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For Some, Wounds of Winter War Remain

Following the Winter War, the Disabled War Veterans’ Association of Finland began caring for veterans injured in the war. For the current chair of the association's Northern Ostrobothnia division, the road to the war began by chance.

Yliluutnantti Martti Niemelä.
Sotainvalidien Veljesliitto on maamme lähes 11 000 sotainvalidin ja 14 000 puolisojäsenen yhteinen huolto-, etu- ja veljesjärjestö. Se perustettiin 18.8.1940. Jyväskylässä. Image: YLE / Markku Seppälä

Martti Niemelä had just turned 18 when he went to Oulu, where troops were being sent to the frontline. He says he was sent straight to the front because he was wearing a guard uniform.

”Men were shouting to me, 'You come too! You already have military gear on!' And so we headed towards Suomussalmi,” Niemelä remembered.

A short time later, Niemelä was injured and sent to a military hospital. After he recovered, he was trained as a radio operator corporal. Later, he fought in the Continuation War. After additional training, he became a jaeger troop leader.

The price of independence

In the summer of 1944, Niemelä served in the Karelian Isthmus, the stretch of land between Finland and Russia. He was wounded seriously and remained in hospital until peace was declared in 1944.

The 88-year old, who was wounded four times, says the wars secured Finland’s independence.

”Sometimes I am in pain, and I have discomfort every day. But it is a small sacrifice compared to the amazing feeling that we live in an unoccupied Finland,” he says.

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