President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö and his spouse Mrs Jenni Haukio hosted a reception in honour of Finland’s independence for war veterans and members of the Lotta Svärd at the Presidential Palace on Thursday,1 December 2022.
The event began ceremonially with the playing of the ‘Jäger March’, performed by the Guards Band. In his speech, President Niinistö emphasised the valuable legacy of the war veterans and members of the Lotta Svärd. “It is an honour to celebrate Finland’s independence with you. Our independence, which we have because of you. I want to state that we remember, we respect and we thank you.”
The President stated that war is always cruel and leaves deep wounds. Nevertheless, the war veterans and members of the Lotta Svärd were able to continue their lives and rebuild society. “Surely quite a few of you have sometimes stopped to think ‘how did I manage through all of that’. And the answer appears to be that ‘to my surprise, I found in myself the ability to endure, to withstand adversity. To exceed limits that previously seemed quite impossible’. It is a good lesson for all of us that, in a tight situation, a person finds new qualities in themself to endure, withstand and move on.”
The President also reminded his audience that today the Ukrainians are in a situation where they have had to discover the capabilities to defend themselves and to exceed those seemingly impossible limits. And, the President said, the waves of the war are also being felt in Finland, even though Finland’s security position is very stable. “There is concern about energy, its price, even its availability and the rising cost of living. These are very minor difficulties compared to all that you have experienced. But new, difficult experiences for many generations. It is then that the lesson inherited from you, that a person finds qualities within themself when they get into a tight spot, will save and help us move forward.”
Veteran generation created faith in the future
In his speech, General Jaakko Valtanen expressed his thanks to the Presidential couple for organising the separate reception. “I wish to thank you both on behalf of all those invited to this coffee reception, organised in honour of our country’s independence. In particular, we thank you for showing consideration in such a fine way to an ageing and now rather small group of veterans, and should I say, of rather impaired walking agility.”
General Valtanen stated that through the veterans’ achievements Finland’s independence was preserved, but that they also accomplished many other things of irreplaceable value. “Among other things, freedom of expression enabled by law, free exercise of religious beliefs, private enterprise, and our own armed forces based on general conscription.”
Although, according to Valtanen, the national self-respect of the war veterans and members of the Lotta Svärd was severely tested, faith in the future remained. At the same time, it was possible to preserve the self-respect and civic strength of nearly one hundred thousand permanently disabled war veterans. “The preservation of our country’s independence was such a great achievement that it is certainly worth remembering in such a ceremonial manner.”
A total of 14 war veterans and five members of the Lotta Svärd were invited to the event. In addition, their spouses, attendants, relatives of the fallen, and representatives of veterans’ organisations were also present. Total Cello Ensemble, who closed the event solemnly with Jean Sibelius’ ‘Finlandia’, also performed at the event.
- President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö’s speech at the reception for war veterans and members of the Lotta Svärd at the Presidential Palace on 1 December 2022