Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Strength that Goes Beyond Reason

William Durbin transports us to Finland and the land of Sisu in his new novel for young adults "The Winter War".

In 1939 Stalin decided to invade Finland - he thought that Red Army would march into Finland, take over the country in 5 days or - at the most a week - but the Finnish people put on white camouflage uniforms and ended up fighting through one of the coldest winters in Finnish history for 105 days and actually held the Red Army at bay for that long.

If you missed the interview, tune in Sunday at 9am, CST or check the archive. You'll also hear a conversation with Will Weaver of Bemidji about his latest project "Saturday Night Dirt" the book and Team Weaver, the stock car racing team.

Sisu is
a Finnish term that could be roughly translated into English as strength of will, determination, perseverance, and acting rationally in the face of adversity.

I asked author William Durbin to describe the character of the Finns both on the Iron Range of Minnesota and the Finns in 1939 as the Soviet Union invaded. He said "sisu".

"Sisu defines not only the Finns of the Winter War but the Finnish character that first settled in the stump and rock farms up here in Northern Minnesota - with that ability to just work really hard and to do the best they can to survive. That's what the Finns had to do during the Winter War - they were outnumbered 4 to 1 - 100 to 1 in tanks - without aid from NO other countries in the world, and STILL they were able to resist this huge Russian military machine."

I have some Finnish in my heritage, and I'd like to think that some of that Sisu has rubbed off - I see it in my grandma, in my mom - a strength that goes beyond reason.

Then again, my dad, a proud Norwegian-American, had that same strength and spirit. We lost my dad last week and these days have been some of the stump-iest and rock-iest my family has ever seen...

I'm hoping this Sisu will pull us through. That even though we really don't want to go on without my dad, we'll keep on farming - we'll keep on working hard and figure out how to survive, just like our ancestors did.


Aaron J. Brown said...


If you and your family stick together, you will repel the Russians.

Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Hang in there,

Harbor Star said...

Hey Heidi-

This sounds like a wonderful book! As a WWII buff, I look forward to this read one day. Your probably aware of it already, but PBS recently unveiled an in-depth documentary on this war titled Fire and Ice: The Winter War of Finland and Russia. Those looking for historical and re-enactment footage will find this revealing.

Check out:

Your in my prayers,