Saturday, July 9, 2011




                Sweden had fought and conquered Russia, Poland and all of Scandinavia.  Now Sweden entered the "Thirty Years War" to save the Lutherans from the Holy Roman Empire and the Hapsburg family of Germany.  Sweden was victorious again, Germany lost over half of its people and was completely devastated.

                During the reign of Gustavus Vasa of Sweden many Swedes immigrated to Finland mostly along its Western and Southern coasts.  The occupation was against the wishes of Finland and the land was taken by conquest, to hold it they built many castles and strongholds.  It is called "Linnanlanni" (castle country).  Eventually the Lutheran Church became the unifying tie between the two countries.  The Bishop of Turku soon had more power and control over the people than the king.  In time another large migration of Swedes came here after the Thirty Year War.

                Sweden had won another war, but the King was killed near the end of the war.  "The Lion of the North", King Gustavus Adolphus, was dead.  His daughter, Queen Christina, now ruled this vast domain.  Her army would now occupy choice areas of the world.  Finland's Bothnia Coast was one of these areas. 

                We have Genealogy records on all sides of our family going back to the early 1700's showing that we are pure Swedes and not a drop of Finnish blood.  We also have about 400 years with no records, were we always this way?  Were there Swedish wives available during the wars of conquest?  Finnish women may have filled the need when they settled the land, they are some of the most beautiful women of the world.  Raili Fuller, a Karelian, said, "Your Grandfather sure looks like a Pohjalla to me and I know a Pohjalla when I see one"!  Mark Reynolds said, "He looks like a Swede to me".  As I look from Swede to Finn to see a difference, I can not distinguish one from another.  My skin is dark but many Swedes from Vora are. 

                There was a superior attitude in our Family of being a Swede,  I smile when I think of it.  There were many little things that was said so many years ago, but Aunt Edith's statement sums it all up.  She said, "We have the small bones of royalty not the big bones of the peasants."  But both nationalities feel a superiority over the other, try as I can , I can not tell the difference.  The Finns wish the Swedish Language would just disappear, and the Swedes say the Finns are not capable of learning their language and they don't like us very much.  The Swedish language is spoken exclusively in this region of Finland.  Most of the rest of the country speaks Finnish.  I found all my relatives speak “Vora Speak” and even the Swedish Swedes have a hard time communicating with the Vora Swedes.  The Finnish language is related to the Estonian and Hungarian languages.  Finns originally came from the Ural mountains of Russia.  The people who went south became Magyars or Hungarians and the ones who went north became Finns.  The language has taken centuries to become the dominate language. 

                The land around Vasa where we came from the Swedes call it "Osterbotten" the Finns call it "Pohjamma".  All villages and cities have two names one written in Swedish, the other in Finish, I use Swedish names in all my stories.  This must be the way I was brought up.  I would be proud to have the blood of either people or a combination there of.  Vora is a Swedish name and found here in 1367.  Vora the “Realm of the Rye” has plains and hills devoted to raising rye.  The plain of Vora is a gift from the sea, 2000 years ago it was covered with water.  The community of Vora was founded in 1868 about the time the peasants were leaving the farms.  The county is mentioned in 1443 and the Swedish name Vora in 1367.

                If I didn't have any Finnish blood I couldn't have sisu and I do believe have it.  Every Finn knows what "Sisu" means.  It is an untranslatable word that is something in one's soul.  It comes of one's self not because he is told.  Sisu allows one to endure anything with patience or with strength usually beyond one's power.  "What must be done will be done, no matter what the cost."  Something that surpasses fearlessness and extraordinary endurance.  Perhaps sisu is lived not defined.  My ancesrors in Finland were farmers who over the tears fought a never ending battle against nature to make their farm grudingly yield crops in a harsh climate.  Domination

                There are two Holms Coat-of-Arms, their history and meaning are unknown.  One is with the Swedish-Finnish Lion on its shield and the date MDCLI (1651).  The time of Queen Christina's gift but what it was and its story is gone with the passing of John W. Holms (Werner Hoijer), son of Matts Hoijer.  If the Lion was facing Russia I could believe the date on it but I have yet to find the date Finland turned it's sword from Russia to Sweden.   Nothing is known of our Families migration to Finland, records do not go back that far. 

