It Took 113 Years

It Took 113 Years

Previously I wrote about my day in Finland in an overview form, but reality I glossed over the best parts because I was saving it for this post.

First off, let me start by telling you my connection to this country comes through my great grandfather, Otto Rafael Winter who was born in Helsinki, Finland in 1880.

The third of six children, he was the son of a cigar factory worker, and in 1902, 22 year old Otto left Finland to become a seaman. After sailing around the world for five years or so, he jumped ship in Queensland (Australia), and over the course of the next few years he made his way down to Sydney, before making his was to Adelaide, which my home city.

It is here that he met the love of his life, Irene Daley. And it is here where they settled. I won’t go into detail about his life as I’ve written about him before, but needless to say that while he did write to his family back home, he never actually saw them again.

So now on with my story …

we made it to Finland

we made it to Helsinki, Finland

Sunday, 19 July 2015
Sunday, 19 July 2015 is one of those dates for me. You know the ones I mean. A day when something significant happens (good or bad), but either way it is memorable, and that date just sticks with you.

This date was significant for me, because I FINALLY got to Finland. To say that this has been on my bucket list forever is an understatement. So just to get there was exciting. But while we (my parents and I) were there, we also met a number of relatives – the living ones as well as the dead, walked the streets of Helsinki, shopped at the markets, ate fabulous cake from a coffee shop, AND was shown an old family photo album. And really didn’t want to leave to go back to the ship.

Seriously this day goes down in history – for me anyway!

After making it off the ship we were met at the port by Bengt Winter (my 3rd cousin once removed), who then drove us to the cemetery nearby to see the graves of some relatives.

The Helsinki cemetery is gorgeous. It’s incredibly serene, and I could have stayed there all day as it was so peaceful. We first saw the grave of my 3x great grandpa (Gustav Wilhelm Winter), and then found the gave of my 2x great grandparents (Otto Edvard and Hedvik Karolina Winter) and some other relatives. Oh boy … can you feel my excitement??

the military section of Helsinki cemetery

a part of the military section of Helsinki cemetery

my dad and I next to my 3x great grandpa's grave (Gustaf Wilhelm Winter)

my dad and I next to my 3x great grandpa’s grave (Gustaf Wilhelm Winter) – note the wreath

this wreath was made with Finnish, Swedish and Australian colours

Bengt made this wreath with Finnish, Swedish and Australian flag colours

the grave of Otto Edvard Winter and his wife Hedvig (my 2x great grandparents, as well as son Sigfrid and son's wife Anna

the grave of Otto Edvard Winter and his wife Hedvig (my 2x great grandparents), as well as their son Sigfrid and his wife Anna
[photo credit: Alan Phillips]

Meeting the relatives
Next stop was Bengt’s place in Helsinki city, with other relatives meeting us there. This was so exciting, finally meeting people that I had corresponded with of a number of years

The group photo at the top shows us all together excluding Bengt’s wife, Lotta who kindly took the photo.

I am indebted to my relatives, Bengt and Lotta Winter for their kind hospitality and for organising the family get together … and for the other relatives to travelled to Helsinki to meet with us for part of a day. I was thrilled to finally meet my 3rd cousin Ari and his gorgeous wife Heidi-Maria in person. It was exciting to meet Jüssi, who has been corresponding with my grandma for many, many years, and to meet up again with Glen and his wife Tuovi who I had met in Australia previously.

me with my 3rd cousin Ari

me with my 3rd cousin Ari

Having a one day stop-over, which in reality turned out to be more like 7 hours simply wasn’t enough time. Still 7 hours was so much better than none at all.

But for this this get together was one that has taken 113 years for our families to reconnect.

Souvenirs
I went prepared having filled my suitcase with Aussie souvenirs for my extended family – soft toys, Australian flags, Vegemite, Tim Tams and Fruchocs – all good Aussie stuff. What I didn’t expect was that I would be given gifts too. I was totally spoilt, and went home with far more than I gave, so I did have to do some creative packing to get everything home.

what's more Aussie that this?[photo credit: Lotta Winter]

what’s more Aussie that this?
[photo credit: Lotta Winter]

and here's what I came back with (note, they even gave me a snowball!)

and here’s what I came back with (including a few things I’d bought)
(note, they even gave me a snowball!)While there

The Photo Album
While there Jüssi, who is my 2nd cousin once removed, showed us an old family photo album, which we didn’t know existed. This was choc full of the old cabinet style photos, and fortunately a number of them are even named. Gold!

Fortunately I had packed the little Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner that I had borrowed for the day (as I didn’t have room to bring my own), as we were able to scan them.

This album has photos of my great grandpa, his mum and her mum as well. Incredible. Then there’s various siblings as well. Ones that I’d never seen photos of before. A true treasure.

the Vinblad Family Photo Album

the Vinblad Family Photo Album

Jüssi showing Alan the photo album

Jüssi showing Alan the photo album

my 2x great grandma Hedvig Karolina Winter (nee Vinblad)

my 2x great grandma Hedvig Karolina Winter (nee Vinblad)

Winter/Vinblad family gathering c.1890

Winter/Vinblad family gathering c.1890

Helsinki
With a few hours till I had to be back on the boat, we decided to wander Helsinki and see what we see.

Apart from some beautiful buildings, we saw an archery competition that was going in their city square, the markets, and we stopped in at a cafe for some afternoon tea.

walking the steets of Helsinki

walking the steets of Helsinki

the Helsinki City Archives

the Helsinki City Archives

looks fancy

looks fancy

I think this was the court building

I think this was the court building

L-R: Bengt, Ari, myself, Heidi-Maria, and Jüssi

L-R: Bengt, Ari, myself, Heidi-Maria, and Jüssi

the top of the Lutheran Church in Helsinki

the top of the Lutheran Church in Helsinki

pretty garden and park

pretty garden and park

the Sunday markets

the Sunday markets

the old tram

the old tram

I liked the look of this place

I liked the look of this place

who doesn't love a flowerpot rubber boot?

who doesn’t love a flowerpot rubber boot?

cafe time L-R: Heidi-Maria, Bengt and Lotta

cafe time L-R: Heidi-Maria, Bengt and Lotta

cafe time L-R: Ari, myself and Jüssi

cafe time L-R: Ari, myself and Jüssi

nice to see the Finnish flay flying on our ship as we reboarded

nice to see the Finnish flay flying on our ship as we reboarded

It truly was a day to remember, so much better than I could have ever imagined it. Meeting my extended family (which I guess you’d call a mini family reunion) was awesome. And before I was even back on the ship, I had decided that I want to (and need to) go back. So now I had better start saving my dollars, as this could take a while!!!

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5 Responses to “It Took 113 Years”

  1. Jill Ball says:

    I finished reading your post with a huge case of goosebumps. What a super day you had – thank you for sharing your excitement with us.

    What a fabulous day.

  2. Pat Richley-Erickson says:

    Thank-you for sharing more about your visit to Finland. You have a beautiful, kind family. That old photo album is a treasure. Glad you could scan the images. The city of Helsinki is beautiful. 🙂

  3. Sharon says:

    Alona, I could definitely feel your emotion and excitement! How wonderful! I certainly hope that you can get back to Finland soon 🙂

  4. Wow! Every genealogist would love to have a day like you had.

    I think I see a distinct family resemblance between you and your 3rd cousin Ari.

  5. What an amazing day, glad you shared about it in more detail. That album is incredible!

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