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Jussi

Junior Sergeant Juho Honkanen, 31, an orphan, was born in 1909 in Ingria, Valkeasaari Parish. He had fled to Finland shortly after the Russian Revolution, swimming across the Rajajoki River. In Terijoki, Honkanen took a job in a farm held by two unmarried sisters. Juho's birthplace was behind the border, but not far away, because the Rajajoki River only separated Terijoki and Valkeasaari Parishes.

Juho joined the Terijoki Civil Guard at the age of 17, in 1926. He got Finnish citizenship four years later, completed active military service and then a non-commissioned officer school in Vyborg in 1933-1934. Nokkonen’s house was located nearby the barracks of the 1st Jäger Battalion and “Nokkonen’s Jussi” was an important figure for the children from the barracks area. Pentti Vähäsarja, who lived in Terijoki during his childhood, describes*:

Jussi was a hard-working and conscientious employee, helpful and friendly, sympathetic and appreciated by those around him. We, children, just adored him.

He cared for us like the father of his children, protected us when needed and was always close. Children talked to Jussi about their little worries and sorrows, which he took seriously and understood us. In short, Jussi, along with parents, was the most positive, influential and important adult in my childhood.

During the winter war Honkanen fought in the 2nd Border Company. He was wounded by the fragments of a grenade to his left thigh in mid-February in the Muurila, Kuolemajärvi Parish. It is known that Honkanen was trained in intelligence in Ahtiala, Lahti, in February 1941, but he probably served in the General Staff's reconnaissance duties even before the Winter War.

The children from the Terijoki barracks became so important for the single Juho that he visited them even during the truce. At the end of the winter of 1940/1941, the Vähäsarja brothers, evacuated from Terijoki to Riihimäki, were surprised when the head teacher appeared at the door of the classroom. The boys were told out where a surprising guest was waiting for them. Pentti Vähäsarja describes Honkanen's departure for the Continuation War:

There he stood, in the middle of the slushy schoolyard. In a gray, slightly over-sized cap, wearing a light sweater and dark trousers, on his feet rubberized boots. Two boys rushed up the stone school steps towards Jussi, who caught us both into a strong and warm embrace.

It turned out that Jussi was in the service of the Defense Forces, a cadet of a course in Lahti and that he had come specially to see us. Since Jussi had four hours before the return train, he had also the opportunity to visit our parents at their home in the Back Barracks.

Jussi spoke evasively about his current affairs, including his staying in Lahti and his course. We later found out that Jussi hadn't said much about them. However, the events of the Winter War and the stages of Jussi's staying in the Isthmus Front became clear.

The remaining hours passed far too quickly. Suddenly, Jussi's visit was over and was time for the back train. Many important questions remained unanswered and many answers were unspoken. There was only enough time for a sad farewell and wishes for an early meeting. Then the door closed as Jussi left.

&nsadh; No, Jussi can't just leave… My brother and I ran after Jussi, caught up and, holding tightly to his hands, escorted him to the station. Not much was said – it was so difficult. At the station, Jussi once again put us into his strong embrace, got on the departing train and drove off.

Mikko Porvali
Before the attack – Long-range reconnaissance patrol on the Isthmus in Summer 1941

* Quoted by Pentti Vähäsarja: interview and article from Hakku -magazine 1/1996
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