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

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HELSINKI , Wednesday—The flight from Rovaniemi to Helsinki took about three hours. We passed over much of the country where the Karelian refugees have been resettled. Most of the land had to be reclaimed by clearing and drainage. This has added a great burden to the Finnish government, for at the same time there have been reparations to pay, sections of the country to rebuild, and developments that have been made in view of the loss of certain power facilities and factories, in connection with the transfer of certain areas to Russia.

We arrived just before dinner and were met by our Minister, Mr. John M. Cabot. Unfortunately, Mrs. Cabot and the children are in the United States. The Foreign Minister and various other officials were also at the airport to greet us. After dinner a large number of the press representatives came in for a lengthy interview.

Tuesday morning I visited two co-operative associations. The first was largely made up of workers and small farmers, the other of rather more substantial farmers. It did not seem that their membership represented large land ownership—the average farm is about 12 acres of tillable land with, of course, the usual addition of forest land, or at least the possibility of working in the forests all winter.

co-operatives here are much stronger than in the United States. They undertake to run factories, build houses, sell most of the products of their members, etc., so it is very difficult to compare them with our much smaller enterprises. In many cases they lead the way in social services and the government follows their lead. For instance, in the case of health work, the government has carried on a great deal of free health service, particularly the maternity cases and child care.

We visited one childrens' hospital which is very well equipped and efficiently run. The building is so designed that every floor has balconies and yet does not keep any sun away from the rooms below, since the balconies grow progressively smaller. From there we went to the Childrens' Castle. Here the children do not actually need a trained nurse's care, but are under supervision and treatment.

One interesting fact is that there have been only two epidemics of polio in Finland. Tuberculosis is their scourge, particularly in the North. Rheumatism seems to attack the children because of the climate and the long dark winters.

Later in the afternoon we drove on to visit two homes of refugees who have been resettled in this area, since Karelia was turned over to Russia. The first visit was to a widow whose husband was killed in the war. She had cleared her land, built her house and barn, and managed to keep alive. I looked at the short, stocky figure and the work worn hands all of which bespoke strength, and the tremendous determination to preserve life.

The second visit was to a much larger farm where the home had four rooms and a really beautiful barn. This farmer was beginning to prosper. He was young and able bodied and employed two other people to help him. The glimpse of these two farms and the kindly hospitality which they offered us before we drove home inspired a feeling of great gratitude and warmth.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Helsinki (Finland) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, June 15, 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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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.