Lupaus (Promise) (2005)
Director: Ilkka Vanne.
Starring: Laura Birn (Mona Moisio), Karoliina Vanne (Anna Moisio), Pertti Sveholm (Helmer Moisio), Miitta Sorvali (Lilli Moisio), Juhani Laitala (Oiva), Hannele Laaksonen (Helmi), Turkka Mastomäki (Lasse Edelman), Hannes Suominen (Axel), Pekka Huotari (Roope), Minna Kangas (Maija), Anja Pohjola (Fanni Luukkonen), Aino Mankonen (Liisa), Pia Mannisenmäki (Salme), Sanna Harju (Ikki), Tarja Matilainen (Kirre).
Finnish women's Lotta Service during WWII through the eyes of three young women
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire film.
Finland, 1939. A minister tells a group of volunteers that they have come together to pledge their volunteer's oath. Anna Moisio takes the pledge to the Lotta Svärd (a voluntary auxiliary paramilitary organization for women). She is followed by her good friend blonde Ruth Limnell.
Porkkala (a peninsula on the Gulf of Finland, almost directly west of St. Petersburg, north of Estonia and southwest of Helsinki), Moisio Farm, southern Finland. Two weeks later. The blonde Mona Moisio rides a horse bareback. In the farm house friends and family wonder what is Mona going to do with her life? Marriage is one possibility, but the times seem too politically unstable for that.
Ruth asks Anna if she's in the dumps because she is going to have to leave her boyfriend Lasse behind? Lasse walks up to the two women and Ruth says she will leave to let Anna and Lasse talk. The young man wants to get engaged to Anna before she has to leave. Anna says he has to have her father's permission. And, anyway, Anna will be sent to the Karelian border. (Western Karelia is composed of Finnish Karelia that is separate from Eastern Karelia, composed of Russian Karelia. Finnish Karelia borders on Russian Karelia.) There she will be busy providing supplies for the entrenchers. And after that, they have to go back to training again.
Dad and mom Mosio present Mona with a necklace that was previously worn by both her mother and grandmother. Mona tells the family that she is headed for Oslo, Norway to study to become a veterinarian. In private dad and Anna speak to Mona. They say that war is coming and everyone, including Mona, will have to do her part. Mona says: "Who'd ever think of starting a war on such a beautiful summer day?" An exasperated dad says that Mona can be childish and selfish. Dad adds that they are not going to pay for her education in Oslo. Mona gets angry and leaves the room.
Mona goes riding with Ake. He talks about studying astronomy. Mona is a bit bored, so she slaps the back of Ake's horse to get it going and then races off ahead of the other horse. Ake falls off the horse. He is not moving, which scares Mona. She comes back to him and checks him out, but he suddenly opens his eyes and smiles at her. She gets mad at him for playing a trick on her.
Dad reads in the paper that Germany and the Soviet Union have signed a non-aggression pact.
In the September 1, 1939 edition of the local newspaper, father learns that Germany has invaded Poland. A little later and the news is that Estonia submits to the demands of the Soviets.
Lotta Svärd -Järjestön, Keskusjohtokunta. The chairwoman says that they are calling up part of the field army and the troop concentration begins October 11. In addition, air surveillance posts are being put up all over Finland.
Mona rides on the back of a wagon filled with potatoes in boxes. A Finnish soldier jumps onto the back of the wagon hitching a ride. The wagon stops at the farm house. Her father tells Mona that the Finnish military is taking her horse Roy and the wagon. Mona cries over her horse. As the horse and wagon pull out, dad holds Mona to comfort her.
Mother hands Anna a food package and tells her to take care of herself. Anna says she will be stationed somewhere in air surveillance. Mom, dad and Mona say goodbye to Anna.
