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  • Andrew Andersen

Red Caviar

Victoria, BC

No, dear reader, this little story is not about culinary delights! Not at all! This story is about people who in the 1920s-30s in Finland were called "red caviar" because they were orphans left by the communists ("Reds") who perished during the Finnish Civil War from January 27 to May 16, 1918, or were executed by the "Whites" at its end. And not about all those people, but about one of them. About one, if I may say so, "red caviar bead"... It was in 1986 when I still lived in the unforgettable Soviet Union. That spring, I had the opportunity to go on a five-day business trip to neighboring Finland with a colleague. The first three days of the trip we spent in Helsinki, and the last two in Lappeenranta, a small Karelian town on the border with the USSR, which remained a part of Finland after several Soviet-Finnish wars of the 20th century. On the first day of our stay in Lappeenranta, we were introduced to the mayor, a charming, lively old man whose name, unfortunately, has slipped my memory. The hospitable mayor drove us around the town in his personal car (a Mercedes of the latest generation for those times) and showed us its attractions. Among other interesting places in the rapidly developing Lappeenranta, the mayor took us to the old, but still functioning barracks of the Karelian Dragoon Regiment. Next to the sturdy buildings, which were over a hundred years old, one could see the dragoons themselves. Their gray tunics and garrison caps resembled the uniforms of the Waffen-SS, while their bright red trousers and shiny chrome boots with medallions reminded one of the daring cavalrymen of the 19th century. Looking through his glasses at the dragoon barracks, the old mayor unexpectedly said: Right here in 1918, the "whites" killed my father and mom... (he made a motion with his hands, as if firing a rifle)... And I was just over a year old at the time... What were they killed for? - I asked a question that was unnecessary, as I knew the history of Finland. They were killed for being communists and therefore traitors to the nation, - the mayor replied... We traveled the rest of the way in silence... The Civil War in Finland was brutal, as all civil wars are. The "Red Finns" supported by Soviet Russia wanted to establish Communism and Soviet rule, and on the small portion of Finnish territory they had captured, they began to implement a policy of red terror, robbing and executing people. In turn, the "White Finns," who had no support except for a handful of Swedish volunteers, wanted independence and freedom. In response to the red terror, the White Finns carried out no less brutal white terror, which they executed with precision and efficiency typical of good workers and farmers (the majority of the White Finnish army consisted of Finnish workers and farmers who, as a whole, were smart enough to understand what kind of "bright future" their "red" compatriots were bringing them). During the repressions that followed the victory of the "Whites," there was no mercy for men or women who were communists because the Whites believed that they couldn't leave alive "red she-wolves who would raise new wolves." But they left the children of the communists untouched... After a brief reflection, one thought came to my mind, which I didn't dare to express, not wanting to hurt the old man's feelings. And the thought was this: The "whites" executed the parents of this good man as traitors to their homeland and nation. However, even though he was a representative of the infamous "red caviar" and an orphan, his homeland and nation raised him, and he was able to succeed in life and even become a respected mayor of a small, yet interesting, beautiful, and well-developed town. But who would he have become if the "Reds" had emerged victorious, and his parents had been executed as the "Whites"? Then Finland would have become one of the "republics" of the Soviet Union, and he, if he had survived in a GULAG prison camp for "children of enemies of the people" (most little ones didn't survive there), would have ended up as a lonely, sick, embittered former prisoner whom the state would not only have prevented from attaining any power (even at the lowest level) but would have deprived of any semblance of a normal life, sending him back to jail at the slightest provocation... Victoria, 17.07.2023

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