Tuesday, April 3, 2012


In our journey to Karelia we saw the traces left by Vikings, Hanseatic merchants, men of the sword, men of the cross and people of culture. We have now come to the end of our voyage and it is time to say “Farewell” to Karelia.

We thank the readers who have followed us on our journey and Markus Lehtipuu who guided us. We say farewell to the living and the dead whom we encountered on our journey in time and space as we ventured from west to east and back and visited historical sites renowned at different times during a millennium. We saw Karelia’s present: a sadly neglected waste land. We saw shadows of its past: a bountiful nature, a remarkable architecture and a rich literary culture. But we saw no signs of a future better than the present. Longing for the past had replaced hopes for the future.

We felt like passengers on a space ship lost in space unable to either reach its destination or return home. The epic poem Aniara: A Review of Mankind in Time and Space by Swedish writer and Nobel Laureate Harry Martinson – himself a volunteer in the Winter War – contains a ‘Song about Karelia’. In it a doomed passenger recalls his fondest memory of planet earth, to which he will never return. We share this longing to return to a lost home:

Skönast ibland sköna glimtar syns dock skymten av Karelen,
Som ett vattenglim bland träden, som ett ljusnat sommarvatten
i den juniljusa tiden då en kväll knappt hinner skymmas
förrn den träflöjtsklara göken ropar åt den ljuva Aino
att ta dimmans slöja med sig, stiga upp ur junivatten
gå emot den stigna röken, komma till den glada göken,
i det susande Karelen.

Wonder among many wonders is the glimpse of fair Karelia,
like a fleeting flash of water seen through trees one clear June evening,
when the lakes in summer lighten and the dusk has barely settled
e’er the sylvan-fluted cuckoo calls upon the gorgeous Aino
veiled in mist to venture forward, to arise from June’s warm water,
to sneak through the rising vapors and embrace the joyous cuckoo,
in the whispering Karelia.

Per Magnus Wijkman                                Emil Ems
Author                                                        Photographer


  1. Thank you for sharing this beautiful, melancholy, and informative blog!


  2. Dear Emil and Per,
    Thank you for this marvellous Karelian story! It has really been most informative to read about the places you have so well described. You have pointed out spots and people long forgotten but now brought back to life through your magnificent texts and pictures.
    Kind regards from Eva

  3. Thorsteinn ThorgeirssonApril 5, 2012 at 5:00 PM

    Dear Per,
    What a tour de force of penmanship and paintbrush! You and Emil are quite brilliant together! Thanks for sharing this lovely introduction to a place that has fallen all but out of sight and out of mind. But no more! Karelia is now a real place. One day, I too will have to venture there! This land may have been put to waste by an alien ideology and peoples, however, it remains right there, neglected. And we know that the home is where the heart is. So, let us hope that Karelia soon finds its way back home, one fine day.

    All the best,

  4. Dear Emil,

    Thanks for sharing this blog. I didn't know anything about the lost country. This stirs my curiosity. Do you have any further recommendation as to what books I can find to read more about the country? My brother-in-law once wrote a novel based in the Tsar Russia (I can't recall which time period that was). I might be able to provide an inspiration for his next work!

  5. Dear both,
    the whole blog was a great piece of art, and in addition, interesting to read, educational and with a large amount of beautiful pictures. For all this, I add my sincere thanks to those expressed above.
    Hans Christian

  6. Dear Per and Emil
    Thank you for sharing with me this interesting voyage. Though I stayed at home, I had the pleasure to participate in a thoughtful journey into the past.

  7. Per,
    You did it again,old friend! Out of a six days' journey to Karelia, you wrought fully FIFTEEN CHAPTERS of capturing tales about this once benighted but now sadly forgotten country. Where will you go next, to enlighten us with your engaging tales?
    Yours sincerely

  8. Dear Chie,
    How kind of you to comment our efforts! I have consulted our utmost expert on Karelia, Markus Lehtipuu, and am sorry to tell you that there appears to be a lack of books about Karelia in English (most are written in Finnish and a few in Swedish). But why not recommend this blog, with its 15 Chapters as a possible inspiration to your brother-in-law?
    Yours sincerely

  9. Dear Chie,
    Although it might not be quite what you had in mind, I cannot resist suggesting Gavin Lyall's little book The Most Dangerous Game, a fatal drama played at the height of the cold war in the Karelian borderland (a bit further north and much more desolate than where we were). The late Gavin Lyall was an English author of high class thrillers with unforgettable characters and an inimitable literary style. I wager you and/or your friend will enjoy it. You can no doubt find a used pocket version at Amazon if it has not been reprinted recently.
    We are glad you enjoyed our blog.
    Best regards,

  10. Dear Emil,
    A picture says more than a thousand words. Hence, you have contributed far more to our blog through your many magnificent photos than have the few peregrinations of my pen on paper. Ours has been a true partnership which has produced a public good where words and pictures together hopefully have a synergy effect, resulting in more than the sum of our individual contributions. We have, inevitably, dwelt on the past but knowledge thereof is not the same as nostalgia for it. Some knowledge of the past is necessary to change the present and contribute to a better future for the Karelian borderland. Let us hope that our combined efforts will have had some small effect to that end.

  11. Emil,

    Tack för alla fina fotorportage den senaste tiden -- jag uppskattade mkt er serie om Karelen och har tipsat min finska bekantskapskrets i Bryssel om den.

    Bästa hälsningar till Bay Area och Stockholm,