boy had long yearned to join his Dad in Finland, and where he hoped his father would buy him braces. In her turn, Jenni was asked to help shear the sheep, but gave the excuse that Lauri’s cow had a bad hoof and Jenni knew what to do and was needed there. For the journey to Finland Jenni had one loaf of black rye bread, and one fish loaf (fish baked into the loaf of rye bread) for the whole group. They knew that the journey to the border was twenty kilometres, but not how far they would have to travel on the other side. Jenni’s elder sister in law Okahvi (b1875) guessed that Jenni was planning the trip. Jenni tried to keep it a secret because if found out it may have been prevented, and she was missing her husband. Jenni gestured to her sister in law “You can’t go to Finland in bare feet!”, for her shoes were already in the boat. Also she wasn’t wearing her scarf nor coat. Satisfied, Okahvi went to get the shears but when she returned the boat was already meters away from the shore. Okahvi shouted after them “You are mad if you go to Finland”. She may have thought that Jenni was going to attend to the cow. and then come back to shear the sheep. In any case, she kept Jenni’s departure quiet for a couple of hours. At midday a group of Bolshevik soldiers arrived from the Oulanko village to make the arrest of Lauri and Jussi. Whilst searching for them they discovered that others were missing also, Jenni and Matti. Jenni had not gone to heal the cow – it was not even ill. The Reds went to the Soukelo lake, searching by row boat for the missing group. The lake is eight kilometres long and four kilometres wide. They couldn’t see the missing group, and the soldiers in frustration starting shooting towards Finland. With no reply, they did not follow. Lauri and Jussi were waiting at the mouth of the river. Jenni and Matti arrived by boat, and all four starting to walk towards Finland. It was a sunny day. Lauri and Jussi knew the area, and guided them through the forest because they didn’t dare to follow the road in case they were being looked for. The meagre rations were eaten in Karelia, and because one of the group was tired, they stopped and rested. In the evening about six, the group arrived at a house about two kilometres inside Finland, but discovered a Finnish boarder guards inside. To their relief they were friendly. They told that a Russian border patrol had passed this way a short time ago before the group arrived. The rest had delayed them, but it had also saved them from walking directly into the arms of the patrol. The Finnish guards phoned some office in Kusamo and reported that they had four people who had crossed the border. The guards were told that the group must be returned immediately to the East. On hearing this Jenni, noticing that a boat was arriving, said “Why don’t we wait and see who is in the boat?” It arrived. There were two Finnish soldiers, one was a captain. The guards told the captain that he had four refugees and had received orders to return them. The captain didn’t know the refugees. He phoned Kusamo and informed them that the refugees had to be taken there to be questioned. It was decided that they would walk there, and Jenni as the oldest of the group agreed. She quipped that they were not weighed down by food and money. They were accompanied by three guards. The beginning of the journey was twenty kilometres by boat on the Paanajarvi. The refugees were pleased to do the rowing. About 9 o’clock, they arrived on the west side of the lake. The captain phoned the rural Police Chief and reported that the said refugees are arriving by foot. According to Jenni the journey was about thirty kilometres. The night before this walk, they stayed at Rajala’s house. This house was the childhood home of Ida, the wife of Matti Kaisto, a farmer, who had visited Vienna Karelia earlier and knew Jenni. However because of the guards, they did not dare to acknowledge each other for fear of trouble. Next morning about at about 6:00 after drinking coffee or tea, they left for their walking trip towards Kusamo. The previous day they had walked their exciting twenty kilometres and rowed another twenty kilometres. Now on the new day, after walking for five hours, they arrived at an unknown house. Jenni asked if they could rest. So they entered the house and greeted the occupants. The reply was “Oh my goodness you little stranger” (Jenni was only 147 centimetres tall). The owner of the house had got to know Jenni on a military journey in 1919 to Kiprinkijarvi, just seven kilometres from Soukelo. The group of six or seven soldiers had run out of provisions, and some of them had returned to Finland to bring some more. The villagers of Soukelo saw smoke from the soldiers’ fire, and went to investigate. Putting out a white flag, they approached cautiously. Seeing that they were “Finnish white” soldiers, they went up to them. The soldiers wanted to know if there were any Bolshevik soldiers in the village. On being told “No”, they followed into Soukelo. The villagers gave the Finnish white soldiers food and shelter. Wishing to know of any Bolsheviks nearby, one of the villagers made an excuse and visited Ruva to find out what she could. It was Jenni who made this trip and brought back the welcome news that there were no Bolsheviks in the area. After eating and resting they left Soukelo on skis. The owner of the house where Jenni, Matti, Lauri and Juusi plus guards were resting had risen in status and was now the head of the local Civil Guard. The spirits of the refugee group were lifted by this happy meeting. The farmer asked “Could he talk to them”. After talking to them, the farmer phoned the Police Chief of Kusamo and said that “You must take very great care of these refugees. I will come tomorrow”. He also added “You must not return them under any circumstances”. After resting, the group’s march continued. The group didn’t look so threatening any more, because the number of guards was reduced to one. It took the whole day, and they finally arrived and finished in the jail in Kusamo, where they were given bread, fish and water. They did not meet the Civil Guard again. The first guard was relieved and the new one was very talkative. Next day he asked the group to come to the barracks and see if they recognised anyone. They looked but couldn’t recognise any body. They were shown a large bundle of photos and Jenni recognised two people, Nattalie from Auva and Houro from Soukelo. The following day, the local Police Chief and the police came to interview the refugees. This took only a short time. The guard then suggested that they should go to the house where the two ladies would (whom Jenni had recognised). They went and were given food and drink, and the two ladies were there. Next the group went to a famous Karelian shopkeeper Paavo Ahava, who was from Uhtua. He knew Jenni from the past. He even promised her a 500 mark loan for a car journey to Oulu. Of her husband, Oscari, Jenni knew that he was log floating somewhere at Iijoki. Jenni thanked for the offer, but knowing that the journey can be made in another way, she refused the offer. Jenni went back to the bigwig and asked for a passport. She said “If you are going to give me a passport, then do it now, if not then there other Police Chief”. The journey continued west to Taivalkoski. There the group went to the house of a Karelian shopkeeper called Jakoleff. The news of the arrival in Finland of Jenni and Matti had somehow reached the husband who was at the logging camp in Iijoki. When Jenni went to the house of Jakoleff in Taivalkoski, Oscar was already there, and there was a rapturous reunion. Lauri and Jussi parted from the group and took the bus to Oulu and amongst others Simo Niemi and Riisto Rovaniemi helped them from Oulu to Ii where they went to the old house of Jakkila. Lauri started work logging. In Autumn 1923, he went to a special school at Oulu, and later at Maikkula.

Media object

Lasse Kuntijärvi. (Kuva on Karjalan Heimosta 3-4/2004.)~~


On the day that Veikko was born, who was two months premature, Lauri was in .... . Both the date and place have remained of special interest to his sister, Kaarina.

Lauri applied for Finnish citizenship 6th of February 1948.


Extract from An Outline of the East Karelia Question, Published by The Carelian Delegation, 1935

(1920-22) ..The border being closed and strictly guarded, one has not been able to get an exact view of the development of events in the country. In spite of the fact that the fugitives risk their life, risk being shot or at least they and their families deported to Siberia, great numbers varying yearly from dozens to several hundreds try as a last resort and have also succeeded in crossing to Finland.