To all the Other Finns like me: Nobody can deny who you are

by , under Enrique Tessieri

After spending a brief moment of my childhood in Finland, and growing roots in other lands, I longed to move back to the country I was once from.  I was fortunate and able to visit Finland every summer.

Those days I spent as a child and adolescent in the company of my grandparents in the Finnish countryside changed my life. If a person changes after a long journey, every journey to Finland changed me.   

Visiting Finland in the summer didn’t only give me an opportunity to relearn the Finnish language and strengthen my bonds with this land, it recharged my soul and gave me strength to face life of a huge city like Los Angeles.

My Finnish roots are as deep as my roots in Argentina and Southern California. As Finland continues to deny its cultural diversity, it continues to deny others their right to their identity. The Perussuomalaiset is one party that has openly declared war on people like us.

I’m grateful for my Finnish roots and for those summers I spent with my grandparents. I am who I am today because of them and those summers.

But with the rise of intolerance in this country, and political parties that have declared war on Finland’s ever-growing cultural diversity, I have one important message for them: Nothing, absolutely nothing, can erase who we are.

Today there are tens of thousands of us. We come from diverse backgrounds but one matter unites us: Finland is our home. Some of us have appeared on Migrant Tales: Joseph, Ida, Abdulah, Ariela and other multicultural Finns like Aune and Anna.

Don’t allow those that take their prejudice and intolerance seriously erase who you are. No ethnic group in Finland can claim this land as their own. This land belongs to all those who live here irrespective of their background.

I fear that I will not live long enough to see that day when most of us in this land, irrespective of his or her background, will be accepted and respected as equals.  Maybe it’ll be you or your children or grandchildren that will witness that day.

Those who want to exclude us aim to erase and deny our history.

Rodolfo Walsh, an Argentinean journalist and writer, said something that we should never forget when we write our history. Even if it was written in the 1970s, it still applies to immigrants and multicultural Finns:

Our dominant classes have made sure that the worker has no history, doesn’t have a doctrine, any heroes or any martyrs. Every struggle has to be started from scratch, separated from previous struggles; the collective history is lost, their lessons are forgotten. History appears as it if were private property, whose owners are the owners of everything.

When someone tells you that you’re a “half-Finn,” answer them back kindly that you’re not “half” of anything but a full human being. Remind them of the 1.2 million Finns that emigrated abroad between 1860 and 1999.

Ask them why they have conveniently forgotten these Finns and how they integrated and become a part of a greater world family.

Image1-35_edited-1(1)This picture is of one of the saddest moments in my life. It’s a day before we moved from Finland to Argentina. I made a vow to return back to Finland one day and I did about sixteen years later, in 1978.

JosephIdaAbdulahArielAune, Anna and many Other Finns like me, don’t forget who you are and remember above everything else, nobody can deny who you are.

As Nelson Mandela said, you are the captain of your destiny, or in our case, the captain of your identity, the master of your narrative.

Nobody can erase who you are because you have memory.