About The Author
The family of Olavi Veltheim, the author of this book, was torn apart by the vicious civil war in Finland following her independence from post-Tsarist Russia in the revolutionary turmoil following the First World War. Whilst Olavi’s young brother, who fought for the Whites, was killed by the revolutionaries, his elder brother, a Red, was committed to the other side. Consequently, the middle brother, Olavi, was regarded with suspicion by both sides in the conflict, and in 1924 he decided to go to England to learn the shipping trade. When the British authorities refused to renew his work visa the following year, the London-based shipping office for which he worked offered him a job in the new Soviet Union. This book relates the horrific story of his experiences and disillusion in the “land of the future” and of his arrest and incarceration as a political “renegade” in various prison camps in Western Russia, the Urals, and Siberia over a 6-year period. Through the intercession of his English wife and the Finnish authorities he was eventually released in 1935, after which he lived and worked near Helsinki until his death in 1960.
About The Book
This is the true but incredible story of the survival of the Finn, Olavi Veltheim, in Soviet Russia and how his experiences in this “land of dreams” turned into a nightmare.
A civil war was raging in Finland, and one of Veltheim’s brothers was fighting on the side of the Reds and the other on the side of the Whites. Olavi’s disability meant that he was unfit for combat and had no future. He left for England to study shipping, was taken on by the Anglo-Russian company, Arcos, and shortly thereafter married an Englishwoman.
When the British authorities refused Olavi a visa and he was unwilling to return to Finland, the Soviet Union offered the family the chance of a new life free of “exploitation.” But the reality of this promise was not what they expected. The family lived in poverty and could not find work. Conditions worsened further, and eventually culminated in Lubyanka prison and the suffering of the labour camps in the Urals and Siberia which lasted for 6 long years before his repatriation.
Olavi Veltheim’s memoirs are a unique archive find. The book was originally published as a Dutch translation entitled De avonturen van een Finn in Sovjet-Rusland (Amsterdam 1939). Olavi Veltheim destroyed the original manuscript at the end of the Continuation War between Finland and the Soviet Union in 1944, and it was only through the re-discovery of the Dutch version in the 1980s and its re-translation into Finnish that it is now appearing in an English edition for a much wider world readership.