Petsamo Life

My father recorded some audio tapes of his life in Lapland. Here are some .mp3 file excerpts from those tapes.

I am also working on a translation of his stories. Many thanks to my brother Asko, for preserving the tapes, and to my nephew Rainer, for converting them to digital format.

Aiti in Norway.mp3

My Saami grandmother
My Saami grandmother

These stories are from my childhood, from what I remember of stories that my Aiti told me. Aiti was born in Vesisaari, Norway, behind Vesisaari, Anni Joki. When Aiti (Maria Dahl) was small girl she was brought to Petsamo. At that time there were 3 Lapp families living there. Matti, Panko, Piera Hans, Maripik Mari Larssen, who was called Poro Kuningatar (reindeer queen).

She was raised with this woman from a small child until she grew up. As a child growing up, she traveled with her adoptive mother, throughout the shores of Petsamo. She took care of the reindeer in winter, chopped wood and herded the reindeer home. She did all the women’s and men’s chores as well, as there were no men in the family. Her adopted mother was elderly and also quite ill.

Around the age of 20 she went to Norway in the spring to work in the fishing camps. She met a Finnish fishermen and married him. In the fall after fishing was over, they moved back to Kola, Russia, where he was from.

Isa was a kirves mies (carpenter) and worked as a boat builder in the winter. One time, when he had 7 sons and 1 daughter he got very sick. He had a cut on his hand, and with the lack of doctors, he got sick and died.

He died at 3 am and 3 hours later at 6 am I was born, 2 weeks prematurely. Oct. 20, 1906.

When I was 1 1/2 years old, Aiti moved us back to Petsamo.

Saami Heritage

My grandmother was Marja (Maria) Dahl, a Saami, born in Vesisaari,Vadsà in northern Norway, near the Anni Joki on August 4, 1870. Her parents moved to Petsamo when she was a baby. There were 3 other Sami families living in Petsamo at the time. Matti Pankko, Piera Hans and Marjapik Mari Larsen. Her parents died shortly after and she was adopted by Marjapik Mari. She was known as the poron kuningatar (reindeer queen).
At age 20 she married a Finnish fisherman and boatbuilder and moved to Kola. My father, Salomon Halonen, was born Oct. 20, 1906, in Kola (now part of Russia). His father died the night that he was born, and he moved with his mother and other siblings to live in Petsamo when he was about 18 month’s old.

Marja Dahl
Marja Dahl

My grandmother made traditional Saami crafts with reindeer leather and stitched mittens using nalbinding techniques. In the summer months, she would travel back to Norway to work. She had a small sailboat and would go fishing and also sell the things she had made during the winter months in exchange for food items such as coffee, sugar and flour. Due to the long winters, the Saami were not able to do much craft work. During her trips to Norway, she purchased an oil lamp. She was really happy about this because she could then work longer hours on her crafts. The light shone from their small cabin and could be seen by other villagers as she worked during the long, dark winter days of the arctic North. My grandmother died on May 10, 1936 at age 65 of old age in a nursing home in Vuonokylä Petsamo.

Salomon Halonen
Salomon Halonen as a boy

His mother became ill and was not able to care for him so my father was moved to an orphanage/ boarding school in Russian Karelia. This photo was taken when he attended a boarding school in Petrosavoski, Petrozavodsk, Karelian Russia, age 13.

Salomon Halonen
Salomon Halonen

My father enjoyed music and was proud of his Saami heritage.