Karelian texts in English

On this page, you can find a few texts translated from White Sea Karelian (vienankarjala) to English. The texts have been translated by Heidi Gilhooly and proofread by Milla Tynnyrinen.

The texts were originally written for Karelian language week. During the week, the Karelian language revitalization project gives out a writing prompt and later publishes texts sent by members of the language community. These texts were written for the prompt ”my most important word in Karelian.”

The texts very well showcase Karelian culture and offer some insight into the history of Karelian people.


Tältä sivulta löydät muutaman vienankarjalasta englanniksi käännetyn tekstin. Tekstit on kääntänyt Heidi Gilhooly ja kielentarkistanut Milla Tynnyrinen.

Tekstit on alun perin kirjoitettu karjalan kielen viikoksi. Karjalan kielen elvytyshanke valmistelee viikkoa varten kirjoituskutsun ja myöhemmin julkaisee kieliyhteisön jäsenten lähettämiä tekstejä. Käännettyjen tekstien teema oli ”tärkeä sana karjalaksi”.

Tekstit kuvaavat hyvin karjalaista kulttuuria ja jossain määrin valottavat myös karjalaisten historiaa.

Pirjo-Liisa Kotiranta: Home shore

My special word in White Sea Karelian is kotiranta, home shore. It is a gentle and beautiful compound word. Home, koti, is where the heart is. That’s where your nearest and dearest are that’s where you feel safe. Shore, ranta, on the other hand, is a place where you can look across the open water at the opposite shore or scan the surface of the water towards the horizon. You can leave the shoreand you can return there.

Kotiranta, home shore, your own shore. We all may have a home shore that we can leave and return to. You do not need to own it. It may be shared by several people even if they are not of the same family. Everyone has their own home shore! It brings to mind a tranquil place where I am expected, where it is good to be when the world sends its troubles! In my home shore, it is always summer, the sky is clear, the lake is blue and the sandy shore is golden. The sun glimmers on the lake. The birds warble in the trees by the shore.

The home shore is a real place as well as a state of mind. It links the person to a home that is no longer there and it remains a place where the person belonged to, where they have come from. It is not always possible to return to one’s actual home shore, though you can reminisce about it, miss it.

The words home shore remind me of my childhood, my family, my kin. It is familiar to me. It is always with me – it is my family name! I got it from my father. My father got it from his father when he chose a Finnish name for himself and his family. Yes, a Finnish name. I took it as being Finnish.

My father’s father Puavila and his brother Aleski were White Sea Karelians. From Uhtua. Their family, father Iivana, father’s father Ananie, father’s father’s father Juuti and his father Kliimo had all lived in Likopää in Uhtua for over two hundred years. Known by Kliimo’s name, the family was initially called Klimentov, which became Klementjev. This was also the name they were known by when they lived in Finland, in the village of Virta, where the brothers had their families in the late 1880s. The brothers wanted their families to have Finnish names as they lived in Finland.

The men chose names that would be a daily reminder off their birth home, of mother, father, of life in Likopää in Uhtua. Their thoughts took them to the shore of Kuittijärvi. The elder brother Aleksi took the name from the island of Varpasaari. In Varpasaari, laukunkantajat, the Karelian bag carrying travelling salesmen would take a break and wait for the weather to calm down before they would row across the great stretch of Keski-Kuittijärvi to their home shore, kotiranta. That’s how Puavila chose his name.

Grandfather Puavila made his home in the town of Virrat. There he had lakes, his own family, his own work. His heart may have stayed in Likopää in Uhtua, by the shore of Kuittijärvi. That’s what I thought when I arrived in Uhtua for the first time. I understood why grandfather Puavila had given his family this special name. The July days were beautiful and balmy. The sky was clear, the lake was blue and on the shore the sand was golden. Just as I had expected. Then I

enrolled on a White Sea Karelian language course. I understood that my wise grandfather had chosen us a name that was both Finnish and White Sea Karelian. Just as special in both languages.

Helvi Alaviitala: Important spectacles

I got new očkat, spectacles, yesterday. The world looks brighter and it is easier to read.

