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Captive of Rahja
Adventures of a 14-year-old teenager in Olonets Karelia, Petrograd and the Karelian Isthmus
Our correspondent has sent the following interesting description of the stay of a young boy as captivity of Bolsheviks.
The narration is as follows:
“My name is Leo Björkholm, I am 14 years old, was born in Pyhäjärvi, Uusimaa Province. On May 18, with the permission of my parents, I went to the Olonets Karelia and ended up there in 2nd battalion of Major von Hertzen's troops, in 1st company, there almost everyone was from Turku. I took part in several battles, but on June 26. the general offensive on the front of Tuloksa River was the beginning of a chain of events that led to my capture. We drove the bloody Reds out from Tuloksa River and advanced as far as Ilyinsky Village. From there, 21 men were sent, I among them, to the Obzha Village on the shores of Ladoga Lake. By that time, the bloody Reds had advanced and cut off the way back for us. Noticing it, we hurried to retreat along the coast. Making for three days our way through swamps and thickets, we finally reached the mouth of the Olonka River. Some of us crossed by boat, but when they, although they had to, did not return boat back, the rest had to swim, because the bloody Reds followed us on our heels. One man drowned, I and a Rusky were captured,, the remaining 18 escaped. We were dragged by using the kicks and pushes to the nearest “headquarters”. Our captive “comrade” lied in the interrogation with such good success that he was immediately released and joined the bloody Reds. On the contrary, I was sent, accompanied by two horsemen, to the Olonets City. I had to run between the horses all the time. I was in the Olonets City for three days. During that time, I heard that thirty houses had been burned by bloody Reds there. From Olonets I was sent on foot to Lodeynoye Pole with two guards. On the way we met two companies, about 400 Finnish bloody Reds, in completely new ammunition, moving towards the front-line. I was ready to become food for the crows, but i was lucky and we continued on our way.
In the face of Rahja
When we got to Lodeynoye Pole, I was immediately taken for interrogation by Jukka Rahja, another brother Eino, just stood and watched. The third of these noble brethren was in officer school in Petrograd. After wasting his time with me without result, Rahja ordered to take me to my cell. After a week in my cell without interrogation, the cell door opened and a large man in Civil Guard uniform was pushed in. We made an acquaintance. My brother in fate called himself Toivo Kaasalainen and said that his "body" had already been sent to his homeland for burial. Kaasalainen was captured on June 11, while patrol trip near the Matrosy Village. He was from the 3nd battalion of Major Talvela's regiment, from 1st company. He had been in Petrozavodsk prison almost a week. Kaasalainen said that in the fight in Sulazhgora Village on June 20, a lot of bloody Red officers fell. The evening passed merrily, telling stories and singing. The next day, Kaasalainen was taken for interrogation. Rahja asked whether he took part in the struggle for freedom. Kaasalainen denied. Then Rahja pulled out a photo of the parade in Vyborg immediately after the capture of the city, pointing to the man in the front row and asked: "Who is this man?". Photo depicted Kaasalainen and Kaasalainen then admitted that he present on this photo. Kaasalainen was returned to cell. Two weeks after we were taken to the railway station and transported to Petrograd. I was there for almost the entire next week in daily interrogations, or rather under daily barking. Kaasalainen was taken away*, probably to the barracks of the mobilized Ingrians. I was transported to North, to Pargolovo Correctional labour camp. Although I stayed there for less than one hour.
I asked the guard on duty for permission to go take some potatoes from a nearby croft and I got it. I went to the croft and immediately noticed that another door in the forest side of wall was there. There was no one to be seen, and I fled into the forest. The guard had waited for a long time and when he had not found me, he had run immediately to report to the Pargolovo headquarters. Two horsemen were sent from there, but they could not find me. For three days I wandered through the woods eating blueberries and cloudberries. Finally I arrived at the border near Sirkiänsaari. The border guards made me feel welcome, gave me decent food, which I had not since my capture. When I was a prisoner, I just got a piece of sour black bread and a little hot water. From Sirkiänsaari I got to Rautu via Metsäpirtti and from there I ended up in Terijoki quarantine, where I stayed for two weeks before being released after many difficulties.”
* Toivo Kaasalainen returned to Finland in April 1921 only.
After arriving in Finland, Leo Björkholm rejoined the Olonets Volunteer Army. Later he also took part in the East Karelian uprising in 1921-1922.