My Immigration Story by Paula Kristina Rautanen
December 2, 1951 was a grey foggy morning when we awoke moored at Pier 21 in Halifax. The M/S Gripsholm had navigated the stormy winter North Atlantic crossing from Göteborg Sweden. Previously we had boarded a ferry in Helsinki for the trip to Stockholm. It was a tearful goodbye with all the relatives gathered to see most of my family one last time. We were a small group: my parents Heikki and Ellen (o.s. Westerberg) Rautanen and two daughters Pirkko and Paula. My father and older sister never lived to visit their homeland.
The next stage in our adventure was travelling by train via Montreal to Sudbury Ontario. It was amazing that we arrived at our destination with 3 trunks of possessions. My father had 2 cousins who had immigrated to Sudbury before us and the prime reason we also ended our journey there. My father was quickly hired by INCO (International Nickel Company) to work underground at Creighton Mine and given the English name Henry. The village of Creighton was thriving in the 1950’s and 60’s. The Sudbury basin mines were a major source of Canada’s nickel, copper and various precious metals. The living conditions were substandard but leaving post-war Europe offset the harsh conditions.
Ellen Rautanen in the Creighton Mine Public School yard with number 3 shaft in the background. Creighton Mine Ontario Spring 1953
My father Heikki’s story began February 24, 1916 in Miikkulainen Inkerinmaa on the shores of Lake Ladoga. Inkerinmaa (English Ingria, Ingermanland) was one of the Finnish territories ceded to the Soviet Union in 1944. Forced to abandon their homes two of my father’s sisters chose to move to Estonia. An older brother immigrated to Sweden and a younger brother lived in Karelia and Estonia until able to travel freely to Finland. My parents decided on Canada a safe distance from the Soviet Union and Stalin’s purges. My father had served in the Finnish army at Rukajärvi on the Karelian border during the Winter War and Continuation Wars. Unfortunately he passed away before the Finnish-Canadian War Veterans’ Association Canadian Region was formed in Sudbury in 1984. Their purpose is to look after the wellness of frontline veterans, their spouses and widows. At the time there were almost 700 veterans and now in 2016 only 130 remain.
In my early 20’s I had the opportunity to live in Finland and work at HYKS Meilahti Hospital for a year. I met my relatives for the first time. The Finnish design was incredibly beautiful. Overall I found the Finnish society and culture to be very rewarding. But because of language and especially grammar difficulties I never felt I belonged there. Growing up in Canada I always felt different – like an outsider. When I started school I was terribly shy because I couldn’t speak a word of English. Landed immigrants and refugees share my feelings of being in limbo without a country. But today I have found my niche at my home on Long Lake and Finlandia Village in Sudbury, a Finnish retirement community that allow me to enjoy the best of both countries.