Hilka Helen (o.s. Etula) Mäkelä Story

Muistoja Kahta Puolta....Memories from Both Sides
by Hilka Helen (o.s. Etula) Mäkelä


“Elamää on taistellua, kehtosta hautan sakka.” The many times I heard my father say those words, his mantra, ‘Life is a challenge, from the cradle to the grave.’ My father is Antti Kusta Etula, born Dec. 28, 1904, in Alajarvi, Finland the oldest of 12 siblings and the ONLY one in his immediate family to emigrate!

Antti saw the Etula family growing in difficult economic and political times in 1920’s. "Kurija aika.” poor times, Isä often repeated.

Shortly after ‘rippikoulu’ ,Antti decided to travel to Canada, the land of opportunity and freedoms. At the age of 21 on Dec. 9th 1925, Father boarded the steamship ‘Ausonia’, and landed at Pier 2 in Halifax, N.S. By rail, he arrived in Port Arthur, Ontario in the cold of winter. The next four years were challenging, working in lumber camps with low wages, bad food, but Finnish camaraderie abounded, and the sauna. In the summers Antti worked on a farm tending animals, and saving money to travel to Sudbury. At age 26, not speaking the English language, he was seeking safe havens for boarding, with no drinking or smoking.

In Sudbury, Isä did work in the INCO Creighton Mine for about four years. It is documented in the CJS:Suomalaiset Nikkelialueela, summer 1937 printing, regarding the beginnings of the Sudbury Mine and Smelter Workers Union, that Antti Etula, April 15, 1931, was fined and jailed two months for taking part in an ‘illegal march’ protesting working conditions and safety in the mines.

Another challenge: English language, so Isä went to English night school at Sudbury Mining and Technical School. When Isä’s working companion beside him was killed in the mine, Father left, never to go in that ‘hell hole’!

Back to the bush camps in Northern Ontario and amass money to fulfill his dreams. He came to the Vermilion River area west of Sudbury, becoming a ‘Canadian pioneer farmer’, for John and Maria Luukkonen. In subsequent years he purchased their farm, courted Aili Elienna Henderson (Canadian born of Finnish immigrant parents) and married her on Oct. 8, 1938 in St. John Lutheran Church, Sudbury. Farming of dairy, beef cattle, pigs and hundreds of chickens continued for 45 years on the Etula homestead of 360 acres.

With three daughters, Velma, Helen, and Julie, Father fulfilled his dreams of love, land and community He was on the school board for Louise Twp., Grassy Lake Road’s work crews, participated in Beaver Lake Jehu Sports Club and in a ‘part time band’ playing violin. He raised a family while instilling values of honesty, responsibility, and Finnishness. His legacy of sisu, survival and sauna lives on.