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

Antin päivän aamuna se alkoi

Spy-hunting in Vanttajankangas

Petteri Ervasti was born in November 1919, which means that he was exactly 20 years old when the Winter War broke out. Soon after the war had started, he volunteered for service while the rest of his family was evacuated to Huttukylä in Kiiminki. This is when he embarked on his war expedition that lasted almost 5 years. After being trained in rifle handling, Petteri was transferred to a long-range patrol by Lake Hossa in Suomussalmi.

When the Winter War ended, Petteri’s military service continued first in Taivalkoski and later in fortification work in Vanttajankangas, Kuusamo. In late June 1940, he noticed a man watching the fortification work and behaving in an odd way. Petteri told his company commander about the incident. He took a note of it, but no further action was taken. Just before setting off on their military leave, Petteri and his army friend noticed the same man again. This time, he was cycling and carrying milk churns with a woman they knew. The men asked where they were headed, and they said they were fetching milk from a house in the Heikkilä village. After several hours, the same suspicious couple returned – without milk. Now Petteri figured out the purpose of their trip: they had cycled to Pukari to share information with the Russian unit stationed there.

Petteri reported his findings to his commander and things started to happen. Petteri was given a bike and told to look for the man and arrest him. At first, he combed through the town centre and continued thereafter to Tuovila. There, the commander of a local company identified the man from the description and commanded Corporal Hyvärinen to assist Petteri.

After three days, the man was captured at the Huotari hostel. When interviewed, the man nervously admitted that he had been spying for the Russians. Petteri was granted an extra two-week furlough for capturing a dangerous agent working for the enemy.

A furlough of 14 days was granted for Petteri Ervasti, who distinguished himself in a spy-hunt.

When the Continuation War broke out just before Midsummer 1941, Petteri was transferred to the infantry regiment of Major General Hjalmar Siilasvuo. As June turned to July, they crossed the border in the early hours of the morning. At first, no resistance was encountered, but the situation soon changed.

After the battles of Sohjananjoki, Petteri’s battalion moved towards the Kiestinki [Kestenga] area, where their advance was stopped. At the same time, a group of eight snipers was formed, and soon Petteri Ervasti was placed in its command.  The trench warfare continued all the way up until autumn 1944.

In February 1944, Petteri was seriously injured by shrapnel from an artillery shell, and for a while, people thought he was dead. However, this tenacious man did not give up. He was first transferred to medical care in the military hospital in Vuonninen, and later to Oulu via Kajaani. During his convalescent leave, Petteri met his future wife for the first time in the centre of Kuusamo. They exchanged their wedding vows in early 1946, and 12 children were born to the couple.

The war resulted in a disability, but Petteri continued working on his home farm.  He was known as a dutiful man, who served actively in positions of trust in the local government of Kuusamo. Petteri was laid to rest in Kuusamo’s Ristikangas graveyard in 2010.

 


 

The story is based on Petteri Ervasti’s memoirs as recorded by his sons, Alpo and Heino Ervasti.