Kirsti Siirala. From Finland to Sweden

Kirsti SiiralaIn February 1944, during the heavy Soviet bomb attacks against Finnish towns, especially the capital, Helsinki, my parents decided to send me and my five siblings to Sweden once again. I was two years old, and it was the second time that I crossed the unsafe Baltic Sea to Stockholm, on a boat crowded with Finnish war children.

Since my middle sister and brother had already been to Sweden, they returned to the same family. I ended up in another new family not far from them. This became our longest stay in Sweden during the War; we spent one and a half years away from our family and home.

We all returned to Helsinki in September 1945, but only for three months. Then I was sent back to Sweden again.

After another turn to Helsinki, I returned and stayed in Sweden for the rest of my childhood and youth – away from my own family, language and culture. I missed my sisters and brothers during these years, but we never lost contact.

My experiences in the bomb shelters in Helsinki, the repeated separations and different the insecurities during my childhood have left emotional impacts which affect me to this day, so many years later. These early experiences left me with an understanding of the impossible choices that are forced upon families during war, what it means to lose or be parted from your family, roots, culture; and that being a victim of war, repression and discrimination is something forced upon you. War forces people to make tough choices to avoid the hardships – often for the benefit of safety and a new start.

I grew up in a time where discrimination was not questioned.

Let’s not allow another generation of refugee children to grow up without the support, understanding and acceptance which could strengthen their ability to achieve their dreams.

I hope that by sharing my experiences, society can improve the circumstances of all those children who flee and are forced to start a new life alone, away from the support of their families and friends.

1 family torn apart by war is too many

Learn more about our work with refugees at