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Where did you go, brother crow?
You express the melancholy of my thoughts
and carry it away in the wind
so I can go on
without the heavy burden of sadness.
Come, brother, come back,
for without you
I shoulder the whole burden and drown
in the quagmire
of my misery.

The skies weep for me.
They weep for all the suffering in the creation.
And in that weeping I am comforted.

Blow, ye winds,
and blow again,
for the dust is heavy
that conceals the treasures
buried in my mind.
For centuries and centuries they have lain hidden
protected by my fear
of what may be revealed
when the familiar cobwebs are gone.

give me courage
to BE!

I had an opportunity to visit my home village, Tali in Karelia, for the first time 56 years after the war forced us out. I can't say that I enjoyed the trip. Even beforehand I was scared, scared of how much I would, or would not remember, and how I would handle those memories. After all, this was the place where I learnt the meaning of fear, even terror, in my childhood. I was quiet and apprehensive as we waited for the bus.

In time the bus appeared, and the journey began. Viipuri was no surprise, I had visited it a few years before, so I was prepared for the decrepitude and the melancholy. Viipuri to me is an aging Prima Donna, under her derelict facade you can still sense the old glory. I had a feeling that people were here because they had to live somewhere, but their heart was not in it really. Who knows from what paradise they had been torn to be thrown here as flotsam, who knows where their heart's longing lies. They are every bit as much displaced persons as I am.

In Viipuri, waiting for the taxi to Tali, I get impatient. Can't anything work properly here? And who knows where we will end up in this foreign land. Brother Ahti knows the place, but that is no consolation to me, I am lost in the desert of my own soul. I don't want to make this trip to bring back the old horrors. I am scared of the s pecters that I am sure will rush forward from some locked tomb in my psyche, where I have managed to keep them buried alive.

The first stop: Old Tali cemetery. Of course I have been here before, my sister is buried here. But the dead stay dead. However I try to stretch my memory, only one vague picture appears to support the fact of her existence. I remember when mother and us little ones heard about her death. We were somewhere in the North of Finland, I think, and I remember mother crying. At three, I had really no concept of death, and this sister quickly disappeared even from my consciousness. She became a name without anything to give it substance. So here she is now? Greetings, sister. It would have been great to while away the day with you, exchange news, compare our stories, show you my life's partner and my children.

I farewell my unknown sister quietly, and climb back into the taxi. Next we go to the old school in Mannikkala, the place my brother calls Home. To me, it is a void. I get engulfed in a feeling of utter hopelessness and anxiety.

I have been shut out. I stare at the big closed door and try to swallow my tears. Everybody has gone clean out of their mind. They are obviously all going somewhere, and they have forgotten that I, too, am here. What will happen to a little girl all alone in the world? Will a wolf eat me, the one that looks just like a bear in my book?

Apparently not, as I am still here to tell the tale. But the three-year old me did not know, and did not believe that there was any rescue. From that day, the day of our first escape from Karelia, stems a lifelong fear of being abandoned. Even now, through the eyes of the cool world traveler, the little girl peaks out, scared of getting lost.

We sit on some stone steps, maybe in front of the selfsame door, and reflect on the impermanence of our human structures. In front of an ugly new house an armed guard promenades, back and forth, probably wondering what kind of crazy people we are, poking about in old ruins. A young girl is leaning against the balcony railing. Are you shut in, like I was shut out once upon a time? I can't communicate with you either, you are just as unreachable as the inhabitants of the graveyard. I wonder where your path will take you! Maybe we will meet one day, maybe even in Australia. We will tell yarns about our childhood experiences, and we will realise that they happened in the same village! I send a watery smile towards the balcony. Dreams, just dreams.

We walk to the lake shore. Ahti is explaining who lived where, what houses were there. I know the names, I heard them all through my childhood, but to me they are just names, no faces. From the shore we look over to Ullasaari; an island familiar to me, again only through others. Opposite, on the other shore, is Repola. I prick up my ears. That is a place I can vouch for to be real. I have vivid memories of a summer we spent in a little hut in Repola in between the Russian invasions. I think there was father, mother, at least three of us girls, and a brother. It was cramped, but it was Home. I remember the strawberries by the ditches, I remember the excitement of racing the train over the railway bridge. What if a train came while you were in the middle? Adrenalin flowed and the feeling of danger gave life that extra spice.

The bridge is still there! Not all has gone to ashes, something concrete is still in existence! So it is true, I lived once in this environment. I feel my very existence is confirmed. I, too, have roots somewhere, very tentative ones, but roots nevertheless. I want to shout out to the whole world: "I have roots, therefore I am!" Only now I cognise how rootless I have been all my life.

"Where are you from?" they ask.

"From here and there", I reply, embarrassed that I can't give a proper answer. But really, where is my home then; a year here, another there, sometimes wholly two years in one place. It spells for freedom, but it is also a lack.

Repola itself is a let-down. How can there be so many houses when I remember only that one little hut in the middle of fields. Neglect is evident everywhere, as is poverty. I suppose we, too, were poor when we lived here, but I don't remember this ambience of neglect and degradation. And we had riches, like a carbide lamp, which was a miracle of miracles after the splinters we burned before. And stories told by big sister of an evening. And adventures, like going to the outhouse. It was a long way down the path, and scary in the dark. Where has the Repola of my childhood gone? Did it go the way of the enormous hill I used to ski down in Kainuu, when we were displaced persons? I went looking for that hill some twenty years later, but it had completely evaporated. The world of a child only exists in her imagination, it is not to be found on the maps and byways of this world.

We find our way to the lake between the hundreds of houses. It would be nice to have a swim, for old times sake, but time is running short. We stand around for a while, watching the local swimmers and sun-worshippers, my brother goes on with his stories. For him this is real, and once again I realise what a gulf separates us. We grew up in the same family, but in a different world. He knows he belongs here. Me - I can't call any place my own. Would I even want to? Mostly not.

Kylliälä is dealt with in a quick look from the outside. It may be best for now. From there are my freshest memories, many moments of abject terror, sprinkled with light and laughter. There I spent many a night in the cellar listening to the bombers droning by. From there stem my recurring nightmares. Better leave those memories alone, they are too much to deal with even now.

Was the trip worth it? Maybe it had a small part to play in my growing into a human being, helped in the transformation of some old shit into fruitful compost. I hope so. It was definitely important for my husband and children, for whom it was a small window into my background, enabling them to understand what has shaped my particular brand of human.

Maybe next time I will venture a bit deeper.