Fifteen years ago, as a 13-year-old girl, Pauliina Lehto met two of her “American cousins” for the first time at her grandfather’s 80th birthday party in Finland. Lehto’s grandmother had made “kotikalja” (alcohol-free, home-made fermented beverage) for the occasion and one of the first things the foreign guests asked her was what it was.
The direct translation would have been home-made beer, and she knew that wasn’t right, but could not come up with a better word back then.
“It was the early experiences like this that got me interested in cultural studies and languages,” said Lehto, a Tampere native and the Finnish American Reporter’s newest intern.
Lehto has previously worked in the communications field and had an internship at a publishing company in Finland.
“After studying in Barbados for a year in 2013-14, I decided that I wanted to experience working abroad too. At first, it did not matter so much in which country, but after I found out about The Finnish American Heritage Center and The Finnish American Reporter, I immediately knew I wanted to come here,” she said.
After just a couple of weeks at FAR, the diversity of the job has already pleasantly surprised her; besides journalism work she has already done translations, helped a patron with pronunciation of a Finnish song and taken part in a photo book project.
“In the future I aim to work in the field of book publishing and I couldn’t believe my ears when I was asked to help in editing this historical photo book,” she explained.
This is not her first time in the United States, but it is her first in Copper Country. “I can admit that I was a little worried about coming to such a small city as Hancock,” said Lehto, whose hometown Tampere has more than 200,000 residents, “but I am surprised to see there is so much going on and I am thankful that people here in the U.P. are so welcoming.”
Before her plane even landed in Hancock, she had already received an invitation to come to the nearby community of L’Anse, and shortly after landing — at midnight after a 24-hour trip — her new housemates immediately invited her to a cross-country skiing race as well as snowshoeing in the next morning.
“I’m going to try to experience the U.P. as much as possible while I am here, but a 15 km skiing race was the last thing I felt like doing after having only an hour of sleep,” she said with a laugh. “Fortunately I got another opportunity to try Nordic skiing here, since the trails are fantastic.”
Lehto knew of some relatives who live in Maine and on the East Coast, but shortly after arriving in Hancock she found out through his father’s research and with the help of FAR editor Jim Kurtti that she has relatives in Michigan as well.
“My late grandfather would be so pleased to know I have found information about his uncle John (Johannes) Alarik Lehto (1895-1964), who immigrated in Michigan in 1913 and who was one of the relatives my grandfather always tried to find,” she said. “Now when I found out information about him and his descendants, it would definitely be interesting to meet people who I have the same great-great-grandparents with, and to fill those gaps in the genealogies my grandfather has started.”
Lehto is eager to meet as many FAR subscribers as possible. If you’d like to stop by and say hello, Pauliina is in the FAR office weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.Tags: Finnish American Reporter, Intern, Pauliina Lehto