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The story of my grandfather

Kirjoittanut: Juho Helin - tiimistä Ei tiimiä.

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Story of my grandfather


Early childhood

My grandfather was born 1931. His father was a house-painter and mom a store worker. His mom got sick while he was a kid, and died shortly after. So he was raised by a single father in a poor family.

His brother went to fight in the winter war and died. My grandfather never had to fight because he was too young. He was 8 years old when the winter war started and spent his early childhood in wartime Finland.


Growing up during wartime

He was a rowdy kid when growing up. Him and his friends used to steal tiny amounts of gunpowder from factories, make homemade grenades out of soda bottles and throw them in the forest for fun. He also had some business sense, he sold socks, underwear and alcohol to German soldiers for some extra cash.

Near the end of the war, him and his friends started breaking into German supply storages in Oulu They waited until the guard went on break and sneaked into the storage. They would pour the gunpowder from heavy artillery shells into small bags, leaving the empty shells. Occasionally they would steal explosives and bullets. They would trade this stuff for food and other household items.

They eventually got caught, and the group was interrogated by the police. The police did not have enough evidence to convict them, besides none of them confessed to anything. Eventually they got off without punishment, and stopped stealing after the incident.


After the war

After the war his father met another woman and remarried. Not long after he got a few more brothers and sisters, so the household had couple of new mouths to feed.

A year after the war ended he graduated from upper elementary school at 15. Their family really needed money so he went to work as a lumberjack. He was getting paid, but it wasn’t work he enjoyed. Then he got a chance to go to Lapland for an apprenticeship under a construction foreman. He decided to take the chance and move there.

The whole Lapland was razed to the ground by the Nazis when Finland fought against them in the Lapland war, so there was a ton of things to rebuild.


Pursuing a career in construction

After the experience he returned to Oulu and decided to pursue a career in construction. He applied to the university of Oulu to become a construction foreman. Although he did not come from a rich well educated family like most applicants, his practical experience in Lapland was looked positively, and he was accepted into the school.

During his school semester breaks he would spent them in various construction sites around Oulu. He also met his wife in the university. When they first started dating, he told her that he would marry her before they graduated. He kept his promise and couple of weeks before graduation they got married and have now been together for over 70 years. Back in the day he used to tell her that one day he would buy a piece of land somewhere from Oulu, and build something beautiful for their kids.

After graduation they had their first child. Right after she was born he had to go to complete his mandatory military service in Lapland. It was really cold but he had already gotten used to it due to his long days in construction sites. He stayed there for three years, became a sergeant and went back to his family.

After the army he had another kid and needed to start providing for his family. He managed to land a job as a foreman in a small construction company in Oulu

He proved to be quite popular because he was a very practical guy. A lot of other construction foremen did not have practical experience like him and the construction workers really liked that. Not long after he got a foreman job in a bigger international building company.


Working in Soviet Russia

This position gave him some new opportunities, one of them was going to soviet Russia with a bunch of Finnish workers to build a carpet factory and a quarry mine facilities. In Russia there was a problem when the Finnish builders would start getting drunk from the cheap alcohol and interrupt the construction. He would sometimes have to get rough, knock them out and put them on a bus back to Finland.

He made a nice amount of money from these gigs which allowed him to buy a piece of land from a farmer in Oulu. Now he just needed to build a summer cabin there to fulfill the promise to his wife.


His personality

My grandfather is a very calm stoic man. I don’t think i have ever seen him get scared or angry. He always seems to be in perfect control of his emotions.

He reminds me of Michael Corleone from the Godfather films. The movie depicts a scene where a lot of people are arguing over what to do with a rival mob family. While everyone in the room is arguing Michael is just sitting quietly. Once there is silence in the room he gives his opinion on what to do, and presents a very sensible argument. Everyone agrees with his plan and go along with it.

That scene always reminds me of my grandfather, he doesn’t say much, but people listen when he talks.


Hospital project

After returning from Russia there was a huge construction project in Oulu. They started to rebuild the hospital of Oulu. This hospital would become one of the biggest in Finland. It was a massive project with over 1000 people working and he was put in charge of the construction.

I remember he once showed me helicopter footage taken while working. He would sometimes fly to work on a helicopter like a fucking gangster.

The construction site used have a lot of excess construction materials laying around. He would take them and start building his own summer cabin on the piece of land he bought. After a while some people started wondering where all the excess stuff was going. He would respond by saying he doesn’t know anything, and ordered everyone back to work.

After years the Hospital was finally finished and he was given the foreman of the year award for his contributions. The company he was working for also promoted him to a managerial position. This meant that he would no longer spend time in construction sites. Instead he was working in an office advising and supervising foremen. He would also do a lot of budgeting for different construction projects. He did this work until his retirement.

He was getting paid nicely, but It was quite boring. He always wanted to get back into building stuff. Luckily during his free time he was able to go to his Oulu cabin and build improvements to it.


Final construction project

While retired and at 91 years old he wanted to build one final construction project. He had overlooked some things and made mistakes when building his first summer cabin. He wanted build an improved version of it. This new cabin would be superior to the old in every way, and you could even stay there during winter.

It took total of 3 years to build and our whole family assisted with the construction. I worked on it for one year and learned so much from the experience. You can tell that my grandfather knows everything about construction, since he has dedicated his entire life learning it.

He is still alive during the time of me writing this, and maintains an active lifestyle of walks and visiting the park to feed the birds. You can probably find him in his own home or summer cabin doing some DIY housework.


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