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Friis Village - the outpost in the North

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Friis village in lower [Korplax] at one time teemed with farmers and fishermen. Today most of Friis' residents are commuters. Each day they take the road between work in the city and their home village of Friis, northern Österbotten's Swedish outpost.

Friis begins at the corner of Margareta Finnilä-Huhta's house and stretches out along a meandering gravel road down to the sea. But Friis is no large village. The houses along the road are only 12 in number and after a few kilometers there is Puotiniemi and Finnish Finland nearby. Until several years ago the majority of Friis' residents were Swedish speaking but today Finnish dominates.

Friis is the last Swedish outpost here in northern Österbotten. To the north about 10 kilometers one comes to an entirely Finnish speaking area, said Margareta Finnilä-Huhta, and pointed toward the spruce forest. Most of those who live here now are city residents in exile who prefer country life before city life. But young families have also come here. Margareta came to Friis in 1961 and worked as a midwife and public health care-giver until she retired. It is at her house where our journey through Friis begins.


Seventh Generation

The village founder and pride is without hesitation Corporal Lars Friis who served the Swedish Crown in the 1700's and in 1723 settled down in this place that 100 years later bears his name. And next door to the Corporal's old house lives a 7th generation Friis, his namesake Lars Friis. It is to this house we steer our course today.

Lars Friis was born in Sweden April 1696 and died in 1768. Not much is known about his life and way of living. His origin is unknown but in the beginning of the 1700's the name Lars Friis appeared in the Swedish military archives. In November 1717 he was registered as a volunteer with Wästerbotten's Regiment but by 1718 he had advanced to Corporal and Grenadier Staff Sergeant. He was registered later in 1721 as Corporal with the Umeå Company.

Friis village is living proof that he came to Finland, but for what errand he came here is disputed. In a family book of the Friis family, the writer Emma Pulkkis asserts that Lars Friis was sent to Finland as a spy during the Swedish-Russian war's final stage and that in 1722 he left the military for good. Margareta Finnilä-Huhta does not place much confidence in that theory. She said, "We know for a certainty that in the beginning of the 1720's, in the time of Anders Chydenius, Lars Friis lived in this area. He lived in Haukilax earlier and later he lived in Wisur and Hilli before he ended up at Friis."

Sunflowers

After several dusty kilometers Margareta pointed out a large red wooden house between the trees. We are in front of it. There you see the Corporal's house and in front of the yard in that white brick house lives another Lars Friis today.

Lars Friis lives in a bit of paradise. He has lived all his life in Friis and has never visited outside the village for any long period, with the exception of the years at the front in Svir and Tienhaara. For 30 years he and his wife Elisabeth carried on the family's farming tradition before they retired. "This is without a doubt the most beautiful place in Karleby. I can not under any circumstances think of moving from here."

About 50 meters behind Lasse Friis own white house stands the old farm house waiting for renovating. To go to this red house we were forced to plough through a field of waving golden sunflowers. "My daughter's daughter used to pull up these sunflowers by the roots but she is now in Chicago in America, so therefore the flowers have grown freely."

The Friis farm has stood empty since the middle of the 1970's when Lasse and Elisabeth moved out. "The place is peaceful and when one daughter saw that she thought she could move next to us and begin to repair it. The roof blew away in an autumn storm so I repaired it ten years ago and now we have a new stone foundation under the place." In front of the house is a memorial stone or, in fact, a memorial plaque about Corporal Lars Friis that the Friis Family Society had set in a massive block at the close of the1940's.


Idyll for City Residents

Rafael Friis' farm is the last along the road to Friis. After his house comes Puotiniemi with its archipelago and summer cottages. Rafael has also lived in Friis his entire life. On Tuesdays he is found at his fox farm with his sons Kaj and Tony. They also agree that it is good to live in Friis. Although the bus does not drive along Friis road, they have everything they need and more.

"It is a fine place to live, but we have to see later when the day comes to vote on EU if it is still the place to live. Everything hangs on EU and if we go with it or not, look out!" Rafael thinks they shall move sometime. One son's company will move to Spain this autumn. Son Tony has been able to see a great part of the world. "I worked for a time for the travel company Spies in Copenhagen and it is possible there will be something similar in the future. But this autumn I begin to study in Vasa to be a teacher."

When we drove back to where we started, Margareta suggested that we visit the summer cottages. City residents have taken a part of Friis and have built identical small houses along a few roads in the woods. Quite a nice miniature community in other words.

Veikko Sillanpää, who has lived in his cottage the entire summer, planted trees and bushes around the parking area and said there are 63 small vacant sites in the area. An idyll for city residents who will be able to drive down green fingers in the dark and moist ground.

ÖSTERBOTTNINGEN August 1994

Translated by June Pelo


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