Thoughts of the Evening: Olavi Kantola

September 18, 2011

Olavi Kantola

Editor’s note: Olavi Kantola was a Finnish-American volunteer in the International Brigades. This text by Alina Flinkman appeared in the Finnish magazine Vaku in 1941.  With thanks to Olavi’s nephew Bob Kantola. Translation by Sirpa Rautio.

It has been snowing heavily the whole day with the harsh Northerly wind blowing. At the break of the evening snowing has paused for a moment, and the wind is blowing with a wheezing sound, circling huge piles of snow, around the buildings and where ever there is a sheltered spot. The harsh and stormy weather has impact also on the human mind.

The newspaper is already read, and sowing and fixing clothes is not of interest for the moment, even for a farm (or peasant) women. So I am wondering what to do, as there is still evening left. I decided to pick up a book from the bookshelf to read, and my hand happened to touch a pile of pictures on the upper shelf. I started to look at the pictures one by one and found many with various groups of ex action-comrades (note – I am not sure what this is, but the translation is literal – probably refers to organized trade union or communist groups.) Many of the lives had already burnt down for ever (they had died). While thinking this and that, I happened to turn a picture of the first child gymnastic group in Superior, Wisconsin, at year 1923. Many of the children in the picture have grown up. Was thinking how have the winds of destiny been swinging your lives, others have had it worse, while some others have possibly been less dented in their lives. I had gone through the back row and moved on to the front row with three boys.

Olavi – you are a hero in that group. You have seen the grand new Soviet Union, where a new system is being built. You were helping to build it and you were satisfied with that system.

You came to your country of birth (translator’s note – not clear but I think it refers to USA rather than Finland) at the moment when assistance was given to the people of Spain in its fight for freedom and democratic rights against the Fascist beasts. You, Olavi, joined the troops, which went to defend workers’ rights. It was the most precious thing for you. You came to see the destruction of the war with all the brutality that went with it.

You managed to see and do a lot considering your young age. You sleep now for eternity there under the grass in Spain. But the memory of your heroism lives on!

Translator’s Note: Reading some excerpts of the letter, which he wrote to his mother before he went to fight, it becomes crystal clear he knew why he was going there:

“This as well is in accordance with those principles I have been thought ever since I was a child. Additionally, I am convinced that it is always in front of me in life to be at the line of fire, which ever country I am in. As I said in my previous letter, it is the task of my generation in this world to resolve the question for which Spartacus already hundreds years ago led the gladiators to fight. Will the workers class, the poor, always be persecuted or will we rise one day to finish off this system of exploitation? In these battles in the past hundreds of years thousands have died, but what is a more honorable death than to die for the future in which millions have a good life and to can build a world where they also benefit.

This experience, combined with my times in the Soviet Union, should make me a proper man for the working class. And then could the coming generations talk about me honestly and perfectly: He lived and died for the principles of Marx-Lenin-Stalin, which have won the freedom for the multimillions of Russians and which will produce the final victory for the entire working class, blacks, yellows and whites in the most distant and smallest corners of the globe. And when we bury the fascist and imperialist systems, my ghost will be there in the vicinity and smiling: It was not for nothing.”


2 Responses to “ Thoughts of the Evening: Olavi Kantola ”

  1. kimon kasimatis on September 21, 2012 at 4:53 am

    eternal glory to this hero of the working class he will be always remembered

  2. Mark Lapakko on March 25, 2022 at 1:57 am

    Olavi was a friend of my parents. As were Axel, Alma, Betty, and Vincent. I have photos of the family if any Kantolas would like copies contact me.