The only sense of Finnish culture my mother passed down to my brother and I, was burying an almond in a mound of rice pudding on Christmas Eve. For whomever found it, had good luck for that upcoming year.
My mother just never talked about her childhood in Finland, but we also never asked.
It wasn’t until my Mom was diagnosed with cancer that she started to recall her childhood memories. I was intrigued and wanted to ask Mummi clarify what she couldn't recollect. Mom wasn't keen on that idea because when she was a young adult, fully Americanized, without a trace of a Finnish accent and devoid of her mother tongue she asked her mother to tell her about Finland, and even then her mother would not fill her desire to know.
To hear that at 17 years old, made me just as hesitant to ask, afraid that she'd too say "No" to me. Ten years after that, and 60 years after that my mother asked.. I finally asked. And she did say "No", walked to her room and brought back a document from the ship that brought her to America. She open up again, just two weeks from what would be her last day. We spent a weekend together, watching the news, cooking and talking about her memories of Finland in between me making her a concoction of a smoothie filled with a fistful of medicine for a meal. We stayed up untit midnight watching 16mm home movies of holiday celebrations and travels that she had made with her late husband.
And there was so much that I didn’t ask that weekend. So many questions left unanswered. And a country filled with memories that I wish to see. I long to trace that trajectory and find out what Finland is and means, and what defines it. Have I inherited Finnish mannerisms without ever realizing it? What part of me has withstood the test of being Americanized?
One Day at a Time; This short documentary explores the past and present of ninety-one-year-old Liberty resident Guy Troy. He competed in the modern pentathlon in the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland, and remained an active participant in the Olympics for thirty years thereafter.
Premiered May 16th, 2014 in Liberty, NC
May 23, 2014 in Durham, NC at Full Frame Theater
A Winter to Remember
Interviewed just a few weeks before her passing, Irene (my grandmother) shares her memories living in Helsinki during the war. Having met Kikka only after my grandmother's passing did she too share her memories beginning in Karelia. Recorded at different times never knowing what the other said, they surprisingly picked up where the other left off.
An ongoing oral history project that reflects on the life of a then, young girl and her 20-something year old mother living in Finland from 1927-1956 before resettling in The States.
This story is in memory of Irene Kaarina Tasis (Surakka) born April 5th, 1927 in Suojärvi, Kareliya, Finland and passed May 16th, 2013 in Tamarac, Florida.
Be apart of the journey as I patch together their story before it's lost in time.