November 30, 1939. The radio talks about possible air raids and what to do in case of one. Dad and Mona are driving to Helsinki (a sign says 38 kilometers to Helsinki). They want to clear out dad's office of all of his papers. While putting the documents in the trunk of dad's car, they seeRussian bombers coming over Helsinki. They finish with the documents and then run for a bomb shelter. When the bombing stops dad and Mona see some of the devastation in Helsinki. Mona is especially saddened when a wounded horse has to be shot in the head.
Mona writes Anna: "The Russians bombed Helsinki yesterday morning and again later when we were fetching things from father's office." At least 44 people died with many more wounded. She says she can't stand around while this destruction happens and so she has joined the Lotta service. She has taken her Lotta Oath already.
Mona is taken by Lotta bus to her post. She is going to serve in veterinary services. All of a sudden the line of buses stop. Men and women jump from the buses into the snow. Lotta jumps and her face hits the snow. She doesn't move. She has a cut on the left side of her face. Several artillery shells land around them. When Moan's bus arrives at its destination, Anna and Ruth are there to greet Mona. Anna says she can't stay because her group is elsewhere. She leaves. Ruth is staying and she takes Mona up to headquarters.
Lasse writes Anna a letter and she reads it from her aerial post. He says he skied ten miles today and probably will top that tomorrow. He says Lotta has set up a place two miles away where he can get biscuits and candy.
Anna's fellow spotter, Liisa, sees six airplanes in the sky. Anna tells her to contact the control station.
Ruth and Mona drink a beverage. A young woman named Kaisa, who knows them, comes over to welcome Mona to their station. Kaisa keeps the supplies coming into the canteens and puts up new canteens. A man named Sgt. Ville Sorvali introduces himself to Mona.
Mona takes care of 20 old horses. She absolutely hates to see any horse in pain. The blacksmith comes into the stable and says the poor horses have been wearing their summer shoes in the winter.
Late at night Mona joins Ruth in a walk. She tells Ruth that the blacksmith calls her names like "debutante" and likes to sneer at her.
Karelian Isthmus, December 23, 1939. By ambulance Ake comes in on a stretcher with a terrible chest wound. Mona starts crying when she sees Ake. Other wounded men are also brought in. Inside Ake asks Mona to sing a Christmas song for him. She starts singing, but in a short while Ake dies on the stretcher. Mona cries again.
Anna has returned and sleeps in the bed next to Mona. In her sleep, Lasse's letter falls to the ground. Mona picks it up and reads it. The letter says that the enemy is putting up a big show of force now.
A labor conscript says he wants to snuggle up with Mona. He tries to take her by force but in the struggle he smashes into a hanging lantern really hard and is knocked out. The lantern lands in the hay and soon a fire starts. Mona pulls the man out of the barn and then rushes to yell that the barn is on fire. Mona wants to rush back into the barn, but a big soldier grabs her and restrains her. He is known as Messenger Vuori. She cries and the soldier tells her that if she can't handle the vicissitudes of army life, then she should go back home. She tells him that he is not even human.
A hearing is being held on the attempted rape of Mona. Ruth wonders to Anna if they will believe Mona's story. Maybe the man will tell a different story. Anna is offended and says that her sister was attacked! Mona hears the conversation and tells Anna and Ruth that she wants to go home.
Karelian Isthmus, January 1940. The Russians fire their artillery at the Finnish position and then the Russians start their attack. Most of the Russians are killed or wounded, but some of them get to the Finnish entrenchments and hand to hand fighting takes place.
Ruth learns that the dead will no longer be buried in the field. The coffins will be shipped home. They need volunteers to clean the bodies and place them in coffins. It's a tough job mentally and Ruth hesitates to volunteer. After some thought, she says yes. As Ruth walks over to her new job, she barely escapes death as two Russian planes try to kill her by strafing the area.
At work Ruth looks at all the dead bodies around her. Her first job is to take off the rings and jewelry and empty the pockets of the dead into a brown paper bag. She takes a watch off the dead man's wrist and then finds a photo of a pretty young woman, probably the wife of the deceased.
The men at the hearing believed Mona's story of the rape and she is happy that the whole thing is now over.