                The coat-of-arms at Holms on the Holms Farm Scroll, has a severed paw of a bear, severed from the whole bear when Vora was greater, was it a Swedish Bear to fight the Russian Bear?  A lion or a bear who knows.   Russia made the Finns turn it’s bear around and point its sword at Sweden for now.  Rolf Ronnquist said, "Every parish in Finland has a special parish sign of their own, an animal, a fish or a flower.  Vora has a bear-paw, I do not know why.  As you cross the border between Parishes there are these signs.  We have only one little restaurant in Vora, and of course it is the "Bjorntassen" (Bear-Paw).  The date under the bear-paw is 1396, the date when they first found Vora on a paper.  Vora is going to have a 600 year celebration this year to celebrate this.  The meaning of the three stars is also unknown, Wora (Vora) at the top is the ancient spelling.   

                Our Names in Finland came from the farms we owned.  In the late 1600's our ancestors were Bertils, we got our Kock name by marrying Anna Simonsdotter Kock, the landowner's daughter.  The children for the next two generations would use her name not the husbands.  This was done until Johan Simonsson Kock bought the Holms Farm and then we were Holms.  All of our given and middle names are Swedish names and our last (sur) names are farm names, mostly Swedish but some were Finnish.  What amazed me was that most of the Swedish Farm names had a meaning and they were translatable.  Holm means a small island, but its origin is unknown.  Kock means cook.  He came from Koklot.  Kok means Kitchen.  the Mur in Murkais means wall.  I recently have been told, my Grandmother, Brita Murkais's Father was a Hagglof-Kneck, and Brita Iso-aho's Father was also a Hagglof-Kneck.  This was found in a Genealogy Book written by Johannes Dalkarl.  So we are now members of an other great family with genealogy going back to the early 1700's again. 

                Rolf Ronnquist said, "In about 1905-1908 a law was passed forbidding those who didn't own land from taking the farm name on which they lived, we call them "loose people".  The farm-name was monopolized for the farm-owner.  All these landless people now had to change their names, making it very hard to trace these people.  Eric Swenson's father was;  Johan Gustav Eriksson Svens Sorenson Bergsten,, Sorenson and Bergsten were added in 1911.  A genealogy night-mare. 

                We have a history of Holms going back to the 1500's naming all its owners, many were wealthy and famous.  Great Great Grandfather, Johan Simonsson Kock and Mickle Raback bought the Holms Farm in 1873.  On it were there were also six crofts (small tenant farm cottages and holdings) that were later sold to relatives but I'm not sure how we are related.  How the bulk of the land and the buildings were divided between those two is still unknown.  Johan's name is listed first in the book and the scroll.  All the families took the farm name as their last name and there are still Holms on the Farm today.  Some of these relatives began to destroy the natural beauty of the farm in their zeal for making the land productive.  The beautiful Birch trees were harvested.  Another story is told of a Holms who lost a game of cards to a man living 10 miles to the north.  He took the top story of Holms and built a new house with it.  Angry neighbors soon stopped this practice. 

                In my visit to Vora I walked all around Holms.  The Estate Home is now called the “Manor House” and is well preserved as well as the Weather Mill and Maria Hjoier’s house.   Only the foundation of  my grandmother, Brita Holms servived the firew in 1934.  the Manor House is painted a bright yellow and is well taken care of.  Johanness Johansson Holm, (the last farmer of Holms), Maria and Matts Hoijer, Erik and Brita Holms, and maybe others, lived in the Manor House. But built homes on Holms property when the Manor House was given to the school.  All that I know is that Aunt Edith said "That they were wealthy and we lived in a huge house." 

                It was an elegant estate often referred to as the magnificent garden farm.  Solfvin, the previous owner had refurbished the home, built roads and planted many rows of birch trees.  It was a huge farm.  The peasant farmers had all left the farm because they had been treated poorly, this forced Solfvin to sell it.  Solfvin's, Aunt Ulla was also disliked.  We are told that she still haunts the Farm on dark autumn nights.

