Kitee

In addition to Pyhäjärvi, I have been pondering the “validity” (for want of a better word) of the memorial in Kitee churchyard, in North Karelia. At first (and second, and third) glance, there seems to be no question that this is an archetypal memorial to the Great Hunger Years. It is situated in the main churchyard of the town, it was consecrated in 1963 – early in a centenary decade which saw many new memorials being put in place. And it features one of the most familiar tropes associated with famine – a mother caring for her children (designed by local art teacher Annikki Palosuo-Louhioja). The inscription on the other side is simple, and does not give dates: “In Memory of those who have died from hunger”.

Kitee4
Kitee Church, October 2016.

However, despite the centenary context, the reports in local newspapers around the inauguration of this memorial actually suggest it was erected to remember the 105 known – and many other unknown – victims of hunger in Kitee in 1809-10, rather than in the 1860s. The current parish website notes the memorial – and includes an image – and simply refers to it as a memorial for those who died of hunger. Again, it could be that an initial plan to commemorate one event has transformed into something more general, but I plan to look more into the events of 1809-10 in Kitee, as well as the planning of the memorial in the 1960s.

[General translation note: “Kiteeläiset” would probably best be translated as “Kitee people”, or “Kitee folks” – this is a particular element of Finnish which never translates well into English (in some cases, e.g. “Dubliner”, or “Mancunian” it might work out OK) – I have just used “Kitee Residents” as it seems like the most likely thing that would be on an English-language memorial, but it is not a direct translation – Kitee folks might not be residents, and residents are not necessaily “Kitee folks”…]

Location: Kitee Churchyard, Savikontie 5.

Parish: Kitee

Modern Region: North Karelia (Pohjois-Karjala)

Date of memorial: 1963

Inscription: “In Memory of those who have died from hunger”. Residents of Kitee. 1963.

References:

Etelä-Suomen Sanomat, 23 Sep. 1963.

“Nälkävuosien muistomerkki Kiteellä”, Suomen Sosialidemokraatti, 23 Sep. 1963.  

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