Liisa Kovala

Jun 19, 2023

Surviving Stutthof

My Father's Ordeal in a Nazi Concentration Camp

Latitude 46 2017

As the first Russian bombs drop on Oulu, Finland in early 1940 during the Winter War, Aarne Kovala is a young boy with a great love of the sea. While the war rages, Aarne takes fate into his own hands and joins the Finnish merchant marines. He spends his days delivering war materials between Finland, Poland, and Germany.

But when Finland’s ties with Germany are severed after the signing of the Moscow Armistice in 1944, Aarne and his fellow sailors are arrested by the Nazis and sent by cattle car to the infamous Stutthof concentration camp deep in the Polish forest. And thus begins Aarne’s horrific struggle to survive amid dreadful living conditions, scarce food, and grueling work details. In the only letter he is allowed to send home, he prays, “I hope the day soon dawns that we again may meet.” But after months of dark nights and even darker days, how long can his hope survive?

Liisa Kovala's book Surviving Stutthof: My Father's Ordeal in a Nazi Concentration Camp (Latitude 46, 2017) is a tale of survival, hope, and ultimately the triumph of the human spirit.

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Ari Barbalat holds a PhD in International Relations from the University of California in Los Angeles. He lives in Toronto with his family.

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