View Full Version : The Winter War

William Durbin
05-02-04, 17:37

I have a contract to write a young adult novel about the Winter War, and I was wondering if any members would have information on what life was like both before and during the war in 1939-1940. I would like to have my main character near the front, perhaps working as a first aid helper or a messenger, so he could see the conflict first hand. From what I understand, the soldiers would have all been 19 years or older, and my character will be a bit younger than that. I have read the major books on the Winter War, but I would really like to get some first hand accounts. Perhaps there are archives or oral histories available somewhere?

So far I have published books about Finnish immigrants in a mining setting (THE JOURNAL OF OTTO PELTONEN) and on a homestead (SONG OF SAMPO LAKE).

Bill Durbin

Kaj Granlund
09-04-04, 23:14
If you read swedish: "Vi slogs och blödde" by Kurt West translated to finnish "Hurrit eturintamalla" might give you some help. and the new film: "Framom främsta linjen" but then you will have to come to Finland to the cinema :(

11-04-04, 02:04
I have a video which my son got for me.
title: The Winter War (Talvisota)
which you can find at amazon.com for a pricey $45.00 but I have seen other websites pricing it at $35.00 but perhaps you have seen it already?

I remember when in Finland I met the grandfather of a young student. I was told that the grandfather was awarded a medal for his actions in the war but that he was so emotionally distraught over the deaths of his friends that he threw the medal away.


Karen Douglas
11-04-04, 03:52
I have just completed a book review for the Finnish American Reporter on "The Winter War." It was written as a novel in 1984 by Antti Tuuri, one of Finland’s most highly respected authors. The title is: “Talvisota.” It was translated from the original Finnish into English for Aspasia Books by Richard Impola.

Deemed a literary classic, this is the story of the war as seen through the eyes of a Finnish war veteran – Martti Hakala – who served in the 23rd infantry regiment. This unit was comprised primarily of men from the province of Ostrobothnia. The book is fiction but is based on the war diaries of soldiers.

It is graphic in places, adding a sense of realism to the horrors of war, but certainly worth a read for anyone interested in Finnish history.

Karen Douglas

William Durbin
23-04-04, 17:16
Thanks for the tip on the Winter War novel. I read it, and found that Tuuri depicts the details of the war in a vivid, though ironically understated manner. A very powerful story. I wish that I could read it in Finnish.

Bill D.

23-04-04, 22:07
The film Talvisota i based on Tuuri's book.


William Durbin
23-04-04, 22:15
I will have to check the film out, too, as you and Granskare have suggested.

Bill D.

24-04-04, 12:24
Do that. It is good. Besides the story and the realism it got some attention for it's sound, which is recorded on location, not in a studio.


24-04-04, 16:33
"The unknown solider" by Väinö Linna is also a book you can reed.
It was my fathers favorite. He read it at least a hundred times.


William Durbin
24-04-04, 20:07
Would you know if there is an English translation of the Linna book available?

Also, one other topic that I'm presently researching as a part of my Winter War book is the Protective Corps that many young men belonged to during the war. Would anyone know people who were active in this group back in 1939-40?

Bill D.

25-04-04, 15:46
Yes, the book has been translated to English. The titel is: The unknown solider; a novel/ by Väinö Linna
Utgivning : Porvoo: Hki: WSOY, 1982
ISBN 951-0-11289-5

or The unknown solider: a novel by / Väinö Linna
Utgivning : Porvoo: Helsinki: WSOY, 1975
ISBN: 951-02426- 0

I didn`t know if the book was translated, so thank you Hasse for the information.

MVH Kerstin

26-04-04, 19:04
I have read "The Unknown Soldier" only in Finnish and in Swedish. I have heard that the English translation is really lousy. But that is understandable.

Linna tells the tale of the men in a machine gun platoon. The men have come from all over the country and Linna use different Finnish dialects in the dialogue. In the Swedish translation the translator Nils Börje Stormbom had to define new home parishes for the men in order to use Swedish-Finnish dialect. Thus e.g. seargent Hietanen who in the original is a farmers son from the soutwest of Finland is from Gamlakarleby in the Swedish version, and so forth. I do not know how the English translator have sorted this problem out. Has he used Brittish or American dialects? Or has he given up and used standard English? In any case much of the book must be lost in translation.


