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Scandinavian Volunteers Who Helped Save Finland: Forgotten Heroes of Finland's Wars 1939-44

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An interesting multi-media presentation will be given on Saturday, February 7, 2004, at 1 p.m. at the Swedish Cultural Center in Seattle. Admission is free. The program will be followed by an opportunity to socialize and enjoy a Scandinavian coffee table.

Guest speakers will highlight events that led to the 1939-44 wars in which 3.5 million Finns defended their country against the Soviet Union, a nation of 180 million. The presentations focus especially on the story of the Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish volunteers who came to the aid of Finland in her most desperate hour. Of the Scandinavian volunteers able to reach Finland during the Winter War, 8680 were Swedes, 1010 Danes, and 727 Norwegians. A majority of them served in the SFK, Svenska Frivillig Kåren (Swedish Volunteer Corps). By assuming responsibility for the defense of all of northern Finland, these volunteer forces allowed Marshal Mannerheim to transfer his Finnish reserves to the decisive battles on the Karelian Isthmus. Many continued to fight for Finland in the Continuation War 1941-44. One of the volunteers, Lt. Col. Orvar Nilsson from Sweden, will be present at this Seattle presentation (courtesy Scandinavian Airlines).

Today, these aging volunteers are confronted with the reality that their memory may be forever lost or forgotten. Since 1975 SFK has held an 80 km (50 miles) long Memorial Ski March on cross-country skis every five years to commemorate their grueling trek to the front lines north of the Arctic Circle in temperatures reaching -49 Centigrade (- 56 F). This Ski March is their chosen memorial and a living symbol of Nordic unity. To secure the continuation of this event, a fund managed by Finlandia Foundation Trust has been established in the USA. Donations to this fund are most welcome. The SFK has its own website www.svenskafrivilliga.com with interesting information and stories. For additional information contact Norman Westerberg (Consul Emeritus of Finland in Seattle) at (425) 454- 9452 (E-mail: enormw@aol.com). He would also like to know if any reader has relatives or friends, living or dead, who served in these Scandinavian volunteer forces. This may be information of interest to share on February 7.

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