"Then and Now" /A celebration in the Finnish /American Perspective/ "Ennen ja Nyt"/
SUMMER 2008  




   Ninety-three years ago in 1915, a transplanted Finnish relative in America sent some green apple seeds to his loved ones in Ylistaro, Finland. Faithfully, but with curiosity, the recipients planted the seeds in their back yard. The seeds sprouted and grew to become healthy saplings, eventually producing a hearty tree. Enjoying its new Finland home, the tree grew, becoming a large productive fruit bearing tree, giving forth green apples every summer to this very day.       
In 1955 the family moved to America, leaving their home in the care of an uncle, who in time sold it.  Ann Kalliomaa Pohto could not forget the apple tree of her childhood home.  She yearned to go once again to visit relatives in her native land, and perhaps once again see her beloved apple tree. Amazingly, the tree still stands.  Although the old home has been razed, a new home has been built.  An old storage shed and aitta (fence) still stands along with the apple tree.
This summer of 2008 produced not only green apples in Finland, but a busload of 20 American travelers embarked upon an unforgettable journey to Finland.  Ann served as the guide for the group.   They traveled together, although independently, for eighteen days from Toronto, Canada to Helsinki, Finland exploring the cities and countryside of southwestern Finland from Turku to Tampere.
     As a former teacher, Ann had prepared the travelers for many months in sessions providing Finnish history and language study opportunities. Her pastor, Rev. Hannu Vepsalainen of Fairport’s Zion Lutheran, traveled with them to Helsinki. He had been the instructor in many of the group’s preparatory meetings.  The Vepsalainen family was celebrating the 90th birthday of their mother in Tampere.     
Sharing their pictures with the Finnish Heritage Museum’s monthly meeting the group individually related tales regarding various museum visits, shopping experiences in stores, shops and tori, visiting relatives, and making new friends. 

  Some of the comments concerning the observations and experiences of the group as they lived in hostels and at a farm manor experiencing old fashioned Finnish culture were:
“I never was with a group like this.”  “We were meshed into a family.”  “I became a Finn at heart; I have to go back!”  “I left part of my heart in Finland.”  “We learned to communicate with head nods and body language.”  “I’ve always been proud of my Finnish heritage and now I know why!”  “Finnish technology leads the world.” “It was a fabulous experience.” “The art of Isokyro Church still teaches today.”
Text © by Elaine Lillback, photos submitted.



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