This reminds me of an event that happened some twenty years ago. Karelian children came to Finland for a summer camp. They spent a week at Kuusamo community college with their own teachers and volunteer workers from the North Viena Society. They then spent another week in family lodgings in Oulu.

One of the children did not see well. His teacher had said that the boy was sharp and intelligent, but because of his poor eyesight he had to work hard.

During the week a refuse truck came to the college. Of course the boys drew its picture in great detail. This boy could not do so as he did not see the fine details of the truck. The man from Oulu, who was the boys’ guardian, felt very sorry for the boy.

It had been decided that, in Oulu, the boy would get spectacles. A friendly eye doctor checked the boy’s vision and prescribed glasses. This same specialist had been our son’s eye doctor for several years. The optician shop gave the glasses to him as a present.

His vision improved and he gained wonderful new memories of Oulu castle.

The boy stayed for a week in the home of the man who was his guardian in Kuusamo and they drove in the car around the city. One day the boy had seen from the bridge in Tuira the water sprinklers in Oulu river, the most beautiful in the city. He was fascinated

Later on, the host family had learnt that the boy is studying in university. Spectacles are an important tool in life.

Eerika Haurinen: Greetings from “the baby bubble” from the lap with the infant!

A little family member was born to us in November and that’s why I have chosen pereh, family, as my favourite word for the Karelian language week.

A family can be large or small, it can be near or further away. Nowadays there are various kinds of families and I have been recently reflecting on our family.

What is family and who belongs to it?

What does family mean to me?

All those we live with belong to our family. All the important and precious people who accompany us in life.

The family is not just a shared dining table or the day before but it is also a shared tomorrow.

I think that family is like a feeling that warms one’s mind. It is in the heart and everyone chooses who belongs to it.

These things describe the family but they are also good at describing language. It is important, precious and accompanies us on the path of life.

A shared language connects families and also us who speak Karelian.

Our Karelian language community like a large “language family” that is strengthened by a shared language.

Best wishes for Karelian language week to everyone!

Heidi Gilhooly: Attending Karelian language classes

I have never been to White Sea Karelia. Neither had my mother been there, even though her mother and father were White Sea Karelian.

My mother’s father, my grandfather, and his kin lived in the village of Kokkoslami in Kiestinki. My grandmother’s family lived in Pistojärvi village, in Suvanto.

When I was a child, I hardly knew anything about my mother’s family. I had heard that grandmother and grandfather had come to Finland as refugees with their three children, two boys and a little girl, in 1922. While in Finland they then had four more children, my mother was the youngest of three sisters and she had a younger brother.

My mother did not speak much about her childhood. I know that life was hard when she was a child. She became ill and was away from her home and family. One of her brothers died in the war, one went to Sweden.

After my mother’s death my cousin and I talked about our family. Then I found the online Karelian language course.

“Come on the course,” I said to my cousin. “Let´s start learning Karelian. Are you coming?”

“I will come,” she said.

My cousin lives in Turku, but I live in England, so an online course suits us well.

Last year we studied on the course at Kalliola College. Then in the spring on the conversation course I met our relatives who live in Oulu! I have also got a cousin in Oulu whom I have never seen. Now we exchange emails with her. I will travel with my cousin from Turku to Oulu next summer to meet our cousin.

Since last autumn I have attended the online White Sea Karelian course at the University of Eastern Finland. I was apprehensive at first as I am not a young student. But all has gone well as my teacher is wise.

I have learnt a lot. It made me laugh when I heard that in Karelia people nuzzle each other’s noses. When I was a child I often said to my brother or sister: “Let’s exchange noses.” Then we gently rubbed each other’s noses. I did not know that this was a Karelian custom! When I was with my family in New Zealand we heard that the Maori people had a greeting where they would twice press each other’s noses, this greeting was called “honi”.

I and my cousin would have travelled to White Sea Karelia last summer, but then the war started. Now we attend the courses and learn the language of our kin. I would still like to get to White Sea Karelia, to Kiestinki and Pistojärvi. I want to speak with my relatives in our own language.