A visit to Porkkala and 1950’s Era Russia

I was lucky enough to accompany Global Degree and Day With A Local on a tour of the Porkkala region in Southern Finland as part of a YouTube series that will be released next year.

After catching an early train from Helsinki we arrived in Kirkkonummi where we were driven to Sjundby Manor. When we pulled up and exited the van an elderly man in uniform approached us speaking only in Russian. With little knowledge of exactly where we were the Global Degree team looked at me and our guide for help but none came. For all they knew we could have actually been in Russia, if this had between 1944- 1956 we would have been.

A visit to Porkkala and 1950's Era Russia

Sjundby Castle

After the conclusion of the Second World War the area of Porkkala was leased to Russia for fifty years but fortunately it was returned after only eleven. The area was of a tactical advantage to Russia as it was the narrowest and shallowest stretch of water between Finland and Estonia, allowing them to closely monitor and secure the passage to St Petersburg.

Once the agreement had been made the whole area had to be evacuated in just nine days, over 7000 residents, 8000 domestic animals, as well as any crops and vegetables. At first not even trains could pass through the newly acquired area, but after 1947 they were finally  permitted but the shutters had to be pulled down to cover the windows.

A visit to Porkkala and 1950's Era Russia

After a brief view of the castle we were directed to a slightly more interesting building in my opinion. Between the road and the river there was a building covered in Russian text preserved for more than fifty years. Our Russian officer, now speaking in English, explained to us about the area and its history before posing for some Soviet era photographs.

A visit to Porkkala and 1950's Era Russia

The landscape of Porkkala had changed, what had once been an agricultural landscape was transformed by the Russians into a heavily fortified military facility. It is thought that 20,000 military personnel and about 10,000 civilians occupied the area during those eleven years.

It was now that we travelled a little further and saw what was remaining of the fortifications that had been built. An entrance to a bunker hidden from the road. It continued meters underground but the roof had collapsed making it now inaccessible. There is thought to be many more in the area, some have been found but others have not so it is difficult to estimate how many exactly were built.

Here it wasn’t only the bunker that was of interest but the area surrounding it that had once been a barracks with a fully operating crematorium, our guide added, *”Still no one knows what they were burning there.”

A visit to Porkkala and 1950's Era Russia

As we drove through the region there was little evidence and even less that you would have noticed without being pointed in the right direction. Many of the houses had been left to decay after the residence moved out in 1944, little of who returned, and it was only in recent years that development in the area had really begun.

It was an incredibly interesting area with a history that I had never discovered until now even though it is only 19km from Helsinki. One of the most memorable stories of the day was of two seventeen year old boys that accidentally sailed into the area and were picked up by a Russian patrol and imprisoned.  After a few days they thought they were being released and taken back to Helsinki by train but they ended up in a death camp in Siberia where they were put to work for a number of years.

Next stop, Fiskars Village. Post coming soon!

Further Reading:

I highly recommend the article Seven Years Sailing about the two boys who ended up in Siberia after an innocent sailing trip.

Scorched Earth, World War II in Lapland

Thanks to Porkkala Travel for hosting us, more information about the region and how to visit can be found on their website porkkala.net

Lost in Lapland

Summer seems like a distance memory. But to keep that memory alive I have been working on my first video with footage taken throughout the summer. Regular readers of my blog may recognise some scenes as I have been posting photographs of these experiences.

It is my first attempt and I hope it is a good representation of a summer in Lapland. Please feel free to comment on the video, I would like to hear what you think.

Related Reading:

Watercross

Three Nations Border Point

5 things to do in Finnish Lapland in Summer

Yllas

The Stream of Life

In a recent post I included the video Where the Hell is Matt? and explained how it had helped me travel. The video is very well made and the music brings a lot of emotion to it. I thought I would include the translated lyrics to the song.

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.

It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.

It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth and of death, in ebb and in flow.

I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life. And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood this moment.

Looking for more inspiration try clicking HERE or HERE.

Joseph Arthur – Even Tho

The title of my blog, Our Shadows Will Remain, comes from the song Even Tho by Joseph Arthur. The song itself is beautiful but it is the meaning of the lyrics that caught me.

To find where we belong

Our shadows will remain

Even after we are gone

It was that last line, even after we are gone, that caught me. These posts are my shadows, the notes and photographs I have taken will be left even after I am gone. The way I have interpreted the lyrics may vary from person to person, but that’s the great part about lyrics.

One of the Reasons I Travel

This video is very old and one of the first viral video’s I had seen, I am not sure if that term existed in 2008. Where the Hell is Matt? is a video that made everyone wish that they could make a trip like that. Not only is he visiting almost every country in the world in the space of three minutes but through the short seconds at each destination you are able to see the impact his dancing made on the people he met.