Letters from Karelia

This feature-length documentary sheds light on "Karelia Fever," a phenomenon of the 1930s that led many Finnish Canadians to a tragic fate in the Soviet Union. Taimi Pitkanen last saw her brother Aate in Leningrad in 1931. She was returning to Canada from Moscow while her brother was heading to Soviet Karelia, where his skills as an English-Finnish electrician were in demand.

He wrote letters home until 1941, when Hitler attacked the USSR. After that, no one in Canada heard from him. Some 60 years later, letters (written but unmailed) were discovered that revealed his fate and brought together Taimi and Alfred, the son Aate never had a chance to meet. Alfred follows his father's journey from Thunder Bay to Karelia. With him, we learn about Aate and one of the great dreams of the 20th century.

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Alfred Pitkänen
Taimi Davis
Jukka Lehesvirta
Varpu Lindström
Harold Hietala
Eila Lahti Argutina
Martha Hoxell
Galina Pitkänen
Joan Miller
Bill Morris
Leini Hietala
Lauri Hietala
Phoebe Curato
Arto Rinne
Anatoli Gordienko
Polina Kuzmina
Ville Haapasalo
Allan Best
Jussi Nikkilä
Börje Vähämaki
Timo Puiras
Igor Vasilyev
Riku Metsäranta
Marc Metsäranta
Esko Pesonen
Lauri Perttinen
Martti Puumala
Kelly Saxberg
Joe MacDonald
executive producer
Graydon McCrea
director of photography
Richard A. Stringer
original music composer
Ari Lähdekorpi
Varpu Lindström
historical consultant
Varpu Lindström
Liisa Repo-Martell
Kelly Saxberg
sound recordist
Dmitry Koniovchenko
Martii Turunew
Ross Redfern
Ronald Harpelle
John Martin
Ed Douglas
archival film research
Reijo Nikkilä
Demin Aleksandr Dmitrievich
Vitaly Semonov
Anatoli Gordienko
Howard Rissin
sound editor
Danny Johnson
Melanie Godecki
video camera
Bill Metcalfe


  • BishNish

    “Dear Connie, I don't understand how Matt Hoxell can be your great grandfather while Martha Hoxell is your great aunt? ... Matt and Martha were married. Also, the last time I checked, Martha was still living. ” — BishNish, 10 Jan 2012

  • ConnieHoxell

    “My name is Connie Hoxell i live in Thunder Bay Ontario Canada, This documentary speaks of my Great grandfather Matt Hoxell, in this film where they show the old school where Aate Pitkanen attented at the Kivikoski shcool that at one time was my great grandfathers land that he donate so the township could build a school ...To this day the land next to the old school still belongs to the Hoxell's , Martha Hoxell my Great Aunt who also speaks in this film passed away in 2010,at the age of 92 here in Thunder Bay... I bought this CD for my father Norman Hoxell for a Christmas present in 2004, He enjoyed the story aswell as I ...Thks You Martha Hoxell for being able to tell a little of our Hoxell History....R.I.P Martha & Norman Hoxell” — ConnieHoxell, 15 Oct 2011

  • suomalainenflikka

    “I thought that this film was really well done. It was packed with information which I had not been given as a descendent of Finnish immigrants. I did know that some people had gone to Russia from Canada pre WW2, but I had never really known why. I was also aware of the fact that there was a "Red Hall" close to where one set of my grandparents lived near Sudbury, Ontario. I have viewed it several times, and have gleaned information each time. Very informative!” — suomalainenflikka, 21 Jan 2011

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