Sisu

The Finns are an interesting people. Lex had an interesting and funny post about his visit to Finland, and having “Good Lex” having to battle “Bad Lex”, and prevailing, but nevertheless having to do some ‘splaining to The Hobbit back in Sandy Eggo.

I had a Finnish business partner for 20 years.

Estel wasn’t even a Finnish name, but her parents named her that in gratitude to a Mr. Estel from Missouri who, immediately after the war, sent her family provisions during a time of devastation and deprivation.

She emigrated to California with her brother in the late 60s, first settling in Redondo Beach. She must have become a Californian, because when she would come into our office before the heater kicked in, she would complain of the cold, it being all of 60 degrees or so.

I used to kid her about that.

Because it gets cold in Finland.

Real cold.

She tried teaching me some Finnish, but I quickly ascertained that it was best if you were born there to really know the language. Most languages, English excluded, are pronounceable once you know the basic grammatical rules. With English, there are so many exceptions. Blame that, I suppose, on the Normans who came from France mixing with the Germanic Saxons.

People who don’t know Finland assume that they are Scandinavian.

They aren’t.

Estel was telling me that the nearest language related to Finnish is Hungarian. Years ago, when I traveled on leave through Denmark, Norway and Sweden, I was surprised at how many words I could recognize, knowing a little German and English. Couldn’t speak a word of any of those languages.

There is some commonality between Norwegian, Danish, and Swedish.

Not with Finnish.

It’s really out there.

Since what we know as modern Finland started around the 12th Century, and Genghis Khan’s rein of terror through Europe was around that time, I figured he must have scared the hell out of the locals, those who survived, to start running north to the polar regions.

But I have no proof of that. Other than the fact that Finnish is related to Hungarian.

Estel was immensely proud of her father, with good reason. He was one of those ski troopers who made Stalin wish he had never tried to conquer Finland during the Winter War of 1939-1940.

When a vastly outnumbered Finnish Army and people metaphorically gave Josef the “International Salute” and fought him anyway.

To a standstill.

That’s when I learned of the Finnish word Sisu.

As Estel told me years ago, there really is no direct English translation. Translating it to “Courage” really doesn’t do it justice. Perhaps calling it “courage” coupled with sheer inner will and determination against overwhelming odds gets close.

Anyway, I believe that the Ukrainians have Sisu in abundance.

Read something interesting in yesterday’s WSJ about the military help we have been giving the Ukrainians. Unfortunately it’s a Paywall, but I will give you the pertinent points. Since the Russians invaded the Crimean Peninsula in 2012, NATO has been giving help to the Ukrainian military.

To the point that they totally transformed it from using old Soviet-bloc tactics to NATO tactics.

And when I say “transformed” I’m not talking about just the hierarchy, but everyone from generals to privates.

When Ukrainian National Guard Lt. Andriy Kulish ambushes Russian forces, he thanks the Canadian Army.

The Canadians trained Lt. Kulish’s Rapid Response Brigade last summer in urban warfare, field tactics and battlefield medicine. The exercise in western Ukraine was one of the many in recent years with troops from Canada, the U.K., Romania and the California National Guard.

This was just one piece of a little-publicized effort by countries of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that transformed Ukraine’s military up and down the ranks, from foot soldiers to the defense ministry to overseers in parliament. It is one big reason why Ukraine’s nimble fighting force has surprised the world by fending off a much larger and better-equipped invading army, say Ukrainians and their Western advisers.

Through classes, drills and exercises involving at least 10,000 troops annually for more than eight years, NATO and its members helped the embattled country shift from rigid Soviet-style command structures to Western standards where soldiers are taught to think on the move.

In confounding Russian invaders today, Lt. Kulish says his comrades-in-arms “are definitely using procedures they learned during the training with NATO.”

I believe that this invasion will be proven to be a pivotal event in the West.

For one, Sweden, long neutral for decades, and Finland want to join NATO. They’ve seen what can be on the horizon. Vladimir Putin has threatened them with moving more nuclear forces and military to the region.

The Finns, for one, are not intimated.

1 Comment

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One response to “Sisu

  1. mcthag

    Another important Finnish phrase, “Hakkaa Päälle,” or cut them down.

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