TITLE: Frozen Hell
GENRE: Historical Women's Fiction
Helsinki, Finland—December 1939
Leila stood on the train station platform, holding tight to three-year-old Taneli’s hand as she hugged Aunt Sisko. “We’ll be fine,” Leila insisted, whispering so her son wouldn’t hear. “The invasion won’t last—the Allies won’t allow it.”
Aunt Sisko sniffed, her eyes searching Leila’s as they pulled back. “But the air raids . . .” Even though her aunt spoke softly, Leila glanced down to be sure Taneli hadn’t heard. No sense in scaring him more than he already had been two days ago when they’d run to a shelter as Soviet bombers rained their cargo over Helsinki. Aunt Sisko shook her head, pleading. “He’d be safer in Sweden.”
Leila gaze strayed across the platform. Beside another train ready to depart many mothers said goodbye to their children bound for the safety of Sweden. They had cards pinned to their coats with their names, addresses, and parents’ names. Would that be enough to reunite families? Would the foster parents treat them well? Would they love the children so dearly they refused to part with them? These questions and more swirled in Leila’s mind for likely the thousandth time, like a dark mist. Heat burned behind her eyes.
“I will not send—” Leila’s voice cut off. Yet Taneli didn’t appear to be listening, intent instead on stomping patterns into a snowbank. He was the only part of her dear Jaakob she had left. A tear trickled down one cheek, followed by a second, but Leila didn’t wipe them away, unwilling to draw attention to her tears. Crying could worry her boy, and it would certainly provide Sisko more fuel for her argument: If you love him, protect him.
Yet Leila, a nurse, hadn’t been able to protect Jaakob; he’d died of pneumonia only weeks after Taneli had learned to walk. She should have been able to save her husband. Leila would not send their son away with no promise of finding him after the war. She stroked Taneli’s shoulder. “He stays with me.”
“We’ll be fine,” Leila insisted. She watched her words, careful not to say Stalin or Russians or soldiers. “They want Viipuri. They wouldn’t bomb what they want to capture, would they? We’ll be safer there than here.”
Would Taneli be safer yet in Sweden?
The thought was a mere whisper, a wisp. Leila ordered it away. God had taken her Jaakob. Surely He wouldn’t be so cruel as to take her only child, too.
Leila leaned down and adjusted Taneli’s hand-knitted scarf and fur hat. The icy temperature felt more like January than early December. Leila straightened, standing tall to show her determination. “The Lotta Svard contacted me about training other nurses. I’m sure we’ll return to Helsinki for some of the training. We’ll visit; I promise.” She hesitated, choosing her words carefully. “ That will be my contribution to the war. It’s all I can give.”
Aunt Sisko nodded. “I know.” Both women understood without another word.