Valikko Sulje

One summer’s day on water rock

A big rock in the water near the shore.

We often used to sit on Water Rock. It was easy to wade to the large, flat boulder at the tip of the spit; the water was only knee-deep. It was a good spot to watch the planes taking off and landing on the nearby airfield. Swastikas sparkling on their flanks, the steel birds climbed up to the clouds with a terrible roar, and it felt like the whole scene was about to be torn in half.

In the summer of 44 I was seven and my brother almost ten. Mother said not to climb on that rock. She said it wouldn’t end well. You’ll be drowned and the waves will take you. And Father was not pleased to see it from Heaven. My brother and I decided to wear our caps. Father won’t recognise us if we don’t peer too brazenly up in the air, just take the odd peek.

The trips to the Rock became a bit like a ritual for us. We had to get there, never mind if it was raining or if the sun was scorching our skin. What was more, in the early summer the movement in the sky had suddenly increased. We heard that some German colonel had brought a whole flight squadron to Immola. They had hundreds of planes there in a neat row, waiting for the order to take to the air and gather speed, to strike and drop bombs on the enemy’s head.

Mother always listened to the wireless silently sniffing. There were deep lines under her eyes. Sighing, she told us to be careful. There was talk and rumour about a major Russian attack.

But for us nippers everything was here and now, and the trips to Water Rock lifetime expeditions out to the wide world. My brother would usually wade ahead, with me following a couple of steps behind. His thin shoulder blades were a bit like wings as he made his way slowly towards the Rock, dodging the slimy stones on the lake bottom.

Then came the morning that seemed very strange, even as seen from the Rock. The sun hid behind a dark cloud, the open lake seemed to crouch down, and the world fell totally still and silent. The water kind of stood still, and after a while a low murmuring filled the air. My brother looked at me, but I could no longer make out what he said. A line of aircraft appeared on the horizon and my ears began to hurt.

As the first bombs fell in the direction of the airfield, we had already climbed off the Rock into the water and waded ashore, our knees knocking. The crashing and banging was now coming close, and paralysed with fear, we watched shrapnel buzzing and something whistling through the air into the water by Water Rock. The water boiled and roared, and we could no longer see anything through the spray. My brother threw me onto the ground, and we both remained lying there. I thought that if I keep my eyes shut really tight, all the bad things will go away.

I heard later that the bombs had also played havoc with the German flight squadron on the airfield. Some large service building had been destroyed and about ten steel birds had their wings clipped.

After this, we never climbed on Water Rock again. That was the end of the ritual. But maybe this is what often happens to rituals.

Text: Pekka Vartiainen
Pictures: Anu Nuutinen
Translation: Annira Silver
Location on map

A big rock in the water near the shore.

The story and the pictures are a part of Tarinajoki book (River of Stories), made in Rural Explorer project. As part of a culture tourism project, stories arising from the body of folk narratives and history also have a function in relation to the productisation of tourism. The stories are linked to real locations.