In Ylämaa near Lappeenranta, there are wide areas where an exceptionally colourful stone occurs, called spectrolite because of its brilliant colours. The stone was discovered by Second Lieutenant Pekka Laitakari during the Interim Peace of the summer 1940, when the Salpalinja defence line was being built on the eastern border. Laitakari’s father, the geologist Aarne Laitakari, had been searching for the parent rock of spectrolite in various parts of south eastern Finland for several years. Spectrolite quarrying began in Ylämaa in the 50s, and the first gemstone workshop was established in 1973.
There he goes again, poking at the ground, spade in hand. We can hear him through the tent canvas. Mäkelä and I said to him that we’ll get up in a bit. But these early mornings are deadly. When all you want to do is sleep and try to banish from your head the sounds of explosions, the buzz of a bullet whistling past your ear.
He made no comment, just gave us that officer look.
The second lieutenant hits the dry, solid ground with the tip of his spade, and there are men toiling alongside him as far as the eye can see. The defence line is slowly taking shape also here in Ylijärvi. Or not much of a shape – one broad corridor like in Helsinki or some place. The chaps are quipping that we’ll soon get to be escorted. Will the Russkis escort us, and who will lead us and where to?
The chaps are shovelling with much clattering and chinking. We are rolling boulders in Kailonen’s gang. The summer is warm on our backs and the sweat brings along the mozzies and horse flies. A tank will not get through here. The second lieutenant is now standing on the biggest rock, surveying the area around him. We know what he is looking for.
You see, one evening he had told us about his father, who was obsessed by a colourful stone. He had been looking for it around the country for years. He had actually found some rocks, but not the parent rock. Mäkelä and I wondered whether we were about to start digging for gold here in the middle of the war. But not gold, no. Just stone.
Now the lieutenant has got down on his knees. Seems to be examining something in his hand. Turns it around and raises it up to the sun. He smiles.
Later he shows his find to us, too. Says that this stone is like a deck of cards, and there is plenty of it. Yes, the colourful sheets on top of one another are clearly visible. There is blue and green, yellow and orangey red. I turn the palm-sized wonder around, weigh it, measure it, and eye it on all sides. So pretty, like a jewel. In the midst of all this, you can’t look at something like that without a lump rising in your throat. The officer smiles at us, his eyes moist.
Text: Pekka Vartiainen
Pictures: Ekaterina Ivanova
Translation: Annira Silver
Location on map
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.