The Angels of the Winter War: The Lotta Svärd
by: Jarkko Vihavainen, Finnish Historian
Introduction by Brent Snodgrass, Winter
Lotta Svärd is a difficult group to explain to Westerners as both
the Lotta Svärd and the Suojeluskunta (the Finnish Civil Guard) do not have contemporaries in the United
States, Great Britain, or other Western European nations.
USO or the English ENSA, the Lottas duties were much more
connected to the day to day needs of the
Finnish nation and
military. Lotta’s served as nurses, typists, translators, air raid
wardens and organizers of various war-based drives. Their
duties directly assisted in the war effort.
Members of the Lotta Svärd had a supreme sense of duty to the service
of the Finnish nation and the pride in this overriding duty had always
been a factor in the internal doctrine of the organization. The ideals
of dedication, service, and pride in one’s nation were all important
beliefs to Lotta members.
The Lottas were key in altering the viewpoint of a very
male-dominated society as the members of the Lotta Svärd proved that
a woman’s role was important to the survival of the Finnish nation.
The members of the Lotta Svärd served the Finnish nation as they
felt it was their calling, and with pride they took on the duties that
needed to be done for Finland to survive. There were many Finnish soldiers
who called the members of the Lotta Svärd angels and these angels
shined when their nation called for them.
Finnish researcher Jarkko Vihavainen is well known by
English speaking researchers of Finnish military history,
as his various efforts in expanding knowledge of his native
land in the English language have been noteworthy. Much
research has dealt with the formation, armaments, and supply
of the Finnish Army and Finnish Civil Guard,
but his exploration of general Finnish military history
has been beneficial to non Finnish speakers. Vihavainen
served in the Finnish Army as the
member of a Jaeger battalion and is currently a reservist
who can often be found in his free time at the Finnish
National Archives adding to his wealth of knowledge.
origins of the Lotta Svärd are rooted in a long standing
Finnish tradition of unofficial female groups that
supported various civil
organizations. As Finland prepared for independence,
these organizations were a public service, providing
food to volunteer fire departments and local governments.
As war approached, Finnish activists
blended into the Suojeluskunta
(the Finnish Civil Guard) organization.
Under the umbrella of Suojeluskunta, unofficial women’s
organizations developed that provided food, clothing,
and organized fund raising activities for
the organization and their local community. As the Finnish
Civil War erupted, the efforts of the Suojeluskunta were directed
to support the Finnish White Army.
Activities for these women branched out to more specific
tasks such as creating army equipment, cooking for soldiers
in camps, and acting as
telephone operators. In some areas, female volunteers
were messengers and even acted as guards.
Next - The Creation of the Lotta Svärd
Jarkko Vihavainen is a Finnish
military history enthusiast and collector of military memorabilia.
A Member of Finnish Reservists' Association., Vihavainen
has written numerous articles on the Winter War
and the conflicts that surround this turbulent time in Finnish
Brent Snodgrass is the USA Group
Leader of Battletours, an organization that directs
battlefield tours of Finland, the Baltic States, and Russia.
At the 2005 Grand FinnFest
heritage event in Marquette, Michigan, Brent was a featured
speaker on Finnish military history and the Soviet attacks
in June of 1944.
Back to top