From Kuolajärvi to Salla - Photographs by Jaana Ahola
An exhibition of photographs by Jaana Ahola of war evacuees in Salla.
“The Winter War started first. The pea soup was ready in the school kitchen and we’d just lifted the pot on the table to begin the meal when the door was yanked open.
There was a young soldier there who shouted that everyone has to go home and get ready to leave. Two hours time for it. And the soldiers came and then they burned the houses and the school when we’d left. The pea soup burned along with it.”
- Salli, born 1926
After the Winter War in 1940, Finland had to cede to the Soviet Union the Karelian Isthmus in the south-east and parts of Salla and Kuusamo in the north. A few years later, when the Continuation War ended in 1944, Petsamo was also lost and Salla had to be ceded again. Known as Kuolajärvi at the time, the old part of Salla was now finally left behind the border and some 3,700 people had to leave their homes. Nine villages were left on the other side of the new eastern border, Sallansuu —the main village community, the Sallatunturi fjelds, and waters teeming with fish.
The people of Kuolajärvi had had to leave their homes and evacuate already in 1939, when the Winter War broke out. There were hopes of returning home, but as the war continued life near the border became dangerous and the local inhabitants were re-evacuated in 1944. The area of scenic beauty that was ceded to the Soviet Union and its memories lived on in the minds of the evacuees. The Finnish-German Lapland War of 1944 – 1945, the destruction that it caused and the severe terms of peace with the Soviet Union finally crushed the evacuees’ hopes of returning to their original homes.
The evacuees from Kuolajärvi had to start their lives afresh in new localities. The part of the municipality that remained on the Finnish side of the border was rebuilt and Märkäjärvi, known at present as Salla, became its new main community. The ceded area of Old Salla is for the most part uninhabited wilderness.
Jaana Ahola, with family roots in Kuolajärvi, has photographed the evacuees of the region and their descendants for the exhibition From Kuolajärvi to Salla. As a portrait photographer, she wants to present real people just as they are. Along with the photographs, the exhibition includes stories transcribed from interviews by Erkki Yrjänheikki. There are also cooking recipes that are reminders of the old way of life and are still in use in Salla. The photographs for the exhibition were mostly taken in 2019. The subjects are residents of Salla and Muonio who have close ties with ceded Kuolajärvi.
The exhibition tells how the culture of Old Salla, or the part of Kuolajärvi that remained beyond the Finnish-Russian border, has survived to the present day—and how history lives on in the people of the Salla region. The exhibition of photographs has been prepared in association with the Regional Museum of Lapland.
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Open 1.6.-31.8.2020: closed on mondays, tue-fri 10-17, sat-sun 10-16
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