The "Winter War" that visible minorities face in Finland

By Enrique Tessieri

Even if we speak proudly about the heroism of the men and women who fought against a formidable foe in the Winter (1939-40) and questionable Continuation War (1941-44), many Finns with culturally diverse backgrounds are facing today a different yet similar kind of war on a daily basis. One of these “veterans” is fourteen-year-old Rebecka Holm, who published her moving story on Swedish-language daily HBL.

If Migrant Tales could, it would offer an award highlighting the adolescent’s bravery to speak out against racism. She doesn’t speak out for herself but for many others who are the silent daily victims of such harassment.

The racist bullying that Holm has faced publicly is a shameful realty and unacceptable. It still happens too often because too many of us approve this type of anti-social behavior willingly or unwillingly with our silence.

In many respects those that go around insulting Finns who are visible minorities and immigrants are no worse than autocratic governments that trample on people’s rights. They carry out their abuse and hostility because they  can do it with impunity.

Holm writes: “I did not want to change schools [in Helsinki] when I started third grade we moved [to another neighborhood]…It was then [on the Helsinki metro to the Herttoniemi Station] that the racist comments and attacks began. I could sit quietly in the metro when some stranger would tell me that I should go back to where I came from. After that, I have been called many things, including mutanaama (mud face), n-word, monkey. And the worst thing of all has always been the silence of the adult passengers when I was verbally attacked.”

Like the costly wars that our country fought in World War 2, many visible minorities are veterans of a very different yet similarly sinister war.

Like these wars it was all about survival but most importantly for acceptance and respect.