Greeting by President of the Republic Sauli Niinistö at the Kauniala Christmas celebration, 12th December 2014

Honoured war disabled and veterans, ladies and gentlemen,

We, the presidential couple, are filled with Christmas spirit immediately upon our visit to you. But it is not only the peace of Christmas that enters our thoughts. The first thing we saw, immediately upon our arrival here today, was the blue cross flag flying beautifully in front of the hospital. It brought to mind the motto of the Disabled War Veterans Association: “The flag flies thanks to sacrifice”. 

Just under a week ago, on Independence Day, we gained some new celebrities in Finland. The war veterans and Lotta women who attended the reception at the Palace aroused much admiration and became national public heroes and heroines. This speaks volumes. It tells about the appreciation and gratitude that is universally felt towards the entire generation of veterans. All that attention, thanks and admiration is directed towards your deeds – and to each and every one of you.

It also reflects the fact that the message of the war-time sisters and brothers has been understood. The new generations know and feel that the foundations of their lives were created through joint effort and great sacrifice. Transmitting this message is also important today. Once again it is necessary to take joint responsibility for economic and future challenges, even though they are minor compared with the battle you experienced.

That sacrifice, thanks to which the flag flies, was the heaviest of all. During the war, around 95,000 Finns lost their lives. In addition, around 200,000 were injured, of whom nearly one half were permanently disabled. Thanks to inner strength and persistence, most of the war disabled returned to working life. “We will return to work” was an important goal of the early years of the Disabled War Veterans Association, and it largely succeeded in this.

The foundation of Finnish care for the war disabled was already established during the war. The launch of the work of Kauniala Hospital for War Veterans immediately after the war was an excellent example of the joint, uncompromising determination to care for those who had been involved in the common cause.

The Kauniala spirit is evident here even today. It is an atmosphere of good treatment and care, thanks to the staff, who are dedicated to their work. Kauniala’s work has also changed over time – more and more of the patients come from civilian life.

The Disabled War Veterans Association has done immense work during its operational history, which will soon cover 75 years. The principle of the front, “no brother left behind”, has passed into the activities of the Disabled War Veterans Association. The same care continued when the less severely wounded, as well as those who had already recovered from their wounds, began to attend to the most severely wounded of all.

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The younger people among us might sometimes find it difficult to remember that the war disabled were only, on average, 25 years old when they were injured. As one veteran said over coffee at the Independence Day reception; after childhood came adulthood. What lay between was completely lost. Youth was consumed in the war years. It was a gift to the country, a precious gift.

The effects of war are far-reaching. They extend not only to the injured, but also to their spouses and other close relatives. Over the decades, a hard price has been paid in human suffering for the effects of war. But reflecting the deepest essence of the Finnish character, we have endured. We have endured together, battled forward. Built a society and the common good, with no holding back.

You, esteemed war veterans, have carried your injuries throughout your lives. We show our humblest respect for your sacrifices and your work for Finland. We pay our heartfelt thanks, honoured war disabled and veterans, for your sacrifices for our country.

I would like to wish everyone at Kauniala as well as the disabled war veterans and their loved ones a wonderful Christmas, good health and all the best in the years to come. Thank you!