Posted by: debrakolkka | May 31, 2010

My new relatives in Finland

My grandfather left Finland to come to Australia in the early years of the 20th century.  He was only 19 and he came alone.  I think he was very brave.  One of his step brothers came later, but the rest of his family stayed in Finland.

grandfather Matti

A couple of years ago I had contact with the daughter of grandfather’s sister’s daughter.  I suppose that would make her a cousin.  We have been emailing each other for some time now and I was delighted when Heli invited us to spend the day with her family at their lake side house near Kouvola.

We took an early morning train from Helsinki and Heli and her husband Mikko were at the station to meet us.  They drove us a short distance out of the town to their delightful weekend house by one of Finland’s many lakes.  It is in an idyllic setting beside a black water lake surrounded by birch and pine trees.

the house by the lake

the little green boat

the lake

We had a great day talking about the family connections.  Heli speaks excellent English, which is fortunate as my Finnish consists of a few words. Her husband, Mikko, also speaks English, but occasionally needed help from his mobile dictionary  – Heli.  Mikko chopped wood to smoke a salmon for our lunch and it was such a lovely day we were able to sit on the balcony with a view of the lake.

Mikko chopping wood for the smoker

the children’s playhouse

the jetty on the lake

We declined a very kind offer of a sauna.   After the sauna I believe it is the custom to jump into the lake to cool off.  One day I will try this.

Their son Ilpo came after school on his motor bike and was a lively participant in the conversation.  His older sister, Annielina,  arrived later, in time for some delicious moose for dinner.  I’m sure my grandfather would have been thrilled to know that we spent time together, and I know he would have liked Heli and her delightful family .

my Finnish family

It was wonderful to get to know my new relatives and it gives me an excellent excuse to visit Finland again soon.  I feel particularly at home in Finland.


  1. I have been following your blog since about Feb. We went to Italy and visited Lucca but we did not get to Bagni de Lucca 34Kms north. Very sad story. Tremezzo and lake Como were glorious. We would love to live there with the lake, the mountains and the cool weather.

    Glad you got to see your rellies and you get on so well with them. I think she is your second cousin. if you want to get technical.

    Why did your grandfather leave in the 1900s? Was it economic? My wife is decended from a German grandmother from around the same time.There was a large German community around Nhill and Rainbow in eastern Victoria. They suffered relegious persecution as Lutherans back in Germany.

    Regards Colin (Brisbane)

    • Hi Colin,
      Thank you for following the blog. I hope you are enjoying it.
      I don’t really know why my grandfather left Finland, he didn’t tell. His mother died when he was 2 and his father remarried a year later and had 7 more children. Perhaps it was all too much for him or maybe he was just adventurous. A lot of Finns left around that time so there could have been lots of reasons.
      I’m glad you had a good time at Lake Como. Isn’t it gorgeous!!!

  2. Great post with lovely photos. I love that photo from children’s playhouse. It is very typical and showing the old tradition in Finland. In my late father’s lot, I have still one left.

    I am glad that You have found “a new world” by Your relatives in Finland. Very interesting.

  3. This is so touching Debra, finding your roots and relatives. The more I age the more I am interested in knowing where I come from and who are my relatives…
    Your Finish family seems so nice and welcoming. They seems to be having a healthy calm life.
    Thanks for sharing!

  4. […] went back to Helsinki in spring and met some Finnish relatives for the first time, which was wonderful, and again in autumn to absolutely perfect weather.  I am […]

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