It was a normal day at boarding school, just like any other, when suddenly the whining of the Russian enemy bombers above the school grounds shattered the peace. "It was procedure to run outside in to the cold snow with temperatures steeping below 450 Celsius. We would camouflage ourselves with white bed sheets, in case the bombers intended to destroy the school." Kaisu recalls. At a mere twelve years of age Kaisu panicked, she became so frightened that she grasped her friend's hand and ran through the forest into a clearing where a small hut seemed to be their best chance of refuge from all the havoc. "We camouflaged the hut using branches and leaves, of the near by trees and the hut was going to be our shelter for the next three days." The police and school authorities found them and they were happy to go home safe. Even though the situation seemed pretty daunting at the time Kaisu remembers thinking 'oh well at least I didn't have to go to school for three days.'
Kaisu has been faced with her fare share of problems in life, but always seemed to keep a smile on her face or crack a silly joke to ease the tension of a situation. Life was very peaceful for Kaisu and her family, until World War II came along. Born in Finland, in a small town called Alavieska, 1930. They lived in a large home; downstairs was a picture theatre, a chemist and a small jail, as Kaisu's father was the town's policeman.
After Kaisu left school she took up training at a Nursing school, she bid farewell to her parents, for she was going to work in another town far away. But Kaisu was too fond of her family; "I stayed there for two weeks but couldn't handle living away from my beloved family." So she packed up and was happily on her way back to her hometown. Kaisu would rather live with her dearly loved family and give up her chance to be a nurse than follow her career and not be with her family. When Kaisu returned home she found a job in office, nearby home, and worked there until she got married. Kaisu is always fond of her family and relatives. She always displays a loving spirit at family get togethers and is enthusiastic about seeing her relatives on a regular basis. She is also a fantastic Nanna to her ten grandchildren and she shares her love and enthusiasm to all her family and relatives.
Kaisu met Kalevi Nivala in 1949 and was to soon marry him in 1950 and they lived in the same town as her parents. Their first child, Anneli, was born in 1950 and one year later Tom was born. Marja-leena was born soon after and their last child Michael was born in 1955. Kaisu's hard working attitude was fuelled by the uphill struggle she faced with looking after four children and working on a farm. In the cold weather this was not an easy task. "I had to milk cows, make butter, wash clothes by hand and in winter the clothes would snap in half when taken off the line especially when temperatures dropped below 450 Celsius." It got harder when her son Tom contracted polio, during an epidemic, when he was just six years of age. Tom was hospitalised for a few weeks and he suffered from mild paralysis. Kaisu visited her son every spare moment she had and juggled spending time with him and looking after the farm with her husband. Soon enough Tom fully recovered and was back on his feet.
Kaisu's family decided they would leave Finland because it was too hard to cope with the cold weather and supporting a family was a difficult task. They boarded an ocean liner headed for Australia and arrived in Melbourne six weeks later. They stayed in an immigration camp for six months and then Kalevi found a job at Mount Isa in the mines. Kaisu found work in a boarding house, which paid for their food and accommodation. "Because we were unable to speak English it made life difficult, but working with people enabled us to learn the language fluently after two years. Our children attended school and were able to speak fluently after about one year." Kaisu's happy marriage soon ended after her marriage to Kalevi broke up. He had a severe drinking problem and he returned to Finland with Tom. "It was heart breaking to see my nine year old son leave me." Kaisu laments. When Kaisu remarried, to Hendrick Dekker they had a daughter and named her Greta. But unfortunately there were complications during her birth and there was a lack of oxygen resulting in Greta's brain damage. More tests were done when she was nine months old, but the news was dire. In 1969 Rodney was born, then Melissa two years later and Kaisu's youngest. "One of the most tragic moments in our lives occurred in 1976. I was making lunch; Melissa said she was going across the road to buy some lollies. Wondering why she hadn't returned I went outside and crowds were gathered, I screamed." A truck had struck down Kaisu's baby daughter and she died instantly. The crowds held her back from going to her daughter. "All I wanted to do was to hold my baby." Kaisu battled away and struggled to maintain her tremendous attitude toward life she seemed to be the best at hiding her grief out of all of her family. "Kaisu always seemed to be the one that provided love and support to grieving family members." Kaisu's daughter remembers.
Just a decade ago Kaisu was faced with yet another uphill struggle that would last seven years. Her son Michael was diagnosed with cancer. She persevered with him through three operations and two chemotherapy treatments. The battle ended when he died seven years later. "I miss my dear son very much and I feel pained; knowing how he suffered and watching his wife and two children lose dear Mike." Kaisu blocks out the dire times she spent with Michael and reminisces the good times. Though she is getting on in her years but she still counts her blessings, keeping a positive spirit all the time.
Today she still enjoys visits from loved ones and family get togethers with her cherished family. "Though I've had some tragedies and hard times in my life, I have learned to count my blessings and the happy times too, which has made my life worth living." WORD COUNT: 1100