                Johan and his family lived on the farm for two generations.  Maria died in 1892 and Johan died the next year.  Great Grandfather Erik Johansson died at Holms in 1900 and Johan Johansson who died in 1917 were the only children of Johan Simonsson Kock, to live and die at Holms.  Many of his childern already had  immigrated to America.  Erik's wife Brita Murkais Holms lived at Holms until her stuga burned down in 1934.  Their only child, Johannes (my Grandfather) who left Rokio for America in 1900 to excape from being forced into the Russian Army.  His hatred of the Czar made him give up whatever inheritance if any, he may have had.  In 1903, my grandmother Lisa Antbrams Holms and her oldest daughter, Edith, joined Grandfather Johannes in America.  She loved her mother-in-law Brita Murkais and the Farm and didn't want to leave but she had to join her husband

                The Great Famine of 1868 was another event that started the emigration from Osterbotton to America.  Three crop failures in a row caused the deaths of 137,720 people.  1,272 in Vora mostly "farmless" people.  I am told they were eating the bark from the birch trees at Holms.  Holms and other farms of Osterbotten fared much better than those to the north. 

                I was happy to hear that in 1903 Mickel and Anna Beata Nygard bought a portion of the Holms farm.  Anna Beata was Grandmother Lisa's youngest sister.  They called this farm Nygard (new farm).  They called themselves Nygards.  Now they call it and themselves Norrgard (North Farm).  Gunnar Norrgard’s home in Norrgard is also like a museum.  Spinning wheels, cradles, old beds.  Then there are all the farm machinery at least a hundred years old.

There was at this time a need for schools and education.   Russia discouraged education of her subjects but the people started building schools any way.  The Russian days were called the Dark Days or the Hundred Year Slumber.  The Vora Folkshogskola, was first housed in a court house in Vora.  Next it found a home in a hostel in Makipaa on the Murkais Farm.  Then in 1907 the Landsmen (Landlords) donated the magnificent country home estate to the "garantiforeningen" (Guarantee Society or School Foundation) so that the school would have a permanent home.  Three Landsmen are listed as owners of Holms at this time, Johan Kock, Mickle Raback and Matts Hoijer.  We have a picture of the old estate home before it was donated and later when it became the school, the home was and still is the largest building in the school.  The other large building housed the peasant farmers. 

                Years later we find Brita living the Holms Stuga (cabin or cottage) on the Holms Berget (Holms Mountain) behind the weather (wind) mill above the home of John W. Holms, son of Matts and Maria Holms Hoijer, my grandfather's cousin.  John W. said that he and his mother often went to visit and have a cup of tea with her.  John W. said that they lived a very comfortable life and never knew hunger as there was always plenty to eat.  They had vegetables from the gardens as well as sheep and cows to eat.

                Gunnar Norrgard said, "I sometimes went with my Mother to visit the Holms Moster (maternal aunt, Brita Murkais Holms) on Holms Berget behind the weather mill.  I was 10 years old when Moster's  Stuga burned down in 1934.  She then returned to Murkais in Makipaa to live with a Maria Murkais.  Brita paid for her care here and she died in 1939, 92 years old.  Some of her life is starting to be pieced together.  The only thing left of her part of Holms is possessed by Gunnar, a mirror and a chest of drawers on which it stands. 

                Johan Kock is the patriarch of almost all of the Holms families in Eureka, Frisco, Park City and Bingham Canyon, Utah.  Many of his children emigrated to America.  I know a little about Grandpa’s uncles and aunts but hardly anything about the cousins until Johan Simonsson family grew from 9 to 16 children.  Most of these cousins have been located but we now have names for the rest.  During these hard times, 300,000 Finns and Swede-Finns immigrated to America.  There was always  a war or a threat of a war. 

