Today, August 23. 2015, is the 76th anniversary of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact that paved the way for World War II to begin. The pact ensured peace between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, giving Hitler the freedom to roll out his program without worry over having to fight a two- front war, and giving Stalin a free hand in the areas he wanted. The secret protocol mapped out the spheres of influence of the two dictators–Western Poland to Germany, Eastern Poland to Russia, the Baltic states, Finland, and Bessarabia to Russia. On September 1 Hitler attacked Poland, and on September 17 the Red Army moved in and took the eastern half. In October, Moscow issued demands to the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, and to Finland. Finland resisted, and the Soviet Union invaded Finland on November 30th. The result was the bitterly fought Winter War, the backdrop for my novel Lost Ground.
Here is a gallery of images including maps and documents connected with the pact.
Set in Finland, LOST GROUND’s World War II story is unique and compelling..
Many stories that take place during World War II come from an American point of view, but few of them are set in Finland. With a unique setting and characters that are easy to fall in love with, Ulla Jordan’s LOST GROUND, is a compelling read and offers a truly realistic depiction of the horrors that took place during the war.
LOST GROUND is told from three different characters: Tina, a woman stuck at the home front worrying about her soon-to-be fiancé, Paul; Tom, the American journalist who develops a close relationship with Tina; and Paul himself, who describes the appalling and heartbreaking realities of being a soldier. The three become intertwined, and their stories are told flawlessly with gorgeous poetic language. One description of the war includes lines like, “The fires still burned, orange fountains in the night, fireworks of a macabre carnival,” that help bring the setting to life. As the characters (and the entire country of Finland) struggle to survive and hold on to hope, Jordan plays to all of the reader’s senses (“a strange shuffling noise scratched the silence, the sound of hundreds of pairs of feet, unseen walkers on their way out of the city.”)
From the very first sentence, LOST GROUND incites curiosity with foreshadowing that the events of the war will change everyone involved. From there, descriptive passages about everything from a hotel lobby to a city ravaged by bombing raids creates a fully realized setting. One of the most powerful aspects of the novel are the moments when the war specifically impacts each character – whether it’s Tom venturing into the field to see frozen corpses left over from a battle or Tina’s quest to find food once the rations have run out. Those who did not experience the war firsthand can appreciate the crushing blow the events caused during the time period. Although some readers might not understand all of the references (like a passing mention of Mrs. Simpson or Wallis Simpson who became the Duchess of Windsor), there are enough explanations for pretty much any reader to understand and get a good grasp on the big players of the era.
LOST GROUND is masterfully written with a no-holds-barred depiction of war and characters that are undeniably fascinating.
To a casual observer, Finland seems like any other Western European country on the Nordic model, a placid and well-ordered democracy with great schools, great social programs, and great design. But of all the northern democracies, Finland is alone in having a long land border with Russia, and a living memory of being invaded by the Soviet Union.
Finns find it difficult to talk about the Winter War. In November 1939, the Soviet Union attacked Finland, after signing a pact with Nazi Germany three months earlier that carved up eastern Europe into spheres. Unlike the other countries the USSR took under the terms of the pact–the Baltic states, eastern Poland, parts of Romania–Finland put up fierce resistance. Despite the massive advantage of the Red Army over the tiny forces of Finland, the war raged on through the winter. In March, after the threat of Allied intervention became real, Stalin agreed to an armistice. Under its terms, Finland lost 11% of its territory, including the densely populated Karelian Isthmus and the medieval castle city of Viipuri (Vyborg). Nearly half a million Karelians had to be evacuated and resettled.
The Winter War had repercussions for both the Finns and the Russians, and influenced the thinking of Hitler as he planned his attack on the USSR.
The days grow shorter and the white nights of the north are getting darker. Here is an excerpt from Zachris Topelius, Finnish poet and patriot, on northern summer nights.
“On a clear summer night in the far north, the whole sky glows and the air itself seems to shimmer in the soft, gentle light…When the sun goes down briefly, the whole of nature settles into a strange dreamy mood. The bringer of day is gone, birds fall silent, humans and animals seek rest and plants wait for night that does not come. Instead, a dim, silvery light spreads over forests, waters and shores. It is not the light of the sun, the moon or the stars, nor is it dusk. It is the night’s own radiance, serene yet festive, like eternal joy amid the transience of spring.”
Extract from “Our Land” by Zachris Topelius
Here’s a review of Lost Ground from the Historical Novel Society. Much appreciated. All comments and opinions are welcome.
Lost Ground by Ulla Jordan | Review | Historical Novels Review.