Speech given at the unveiling of the war memorial in Lahti, Finland, 1 June 1952

In unveiling today this beautiful monument to the memory of the Finnish men and women who a decade ago had to go to war and there make the greatest possible sacrifice, our thoughts readily go back ten years in time. Our country was then experiencing one of the most difficult phases of its history. There was great uncertainty about the future both among our people and in the world. Nations had been joined in battle, and they felt that the fight was for their life and existence. But at the same time all nations realized that the world had suffered a terrible misfortune when it had been unable to find any other solution than war for its problems, war which endangered all the human values that had been created in the centuries past by toil and trouble. The individual soldier may have rebelled against the failure to find a peaceful solution for the conflicts, but as a member of the nation he had no choice but to obey and fight when the powers that be so ordered. The individual soldier acted out of a sense of responsibility and in the hope that the time of armed conflict would be over one day and nations would be able to set their hands to peaceful deeds. This the Finnish soldiers, too, hoped. They were convinced that they were helping to create a secure future for their people. They also hoped that they themselves would have the chance of enjoying the longedfor peace. The stern hand of fate decided otherwise for those in whose dear memory we are gathered here today. We know that their sacrifice was a ransom paid for the life of our free nation.

Throughout history, soldiers who have shown physical and mental prowess in battle have been revered. This is not the idealization of war. With the few exceptions which history relates, peoples, and not least the Finnish people, see war as a great calamity. Even the Finnish soldiers who fell in the war were men of peace at heart. We will, therefore, respect their memory best when we devote ourselves to the peaceful work of reconstruction, when we begin to create conditions for the life of our people that will safeguard the country in the future against the destruction that war always brings.

When the war was over, there were many who lost courage and did not believe in our ability to live under the new conditions. They were wrong. The Finnish people did not stand to look back. They set their hands to the plough to draw a new furrow in a new strip of land. But getting over the aftermath of war was not accomplished only by economic reconstruction. We also had to create for ourselves the conditions for existence in new political circumstances. We have succeeded satisfactorily in this work. It would not have been possible without the tenacity and healthy love of life which have been characteristic of our people.

It sometimes happens in war that those who win the war lose the peace and find themselves in intolerable difficulties in spite of the return of peace. But it also happens sometimes that the nation that loses the war wins the peace. In so far as we are able at this moment to make an appraisal of the postwar world, there is at least ground for the claim that the Finnish people won the peace though they lost the war. We have had difficult problems to settle in the new conditions formed by the peace. When we recall the uncertainty from which we started to build up our future after the war, we may be pardoned for feeling a certain satisfaction with our achievements. Most of the bills of the war are now beginning to be paid off. The economy is returning to normal and the standard of living has begun to rise to the pre-war level. In the social field we have tried to ensure social care for those whose subsistence was undermined by the war and for whose fate we share a common responsibility. The symptoms of mental depression which were indubitably observable among some of our people at the end of the war have now disappeared. National morale and confidence in the future have been restored.

In noting all this, we recall at the same time all the thousands of young citizens whose young arms were sorely needed in building up the ruins, but who now lie in their graves. We raise memorials as a sign of this longing of ours. May they remind us of the hard fate that our nation has had to endure. While we are deeply grateful to those who gave their lives for the country, we must also recognize our responsibility for the present and future of this country. It is our duty to ensure that our people enjoy the conditions for undisturbed work for peace, for it is only under the auspices of peace that every nation can express what is best for itself and create most enduringly for its own and the world`s wealth. We have achieved through sacrifice and denial a position in which we have the economic and political prerequisites to plan for the future. It is our duty to contribute to the establishment of a firm foundation for peaceful development both in our own country and in the world at large, thereby avoiding exposure to new calamities.

When the Athenian statesman Pericles, in the fullness of life, balanced the ledger of his work for his people, he said that not a single Athenian mother during his time in office had to don mourning for a son lost in war, for peace had prevailed in the realm in his time. We have gathered here to pay tribute to the memory of those who fell in war for their country. We would certainly meet the desires of these noble dead if on this memorial day we wish that freedom and peace be granted our people, and that the present generation may leave for future generations a flourishing country built as a haven of peaceful work.