Last weekend I met my great aunt for the first time. There is a reason why: she left Finland in 1957 first to the United Kingdom and then continued to the United States. She was telling me how it is still difficult to connect the dots between the Finland then and Finland now. She left a country of muddy roads and arrived to one of Nokia, to put it bluntly.
I was struck by the Finland she was telling me about. She told about a school that did not accept her due to her religion. She left a country traumatised by war and where she was told several times that she did not belong. She left the country and her family for a better life, with no knowledge of English and no relations waiting in the other end.
The reasons for migration have not really changed in 50 years. But it seems to surprise some people here in the receiving nations that millions decide to leave all they have for a chance of a better life. People risk everything they love for some undefined dreams. For a promise with no money-back guarantee. It seems to surprise people even when the story can be found from each family.
It is surprising and - honestly - disappointing how we here, in a country that has transformed from a departure country to a receiving country, have continuing difficulties to comprehend that the people wanting to move to Finland share largely the reasons of those relatives of ours who left for Sweden, Germany, UK or the US. Paradoxically the other group - the ones who left - are portrayed as heroes when the the others - the ones arriving - are characterised as social bums. It is not only my great aunt who has difficulties connecting dots. Making this historical link might help understanding the transformation we are in as nations.
Something else has also stood the test of time: desire. Most people are not striving for something bizarre and condescending like tolerance and understanding. They are seeking for voting rights, good future for their children, a home, a job and some friends. Not tolerance but bread and freedom.
Oops, I think I just defined the American Dream.
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