Stories from the War Years

Historic war sites – Story locations – Told by the field mail

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Kriegshistorische Stätten – Schauplätze der Geschichten – Was die Feldpost über den Krieg erzählt

Viiangin partisaani-isku. Uhrien siunaustilaisuus

Partisan attack into northern Kuhmo in 1942

Starting from Midsummer, the summer of 1942 was turbulent in northern Kuhmo. In early July, a group of partisans had dismantled a culvert along the road between Kuumu and Alavuokki. The group had then waited to ambush the next vehicle. A truck carrying forced labourers arrived, but it managed to pass the ambush site along the beam supports of the culvert. Later on in Kuumu, an elderly man named Juho Kurkinen was injured as he stepped into a mine by the roadside when walking his cow.

The nearest patrol of Finnish soldiers was stationed in Lentiira, where both policemen and aerial surveillance soldiers operated.  On 8 July 1942, a fault detection unit headed off to inspect a broken phone line, escorted by three policemen.  They noticed that the line had been cut off in Kuumu, between the Purola and Heikkilä houses, and two trees had been cut down. They assumed that the partisans were behind this. In the Heikkilä house (roughly 3 to 4 km southwest from Kurkivaara), they heard that the residents of the house had also bumped into partisans. The mistress of the house, another female family member and the two sons had been in a deciduous forest. A partisan had jumped behind them on the forest path and tried to shoot, but the bolt of his gun had not worked properly. Then the younger son of the family, 13-year-old Tauno Kinnunen, had thrown an axe at the partisan’s head from roughly two metres away. The partisan had fallen down and lost his consciousness, and the group had managed to escape. A patrol of soldiers and policemen had also visited the site, finding some traces, an axe and a rifle cartridge.

Partisan attack in Kurkivaara

In the early hours of 9 July, partisans attacked into the Kurkivaara house. People from the Liekinvaara house (about 3 km north of Kurkivaara) were also present, after having spent the day on the hay field. They had decided to stay overnight, as the old master of Kurkivaara had been fishing in the evening and found a mine on the path along the way.

The partisan attack started in the early hours, at about 1:00, when the family’s dog started barking. Next, a gunshot was heard, and the barking ended. Then somebody knocked on the window. The master of the house went to open the door, when a hand grenade was thrown into the building through the window. Most of the people inside were wounded by the grenade, but they tried to leave the building and escape. Outside, the partisans started firing at them from a forest on the western side, and the people ran away in different directions. The master and mistress got hit and fell into the courtyard. Meanwhile, the escapees heard some of the partisans speaking Finnish.

The ones who survived the onslaught and those who were only slightly injured, informed the nearby houses of the attack. A boy and a girl from the Vihanta house were sent off to alarm the Lentiira patrol, as they could not be reached by telephone. They arrived in Lentiira at about 6:00 in the morning. From there, a ten-man patrol headed off to Kurkivaara by Heikki Kyllönen’s bus. The patrol was led by Constable Veikko Keränen and consisted of policemen and aerial surveillance soldiers. In the Vihanta house, they found the first casualties and lifted them onto the bus. At the same time, five men from the Kuumu village joined the patrol. Some men stayed behind to guard the Vihanta house, and the patrol continued on foot to Liekinvaara. There, they found some of the injured. The patrol continued in two units to Kurkivaara, where they found the master and mistress of the house, shot dead in the yard of the burned building and cowshed. In the courtyard, they also found the family’s 11-month-old baby boy, uninjured. The partisans had apparently lifted him out of the building and placed him in the courtyard. After combing the forest, they found some more survivors and wounded people, who were evacuated by cars. They found the family’s cow slaughtered, with both of its back legs cut off and missing.

The patrol continued combing the forest, where they also found the mine that had been placed on the path earlier. However, they did not find any other traces of the partisans. At about 18:00, six more soldiers from Kuhmo and a unit of 16 soldiers from Suomussalmi arrived. Later, they gained additional information about a group of 5 to 10 partisans, which had been heading east. They inspected the traces left by the partisans, but did not chase them. Apparently, the same group had been spotted further east in the Akonlahti area, and patrolling was already conducted there. Houses in the Kuumu village were protected by soldiers for a few more days, and a phone connection was left in the Heikkilä house.

The following people died in the attack:

  • Kalle Kovalainen (74 years), old master of Kurkivaara
  • Esteri Kovalainen (72 years), old mistress of Kurkivaara

 

The following people were injured in the attack:

  • Helli Helttunen (33 years), daughter of Kurkivaara
  • Heikki Helttunen (38 years), Helli Helttunen’s spouse
  • Riikka Hiltunen (22 years), daughter of Liekinvaara
  • Veikko Hiltunen (17 years), son of Liekinvaara
  • Antti Kinnunen (11 years), son of Liekinvaara

 

The following people survived the attack without injuries:

  • Antti Kinnunen, master of Liekinvaara
  • Leena Kinnunen, mistress of Liekinvaara
  • Teuvo Helttunen, son of Helli and Heikki Helttunen
  • Matti Helttunen (11 months), son of Helli and Heikki Helttunen

 

Kurkivaara Memorial

A memorial commemorating the partisan victims has been erected on the site by the Lions Club of Kuhmo/Kuhmoniemi. Designed by Kauko Haverinen, the monument was unveiled on 9 July 2000.

 


 

Text: specialist of military history Lassi Piirainen