26-04-04, 19:10
Those who are able to read "The Unknown Soldier" in Finnish will find that it compares well with e.g. "The Naked and the Dead" by Norman Mailer or "The Thin Red Line" by James Jones and it is far better than "Battle Cry" by Leon Uris.


21-10-04, 17:37
There is another Antti Turi film called Ambush whose setting is the later part of the Winter War. Very gritty as the earlier film, and very accurate with regard to weapons/ uniforms/etc. Highly reccomended!

14-07-05, 21:20
Bill Durbin

Send your message to Finland Forum ( 4500+ registered members ! ) also !:


Some people on Finland Forum might be able to help you.

15-07-05, 13:26
William Durbin

Check out also the "Winter War & Continuation War" discussion on the "Axis History Forum" ! :


18-07-05, 18:49
See what ordinary moviegoers say about Talvisota ( Winter War ) :


Click on "Check for other user comments" and you will see all comments ! ( there are lots of them from many countries! )

18-07-05, 18:54
Turbogus mentioned "Ambush" ( original title "Rukajärven tie" ).

Read what ordinary people have written about "ambush"! ( lots of comments here also ! ):


b hietala
22-10-05, 07:27
For those who are interested, "Fire and Ice"(by Ben Strout), the new documentary on the Winter War is now available for purchase on DVD. I saw the film at Finn Fest this summer and have been waiting for it to be released. It is currently being shown at film festivals and will be aired on PBS sometime after February 2006. For more information go to:


30-11-05, 00:06
Finnish winter war books

You get this (and thousand others):
and from there:


If you need any help with finding this or that, you can always PM me, :D but I am not sure that I always can help. :(

Or phone me free. My Skype-name:


Download Skype, and you can phone the whole world - FREE!

Karen Douglas
30-11-05, 01:17
I purchased the DVD of "Fire and Ice" and sat here totally immersed as I viewed it on my computer. The scenery. The details. The historical information was so complete! It will take me two or three more screenings before I can fully absorb the magnitude and emotional impact of this timeless classic of courage exhibited by our ancestors in this period of Finnish history. I will keep this in my library - and make every effort to share it with family.

Karen Douglas

Jaska Sarell
29-11-06, 14:59
Originally posted by Karen Douglas
I purchased the DVD of "Fire and Ice" and sat here totally immersed as I viewed it on my computer. The scenery. The details. The historical information was so complete! It will take me two or three more screenings before I can fully absorb the magnitude and emotional impact of this timeless classic of courage exhibited by our ancestors in this period of Finnish history. I will keep this in my library - and make every effort to share it with family.
Karen Douglas
Today we Finns have an opportunity to see this documentary. Preview critics in Helsingin Sanomat is very positive. The major drawback is that original 78 minutes has been cut to one hour.

Everyone in Finland - watch TV1 at 19:00 today on 29th November 2006.

:) Jaska

b hietala
29-11-06, 16:05
I am surprised that many Finns haven't seen this film yet. That's great that it is being aired in Finland today.... I'm anxious to hear about the response in Finland to this film.

William Durbin
14-04-07, 04:21

Thanks to everyone for all your help with my research. Random House has set a release date of Feb. 2008 for my Winter War novel. Several people from Finland including a Winter War re-enactor (I had no idea there were such people) and a former member of the Finnish Civil Guard were very helpful. And right here in Hibbing, Minnesota, I was able to interview several Winter War veterans who emigrated to the U.S. after WWII. I actually discovered I had a former Lotta and her Winter War veteran husband living on the same block as me!

Bill Durbin

05-12-07, 22:20
A British television series on the Winter War can accessed on You Tube. Go to its search function and there will 5 episodes with some interesting contemporary images, as well as narration in English and sub-titles in Finnish. The script is simple and not very nuanced, but allows one to see the image of the conflict that reached the world at the time.