February 1940. Mona says that she is getting used to all these terrible things she sees, but she still keeps thinking about her horse Roy. She wonders where he is now.
At the canteen Messenger Vuori comes over to talk to Mona. He tells her that the Soviets are bombing the frontlines at Summa.
Russian planes come right towards Anna's aerial station and a bomb knocks the post down. Anna falls into the snow. Her co-worker Liisa lands on some trees and is hurt badly.
Soldiers all in white winter wear are headed over to them and Anna shouts that she needs help. A Soviet soldier comes over and stabs Lisa with his bayonet. Anna cries. The soldier places his bayonet right up against Anna's throat and she shuts up.
Messenger Vuori tries to speak with Mona, but she keeps running away from him. All of a sudden they see four Russian planes coming to strafe their position. They wonder why the Lotta women did not sound the alarm? Vouri throws Mona into a snow bank and then jumps on her and covers her body. A bomb goes off not too far from them. When they start to get up Vouri kisses her. He then apologizes to her.
A Lotta messenger tells Mona that she has some bad news for her. At Anna's observation post they found Liisa's dead body. They don't know where Anna is.
Mona goes to where Ruth works and tells her the news that Liisa is dead and Anna is missing. Ruth rushes over to where the body is and pulls back the cover to see Liisa's face.
March 13, 1940. A meeting of the Lotta bigwigs has to be called to a halt. News about the peace talks comes in over the radio. The Soviet Union will now own Hanko Peninsula, the Mappuja Port and the surrounding islands. The borders will be the same as the old Peter the Great Border. The women are very disappointed about the Russians taking so much territory from Finland. The chairwoman now switches to the topic of the transfer of populations of Finnish people out of the now Soviet lands.
A long line of refugees walks to Finland. Ruth travels in the back of a truck. She sees Mona on horseback and asks if she has had any word from Anna or Lasse? No. Ruth now says at least there is peace again, but at what price?, asks Mona. They have lost most of Karelia, including Vyborg city.
Mona writes home. Lasse is still alive. She gets on the train car carrying her horses. The train moves out.
Porkkala, spring 1940. Mona is back home, but no one knows where Anna is. Mona is upset because her parents are so upset by the missing Anna. And she doesn't think she'll ever get her horse Roy back. A farmhand tells her that a new shipment of horses came in. Mona and Lasse quickly bicycle down to the corral where the horses are being held. They find Roy in the corral and Mona rushes over to hug her horse. On the way back to the farm, Lasse tells Mona that by now they must have over 800 returning prisoners. He looked at the list of Finnish POWs and did not find Anna's name there.
The local minister holds a ceremony to honor the dead and those who are missing. When the Moisio family gets back home from the ceremony, there is Anna waiting for them. They rush up to hug Anna.
Anna and Lasse get married in front of a large group of people.
At a dinner the men talk about politics. They are worried about another possible war with the Soviet Union. Dad says Finland should develop trade relations with Germany.
Anna and Mona take the girls down to the lake to swim. They suddenly hear the sounds of airplanes approaching them. They all start swimming for shore and head back home. The Soviet Union is on the attack again. The two sisters are planning to go back to serve with the Lotta organization. Mom is worried because Anna will be on the front lines. Dad says that this time Finland has the support of Germany and he's hoping the country can take Karelia back or at least the city of Vyborg.
Karelia, summer 1941. Mona's stable is just an ad-hoc one thrown up by the soldiers in the forest. Mona sees her old blacksmith again. They shake hands.
Dead bodies are sent to the morgue where Ruth works. Anna works at the telephone exchange. Anna gets a letter from Lasse. One day 2nd Lt. Vouri comes to see Miss Moisio at the telephone exchange, but is told that she is Mrs. Edelman now. Vouri talks to Anna and she straightens out the young lieutenant. Vouri now writes a letter to Mona. He asks her to write him back using his return address.
