The National Veterans’ Day has for the past three decades been celebrated nationally across the country as a reminder of our gratitude for the veterans who fought in the wars. This year, we celebrate 75 years of peace after the Lapland War ended in 1945.

Listen to the Finlandia Hymn, sung by Finland’s largest virtual choir of over 1,000 people to honor the National Veterans’ Day. The performance was orchestrated by Miika Granholm.

The coronavirus outbreak has canceled public events and gatherings. Nevertheless, the day is being commemorated with raising of flags, with the president’s message to the war veterans and with the Finnish Defence Forces holding a private wreath-laying ceremony in the Hietaniemi Cemetery.

Finnish Defence Forces honored the National Veterans’ Day privately by laying a wreath at the Cross of Heroes in the Hietaniemi Cemetery in Helsinki on April 27, 2020. Picture: Ville Multanen / The Finnish Defence Forces

The number of war veterans is declining somewhat rapidly in Finland. Of about 5.5 million people, 10,000 war veterans were alive in 2019 with an average age of 94.

“This day of celebration reminds us of the legacy of the veterans. Thanks to their deeds and sacrifices, which we will not forget, Finland survived as a free and democratic society,” President Sauli Niinistö said in his official greetings on the National Veterans’ Day. “I am assured that Finland will also survive the exceptional circumstances of the present. Today, we act responsibly by protecting others, by thinking about how we can provide help and by acting accordingly to stop the virus.”

The Lapland War was fought during World War II between 1944-1945. Following the terms of the armistice with the Soviet Union, Finland was forced to drive out any remaining Germans from the country.

The Kemijoki bridge was over 310 meters long before the German troops blew it up in spring 1945. Picture: Vaalle K. / The Finnish Railway Museum

The German troops, a total of 210,000, who resided in Lapland with tens of thousands of horses and 26,000 motor vehicles withdrew toward the border of Norway reluctantly, leaving a trail of burned and bombed buildings and bridges on their path.

Finally, on April 27 it was over. The war had claimed the lives of about 800 Finnish troops; 90 percent of northern capital Rovaniemi’s infrastructure was destroyed.

The economy was rough.

But it was time to rebuild.