                The Vora Church was the church where our family worshipped in.  It is the oldest church built of wood in Finland, it was built in 1626.  In 1777 was enlarged to a cruciform type of church.  The old stone vestry, part of an even older church was built in 1519.  The sculptures of the Saints and the crucifix date back to about 1375.  During the period of Great Hate (1714-1721) Russian Cossacks used the Church as a stable.  The Church silver, chandeliers and bells were robbed and taken to Russia.  The Church was badly damaged at this time.  It was last restored in 1959, and it can now seat one thousand people.   Brita showed me a Bible and a song book the Cossacks had damaged with their swords.  I went to Church one Sunday with the Holms and Norrgards.  After church I took pictures inside and out, even had the Pastor dress up again for his picture in the Church.

                Russia had always been a terrible neighbor.  Finland fought and lost at least forty wars against them but it was during the 1800's that Russia became so powerful.  these were the years that the Russians dominated Europe, it was in 1814 Russia had driven Napoleon from it's land and conquered Paris.  The treaty in 1815 saw Europe now controlled by Russia, Prussia and England.  What I find interesting was that Czar of Russia, the Emperor of Germany and the King of England were all from the Romanoff family.  The Nations of Europe were divided up in the winner take all situation.  Finland was given to Russia and Norway was given to Sweden as well as others to numerous to mention.  These were the years when the hated Cossacks killed almost one-forth of the entire Finnish population, but were unable to conquer their  land or diminish their spirit.  Finland became a Grand Duchy, but it wasn't until 1894 under the reign of Nicholas II  that they lost their home rule.   Nicholas II was brother to George King of England and his wife Alexandria was the niece of Queen Victoria of England, no wonder the world was in such a mess. 

                  In 1917 John Holms (Verner Hoijer) remembered wakening to the sound of explosions and gunfire.  As a fifteen-year-old, he was given a rifle and became part of the war that forced the Bolsheviks (Communist Red Army) out of Finland.  John was with the White Army, Swedish-Finn against Finns.  Anger and resentment lasted until Russia attacked Finland in 1939; this united all people living in Finland.  Finland was forced to accept peace at a terrible cost, they lost all of Karelia, but they were free.  December 7, 1992 marks 75 years of freedom from Russia.  I was fortunate to be invited to a gathering of Finns in Salt lake City to celebrate the occasion.  It is a gathering of many Swedes and Finns from Finland and we always meet on this day to listen, sing and tell of our connection to Finland.  I talked to Swedes and Finns who were forced to fight in this war.  Some were forced to flee their homes both during and even years after the war.  The war caused a great amound of bitterness and life was hard, some of the people accually had to leave Finland, most had emigrated to Canada.  I talked to a man who had just returned and he still was not welcomed. 

                I was so proud of the Finish soldiers when they fought Russia in their last war in 1939.  The Finns only had 40 tanks while the Russians had 2,000 tanks and control of the skies.   Finnish soldiers dressed in white skied at will around the battlefield inflicting great harm on the bewildered Russians.  1500 hundred Finnish soldiers (Russian's called then Ghost Soldiers) on skis stopped two full divisions of Russians.  They burned their tanks with Molotov cocktails and killed 90,000 Russians in one week.  They killed over one million Russian soldiers.  It was a stalemate and finally settled by a truce, a costly truce, Finland lost all of Karelia.  The people had to leave immediately taking only a meager amount of their possessions. 

                Russia was always mentioned as a reason my ancestors gave for leaving Finland, dozens of families and they all came here with the Holmes name.  It has been hard for Finland to live with Russia and not arouse her wrath.  Only now with the break up of the U.S.S.R. has Finland been able to really be free.  Finland was the first country in the world to teach Industrial Arts to all its children.  Finnish heritage is also taught in the schools to keep this culture and traditions alive, even Sisu.  Occupying enemy soldiers could never diminish their resolve.  My mother's heritage was very important to her and now to me.  I can hardly wait for the day my daughter and grandchildren start singing Swedish Christmas Songs.  These are the songs Raili Fuller and her daughter sang to me and my wife Joyce, songs of my childhood.  My mother and her girlfriends would gather in our little house high on the hill in Telegraph and talk and sing in Swedish.  I could understand Swedish then, but not much now.   I try to read  some words and letters now. 

1 comment:

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