Laura Vasilion
Apr 30 · 4 min read

Talking to the World Project

Finland Woods (Pixabay)

What I know of Finland brings to mind gleaming lakes, staggering northern lights displays, the forests of fairytales, saunas, reindeers, Santa Claus, and the music of Finnish composer Jean (Johan Julius Christian) Sibelius. In my opinion, The Sibelius Violin Concerto is one of the most beautiful pieces of music in the world.

What I didn’t know was that the Finns love games. All kinds. One of them is a competitive wife carrying race that draws entrants from around the world. They even found a way to celebrate and acknowledge the crippling fear of failing. They call it the day of failure. A role model for the day, celebrated on October 13, is Rovio, the Finnish creators of Angry Birds. After trying 52 other games and being nearly bankrupt, the company hit it big with the mobile game.

There is also a tragic side to Finnish history and culture. It wasn’t that long ago that Finland was invaded by Russia in the Winter War of 1939–1940. The aftermath of that war had a severe impact on the economy and the people of Finland.

For Elina, a Finnish author and documentary filmmaker, that history is personal.

I met Elina at the 2016 Iceland Writers Retreat in Reykjavik. She gave a workshop called Writing the World. (I wrote about Elina on May 19 in my 3rd installment of my 9 Days in Iceland series.) We talked afterward and she graciously agreed to be interviewed for a post on Finland.

Elina lives in Helsinki with her family. Her biggest challenge is balancing family life with the various artistic projects she is working on. She likes to ride her pale pink bicycle around the city to meetings, conducting writing workshops, doing interviews, shooting her new documentary film, and promoting her books.

Bicycles in Helsinki My Conversation with Elina Please look out a window in your home and describe what you see.

I see a big, green soccer field with children and adults playing on it.

Which languages do you speak?

Finnish, Swedish, English, some Spanish, and very basic French.

How does your culture impact your writing and films?

Finnish is a very small language, spoken by only about 4,9 million people, so being an author who writes in Finnish feels sometimes very lonely, since it is relatively difficult to get translated. At the same time, I love the Finnish language passionately. Writing is very much about exploring the beauty of our language.

What do you want the rest of the world to know about Finland?

After two traumatic wars, Finland was a poor country. Almost every family lost someone in the war.

But the Finns started to develop a social and educational system that provides every child with equal opportunities, regardless of the family background. As a result, Finland managed to rise socially and economically to the same league with other Nordic countries, even though the starting point after the war was very different for them.

That part of our history is personally very important to me. All of my grandparents, especially on my mother’s side, came from extremely poor backgrounds. My grandfather died in the Winter War. My grandmother had to raise my mother alone, working long hours as a housemaid for a rich family.

Without our current educational system that focuses on children’s equal opportunity, my mother’s life and my own would have been very different.

Who or what inspires you?

Kesämökki. Cottage.

Originally published at

Talking to the World

A One-on-One Global Conversation. Focusing On Our Commonalities, Honoring Our Differences

Laura Vasilion

Written by

Editor of Talking to the World ( Novelist. Freelance writer. Would rather be living in Iceland.

Talking to the World

A One-on-One Global Conversation. Focusing On Our Commonalities, Honoring Our Differences

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