The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

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ROVANIEMI, Lapland, (Finland)—We got off a little late on Sunday bound for Rovaniemi, Finish Lapland. The flight across the north end of the Baltic Sea and the south end of Bothnia brought us to Finland, which, as you look down from the air, really does resemble the land of "A Thousand Seas." I had not visualized what the Arctic Circle would look like, but I was surprised to see so many farms. They are widely scattered but there seems to be a good deal of arable land and vast areas of woodland.

Finland, like Sweden, has the system of each farmer owning a certain amount of woodland as well as his rather small acreage of tillable soil. The forests are, of course, the source of one of their great industries. Here, over the centuries, white cattle have been developed because they are immune to the bites of mosquitoes which come in the summer.

Everywhere in these far nothern places they tell you about the celebrations on Mid-Summer Eve, a festive occasion when the people dance and sing and feast all through the night. The dark season must seem very long, but the season of light is intense and everything grows with great rapidity. Trees alone take longer to come to maturity but are probably harder wood in consequence.

When we landed we were met by Governor Uuno Hannula and his wife, together with Mayor Lauri Kaijalainen.

We went at once to a Post Office on the Arctic Circle. A small log building which had been put up in a week. It contained one room for the office, a little kitchen and one bedroom. It had been opened for our coming so that I might mail the first letter home from the Arctic Circle. This I addressed to the President of the United States.

In this part of the country they believe in having large families. As we drove into the outskirts of Rovaniemi little girls were at each stop to present their bouquets of wild flowers.

They were the first wild flowers to come to the north and had only been blooming two days. All the children seemed to carry flowers. Sometimes bunches were fastened to their dresses and in their hair. Color means a great deal to these people who have to live through so many months of darkness.

The Governor was particularly anxious to show us what had been accomplished in Rovaniemi, and in an area of the country which had been completely destroyed by the Germans in 1944. The Germans had carried out the scorched earth policy—destroying everything, blowing up bridges and every road. In the entire area only 17 buildings remained. Most of the population had been evacuated into Sweden or to two other provinces in Finland. In 1945 they came back to their ruined homes, lived in cellars and in barracks and suffered great hardships, but nevertheless they started to rebuild. Today, hospitals, schools and houses are almost back to pre-war times.

The toll the people have paid is visible in the high rate of tuberculosis of a virulent type. The rest of Finland has a declining TB rate, but in Lapland death caused by tuberculosis has increased alarmingly during the last year.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Rovaniemi, Lappi, Finland [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, June 14, 1950

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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MEP edition publlished on June 30, 2008.

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.