My grandmother passed away recently. It wasn’t unexpected as she was 102 years old when she died. I don’t think anyone was surprised by her respectable age either as she was the most stubborn woman I’ve ever known – she just wouldn’t give in.
My grandmother was the fifth child out of seven (she’s the little blonde girl in the photo above). She loved school, but wasn’t able to finish as she was needed on the family farm – and she was such a good worker as well that they couldn’t do without her. But finishing school was so important to her that she went to evening school after she married and moved to Helsinki. Proof of her stubbornness right there!
My grandmother has seen two wars: the Winter War in 1939-40 and the Continuation War in 1941-44. She did her part for peace by taking part in a Finnish voluntary auxiliary paramilitary organisation for women called Lotta Svärd (that’s her in her Lotta uniform in the photo above). With 242,000 volunteers in 1944, it was the largest voluntary auxiliary organisation in the world! Her favourite stories were about the war, for example about how she had to go out in the freezing cold every few hours and climb up a tower to look out for Soviet planes. She was always so brave – I can’t remember her ever being afraid of anything (apart from thunder!).
My grandmother always proudly told me about how many suitors she had when she was young – and how she chose my grandfather that she married in 1938. Unfortunately he passed away when I was only 5 years old, so I don’t remember much of him. My grandmother never remarried, because she didn’t want a man that would “slow her down”. She was also so independent that she didn’t need another man!
My grandmother only had one child: my mother who was born in 1952. Luckily my mother produced 6 grandchildren, the first ones being me and my twin brother!
My grandmother lived in Helsinki most of her life, and she really loved the city. I remember how I looked forward to visiting her once a week when I was little and we lived in the “boring” countryside. It was an adventure when she took us to the iconic Stockmann department store, the bustling market square, the swimming pool in her building or one of the playgrounds near her flat in Katajanokka area.
My grandmother loved her summerhouse, the villa as we call it. She would go there whenever she could, especially during summers. Me and my twin brother often got to stay the night there with her, and it was so exciting. There was no running water, but we loved it.
My grandmother drove an old-school yellow Saab that stood out quite a bit in our little town, and it was exciting whenever we got to ride with her. When I got a bit older I thought it was embarrassing, so I used to duck down if I thought I saw someone I knew haha! When she had to give up driving (which she never wanted!) her beloved Saab got new owners and it even appeared in some TV adverts in Finland.
My grandmother worked in the same job at Ericsson, surrounded by men, for over 30 years – in the olden days you didn’t change jobs every two years! She was very frugal and good at saving and investing her money, and she couldn’t resist a bargain. She was always very generous with us though – she just didn’t allow herself many luxuries. Guess that’s what living through a war does to someone.
My grandmother loved travelling and did pamper herself that way. We often looked at her photos from her trips around Europe. She wanted to keep travelling until the end, and asked me and my mother many times if we could go away somewhere. She never accepted the disadvantages her age brought with it.
My grandmother was the strongest woman I’ve ever known, and I admire her for that. She had an iron will and couldn’t be stopped by anything or anyone if she put her mind to something. I remember how she went missing when she was well into her nineties – turned out she had decided to go to a local party for the elderly. She returned home safely and in good spirits 🙂
My grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a few years ago. We were lucky though as her condition seemed to progress very slowly and she always remembered us and always greeted us with a big smile. Alzheimer’s didn’t change her personality as it often does to others – or if it did it just made her a little gentler and slightly less stubborn…The disease never took hold of her, she was too strong for that as well!
My grandmother lived a very long and happy life, and instead of being sad about her passing away I feel like we should be celebrating life – because she certainly knew what life was all about having lived over a hundred years and through two wars. So here’s a big cheer to my incredible grandmother!!!
Hej då mommo <3
x Nina x
PS. The funeral will be on Saturday the 20th this month and I’m so grateful that Lana and I will be able to attend.