Vesa Jokinen

Vesa Jokinen was the third of four children, born in 1923 in a small town east of Medvezhegorsk, Russia. His father, Anssi, was an ethnic Finn whose family had lived in Karelia for several generations, his mother a Russian. Anssi was a logger, who frequently traveled to the Suojarvi region and sometimes took the two boys of the family - Kalle and Vesa - with him. Kalle was Vesa's idol through their childhood, though they were very different. Where Kalle was quiet and cautious, Vesa was a chatterbox and constantly active, being the child that was always falling high places or nearly lighting the cabin on fire. Vesa had an interest in carpentry from when he was very young, Anssi's cousin often letting him sit in his shop to watch the processes.

Although Anssi was a vehement anti-Communist, he was careful to keep his opinions to himself for the sake of his family, especially as Soviet influence increased in the region during the construction of the White Sea-Baltic Canal. In 1934, a Soviet purge through the rural area caught Vesa's mother and the girls off-guard while Anssi and the boys were in Suojarvi. Anssi returned to find his wife and daughters dead in the cabin, with a Soviet guard nearby. He sent Vesa and Kalle running to his cousin's. Later that night he took the two boys, along with his cousin's family, and fled back to Finland in the dead of winter, eventually settling in Raatevaraa. The trek and transition were hard, and Vesa tried hard to be the one smile left in the family.

Anssi went back to logging with Kalle in tow, and Vesa began preparing for an apprenticeship in carpentry while helping his father and brother. In 1937, Kalle left for Spain to offer his assistance to the Republic during the Civil War. Kalle was killed in late 1937, and a rumour came back to the Jokinens that he had died not on the Republic's side but the Communists', wearing a red star. Anssi was furious at the rumour, and without trying to get any proof forbade Vesa from speaking of Kalle again. Anssi died the same year. Now alone, Vesa sought out a carpenter, desperately needing to start learning his chosen trade to stay alive.

In 1939, when the Soviet Union invaded Finland, Vesa was in his second year of apprenticeship as a carpenter. He could ski well and use a rifle, and was more than willing to take a weapon into hands when the defence effort shoved one at him. All he wanted was the Soviets out of Finland, before they could do to the rest of these people what they had done to his mother and sisters.

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