The slogans of the Youth Division of the Lotta Svärd Association emphasised the importance of being eager and happy to defend the fatherland when called upon. Such were demands on Finnish children growing up in the era between the two World Wars.
Ville Suhonen’s touching documentary dives into archives, fiction, propaganda films, and journalism of the era. As a young country, Finland was preparing its children for the worst: for war and sacrifice. The whole society was commissioned for this task, from the popular children’s radio show by “Uncle Markus”, to the schools, the scouts, and Finnish film production.
Without commenting or explaining, Suhonen shows how the militaristic narrative was built through children and teenagers, starting from the idealisation of the 15-year-old child soldiers of the Civil War, to the Little Lottas of Lotta Svärd. In a teenager’s diary, the societal impact of the horrors and constant fear of war take concrete form. In the entries, a young person wonders whether they will ever be as honorable as the fallen soldiers resting in their white coffins.
How does individual interest compare to the good of the fatherland? What significance does individual freedom have compared to the freedom of the fatherland? Children were forced to ponder difficult questions.
As the documentary comes to an end with a children’s choir singing a marching song, the viewer is left wondering, whether preparing children to die and to kill others was really the only way for a young nation to survive.
Alma Pöysti and Olavi Uusivirta among others lend their voices to the film.
Salla Nazarenko (translated by Mira Sairanen)
Director Ville Suhonen and other crew members attend the screening of their film on Wed, Jan 31.