Canada and Finland: Forever Linked in the Levola Clan – by Shirley Levola Mäkelä

My Family’s story is one of separation and reconciliation; loneliness and togetherness.   

Pauli Franz Levola, born in 1900 in Pyssykangas near Nakkila, married Aina Sofia Makinen from Luvia. Both had been in the military defending their Motherland; he in the cavalry as a horseman and she as a Lotta Svärd. After my father Pauli Antero was born they questioned the uncertainty of raising a family in war-scarred Finland and chose to immigrate to the traditional peace of Canada.

Because they had no promises awaiting them, they decided to leave their young son behind in Nakkila with his paternal grandparents until they were more secure in their new country.

Shortly after arriving in Northern Ontario they found employment in a lumber camp as a sawyer and a cook and later operated a restaurant in downtown Sudbury. When savings allowed, they bought property in a remote edge of the village of Wanup on the outskirts of Sudbury.

With their roots anchored as landowners, they returned to Finland to reunite with my father and bring him to his new home.  Together the three cleared the land for pasture. They used the first trees to build a log cabin and then established a sawmill to turn subsequent trees into marketable lumber. Years later they left the homestead to buy and operate a successful dairy farm closer to the center of Wanup.

Taavetti Myllyaho, an ambitious miller, was born in Uurainen in 1896. According to family legend, his work eventually took him to the Salminen farm in Saarijarvi. The farmer was pleased with Taavetti’s work and teased him that if he continued to maintain such high quality, he might let him marry his pretty daughter Olga. Excellence must have been sustained because the couple did indeed marry.

When they were expecting my mother Aino Hellin, my grandparents were convinced that Canada held greater potential for prosperity.  My grandfather set sail first to get established. Mining gave him immediate work and a new identity; his surname was simplified to Aho.  When my mother was 2 years old she and my grandmother left their home in Jyväskylä to join Pappa in Canada.

Within a few years they bought a thriving dairy farm only kilometers away from the Levolas where they raised my mother and worked side by side in the fresh air until retirement.

As a fairly small neighbourhood it was almost inevitable my parents found each other and married. After both enduring the loneliness of being only children they eventually had six of their own. Several generations of the Levola clan have lived in the Wanup area, some still on family property.

Old Finnish traditions were passed along and still practiced while new technology links current generations with the family remaining in Finland.