Olonets Karelia, Christmas 1941. Part of the local Lotta go to a house to have Christmas. There Mona reunites with Anna. Anna tells her sister that she will have a summer baby.
Moisio, Pokkkala, January 1942. Anna is home on leave. The women are all busy sewing winter uniforms for the soldiers. Also home on leave is Lasse. Anna has a miscarriage. And she can't forget about what happened to Liisa. She asks why did she survive and why did Liisa have to die?
Olonets Karelia, summer 1943. Mona writes that sometimes she feels all alone and lonely in eastern Karelia. Vouri comes out to see Mona, who has a big smile on her face. He tells her they are being sent to the front again.
Sgt. Ville on his way to the front stops to ask Ruth if she will write him back, when he writes a letter to her.
Spring 1944. A lieutenant colonel tells the chairwoman of Lotta that they want to use Lotta volunteers for to operate the anti-aircraft searchlight batteries. He says they are running out of eligible men for the jobs. He adds that Finland is coming to an end. The chairwoman says she can't promise anything, but will see what she can do.
Mona and her horse group are being moved up closer to the front lines. She complains that she hasn't heard from Lt. Vouri in about a year.
Mona gets a postcard from Vouri saying that he will be coming her way soon. Sgt Ville arrives home and is greeted by Ruth.
Anna tells her father that they called her up for searchlight training, which starts in June, right off the Helsinki coast. At the searchlight training, the volunteers are told that the Soviets have started a massive offensive in Karelia with the hope of breaking through the Finish defense lines, on the ground and in the air.
Mona writes that at 6 a.m. they received a great many wounded horses. They are facing shortages of blood, plasma and everything else they use. Ville is back at the front and this time he gets shot and quickly dies. The Russians break through the Finnish defense line west of the village. The Finns are now readying a counter-attack, which will be led by Edelman. while Koistinent commands the left wind. The problem is that the counter-attack meets an attack by the Soviets.
Ruth puts a flower in Sgt. Ville's casket. She cries. Mona visits Lasse in the hospital. He says he lost a leg in the battle and he wants a pistol in order to kill himself. Mona tells him to think of Anna and home.
Anna reads a letter from Lasse. He says the war is over for him. Lasse adds that he would like to go back to school to study law. The first sergeant comes over to Anna and tells her that Finland has initiated peace talks with the Soviets. Anna is on guard duty and is shot by a soldier that circles around her and get behind her back.
Karelian Isthmus, September 5, 1944. The armistice was signed yesterday. Ruth has decided to go to medical school. Mona receives a letter. She learns that Anna is dead.
A funeral service is held for Anna Moisio. Lasse is there with his crutches. Mona is also there. She lays a flower on her sister's coffin. As she walks back to the church, she runs into Lt. Vouri.
The family has to go to Helsinki under the new peace agreement because there land is now in the hands of the Soviets..
Home, September 26, 1944. The family has only been given eight days to evacuate the headland of Porkkala. Soldiers and Lottas helped them move all their stuff. The Soviets have a lease of 50 years on a naval base to be build at Porkkala.
1956. Porkkala, Moisio. The Finns didn't have to wait for 50 years. Mona with her daughter Anna and husband Vouri come back to the old farm. She finds one of her old dolls and gives it to her daughter.
"The Finnish Lotta Svärd Organization was the world's largest women's voluntary auxiliary organizations. At its height it included over 240,000 volunteers. Under the terms of the interim peace treaty with the Soviet Union, the Finnish government disbanded the organization on November 23, 1944."
Good movie. Three love stories are told of three women (two women and their friend) who join a volunteer service to assist the efforts to stop the Soviet Union from taking Finnish territory. The Lottas do a lot of different and valuable services. The three women together do air surveillance, nursing, working in veterinary services for the horses, working in the morgue, operating the giant search lights for anti-aircraft fire at Soviet planes and performing guard duty. Not all the love stories have a happy ending, but is very interesting to see the three women working so hard to help their country in a grave time of need. Love survives through life and death.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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